2020
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Pastors, God Is Trying To Tell Us Something, Promote Stay In The House!


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In Search

By Paul W Hoffmaster

Contrary to the Media's flexibility between truth and fiction, there is a thread of truth in the fact that many churches are experiencing an era of exodus. Unable to stop at factual reporting, they venture into fictional speculation that the exodus is not only related to church attendance but is a rejection of God. Instead of searching for the real cause of dwindling attendance the Media speculates that people are tired of a God who downgrades their actions and allows suffering to go uninterrupted. The validity of the Media is based on factual reporting, not on interpretive analysis.

People are not leaving God; rather, they are leaving churches in search of God. There is a hunger within man to experience a relationship with God that would lead them into a purposeful life. When a church fails to reveal Jesus Christ, the people will face the dilemma of whether to settle into a religious atmosphere or begin a quest to find the living God.

Cornelius was a Roman Centurion that had been exposed to God through the Jewish community. Hearing and seeing how God influenced their lives had a direct influence on his own quest to know more about Him. He began to pray continually. His generosity flowed to the Jewish community. His whole household was desirous to know the God of the Jewish people. What causes people outside of the Faith to seek a relationship with the living God? I believe sight and sound open the door to spiritual exposure. When people verbally share their faith and exhibit what they confess, others will take notice and desire to know more. "Secret Service Christians" assist Satan by not sharing their faith. The quieter the Believer, the more distant the Gospel becomes. Cornelius was drawn to the Jewish faith by Jews that were living what they confessed. Are we drawing people to our Faith today?

Cornelius prayed so earnestly and often that one day, around three in the afternoon, an angel appeared to him and told him that his prayers and giving had come up as a memorial before God. The word memorial means a reminder. What this implies is that God was reminded of the sincerity of this soldier's heart. This opened the door for Cornelius to find an even greater truth. He was told to send for a man called Peter who would come and tell him what he must do. I wonder how God receives our prayers. Do our prayers remind God of our sincerity and quest for truth? Sadly, many Christians dwell in the foothills of the Kingdom, instead of approaching the gates of His Kingdom. Many pray in a repetitious manner with no real thought of to whom we are talking. Remember how we used to pray when we first accepted Jesus Christ. Where is that thrill and excitement that lifted our prayers right into the Throne Room of God?

Do our words and actions play a role in bringing people to the Lord? Do our prayers and giving remind God of our true commitment to Him? Cornelius lived his faith with the desire to grow his faith. May we learn these simple truths! (Ref. Acts 10:1-6)


Hypocrites and Fools

By Anthony Smith 

Mat 7:4_5 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

HYP'OCRITE.

1. One who feigns to be what he is not; one who has the form of godliness without the power, or who assumes an appearance of piety and virtue, when he is destitute of true religion.

A dissembler; one who assumes a false appearance.

And the hypocrite's hope shall perish. Job 8.

In today's world, we see many who profess Godliness but are not known by God. Those that have a form of religion but deny the power there in. There form is of appearance only, occasional church goers and those that profess Christ but are not saved by any means. Many follow after fads and the power of persuasion of false doctrine and false teaching. Going after teachers that will only teach them what they want to hear.

A hypocrite will unrightly judge others, using their own form of Godliness, which according to scripture, is as filthy rags. They try to tell others what not to do but they themselves are immune to their own advice. This is mentioned in scripture. They present themselves with fine cloths, boast of their knowledge of Scripture but have no knowledge of the meaning of what they have read.

For the Bible tells us that the Scriptures are spiritually decerned. Only throu the Holy Spirits guidance can a Christian learn the hidden mysteries of the kingdom of Heavan or the true meaning of Scripture. In other words you must be saved.

Rom 2:21-23 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

Along with these sins, we need to add fornication. For many hypocrites will commit it by haveing a sexual relation with someone not their spouce. Show up at a church and declair that they are of God. For they neither know the Lord nor are they known by Him.

God is direct in His words. He says that no man shall have an excuse when it comes to judgment. What we sow so shall we reep. What ever we say, think, and do in this life shall come to light in the next. They will say and do whatever they can to justify their actions and express to others of their piety.

