Oct 02

Jesus is our Firstfruits

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man,the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

What in the world is  “firstfruits” and why does it matter? First of all, it should matter to all of us. NO OTHER DAY (EXCEPT PASSOVER) IS MENTIONED AS MANY TIMES IN THE BIBLE. This celebration of the harvest was important, no essential, to the existence of the entire Jewish nation.

 When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 26:1-4

19 Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God. Exodus 23:19

Under the new covenant of modern Christianity, we are nothttps://i.pinimg.com/originals/02/34/8e/02348edc246f5e7a53f1d4f70d593dd4.jpg expected to bring the first of our harvest before the altar of the Lord. But, understanding what this act of giving our firstfruits, gives a deeper understanding to the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

The choice of the day

In the spring, Jews celebrate several feasts, times of celebration and remembrance. The first one we are all familiar with– Passover. Passover is feast that requires all people to travel to Jerusalem to commemorate God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It is celebrated in conjunction with lots of animal sacrifices including the slaughter of perfect lambs that were raised in Bethlehem. Hence the reason one needed to be near the Temple. This is a one day celebration followed by a seven day celebration known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is a time when one does not eat any bread made with yeast. The yeast is a picture of sin in the Bible and it is a remembrance of the Passover story of the bread made in haste with no time to rise. The Feast of Firstfuits is a day that is mandated to be celebrated the day after the Sabbath after Passover. So  if Passover is celebrated on a Wednesday night, the Sabbath is Saturday, and Sunday is Firstfruits. It all gets a little more confusing when you remember that Jewish days actually begin at sunset.

How they celebrated

As people would grow their crops (typically barley), a small amount called an omer, approximately 2.2 liters, was set aside as their firstfruit offering. Men would consider the crops, looking for the best part and tie off a section to use as this offering so as not to damage it. Then on the day of the feast, it alone would be harvested and brought to the priests in the Temple. The priest would wave it before the altar, up and down, and left to right. A small amount of the grain would be thrown into the fire and the rest used to feed the Levites. No produce was eaten until this offering had been given.

Significance for us in Christ

In 1 Corinthians 15 (see above), Paul makes a statement about Jesus being the firstfruit for those who have fallen asleep (died). What does that mean? Well, first we need to look at the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Do you remember which day it was? Yes, it was a Sunday morning. I was raised Southern Baptist and they take pride in celebrating Jesus on that day of the week because that is when Jesus rose from the dead. The hidden message behind why Jesus rose on that day lies in the fact that it coincided with the celebration of the Feast of Firstfuits. See, Jesus died on Passover, at the exact time the lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple. He remained in the grave for those couple of days to wait for the Feast of Firstfruits and then rise! He is the firstfruit, a promise for us of what is to come– life beyond the grave!

15 The first offspring of every womb, both human and animal, that is offered to the Lord is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. 16 When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. Numbers 18:15-16

But it gets better because there is more to this connection between Jesus and firstfruits. In the Old Testament, Mosaic Law commanded that every firstborn as well as the first of the crops (grain, oil, wine, etc.), belonged to Him. Yes, the firstborn of every Israelite family belonged to God. But, there was a way to ransom this child back. It was a ceremony known as Pidyon Haben, Redemption of the Son. It was possible to redeem the firstborn son out of full-time service to God by paying 5 pieces of silver to the priest. If you recall, it was during this Redemption of the Son ceremony that Jesus was first hailed as Messiah. Read this passage from Luke 2.

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[b]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[c]

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Pidyon Haben, an act that is probably new to most of you, has such deep meaning.

Numbers 3:13 says, ” for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”

If you recall, the only way to redeem those first born was…through faith in the covering of the lamb’s blood that was placed on their doorposts. We are all firstborn, all sinners under the curse of Adam, in need of redemption. Redemption can only be found through faith in the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, Jesus, the firstfruits of eternal life.

Resources:

The Feasts of the Lord by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal

A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays by Robin Scarlata and Linda Pierce

Aug 24

The Book of Jeremiah

Where has this book been all my life? Seriously. I have been a serious follower of Jesus for a LONG TIME and have never studied this book. Sure, there’s a couple of passages that are underlined, you know…I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to give you a hope and a future. But why have I never studied the book of Jeremiah until now?!

As I’ve gone through my Christian walk, I’ve leaned heavily on my pastors, teachers and mentors. They share which books are good to study. I remember being encouraged to read a Proverb a day. Who doesn’t love the book of Psalms. Then of course, I’ve studied every book of the New Testament–some several times. I’m a sucker for a great story which is why I’ve read through them all in Genesis, Esther, Ruth, Job, and Jonah. But why has no one ever encouraged me to read the book of Jeremiah?

