Thursday, March 31, 2011

On A Hyssop Branch

John Chapter 19 -29 "A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Many of us have read these two small lines. However, do we really undrestand the spiritual signifigance of them? In Psalm 51, a contrite King David is praying for forgiveness when he utters, "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." - Psalm 51:7 What does that mean? First, and foremost it means that we are now covered by the blood of the Lamb. John knew when writing this the signifigance of mentiong hyssop in this line.

During the first passover, which is indeed a shadow of the crucifixion, God instructed His people(Israel) to smear the blood of an unblemished lamb over their door jambs. He instructed them to do this, so that when the angel of death flew over Egypt to kill the first born the angel would pass over the Israelites. "Take a bunch of hyssop leaves and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame. Then, none of you is to go out the door of his house until morning." -Exodus 12:22

Did God or His angel need the blood on the door jamb to know who the Israelites were? Of course not. He was showing us that just as it is now, life then was sacred. The life blood of an innocent lamb was used to cover the people of Israel. Today, we are doing the same thing. We are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect and unblemished eternal lamb who was made propitiation for us with the father.

There is another thing we can learn from these versus, and that is fulfillment. Wine with gall was used as a pain killer, or an anesthetic. Many believed that was what is going on, at the cross. Jesus refused it, which means he purposely went through the pain. He could have deadened the pain, but instead he bore our suffering in full.. The soldier was mocking Him (which fulfills another prophecy), but in the mocking of our Lord he also fulfilled another scripture. Psalm 69, 19-21 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you. Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

Today let us remember that Jesus fulfilled over 400 scriptures in the New Testament alone. The odds that one man can fulfill that many scriptures is well under 1 in 8,749,002,899,132,047,697,490,008,908,470,485,461,412,677,723,572,849,745,703,082,425,639,811,996,797,503,692,894,052,708,092,215,296. think about that number for a minute. It's staggering. If Jesus had fulfilled 1 scripture, we could easily say well anyone can do that. But he fulfilled over 400 that we know of. John also says, Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25. Think about that as well. We don't know everything Jesus did. There is so much more that we just don't have a record of. He may very well, and probably did fulfill all prophecies about the Messiah. After all, we believe he is indeed that Messiah.

Let us worship and praise God, because we know there are more prophecies to be fulfilled at the second coming! Let us live in constant communion with the Father, with our lamps filled with oil that we may be found ready and waiting!

In Christ,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Have we truly examined our hearts?

This lenten season it is important for us to be fully aware of what grace really means. Tonight at awakening faith we were given a handout that puts it into a perspective that many of us may, or may not be aware of. All to often we may say, ah well I've never killed anyone, I'm a pretty good person. There are different depths to that commandment though that we often do not consider. Jesus told is that if we were angry with someone else, then we were gulity of breaking the commandment, and thus are in danger of judgment. Mathew 5:22. He also told us that if we looked at a woman in lust we were guilty of adultery. Mathew 5:28

You see God wnats us to live by the ultimate commandment, to love him with all of our heart, body and soul. Then secondly love our neighbors as ourselves. As we draw near to communion in many churches, and to reconciliation in others, let us examine our hearts. Let us look at who we truly are and ask for forgivness from our Father, God.

The following list is not given to condemn you. I only give it because I felt it was a true reminder and truly helped me to examine my heart. I pray that it will do the same for you.

1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides me.

Do I worship God in spirit and truth and give him the praise due him?
Do I make a god out of my work or my possessions, so that these rule my life instead of God?Have I tried to grow in the knowledge of God through daily prayer and scripture reading?
Have I ever dabbled in the occult or given credence to horoscopes, Ouija boards, channeling, tarot cards, or fortune telling?
Have I taken time to teach my family about the ways of God and pray with them?

2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Have I been hypocritical by adhering to a ritualistic observance while not actually living out my faith in practice?
Have I resorted to profane language by cursing and swearing?
In conversation, have I passively acceded to slander and to jokes aimed at demeaning religion, the church, or God's authority?

3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Have I allowed myself to become so dominated by my work or chores that I have not set aside Sunday for spiritual and family acitivities?
Do I honor God by particiipating in communion each time it is offered?
In my prayer and attendance at the liturgy, am I content with a passive observance rather than devoting myself to genuine worship of the Lord?

