Saturday, July 31, 2010

A word about my decision... no longer share this blog publicly on Facebook. I have been very hurt by someone who is supposed to be a Christian lately. I don't want to stoop to this person's level by being passive aggressive or whatever on there. I don't want those who don't know what is going on to speculate. I figure if you care enough to actually be reading this, that you're not as likely to gossip about me. I pray that I'm right.

I'm very blessed in that I have had several friends minister to me during this time that has been rough. Like many people, my self-esteem is not the greatest. When someone obviously doesn't want anything to do with me, it hurts. I know that my esteem lies only in mine and God's view of me, but the human in me wants to please people, too. I start wondering what is so offensive in me that this person can't stand me?? I need to remember that it is not something I can fix. It is not MY problem to resolve. I am to reach out in love, and that is all I can do. If I do that, and they don't respond, I have tried my best. At this point, it would be best for me to back off. And if they continue to be like this, well...oh well.

It bothers me that apparently this person feels like they no longer have to even pretend to like me or treat me in Christian love now that they don't live near me anymore. Well, now that I think about it, it isn't like she made that much of an effort when we did live nearby. She would walk right by me and not speak. She never spoke to me unless I tried to speak first. You and I know that this is not the way that God would have us behave. And SHE and God will have to deal with that. It isn't my 'thing'.

I've tried. I've honestly tried. I guess what also bothers me is that so many people I know are very oblivious to this side of her, and think she's some kind of saint. THAT is frustrating. But I'm not going there.

The Lord is gonna help me through this. A dear friend suggested a book to me that I'm going to look for that addresses my 'people pleasing' tendencies. If you are reading this...please pray that I continue to leave this in God's hands and stop worrying myself with such pettiness. God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!

Day 14: Jesus Travels Through Samaria

There are two verses here that are the basis of songs that I know...I love finding such verses!

John 4:13-14 "Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." I' not sure of the name of this song, but it has a line in the chorus that starts "Spring up, oh, well..."

John 4:24

"God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
This song is from The 12 Canticles composed by Randall Thompson and dedicated to Emory & Henry's Concert Choir. We sang it as part of our tour(s) when I was in college.

~*~When I was working on this the other day, I got off on a tangent once I started researching these songs! Then we went out of town on a small vacation, so finally I'm back to the article at hand! ~*~

Here's some very relevant history that is important to understanding the relationship of the Biblical Jews and the Samaritans:
Jesus must make a decision that all Jews had to make when traveling between Judea and Galilee. The most direct route would forth them to go through Samaria. The alternate route would take them more than 2 days longer through an area called the Decapolis. This cluster of ten towns was mostly Gentile and extremely pagan. They had to pass by pagan statuaries and monuments that were very offensive to any Jew. However, to go through Samaria was also deeply offensive because of over 700 years of alienation.
It began in 722 BC. The Assyrians, under the leadership of a general named Sargon II conquered the northern kingdom and its capital, Samaria. they took Jewish captives back to Assyria, with the exception of some who hid in the mountains nearby. These stragglers stayed in Samaria and eventually intermarried with non-Jews who traveled through the area. Children were born as a result of those unions and eventually, a half-breed race developed. True Jews considered any marriage outside their race a sacrilege and would do anything to avoid contact with a Samaritan half-breed. Samaritans would not worship in Jerusalem and had set up their own temple on Mount Gerizim, the place where Moses had given a blessing to Israel as they came out of Egypt. They believed in the law, but only the first five books of the Torah (also called the Tanakh). They did not believe in the prophets.
Sidebar p. 50: Samaritans believed in the law but not the prophets. they also refused to worship at the temple in Jerusalem or attend the sacred festivals held there. They worshipped in a temple they had erected at the base of Mount Gerizim at Sychar. They even scratched through references to Jerusalem in the sacred writings and wrote "Mt. Gerizim" in its place.

What does Jesus' decision to go through Samaria tell you about Him?
I think it tells us that he loves them even though their ancestors had made some not-so-great decisions. He is willing to let bygones be bygones and embrace them as people who deserve attention and respect.

Having been trained in phariasaic Judaism, what do you imagine the disciples would have done if they had stayed with Jesus rather than going for lunch?
They would have told Jesus not to speak to her, or at least would have stood by and looked incredulous!

Step into the Woman's Sandals: You are coming to get water at noon rather than in the early morning or end of the day when all of the other women come. You have been unsuccessful in marriage five times. Wild rumors have circulated about the failed marriages, but only you know the reasons why. You are currently unmarried and living with a man. The gossip around town is unbearable, and you are shunned by the women. As this woman, would you not come at an hour when no other women would be at the well? Would you not be interested if someone told you He knows of a way you would never have to come back to this well again and feel the stares of the others critically boring into on you? Through Jesus speaks of a "Water that can refresh your soul forever," you are only capable at this point of thinking on a physical level.

Why do you think the woman continues talking to Jesus?
She wants to hear more about this living water that never runs dry. She doesn't really understand what he is talking about, but Jesus knows this about her and knows that this will get her listening!

