The Call

“The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying:

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

Before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

“`Ah, Sovereign Lord’ I said, `I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’

“But the Lord said to me, `Do not say, `I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1: 1 – 8 NIV)

There are many lessons we can learn from Jeremiah’s call. Foremost would be that when God asks us to do something; when God calls; there are no excuses we can bring that are satisfactory. Basically, we must conclude that God knows what He is doing. When he calls He is absolutely serious. We cannot say that we are too young, too old, too poor, not fit, not smart, or any other of a thousand reasons that leap to our minds when God calls.

In the case of Jeremiah, God had a specific plan in mind. He called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. He called him at a time of trouble for Judah. He knew that Jeremiah would face persecution and promised to rescue him.

Whatever the call is for our lives; God has a specific purpose and plan in mind. He has planned for the call from the time you were conceived. Some would even go so far as to say from the foundations of the world or from all eternity. I am happy to realize that as soon as I was conceived God had a specific plan in mind for my life.

Generally speaking, for all of us, the plan and purpose of God is to be formed into the image of His Son, Jesus:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8: 28 – 30 NIV)

We have been born at a unique time in history. We have seen fulfilled, and are witnessing the continuing fulfillment of the kingdom of God spreading throughout the earth. This is something that all those of the Old Testament longed to see. As God fulfills the call He has placed on our lives we shall be privileged to see more and more of the kingdom of God appear all around us.

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Mary of Magdala or Mary of Bethany

Nowhere in the literature do I read of the theories about Mary Magdalene that I am presenting in this article. Some have proposed that Mary of Magdala was either a prostitute or in some ways a sinner. One of the church fathers (Pope Gregory) used her as an example of one who had repented of the seven capital sins because of the seven demons that Jesus had cast out of her. He did, however, agree with me that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were the same person (known in some circles as the composite Mary). I developed what I am going to present here independently and then discovered some of the scholarly discussion concerning Mary. The reason I have studied this is because of the great love that existed between them because of forgiveness of sin. I believe this great love has been construed by many to be some form of sexual liaison because of doubt, unbelief, and a lack of understanding of the power of agape love.

From the references to the banquet where Lazarus attended; Martha served; and Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet men3tioned in the Gospel of John (John 12: 1 – 11) I set the scene. From the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10: 38 – 42) we discover evidence of the love relationship between Mary of Bethany and Jesus based on Jesus’ teachings and revelations while she sat at his feet. I am concluding that the event mentioned in Luke just mentioned occurred during the preparations for the banquet mentioned in John 12. In Mark (Mark 14: 1 – 11) we have a story of an unnamed woman who anointed Jesus feet at a banquet hosted by Simon the Leper. At this banquet the controversy arises about the waste of the expensive perfume. Notice that the host, Simon the Leper, is mentioned here but nothing more. Also note that here the perfume is poured on Jesus’ head. Also in Matthew (Matthew 26: 6 – 13) we have mention of an unnamed woman anointing Jesus’ head and the controversy about the waste of the expensive perfume.

Now we come to a passage in Luke (Luke 7: 36 – 50) where Jesus addresses the secret thought process of his host (a Pharisee specifically called Simon in Luke 7: 40, 43, and 44) regarding the sinfulness of the unnamed woman touching Jesus. Here the woman is mentioned as washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, drying Jesus’ feet with her hair, kissing Jesus’ feet, and anointing Jesus’ feet with the perfume. Jesus specifically mentions her great love because she has been forgiven much. Note that immediately following this story Luke mentions Mary Magdalene traveling with Jesus and being one of the women supporting Jesus and the disciples in their ministry. (Luke 8: 1 – 3)

You will not find my conclusions in any of the literature. I have taken the step of considering the role of Simon the Leper as the father of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus because of my experience in working with the addicted and the abused and the marginalized of society. The place of host at a banquet where Jesus was invited and Martha served and Lazarus attended and Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet and that took place in Bethany all bring me to the conclusion that Simon must have had a significant role in the lives of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. How Simon could be hosting the banquet as a leper brings me to another conclusion; his leprosy had been healed and he was now clean and allowed to appear in public. It is not mentioned anywhere; but I believe that Simon had been cleansed by Jesus. I conclude this partly because he was willing to host the banquet out of gratitude to Jesus.

It is because of my experience with those in society who have been marginalized that I can come to the conclusion that Simon could both be Mary’s father and consider her a sinner. Simon is also called a Pharisee. This would mean that he had a very strict attitude toward the Law and how one should behave in regards to the Law. How would I tell the story of Mary from my reading?

Growing up in the house of Simon would have been very restrictive; especially to an adventurous young woman. The story of the “Prodigal Son” may very well have been a reflection on what happened to Mary. Taking part of her inheritance she left her home in Bethany to get away from the religious strictures. What her lifestyle was we can only conjecture. I see from my experience that some of the unclean spirits cast out of Mary would have been such entities as rejection, rebellion, and religion. I believe that the story of Jesus traveling under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the Gerasenes in order to deal with the man inflicted with Legion shows that Jesus could have gone to Magdala to rescue Mary. The rescue of Mary would then have been the connection Jesus had with the household of Simon the Leper including Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.

Why would these remarkable events, especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead, not be included in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? I believe the threat to kill Lazarus by the Jewish leaders kept the writers of the early gospels to not mention these events or to cloak them in terms that would not identify Lazarus.