4. Honor your father and your mother.

As a young person in the family home, do I listen to, respect and obey my parents when they instruct me?
As an adult, do I visit and care for my parents in their old age?
Do I harbor short-term resentments against my parents?
Do I blame my parents for my own shortcomings?

5. Thou shalt not kill.

Have I ever advocated abortion, either through my opinions in conversation or by actively assisting someone in procuring an abortion?
Have I ever endangered myself or the life of another person through the taking of drugs or the abuse of alcohol?
Have I ever contemplated or attempted suicide?
Have I ever struck anyhone in anger, intending to injure them?
Do I recognize my sin in my anger or do I savor it?
Am I angry, bitter, or resentful toward anyone, particularly a family member?

6. You shall not commit adultery.

Have I engaged in sexual acitivty outside of marriage?
Have I given my mind over to lustful thoughts or fantasies?
Have I read pornography or watched indecent movies or television shows?
Have I acted impurely by myself or with others?

7. You shall not steal.

Have I taken anything that did not belong to me?
Have I been dishonest in the payment of my taxes or in the submission of expense accounts in my business?
Have I wasted time and cheated my employer by not doing a full day's work for my wages?
Have I been extravagant in my manner of life, to the neglect of the poor of the world?
Have I been irresponsible and neglected the need of my family by wasting money on gambling or betting?

8. You shall not bear false witness agaisnt your neighbor.

Have I defamed the good name of another person by taking part in gossip or slander?
Have I injured the reputation of another person by speaking about their failures and sins with little desire to help them?
Have I condoned prejudice and hatred toward people of another nationality, race or religion?
Have I been truthful in my words as well as in my actions?

9. You shall not covet your neighbors wife.

Have I sought the affections of another's spouse?
Have I contemplated infedelity in my marriage?
Have I upheld the dignity of my spouse in all circumstances?
Have I reje cted my family in my heart, wishing to distance myself emotionally and personally from them.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.

Do I habitually compare myself with others in terms of wealth, status and financial security?
Am I jealous of the personal qualities of others or envious of their possessions or success?
Do I keep my finances in order and exercise proper stewardship over what is mine?
Do I support my church sufficiently and give generously to the poor?

I pray that each of us finds ourselves in a state of repentance, and acceptance. Repentance from our bad deeds, thoughts and actions. And yet in acceptance of God's grace and mercy! We must learn to accept God's love for what it is, unconditional and unfathomable. It is so hard to accept that Christ died for us in our place! That He chose to remain hanging on that cross for each and everyone of us. I pray that every man, woman and child will learn to have faith in Jesus Christ, and learn to love as deeply and powerfully as our Heavenly Father, with pure agape.

In Christ,

Friday, March 25, 2011

What do you do when you can't put your thoughts into words? Overcome with grief?

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we know not how to pray. Romans 8:26 - In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Isn't it a blessing to know that God hears our heart when we are so filled with grief that we cannot even speak? He knows what we need, and says it for us! When we are so overcome with the pain in our life, or the pain in someone else's we can simply pray, Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. I find this to be an immense amount of comfort.

In Christ,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Would an arm allow the hand to go into the flame, and not try to pull it back?

I have been spending the last few days in contemplation about my walk with God. I have been encouraged by a few online friends that I shouldn't talk about sin, simply show love and draw people to Christ with that. I am not sure I can or will do that. While I agree Jesus is about love, there is another commandment that Jesus talked about first.

Jesus told us that the first and greatest commandment is to love our God. Part of loving someone is knowing them, and trying to please them. Obedience is a big portion of showing our love for God. If I were to tell you I loved my wife, and yet couldn't tell you where she was, what she liked to eat, or even a phone number to get in touch with her.. could I truly mean I love her?

To love God means to search Him out. Yes we are going to fall, and sin. That doesn't give us a free excuse to do so. I also agree that each of us are at a different stage in our walk. Some of us have a long way to walk, and some are amazing people who simply flow with God's will. I want to be one who flow's with God's will always, but I am not there. I am no saint. Just a sinner saved by grace. I try not to judge others because I know where they are may not be where they were, and it is definitely not where they are going to be either. Yet I cannot sit by when someone says I am Christian, and then continues with no fruit. It is not love to sit by while your children burn themselves in a fire, the fire is real, and if my children are walking towards it I will try to stop them. I may not be able to hold them back, but as the quote from Spurgeon says, ""If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for."