Jewish tradition stated that a woman may be divorced a maximum of three times. Understanding the Jewish perspective is critical. Divorce was only the prerogative of the man, therefore we know that if a divorce occurred, it was initiated by her husband. However, we can't necessarily assume that she was a terrible wife. The school of Shammai stated that divorce was legitimate only in cases of unfaithfulness. The more liberal school of Hallel said that a man could divorce a woman for almost any reason, from burning his breakfast to seeing another woman at the market whom he thought was more attractive than his wife. She could well have been the victim of some egotistical morons who divorced her for selfish reasons. Also, the inability of the woman to bear children was the most frequent cause of divorce in antiquity; the woman was often considered to be paying the price for her past sins...This could well have been the reason for one or more of her divorces. But, what about the other husbands? For all we know, they may have died (without even asking her permission)...Keep in mind that the penalty for adultery was stoning, so had she been known as a promiscuous woman, as most people assume, she would have been executed long ago. Jesus was probably the only one who knew.
Sidebar p. 51: Though Jesus does not condone the fact that the woman is living with her boyfriend, He sees much deeper into the pain that drove her there. To understand and to empathize is not necessarily to condone (my emphasis added). When hope is lost, people tend to seek any avenue of retreat to assuage the pain. Jesus does not lecture her about her sin, He simply reveals Himself to her and everything changes.

Ooooh, so true! Some good stuff coming up here!!

ASSUMPTIONS! When we label someone, we put the person in a box from which it can be impossible to escape. It takes the potential of forgiveness and redemption out of the equation. This woman had undoubtedly made some critical mistakes, but have we assumed more negatives about her than the evidence supports? Jesus did not see a promiscuous woman. He saw a woman battered and scarred by her past, a woman who had lost hope. He longed to help her rather than write her off and label her as unfit for the kingdom (my emphasis added).

Have you ever had a personal experience like this or known someone who has been labeled or defined a certain way without people knowing the whole story?
Yes, yes, yes, yes!! I'm STILL dealing with ramifications of this instance that happened 16 years ago! 1 person in particular STILL has me in a box. Not that it matters in the scheme of my life, but sadly, she does.

Sidebar p.52: Many things can be learned from this encounter. Hopefully we will not miss the fact that Jesus neither condoned the woman's current indiscretion nor did He make her behavior the focal point of the problem. Unhealthy relationships are symptomatic of heart issues. Too often we define people by their behavior. This story screams out to us: "Deal with the person, not what the person has done!" (my emphasis added)

Doesn't this speak directly to what we in the church are dealing with today?? We are to LOVE the sinner and hate the sin. Too often all we see is the sin and not the person. We want to send them away, thinking their sin is greater than our own. We may not understand their situation or lifestyle, but ostracizing them is certainly not going to help them think we are anything but righteous and judgmental. Lord, help us to do better! Work in me, and let me live the way You would have me to live!!

Other than the woman running to tell the townspeople what happened to her, how do we know that something radical happened to the woman? Verse 28 says,"She left ___________." What does this indicate to us?

She left her jar! She was so excited that she forgot what that for which she came to the well!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 13: A Learned Law Professor Seeks Jesus By Night

Sidebar p. 47: As we study, keep in mind that this cleansing of the temple was much more than an "incident." It would prove to be a major contributing factor to Jesus' ultimate death.

Why do you think Nicodemus would be secretive about his desire to speak with Jesus?

It might not have been PC to talk to Jesus. He may have been intrigued and wanted to know more, but he didn't know how his peers would feel about it.

Another interesting sidebar:
Whether then or now, men often have a difficult time coming to Jesus openly. Sometimes they will only come, in a sense, "by night," under cover of darkness. For a grown man, successful in his vocation, to come to Jesus, he will be admitting that all of his prior years on the planet have been lived in error.

VERY interesting and insightful!

Nicodemus's confusion when Jesus says he must be "born again" takes on new significance when we see it from a Hebrew perspective. The phrase "born again" was a very common Jewish idiom. There were at least six different avenues through which a person could be "born again":
1. When a Gentile converts to Judaism (and becomes a proselyte).
(I'm not sure what this word means, so I'll look it up here in a minute!)
2. When a man become king (not of the tribe of Judah or house of David).
3. When a male is circumcised at age thirteen (Nicodemus was was past that age).
4. Between ages eighteen and about twenty-five, a Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman and it was said of him: "he has been born again."
5. When a man becomes a rabbi around age thirty. (See 3:1, as a "spiritual ruler," Nicodemus was already a rabbi.)
6. When he became a leading teacher in a rabbinical school around age fifty.

Nicodemus asks, "How can a man be born again when he is ____________?"

This tells us that he has exhausted every avenue in his understanding through which this might be possible. Examine the list again. Can you picture this learned rabbi mentally checking off each of these as Jesus spoke. Finally he comes to the end, realizing that he has qualified at every level under Jewish definition and that the only remaining option is almost too ridiculous to even mention. Surely Jesus could not possibly mean the absurd notion of reentering his mother's womb, could He?

sidebar p. 48:
Nicodemus is mentioned in rabbinic writings. His Hebrew name was actually Nakdimon Ben Bonai. He was one of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem and sometime after he became a believer in Jesus, he somehow lost his wealth. After that, he made a living as a well digger in Jerusalem.

Look at the following verses, and write in your own words four things John says to them in response:

Verse 27: nothing
can be received by people except through heaven

Verse 28: you yourselves know that I said that I am not the Christ, but am sent before him.

Verse 30: he will become bigger, and I will become smaller

Verse 34: God sent him and he speaks words of God.

Sidebar p. 49: John Wesley said that a leader is not fond of his power. Such is the case with John. He knows his role and realizes that he must fade into the background, though his followers find this difficult to accept. John has great humility, something seldom seen in our present-day leadership, spiritual or otherwise. It has become the forgotten virtue, yet we will observe this great emphasis on humility throughout the Gospels. (I love the reference to John Wesley, founder of Methodism...and this isn't a Methodist-produced study! :) )

Why was John in prison? Herod Antipas had a brother named Herod Phillip. He divorced his wife, Herodius, and Herod Antipas married her. Leviticus 20:20 says that a man may not marry his brother's wife while he is still alive. John, not known for his reluctance to speak the truth, confronts Herod about his sin with all the subtlety of a meat cleaver and is promptly thrown in jail for his trouble.

