What I want for Christmas…Or Not

santa_list

Have you made your Christmas Wish List yet? You better hurry. You haven’t much time to drop hints to the Santas in your life. While watching the commercials on TV, many Christmas present possibilities are bombarding us right before our eyes; from a stuffed hippopotamus to a shiny red sports car, from fragrant perfume to manly musk, from Duluth’s Buck Naked Underwear to Victoria Secret Lingerie, from “two front teeth” to luscious gourmet chocolates, and there are Gift Cards for everything and every place imaginable. A Christmas Wish List may go on and on, if you take every TV commercial to heart with our desire to possess the bestess and latest stuff.

christmas-gifts

As I was thinking of Christmas and all the hustle, bustle and hassle this “Holy Season” brings to people searching for the right gifts for others and wishing for the gifts they want for themselves, I remembered the Christmas list below. This prayer made a special impact on my soul when I heard it long ago. Somehow, it got lost in the shuffle of life. My prayer this Christmas and New Year is to again keep these profound truths close to my heart and live them out in my life by God’s grace.

wrestling-with-god-and-man-genesis-322232-17-638

There is One Gift which can be easily forgotten at Christmas, and that Gift is what Christmas is all about.

baby-jesus-in-manger

“Thanks be to God for His Inexpressible Gift!” [II Corinthians 9:15]

Wishing you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a PEACEFUL NEW YEAR!

“God bless us every one!

Lydia

New Computer Smell

blogging5

After months of angst and denial I have finally accepted the inevitable – The end of a nine-year love/hate relationship with my nine-year-old computer. This computer was out-of-date and extremely unreliable, but would I be able to master a new computer with WINDOW 10? Friends would say, “Why wouldn’t you?” The Deacons of my church, two very good friends and my sister and brother-in-law offered financial assistance. With the encouragement of friends and family, I asked a friend who knew about computers to find one to meet my specific needs [a computer that would support Google Chrome]. My friend found one and arrived arrived at my house a few days later, with a new tower and keyboard. When I saw the box, I knew there was no turning back. My Christian brother also found the computer for a very reasonable price and one I could afford.

hummer

Seeing my Christian brother’s enthusiasm in using his expertise to set up the computer for me was very reassuring and comforting to my semi-literate computer brain. What also encouraged me was the fresh “NEW Commuter Smell” and the smooth clean feel of the new keyboard. I imagine it’s somewhat like buying a new car and experiencing the “NEW Car Smell” and sitting on the new cool smooth upholstery.

As my friend worked with me and explained what I needed to know about WINDOWS 10, I was reminded of two Scriptures:

But thanks to God, who in Christ always leads a triumphant procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere” [II Corinthians 2:14].

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” [Ephesians 5:2].

Jesus and Charlie Brown

My Christian brother is an example of Christ to me. He wanted to help me find and set up a NEW computer that would meet my needs. In addition, he took the time to teach me what I needed to know. It is so encouraging and comforting to know Christians like him. I have seen, through the media, stories about “Evangelical Christians” who are filled with hate, who do not love their neighbors or foreigners or the poor and destitute in the same way they love themselves. Instead, they are self-centered and greedy, and always thinking, “What’s in it for me?” These “Evangelical Christians” are not “the fragrance of Christ.” They are just the opposite. They are the stench of hate and death.

God is LOVE

My Christian brother doesn’t want anyone to know about his “good deed,” nor does he want to be paid for his time. He said he would rather wait for his reward in heaven. That will be easy to do, because a person helping someone who is somewhat techno-phobic with setting up a NEW Computer may not be as newsworthy as a large group picketing with hateful signs and shouting bigoted slurs. But to God, his “good deed” is                                                                            written in the Book of Life.

Why can’t all Christians smell like my Christian brother, who exudes the fragrance of Christ? II Corinthians 5:17 teaches:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation. The old has past; behold, the NEW has come.”

COMMAND LOVE

My Christian brother and many others I know who identify themselves as “Christians” are NEW Creations. They have the NEW Creation smell. They radiate the fragrance of Christ to all who need His help and love. Thanks to all who have been Christ to me when I needed to be reminded of His love and care for me. I am very grateful for I am truly                                                                            blessed.

                                                Love in Christ,

The Lyd

                                                         Lydia

The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection [Conclusion]

interwoven gospels

What really did happen when Jesus rose from the dead? In reading each of the four Gospels I find each one having different events happening. There are omissions or additions in the each Gospels. Could it be that I need to read all four Gospels as one “complete story” and put the events in chronological order to find the Truth? A theologian named Ken Wallace [from Missions Door Ministries] did just that. His paper helped me have a greater understanding of the events surrounding Jesus’ Resurrection and the important role His women disciples played in proclaiming, “Jesus has risen just as He said” [Matthew 28:6], as the angels told them. Here is what Ken Wallace wrote [*my own 2 cents]:

TWO ANGELS IN TOMBangels and women at empty tomb

HOW MANY ANGELS?
There were two angels but one of them must have had a dominant role so sometimes only he was mentioned.

HOW MANY WOMEN?
At least five went to the tomb — Mary Magdalene was among them.
– At least two told Peter and John [in Jerusalem] — Mary Magdalene was among them.
– At least two went to Bethany to tell the other disciples.
– Mary Magdalene may have been alone at the tomb after Peter and John left.