I agree tact is very important, and there are times to realize that talking to someone will not get through them. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict and it is God's job to judge. That does not mean that we should not continue to spread our light, nor does it mean that we can go on sinning freely. Christians must live in repentance. It is not a single act, but a lifestyle. Anytime we begin to sin, we must try our best to immediately turn from it and apologize sincerely to God, because it should grieve our soul to have harmed Him.

In Christ,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What is a todah?

One of the more interesting concepts that we learn from Judaism is the todah sacrifice. You see there were many different types of sacrifice but the todah is one that we will all recognize very quickly as Christians. The todah was a sacrifice offered in recognition of God delivering someone from some great tribulation. They had just gone through something very difficult, and when they came to the other side they wanted to show God that they know he was the reason they were delivered.

The todah meal was a meal of sacrifice and thanksgiving to the Father. A priest would sacrifice a lamb, and the family would then consume that lamb with wine. It's already starting to sound familiar. "One gives thanks for a particular deliverance from suffering or mortal danger."

You and I were in mortal danger. The wages of sin is death. That means that if you broke any commandment in any way, the punishment is death. All of us are sinners. We have all sinned in someway or another. We all deserve death. God redeemed us through Christ on the cross. Our todah is communion. Now each church has a different way of going about communion, and I don't want this to get into a conversation on how to go about it, or who is right, or who is wrong. This is about how that the concept of communion goes directly back to a todah.

Through communion we are offering a sacrifice to God, one that He gave us freely. Just like a lamb is only ours because God gives it to us, the sacrifice of Christ is only ours because God provided it. Just like Abraham and Isaac, a ram has been provided for us. The bread represents his body, and the wine his blood. Just like Melkizedk who offered bread and wine, so do we. We participate in the communion to show that sacrifice. Jesus is our lamb, just as the bible refers to him.

The Jewish scholars many years ago wrote a very important statement. "In the comming Messianic age, all sacrifices will cease except the todah sacrifice. This will never cease in all eternity" (Pesiqta, I, p 159). We know that Jesus was our messiah. The communion act is a representation of that todah sacrifice.

In Christ,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware the power of words

We have to be careful what we say, because the tongue is a terrible beast to tame. Do we often consider what we say and who we are talking to? Jame said, "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." James 3:6

I have a little story to share about my daughter, that illustrates just how sometimes we aren't aware of what we are saying or how we are hurting people. My daughter, who is 4, came up to me a while ago and wanted me to weave a rose into her hair. So I spent a few seconds twisting the hair together and the flower to make it stay on the side of her head. As I finished, she smiled in one of those cute innocent smiles and said:

"There, now I'm pretty."

I said, "Oh honey, you don't need a flower in your hair to be pretty."

She said, "Really?"

I said, "You are beautiful the way you are."

She said "But sometimes you call me nut head or goof-ball."

I said, "Does it hurt your feelings when I say that?"

She said, matter of factly "Yes."

I said, "Then I won't say it anymore, I think you are beautiful just the way you are."

The purpose of this story is to illustrate that we need to beware what we say, more especially be aware of who he are talking to. We can hurt someones feelings in a blink of an eye, and not even realize it.

It also illustrates another fundamental truth. When we realize we have erred, we apologize. By repenting we mean, I will do my best NOT to do it again. When I tell my daughter I will not call her nut head or goof-ball anymore, it is my intention not to do it. It should be the same with God. When we apologize to God for our sins, we should do our best to quit! We might slip up from time to time, but because we love Him, our heart needs to truly mean that we are sorry and that we are trying our best not to grieve his Spirit anymore.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Saved, But as by fire?

Baptism by fire. It is a topic that has brought a lot of thought and discussion over the years. The book of acts indicates that when the apostles where baptized with fire, they literally saw tongues of flame resting on each other. Then they went out speaking tongues, that is every person heard them in their own tongue. Will everyone speak tongues? No. But everyone will receive gifts. That's another topic though.

What is baptism by fire? To really understand this we have to understand some of the things that John spoke of. For instance, John said he was baptizing with water, but another would come who baptized with fire. What does water baptism do? The Bible tells us we do it for forgiveness of sin. It makes us ritually pure, replacing all the laws of washing that the Israelites had to follow day in and day out, constantly washing themselves, their cups and bowls, and instruments of worship.

Now that we look at it that way, it becomes a little more apparent what Baptism with fire really is. But we also need to look at a few more verses to clarify. Malachi 3:3 says that the Messiah will refine us like silver and gold, removing the impurities. Peter 1:7 reminds us also, that gold is purified through fire. Yet again 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 reminds us that our life will be tested and the gold, silver, and precious stones will survive, but not the wood, hay or stubble.