OK, looked up meaning of proselyte. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, it occurs only in the New Testament where it signifies a convert to the Jewish religion.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Help me Lord....

help me to remember that what You know about me and what You think about me is the only thing I need to worry myself with. Beating myself up and questioning things that are out of my control are not what You want for me. I am sorry for the wrong I've done, Lord. I am human. I sometimes let my emotions get the best of me. I can certainly be stubborn. I can also be hypocritical. Take these things and change me, Lord. I am so very grateful for all that You do and have done for me and my family every day! I want to become more like You and to follow Your lead. Show me what You would have me to do. Remind me to speak in love and to follow my own advice. Bind my tongue when it is not speaking words that would be pleasing unto You. Remind me that a smile on my face goes a long way, and help me to be encouraging to others instead of tearing them down. Help me use my struggles, my strengths, my victories, my pains, my ALL to bring You glory. I do love You so much, Lord, and want my actions, thoughts, and expressions to be pleasing unto You!

And for little reminder that You just sent me? I got it! Thank you, Lord. I will focus on the ones who matter and who can love me in spite of my many imperfections! You've always got my needs in mind before I even share my thoughts with You! Amazing, awesome, humbling....You are all!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 12: Jesus' First Miracle/Jesus cleanses the temple in Jerusalem

Sidebar p. 44: There have been various ancient books claiming that Jesus did miracles as a young boy. John tells us here, very clearly, that the changing of the water into wine was Jesus' first miracle, invalidating the claims of other writings.

...He has the servants take six twenty-to-thirty-gallon clay pots, which were used mostly for foot washing, and fill them with water. (This water would have been unsuitable for drinking.)

Be the servants: You would, no doubt, swallow hard, look at each other in dismay, and consider your jobs as history when Jesus tells you to take a class of this nasty, brackish water to your boss to be approved for the guests. Imagine the absurdity of it all from the perspective of the poor servants, who are just trying to make a few extra bucks on the weekend. Imagine how you would hold your breath and brace yourself for that moment when he tastes this putrid stuff and spews it out on the ground. Only, it never happens. A smile comes over the wine steward's face, and he compliments the groom on continuing to serve high-quality wine even toward the end of the party. The following Monday morning, imagine trying to respond to the question,"Well, Sam, how was your weekend?"

There are many applications that can be made from this familiar story. Even at the end of the party, in our last days on this earth, the joy is meant to come with great intensity. But what happens when the wine runs out? What does a person do when their joy runs dry and their passion for life slows to a trickle? Aside from the cliches and five-step plans to restore your joy, what do you say to someone when the wine has run out in their life? What do you say to yourself?

This brings to mind an elderly person who is tired of being in pain, missing his/her siblings, spouse, etc. but finds him/herself still on this earth. I think I would try to make the point to him/her that he/she still has a purpose and job that God wants them to do here on earth, and to try to figure out and strive to do it well for the Master.

But it also makes me think about how I know I have felt when stuck in the mire of depression. No mere words will pull me out, even if I know that I have everything under the sky to be thankful for and to enjoy. It is a feeling that words cannot describe. That is when relying on the Lord and clinging to Him comes in! I think of how I felt back in the fall when I was off my meds (in the first trimester of my pregnancy) and I lost a loved one unexpectedly. I had nothing BUT the cross to cling to. No one else could say words that would bring comfort, especially those in my family who were also hurting. I wanted desperately to take those pills and get the chemicals flowing through my veins again, but my loved ones reminded me that I could do this, with Jesus' help, and follow my doctor's guidelines in order to keep my baby safe. Thinking back to that difficult time brings tears again, because it was so heart wrenching. It still is, not a year later! I miss her so much, and I know others do as well....especially her kids, her sister, her parents, and her boyfriend. But we have to go on. We have to cling to Jesus and trust in Him to carry us when we cannot rely on our own strength. I don't know how in the world people get through difficult times without Him!

Interesting! Good Friday (the Passover when Christ died) was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous twelve hundred years, the priest blew the shophar (ram's horn) at 3:00 p.m. The moment the lamb was sacrificed, all the people paused to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel. On Good Friday at 3:00 p.m., when Jesus was being crucified, He said, "It is finished." At that moment the Passover lamb was sacrificed, and the shophar was blown from the temple. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God was fulfilled at the exact hour that the symbolic animal sacrifice usually took place.

Sidebar p. 45: When someone possesses a deep capacity for love and compassion, he often will posses a similar capacity on the other end of the emotional scale. He will be capable of hating that which negatively impacts the object of that love. (Hence, Jesus' anger at the temple!)

...The pilgrims were required to bring an animal to be sacrificed. The animal had to be an unblemished male. Most families raised a lamb from birth for the purpose of presenting it at the temple courtyard. However, Annas and his fellow priests seldom accepted the animal brought by the pilgrims. They often found some blemish that made it unacceptable for sacrifice. This problem, however, could be quickly remedied. Out back, temple sheep were kept, available for purchase at an outrageous fee. However, only Jewish coinage was accepted as payment. Moneychangers stood nearby, always happy to exchange the pilgrims' Roman coinage for a "nominal fee." In addition, a temple tax had to be paid. This is why Jesus was angry. The bartering and selling was in the outer courtyard, not inside the temple, yet the priests had turned this sacred place into a haven of opportunity to swindle the people, a "den of thieves."

