Saturday, July 13, 2019

Natal Day Ruminations

Image by Heidelbergerin from Pixabay

Waking early, the biblical concept of firstfruits was on my mind.  So, I did a word search on the term in my online bible program, to see what popped up.  Probably, the main reason behind this was today is my natal day, and I had been thinking about giving the Lord the "firstfruits" of it, after I rose from the bed and sat down with a cup of coffee.

Have you ever made pancakes?  You make the batter, heat the griddle and then, after pouring out the first one make decisions about the thickness of the batter, perhaps adjusting the heat on the griddle...I had a friend, the baby in his family, who used to say, "The oldest child is like the first pancake, usually a flop, and you just throw it out!"  I always thought that was funny, as I am "the first pancake" in my birth family's line-up.

However, the Bible gives special emphasis to "firstfruits".  The concept is tied in closely with the first born, as the firstborn child is, in God's perfect design for families, the firstfruits of the mother's body.

We have this blueberry bush that yields early in the season, apparently, as I was getting berries off it in mid-June.  However, after I picked the first two cups of berries, it seemed to stop bearing, for the most part.  Not sure what happened there, but I looked in the days following and there was little there to harvest.  Maybe the birds beat me to it....
Farmers will tell you that the first crops from the field are the ones they save for seeds for the following year, because the first ones contain the most potent seeds.  They are, supposedly, the best of the best, of that crop yield.

In keeping with that line of thought, it makes sense that God would require His chosen people, the Hebrews, to bring to him a grain offering of the first crops of the season each spring.

14“Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. 16You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD.
Exodus 23:14-17 (ESV)

So, you see from this command of God that His people were to offer to Him on the altar the firstfruits of the harvest as well as some of the produce from the end of the harvest season, in the fall.  This was done, in part to teach the people thankfulness, as it is God who provides, who is Jehovah-Jireh.  This scripture passage above is the first time the term "firstfruits" is mentioned in the Bible.  Note that God felt these times of harvest offering were so important, the offering had to be brought to either the Tent of Meeting (Temple predecessor) or, after it was built, the Temple in Jerusalem by each male head of household.  Wow, pretty important, wouldn't you say?

Later, in Psalms 78:51 and 105:36, we see the psalmist referring to the firstborn children of the Egyptians, the descendants of Ham (Noah's son) as "firstfruits".  The psalmist was hearkening back to when, at Passover that year, the angel of the Lord took the firstborn child of every household that was not "under the blood".  Not time or space to fully explore that here, but many of you are familiar with that story.

In the New Testament, the apostles Paul (Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23), James (James 1:18) and John (Revelation 14:4) refer to firstfruits.  Except for John's, the other references refer to Jesus being a type of firstfruits, as God raised Him from the dead on the first day of the Feast of First Fruits that year.1  And, Paul and James likened the early church members to being the firstfruits of the new Church, following right after Jesus Christ, who gave spiritual birth to His followers, through His message of truth, of salvation.

It has been the practice of Christians to gather in their churches on the first day of the week, giving the Savior the "firstfruits" of each week, and to commune with their Lord over the Word in the morning, giving Him the "firstfruits" of each day, the latter being an ongoing challenge for me.2

So, as I reflect back on these many years this morning (let's not say how many, please and thank you!), I am so grateful to be part of His "firstfruits of the Spirit" (Romans 8:23).  Unlike that weird blueberry bush in our front yard, I pray to never "stop bearing."

I hope all of you have a blessed day.  I may just go make some pancakes.....

Sources:
 
1     https://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2018/03/first-fruits.html

2     https://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2017/11/making-jesus-beggar.html

Thursday, July 4, 2019

True Freedom

Image by Wynn Pointaux, from Pixabay

Happy Independence Day 2019!

Today, in America, we celebrate the political freedom we have as Americans, to live out the guaranteed freedoms granted to us by the founding documents of our country, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution (pictured above).  America is, no doubt, a wonderful country.  It is a joy to celebrate her today, on her 243rd birthday!  And, my family and I plan to!  YAY!

However, being an American, as wonderful as that is, is not TRUE freedom, the subject of this post.

As I sat down to blog this morning, I searched the 915 posts in my blog archives to see what I had previously said about freedom.  Turns out, not much - - - which is a shame.  Why?  Because freedom is at the heart of the Christian faith.  True freedom in only found in the God of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To most of the world, this sounds counterintuitive, even offensive, because people who do follow a religion generally see it as an added drudgery, an enslavement that prevents them from doing what they want to do.  Additionally, the name of Jesus is highly divisive.  This is because the Evil One, whom the Bible calls "the god of this age",  has veiled people's eyes about the nature of true freedom, what it is, where it comes from, the joy it brings.  The apostle Paul tells us this in 2 Cor. 4:3-5.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.

One way that the gospel is veiled by the evil one (Satan) is that people are deceived into believing that they can live "good enough" lives to be reconciled with God.  This prideful deception is at the root of legalistic religions.  Although there are legalists who claim the name of Christ, the root of Christianity is the concept of "grace" - - - that is, "man is utterly sinful and completely incapable of, by his own actions or will, reconciling himself to God."  There was a powerful, little book written a few years ago entitled, How Good is Good Enough?  Answer: there is no one good enough (Rom. 3:23).