You see when someone has a chunk of gold from the ground, he heats it with fire until it melts. Once it melts the impurities float to the top. Then the blacksmith can scoop out the impurities and he's left with pure gold. This is what baptism with fire is. We receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized with water, and then Jesus, via that Spirit, begins to purify our hearts. For some it's instant, and others it takes time. In the end we will be conformed to that state that God created us for, by purification. He will patiently and lovingly melt our hearts, and then remove the bad things (the wood, the hay, the stubble all things that perish and are of the flesh) and when he's finished there will be nothing left but gold, silver, and precious gems (faith, hope, love, long suffering, etc.)

So be of good cheer! If you are finding it easier and easier to be obedient to the Lord, then you are already under his cloak. You are in the process of being baptized by fire. It is a lifelong process in which God makes us who we need to be. We are not who we used to be, but we are also not who we are going to be. We must put our faith in Him, and trust in His holy work!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wheat or Tare

Wheat or Tare

Though darkness may attempt to consume me
The light of day always comes through
From the fruit of the forbidden tree
Came pain that no man could subdue

Independent thought came the call
Of spilt blood against the hand
Hidden, but not secret the fall
As it resounded through the land

Wandering for many dry, dusty years
Yet no food or water were missed
The rebellious calf brought tears
Swarming serpants at feet hissed

Then eyes raised to the Rock
From which living water flowed
Then a temple door where we knock
And the veil of purple stowed

For on a tree hung the Word
As mankind in disobedience grew
To live and die by the sword
For betrayal a kiss we knew

Then ripped the fabric did tear
Open to the souls deep call
Not simply for wheat or tare
But for not mine but all

Are we clouding our eyes over with impurities?

There is a story in the book of Tobit that a dear friend of mine wrote about in his blog. Fr. Tim wrote about how Tobit's wife Anna received a goat for her work, kind of a bonus for doing a good job. Tobit however had recently slept in an outdoor area near a wall, and a pigeon's had left their waste there. The bacteria from the waste made him blind. While he was yet blind Anna brought home the goat that her employer had given and Tobit refused to eat it! You see Tobit thought it was a stolen goat, and as such he wanted it taken back where it came from.

From Tobit - And my wife Anna did take women's works to do. And when she had sent them home to the owners, they paid her wages, and gave her also besides a kid. And when it was in my house, and began to cry, I said unto her, From whence is this kid? is it not stolen? render it to the owners; for it is not lawful to eat any thing that is stolen. But she replied upon me, It was given for a gift more than the wages. Howbeit I did not believe her, but bade her render it to the owners: and I was abashed at her. But she replied upon me, Where are thine alms and thy righteous deeds?

We are often like Tobit in our lives. We lay our head in a place that is filled with unclean things. That is, we live in a world full of sin and often times we allow that sin our life. While that cannot take us out of the hands of the Lord, it can indeed make it difficult to see blessings when they come our way. Just like Tobit we can miss out on blessings because our eyes are clouded over with the sin of the world.

It's important that we instead spend our time doing things that we know God approves of. Via the sacraments, action and prayer we can keep our lives in God's hands. Via the sacraments and action we can instead be the change that each of us needs to be, by doing just as you suggested and going forth giving of the abundance that the Lord has blessed us with. I think if each of us truly reassess our lives we can see places where we can cut luxuries and wants, and instead use that money/food/clothing to bless those who do not have.

Luke 3:11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

As John instructed in Luke 3 verse 11, if we have two cloaks give one to someone who has none, and if we have extra food give that away as well. We need to continue to live by these instructions, looking closely at our actions to see where they come from. If they are coming from our heart out of love, then they are actions we should indeed take. If they are actions that come from our own desires and wants, and put self first then we should rethink them.

In Christ,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Prayer Request

I would like to post a prayer request today. I've had a heavy heart the last few days, a heavy heart for humanity. I feel that we are missing the mark so to speak. We as a species are ready to perpetuate any amount of evil in order to keep our personal pleasures. From storing up massive amounts of money, to fathers and mothers leaving their children for their own personal goals. The news is inundated with horrible things, and we as Christians are not being seen by the world as a positive influence. The Bible says we will be known by our love.