Sidebar p. 46:
If Jesus walked into your community of faith, what tables would He likely overturn? He would probably overturn us worrying so about paying bills but not about doing the ministry that Christ would have us to do, like with apportionments.

Why do you think Jesus intended to pass the disciples by?
They had spent years saving and raising this lamb, and it was truly unblemished. It was selfish and dishonest to say that it was not fit to be sacrificed, and even more dishonest to charge such a fee for a different lamb raised at the temple.

With whom is Jesus angry?
Primarily, the priests who have encouraged this to take place in the temple. They are the ones that have changed this sacred place into a moneymaking venture.

Could He have handled the situation in a different way?

Yes, but it is unlikely that doing so diplomatically would have brought about any change!

What would you have done?

I'll admit it, I've been known to pitch some fits when I think things are being done unfairly or unjustly. However, I know that in MY position--I'm clearly not Jesus!--it would be more effective to 'catch flies with honey instead of vinegar'.

Does this justify violence on our part when our values are violated?

Justify it? No. But explain it to an extent? Yes. It is a definite rough spot in which to be!

Sidebar p. 46: In John 2:24-25, we see that there is a difference between being a critical person and a critical thinker. Write the difference below.

Being a critical thinker means to think about things objectively. Being a critical person is being judgemental and harsh to others, often when it is not warranted.

Summarize verses 24-25 in your own words.

Jesus didn't trust them with his life. He didn't need their endorsement, for he knew what they were made of.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 11: When the Good News Gets Even Better

Think about this: What do you want? What do you really want? Don't write down the nice, proper, politically correct answer. What are you really looking for? Is it success, financial security, personal fulfillment, a house in the Bahamas? Did you know that God is more interested in your wants than in your needs. This is not a prosperity statement! Your needs are guaranteed if you trust Him (Phil. 4:19). But what you want in your heart is what reveals your character. If you are unwilling to acknowledge what you really want and give a cliche answer, God will have to wait until you get real. There is no way to trick Him. So, what do you really want?

I really want financial security, and time with my loved ones.

Sidebar page 42:
More than discipline, discipleship requires passion and desire. You have to really want to be a disciple. Some aren't ready, and sadly, some may never be. Many say that this is what they really want but find that the cost is to high.

Philip asks Nathanael to at least "check Him out," and Nathanael reluctantly agrees. Upon meeting Jesus, he is startled by His greeting. Write verse 47: Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

Nazarenes were despised by Judeans. They were thought to be self-absorbed and only interested in money. Nathanael suffered from deep prejudice that he would later have to yield to the Savior.

When you think of someone in the Old Testament who was crafty, deceitful, and full of guile, who do you think of? _______________ (Hint for one example He tricked his brother and stole his birthright.) Jacob

Nathanael's immediate response is _____________.
Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 10: When the Good News Gets Even Better

So true: How many times have you floated away on a spiritual high from a retreat or time with friends or family, only to be cut off at the knees by an avalanche of issues or temptations? Jesus was not exempt from such an experience. On a high mountain, He is tempted by Satan in the same three fundamental areas in which we are all tempted.

From 1 John 2:16, those three areas are the lust of the ______________, the lust of _____________, and the _________________.

flesh, eyes, and the pride of life

1. "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."

This temptation appeals to the lust of the ___________. flesh

2. "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down" (for angels will catch you).

Satan appeals to Jesus' _______________ to fully reveal Himself. pride

3. Satan offers to deliver to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for His worship.

Satan appeals to the lust of the ___________. eyes

In the first two temptations, Satan questions Jesus' identity ("If you are the Son of God"). If Satan can confuse us concerning who we are in Christ, then collapsing in the face of temptation is pretty much a done over!

Read John 14:10. Notice the last few words. Paraphrase what Jesus says.

Jesus says that if we should believe that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. The Father lives in Him, and does all the work!

Sidebar: The issue that tends to elude most of us as believers is that God's desire is not to take a weak person and make him strong so that he can operate in strength. God's idea is for us to realize that we are weak and yield ourselves to Jesus within us to be our strength and therefore overcome our weakness. Its all about Him...not about us being gallant and courageous on His behalf.

Something to think about:
The secret of Jesus' life was that He didn't live it! How does that grab you? The truth is that every miracle He performed and every word He uttered was done by God the Father through Jesus the Son...You see the total dependence on His Father with every breath He took....The (1st) temptation rested in Satan's hope and desire to get Jesus to do a harmless deed through His own strength and energy rather than in total dependence on God the Father...give some thought to the implications of living by the life of another in terms of living your own life by the life of Jesus within you. Discuss what this would mean.

It reminds me, somewhat, of being an expectant mother...except that Jesus is the one calling the shots!

What do the following passages say about Satan's current position in the world?

Satan is ___________________ (2 Cor. 4:4). blind

Satan is ___________________ (Eph. 2:2).

Satan is _________________ (John 12:31; 16:11). cast out

On Day 1, we saw that "the Word [Jesus] became flesh and lived among us. "Word" here is logos, meaning "person". Read Romans 10:17 and write it below. Then try to put it to memory.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

"Word" is also used in John 1 but with a different meaning. The word used here is rama, which means "revelation". Now rewrite the verse using the word revelation.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the revelation of Christ.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 9, Part III: Jesus' Public Ministry Begins

Interesting note: Jesus had not even begun His ministry, and yet God was pleased. He had not taught or healed or done anything significant to this point except mature physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually (Luke 2:52). God was pleased with who He was, just as He is pleased with who we are when we are rightly related to Him. Jesus will face forty days alone without food or drink and will engage in hand-to-hand spiritual combat with Satan. It will be critical that Jesus is certain of His identity in order for Him to deal with the temptations He is about to face.