Another way that the gospel is hidden is Satan's deception that either
a) God does not exist.
or
b) There is no Heaven or Hell.
or
c) The Bible is just an ancient book.
This is what I call the "fairytale deception", and it is promulgated by academics in America today. The line goes like this:  "Only stupid people believe in Christianity.  You can't be intelligent and believe that." This is an extension of the philosophy of "rationalism".
For the past several years, Hillsdale College has offered to the public a free course on the life of C.S. Lewis, an English professor from Oxford University, England, who was moved to belief in Christ after doing an honest investigation.  No sane person would argue that this man was unintelligent.  99.9% of people who proclaim this lie from the devil have not done an honest investigation of the claims of Jesus Christ, as did Lewis, McDowell, Yuan, Butterfield, Strobel, Limbaugh and many, many others.  It is much more easy and convenient to flow along with certain segments of popular society, even the world of academia, and just .... be carried along with the other lemmings.
Paul, himself, was extremely well-educated.

A third way the gospel is hidden is that other people prevent sinners from coming to salvation in Jesus Christ.  Those who claim the name of Christ (whether that claim is genuine or not) are viewed as representatives of Christ.  Therefore, when one of them offends an unbeliever, their actions often "turn unbelievers off" to the message of the gospel.  Whether the offender is truly saved, a true, sincere follower of Jesus Christ, or not, is not the point.  Even true believers struggle with sin, although they don't practice it.  The point is that unbelievers let their impressions of and experiences with other people define (distort) their view of Jesus Christ.

These veils can be removed, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul never says that those whose understandings are veiled can never come to a saving knowledge of the truth.  On the contrary, he states the opposite, later on in this chapter: (2 Cor. 3:16-17)

but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
John 8:32

This is true freedom, a liberation we can celebrate every day, not just on July 4th!

Christ followers, Believers, see things differently.  The reason we do is because we are possessed by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.  Accordingly, the Holy Spirit continues to "unveil" to us the beauty and majesty of God.  More and more, we focus on the spiritual, the "unseen".  The reason we do this is because the things easiest to see are only temporary, while spiritual victories (and losses) are forever.  We define "success" in a radically different way from how unbelievers define it.  We collect different "trophies", for different reasons.  The world focuses on how much a person can accumulate, for his or her own glory.  These include: wealth, fame, prestige, pleasure.  The Christian focuses on how much more he or she can know and become like Jesus Christ.  Accordingly, any "trophies" accumulated are for His glory and His alone.  It's a radically different outlook, producing a radically different life.  While the world chases sand, we share the liberating message that frees and feeds the soul.  The late English evangelist, Charles H. Spurgeon, understood this and preached about it nearly 133 years ago.

Let me give you a parable. In the days of Nero there was great shortness of food in the city of Rome, although there was abundance of corn to be purchased at Alexandria. A certain man who owned a vessel went down to the sea coast, and there he noticed many hungry people straining their eyes toward the sea, watching for the vessels that were to come from Egypt with corn. When these vessels came to the shore, one by one, the poor people wrung their hands in bitter disappointment, for on board the galleys there was nothing but sand which the tyrant emperor had compelled them to bring for use in the arena. It was infamous cruelty, when men were dying of hunger to command trading vessels to go to and fro, and bring nothing else but sand for gladiatorial shows, when wheat was so greatly needed. Then the merchant whose vessel was moored by the quay said to his shipmaster, "Take thou good heed that thou bring nothing back with thee from Alexandria but corn; and whereas, aforetime thou hast brought in the vessel a measure or two of sand, bring thou not so much as would lie upon a penny this time. Bring thou nothing else, I say, but wheat: for these people are dying, and now we must keep our vessels for this one business of bringing food for them." Alas! I have seen certain mighty galleys of late loaded with nothing but mere sand of philosophy and speculation, and I have said within myself, "Nay, but I will bear nothing in my ship but the revealed truth of God, the bread of life so greatly needed by the people." God grant us this day that our ship may have nothing on board it that may merely gratify the curiosity, or please the taste; but that there may be necessary truths for the salvation of souls. I would have each one of you say: "Well, it was just the old, old story of Jesus and his love, and nothing else." I have no desire to be famous for anything but preaching of the gospel. There are plenty who can fiddle to you the new music; it is for me to have no music at any time but that which is heard in heaven, -- "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory for ever and ever!"
from A Sermon, (No.1910), Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, July 18th, 1886, by
C. H. SPURGEON, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, England

Are you burdened for someone today who does not know Jesus?   Perhaps, like me, there are those acquaintances, co-workers, friends, loved ones whom you pray for every day.  Preaching to them may be not only ineffective, but actually detrimental.  It depends on where their hearts are at the moment and, frankly, the example you are living before their eyes.  However, a 100%-effective "wheat" that can be sown into their lives is constant persistent prayer.  How should we pray for them, though?  We need to pray that God will open their eyes to the truth of Who Jesus is, and that past experiences don't hinder them to the fact that Jesus is all-sufficient.  We need to pray that our prayer targets' eyes will be opened to the deception of false intellectualism, that the veil will be lifted and that they will see the true freedom that is in Jesus Christ alone.

Happy Independence Day!

Father, to You, the Godhead Three-in-One, be glory, forever and ever!  Open our eyes, whether we are Yours or yet-to-be Yours, so that we can know the Truth, and so that the Truth may set us free!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Sources:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_23?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=how+good+is+good+enough+by+andy+stanley&sprefix=How+good+is+good+enough%2Caps%2C319

http://redeeminggod.com/gospel-is-veiled-2-corinthians_4_3-4/

http://biblehub.com/library/spurgeon/spurgeons_sermons_volume_32_1886/the_heart_of_the_gospel.htm


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What's Your Happy Place?

