Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Confirmation of Adoption (and of complete forgiveness)

   This post will be about John 20 (shocking, I know!) but specifically verse 17

  Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" (John 20:17)

   This could possibly be one of my absolute favorite verses in the Bible because it is the first confirmation that, through Jesus, we are part of the family of God and are completely forgiven! 
   After the disciples hid behind looked doors during the crucifixion and during the time afterward (excluding John and Peter), Jesus' first message to them is that they are a family. That His Father is their Father. He doesn't reprimand them but completely forgives them! He lets them know that they are no longer just friends but brothers, no longer worshipping a God with whom only Jesus has intimate access but a God who is intimate with all of them. 
   When I read the story of the crucifixion I am always struck by  Luke 23:34 where Jesus says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." I'm consistently amazed by His great love for the people who were hurting Him and His readiness to forgive His persecutors. But could it be that He was not only talking about the ones who were physically hurting Him but also the ones who were hurting His spirit by deserting Him? Should I also be amazed by His great love for and readiness to forgive the disciples who sat in hiding during His time of trouble? I think so. I think that when Jesus asked His father to forgive, He didn't just mean the people standing around Him who were physically hurting Him and dividing His clothes but also His followers who fled in fear when times got tough (Mark 14:50) and Pilate who foolishly thought he could wash away his sin on his own (Matthew 27:24). He was asking forgiveness for the Pharisees who refused to open their eyes to the truth (John 9:40-41) and for Judas who betrayed Jesus then took his own life (Matthew 27:2-5). He was crying out on the behalf of Peter who denied Him with lies  then bitterly wept (Matthew 26 74-75and for Joseph of Arimathea who was too scared to speak up until later on (Mark 15:43; John 19:38). He was praying for those who grew up with Him yet refused to believe Him (Matthew 13:55-57) and for the people of Jerusalem who shouted His praises before calling for His life (Mark 11:9; Mark 15:13). In short, He was praying for everyone. And I know that His prayer reaches far beyond the cross and into the 21st century where He still cries out to His Father on our behalf each time we delude ourselves into relying on our own strength or refuse to open our eyes to the truth or any other of our numerous sins. And I know that because of His love and sacrifice and readiness to forgive us, we are forgiven. By pleading for our forgiveness, He has proven that He has forgiven us all and that is, quite simply, Good News!

Ceremonially Clean and Unclean Animals

   People are often confused why God gave His people such long, detailed rules in the OT. For instance, the 47 verses dedicated to what animals you can't eat (Leviticus 11:1-47). Most people explain this passage by saying that God was setting these rules for health purposes and He probably was! Most of the animals listed are scavengers and therefore more likely to carry disease. There are also rules saying that if a rat falls into your food you must throw it away so that makes a lot of sense. Personally however, I think that there is more to the laws than health.
   According to my Bible, pigs were a common animal used by pagans for religious sacrifice (which means they were probably raised and eaten as well). If the Israelites couldn't eat pigs or use them for sacrifice, they had no use for them. That meant that there was one less link between God's people and the Pagans surrounding them. 
   God wanted His people to be holy (set a part, different, unique) because He is holy. He knew that mixing with the Pagans would loosen their grip on who they were as God's people because of the compromises they would make over time. It seems like many of God's rules could have served a double purpose by keeping the Israelites away from those who could and would defile them (not associating with certain animals limited reasons for social or business interaction with pagan communities). 
   This is yet another change that Jesus brought about with the cross. When Jesus was on earth He explained that food doesn't go through our heart, just our stomach, so eating certain foods won't defile us but acting in certain ways will (Mark 7:14-19). This is why I think that the food restrictions were put in place more for spiritual health than physical. When we live with Jesus and have the Holy Spirit inside of us,God wants us to go out into the non-christian world and declare His name. The difference between then and now is, simply put, Jesus. If we love Jesus, He lives inside of us which makes it quite a bit harder to be defiled by the outside world. Also, we can go preach to people because we actually have hope and salvation to share with them (an eternal purpose for association!) 
Side Note: My study Bible also pointed out that God not only says not to eat them but even touching them will render you unclean. Direct Quote: "He wanted the people to be totally seperated from those things He had forbidden. So often we flirt with temptation, rationalizing that at least we are technically keeping the commandment not to commit the sin. But God wants us to separate ourselves completely from all sin and tempting situations. Perhaps this passage has made you aware of areas of your life where you have "technical" innocence but in which you have actually been involved in sin. It is time to cross back over the line and stay there." That note really hit home for me because I tend to do that a lot. You know, thinking to yourself, "well, mom didn't say I couldn't be reading" but knowing that she did say to do you homework. So yeah, this is definitely something that I need to work on! And if you do too, I hope that you found this as encouraging and enlightening as I did! :)

