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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I Thessalonians 5:18--In Everything Give Thanks

One year, before Thanksgiving, I learned the meaning of giving thanks in everything. The verse doesn't say "Give thanks for everything." It only says to "give thanks in everything." Give thanks in whatever situation you find yourself. Give thanks when the light turns green, but give thanks when it turns red, too. In favorable situations we should give thanks to God and in tragic situations we are still required to give thanks. Bad things happen. I don't feel thankful for them. I had learned that I wasn't giving thanks for the situation, but God's intent for me was that I should give thanks. Everywhere in whatever season and whatever weather. God required me to give thanks to him. My feelings are not the focus of my thankfulness, but God's sovereignty is.

I'm thankful when I realize this is not my problem and God has a better plan that I have. My girls were old enough to memorize and I required them to learn this verse. I called it "the rule." When something happened that overwhelmed me, and I couldn't express thankfulness to God, I would say, "Somebody say the rule." One of them would repeat the verse out loud. Hearing it in real time in the midst of the event would refocus my faith, and suddenly the horrible was just inconvenient. I had another child after this had become my practice. As soon as she was old enough to know her name, she was indoctrinated, and she also became a prod to my conscience and faith.

After some years, I don't remember how many, I read the passage and continued to verse 19. I was astonished that the letters vibrated on the page. It said, "Quench not the Spirit." Boy sometimes the Word really speaks to you. I re-read the passage beginning at verse 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. I read it again. Quench means to pour water on the fire. Don't act in ways that prevent God's Spirit from being active and alive in your situation, especially when it is a bad one. When we accept the facts as they really present themselves and recognize God's power and majesty,  our faith is released for God to take action. When we whine and complain, we restrict God's freedom to act on our behalf. "Quench not the Spirit" became a corollary to The Rule, 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I find it very faith-building to read this whole section often. You may find other points and phrases that spur you on to obedience and faith in your journey with Christ. Underline them or keep a journal. Memorize them. They will sustain you in hard times. Sometimes they may be a bridge to a testimony.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What's Not To Be Thankful For?

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...
English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Israel had lots of commemorative days and festivals and much is written about thanksgiving. I thought one should relate to our celebration of Thanksgiving as a time to give thanks for harvest, a good year, my children, my home, and God's providence. The Bible doesn't record a special day of giving thanks for good harvest or a good year, but many of the feasts include thanksgiving as an element in the festival. The Feast of First Fruits is a time of thanksgiving, but it occurs at the beginning of harvest, so it didn't exactly fit my criteria. First Fruits means they gave the first part of the harvest of every crop in sacrifice to celebrate the abundance they expected. It gave the idea of giving thanks a new meaning to me. It was a statement of faith to give the first part you harvest to God not knowing you would get anymore.

First Fruits was actually third in the yearly celebrations coming on the day after the Sabbath following Unleavened Bread.

Passover was held during the first month of the Jewish year. It commemorated the exit of the Jewish people from Egypt, so giving thanks was inherent in the ceremony. They were thankful for release from bondage. The Festival of Unleavened Bread began the next day and lasted for seven days. It continued the celebration by remembering the wandering in the wilderness and the manna that God provided for their sustenance.

Leaven represented the contamination caused by exposure to the world, other cultures, and mankind's original sin. Most of the bread and  grain offerings were specified to be without yeast, but the feast of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks was celebrated the day following the seventh Sabbath after First Fruits and celebrate the fertility of the land, and the sacrifice includes two loaves of bread made with yeast. I loved this because it indicates God's acceptance of us even with our faults and failures. Passover had been symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus, and First Fruits indicates that God loves us even in our human condition. Originally Pentecost marked the giving of the Law. In the Christian calendar it marks the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Biblical feasts in the fall of the Jewish calendar include  Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and the Feast of Weeks. Christians celebrate these in the Spring or Summer. The Fall celebrations are Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles.  Again, the times are reversed, and in our present calendar, they come in the Spring. 

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...
English: Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Everything Give Thanks

English: Feast of trumpets, as in Numbers 10:1...
English: Feast of trumpets, as in Numbers 10:10, from Henry Davenport Northrop, Treasures of the Bible,' published by International Publishing Company 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My last post in this blog dealt with the first four feasts on the calendar of the Jewish year beginning with Passover and ending with the Feast of Weeks. I'm still looking for references to Thanksgiving. Today I will take up the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths.

The Feast of Trumpets occurs in September. Trumpets represent a rich tradition in the Bible. The ram caught by his horn in the thicket saved Issac from the blade and gave Abram the son of the promise who would go on to fulfill his destiny.  Joshua sounded the Trumpet at Jericho to signal victory for Israel. The Feast of Trumpets occurs in September which is symbolic for me, at least,with harvest. The priest blew the trumpet to signal the workers it was time to quit work and assemble for worship. For Christians in the Age of Grace. the trumpet represents the end of time, the translation of God's chosen to reward or judgment. For the saved, it is a blessed hope. For the lost, the mere thought of the Trumpet, is a warning.

The Day of Atonement is a most holy convocation. It is the day of confession, the day we recognize and face the times and ways we failed in obedience to the Law. The Day of Atonement does not have a comparative in the Christian calendar. We are called to confession and repentance continually. On the Day of Atonement the Priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the Mercy Seat with the Blood of the Sacrifice, and for that one day the Jewish nation experienced forgiveness and freedom from the burden of sin. As Christians, we claim mercy daily because Jesus died once for all and has removed the hindrance of sin from us. Easter is our Day of Atonement as well as our Passover.

English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a...
English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a goat, as on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; from Henry Davenport Northrop, "Treasures of the Bible," published 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Five days after the somber Day of Atonement the most joyous of the Hebrew Holidays begins. It is called the Feast of Booths and celebrates the Jews victory written about in the Book of Esther. Those celebrating lived in lean-to shacks for 7 days to remember the wilderness wandering and to remember crossing the Jordan. The book of Jonah, as well as Esther,  refers to the booths as an event to be remembered and celebrated. Read these stories to celebrate your victories and redemption.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

More About Parables

Jesus used parables a lot. He said things like: The kingdom of God is like unto, and the Bible reader knows a parable is coming. Poets and novelists are fond of parables too, but in popular literature they are called metaphors. The intent of using metaphors is clarity and understanding. Jesus sought to make things plain when he was teaching and training the Disciples. I thought people were sophisticated enough to understand a parable or metaphor, but I was wrong. Jesus was more careful than I was: He said, "to what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with comparison shall we compare it?" It is like a grain of mustard seed...

My parable tried to explain the way Salvation works. I wanted people to understand grace and forgiveness through the metaphor, but they focused on the financial aspect of the metaphor thinking I meant I could buy forgiveness. 

Jesus used lots of parables. I don't think he meant to say we should all plant a mustard seed, but that the kingdom of God grows and shelters like the plant. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, he wanted his hearers to understand the principle of the Father's forgiveness,
his joy at having his son return home, and the offer of love and companionship to the elder son. There are different truths expressed in the parables, but they are not blessed when deliberately distorted by the hearer. In my use and sharing with others, I thought some of the comments were directed at me in criticism to make me appear foolish. Please read "The Credit Card" and you can decide. 
The Credit Card