Devastating News

240_F_43342280_9fhJmIlVeQ5Zo89BgyO4mMkrzhXYj3UjSo, dinner with Marcus was amazing.  I had such a great time.  As I do my work, my thoughts take me back to that Saturday evening.  He came and picked me up at my place at exactly seven.  He looked very handsome in his expensive looking tan colored jacket and white shirt.  His eyes traveled over me in my red dress with the cap sleeves and flare skirt.  I had washed my hair and it fell in wavy curls about my face.  I could see the admiration in his eyes and I was thrilled.  “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

I smiled.  “Thank you,” I replied as I preceded him into the hallway.  After I closed and locked the door, we walked to the elevator.  The Hispanic woman who lived opposite me was coming towards us.  After she greeted me, I saw her eyes shift to Marcus and the way she looked at him.  I glanced up at him but he was looking straight ahead.  He was probably was used to women admiring him.  I can just imagine that a lot of his female students had crushes on him.  It made me feel great that I was the one he was taking out for dinner.  Nervous excitement filled me and soon we were on our way to the restaurant.  He drove a Bentley.

On the way, we talked about all sorts of things.  I learned that he was a Seventh-day Adventist like me.  The rest of the family was Baptist.  “What made you switch?” I asked.

“When I started studying the Bible, I realized that there were some major doctrinal misunderstandings of the Baptist church such as the secret rapture of the church, immortality of the soul, eternal torment, Once saved always saved, Sunday sacredness and the law being done away with in Christ.  There were Bible texts which refuted all of these teachings.  An Adventist colleague of mine invited me to an evangelistic series which I attended.  My life changed after that.  I left the Baptist church and became an Adventist.  What about you?  Were you always an Adventist?”

“Yes and I’m thankful for that.”

We reached the restaurant which such a warm and friendly atmosphere.  I loved it and the food was out of this world.  I loved being with Marcus.  He was so much fun.  I felt as if we had known each other for ages.  I could tell that he enjoyed my company too.  I felt that I was on cloud nine and I didn’t want the evening to end.  As we were having our dessert, he said to me, “I once had someone ask me if God only saves vegans.  The person asked me that question because he was told by a vegan member that those who are still eating flesh food will never see Heaven.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I exclaimed.  “What did you say to the person?”

“I told him that we are saved by Christ’s grace and His righteousness and not by our own works. We can’t earn our way to heaven by being vegan or vegetarian, nor do we choose to not eat meat because we believe that by doing so we will be saved.  It’s like what Paul said when the Jewish Christians were saying that the non-Jewish Christians had to be circumcised in order to be saved.  Being circumcised or not doesn’t save anyone.  We are saved by faith alone and not by works so that none of us can boast about how good we are and how much we deserve to go to Heaven.  Salvation is for everyone once they accept Christ.”

“I can’t stand it when people have issues with me eating fish and poultry even though these are considered clean.  Jesus Himself wasn’t a vegetarian.  He ate fish.  When the Lord visited Abraham with the two angels, didn’t they eat Veal?”

Marcus nodded.  “Yes.  It’s a shame that diet is the bone of contention in the church.  Eating meat became part of the diet after the flood and unless God Himself tells me that I should become a vegetarian or vegan, I will continue to eat fish and white meat.”

“Amen to that.”  The rest of the evening we talked about other things and then it was time for him to take me home.

When we were standing outside of my door, he said, “I had a wonderful evening.”

“So did I,” I was quick to let him know.  I wanted to say that I wish it wouldn’t end.  I couldn’t invite him inside because of what could happen.  As Christians, we had to be mindful of how easily we can become tempted to do things we know we ought not to do.  If we didn’t believe in the Bible then, we would not have thought anything was wrong with him coming into my apartment for a nightcap or spending the night.

“When can I see you again?”

“Anytime you wish,” I was happy to tell him.  Every single day would suit me just fine.

“Tomorrow I would like to take you to Napa.  I can pick you up in the morning and take a scenic drive.  It takes about an hour and forty-one minutes to get San Jose to there.  Once we get there, there are several fun things we can do.  What do you say?”

“I say yes!”

“Good, I’ll see you tomorrow.  I will call you.”

I smiled up at him before I opened my door.  I turned to face him.  “Good night and thank you for a wonderful evening.”

327_16843_17“You’re welcome, Abi.  Good night.” He reached out and gently squeezed my arm.

I leaned against the door frame, watching as he walked away.  My heart leapt in my chest when he stopped and turned to look at me, a slight smile on his face before he continued down the hallway towards the elevators.  I waited until one came and I heard the doors close before I went into my apartment.  For the rest of the night and all morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about Marcus.