Being destitute of true religion means what? James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Religion, as distinct from theology, is godliness or real piety in practice, consisting in the performance of all known duties to God and our fellow men, in obedience to divine command, or from love to God and his law. Webster.

There are many religions on this earth today, all religions have one thing in common, a doctrine. Atheism is a religion because it has a doctrine, along with all other false religions.

Mat_5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Luke_12:20 But God said unto him, thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

Fool. One who is destitute of reason, or the common powers of understanding; an idiot.

In common language, a person who is somewhat deficient in intellect, but not an idiot; or a person who acts absurdly; one who does not exercise his reason; one who pursues a course contrary to the dictates of wisdom.

The Lord told the children of Israel, Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

A fool will not reason with the truth. He will hide behind society and its definition of right and wrong. Ignoring the truth of Scripture, accepting every wind and doctrine that is produced by the unrighteous. A fool will not adhere to sound doctrine, nor will he seek out the council of the Lord.

Rom 1:28-29 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers.

Can these people be saved? The answer is yes. They must turn from their evil ways, accept Jesus as the Son of God and repent of their sins. What can we do to help them? Pray for the Lord to open their eyes. Their eyes are darkened. Many say that the window to the soul is through the eyes. Its the mind that satan want to control.



Editorial – By James Hankins

PARDON THE INTERRUPTION, I HAVE SOMETHING I NEED TO SAY TO YOU ONLY


My two brothers, three sisters and I were blessed to have a loving and caring mother and father as we grew up. My father was a Catholic and my mother a hand- clapping, foot- stomping AME-Zion Methodist. We learn and practice the best of both religions. We all reach a point in our lives especially after attending the funeral of a close friend or family member that we wonder is GOD real or just a story our parents taught us.

Some of us miss one Sunday, then two then three or four months and don’t feel any guilt, so we just stop going to church. We start making big money, dressing well, eating at the finest restaurants where we leave a 12-dollar tip. The younger one says good-by GOD I am going to college and the older one says good-by GOD I am wearing $300 shoes, a 900 dollars outfit and 200 dollars’ worth of jewelry on my way to The Club. The old folks would say you have gotten too big for your britches.

You are at the point where GOD says pardon the interruption, I have something to say only to you, my child. My parents taught us that hurricane and viruses were not a curse from GOD but his strong way of saying “Be still and know that I am GOD”.   Take advantage of this quiet time to have family discussions, talk and learn more about each other and plan the next steps each of you will take.

When grandma died, some you threw out most of the things she had been saving and keep what you could use. You had stopped going to church a long time ago and had no use for her Bible, but you could not bring yourself to throw it in the trash can. You remember Grandma smiled every time she opens that book and read to you. She had a bigger smile when you finally learned to read and read the Bible to her. Grandma is now with the people she taught you about in a place where she will never grow old.

Open that book and have all family members read a little bit each day and tell what that passage means to them. Time will pass quickly, and the coronavirus will be gone before you finish that great book. He said. “be still and know that I am GOD”.

This is for my three families, Bellamy, Hankins and Mclean’s. We grew up in different cities and states, but we all have two things in common. We were all raised from birth as Christians and we love fried chicken, rice, gravy and homemade biscuits (smile). Will your great family join us in pray? After over 40 years as an itinerant/traveling country preacher, Rev. Harry Hoosier, a black slave preacher who could not read or write said the best prayer he has ever heard and said had only three words. “LORD HAVE MERCY”. He said even if you forgotten how to pray, say those words real slow 10 times and see what happens.

James Hankins
J. Hankins Realty
Veteran Owned Business
jhankinsrealty.com


The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola –

Fourth Week: Jesus’ Resurrection (Mk 16:1-8)

By Peter W. Gyves, SJ, MD

A Faith That Does Justice engages The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola[1] (Exercises) to discern God’s will and live faith in action on behalf of all God’s people. When appropriately adapted they offer a way for all people of good will to do the same.

The Fourth Week invites us to share the disciples’ experience of Jesus’ resurrection. They claimed to have seen Jesus alive, not in a dream or as an apparition, but in the bodily form they had known him before he was crucified. While their experience cannot be proven, it transformed their lives from fear and cowardice into great joy and the courage to preach the gospel they had learned from him to the ends of the earth (Mk 16:20). Here we present a general introduction to the subject matter of this week and then the first of two accounts in Mark’s gospel of Jesus’ Resurrection (16:1-8).