I pray for a world in which people, even those who do not believe, will say "I don't believe in a God, but those Christians are doing good things!" I pray that we will wake up form our carnal stupor and start being the men and women that God has declared us to be! That we will begin as a Church as a whole, to shower the world with the Love of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In Christ,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baptism, the three days!

Do we truly understand the importance of baptism? After all, the bible lists five different times that we should be baptized by water for the remission of sin. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4; Acts 22:16 and 1 Peter 3:21 There are two things about baptism that I believe we should all be aware of.

One, baptism took the place of ritual cleansing. If we study the old testament law we find that there are many rules for what we must do to enter the presence of God. If someone touched a dead body, or someone with a disease, etc they became unclean. They were constantly washing themselves in order to become pure again. Baptism was just that. It made them ritually pure! However, it wasn't something they needed to do over and over! Because they were being reborn! We were coming under a new covenant, one in which our spirits were no longer made impure by what we touched or what we ate!

Baptism also was a shadow of things to come, a shadow that we now have seen in the light. Baptism was instructed to be in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! Before the death of Christ they still used three dips in the water. Why? For each time we go under, we are spending a day in the tomb with Jesus (symbolically). Three days we are dead, but on the fourth(when we raise from the grave) we are made alive! We come out of the water not a carnal man, but a spirit! A spirit alive in Jesus Christ!

Now baptism is an outward show of an inward change. This we know. The act of baptism does not actually change you, however, the process by which one reaches baptism and goes through it.. this is where the change is! The change is in our heart! We must be baptized not only by water, but by spirit! Much like circumcision is of the heart, so is baptism! (Now I firmly believe that every believer should be baptized, this is not a teaching against that! However, it is a teaching that a person cannot simply be baptized and believe they will go to Heaven... they MUST put their faith in Jesus Christ!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tithing, 10%? 20%? How about yourself?

Malachi 1:6-7 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

I was going to write about this in a completely different way, when it struck me that we as Christians often do the exact same thing. We attempt to live a good life, pretending that if we are good enough, that life can be a sacrifice to God. We live each day "sacrificing" the things we want to do, and believe that will get us to Heaven. It cannot. We cannot be an unblemished sacrifice before the throne of God. We have sin in our lives!

How dare we as Christians attempt to offer ourselves up to sacrifice, while living in Sin? Can any of us truly look inside ourselves and see a pure, unblemished sacrifice? This is why Christ died on the cross! HE is that sacrifice that you and I cannot make! Why then do we try to justify ourselves through works! We are not able to do so, nor should we try! Instead we do good things because our faith produces them! When you love God, and love each other, you will do good things!

Ephesians 5:1-2 says, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

We are a lame goat! We are a blemished sacrifice. If we attempt to offer ourselves on the mercy seat, God will see our blemishes and our failure. That is why he offers up Christ in our stead. Think of that beautiful truth. That Christ is the unblemished sacrifice that you and I cannot be. This is the beauty of the communion, reminding us that God already sacrificed for us. That he gave his body and his blood, that you and I could be reconciled to the father. Works will never perfect us, only God can do this. We can grow closer to God by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and this is my prayer. That you and I will always want to grow closer, and emulate God even more than we do now. That no matter how much self control the spirit teaches us that we will always remain humble, knowing that we are given a gift of grace that we have not, and cannot earn. That we will always realize the beauty of Christ's gift of grace, and never lord it over others. That we will always feel the love of God welling up in our souls, driving us to share the gospel that others might experience this same gift of Grace.

Hebrews 13:15-16 says, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

Though I do believe in giving a portion of our money to God, after all it is His to begin with, I believe we also must apply the necessity of tithing to our spiritual lives in Christ. The tithe was a percentage of sacrifice to the religious authorities, and as such there were rules about giving a perfect sacrifice, without blemish, and cheerfully doing so. If we begrudged God in what we were giving, God didn't want it anyway. (After all it is His anyway, tithing was not you giving away something of yours, but dedicating something of Gods to Him in recognition of his blessings. )

We need to be aware that we are instructed in our new covenant to give ourselves as a tithe, a sacrifice, perfect and wholly acceptable to God (because God sees Christ and not us!). We must do this without begrudging God what is already His, us and by extension our lives. We must cheerfully live our lives only for the Glory of God, and have no secret emotions that say we aren't happy to do it and only are doing it because we have to. Instead we are to be filled with the Joy and Peace of the Lord our God!

In Christ,