Expansion on the Chronological Life Application Study Bible

Monday, April 28, 2014

Called by Name

   This morning we're starting back up again on John 20! Or, more specifically, John 20:11-18. Please read the whole passage before continuing (and have your paper Bible out to check my facts because I'm not going to cite anything that's in the passage). 
   So, after John and Peter see the tomb, they head home, leaving a weeping Mary alone outside of the tomb.* I guess it will always be a mystery why Mary stayed outside the tomb but I'd like to think that, in her grief and sorrow, she wanted to be at the place she knew He last was, to stay as close to Him and His "memory" as possible. But regardless of why, she stayed. And as she wept she repeatedly looked back to the tomb even though she already knew exactly what was there. It was as though she couldn't believe that her sadness could be the end of the story after she had personally tasted His love and power (Luke 8:1-2). And each time she turned back to Jesus (or where she thought He should be), she was rewarded a little more for her faith. The first time, she saw two angels and in talking to them, declared that Jesus was her Lord. The next time she saw Jesus Himself.* But when she sees Jesus she doesn't recognize Him* even though He's the one who she most wants to see and who has occupied her thoughts constantly for the past 3 days at least. The reason for this is that she is looking for the wrong thing. She expects to see a dead Jesus but instead He is alive!* It isn't until Jesus calls her name* (reaches out to her on a personal level) that she sees Him for who He is. Thankfully we can always count on Jesus to be personal with us, to know how to reach us and do what ever it takes for us to see Him for who He is! 

*Personally I don't think that was very smart on their part and I've always wondered if they just kind of forgot about her and felt really bad when they realized it later? Or if she actually wasn't alone (some of the other gospels say several women went to the tomb originally...)
*I think this is cool literally (obviously!) but also metaphorically. Each time we trust in God's promise and turn back to Jesus, we too are rewarded for our faith. 
*It's funny how she mistakes Him for a gardener because He is a gardener! :D John 15:1 (or at least God is!)
*Honestly, I know that I'm guilty of doing the same thing a lot of times. I go into my quiet time with this weird mindset that says it's going to be tedious and boring but instead of finding something that is dead to me, I rediscover the fact that God's word is living a breathing and that hanging out with Him is often the most fun I have all day! (This happened to me on Saturday when I read about Nadab and Abihu!:))
*Isaiah 45:3 Yay! The OT and NT connect once again!

Side Note: I think it's really cool that Mary is the first person Jesus physically reveals Himself to. I think that in doing so He probably made it impossible for the disciples to doubt her importance (and of women in general) to Him and earned her the respect and trust she needed (and probably couldn't of earned herself since she was female) to impact the world for her Lord. It probably also strengthened her faith in Jesus' love for her! 

God's Girl

   This blog was actually started for a school project although I had previously started another blog called God's Girl. I've decided to start posting on this blog only to make things easier but I thought I'd share the link to my other blog with you if you wanted to read any of my other writing:
Warning: there are 2 or 3 repeat posts from my failed attempt at running two blogs about the exact same thing! 