The Old Testament is confusing at times.

First there’s the names, ugh the names. I only know a handful of people who can ever pronounce them. I asked one of these people and she said she makes it up and says it with confidence. She fooled me! Then it’s the story. I like a story I can follow from beginning to end. What kid doesn’t know the story of Noah? Heck, what non-believer doesn’t know the story of Noah? The biggest stumbling block for me and the Old Testament has been the culture/Jewish religion. So much is implied between the lines. We westerners are not the intended audience which is why so much is left out. For years, I have struggled with understanding those gaps. Today, I feel much more confident but realize there is more out there to learn.

So what if I told you that studying one book could help you better understand 5 other Old Testament books? Would the study of this book be worth the effort? That, my friend, is what the study of the book of Jeremiah gives you! And what are these book? They are Lamentations, Daniel, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. ALL of these books, the story, the plot, the characters, have their foundations in the book of Jeremiah.

Here’s a teaser…

Most of us are familiar with the story of Daniel. The story opens with the tragedy of the best and brightest of Israel being carried off to Babylon against their will. What is left out is that this capture was a result of years of misbehavior on the part of the Jews. Nobody worshiped God anymore. The hills were filled shrines to other gods. Over and over, Jeremiah begged the people to stop the worship of these false gods! As a result, God’s wrath was poured out over His people in the form of Nebuchadnezzar’s army overtaking Jerusalem and carrying away its people.

Read Jeremiah 24

After Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the skilled workers and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Lord showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the Lord.One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.

Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

“‘But like the bad figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the Lord, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule, wherever I banish them. 10 I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors.’”

It was the Lord’s provision of BLESSING and PROTECTION that they were taken to Babylon. Chew on that for awhile.

Jun 05

What is God’s Plan For Your Life?

this way

Ever wish God’s path for our lives was this easy to find?

What is God’s plan for your life? This is the question millions of people ask themselves. It’s the reason why Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life was a bestseller. Before you can ask what God purpose is for you, I think we need to ask ourselves who God is, His character, His goals.

Do you see God an some all-loving, all-seeing, Santa Claus type character in the sky? Ask and you shall receive… While God is love, He is also a lot more than that. God is holy and perfection is His standard.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Pick up a book or listen to a sermon from any number of famous preachers and you’ll hear this verse taken to the extreme. Many preach the gospel of ease, comfort and pleasure as being God’ goal for our lives. God wants you to have that dream job, dream house, and make lots of money. He wants us to be free from heartache, disappointment and disease. Are you still waiting for your breakthrough? Do you think that if you just keep that positive attitude, God’ going to shower His blessings upon you?

The truth is that God’s goal for your life is not happiness but holiness.   Consider Hebrews 12:7-11. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

We are only true sons and daughters of God when we go through the difficult times because it is during those struggles that we learn how to depend more fully on God. It is when we learn to cling to His word, run to His strong tower, and submit our will to His. My favorite part is the end where it promises a “harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Beware of ANYONE who tickles your ears with fancy words of emotional goodness, puffing you up with false inspiration and hopes of an easy life. Stay clear of emotional hype and sermons with pithy sayings. Instead, surround yourself with humble children of God who you can enter into conversation with, bouncing your concerns and struggles off of. Learn how to become One Body Strong.

Apr 11

Are You Green With Jealousy?

It's more than just the 2013 Color of the Year

It’s more than just the 2013 Color of the Year

Everywhere I look, retailers are telling me emerald green is the color of the year. Pantone, this global heavyweight entity who determines this title of color of the year. According to their own website, Pantone “is the world-renowned authority on color and provider of color systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries.” Their reach is in every consumer line from home and paint, to electronics and fashion. As the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, Pantone LLC sets the standard that all other industries follow. Wow!

On their official Emerald page, Pantone associates emerald with words like energize, heritage, and radiance and of course it can be related to the Wizard of Oz prequel, Oz, which is about the Emerald City. But to me, emerald reminds me of nature, sickness, jewelry, money, and greed (not necessarily related.) So how did the phrase “green with jealousy” come about? According to a question/answer board, this is how the color green got associated with jealousy:

“In the ancient Greek theory of medicine, which long governed medical treatment, it was believed that an imbalance of certain “humors” produced one’s physical symptoms.  Jealousy was considered to result in an excess of bile, which would give a pale-greenish cast to the skin.  This idea remained popular for centuries, though it underwent some transformations. It famously appears in ‘Othello,’ when Iago refers to jealousy as a ‘green-eyed’ monster.”