Image from Ian Lindsey, from Pixabay.com

I dreamed of Israel last night, and this morning, my devotional time took me to Psalm 42.  Before you look it up, that's the one where David says that his heart pants to spend time with God, like a thirsty deer pants for the water of the creek.  Every time I read that I think, "I wish I had such a thirst for God!"  I would like to tell you I do, but that would be an exaggeration.  Honestly, most of the time, I am distracted by lesser pursuits.

Still, the verse I want to focus on this morning is Psalm 42:5-7.  Here they are in the ESV:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.

When I read these verses, I was able to picture the land of Israel, deep in my soul, because I have a sense now of how far it is from the Jordan to Hermon, in the far north of the land.  (Did you know that Israelis go skiing on Mt. Hermon?  Yes!  There are ski resorts there! I would love to go there, on a return trip, as I have never been to the farthest northern parts.)  Oh, that beautiful Land!  How I love it! 

The reference I did not get was "Mount Mizar".  There are two schools of thought on this place; therefore, no one is totally sure where it was or is today. 
1.  Some say Mount Mizar was a small hill near Mount Hermon.  They say this because David goes on to mention the rushing headwaters of the Jordan River, which begins in that region, the mountains of Hermon (Mount Hermon being one of those).  Perhaps there was known to David an actual Mount Mizar.  If so, today, we are not sure where it is.1
2.  Some say (Spurgeon included2) this is a poetic reference by David, to mean a place where he experienced a sweet, intimate time of fellowship with his God.  In other words, David's "happy place".  If we are honest, we can all name one or more of those, plus the reasons we name those places as such.

Regardless of the more actual location or a poetic reference, David is making an important point.
"Wherever we are, if we are fellowshipping with God, it is a happy place."  He emphasizes in these verses that his soul is "cast down", or that he is sad, depressed, etc. when he writes those words.  So, even when he "isn't feeling it", God's presence is the ultimate happy place.

I don't know "where you are" today, whether your soul is skipping merrily along or whether it is "cast down".  I do know that God's love is waiting for you, in His presence, and as it says in verse 11, The Message version - -

Then God promises to love me all day,
sing songs all through the night!

Other versions speak of hope restored, in His presence.  What glory!

Where is your more personal and concrete "happy place" and why is it special to you?  Comment in the comments section of the blog!

Sources:

1    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mizar_(mountain)

2    https://www.mountmizar.com/what-s-in-a-name

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Rainbow Days

Image by Free-Photos, from Pixabay.com

Rainbows are beautiful - - aren't they?
We have been having some stormy weather, off and on, as Spring moves into Summer, here in north Georgia.  The other night, a limb fell off one of our trees into the yard.  I'm glad the other trees and limbs have "stayed put".  This morning, when I arose early, as usual, the skies were stormy.  But, looking out the front door I could see, just peeking through the many trees, a rainbow.

Weather and heavenly phenomena have long mystified us humans, but in Genesis 9 God cleared up a lot of the mystery about rainbows, when He established what bible scholars call the Noahic Covenant.  Speaking to Noah, God said....

11And I establish My covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
Genesis 9:11-13 (BSB)

In the several verses following verse 13, God seems to repeat Himself, for emphasis.  There is no doubt the meaning behind and the purpose of the rainbows we see periodically.  Now, of course, God does not forget.  It is impossible for Him to forget anything, although in Hebrews 8:12 we read that God "remembers our sins no more". Isaiah 43:25 is another, similar passage.  In other words, His forgiveness is so utterly complete, it is as if He forgets the sins of those who have trusted His Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior.  He no longer "charges them to our spiritual account", as Jesus paid that bill "in full".  He chooses not to remember them, because the sins of the saved people are "under the blood of Jesus Christ."

Why the rainbow, then?  I can't think of another Old Testament covenant that has such a tangible symbol.

Maybe He does not want us to forget - - to forget the horrendous sins that required a world-wide flood in the first place.  For a catalog of some of them, go read Romans 1, which I've been looking at recently.  Well, here; let me make it easy for you:

21For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 27and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. 29They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips,30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 31senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1:21-32 (NET)

The culture of Noah's day was utterly depraved.  It was the culture described in Romans 1.  It was so very evil, God declared it must be totally destroyed.  How about today, though?

Yesterday, an infamous trial in New York State came to an end.1  The leader (Keith Raniere) of a perverted sex cult (NXVIM) was judged by a jury "guilty on all counts".  The things that went on involved all manner of perversion, including unspeakable acts with children. The acts were so heinous this whole, sordid tale has had limited airing on the news.  I pity the poor jurors on that case because surely they were witnessing a story like a scene right out of Romans 1.

In our modern culture, the rainbow has been co-opted by some whose lives are characterized by patterns, habits, practices right out of Romans 1 as well.  The dictionary defines "co-opt" as follows: to divert or use in a role different from the usual or original one.2
The Bible makes plain the rainbow's distinct meaning.  It is very sad, although not at all surprising, that a segment of our modern society has perverted the rainbow's meaning, to support and celebrate sinful lifestyles.

No, God's word is sure.  His promises are true.  Every.Single.One. of them, including the one earlier in Genesis that says He will not strive with man forever, nor the one in Galatians 6:7, where He says He will not be mocked.  He will never again destroy the Earth with water, and He's given us the rainbow to remind us of that fact.