The next day, he took me to Napa and the first thing we did was go for a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards.  It was an exhilarating experience.  Marcus told me that the next time we would go early in the morning when it’s even more spectacular.  Next, we went Olive Oil tasting, we had lunch a very nice Spanish restaurant called Zuzu.  Afterwards we went to Sterlings’s where we stomped grapes.  The grapes felt so yucky between my toes and my feet had turned purple but we got free tee shirts.

Before we went bowling, we wandered for a bit in downtown Napa with its shops, cafes and chocolatiers and visited the Oxbow Public Market where we treated ourselves to organic ice-cream.  It had been a long time since I had an ice-cream so it was a big treat for me.  After we finished our ice-creams, we headed to the bowling center where we spent the rest of the afternoon.  I never had so much fun in my life and I thanked God for bringing Marcus into my life.  As we drove back to San Jose, we made plans for our next date.  And we have been dating ever since.

The ringing of the phone brings me back to the present.  I stare at the display.  I don’t recognize the name.  I pick up the receiver.  “Hello?”

“Hello Abiyomi.  This is Philip Jennings.  We met at the barbecue.”

“Oh, yes, I remember you now.  You’re married to Bobby’s sister, Nicole.”

“Yes.  I called your mother and she gave me your work number.”

I could sense that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“It’s about Bobby.”

My heart was pounding now.  “What’s happened to Bobby?”

“He died this morning.”

I began to tremble.  “Died?  But how?” As far as I knew Bobby physically fit.  He hardly got sick.

“He took his life.”

Source:  Perspectives-Adventist; Seed Time; A Passion and a Passport; SFbaytripper; California Dream Big

Two Praying Women

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” – Luke 18:14

snobbish woman

She walked into the sanctuary and straight to the front pew where she stood facing the altar.  With her head held high and her eyes closed, she prayed to the Lord thus, “Heavenly Father, I thank You that I’m an upstanding member of society, an active Board of Trustee member of Liberty University and I donate generously to worthy causes such as Education and the Arts.  I’m not a gossip.  I don’t drink or smoke or spend money foolishly.  I am a godly woman with a godly husband and children.  I’m thankful that I’m not like other people who claim they are Christians but their lifestyle says otherwise. 

“I take pride in how I look and how I conduct myself and am an example for the young women in the church.  I’m grateful that I’m not like that woman over there who is making such a spectacle of herself.  I can hardly hear myself think.  Why do people think that they should cry out when they are praying.  Praying quietly and circumspectly is more reverent and acceptable to God.  Lord, I’m very thankful that I’m nothing like her.  The way she is dressed is disgraceful. Anyway, Lord, it’s not for me to criticize others.  You know the heart.  You know mine–that it is devoted to Your service.”

After she finished praying, she walked past the pew and after casting a censorious glance in the other woman’s direction, she left the sanctuary.

black-woman-praying

The young African American woman, kneeling with hands clasped tightly and eyes squeezed shut continued to cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  She poured out her heart to Him, asking Him to forgive her of all her sins and to have mercy on her.  The impassioned pleas made through tears lasted for several minutes.  Then, she blessed herself and stood up.

Her demeanor was different.  There was a calm look on her face.  She smiled as she wiped the tears away.  She walked out of the sanctuary in bitter spirits.  She knew that God heard and answered her prayer.  She was forgiven.

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are better than them. Yet, if we were to compare ourselves to God, we would recognize that we are all sinners in need of His mercy.  Like the tax collector, we must acknowledge that we are sinners in need of God’s grace.  It is the repentant sinner who is justified in His eyes not those who trust in their own righteousness.

Source:  Business Insider

The Word Became Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14, NIV

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God, the Son and the Word who was with the Father in the beginning became flesh.  He came into the world as a newborn Babe to live among men.  He was raised in a Jewish home to Jewish parents in the town of Nazareth.  He became a carpenter like Joseph before going into ministry.  As Man, Jesus experienced the things we experience such as hunger and thirst, tiredness and grief.  He was tempted like us but He didn’t sin.  He prayed daily to the Father.  He had friends and He socialized with different sorts of people, some of whom were treated as outcasts.

The glory John saw was the transfiguration of Jesus when He took Peter, James and him up to the high mountain where He communed with Moses and Elijah.  They were not to mention anything to anyone until He was raised from the dead (Matthew 17:1-3, 9).   Peter later wrote, “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:17, 18).

Jesus came from the Father to bring grace and truth into the world which was steeped in sin and darkness.  His grace was shown in his healing of diseases, the casting out of unclean spirits and in his interaction with tax collectors, sinners, the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan woman.  He shared moral and religious truth through parables and the Sermon on the Mount.  He taught people how to live in relation to God and to people.  Jesus placed God’s truth which was found in His Word above the traditions of men and the lies of Satan.

As you celebrate this Christmas season, reflect on the amazing reality that Jesus, by Whom all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, set aside His majesty and glory and came in the form of man to tabernacle among the people (Colossians 1:16; Philippians 2:7).