But with emerald, being the color of 2013 and forever linked to jealousy, it will be in our faces more than ever for the next few months. While this color’s hype will only last for 12 months, the spirit of jealousy lasts much longer. How do we combat it? First, let me start off by saying I don’t think of you or anyone who struggles with feeling of jealousy as being weak or unspiritual. It’s what you do with those feelings that says whether you are mature or not.

As I stare at my emerald-colored toenails, it’s apparent I want to fit in as badly as the next person. I have been “green with jealousy” on numerous occasions. From women who are thinner, smarter, more accomplished, wealthier, etc., there’s no end to what can make us jealous of someone else. There’s a spirit that strives to keep us discontent with every aspect of our lives, always wanting something more. The Bible warns about it in the 10 Commandments when it tells us not to covet what others have. When we covet, we feel immediately feel badly about ourselves and what God has given us. This leads to low self-esteem.

How do you break the cycle of jealousy? Be aware of it. Pick it apart. Find out why you’re jealous. Is there something you could do in your own life, some short-coming you need to work on? For me, it has been career. God has never allowed me to work a full-time job outside the home, despite my efforts. Time after time, I’ve hit a brick wall. This has been extremely frustrating to me because I am a go-getter who had great plans for my own life. On top of that, our family could  have used a large second income. So as I drove my rickety care through my nice neighborhood lined with beautiful homes, I found someone to be jealous of. She was Ivy League educated, top in her profession, and a successful entrepreneur. Week after week, something would remind me of her, stirring those feelings of jealousy.

When I finally met this woman, I was in awe of her. I never told her how much I admired her directly, but I never missed an opportunity to be where she was, hoping some of her greatness would rub off.

As time went on, God convicted me of my jealousy, showing me that people who have it all together in one aspect of their lives, are falling apart in other areas. As soon as I believed this truth, jealousy’s hold on me was broken. As I later learned, this woman was no exception. Today, she is divorced and no longer is a successful part of this community (although she may be profiting from it elsewhere.) I just heard that her only son committed suicide awhile back. What good is success if you have no one to share it with?

If you struggle with envy or jealousy, remember that everyone has difficulties or struggles in their lives. Nobody has it all! Pray that God will allow you to see others the way He sees them.

This is another reason why small groups are a critical part of spiritual growth. It’s when you get to know others around you that these facades break down and you see how messed up we all are. Learn to be content like Paul. Learn to become One Body Strong!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-13

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Realize. Repent. Redirect.

Mar 04

In a Crowd of People…Yet Alone. Yes, This is Church

alone_in_a_crowdIn The Friendless American Male,  Larry Richards is reported as saying that “in church we sit together and sing together and greet one another cheerily as we leave at the end of a service. We do all of these things, sometimes for years, without forming any real personal Christian relationships. Our words often seem superficial. The church, therefore, becomes a place where Christians live alone together.”

This quote, taken from Ann Spangler’s book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus struck me right between the eyes! I’ve been there, in a large group of people yet felt very alone. Unfortunately, most of us live there–alone in a crowd of people. Nobody really knows you or your struggles. This loneliness stretches across socioeconomic, gender, and age brackets. We are ALL susceptible to feeling alone. The downside of this condition is depression, addiction, binging, and even suicide.

Now to the positive side…God NEVER intended for us to live in Christian community this way. In fact, his models are like Acts 2:42 where the disciples were encouraged to get together and “break bread” on a regular basis. God wants us to “do life” together with other believers, not be distant and alone.

The next question is, how do you get to this point? The answer…One Body Strong! The small group study will teach you how to live as the Body of Christ, the way God meant for it to be. Learning, growing, leaning on each other through the journey we call life.

Jan 08

Living As the Body of Christ

 

Live with no regrets.

Live with no regrets.

Let the site….BEGIN!! Welcome to what I hope is going to be a new way of of experiencing body life for the Church…a nation-wide movement!

If you consider yourself a Christian and would like to take your walk to that next level, then this is the site for you! This is not some hyped-up, positive thinking, rainbows and sunshine type of hype or 10-step plan. It’s a way of living the Christian walk that helps you grow deeper in your relationship with God and with others–FOR REAL. While it could be a new way of doing church, it doesn’t have to be because my One Body concept can be done with any small group!

Becoming One Body Strong means means living as the Body of Christ. What is looks like is you have a group of any size that you are close to, accountable to. It’s people you can share life with. It’s people you can open the Word with and be yourself, sharing the good and the bad in your life. Being One Body Strong means that each of you within the group has a “job” or skill set; a set of qualities that you are able to bless others with. In this group, you rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

I want to help you in your Christian journey find the hope and comfort that can only come from a group of believers.

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