However . . .
Every single human born and who reaches the age when the gospel message can be understood will be judged for his or her sins.  Those who will escape the eternal judgment of God will do so ONLY because their sins have been forever forgiven and covered by God's Son's sacrificial death and resurrection from the dead.  Those who mock God, rejecting His offer of salvation in order to wallow in their own sins face an excruciatingly painful eternity without Him, and if that's not Hell, I don't know what is.

Sources:

1     https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48699099

2     https://www.google.com/search?q=define%3A+co-opted&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS829US829&oq=define%3A+co-opted&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i58.3936j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Shavuot and Pentecost 2019 edition

Good Sunday morning, and wishing you a blessed Pentecost Sunday!  I published this content under a similar heading here at the blog last year.  Because it received over 375 views, I decided to reprise it this morning.

In this post, I am going to share some of the parallels between the Jewish feast called Shavuot and the Christian Sunday of Pentecost, because they are beautiful and meaningful, historically and theologically linked.  To help make these easier to read and comprehend, I'll use a compare-and-contrast format, with bullet points and different-colored fonts.

1.  When?

  • Shavuot falls 50 days to the day after the Passover Feast of Firstfruits, the Sunday Jesus arose from the dead.  The Hebrew word Shavuot means "weeks", and this celebration is often called Feast of Weeks.  (See Exodus 19:18-20, Leviticus 23:15-16 and Exodus 24:3-11.)  In 2018, Shavuot begins at dusk on May 19 and ends at dusk on May 21. 
  • Pentecost is a Greek word (pentekostos) which means "fiftieth day".  Christians celebrate Pentecost on the 7th Sunday after Easter.  Pentecost occurred when the disciples were together, celebrating Shavuot. (See Acts 2:1-4.) . 

2.  Where?

  • Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses, which occurred on Mt. Sinai.  
  • Pentecost also features a gift, the greater gift of the Holy Spirit.  This occurred on Mt. Zion (Jerusalem).
3.  Significance
  • The giving of Torah marks what many consider to be the day on which Judaism was born.  The word Torah means "teaching".  (The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament.)
  • The giving of the Holy Spirit ratified the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, and marked the beginning of the worldwide Church, redeemed "from every tribe and tongue"(Revelation 5:9).  In John 14:26, the Holy Spirit is called "the teacher".
4.  Similar Signs and Wonders
  • At Sinai, there were wind, fire and smoke.  The presence of God was powerfully evident, and the people were afraid to approach the presence of God they visibly saw displayed on the mountain.
  • At Zion, there was wind and fire, but in a different, more personal way.  God manifested Himself in awesome power at Pentecost in a manner reminiscent of Sinai, except that this time, the fire of God fell upon each person present.
5.  Marked by God
  • One of the marks of the Jews was the circumcision of males, a cutting which distinguished them as belonging to Yahweh.  Also, at Sinai, the finger of God wrote on tablets of stone.
  • At Pentecost, the Spirit of God wrote on the tablets of each heart (2 Corinthians 3:3 and Hebrews 8:10).  This act of God confirmed His promise made to the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) and which Jesus promised to the disciples (Acts 1:4).  When a person receives Jesus as his or her personal Lord and Savior, there is figuratively a "cutting of the heart", a circurmcision of the heart, to allow the Holy Spirit to enter.  The Holy Spirit is a mark, a "cut" if you will, on each person's heart to indicate both His everlasting presence as well as the believer's eternal belonging to Jesus Christ.  This was not the case in the Old Testament.  The Holy Spirit did not dwell with each Jewish person, whether circumcised in the flesh or not. Before Jesus ascended, the Spirit of God descended on those He chose for His specific purposes.  At and after Pentecost, the ever-present Holy Spirit in the heart of every follower of Jesus Christ represents Jesus' mark of ownership.  
6.  Agriculture (Firstfruits)
  • On an additional level, the Israelites celebrated at Shavuot the gathering in of the grain harvests, by bringing crops to the Temple.  Shavuot marked the endpoint of the Firstfruits celebration, which began with the wave offering of the first grain of the harvest during Passover week.  (See http://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2018/03/first-fruits.html ) At Shavuot, a more plentiful, bountiful offering was made, representative of such a bountiful harvest.
  • Jesus was raised from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, that Sunday which ended Passion Week. Paul referred to Him as "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). The 3000 souls converted to belief in Jesus Christ as Savior on Shavuot/Pentecost (Acts 2:41) represented a huge Firstfruits/Feast of Weeks offering to God.  If each Christian will allow the Spirit to do His transformative work, what is produced in each person reflects Deuteronomy 30:6.  This yielding by each person produces an all-consuming love for the Savior, down deep in the soul.  The Spirit produces, as Paul said in Gal. 6:14, a willing, daily crucifixion of one's will to the Cross of Jesus Christ, a daily dying to Self.  Further, this love for Christ produces the "fruits of the Spirit", listed in Galatians 5:22-23.  I do not believe Paul's terminology "fruits" was an accidental use of the word.  The giving of the Holy Spirit marks the completion of our Triune God's salvation plan for mankind, as well as the end of the Easter season.
These are just some of the amazing parallels between these two holy days.  For more details, feel free to read at the links I've provided below.

When we study about the history and meaning of the divinely consecrated feast of Shavuot, our understanding and appreciation of the Day of Pentecost are deepened.  Isn't it exciting to see how God's revelation of Himself 1200 hundred years earlier was mirrored and enhanced at Pentecost?  What an amazing God!

