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
Jesus Christ, Our Mighty Deliverer
Mark 5: 1-20 • October 14, 2018 • Pastor Ray Viola
God tells us through His Word that one of the reasons He came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ was to “destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8b) That part of Jesus’s mission on planet earth was to directly oppose the devil’s works is confirmed in Acts 10:38: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” While the primary mission of Jesus was to redeem mankind from the debt and crippling power of sin, there is no doubt that a significant part of His coming was to set people free from the powers of darkness as well. In our study this morning, we see The Lord Jesus setting a man free from the grip and torment of demonic possession. This man dwelt among the dead. Because they had no ability to help the man, they tried to bind him with chains, which he “plucked asunder” (KJV) by supernatural powers of demons. But Jesus commanded the Legion of demons to release their stronghold upon the man, the result being that he was “clothed, and in his right mind.” (Mark 5:15) The Father sent His Son Jesus to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8b), not you, my friend. Jesus still delivers people from the kingdom of darkness today by the power that is in the gospel that bears His Name. Praise be unto His Name!!!
Mark 4:35-41 • August 26, 2018 • Pastor Ray Viola
Every follower of Jesus is going to encounter storms in life. Some of them are caused by unwise choices that are made outside of the will of God. Some of them are the result of being in the very center of the will of God. In every storm, there is the purpose of God, the will of man, and the counterattack of the enemy. Jesus had been teaching the disciples the word, and now He would give them a practical test to see how much they had learned. Thus, He tells them to get into a boat and launch to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. No mystery or cryptic message here. Thus, they launch out, and suddenly they find themselves in the midst a great storm. Their boat is being tossed to and fro, filling with water. The experienced fishermen - Peter, Andrew, James and John - are unable to control the boat, let alone the storm. The frightened disciples wake Jesus up from a sound sleep and ask Him, “…do You not care that we are about to perish?” (Mark 4:38) Where is Jesus during this storm? He is with the disciples but is sleeping. (He is not bothered or threatened by the storm,) Where is Satan? He is in the midst of the storm. Jesus wakes up and He rebukes the wind and tells the sea to be still. The words that Jesus used to rebuke the storm were also used for dispossessing a demon of his power in Mark 1:25. No doubt the enemy was seeking to thwart the purposes of God. But as soon as Jesus spoke those words, the storm was muzzled and there was a great calm. One word from the lips of The Master can turn a great storm into a great calm. The Lord God rules and reigns over every demon and storm of life. Jesus then asked the disciples why they were afraid and of little faith. Beloved, chances are that some of you are in a storm of some sort today. Look to the Savior, not the storm. Your times are in His hands. Selah
Mark 4:26-34 • August 19, 2018 • Pastor Ray Viola
Jesus likens the growth in the kingdom of God to a farmer who plants seed into the ground. The farmer does not need to be able to explain all of the germination process that is in the seed for it to bring forth fruit. He simply plants the seed into the ground and believes that there will be a harvest. The farmer is responsible to plant the seed, add fertilizer and till the soil, but the farmer cannot produce the harvest. Likewise, we are responsible for sowing the seed of God’s Word in our hearts, and obey the teaching or believe the promise, but we cannot produce the fruit. God produces the fruit in our lives to the extent that we sow the seed and heed what God says. The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 55:10-11: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” When the word of God is planted in our hearts and acted on, the very DNA of that seed will bring forth fruit - 30, 60 and 100 fold. But the key is to keep on sowing and trusting God for the harvest, in spite of the “inclimate” circumstances or feelings. Sow the Word, beloved. Pray it. Sing it. Meditate on it. Speak it. Selah!
Are You Listening?
Mark 4:10-12; 21-25 • August 12, 2018 • Pastor Ray Viola
Our study today revolves around the two themes. One is the mystery of the kingdom of God, and two is the importance of really hearing what Jesus said. Now when the subject of the kingdom of God is mentioned in Scripture, it is referring to the reign or rulership of God. This mystery of the kingdom of God was brought into light in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Light of the world and the King of the kingdom. All that Jesus taught and all the miracles that Jesus performed where manifestations of the kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven. However, this kingdom is only partially manifested today. It will be fully manifested in the new heavens and new earth. This once secret or hidden gospel of the kingdom is now to be openly proclaimed to every creature. According to Mark, Jesus said take heed what you hear. According to Luke, Jesus said take heed how you hear. Have you ever heard the expression, “If you don’t use it, you lose it?” Well beloved, that expression was “stolen” from Jesus. Jesus said, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath. This heeding what we hear has to deal with the principles of sowing and reaping as well as the importance of wisely stewarding what God gives unto us. How well we listen will be determined by what we sow into other peoples lives and by how wisely we steward what God has given unto us. Are you listening?
When Heaven Invades Earth
Mark 3:7-12 • May 27, 2018 • Pastor Ray Viola
Tragically, because Jesus was acting in ways that were contrary to the most influential, yet totally unbiblical traditions and interpretations of the religious leaders of the day, the battle lines have been drawn. Jesus was grieved at their cold and hard hearts. Jesus Christ is the express image of the will and character of The Father. He only said what He heard The Father say, and He only did what He saw The Father do. Thus, Jesus is the perfect example of the will of God on earth, as it is in heaven. Or to put it another way, Jesus is the Perfect Theology of heaven, manifest on earth. If you want to know what the will of God is on earth, as it is in heaven, look unto Jesus. Manifesting the compassion of The Father, Jesus went about doing good, healing broken people, and delivering those who were oppressed by the devil. How glorious it must have been to see so many souls delivered from lives of bondage by simply touching the hem of The Master’s garment. Jesus still manifests His manifold compassion towards those who are spiritually dead, or trapped by the powers of darkness, or suffering physical afflictions. Our study of the life of Jesus reveals to us what happens when the kingdom of heaven invades earth. May God rend the heavens and do those same things today as we call upon His Name in worship and prayer. Selah