Sidebar on p. 37: Can't say it enough: How you see yourself will determine your behavior.

Reiterated again:
How can we deal with temptation effectively unless we know who we are? Let's say that I have bought into the idea that I have transferred ownership of my life to Jesus and I am a new creation. Am I still a dirty rotten sinner? I am constantly told that I am a sinner and so I think of myself in that manner. All of a sudden I stand face-to-face with a very attractive and enticing temptation. I am alone. No one will know. Yet, it's wrong and I know it. I wrestle with the thought. It pulls and tugs at me. Well, who am I anyway? I'm just a rotten sinner, I say to myself. Why not just go ahead and give in....just this once, I reason. After all, that's who I am.


Keep reading: If I consider myself a liar, a thief, or a cheat, what would be the natural way to play out those perceptions of myself? To lie, steal, and cheat. But, what if I believed God about my person rather than defining myself by the occasional stupid and harmful sins I commit? What if I looked at that temptation, and as appealing to my flesh as it is, I said,"As good as that looks and as vulnerable as I feel right now, that is not who I am! It is not worthy of me. It doesn't fit! I am the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), I am God's possession (2 Tim. 2:19), I am dead to sin (Rom. 6:2-10; Eph. 1:7). The Enemy cannot defeat me as I realize he has already been defeated (Rev. 9:9-12). Convinced of that, why wouldn't I spin on my heel and walk away?

OH, man! This is exactly how many of us get caught up in sin! We think we're rotten anyway, we give in since we think we're beyond redemption! But we are NOT!

The book gives the following suggestion:
Look at the contrast in these two perspectives. Can you see the problem? This may be a little different than you have been taught about yourself, but it may well be the reason so many of us live in defeat and with tremendous guilt. Record your honest impressions as you consider this and review day 9.

I did one better: I recorded my thoughts on this as a devotion for WorldPrayr! I will try to link it up here when it is published! :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 8: When the Good News Gets Even Better

Interesting tidbit: The word baptism means "dye." When a white cloth is placed in a colored dye, the cloth identifies with the dye. People who came to John for baptism were not only repenting of their sins, but were also expressing by immersion into the Jordan "We want to identify ourselves with this message and with the coming kingdom."

Read Isaiah 40:3 and paraphrase:

Prepare the way of the Lord! Make the bumpy places smooth and the curvy places straight!

John had an unusual blend of strength and boldness mixed with a humble, receptive spirit. Many begin with such an intent but lose their cutting edge along the way. How do you think a believer can maintain this?

Stay in the Word and continue to listen to what the Spirit is calling you to do

Day 7: When the Good News Gets Even Better

Why does the Bible say that Mary and Joseph moved to Nazareth rather than to Judea (Matt. 2: 19-23)?

It says that Archelaus, son of Herod, was appointed to rule over Judea after Herod's death. They were afraid of him, since he was even more bloodthirsty than Herod. In a dream, they were told to settle in Nazareth instead to be safer.

Until His death, Jesus would consistently be known as a ___________.

He would be known as a Nazarene, which fulfilled prophesy.

Thirty years later, who does Philip ask to come and meet Jesus and asks the question "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46)?_____________ Where do you think Jesus was from? ________________

He went and found Nathanael; this is an interesting question to ask the daughter of an itinerant United Methodist minister. Jesus, too, was itinerant. I suppose since he lived most of his upbringing in Nazareth, I would consider him from there. However, he was from wherever the Lord wanted Him to be....just as I am. I am from Weber City/Kingsport/Big Stone Gap/Rossville!

Sidebar of page 31:

In order to understand Hebrew thinking and culture, we must understand the role of the Mishnah in daily Jewish life. The Mishnah is a compilation of laws that the Jews believe were given orally by God and handed down through Israel's great leaders. These laws were compiled into one text around AD 200. They were also called "hedge laws" because they were intended to form a hedge or wall of protection around the Mosaic law. It was these laws, which were actually created by Jewish leaders, that Jesus railed against. The intent had been to help the Jewish people, but by Jesus' day, they had become a tremendous burden and were impossible to obey.

How did Jesus learn and develop the wisdom we observe in the Gospels? Read Isaiah 50:4-9 and write the answer in your own words.

He was woken by God in the morning and prepared Him to take orders. He followed orders, was beaten, had his beard pulled, was insulted, spit upon..all while God helped Him. He set his face like stone knowing that God was there with Him.

Interesting comparison: In Jesus' submission to His parents, we clearly see the superior (God) placing Himself under the authority of the inferior (man). It is said that Francis of Assisi would regularly submit himself under the authority of the youngest member of his order. Why would he do that? Consider what taking this bold step would do in Francis' life. Consider also what this would do in the young man to whom Francis submitted.

What would Francis stand to gain personally from such an action?

Absolutely nothing!

Respond to the principle that the key to authority is submission.

If a person in authority truly approaches his/her job with the attitude of servanthood instead of ruling, he will gain the respect and appreciation of those who serve under him/her. This will show those beneath him/her that he has their best interests at heart instead of his own.

What if the apostle Paul came to you and said he wanted to submit himself to your care and guidance. When you regained consciousness, what would be your first thoughts in terms of how this might help you mature and grow?

Oh wow...I can barely even fathom it! I can only think about how I would want to lead him in knowing more about Jesus and loving Him with all my heart!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 6: When the Good News Gets Even Better

The Magi brought gifts to Jesus:
Gold signifying _________________. kingship

Frankincense signifying ____________.

Myrrh signifying _________________. death

Herod knew he had been tricked (by the magi). How then do you imagine the magi were able to escape his wrath?
God allowed them to escape, for nothing is possible for Him!