After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jeremiah 31:33 (King James 2000 Bible)
Sources:

https://forward.com/news/373541/why-do-some-christians-observe-shavuot/

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/Shavuot/Zion/zion.html

http://acts242study.com/they-many-parallels-of-sinai-and-pentecost/

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/firstfruits-and-pentecost/

Friday, June 7, 2019

A Thriller, A Filler and a Spiller


Admittedly, I know nothing of gardening.  I blame my mother, who gardened little when I was young.  She worked about 50 hours a week, between her outside-the-home job, teaching 15 hours of music lessons a week and then add to that her church work on Sundays...good reasons why there was little time for gardening.  At any rate, I am not a gardener, by any stretch, regardless of who's to "blame".

But, I decided we needed a planter of lovely flowers outside the back door to the deck.  So, I bought a matchy-matchy pot at Wally World, and then went looking for some on-sale foliage with potting soil at the local mom-and-pop nursery. 
Unfortunately, I was lost as a goat.  The young man "manning the store" had no idea how to direct me, other than to send me to the correct greenhouse.
Fortunately, a stranger saw my bewilderment and stepped in, out of mercy, no doubt.  Her advice to me was to:
1) Pick a color scheme:  pinks/purples, reds or oranges.  (I chose the pinks.)
2) Get a "thriller', some "fillers" and some "spillers".  Some of you will know what that means.  For the rest of you who, like me, are "ignernt" (solid, country word meaning "ignorant", i.e. "lack of knowledge"), here's the explanation.

The thriller is the tall, lovely plant in the center of the arrangement.  It anchors the piece, and without it, you just have a mishmash of this and that.  You plant the thriller first.
The fillers are those plants that, along with the spillers, fill in between the base of the thriller and the rim of the container.
The spillers are trailing vine-like plants, inserted near the rim.  They then proceed to spill out over the edge of the planter, again, giving more dimension.

Three-in-one.

Remind you of anything?

The thriller reminds me of the salvation act/decision at the center of the Christian life.  Without it, you have nothing, or chaos, or both.  This anchors everything else, and is indispensable.
The fillers remind me of discipleship, which is the next step, along with the spillers, which make me think of evangelism.  Discipleship is necessary to surround and beautify the salvation decision.  Faith grows through acts of discipleship - - studying the Bible, learning to pray, fellowshipping with other believers.  Cultivating these habits deepen the relationship which began with the salvation decision; they are the "working out" of the initial act (Philippians 2:12).
The spillers represent the abundant Christian life spilling over to an unbelieving world as, by our example and through our words and deeds, we share the gospel with others.

A trifecta of beauty, representing the Christian's resplendent walk with THE Three-In-One, the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

6Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, 7rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 (Berean Study Bible)

Happy growing!


Monday, June 3, 2019

My Name is Lazarus


I was riding down the road yesterday morning, listening to one of the few radio stations that still plays Southern gospel music on Sunday mornings, WCON radio "My Country", in Cornelia, GA. 
A song began, one that I had never heard.  The title was "My Name is Lazarus".  It was a catchy song, about the biblical character, Lazarus - - brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany, all close friends of Jesus.  If you want to listen to it, the link is in the Sources below.1

Loyal readers to this blog may remember that I visited the site purported to be Lazarus' tomb when I visited Israel for the first time, back in January, 2018.  A picture from that day in Bethany is above.  The area is in the town of Bethany (surprise!), which is now part of the West Bank.  It is controlled by the Palestinians, and we had to pay a "keeper" at the site, in order to be allowed entrance into the tomb.

Down, down, down into the ground we went, via these musty, damp steps.  It felt like we descended hundreds of feet, although it surely was not.  In the photo, Chris and I were standing in "the tomb".

Driving down the road, I thought about all this and also about how my name is Lazarus too.  (What?!)
No, I've not yet physically died, nor was I physically resurrected.  However, until I was about 9 years old, I was dead in every way that mattered.  I was spiritually dead.

Oh, I had (and still have) a soul and spirit.  The difference is: prior to August of 1967 they were dead.  (Even more dead than Lazarus.)  Now, they are spiritually alive.  I surely do praise God for that!

The apostle Paul said this on the subject, speaking to a church in Ephesus, people who had become Christ-followers:

1As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins...
Ephesians 2:1a

"Were" is such a wonderful word, in this context!  Lazarus was dead, completely incapable of generating life on his own as he lay there moldering in the grave.2  
Before we came to salvation in Jesus Christ, we were a worse kind of dead, and similarly incapable of "raising ourselves", of saving ourselves.   Somebody pointed out that if something is dead, it can't do anything on its own, not even respond.  Jesus said,
 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him."  
John 6:44.

Because He has loved us with an everlasting love, He pursues us, in order to initiate that love relationship with us, in order to make the dead come alive, to bring the dead to life.  I am so deeply grateful for that.  Paul goes on to say....

4But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!
Ephesians 2:4-5

To be honest, there are times when I still feel dead.
  • When I sin
  • When I am disappointed
  • When I am sad
  • When I am focusing on what isn't, instead of what is
Those times.  
Fortunately, though, the truth, the gospel, the good news - - - they are not changed by my feelings.  Hallelujah for that!  And, God gave me a whole, whopping book of reminders, a heaping volume of truth to counteract that pity party junk.  When I go there and spend time with Him, worship Him, listen for Him, He tenderly reminds me of His love, which transcends all earthly sorrows.