Gethsemane: the theory

   Please read Mark 14:32-42 before continuing. It would also be nice if you would read my last post (Gethsemane: where God broke His heart and His son) as well for a little more info on this story. Thanks! :)

   My amazing pastor pointed out something very interesting that I hadn't noticed about this story. His observation was that when Jesus prayed, the only disciples that where near Him were sleeping yet somehow Mark was able to record what Jesus said. What I'm about to type isn't entirely factual but I personally think it is a neat and plausible theory. It is based off two verses and a little bit of imagination! :)
   The first verse is in Acts 12 where it mentions that the disciples often gathered at the house of John Mark. The same John Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark. This John Mark was very likely the son of the family that let Jesus eat the Last Supper in their home and at that point in history John Mark would have been a young boy.
   The second verse is a random, seemingly out of place verse found only in Mark: Mark 14:51-52. It describes a young man who had been hidden in the garden and managed to escape just in time for no one to discover his identity. So, now for the theory (I will be calling John Mark "Mark" for short).
   What if the Last Supper took place in Mark's parents home. All of Israel was extremely fascinated by Jesus and it's doubtful that Mark would have been an exception, especially since Jesus was with His disciples upstairs. It doesn't seem to unreasonable to say the he spied on them a little during their dinner and when they left for the garden, snuck out after them. While the disciples slept, Mark (concealed in the trees) got close enough to Jesus to here Him praying. He stayed hidden so that he wouldn't be sent home and ran away out of fear when the arrest of Jesus took place. Mark may have included Mark 14:51-52 to show us that what Jesus said is factual information.
   Another interesting thought is that the young man described in Mark 14:51-52 is said to have been wearing only a linen cloth. I think it is quite possible that that cloth could have been his pajamas seeing as it was very late at night.
   So while that theory is not fact I think it is extremely plausible and interesting to think about.

Progression at the Tomb

   This is my second post about John 20 but this one is focusing specifically on John 20:1-10

   Now, on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and say that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out the tomb, and we do not know where they have lain him." So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but He did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen clothes lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. The the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet the did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. 
                                            John 20:1-10

   John (aka 'the one whom Jesus loved') was the very first believer! The six verbs in blue in the passage above track the progression of his belief and, I feel, the progression of most believers. I'm also going to add another verb, to listen/hear, to the beginning because clearly he listened to/heard Mary.
hear -> run -> stoop -> see -> go in to -> understand -> believe

Hear: To believe, we must first hear the word of God, whether directly from Him, from the Bible, or from someone else.

Run: Once we have had ears to hear we "run." We are filled with eagerness and awe and a longing to see for ourselves what's going on.

Stoop: We must "stoop" or humble ourselves to truly see what's going on and who Jesus is.
See: Once we have humbled ourselves we see the truth.

Go in to: We must take a step of faith and immerse ourselves in the mystery of what we see.

Understand: There are three Greek words for see: blepo, theoreo, and orao. Blepo is used in verse 5 and means to see/look at/ notice(physically). Theoreo is used in verse 6 and means to scrutinize/examine/analyze (intellectual). Orao is used in verse 8 and it means to see with understanding (spiritual). That is how John saw the tomb and the lack of thing in it, with understanding. Once we have immersed ourselves in the truth, we understand what it means.

Believe: Yay! Welcome to the family of God!

Side note: If you noticed that verse nine says quite plainly that he didn't understand the scripture and think that is a little contradictory to the understanding step I put before believe, props to you! Hopefully you always double check in scripture. But the thing about his particular example is that you can know who Jesus is and understand the reality of his love, sacrifice, and salvation without understanding the intellectual and scriptural side. In fact most new believers are probably not all that familiar with the Bible! :) This is awesome because it means that one does not have to be a learned scholar to follow our Lord, He will make Himself known to those who can't own a Bible just as clearly as He reveals Himself to those who can. But, since we have the privilege to own Bible's, we should treat it's words like the treasure it is!

To help those around the world gain access to God's written treasure, visit VOM (Voice of the Martyrs). 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Nadab and Abihu

   I recently received an amazing Bible from my parents. It's chronological and has the best study notes I've ever read! I'm currently reading through the OT and the explanations of different events and laws are making God's word come alive to me in a whole new way! Because of this, many of my posts will be expansions on what I've read in my Bible so whenever you see "Expansion on the Chronological Life Application Study Bible" at the bottom of a post, please know that much of the post is not original! On that note (no pun intended!:)), lets dive into the confusing story of Nadab and Abihu. 