Two teenagers and a newborn infant are forced to flee to a strange land without the means to support their family. Was the gold brought to them by the magi simply a happy coincidence or was an all-knowing God aware six-hundred years prior that a financial pledge would be critical for the young couple as they fled abroad? Was Daniel's heroic answer to the king's dream, which saved the lives of those magi's ancestors, causing them to revere Daniel and his descendant, the Christ child, merely happenstance?

Not in my opinion! God knows the 'big picture' and the entire story from beginning to end. He knew these things before they happened or needed to happen!

Day 5: When the Good News Gets Even Better

A thought about "saving" the oppressed Jewish people: It is difficult to go into any oppressed culture and have people be receptive to "being saved" because they naturally think in terms of "level of offense" rather than the "condition of the heart."

The Glory of God appeared before the shepherds...what was the "Glory of God"? Was it an extremely bright light and some sort of mystical presence?

The Glory of God had not been seen by anyone on the earth in almost six hundred years. During the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness, the Glory of God appeared as a cloud by day to shelter the Hebrews from the sun and fire by night to keep them warm. The Glory of God had last been seen by Ezekiel in a vision when he was held captive in Babylon. Solomon's temple, where the Glory was then residing, was burned to the ground by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Before its destruction, God allowed Ezekiel to see the Glory depart from the temple, move to the threshold of the temple, then move to the eastern gate of the city, then over over the Mount of Olives, and go back to heaven (Ezek. 9-11). The Glory of God had not been seen by any human being for almost six hundred years. Is it any wonder the shepherds were so frightened?

Shepherds made up the bottom rung of the social ladder. They were considered untrustworthy, and their testimony was not valid in a court of law. How interesting that God chose these men to be the first Jews to see the Messiah. Why would anyone try to fabricate something like this?

Many scholars believe that the "cloths" were actually burial cloths used for wrapping a deceased body in preparation for burial. That being so, the uniqueness of the sign would have been the burial cloths, not the manger. The sign would point to the fact that this child was "born to die". But Dr. Ken Bailey, an expert on Middle Eastern culture, asserts that the significance of the wrapping cloths was that it actually freed these simple peasants to do what the angel had said. He states that these simple shepherds would never have felt comfortable entering the home of a person or family of royal lineage. Since the baby was wrapped in these common strips of cloth, these men would identify the family as peasants, just as they were. The cloths gave the shepherds the green light to feel welcome, and it also made a statement that the Messiah will open the doors of salvation and acceptance to everyone, regardless of status, gender, or nationality.

Therefore, there is no ______________ for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). condemnation

(What an awesome thing is that?!)

Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as _____________ as snow (Isaiah 1:8). white

One day all believers will stand in God's presence ______________ and with ___________
(Jude 24). faultless, joy

On the sidebar of page 23: "Our identity does not come from what we have done, whether good or bad. Our identity comes from what God has done on our behalf."

Because we seldom read these passages except during the euphoria of the Christmas season, it is easy to miss the critical impact of what is implied as well as stated. Do you find it interesting that the angel links peace with God's favor? It makes sense, but it should make you nervous if you view it the way most of us have been taught. Let's illustrate: Answer the following questions as honestly as you can:

As God looks at you, is He pleased with what He sees? Yes, I believe He is!

How would you rate His pleasure with you on a scale of 1-10?
I'd say maybe a 7 or 8

What was the basis for the number you wrote?
My rating was based on the fact that I am faithful to Him, that I try to share Him with others including raising my children to know about Him, that I believe firmly in His grace saving me....

Does your number reflect (a)your behavior or (b)who you are as a person? B

Unless we are firmly convinced of our identity, we will never be able to adequately deal with temptation. We will see this clearly in the life of Jesus when He is baptized and then goes head to head with Satan himself. God spoke at His baptism, saying,"This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." This was as much for Jesus' sake as for the crowd's. The assurance of who He was would have been crucial when Satan questioned His identity as the Son of God.

Some scripture about the people who know Jesus:

I am a ____________ of Jesus Christ
(John 15:15). friend

I have been made ____________ (Col. 2:10). full

I am ________________ for all time
(Heb. 10:14). perfected

I am _____________ and ____________
(Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:22) holy, without blame

I am totally ________________ (Col. 2:13). forgiven

I am __________ in His sight
(Isa. 43:4). precious

I am the _____________ of God
(2 Cor. 5:21). righteousness

I am a ______________ (Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2). saint

If the glory of God is now present in the life of the believer, how can we ever again think of ourselves as worthless?

Question: Are you a (a)sinner saved by grace or (b)a saint?

I consider myself a sinner saved by grace!

Which of the above reflects more humility, a or b?

I initially thought a, but as I read on in this lesson, found out that b is the better answer! Why is this?
Because sins are what you do, not who you are! Who you are is a saint who sometimes messes up. To see yourself as a saint is more humble because it has nothing to do with anything you achieved or earned. You didn't make yourself a saint or even come up with the title. God did!

Why is understanding what the angel said to the shepherds so critical? If you do not believe God is pleased with you as a person, you will spend the rest of your life trying to make yourself pleasing to Him. There are not enough verses you can memorize, Bible studies you can attend, or sins that you can avoid for you to ever feel disillusioned, cynical, and dissatisfied with everything about your life and will never understand or experience peace. How can a believer be at peace if he or she can never do enough to achieve God's favor? It's impossible!

The Glory of God returned to earth as the shepherds stood in awe. During His time on earth, the Glory resided in Jesus. When He ascended into heaven the Glory of God left with Him, but the Glory later returned at Pentecost (Acts 2). Where does the Glory of God now dwell? (Col. 1:27) in us!