My final conclusion and application to my life is that our love for Jesus because of the great forgiveness we have received should be the principle guiding factor in our relationship. We have been shown by Jesus that serving one another is the primary way in which we can show our love to Jesus.

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Faith vs. Fear

How do we reconcile the continuation of the Gospel of Mark with the early ending of his manuscript? Early manuscripts have the ending of Mark at 16: 8:

“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” (Mark 16: 8 NIV)

Later manuscripts have 16: 9 – 20 including the appearance to Mary Magdalene, the two on the road to Emmaus, and the Eleven hiding in the upper room. Jesus rebukes the Eleven for their lack of faith (I read this as fear) and commissions them to go into all the world.

I have no problem with these additions to later manuscripts because oral tradition was a reasonable way to carry important information and Luke and Matthew carry similar information. Each day I arise early and pray for inspiration to write a daily article to be published as a blog on Living Fully website. I experience first-hand each day the very ending of Mark:

“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16: 19, 20 NIV)

There is a choice before us each day of our lives. We can walk by faith or we can tremble in fear. Something truly remarkable has happened in our world. The Son of God was born of the virgin Mary, grew up among us, lived and taught those who were willing to listen, followed His Father’s plan completely and fully, was crucified as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, rose from the dead and appeared to those who would be witnesses to His resurrection, ascended to sit at the right hand of God, and sent the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us to continue what He started among us.

We can believe what happened and continue the work of Jesus. We can live by faith. There are many, many Biblical texts that support what I am saying. Jesus walked among us. Jesus was the full revelation of God. When we experience a love relationship through Jesus with God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit we are walking around daughters and sons of God. We have nothing to fear.

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Our Awesome God

I usually awake early in the morning and drink some coffee and pray a while and write this blog. Most times I find inspiration in the scripture or something that has happened recently comes to mind or there is something in the news that prompts me to write. The purpose of writing this blog is, after all, to provide some point of contact for those who want to continue on their life journey with God. This morning nothing came to mind after an hour or so. I could get no inspiration that I thought was what God wanted me to do. So I went back to bed for a while. After a little deep meditation; what I call a nap; I began to think about how awesome God has been in my life and generally in the cosmos.

I can find from my own life experience a testimony and a witness that God is awesome. I think that for me the most awesome characteristic about God is that He loves me. Not just that He loves me but that He sees me as lovely. God sees me as someone who is worth dying for. He gave His life for me.

How can I describe me? I wrote a little autobiography a few years ago called “The Farm Boy from Pennsylvania.” I was actually born on a farm in Pennsylvania within sight of the highest point in Pennsylvania, Mt. Pisgah. Mt. Pisgah was named, of course, from Deuteronomy 34: 1: “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan . . .” It is certain that I did not know that at the time. My grandfather had collected farms from that area until he had 640 acres in one tract. It was on one of those farms that I was born and it was on those 640 acres I spent many of my summers. What a journey I have had!

Just the geography alone is astounding. I have visited Norway, England, islands in the Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and Africa. We will return to Kissi, Kenya, Africa this summer to continue building churches and working toward the establishment of a Bible School. I will go to Papua New Guinea this fall to participate in the Executive of Victorious Ministry through Christ as the Secretary. I have been sent by God all over the world to see His awesome creation.

I have witnessed healing in my own life and witness healing in the lives of those around me almost every day. The reading of the Bible has overflowed into my life and experience on a daily basis. I do not physically see into the spiritual realm. I have not had experiences like John as recorded in Revelation. I don’t actually feel that I need to have such experiences because I sense the spiritual realm as real and active all around me all the time. I know from personal experience that I am spirit. When I read the words of Jesus in the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and the truth,” I know what that means.

In the very small church, Church on the Way, that my wife, Helen, and I lead in Bayfield, Ontario, Canada, we have seen people healed on a regular basis, financial events that can only be considered providential intervention, and a growing sense of becoming one in heart and mind that has made us truly reflective of the New Testament church described in Acts. Each week we hear testimony of the actions of God in all of our lives.

I am a ten year survivor of prostate cancer. When I went through that diagnosis, treatment, and recovery; it felt very much like I was not even involved. I was truly carried. I was a sheep in the arms of my Good Shepherd all through the events. Honestly, I was so carried that it would have made absolutely no difference whether I had lived or died. I don’t believe that there is any death in God. I will never experience death. I will only experience the ending of this physical existence and a more sharply defined spiritual existence that is already all around me.

Another way of looking at what I am experiencing on a daily basis is called, “walking in glory.” You see, God exists in glory. The few descriptions we have of the heavenly realm reveals God surrounded by unapproachable light. Those who try to describe it speak of fire, and astoundingly bright jewels, and rainbows. It is obvious that what is witnessed can’t really be described in language. Terms are always used that include the phrase, “like.” They are seeing something “like” something they can talk about; but it is really beyond description. When Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration his clothing became so bright that “no bleach could have made it so.” Well, that is what I live in. I live in the glory. The spiritual being I am lives in that glory. I actually already reside in heavenly realms. I live in the description Jesus gave in great detail in the Gospel of John chapters 13 through 17. Study it, contemplate it, see it as a reality in your life.



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