"When I in the chains of death was bound,
this Man named Jesus pulled me out."
- - - Rodney Griffin, "My Name is Lazarus"

Sources:


2     "Moldering" is an old English word, not much used these days.  It means "rotting". 


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lord, Not Tyrant


As Noah and his family emerged from the Ark and after Noah had offered a burnt offering on the altar to God, He blessed this family, which would go on to re-populate the Earth.  God's gracious blessing has several key elements, which we will examine today.  They are found in Genesis 9:1-4 (BSB).

1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2The fear and dread of you will fall on every living creature on the earth, every bird of the air, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are delivered into your hand. 3Everything that lives and moves will be food for you; just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you all things.4But you must not eat meat with its lifeblood still in it. 5

The first component is a grant of the land to the family, and it coupled with (sorry, could not resist the pun) the command to procreate and to re-populate the Earth.  No longer was the Earth "Paradise", but it was a far cry from Hell which, due to our sinful nature, is all we deserve.  Today, large families are sometimes criticized by modern American society.  However, this is a worldly attitude that has no basis in Scripture.  It is plain from this verse and others that God commends large families.  See also Psalm 127:4-5.

The second component of the blessing is a grant of rule over all the other living creatures of the Earth.  You may recall God made a similar grant to Adam (see Genesis 1:28), but with this one difference.  In his sinless state, Adam ruled in love, whereas fallen man (Noah et al) ruled by fear.  (This is why the mama bird in her nest this morning took one look at me behind the window and skedaddled.)

The third element concerns mankind's diet.  In Genesis 1:29, mankind was directed to eat only the plant life of the Earth.  However, the Great Flood changed the Earth in ways we will never know this side of Heaven, and maybe not even then.  It is possible that these changes provoked God to allow Noah and his descendants to eat the flesh of living things.

The one restriction God put on the eating of animal flesh was that it was to be cooked (vs. 4).  Due to the Fall of Man we see animals attack other animals and eat the meal immediately after, savagely consuming raw flesh.  Mankind was directed by God to not be so. An example of this being defied can be found in 1 Samuel 14:32.

31That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, the people were very faint. 32So they rushed greedily to the plunder, taking sheep, cattle, and calves.They slaughtered them on the ground and ate meat with the blood still in it. 33Then someone reported to Saul: “Look, the troops are sinning against the LORD by eating meat with the blood still in it.” “You have broken faith,” said Saul.
1 Samuel 14:31-33 (BSB)

Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat.
Proverbs 23:20 (BSB)

We are to be lords over the animals of the Earth, but not tyrants.  We are given lordship to use animals for our benefit, but not to abuse them for our luxury.  There are also negative health repercussions for eating raw animal flesh.  Our "constitutions" are not designed for this type of food.

In the picture at the head of this post, you see my husband, an avid fisherman.  He caught that gorgeous 16-inch Rainbow trout this past weekend at one of his favorite "fishing holes".  However, we did not need or desire that fish for food.  So, after the photo op, that big boy was gently returned to the creek, to grow and flourish. 

Those who abuse animals demonstrate a marked lack of godliness, and often go on to abuse people in the worst sorts of ways.  There are also those who practically worship animals, going to great lengths to prevent even the God-sanctioned uses described in Genesis 9.  Both these extremes are ungodly; neither is in keeping with what God ordained.

One more point about diet - -
Many Jews today still practice dietary laws that prohibit the eating of some types of animal flesh.  These restrictions were put into place as part of the Mosaic law.  Continuing to adhere to these practices is a matter of personal conviction for the Christian.  In Acts 10:9-16, God gave permission for Peter to eat both clean and unclean animals.  Paul echoes this point when criticizing false teachers who sought to divide the faithful with false doctrines about abstaining from marriage and from certain foods:

1Now the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2influenced by the hypocrisy of liars, whose consciences are seared with a hot iron.
3They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from certain foods that God has created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4For every creation of God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should be rejected, 5because it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 (BSB)

Within these parameters, let's follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, each individual operating according to how the Spirit leads.  Let's seek to honor God by what we feed both our souls and our bodies, the Word of God for the former and a wide variety of healthy foods for the latter. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Brave New World Burnt Offering

Image by Greg Montani, from Pixabay.com
At Genesis 8:20-22, we have now come to the end of the account of the Great Flood, historical science which conveys to us both the mercy and the judgment of God.  A number of extra-biblical sources could be cited in substantiation to this world-altering event.  Even the very constitution of the Earth bears witness to the upheaval experienced 5000 years ago.  What Intelligent Being, after all, would have created a world with such imperfection?  None.  The once-perfect creation now bears the marks of the most severe of judgments, fallen...and continuing to fall.

As his first act upon exiting the Ark, the great patriarch, Noah, builds an altar and offers a burnt offering on it from those he worked so hard to save.  Why?

20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD. Taking from every kind of clean animal and clean bird, he offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21When the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, He said in His heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from his youth. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.
22As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
shall never cease.”
Genesis 8:20-22 (Berean Study Bible)

When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with severe allergies, one of which was to "animal dander".  Now, we never had a pet in the house, growing up.  Mother would not allow it.  But, we had a stray dog that had given birth to several puppies, which I adored.  Upon getting the verdict of my allergy to dog "dander", the parental units decided it would be best to rid the family of pets altogether.  So, Daddy boxed them up and took them "somewhere".  Let's not dig too deeply into that, shall we?  The point is, I had to say a very tearful goodbye to my furry, little friends.  I still remember the pain, over 50 years later.