The grace of the Fourth Week is to experience the joy and glory of the risen Christ.[2] Short formulas expressing Jesus’ resurrection emerged between 35-40 AD proclaiming that God had “raised Jesus from among the dead” to new life. Other formulas described him as having “died and risen” to live “exalted” and now “seated at the right hand of (God’s) throne.”[3] Around 55-56 AD, Paul offered what has been accepted as the earliest Christian credal formula.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I had in turn received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me. (1 Cor 15:3-8)[4]

For Christians, Jesus’ resurrection transcends history. It was a privileged experience of Jesus’ closest disciples that proleptically glimpsed the risen Christ at the end of time (parousia). Today, it offers hope for believers that what God has done for Jesus in raising him from the dead, God will do for them for their fidelity to him and the work he began on behalf of the kingdom of God.

The appearance stories depict Jesus’ disciples as not initially recognizing him. One explanation for this is that he has been transformed into his glorified state. He is no longer of this world, but beyond it. However, when they do recognize him, he is not devoid of a body and living within an immortal soul, as Greek culture might have expressed the resurrection experience. Rather, his disciples encountered him as a whole person, body and soul, engaging them in the relationships and experiences they had previously shared with him, only now living freed from death and in the fullness of God’s love.[5]

Belief in the resurrection was accepted by some in first century Jewish Palestine. While the Sadducees denied its occurrence, the Pharisees actively proclaimed it as occurring at the parousia. The early Christian communities also professed their belief that Jesus’ resurrection was the first of a universal resurrection experience that would occur for the righteous at the end of time.[6]

In composing the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius described Jesus’ resurrection appearances as beginning with his mother,[7] as rightfully being the first to share in this privileged experience. The appearances described by the evangelists were intended to explain the meaning of the risen Christ to new generations of believers. In their deepest sense, they attempt to explain the eschatological victory of the risen Christ over death and his disciples' call to participate in it.[8]

The appearance stories have three defining moments. First, Jesus offers forgiveness and a renewed offer of salvation to those who betrayed him. Second, Jesus' bodily presence makes clear that suffering and death do not have the final word in history. Third, Jesus sends his disciples in mission on behalf of the unfinished work of the kingdom of God.[9]

Mark’s gospel provides two different endings. The shorter one, and most likely the original ending, offers no resurrection appearances. It simply ends on the first day of the week after the sabbath.

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint (Jesus). And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.[10] As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”[11] So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.[12] (16:1-8)

The abrupt ending to Mark’s gospel leaves not only the women who fled the tomb in fear to come to terms with what they had experienced. It also leaves the reader to do the same. For Mark, the empty tomb does not prove Jesus’ resurrection. Rather, it is the young man, an angelic presence, who challenges the woman and reader to recognize the salvific significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It is now their responsibility to proclaim that in raising Jesus from the dead, God’s love has overcome hatred and restored life where there was death. This is the Easter message and it can only be authentically proclaimed by those who believe Jesus now lives exalted and in the fullness of God’s love.[13]

This shorter version of Mark’s gospel is intended to leave the reader confused. Jesus has been abandoned by all. We, the reader, are left to ponder the meaning of not just the ending of the story, but the gospel in its entirety. Will we see with the eyes of faith and follow Jesus in the unfinished work of the kingdom of God?  Consequently, there is a decision to be made. Boring explains it this way.

“The final words of the messenger, ‘just as he said to you,’ point the reader back not only to 14:28, but into the narrative as a whole. The series of predictions made by the Markan Jesus have been fulfilled; the one mocked and condemned as a false prophet has shown himself a faithful spokesperson for God, and the reader may be sure the prediction of the post-resurrection reunion of Jesus with his disciples will be fulfilled, though its fulfillment is not plotted in the narrative itself. Moreover: the future will unfold not as new revelations from the risen Jesus, but as the continual re-appropriation of what the Markan Jesus has already said in the narrative the readers have just heard. The Gospel seems to end on an incomplete and troubling note, but ‘this ending is not the end of the gospel, but only the end of the beginning of the gospel.’”[14]