Thank You, Lord Jesus for becoming like us, so that in the flesh You could save us.

Why He Married Her

Lindsey was leaving the drugstore when she ran into Alicia, a former university classmate and Alton’s ex-girlfriend.  The stunning blonde gave her a nasty look.

“Well, if it isn’t the expectant mother.” she said.  Her eyes dropped to Lindsey’s midriff.

Lindsey didn’t answer.  Of all the people she could have run into, why did it have to be her?

Alicia’s gaze returned to Lindsey’s face.  Jealousy and resentment flashed in her green eyes.  “You know why he married you, don’t you?” she asked.  “It isn’t because he loves you.  You got pregnant and he wanted to do the honorable thing.”

“I really don’t have to stand here and listen to this,” Lindsey said and brushed past her, seething.  On the drive home, she fumed.  She turned on the radio and to a Christian station.  Gospel music filled the car.  It helped to calm her down.

When she got in, she went straight to the kitchen to fix herself something to eat.  She was hungry.  She carried the large plate of wild rice, stew Chicken, veggies and potatoes, with salad on the side into the living-room.  She settled comfortably in the sofa and ate as she watched reruns of Downton Abbey.  When she was finished eating, she got up and put the dirty dishes into the Dish washer, had a tall glass of milk and then went back to the living-room.  She relaxed on the sofa with her feet on the coffee table.

A couple of hours later, she read her Bible, made dinner and then took a nap.  When she woke up, it was six o’clock.  Alton would be home at any minute.  She got up, took a shower, fixed her hair and went downstairs.  She heated dinner and then laid it out on the table in the dining-room.  Just as she put the glasses of Cranberry Juice on the table, she heard the key turn in the lock.  She left the dining-room and went into the foyer.  The door opened and Alton went in.  He smiled when he saw her.  After he closed and locked the door, he greeted her, “Hello, Sweetheart.”  He hugged and kissed her, thankful to be home.  “How was your day?”

“The usual,” she replied, helping him to remove his jacket.  “I went to the drugstore to pick up the Materna.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I feel fine.  The morning sickness isn’t as so bad anymore.  How was your day?”

“Busy as usual.  It’s great to be home.  Something smells really good.”

She took his hand and led him to the dining-room.  “I thought we’d eat in here for a change,” she said.  Usually, they ate in the kitchen.  “I’ll be right back.”  She went and got a pair of candles and placed them on the table.  After she lit them, they sat down.  He said Grace and then they tucked into the Beef and Parmesan Pasta. 

Over dinner, they talked about his day, the plans his company had that would bring in even more revenue which meant that they would be able to buy a house outside of the city.  As she listened to him talk, her mind alighted on her run in with Alicia.  She wondered if she should mention it.  No, she decided that then wasn’t the right time.  She didn’t want to spoil their evening.  She would tell him later.  The nagging doubts rose to the surface but she pushed them away.

After he helped her to clear the table, he went to take a shower while she loaded the dishwasher.  She was in the living-room when he joined her.  He was wearing just a pajama pants.  It was during the summer.  He sat next to her and rested his arm along the back of the sofa.  They watched a couple of movies and then called it a night.

He was in and out of the bathroom quickly while she stayed a while longer.  After she wiped the top of the sink she switched off the light and went into the bedroom.  He was lying under the covers.  He rolled over unto his side when he heard her but when she stood there watching him, he asked, “Aren’t you coming to bed.”

“In a minute,” she answered.

He sat up, frowning.  “What’s the matter, Lin?”

“I ran into Alicia this morning.”

He grimaced.  “What happened?”

Lindsey told him.  “Is this why you married me?” she asked, placing her hand on her swollen abdomen.

Alton threw back the covers and climbed out of the bed.  He went over to her, towering over her as she stood there, in the black vest and silk pajama shorts.  He hooked his finger under her chin and raised her face until she was looking up at him, her eyes wide as they met his.  “You should know by now why I married you,” he said quietly.

She swallowed.  “Maybe I need for you to tell me,” she replied.

“I love you, Lin,” he confessed.  “I would have married you even if you hadn’t gotten pregnant.  Alicia’s bitter because I broke up with her long before I met you.  She wants to ruin our relationship.  Don’t let her.  She knows I married you because I love you.”

“I’m sorry,” Lindsey mumbled.  “I had my doubts and she just played on them.  I guess I never could get over the fact that a guy like you would be interested in me.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “You’re the most beautiful and desirable woman I know.  The first time I saw you, I knew that I was in trouble.  As you recall, I didn’t waste anytime introducing myself to you and asking you out.  I fell hard for you and was planning to ask you to marry me when you told me that you were pregnant.  I was on top of the world, Lin.  Didn’t you ever wonder how was able to put a ring on your finger the same night as your announcement?”