How can a believer have the living God take up residence inside of him and still be determined to define himself by the sins he commits rather than by the Glory that lives within him?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 4: When the Good News Gets Even Better

On the sidebar of page 19:

Consider this: Jesus was the only person who was ever born as a result of his own choice. The rest of us were born because someone else made the choice. In fact, Jesus most certainly sat in on the meeting to decide whom His mother was going to be.

Did you know that the name John means "grace"? I didn't! This indicated that "...God is now planning to do a whole new thing. From now on, God's faithful will no longer follow Him out of duty and obligation, but out of desire, which is the essence of grace."

Be honest. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1=lowest amount of obligation; 10=highest), how much of your spiritual walk is out of obligation?
I'd say maybe 3!

More about John: "Luke says he lived in the wilderness until he began his ministry at age thirty. Why? Probably to be kept apart from the erroneous teaching of pharisaic Judaism, which permeated Jewish society."

Notice how an engagement was in Jewish life as Matthew refers to Joseph as Mary's __________ in verse 19 before they were married.


Thoughts for discussion:
1. As Jesus grew, do you think He was ever confronted directly with the false charge of being illegitimate?
I'd never thought about this....I'd say it was possible. I don't know whether or not this was something that was 'discussed' during the day in Jewish society.

2. How would you answer the charge that Jesus was born out of wedlock?

I would say that no, he was not illegitimate. He was not born of 'normal' circumstances, 'normal' labels, etc. don't apply!

Day 3: When The Good News Gets Even Better

Read and compare the two encounters with Gabriel and the difference between Zacharia's and Mary's response.

Zacharia responded with fear, Mary was shaken but not afraid. Zacharia responded with disbelief, Mary responded by promising she would do as it was said.

There is a sidebar about the prophesies about the Messiah's birth. Then there is a question:
What would have been the one prophecy about the Messiah that would probably have caused Mary to think she would not be the one? (see Mic. 5:2) This one talks about how the birth would come from Bethlehem, but that was not where she lived.

Take a guess from the following options at what age a young man and a young woman would be considered ready for marriage.
A Jewish girl: 12, 12 yrs. + 1 day, 13, 14 1/2
A Jewish boy: 13, 14, 16, 18

The correct answer would be girl: 12 years + 1 day and boy: 18 yrs.

An interesting tidbit on the sidebar: The angel Gabriel is highly regarded in Jewish theology in Jewish theology as a messenger from God. He is pictured in rabbinic writings as standing before the throne of God. For Gabriel to be send specifically to Zacharias implies that he was a major topic of discussion in the "board room" in heaven, an incredible honor for him.

In the next section, we're asked to stand in Mary's sandals.

*You will have to entrust yourself to God for your relationship with your fiance. Describe your emotions after you begin to process what you have been told.

Wow. As a mom I know what emotions I went through each time I discovered I was expecting, and once even as I found out that I'd been given a blessed surprise kind of like Mary. But to know how I would be scrutinized, how hard life would be for me the next several months?? I would have been scared and apprehensive, and feel as though I had nowhere to turn. Being as that she didn't explain things to her family, there had to be times when they chastised her. She was experiencing new emotions and physical sensations and wasn't able to fully share and embrace them because she could not share from which they came. She had to feel frustrated at times over this, I would think!

You will have to trust God to protect you from slander within your community. How will your child be viewed as He grows up?

I would think that knowing that He was going to be the Messiah brought her comfort and hope that He would be accepted and loved by all. I would think she would feel that her current frustrations and pains would be worth it once everyone knew that she had been chosen to carry the Messiah!

You will have to trust God for your personal safety. The penalty for a betrothed virgin found with child was
......death! (Lev. 20:10)

Something to consider: Often God does things that may seem illogical to us at the time because He thinks so differently than we do.

Can you think of a way God has does this sort of thing in your life or in the lives of others?

We were just talking about this last night at United Methodist Women..a friend of ours had recently quit her job due to lots of problems coming up there, and it was very difficult and painful for her. She recently found out that her mother may have cancer. We agreed that maybe God had helped relieve her of her job so she could be free to care for her mother.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 2: When the Good News Gets Even Better

Some interesting tidbits from day 2:
On Herod:

He suffered from paranoia, always fearful that his crown would be stolen from him. Ruthless and bloodthirsty, he put to death anyone he even mildly suspected of usurping his authority. He had 3 of them (his wives) and at least 3 of his sons killed for that very reason...He was deeply hated by the Pharisees because of his contempt for the laws of God and by the Sadducees, who resented him for severely curtaining their power and influence....he supposedly converted to Judaism but was never considered a true Jew...he was well aware of his unpopularity among the Jews and feared that no one would mourn on the day he died. He ordered that prominent families (men, women, and children) be gathered together and herded into the Hippodrome (a large stadium area) and put to death the moment he died so that there would be mourning throughout the land on that day. Upon his death, his wife mercifully released all of the people, subverting his evil wishes...Herod the Paranoid may be a more fitting title for him at the end of his life.

On Zacharias:
Because no one but the priest may enter into the Holy of Holies, a rope would have been tied around his waist in order to pull him out in the event that he died performing his duties...where the angel stood was the cause of his great fear...if the priest entered the Holy of Holies and an angel appeared at the right side of the altar, God was displeased with the offering and the priest would die. Though there is no record of this ever happening, the possibility was always on their mind...

This little quiz was included....which of these quotations are from the Bible?
--"Charity begins at home."

--"Above all, to thine own self be true."