The concept of animal sacrifice is so very foreign to us today, because it simply "is not done".  In fact, the idea of harming animals (except for food) is deeply frowned upon in our modern "1st World" society.

It was different in the Old Testament.  Animal sacrifice was instituted by God Himself, was central to Old Testament worship and was a multi-dimensional act.  It was right and appropriate that Noah acted as he did, upon leaving the Ark.

The Ark itself symbolizes Jesus Christ, in Whom we find rescue and shelter from God's judgment.  In the Old Testament, though, Messiah Jesus had not yet appeared.  His all-encompassing sacrifice had not been made.  His blood had not atoned for all the sins of those who believe in Him.  So, the sacrificial system was in play.

It began with Abel, who pleased God by bringing the second animal sacrifice.  "Wait," you exclaim, "what was the first?"  The first was made by God, in the Garden of Eden, when He sacrificed the life of an animal to make animal skin coverings for the nakedness of Adam and Eve.  While those skins covered their nakedness, they could not cover their sin.

Offering food to "gods" has happened since the days of the ancients, and still persists to this day.  Walk into some Buddhist businesses (nail salons come to mind) and you will frequently see fresh fruit offerings at a shrine, for example.  In India, where via Hinduism literally hundreds of gods are worshipped, shrines and altars are more plentiful than Starbucks and McDonalds outlets in America.
(The photo at the head of this post is one example.)
There were a couple of differences between pagan animal sacrifices and those made by the Israelites, the people of Yahweh God.1

First, the animal sacrifice was to be burnt (Exodus 29:18), as opposed to being offered as "food for the gods" in other religions.  Jewish tabernacles or temples contained no man-made idol to which food was given.  Burning the animal's flesh was entirely unique to the Jewish faith.

Second, the Jews were very deliberate in how they treated the blood of the animal, based on the instructions given to them by Yahweh God.  Leviticus 17:11-14 tells us (as the old hymn goes) "there is power in the blood".  The blood is the essence of physical and spiritual life.  Accordingly, long after Noah, when God set up the Levitical priesthood through Moses and Aaron, sacrificial blood took center stage.  It was considered the highest crime to eat or drink it, as well as to shed "innocent blood".

The design of animal sacrifice was two-fold:2

  • The forfeiture of the life of the animal represents the forfeiture of the life of the sinful human to God's divine justice.  
  • The fire of the burnt offering represents that the sinner is deserving of the fires of eternal death an damnation.

To study the meanings behind all of the O.T. sacrificial offerings, see Leviticus 7.

As the Ark was a "type", a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, so was the burnt offering.  Today, as Jesus has made the ultimate, final, eternal sacrifice for our sins, we no longer must offer animal sacrifices on altars of stone.  What God requires from us who walk in the faith that flows from His Holy Spirit is continual sacrifice on the altars of our hearts, the sacrifice of self-denial, humility and obedience.  With such a faith-based walk, our God and Savior is honored and glorified.

He was pleased with the burnt offering given by Noah, and in response promised to never again destroy the Earth by cataclysmic flood.  This promise is named by theologians as The Noahic Covenant.  The one-of-a-kind, sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords grieved His heart deeply, but it pleased Him even more than all the burnt offerings of history combined; it pleased Him forever.  Jesus, The Last Sacrifice, "sealed the deal".

It is no accident Jesus Christ is pictured as a slain Lamb in Revelation 5.

8When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song:
“Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals,
because You were slain,
and by Your blood You purchased for God
those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
10You have made them into a kingdom,
priests to serve our God,
and they will reignb upon the earth.”
Revelation 5:8-10 (Berean Study Bible)


Sources:

1   https://reformjudaism.org/role-sacrifice

2   https://biblehub.com/commentaries/clarke/genesis/8.htm

Friday, April 19, 2019

When Passover and Good Friday Kiss Each Other

Image result for google images christian jewish

For the past three Passion Weeks (2016-2018) I have posted here in the blog my study about the "10 Days that Changed the World", a series of posts concerning the events of Jesus' last week before His crucifixion, burial and resurrection three days later.  I didn't re-post them again this year, or on Facebook because, with the hundreds of views they have received (mostly from Facebook users), I figured I had about worn that horse out.  On the off-chance though, dear reader, you have not read them, I would recommend you do so before delving into this post, one which will be to some highly controversial.  You can find the first post here:  https://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2018/03/10-days-that-changed-world-passion-week.html
And, then, just read the next one in the line-up, through the end of March, ending with the post called "First Fruits".

Okay, on to today's topic.
In the aforementioned posts, I essentially made a case for how Jesus Christ fulfilled the Passover Feast of the Jews in His last days on earth.  Likewise, He fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits, all of which are slammed together adjacent to one another, forming what is commonly referred to as the first three of  "The Spring Feasts". (The fourth is Shavuot, what Christians celebrate as Pentecost.)  Jesus was a Jew, after all, and a perfectly devout One to boot.  It is important to remember that.

This year, 2019, today is Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar, the day the Passover Lamb would have been slain by the High Priest in Jerusalem's Temple, the day the Lamb of God was crucified on the cross for our sins.  It happened around 3:00 in the afternoon in those days and, were there a Temple in Jerusalem today with priestly animal sacrifices ongoing, it would be happening right about now as I type this post, because beloved Israel is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. 