Mark’s gospel has already made clear Jesus is the Christ (1:1), the Lord (1:3), the beloved Son of God (1:11). We have followed him throughout his public ministry (8:34-9:1), passion (14:43-15:16) and death (15:21-47). We have also been told he has been raised from the dead and that his disciples will see him in Galilee (16:6-7). As Mark’s gospel ends, we stand alone before an empty tomb. The angelic messenger has told us Jesus is not to be found in the tomb. He has been raised. His disciples and the women have abandoned him in fear.[15] There is only one question to be resolved. Will we believe the gospel story and the Easter message we have heard, or will we too flee in fear?

Let us pray for the faith to accept the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Easter message. May we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus in this world (Mk 8:34). In doing so, let us willingly accept the cost of discipleship and trust that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will do the same for us if we remain faithful to God’s will and Jesus’ work on behalf of the kingdom of God.


[1] The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are a series of Christian contemplations and meditations written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th century Spanish priest and founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Divided into four thematic "weeks" of variable length, they are designed to be carried out over a period of approximately 30 days. They were composed to help participants in religious retreats to discern the will of God and commit to following Jesus in this world whatever the cost. When appropriately adapted, they can also help people of other faith traditions discern God’s will and engage problems facing society in the 21st century.

[2] L.J. Puhl, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1951), Section 221.

[3] J.A. Pagola, Jesus: An Historical Approximation, (Miami, FL: Convivium Press, 2007), 387-91. To be ‘raised’ is to be exalted, that is, to be introduced into God’s life. Moreover, to be ‘exalted’ is to be pulled away from the power of death.

[4] Ibid., 390. This early confession of faith originated in the Church of Jerusalem. Paul would likely have encountered it in Antioch around 40 or 42 A.D. Pagola adds that the ‘third day’ language used in this formula describes the ‘decisive’ day of salvation. God saves and liberates on the third day; thus, Jesus was raised on the third day.

[5] Ibid., 391-94.

[6] Ibid., 394-402.

[7] Puhl, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Sections 218-25. See also, M. Ivens, Understanding the Spiritual Exercises, (Herefordshire: Gracewing and Surrey: Inigo Enterprises, 1998), 164-65, ref. 6. Ivens states Ignatius is following an ancient tradition that emphasized Mary’s presence in the salvific process brought about by the Incarnation. There is no biblical basis for this assertion.

[8] J. Sobrino, Christ the Liberator, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 12-14.

[9] J.I. Gonzalez Faus, Adiestrar la Libertad, (Santander, Spain: Sal Terrae, 2007), 111-115.

[10] M.E. Boring, Mark: A Commentary, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 443-44. The women went to the tomb to wash and anoint Jesus’ body that had been hastily buried (15:42-47) and likely also to achieve some closure to their relationship with him. Since the two Mary’s had already witnessed the stone being rolled over the tomb (15:46-47), waiting until they approach the tomb to ask who would remove the stone makes little sense. Boring believes the statement is offered for the benefit of the reader who is challenged to “see” that the stone, a barrier between God and humanity, has been rolled away for all time. The women who came to anoint a dead body will only partially recover their sight in this scene. Whether they (and the reader) move beyond semi-blindness to true belief and discipleship with the risen Christ must occur beyond this scene. See 8:22-26 for a faith where a man recovers his sight and sees everything clearly. See also, FJ Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 342-44.

[11] Ibid., 444-48. Upon entering the tomb, the women do not find a body. They encounter a young man wearing a white gown, a literary technique to describe an angelic figure. He is seated on the right, an appropriate placement for a divine representative. He announces the Easter message that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified has been raised. He is no longer to be found in the tomb. Mark also makes clear the post-resurrection gospel cannot be preached without taking into account the crucified Jesus of history. For this reason, he avoids any post-resurrection titles of Jesus (i.e., the Risen One, the Christ and Son of God, the Son of Man). The angel tells the women that the disciples will see Jesus in Galilee. It is not only the place where they first encountered him, it is also a symbolic expression of the land of the Gentiles. It will call them beyond the temple in Jerusalem and into a Gentile world (11:17; 13:10; 14:9). See also, Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary, 344-48.