        Please read Leviticus 10:1-7 before continuing!

   Stories like this are always extremely confusing to me because it seems so crazy that God would destroy someone for making what seems to be a little mistake. These stories are also very powerful weapons used by those who fight against the reality of God and Christ because many Christians don't know how to respond or haven't even heard the stories. (Being able to stand up for God is another incentive to know and treasure His word.) Although I may never understand the reason behind this particular action in it's entirety, the explanation given in my study notes made a lot of sense. It is paraphrased below.

   Even though they had just listened to the explanation of God's personal instructions (Leviticus 1-7), watched them preformed (Leviticus 8-9:21), and visually seen the presence of God (Leviticus 9:22-24), they used the wrong kind of fire when the sacrificed their offering to the Lord. The fire on the Alter used for sacrifice was holy because God's greatness and goodness and holiness demanded that everything the Israelites worshiped Him with was holy (This changed after Jesus came. Now, through His grace, we can worship God however we feel lead by the Holy Spirit which is the way God originally intended anyway! Thanks JC!) Nadab and Abihu were being careless in their service and worship of God. The instructions for how to relate to God are part of His law so preforming the sacrifices was an act of obedience and doing them correctly showed respect. Nadab and Abihu had been placed in a position of leadership so they had a special responsibility to obey God because the people would follow their lead. However, instead of taking care to obey God and not lead His people astray, one of their first acts as priests (they were still in the ordination process and this could be their first since no others are mentioned) showed disrespect and disobedience to God's law. You know the story Jesus told about the master and the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Nadab and Abihu are like the first man. As priests, the were respected, taken care of, and got to spend their time serving God in the beautiful tabernacle tent. But, they were careless with what they'd been given and received their due reward.** 
   So, what can we learn from the story of Nadab and Abihu? We can learn what it means to be a leader for Jesus. When God puts us in a position to lead, it is extremely serious because God's people are what He loves most in the world and when we lead, He has trusted us with what is most precious to Him. If God has commissioned you to lead or teach others, never take that role for granted or abuse it. Stay faithful to God and follow His instructions.

*Does this mean they aren't in heaven? Who are any of us humans to say? Nadab and Abihu and real people and their story is a true story, God has told us what we can learn from and no more. 
*Many people argue against Christianity by claiming the the fiery God of the OT is very different from sweet, loving Jesus in the NT. As a follower of Jesus, it is important that we know the truth, Jesus is God. (John 10:30; 1 Tim. 3:16; John 8:19; John 1:14) But just as important as it is to know and believe the verses that spell it out for us, it is also important to recognize that fact. The story of Nadab and Abihu can be easily related parable of the talents. Just as Nadab and Abihu were severely punished for their disrespect and disobedience toward God, so was the third servant and all three were severely punished. There are many other similarities between Jesus' teaching, God's instruction, and the event of the OT. But to me, the most significant is the fact that from the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God (in His three parts) had a plan to sacrifice Himself to save us. He alluded to Jesus all through the OT which shows that He never changed His mind or love in regards to us and the salvation plan. 

Food for Thought: According to John 1:14, God (the threesome) is the perfect balance of grace and truth. When God kills Nadab and Abihu, He's displaying the truth side of Himself. He flat out said bad things would happen to those who disobeyed the laws created by God for their own good. But what if He was also showing grace to His people by eliminating the opportunity for them to have been led astray by two of their first priests. Obviously this could be completely wrong but I thought it was interesting to think about.

Reassurance: One way that we are assured that they weren't consumed by the fiery wrath of God for a little accident is what next happens with their two brothers, Eleazar and Ithamar. Read Leviticus 10:16-20. The two brothers were confused, sad, and probably quite scared. They did what they thought would be best based on God's law and their own feelings. While it probably would have been best for them to go ahead and follow God's law despite their emotions, God won't punish us for doing things wrong on accident in our confusion or grief. What matters to Him is that we are doing our best to obey Him and ask forgiveness when we don't get it right. 