Tonight, Jews around the world will eat the Passover Seder, celebrating their deliverance from Egyptian slavery, with many putting the twist on their reminiscences of the more recent Holocaust, when Jews were enslaved and many exterminated by the Nazis.  Many Messianic Christians, those who marry the Jewish feast celebrations with the finished work of Jesus Christ, will celebrate a Messianic Seder tonight, but in addition to how the more traditional Jews celebrate, their added emphasis will be on how Messiah Jesus fulfilled Passover by setting them free from the slavery of sin and eternal death.  Hallelujah to His name!

Today, Nisan 14 and what most Christians around the world call Good Friday happen to fall on the same day.  That is what I mean by the title of this post.

In the early Church of Jesus Christ, all of the members were Jews, the first "Jews for Jesus", if you will.  The earliest Christians (they were not called Christians until late in the first century A.D., in the town of Antioch - - Acts 11:20-21) celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, beginning on Nisan 14, whenever that fell on the other world calendars in use at that time.  In other words, they began their "Easter" celebration, more appropriately called their resurrection celebration, on the day Jesus was crucified.  IN OTHER WORDS, the first resurrection "anniversaries" aligned with the Jewish feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits, because that is in line with how things went in the New Testament.

Unfortunately, as years went on, there began to be division about when to celebrate the Lord's resurrection.  Satan got to work and planted in the minds of influential church leaders that the "new Christian religion" should separate itself from those awful Jews . . . you know, the ones who killed the Lord Jesus?  That hellish attitude still persists in some circles today.  It was especially heretical in those early years, to drive a wedge between God's chosen people, the Jews, and the Jewish and Gentile Christians.  Once the wedge was in place, the rift just continued to widen.

None other luminary that the apostle John advocated for celebrating the resurrection, on Nisan 14.1  Others of that era chose to celebrate the resurrection on the Sunday following Passover, since it is incontrovertible that Jesus arose from the grave early on a Sunday morning.  However, here is the problem with that, (other than the obvious divergence of opinions.)  Passover does not always begin at the conclusion of Nisan 14, going into Nisan 15, a Thursday going into a Friday, as it did the year Jesus died.  What about those years Nisan 14-15 fell on a Monday-Tuesday, for example?  Well, three days later would be, what?  A Friday?  You can see the obvious problems.  If, in that fictitious year, the resurrection were celebrated "three days later", you would be celebrating on a Friday, not a Sunday.  AND, if you waited until the Sunday after Passover, Jesus would have been left in the tomb too long.
What to do?

By the time of the Council of Nicea, in 325 A.D., you had Christians celebrating the resurrection "all over the place", at various times, which the Council felt was unseemly.  It is sad that, instead of establishing the date in congruence with the lunar Jewish calendar, the way it originally occurred, the Council decided to establish it on the Roman calendar, a solar calendar, always during the Spring Equinox.  For some reason they felt that "the consistency", not to mention the distancing of Christianity from Jewry, was more important. So, the Council arbitrarily chose a date, decreeing all Christian churches would celebrate the resurrection of the Lord on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox. 

While this date certainly brought a unanimity to the resurrection celebration, which later began to be called "Easter", it certainly did not bring with it accuracy.  In my opinion, it is merely another example of theological "drift" or as I've heard it called "slippage in the system".  As the Church of Jesus Christ has moved on into history, getting ever farther, necessarily, from the faith's "point of origin" in 3 B.C. through 30 A.D., more and more dreck or "tradition" or outright error have crept in.

Where did the term "Easter" come from, anyway?  That's another blog post, and I'm not going to get into that here.  How did we get to Friday being the designated day of the week for the crucifixion? No way you can get "three days in the belly of the earth" (Jesus' words in Matthew 12:40) from Friday to Sunday.... Why are bunnies and eggs and so forth now part of the cultural celebration, although, thankfully, not yet the theological....?  Drift.  Dreck.  Etc.  Some would call it outright heresy....

This Sunday, two days from now, I will go to church with my husband, and we will both lift our hands in praise and celebration, to honor our Lord and King, and to celebrate His finished work for us.  We will do this in our Baptist church, which celebrates Jesus' resurrection on "Easter Sunday".  But, learning about the lost alignment between the Jewish feasts and the Lord's Passion has both enriched my joy during this holy season, while simultaneously making me wistfully sad.  The Passion season always speaks more deeply to me when Passover and the Christian resurrection celebration align.  Kiss-Kiss!

Today, for example, I am meditating on how, on Nisan 14, 3790 (today is Nisan 14, 5779), He died for me, in the Gregorian calendar year 30 A.D. That year, Nisan 14 was a Thursday.  His body lay in the tomb three nights and 2 full days plus a partial day, while His spirit descended into Sheol and did His liberating work there.  Then, early on Sunday morning, Nisan 17, His body was resurrected into a glorious "heavenly" physical form and reunited with His Spirit, after which He walked the earth and did many miracles for 40 more days, until His Ascension into Heaven.

Nisan 17, the resurrection day, the day of the Feast of First Fruits, falls on a Monday this year.  🤷‍♀️

But, you know, the most important thing is that we don't let these types of Bible nerd explorations take away from our celebrating the Lord's Resurrection.  Becoming overly divisive does not bring glory to God, and it takes away from the central truth more worthy of celebration than any other.  And that is this:

1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, and in which you stand firm. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that He appeared to Cephasa and then to the Twelve. 6After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one of untimely birth.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (Berean Study Bible)

Happy Passover!  Happy Resurrection Day!

Sources:

1   https://answersingenesis.org/holidays/easter/is-the-date-of-easter-of-pagan-origin/

2   http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume28/GOT028159.html