[12] Ibid., 448-49. Jesus’ male disciples had fled from him at the time of his arrest. Now, the women flee from the tomb in fear at what they have seen and heard. Up to this point in Mark’s gospel, no one has carried Jesus’ salvific message and mission. Now, Mark challenges the reader, who has had a privileged view of Jesus’ ministry as an observer, to decide how she/he will respond to the “good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (1:1) See also, Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary, 348-52.

[13] Pagola, Jesus: An Historical Approximation, 403-07.

[14] Boring, Mark: A Commentary, 448.

[15] Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary, 351. The early Christian tradition, as seen in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, indicates the women were the first witnesses of the resurrection. Mark has intentionally changed this perspective to have the women also abandon Jesus. He ultimately places the initiative entirely with God. That is, while human beings have failed Jesus, God does not. What Jesus promised about his passion and death has come to pass (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). Now, concerning the promise of his reunion with his disciples in Galilee, the reader has every reason to believe that it has occurred (14:28 and 16:7), even if it is not described in this first ending to the gospel. This was certainly the belief of Mark’s community and the reason it committed to following Jesus in discipleship.

About Rev. Gyves

Peter W. Gyves, SJ, MD, is a member of the Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He is founder and director of A Faith That Does Justice, Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts.

A Faith That Does Justice

A Faith That Does Justice is an interfaith organization that raises consciousness about social issues affecting the most vulnerable among us and offers opportunities for people to walk in solidarity with those who our society marginalizes.


2020 CALENDARS


What Award Are You Getting?

By Gerjo Ben Van Der Merwe

I wonder if Paul knew when he was going to be killed. We don't know exactly when and where it happened, but we do know things were going very badly for Christians at that time. Christianity had been banned and Christians were being killed summarily. Apparently, Paul was hung approximately in 64 A.D. Although Paul did not know exactly when he would be killed, he had a strong suspicion that the time was coming very soon.

6You take over. I'm about to die, my life an offering on God's altar. 7This is the only race worth running. I've run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that's left now is the shouting-God's applause!

It's as if Paul is expressing a longing here. I might be putting this the wrong way, but doesn't Paul seem to be longing for his departure to heaven? It's as if he has been in prison long enough. The cold of winter has eaten away at his body and in a way, he is done with suffering. He wants to leave the broken world and exchange it for a wonderful rest with God.

Do we long for heaven too, or are we enjoying our stay on earth too much? Often, we choose not to speak about when the Lord will come and get us, because our feet are quite nicely planted on earth. Actually, we don't have time to go to heaven, because we're simply too busy here on earth. But we can get up right now, experience a heart convulsion, and when we open our eyes again, it can be all over.

When you look back at your life, at what stage of the race are you? When you eventually run past the finish line, did you win? When you step onto the podium, what prize will you receive? Will you reach the podium at all?

These are not easy questions, but at one time or another we will have to answer them, and hopefully it won't be too late. Yes, we know that each of us has already received the prize of salvation. Yes, each of us has received a free "get out of jail" card, because Jesus had died on the cross. But that prize has given us an entry to participate in the race to heaven.

Look, I'm not built for running, but my wife loves it. She ran a half marathon here in Stellenbosch and shortly after that a 12 km on Niel Ellis' wine farm. She understands the race metaphor much better than I and teaches me about uphills and downhills and persevering and encouraging and strangers helping one another and laughing. Yes, they're not running for a place, their prize is to finish.

When you look back at your life, at what stage of the race are you? When you eventually cross the finish line, have you won? When you get up on the podium, what prize will you win? Will you even reach the podium?

Paul doesn't know for sure when he will die, but when he does, he knows for sure that he will receive a prize. He knows it, because he believes in God and he knows that God will award the prizes fairly. It will happen to everybody.

Will it happen to you too?

Scripture

2 Tim 4:6-8

Reflection

At what stage are you in the race?

When you shoot past the finish line, have you won?

When you get up onto the podium, what prize will you get?

Will you get to the podium?

Prayer

Lord, I would like to run the race in such a way that I will also receive a prize from You. Help me to remain faithful and obedient to You every day. Amen.

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2020 SPIRITUAL BOOKS