Followers

Monday, May 9, 2022

Followers of Christ

 Good Afternoon, dear reader. A blessed Monday to you! Rejoice for the sun is shining and the weather is warming!! ☀️☀️

As I learn about the different things in the Bible, you are learning right along with me! So, this morning I wanted to clarify the difference between a Jew, a Gentile and a Christian. Basically, being Jewish is a matter of birth. A Christian is anyone who is reborn into the belief in Jesus Christ. A Gentile is pretty much everyone else. 

It would seem in Biblical times people were hung up on staying within one's own religious community. Their beliefs were so strong that they would view others not of their faith as "unclean". This doesn't mean they didn't shower or wear clean clothes. They were considered morally impure. It is much like when we see Jesus sitting with those who were lepers, prostitutes, and unbelievers. Why would He lower Himself like that? So, when Peter was confronted by the Jews, they were not very happy with him. This was an affront to Jewish law.
How could he dine with immoral people? Such barbarians! Peter then explained to them how he had had a vision and in that vision, he was told that any creature created by God was not unclean or unworthy. This was an irrefutable argument. Chalk one up for Peter!

The sheep and the shepherd are back again, but this time Jesus compares Himself to the gate of the pasture. He is the one who keeps the sheep in place. It's much like when we first come to Jesus. We open the gate of our soul to Him. We allow Him to come into our lives. We know that He will not harm or deceive us. We come to Him willingly. Think of it this way, the beginning of the 23rd Psalm.. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." The Psalm is all about the peace of God, of knowing we will be fulfilled by Him. He will give us rest, nourishment and everlasting life.

Sorry, this is so brief. I'm still feeling under the weather and a little fuzzy-headed. Hopefully, I will be feeling better soon. Remember to always remain a nice human. 😇

Father Bill gives us a deeper understanding of today's readings:



Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Shepherd and The Lamb

Good Morning, dear reader! Happy Mother's Day to all you moms! I hope your day is blessed with love! 

Yesterday, we saw Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Today, we see God has chosen Paul (Saul) and Barnabas to spread the word of Jesus among the people of Greece. They visit the various churches, but, in some, they are not well received. The Jews are a hard crowd. They don't want to hear about Jesus. They consider this blasphemy against God. However, Paul and Barnabas are not flustered by this. They basically tell the Jews "Fine, go off and believe what you want. You are denying yourselves eternal life, but whatever...." So, off they go to preach to the Gentiles, who are more than receptive to our friend's message. They joyfully receive this and praise Jesus's name. The Jews, however, still are angry. They try to incite others, who carry more clout in the community, to get rid of Paul and Barnabas. "This can't continue. We must band together and get rid of these two rebels before they stir up trouble." They begin their protest and manage to push Paul and Barnabas out of the city. But this did not upset our two disciples. They accomplished their task and are filled with joy. 

Our reading in Revelation and in John shows Jesus as both the Great Shepherd and the Lamb. This can be confusing. How can He be both? It is because these are
metaphors. The Lamb symbolises Jesus's death upon the cross, His sacrifice for our sins. The Shepherd is symbolic of Jesus's love for us, and how He cares for each and every person. 

The reading in Revelation gives us a glorious picture of heaven! It inspires hope and feelings of comfort. To think we will all be in heaven with no pain, no infirmity, no loneliness or feeling cast aside. 

"These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress" (v14) refers to the Christians who were persecuted by the Romans. But, it could also mean those who have survived just about anything. It's our reassurance that no matter what we have suffered through in our lives, it will all be redeemed once we get to heaven. God will know each of our stories. Our sins are wiped clean, and our hearts are made pure. And, forever we will remain a nice human. 😇

Father Greg Friedman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives us his reflection on today's readings: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video/2022-05-08-reflection-51

I have chosen a video that really goes with our readings. "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe. It's a song about what we would do when we see Jesus. Will we dance or be so overwhelmed by His majesty that we sit in complete adoration? It gives you something to think about, that's for sure. https://youtu.be/N_lrrq_opng


 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Voice of Truth

Good Morning, dear reader. Well, we have come to the end of another week. Isn't it lovely, learning all about the wonders of Jesus's works among the people?! It gives us such hope. 

Speaking of hope, the stories of Tabitha and Aeneas are miraculous! We have a man who has been paralysed and a woman who spent her days serving the Lord, both miraculously given new life! We don't know why these two people were specifically chosen by Jesus, especially since we know that there were so many more people who were just as deserving. 

This is a question so many of us ask when we are faced with tragedy in our lives. Why us? Why them? What did we do to deserve this? These questions can fester so deep that it drives us from our faith. We feel God has abandoned us. And, sometimes, it can feel that way. With all my problems of late, I would have every reason to ask why God is letting this happen. I've been good. I'm trying to spread His word. So why is all this still happening? The answer is I don't know. Life happens. Bad things happen to good people. It's what we do with that knowledge that makes the difference. I chose to remain faithful to God. It's all I have left. I have to trust in the fact that things will eventually work themselves out. It has to. And, I know, regardless of the outcome, God will be right there helping me through it. 

In John's Gospel, we see what happens when we don't want to take what is given to us. We go back to our old ways. Jesus watches as those who once believed in His word decide it is too tough to stay the course. He lets them walk away. He doesn't beg them or cajole them or make them feel guilty. That is because we are given a choice. We were given free will. Jesus isn't standing there with a gun to our heads saying we'd better believe in Him or else. I think this did sow a little doubt in Jesus because He turns to His apostles and wants to know if any of them wish to walk away. He doesn't want them to feel pressured to stay. He wants them to be there of their own accord. But Simon Peter makes the point, "to whom shall we go?". Exactly. Where else CAN you go? 

Now that I look at it, our reading in Acts goes hand-in-hand with our reading in John. Again we are being given a choice. Do we want to stick it out with Jesus and hope for the best? Is our faith strong enough to withstand doubt? I think that's a really good summary for all of it. Is our faith strong enough? Can we stay the course? Are we willing to stay? Think about that today. Really think. If everything in your life were to go kerflooey right now, would you still believe in Jesus? Would you still put your trust in God that it will all work out? 

I'm just gonna leave that there.... while you ponder that... remember, be a nice human. 😇

Father Bill's reflection on today's readings: https://youtu.be/dXQ5ZLZZHj0

This is "my song".. it reminds me that I need to listen to the voice of God, the voice of truth... "The Voice of Truth" by Casting Crowns, from the movie "Facing The Giants". https://youtu.be/_YgfiaLk0kE

Friday, May 6, 2022

The Road to Damascus

Good Morning, dear reader. Happy Friday. God has seen to it to awaken us this morning, so we are off to a good start! 

We briefly touched on the subject of Saul's conversion yesterday. Today we read the story of that conversion. Now Saul was not a good man. He struck fear in the hearts of those familiar with him. He spent his days seeking out anyone who had anything to do with Jesus and hauling them off to jail. This day was no different. Only now, Saul needed to go to other towns in search of more followers of Jesus. So he and a few cohorts set out for Damascus. Surely in a large city as this, there would be that many more people. As they are walking, Saul is suddenly blinded by a bright light and he hears a voice calling to him "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"(v4). The voice is none other than that of Jesus. Sometimes you just need to take matters into your own hands to fix a problem, and this is exactly what Jesus is doing. He blinds Saul, forcing him to rely on his friends to get him to Damascus. When they finally reach the city, Jesus calls on Ananias to go to Saul and see to his conversion. Jesus will work through Ananias in order to achieve this. Ananias isn't so sure of this. He knows how awful Saul is and is doubtful that he can be converted. But Jesus doesn't care. He knows He can save this man and bring him into the fold. So Ananias sets out on his task. Saul is so overwhelmed by it all that he is left no choice but to believe that this had been the work of Jesus. He is baptised and healed. Chalk another one up for "Team Jesus"! 

The study guide in my bible gives the best lesson on this story, so I will share it with you.

If Saul can be converted then surely God can use anything to advance the Divine Plan. Saul had been so diligent and unrelenting in his attack on Jesus' followers that his transformation from being an enemy and persecutor of the Gospel to being one of its most successful advocates is truly remarkable. Each version of this story serves to demonstrate Saul's legitimate role as teacher of the Gospel. He now has the authority to endorse such things as preaching to the Gentiles and excusing non-Jewish Christians from observance of the Jewish Law. 

With our reading in John, we are getting to the end of the Bread of Life discourse. The Jews don't understand that eating Jesus' flesh and drinking His blood isn't to be taken in the literal sense. It is symbolic. Just like when we take Holy Communion in church. The wine and the Eucharist are the symbolic gestures we use to remind us of what Jesus did for us on the cross. This way, we are partaking in what Jesus has offered to us so that we may be one with Him. 

It is truly amazing the ways that Jesus can use situations and people for good. It shows that no matter how bad things get, He can turn it around and use it for something good. We can never fall so far from His grace that we can't be rescued. We just need to be open to it. Once that healing takes place, we are truly transformed in His love. Show how Jesus has transformed you by always being a nice human. 😇

Father Bill's reflection on today's readings: https://youtu.be/aZ9l2lGxKgU



 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Learning and Understanding

Good Morning, dear reader. I was struck by the simplicity of our reading in Acts today. Philip asks this gentleman if he understands what it is he is reading. This could actually be interpreted in two ways. Do you KNOW what you are reading!?! In other words, do you know the importance of what it is? Or, he could simply be asking if the man understands the words written and what they mean. As the conversation continues, the man gets the impression that what he is reading is of some importance. So he asks Philip who it is that the passage is being written about. The man wishes to be taught about the bible and about Jesus. As Philip helps the gentleman read through these passages, he is converted right there and declares that he wishes to be baptised! 

This is often how it goes when people are introduced to Jesus and to scripture. They have a thirst for knowledge and understanding that can only be found in faith. I was that way when I started learning about the bible. I love to learn. I can be like a sponge. The bible I had been using at that time had become well worn. There were page markers, bookmarks, highlights, underlines, pieces of paper, you name it. You could tell how often I used it and learned from it. That's what we all should be doing. Don't be afraid to mark up your bible. Put your own notations in it. These are all things that will help you as you read through it. 

John's Gospel continues on with the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus keeps repeating this so that everyone will understand that God is the giver of life and that those who believe in Him also believe in Jesus, which can give us eternal life. "Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from Him comes to Me" (v45). This is why we need to understand what is written in the Bible. We listen to God's word, and His teachings. We can then begin to understand the importance of Jesus Christ. 

This was my hope in starting this blog. To help myself gain a deeper understanding of my faith, to keep me close to Jesus, and to give me something positive in my life. I also hoped that maybe I could help others learn of Jesus and His words and teachings. I would gladly spend time discussing all things faith. So, dear reader, if you ever have any questions or just wish to talk about something, feel free to leave a comment, or even email me. You can also reach out to me via social media. I don't have dedicated social media accounts for Everyday Faith because so far I have zero followers on my blog. But I will leave a link to my Twitter account that I use for this. And always remember, dear reader... be a nice human.😇

Father Bill's reflection on today's readings: https://youtu.be/-dqe5JOibco

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lruthanne67

Email: ljwhitworth67@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

From Chaos Comes Opportunity

Good Morning, dear reader. Well, we are halfway through another week. I am still feeling under the weather. 😕 Be that as it may, we continue our Easter journey.

As we begin chapter 8 of Acts, we see that the church is beginning to fall apart.  Jerusalem is in chaos. People are leaving so they don't get caught up in it all. Stephen needs to be buried before the remaining faithful depart for other lands.

We now see another person enter the story, Saul. We briefly saw his name yesterday as we finished Acts 7. He was the one who gave permission for Stephen to be killed. If you are familiar with the various people in the Bible, you may recall that Saul later becomes Paul of Tarsis. He was transformed on the road to Damascus. But, before that happens, he remains Saul of Tarsis. And at this point, he is going house to house, finding anyone who is a believer or follower of Jesus, and throwing them in jail. Jesus has really turned things upside down! 

Philip arrives in Samaria and begins to teach the good news of Jesus Christ. The crowds of people are spellbound while they listen to what Philip has to say. Those who are full of sinful ways, those who were ill or handicapped were blessed and made well. The people of Samaria rejoiced! Never have they seen such miracles! The uprising in Jerusalem was a blessing in disguise as it gave more people the opportunity to hear about Jesus, to have miracles performed, and to have the number of followers multiplied! 

Our reading in John continues with the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus is telling the people that He is merely doing the will of His Father, "I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the One who sent Me" (v38). Anything that is given to Jesus by the Father will be passed on to those who come to Jesus. And anyone who has seen Jesus and believes in Him will be given eternal life. 

I know this seems redundant. I have had to go back and check to make sure we weren't repeating any readings. I do know that when something is repeated often it means that it is something that requires you to pay attention because it's important. Obviously, it is important that we pay attention to everything we read in scripture. But this lesson is even more important. This is the basis for our belief. We know that Jesus will sustain us. He will save us. He will bless us. All He asks is that we believe in Him and follow Him. I think that's a pretty reasonable request. One that should be easy enough to do, as well. I know that in my own life and what we are dealing with currently, if I didn't have my faith, if I didn't have that promise of hope in Jesus, I probably would've given up by now. 

And, on that note, dear reader, I'm going to crawl back under the covers and try to take a nap. I'm at least feeling slightly better today than I did yesterday. I wish you blessings for the day and remind you, as always, to be a nice human. 😇

Father Bill's reflection on today's readings: https://youtu.be/GXTCFKfAqC8

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Purposeful Intent

Good Morning, dear reader. It would seem that I have picked up a nasty bug. Despite that, I soldier on... so let's get to it!

Let me start with this… what is purposeful intent? It might seem a straightforward answer. It is doing something with meaning, with deep thought. You meant to do this, you expected this.. much like we’ll see Stephen when he looks up after telling off the old geezers (lol) of the Sanhedrin. We should approach our faith with that same purposeful intent. To really put thought and effort into what Jesus is trying to teach us. We also need to put that same effort into our prayer lives. Believe and you will receive! Ok… now on to today’s lesson… 

This morning's reading in Acts shows us a very angry Stephen. I actually had a bit of a giggle at the things Stephen had to say! "You stiff-necked people.." (v51) Yup, that pretty much describes them! lol, He tells them that their archaic attitudes need to change. You can't keep people from speaking freely about something or someone they believe in. If they didn't like you or the things you had to say, you were thrown into some dank, dark prison and forgotten about. Things remained this way for a very long time. Now Stephen is calling them out. He'd had enough. Someone had to speak up. It might as well be him.
Stephen's courageous outburst can be explained by the fact that it was the Holy Spirit within him that gave him the bravery needed to speak out. This can be confirmed because we see in verses 55 and 56 that Stephen looked up, saw God and Jesus standing before him, "But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God". He wasn't just looking up.. he was looking up intently.. with a purpose, with rapt attention. He expected to see something. He expected something to happen. 

At this point, the Sanhedrin had had enough. This guy needs to go and he needs to go now! So they drag him out of the city limits. But this still was not enough to satisfy their anger, so they decide to stone him. This will send a clear message that no one is to speak out against this counsel, no one is to speak of Jesus. Something very powerful then happens. As Stephen is being stoned, he looks heavenward and says "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (v59), followed by "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"(v60). Hmm... these words sound mighty familiar... Stephen is speaking the same words Jesus did as He was hanging on the cross. Here you are being persecuted for speaking the truth, and yet you tell God to not hold their sins against them. I don't think I could be that forgiving. I'd probably be thinking that eventually the Karma bus is going to come around and will make its stop in front of the Sanhedrin. Not Stephen. He wants to follow in Jesus's footsteps and ask forgiveness of these men. 

As we move into the Gospel of John, we are still talking about the bread of life discourse. Jesus is trying to explain the whole idea but the men seem a little..dense? They want some giant show. "What sign can you do?" (v30). I would imagine that at this point Jesus rolls His eyes and thinks "What am I, a magician?!". Why do people always insist on proof? Does no one have faith anymore? Is faith not seeing but believing? Once the people hear this, they want to know how they can get in on this. They want what Jesus is offering.

Do you want what Jesus is offering? Are you looking for a deeper meaning in life? It is so easy to attain. All you need to do is accept Jesus into your heart. Allow Him to transform you and your life. Over these weeks, we have learned about how death and sin were overcome by a single sacrifice, Jesus. How one person gave His life so that we could be free. Free to worship, free to speak of Jesus's name, and free to believe in what He has to offer. We don't need signs and miracles for proof. We simply need to believe. Think about all this today. Think about what you need for you to believe in Jesus. While you're thinking of all this, try to remember that you should always be a nice human. 😇

Father Bill's reflection on today's readings: https://youtu.be/z6HGMslyI5k