--"God helps those who help themselves."

--"Never a borrower or a lender be."

--"Cleanliness is next to godliness."

--"The Devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose."

(For the record, none of these are found in the Bible!

Can you think of any Christian traditions that are more cultural than biblical?

Many of our traditions surrounding Christmas are cultural. Anything related to Independence Day is cultural, of course.

On Elizabeth:
Consider the fact that Elizabeth is childless. Her barrenness would have been considered a great shame in first-century Jewish culture. This cause-and-effect mentality would foster the natural assumption that she and her husband had secretly sinned against God and were paying the price. many believers still think that way today.

Imagine being saddled with this kind of guilt all your life. Consider for a moment what God is doing here. This faithful couple painfully accepts their plight of childlessness. At the point where they have finally given up the dream of having children, God comes through against all odds. What does this say to you about learning to give up? We are taught always to persevere and to persist however, it is often when we finally give up our desires and dreams that God comes through in miraculous ways.

Question: Write what it means to "die to your dreams."

I think that this means that when we finally realize that we can't do it on our own, that we can't reach that goal in our life by our own might and power, that God is able to work. When we give up control and stop focusing on the GOAL instead of GOD, that He shows us that our faithfulness is really what He desired to see in us all along!

Thus ends Day 2...let's not even talk about how many days it took for me to get this one done!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Web Ministry class

I'm doing a course through the United Methodist Board of Global Ministry called "Web Ministry". It is interesting stuff! I hope to put my new knowledge to use in helping our church create more of a presence on the web. I have found some statements in the reading that I'm doing today that I'd like to keep track of, hence this blog post! :)

The title of this reading is "Defining Moments"

The word “communication” has its roots in “commune” or “common ground.”
Communication involves using tools to “push” information to people and/or “pull” people in by the information we share...With the Web, we are able to combine the “push” and “pull” of communication to achieve a dynamic experience for listeners and viewers...Our intent in communicating the gospel is to determine how the message we communicate should be focused for the people of our time...we are concerned with the question, “How can the gospel be communicated to make the message heard and seen, and then either rejected or accepted?”...The Christian gospel is a matter of decision … All that we who communicate the gospel can do is to make possible a genuine decision.”...But our objective should always be to present the gospel in ways so clear and self-evident that the recipient will have an Aha! experience and the good news will make perfect sense to his or her inner world...Because communication, and more specifically communication of the gospel, is a matter of participation, we who communicate the gospel must understand the others to whom we are communicating. We must find a common ground upon which to communicate...When we communicate the gospel, we seek to make vital connections that:

Tell the church's story.
Touch people's lives.
Support one another along the spiritual journey.
Reach out to those who are hurting, in need and suffering.
Put faith into action.
Whether you are ready for it or not, the Internet is the new mission field and the place to engage people in meaningful relationships with one another and with God.

So there's today's interesting tidbits! :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

When the Good News Gets Even Better

Yes, I'm doing it again, starting a new Bible study. Since I'm now DONE with studying for school, maybe I'll actually complete this one!

Have any of you done this study? I'd love someone to discuss this with, if so!

So today I begin!

Interesting thoughts:

Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is called the "bride of God."...They, like each of us, have loved God and yet have disobeyed Him, often trusting in their own abilities rather than in His faithfulness and sovereignty. God's beloved bride sought other lovers, yet He continues, even to this day, to pursue them with His unfailing love.
But God had been strangely silent during the four hundred years from the end of the writing of the Old Testament until the beginning of the New Testament...At the right time, He wraps Himself in human skin and pitches His tent in the midst of humanity and lives among those He created, identifying with every human emotion and every human hurt. Never again would a man or woman be able to say,"God, you don't understand what it's like to be me."

Did you know Luke was the only gospel writer who was not a Jew? I didn't! He writes to the fellow Gentiles, specifically Greeks, who were consumed with the concept of the "ideal man."

On the sidebar of p. 11...
You may wonder how these men could have remembered exact conversations and teachings of Jesus 30-60 years after the fact....Every word is from the very breath of God. How can we know they were accurate? In John 14:26, Jesus tells them that the Holy Spirit will give them perfect recall. (He will "bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.")

Write a brief definition of the "gospel" as it is typically used today. ("We left our former church because the minister didn't preach the gospel.")

I wrote: gospel = teachings on life of Jesus

If the Word is a person and not simply doctrinal information, can we not properly conclude that the "gospel" is also a person?...We will never all agree on every point, but we can agree that the gospel IS this unique, God-man, Jesus Christ, fully and completely, and believe if He is lifted up as the centerpiece, the whole world will feel welcome to gather around Him, explore His free gift of life, and become His companion.

From the sidebar on p. 12: "...Doctrine is a tool that god uses to change our perception of reality, but only the person of Jesus can change teh heart. Everything was intended to revolve around this person. Life is a person (Col. 3:4); Truth is a person (John 14:6); Love is a person (1 John 4:16). A particular theology may draw some, but only the person of Jesus can draw every human being. If we gather around the centrality of Jesus, our theological differences will slowly dissipate because our desire will change from wanting to be right to wanting only Him."

Also from p. 12 sidebar: 5 women appear in Matthew's genealogy of Christ: Tamar (a Jew), Rahab (a Gentile prostitute), Ruth (a Moabite), Bathsheba (a temptress who brought down a king), and Mary (a simple peasant girl)
Matthew is telling us that a new age is coming; a time when Jews and Gentiles, men and women, saints and sinners will all be on equal footing with God. the Messiah will make no distinctions. This would have been revolutionary.

Finally finished with Day 1...only took me 3 days! LOL