Expansion on the Chronological Life Application Study Bible

p.s. the last 2 sentences from the "So, what can..." paragraph are verbatim from my Bible.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Outsider's Perspective

   I think we can learn a lot from the confusion and blindness displayed by Jesus followers after His death. When I read John 20, it is easy for me to think "come one guys! Jesus told you this was going to happen and there have been continuos references to it all through scripture and now you're seeing play out right in front of you and you still don't get it! It's so obvious what's going on!" And in truth, I'm right in saying that it is extremely obvious, but only because I have the outsider's perspective. 
   The outsider's perspective is the ability to see more of the big picture and analyze what's going on in a calm and collected manner. It is an ability that is usually only possessed by someone who is not directly involved in the given situation because they aren't not emotionally invested.* It explains how we know exactly what to do in hypothetical situations but are completely lost when those types of situations arise in our actual lives. I think John 20 can serve as a great reminder that asking an "outsider" for advice can often be very helpful because they have a less clouded view. However, we also see that the people the disciples could have asked would have given the wrong advice, whether because of bias (the Pharisees) or ignorance (the Romans). There is only one guy we can always depend on to know exactly what's going on. His name is God. Thankfully He's always available to talk to! :)

*The exception to this is God because He is invested in every situation, and every aspect of every situation so He gets the full picture that way. I think this is a cool thought because it shows that God's omniscience comes from His omnipresence. (Here's a dictionary just in case you need it!:))

Fun little visual:
From outside the towns walls we can see a bigger than the people inside the town (our view includes the hills and horizon) but also a less detailed one. Only God can see everything because He alone is in every detail of the town and every detail of the hills. He understands everything about His creation not only because He's great enough to do so but because He's loving enough to care.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Four Reactions

   Last night at my Bible Study we studied John 20. It was amazing and I learned an incredible amount, so much that there will be like 6 separate posts on this one chapter so prepare yourself for an information overload!:)This post is about the four different reactions Jesus loved ones had to His death. Please go ahead and read John 20 before reading these posts. (It would probably be better to go ahead and open your paper Bible because I'm not going to link everything in these posts.)
   These are the four reactions to the fact that Jesus is gone from His tomb:
 1. Peter and John - eager
 2. Mary - sorrowful
 3. Thomas - doubtful
 4. Disciples - fearful

   These four reactions are probably some of the most common reactions to new developments in our faith. Sometimes we're Peter and John, eager to see for ourselves and do something even if we aren't exactly sure what we're supposed to be doing. Other times we are Mary, letting our grief overcome us temporarily blind us to the truth until Jesus appears to lift us up. Often we're Thomas, doubting what we hear or whether it really is Jesus speaking. Unsure of what to believe and refusing to do so until Jesus has come and given you absolute proof. But my personal most common reaction is that of the disciples, fear. Scared to go out and proclaim the miracle and salvation of Jesus because of what may happen to me if I do.
   If you're a human and follower of Christ, chances are you've responded with these emotions at some point in your walk with Jesus. Maybe you're in the midst of responding in one of these ways right now. Maybe your reaction is a combination of the ones above or something totally different. Well, no matter what you're feeling, I have good news for you! Some 2000 years ago, Jesus sought out each of these people and their different reactions and responded in the way that they personally needed so that the end result was belief! The good new? Jesus is still alive and active! Just as he met Peter and John and Mary and Thomas and the fearful disciples where they where, He will do the same for you! That is the hope that we as Christians can always cling to and a promise from God that will certainly come true!

An extra, interesting thought:
Here's some food for thought from one of my leaders in regard to the fearful disciples: "How crafty Satan is in causing the most life giving things to appear the most frightening."

A more personal note from me:
   While I often react with these emotions to specific events, I also have a little bit of a 'meh' reaction/mindset a lot of the time. I feel comfortable and complacent about where my faith is and lose my eagerness to learn more about Jesus and do more for Him. I intellectually know that actively following is better but a part of my subconscious seems to be refusing to believe it. This is not a suitable reaction at all considering all Jesus has done but if you too ever feel this way, let me assure you, Jesus will meet you and your complacency where you are and start deal with it as soon as you let Him, just like He did for me last night!