She nodded.  And at that moment, she felt like a complete fool.  “I’m sorry,” she apologized again, lowering her eyes.

“Oh, Lindsey,” Alton muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.

She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him as she kissed him back.  As they exchanged passionate kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed.

He laid her gently down and stretched out beside her.  Lying on his side, he gazed down into her face, his face flushed.  “You wanted me to say that I love you,” he murmured huskily.  “Now, I’m going to show you how much.”  He lowered his head and she reached up and clutched his head.

“I love you,” she whispered just before their lips touched.

 

Recommit to God

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.  I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill.  Selah – Psalm 3:3, 4

When I was going through a tough time because I was pregnant and unmarried, the words of this psalm comforted and sustained me.  I knew that I was not alone.  The Lord was with me.  He didn’t condone what I had done but He didn’t condemn or forsake me.

A story I can relate to is the one of the Samaritan woman.  She was married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband but Jesus reached out to her in love.  He didn’t excuse her lifestyle but he offered her a new one life with him in the center.  He didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but showed her grace while at the same time telling her to stop sinning.  God doesn’t discard us when we sin.  He reaches out to us through His Word or through others. I once heard about a man who was at the lowest point in his life, feeling worthless and one day he heard a sermon about God’s love and forgiveness which turned his life completely around.

When we cry out to God, He doesn’t ignore us but we must come to Him with a contrite heart, ready to forsake whatever separates us from Him and receive His forgiveness.  We have the assurance that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

For those of us who feel we are too sinful to go to Him, we are encouraged to, “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness …” (Joel 2:13)  There isn’t anything you can do that will diminish God’s love for you.  I knew that even while some church members were unforgiving toward me, I knew that I had God’s forgiveness and that His love for me hadn’t changed.  It hadn’t lessened.  In fact, during those times when I felt the heat and the censure from others, God’s love is what sustained me.  If you have wandered away from God, return to Him.  He is like the father of the prodigal son who returned after wasteful living.  The father was waiting for him and he ran to meet him.  God longs for us to return to Him.  He’s waiting with open arms to welcome us back.

I’m thankful that God is “gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 145:8).  Our response to His goodness and mercy is to recommit our lives to Him.  And in doing so, we can be confident “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Source:  Bible Knowledge

Christ’s Suffering

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man – Hebrews 2:9

Today is a very emotional day for me.  The waterworks began this morning soon after I got up.  I mentioned the suffering of Jesus to my husband and he said, “He suffered all the way to the cross and even while He was suffering He thought only about you and me.”  As I made up the bed, his words hit home and the tears flowed as the enormity of the suffering Jesus endured for our salvation dawned on me.

Yes, Jesus suffered that day.  He was beaten.  He was spat on. He was mocked.  He heard the religious leaders and some in the crowd call for Him to be crucified although Pilate wanted to release Him because he saw no reason for Him to be put to death.  He was treated like a common criminal.  He hung on the cross between two thieves and heard the people mock Him.  He witnessed His mother weeping uncontrollably at the foot of the cross and He felt forsaken by His Father.  That morning He was denied three times by Peter.  The night before He was betrayed by Judas and abandoned by the other disciples after they had all sworn that they would never leave Him.

He suffered indignity as He hung on the cross.  The Bible said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Galatians 3:13).  Yet, He remained on the cross, even though passers-by called for Him to come down from the cross if He were the Son of God and the religious leaders told Him to do the same thing so that they would believe in Him (Matthew 27:39-43, Jesus remained where He was for our sake.  He wanted to accomplish what He said to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15). 

Staying on that cross brought salvation into the world and eternal life to all who believe.  There was no other way for us to be saved except for Jesus to die on the cross.  He didn’t go through all that suffering just to abandon us to our fate.  A lot was at stake and hedged on Him.  He was sent into the world to save us and in spite of the agony He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked the Father if it were possible to take the cup away, He determined, nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  He was obedient to the Father even unto death.

Even as He hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus didn’t think about Himself.  He looked down on the people who were mocking Him and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He promised one of the thieves on the cross who asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom, ““Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” He promised this repentant sinner that one day he will enter the kingdom. 

He looked upon His mother as she stood next to the disciple John and He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, He said, “Behold your mother!” He was placing Mary into John’s care.  He was looking out for her.  And it said that from that hour, John disciple took her to his own home.  Even in His suffering, Jesus was more concerned for the well being of others.

What can we learn from all of this?  No matter what we are going through, we must continue to remain faithful and obedient to God and to minister to others.  Jesus suffered but the story doesn’t end there.  He died on the cross, was buried but as He promised, on the third day He rose from the dead.  He ascended to His Father after spending time with his disciples and is now sitting at the right hand of God.  And one day, He will return to take us with Him.  As we go through trials, suffering, pain and difficulties, let us look “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

holy-step-chapel-climbing
Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

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Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia