The Spirit and Power of Elijah
Mark 9:9-13 • June 9, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
John the baptizer was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. He was prophesied of in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see [it] together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].” (Isaiah 40:3-5) John’s ministry was one of repentance for The Christ, The Messiah, The Anointed and promised One of God, is coming. “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16,17) This Elijah-like figure had one message. The Christ is coming! He will save you from your sin. He will baptize you with His Spirit. He must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30). Your life will now become devoted to Him and His message of hope to this lost generation. Interestingly, John proclaimed Jesus’ first coming. You and I indeed proclaim the same message of forgiveness of sin and life in The Spirit, but in addition to that, we proclaim that this same Jesus is coming again in blazing glory to usher in a new heaven and earth where we rule and reign with Him for 1,000 years! Glory to God! Selah
The Transfiguration of Jesus (and You)
Mark 9:1-7 • May 26, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
I find myself somewhat bothered by the fact that sometimes when I am reading my Bible, I come to a spectacular WOW or AWESOME moment, and because I have read it so many times, I simply move ahead to the next verse. I ask The Lord to help me overcome that ho hum way of reading and thinking. In today’s study, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with Him up to a high mountain to pray. As He is praying, Jesus was transfigured before them. While they are praying, Moses and Elijah appear in glory and are heard talking to Jesus about His crucifixion. Luke tells us that these three men were heavy with sleep. (Thank you, guys, for being so human!!) Peter asks Jesus if it would be okay for him to build a tabernacle for Moses, Elijah and Him. Immediately, The Father declares, “This is My Beloved Son, hear Him!” What a word for us today! Hear Jesus. It grieves The Spirit of God when men are quoted more than Jesus Christ, The Son of God. The transfiguration of Jesus followed His commands to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). In other words, for those who choose to follow Jesus, this very same transfiguration is what lies ahead for you. Paul tells us that in 1 Corinthians 15:35-54 and Philippians 3:21. However, this transformation begins the very moment that you repent of your sin, receive Jesus Christ as Lord, and begin to follow Him by the power of The Spirit and renewing your mind with The Word of God (Romans 12:1,2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Selah
Loaves and Fishes and You
Mark 8: 1-10 • March 24, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
In our study today, our blessed Lord Jesus performs another miracle of multiplying loaves and fishes. Though this is thought of by some to be a repeat of the previous miracle that we read about in chapter six, even a cursory comparison of the two miracles will clearly reveal that they are two separate accounts. The first miracle was performed for a Jewish setting and this one in a primarily Gentile setting. The point that is made here is that Jesus Christ was sent by The Father to be the Savior and Bread of Life for both the Jew and Gentile. In both cases, the hungry people gather to hear Jesus. Even though the motives of many of them may have been questionable, Jesus faithfully fed them the Word first and then met their physical needs afterwards. Yes, Jesus Christ is a miracle-working Savior, but He is also a compassion-driven Lord Who is a lover of image-bearers of God, be they Jew or Gentile. Beloved, how blessed we are to have such a loving and caring Shepherd Who is touched with our every need! Never think for one second that there is anything too large for Jesus to handle or any need too small to escape His interest. One last thing about these miracles that we observe is that Jesus’ disciples witnessed both of them but, as we will see a bit further on, the intended meaning of these miracles did not seem to sink in. Both writer and reader alike can relate to that, I’m sure. Are you facing a need today in some area of your life in which Jesus has performed a miracle or breakthrough for you in the past? Remember, Emmanuel is with you, and in you, and working. Selah
The Outrageous Commands of Christ
Mark 8:34-38 • May 19, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
Public “altar calls” are intended to be times for the people of God to respond to The Lord after hearing the message that was shared that day. Have you noticed the content of the various altar calls that Jesus gave to the multitudes? Let’s look at a few of them. The call given in our study today is from Mark 8:34-38: “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, ‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’” Picture yourself sitting in the crowd and being confronted with these heart-challenging questions. I suggest to you, beloved, that even though these commands or demands of Jesus are not often spoken of today in evangelical circles, they are as valid today as they were the day that Jesus spoke them. When we hear those words from The Master today, ask The Holy Spirit to illuminate them to you. What did Jesus say? What did Jesus mean? What does it mean to deny myself? What does it mean to take up my cross? What does it mean to lose my life for the sake of the gospel? What does it mean to be ashamed of Jesus and His words? Are we prepared for His glorious return? Selah
Whom Say Ye That I Am?
Mark 8:22-23 • April 28, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:15-17) C.S. Lewis once said that a person only has three choices regarding the answer to Jesus’ question, “Whom say ye that I am”. The three choices are that Jesus is a liar, a lunatic, or He is LORD. I totally agree. You cannot read the Scriptures and hear Jesus’ “I am” statements (e.g., John 6:35, 8:12, 8:58, 11:25) without concluding that He is a liar, a lunatic or LORD. No mere human being born of the sons of Adam would even dare make such claims, apart from being completely delusional or demonically possessed. The words and miraculous works and wonders of Jesus Christ all testify to His divine nature. But Jesus also spoke of His suffering and death in fulfillment of Messianic prophesies in order to provide repentance and forgiveness of sin for the world. Reader, who do you say Jesus is? Your answer will be reflected in not just what you say, but in how you live, for believing that Jesus is The Christ is more than a creed. Believing that Jesus is both a LORD and Christ will bring about a change of heart and a change of purpose in life. Whom do Ye say that Jesus is? Selah
Leaven or Bread of Life?
Mark 8:11-21 • April 14, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
In the second miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes recorded in the gospel of Mark, Jesus is angered by the religious leaders from the Pharisee, Sadducee and Herodian sects, who tempted Him and challenged Him for a sign from heaven. These religious frauds, like any hard hearted skeptics, had no intention of believing that Jesus was their Messiah. They only sought to question, disrupt, and discredit Who He was. Jesus called their poisonous belief systems leaven. But Jesus was also bewildered by His very own followers, who had yet to really understand the meaning of the miracle. In our verses today, upon returning to the Galilee area via boat, the disciples only brought one loaf of bread. Jesus then warned them about the leaven or corrupt influence that these religious groups held. As soon as they heard the word leaven, they thought that Jesus was rebuking them for only bringing one loaf of bread. Obviously, the two miracles of the loaves and fishes had yet to sink in. Though the miracles of Jesus were proof that He was from The Father, miracles in and of themselves do not produce saving faith. Jesus Christ ended this conversation with His disciples with one final question. It is best to see it not as a continuation of the rebuke, but as a searching appeal to the disciples. He said to them in verse 21, "Do you still not understand?" That is, "Now that I have reminded you that there were twelve bushels left from the Jewish feeding and seven from the Gentile feeding, do you still not understand that I am the Bread of Life for the whole world?" This is a question for our own hearts as well. Is The Lord Jesus Christ your Bread of Life? If so, the meaning and purpose of our lives now revolves around feasting and focusing on Him, not ourselves. If so, we need to remember that our assignment here on earth is found in the marching orders of Jesus: “…as The Father hath sent Me, so send I you.” (John 20:21b) We are called to represent the life and gospel of Jesus Christ, The Bread of Life, in a lost and dying world, knowing that whatever is needed to complete that task, He is able to provide. Selah
Mark 7:31-37 • March 17, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
I love to read the gospels. There is something extra special that happens inside of my soul when I read the accounts of Jesus’ interaction with people. Repeatedly we read things like “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them” (Matthew 4:23,24). I like to stop and pray, asking The Lord to “put me into that crowd and help me to “see” what they saw and “hear” what they heard”. Read those verses again and ask The Lord to do that for you right now. In Matthew 15:30, 31 we read, “And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.” After seeing the miracles of Jesus that took place, they glorified the God of Israel. But the one thing that lies beneath all of these miracles and wonders is what we read in Matthew 9:36 “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Jesus was moved with compassion. Divine compassion moved Jesus to minister to the hurting, the needy, the outcasts of society. And in those acts of compassion, Jesus was glorifying His Father, the God of Israel. Divine power is often displayed when we are moved with divine compassion. When our hands, our feet and our lips are moved with compassion, the God of Israel is glorified. And that is what we live for. Selah
Great Faith in a Great God
Mark 7:24-28 • March 10, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
Do any of you have a son or daughter that is trapped in the vices of some sort of demonic powers? If so, today’s study is tailor-made for you. The Lord Jesus’ popularity is growing, but so is the intensity of the opposition to Him and His message. Thus, having been rejected by the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus moves into the Gentile area of Tyre and Sidon. We are told that Jesus entered into a house, and apparently was looking for a time of peace and quiet. But Jesus could not be hidden. A Syro-Phoenician woman, who has a daughter that was grievously vexed with a devil, falls at His feet and cries out for Him to have mercy on her daughter. His disciples tell Jesus to send her away, but Jesus ignores their request. At first He is silent. Then He begins to engage in a conversation with her about how His first priority was to the house of Israel. “Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.” (Mark 7:27,28) Perhaps some background would help here on “table manners” in that culture. In those days people did not have either knives or forks or table-napkins. They ate with their hands; they wiped the soiled hands on chunks of bread and then flung the bread away and the house-dogs ate it. So in essence the woman was saying, ‘I know the children are fed first, but can't I even get the scraps the children throw away? If you will be my Master, I will eat the crumbs that fall from your table.’ Humility in the sight of God is oftentimes the doorway to great expressions of faith. Jesus marveled at her great faith and delivered her daughter from the control of this devil. Her daughter was immediately healed, delivered, set free by the power of God. Devils and demons make it their business to oppress, harass, and attack the image bearers of God. But Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18) Indeed, deliverance, healing, and salvation are the believers’ bread. Selah
Mark 7: 14-23 • February 24, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
The apostle Paul wrote to the church of Corinth these sobering words of warning regarding defiling the temple of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16,17) The religious teaching of the day was that the body was defiled by what we ate or drank, or by eating with unwashed hands. The Lord Jesus said, “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.” (Mark 7:15) That was a radical statement. Jesus said that what we eat or drink only goes into our stomach and then is flushed down the toilet! Those kinds of things do not defile a person morally or spiritually. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17) Jesus went on to say that what defiles the temple of God is the sin from within our very own hearts (Mark 7:20-23). And one of the indicators of the sin in our heart are the words that come out of our mouth (Matthew 15:11,18). As in His sermon on the mount, Jesus once again cites that the problems we face in society, in our families, and in the church all stem from the sin from within. And the part of the body that is most defiling and causes the most trouble is the human tongue. James 3 tells us that “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” (v6). Proverbs tells us that sowing discord among the brethren is an abomination (6:16,19). Sowing discord is just as disgusting as is sexual immorality and shedding of innocent blood. When is the body of Christ going to stand up against this “fashionable vice” and say NO to gossip, slander, backbiting, whispering, and tale bearing? Let us pray: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3) “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
What’s in Your Heart?
Mark 7:1-13 • February 17, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
When the prophet Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint the successor for king Saul, God told Samuel, “…the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Religion places an emphasis on the outward appearances, but God places the emphasis on the heart, the attitudes, the motives. The Pharisees were a religious group that zealously separated themselves to keep their manmade and unbiblical traditions. They upheld their oral traditions above the teachings of Scripture. On the outside, they were very impressive. They zealously prayed, fasted, tithed, observed the Sabbath and holy days. But Jesus called them hypocrites – actors, a false representation of true religion. In fact, in Luke 18:9-14, one of these men was in the temple praying (NOT!) and telling God how holy and righteous he was compared to the “despicable and unclean” publican. He could not be more deceived. Read the story. These religious frauds said “the right things” and even did “the right things”, but their heart was far from God. Before we point a finger of judgment at these religious frauds or anyone else, let me ask you a few very pointed questions. Are you more impressed with “keeping up” a good show on the outside, while inwardly you are filled with a critical, self-righteous disposition towards others who do not outwardly meet your religious standards? When we worship The Lord, are your lips saying the right things, but is your heart a million miles away, or “critiquing” the way others are worshipping? Beloved, God is far more concerned with what is going on in your heart, than how high you lift your hands during worship. Scripture says that we do not even know what is going on in our own hearts, let alone someone else’s (Jeremiah 17:9). Beware of being guilty of judging Another Man’s servant (Romans 14:4). The Spirit of God will not conform you into the image of a judgmental, critical, holier-than-thou Pharisee, but into the image of Jesus Christ. Think about the people who gave Jesus the hardest time during his ministry. There is nothing new under the sun. Beware of becoming a follower of contemporary Christianity, which is a form of godliness on the outside, but void of the life, grace, love, and mercy of Jesus on the inside. What Spirit is in your heart today, beloved?
The Touch of Jesus Heals
Mark 6:53-56 • February 10, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
When I am reading my bible, I try to place myself into the context of what I am reading, especially when I am reading the gospels. When I “see” Jesus moving and ministering, whether it be to an individual or amongst the multitudes, I am particularly overwhelmed by what happens whenever He touched them, or they touched Him by faith. In our journey through the gospel of Mark, we have come to the place where multitudes of sick people were brought to Jesus, and as many as touched the border or hem of His garment were made whole. Put yourself in that scenario. You are in the grip and pain of some sickness, you touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and you are immediately healed!! Luke 6:19 tells us that virtue, or it could read power, healing power, emanated from Jesus to those who touched Him. In Matthew 8, a series of physical healings are recorded, and The Holy Spirit tells us that it was in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4,5: “Surely he hath borne our griefs (diseases, sicknesses), and carried our sorrows (pain, suffering): yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded (pierced) for our transgressions, he was bruised (crushed) for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes (wounds, scourging) we are healed.” These physical healings were recorded in the context of the “Great Atonement Chapter”. Jesus did these healings before He went to the cross. Praise God for His atoning sacrifice for all of our sins and transgressions! The greatest need of every sinner is the personal experience of the saving grace and love of God when we call out to Jesus to forgive us of our sin. But as sure as Jesus will save your soul from the debt and slavery to sin today if you call upon His Name, I believe that when you “touch Him’ by prayer with your pains, your sicknesses, your sufferings and your diseases, He will touch you in a most remarkable way, for the Scriptures declare that before the cross, on the cross and after the cross, by His stripes, we are healed. Selah.
The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
Mark 6: 30-44 • January 13, 2019 • Pastor Ray Viola
The miracle of the loaves and fishes is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. In John’s gospel, this miracle is followed by the proclamation of Jesus that He is The Bread of Life (John 6:35). There are many spiritual truths that we find in this miracle. It is a manifestation of The Father’s Heart for sinners. Jesus, Who is the express image of God (Hebrews 1:1-3), was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Never doubt the love or compassion of God for you. Another lesson that we find in this miracle is that when problems or impossible situations arise in our lives, Jesus had the answer before the problem took place. We also see how The Lord uses the little that we give Him to do miraculous things. Andrew brought to Jesus what essentially amounted to a fish and chips lunch that Jesus multiplied to feed an estimated 20,000 people WITH leftovers!! Incredible. Amazingly, many of the people who were recipients of the miracle were unaware of what took place. Many of them never came to saving faith in Jesus. They were only looking for the blessings from Jesus, but not interested in His Lordship. They were only concerned for the temporal and not the eternal. You see miracles in and of themselves do not always result in salvation. Thank God for His miracles, but miracles are given to point people to The Messiah, Jesus, The Bread of Life. Reader, have you repented of your sin and trusted Jesus, the Bread of Life, as your Lord and Savior? If so, the greatest miracle in the universe takes place: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Selah
A Tale of Two Men
Mark 6: 14-29 • November 25, 2018 • Pastor Ray Viola
Amongst the beatitudes we read, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12). John the baptizer paid the ultimate price of persecution and righteousness because he rebuked Herod for his ungodly and immoral relationship with Herodias. The Lord Jesus told the suffering saints in Smyrna, “… be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) Those who born twice will only die once. John will receive the crown of life. The other man in our study is King Herod. He was anything but godly. He was an immoral man, who was ruled by his passion instead of his conscience. Herod had John beheaded at the bequest of his step daughter Salome, who was influenced by her wicked mother Herodias, who had it in for John because he had the audacity to say that her relationship with Herod was ungodly and against the moral law of God. Unless there was an act of God that brought Herod to saving faith in Jesus Christ, he, like all who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ, will be lost for all eternity, for those who are only born once, will die twice. May writer and reader alike be amongst those who can say, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20,21)
Mark 6: 1-13 • November 18, 2018 • Pastor Ray Viola
At the start of His public ministry, Jesus declared that He was the Christ, and that He came to fulfill the prophecies regarding Him (Luke 4:16-21). He was rejected (Luke 4:28-29). Now, as He is drawing towards the latter part of His earthly ministry, Jesus returns to the synagogue in Nazareth, only to be rejected again. The first time, Jesus went alone, He had no followers. This time He brought His disciples with Him. They heard the crowd question the nature of His birth. They could not deny the wisdom and power of God’s Spirit upon Him. But, as far as they knew, He was a carpenter with no rabbinical or theological training. Where then did He get such gifting? There were only two options: God or Satan. Amazingly, even His brothers and sisters did not know who He was. But Mark tells us that His disciples followed Him. He was teaching them both by precept and example that following Him at times includes being rejected, in spite of being in the center of God’s will and calling. To follow Jesus means that He is The One we look to for a perfect example of what the will of God looks like, on earth, as it is in heaven. When He sent them out with the authority to anoint with oil and cast out devils, they were learning that the power of God is released in His Name, even when He is not present physically. Whenever Jesus is praying, teaching, washing feet, or ministering to the multitudes, He is providing us the example that we are to follow. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians to follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Beloved, we are first and foremost followers of Jesus; we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Christ has purchased us for His glory. Our assignment here on earth is to re-present the life of Jesus in everything that we do. May God grant us the grace to remember that we live to follow and please only One, and His Name is Jesus. Follow Him.
The Healing Touch of Jesus
Mark 5: 21-43 • November 11, 2018 • Pastor Ray Viola
I love to read the gospel’s and “see” how Jesus ministered His healing touch to those who were in humanly impossible situations. As we move ahead in our journey through Marks’ gospel, we come to the place where Jesus is met by the ruler of a synagogue by the name of Jairus, whose twelve year old daughter is at death’s door. He asks Jesus to come to his house and heal his daughter. On the way to his house, Jesus is thronged by a multitude. Amidst this great crowd is a woman with a critical internal bleeding problem. She has gone to doctors for help for twelve years, but to no avail. Because of this bleeding condition, she was considered unclean and was ostracized from society. She was at her wits’ end. Can anyone relate to her? Presumably having heard of His power to heal, she determined that she was going to touch Jesus, assured, like Jairus was, that just by His touch she would be made whole. And she was right! The very moment that this woman was miraculously healed by Jesus and told to go in peace, a contingency from Jairus house told him that there was no sense for Jesus to come to his house now because his daughter was dead. Immediately Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid: only believe.” (v.36) Arriving at the house, they are met with a crowd that is mourning over the little girl’s death. Jesus then is laughed to scorn because He declares that she is not dead but asleep. After removing the scoffers, Jesus raises this precious little girl from the dead. Are you or any of your loved ones in a dire situation this morning? Let’s unite in prayer that the same healing touch of Jesus will come upon all those who are in humanly impossible situations. Selah