Ken Wallace answers more questions by putting the events surrounding the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in chronological order:

chronology

CHRONOLOGY

1. Five women arrive at the tomb [Mt. 28:1, Mk. 16:2-3, Luke 24:1, Jn.20:1]
Matthew 28:2-4 is a description of what the guards witnessed before the women arrived and introduces the angel: [v.2] There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. [v.3] His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. [v.4] The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. [v.4]
2. They see the stone has moved [Mk.16:4, Lk24:2, Jn.20:1-2]
3. They go inside and see that Jesus’ body is not there [Mk.16:5, Lk24:3]
4. The angels talk to them [Mt. 28:5, Mk. 16:6, Lk24:4-8]
Luke 24:9-12 combines the narrative of both groups of women [*disciples] and both groups of [*men] disciples into one story. It is not strictly chronological as the other narratives are.
5. They split into two groups to tell the disciples [Mt. 28:8, Mk. 16:8]
6. Mary Magdalene runs to tell Peter and John [Mt. 28:8, Lk.24:9-10, Jn.20:2]
7. Peter and John run to the tomb [Lk.24:12 and 24, Jn.20:3-4]
8. Mary Magdalene follows them to the tomb [*Otherwise John 20:11-18 wouldn’t have happened]
9. They go into the tomb [John 20:5-8]
10. They see and believe it’s empty [but not that Jesus rose] [Lk.24:24, Jn.20:9]
11. Peter and John go to Bethany [Lk.24:12, Jn.20:10]
12. Mary Magdalene weeps at the tomb [Jn.20:11]
13. The angels talk to her again [Jn.20:11]
14. Jesus appears to her [Mk.16:9, Jn.20:15-17]
15. She goes to Bethany to tell the [*men] disciples she saw Jesus [Mk.16:10]
16. Meanwhile, Jesus appears to the other women [Mt.28:9-10]
17. They arrive in Bethany and tell the [*men] disciples they saw Jesus [Lk.24:9-10]
18. The [*men] disciples don’t believe the women [Lk.24:11]
19. Mary Magdalene arrives in Bethany and tells them she saw Jesus [Lk.24:9-10, Jn.20:18]
20. They don’t believe her either [Lk.24:11]

[To be able to read Ken Wallace’ complete paper Google, “The women at the Empty Tomb,” then click “The Women at the Empty Tomb —– North Forest.]

JESUS APPEARS TO DISCIPLES The four Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John] do not end with the men disciples disbelieving the women disciples’ testimony that Jesus rose from the dead. The men disciples eventually believed that Jesus did rise from the dead when Jesus appeared to them in the flesh [Mt.28:16-20; Mk.16:12-20; Lk.24:36-49; Jn.20:19-29 and 21:1-14]. In Mark [16:14] Jesus “rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart,” because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen. They did not believe Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, Mary the mother of James, Mary the mother of Joses and other women who witnessed that Jesus was alive again. They also didn’t believe two men disciples [Mk.16:12-13]. Out of the core disciples, Thomas was the last to believe, because he was not with the rest of the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will not believe” [Jn.20:25]. He did not believe his fellow disciples that Jesus was alive. But Thomas did not stay an unbeliever.

jESUS AND THOMAS

“Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the door was locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” [John 20:24-29].

women at foot of the cross

Why did Jesus appear to His women disciples first? A woman’s testimony was not usually believed during Jesus time on earth. Women could not be witnesses in court. Even their brothers in the Faith did not believe what their sisters in the Faith told them about Jesus being alive. The women’s “words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” [John 24:11]. Jesus knew these women more than anyone else

Magdenlena

knew them. Jesus knew His women disciples as His self-sacrificing servants, His loyal students to His teachings, His compassionate caregivers, and the ones who would persevere to the end and beyond. The women disciples went to Jesus tomb, where He had been laid and Jesus valued their love for Him and their courage to be where His body was laid. Of course they would see their risen Lord first, because they went to see Him to serve Him one last time, only to be served by Him instead. On the other hand, the men were hiding in a locked room fearing what would happen to them. While the women went to Jesus, it was Jesus who went to the men.

men and women disciples

Again, my purpose is not to belittle the men disciples and raise up the women disciples. My goal is to show that both the first men and women disciples were equally important in spreading the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ to the world. Most of the time the women disciples were in the background. But, when Jesus was dying on cross the women, mentioned throughout this blog series, were there and experience His heart-wrenching death and glorious Resurrection. Instead of being in the background, when they were most needed the women disciples were in the forefront. We should not forget about the women disciples. They encouraged their brother disciples to believe “JESUS HAS RISEN! HE HAS RISEN INDEED!” And they encourage us today, through their actions and testimonies in the Scriptures, to believe in Jesus and His Resurrection. Do you believe? “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” [John 20:29].

Jesus is alive

In this blog series, “The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection,” I have attempted to encourage my readers to look at a small group of Jesus’ women disciples and how important they were in serving Jesus, in encouraging His men disciples to believe He was alive, and in continuing to encourage us to believe without seeing, but by faith that JESUS IS ALIVE! I tried to answer some of the questions people may have concerning the four Gospel accounts of the Resurrection being so different from each other, by using a paper written by Ken Wallace. Some questions are answered and some were not. However, God has all the answers and I have faith in Him. I do not have to have all my questions answered to believe in Jesus and His Word. In fact, how can any mortal man or woman know and comprehend all that God knows?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1].

THE END [for now]

cHRISTIAN BLOGGER WOMANIMG_1951

Lydia

I am taking a break from blogging. If you would like to read any of my previous blog post click on my blog address at the bottom of this page.

The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection [Part IV]

joseph of arimathea

What in the world were they thinking? Did their grief over Jesus’ death cloud their judgment? Were they acting impulsively “as women tend to do?” The women disciples in Jesus’ life were faithful and courageous followers during His life and in His death. In PART III, we left the women watching Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both Jesus’ disciples, prepare Jesus’ body for burial with seventy-five pounds of spices and they wrapped the body with linen cloths. They placed the body in Joseph’s new tomb and rolled a giant boulder in front of the entrance [Read Mt 27:57-61, Mk. 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42]. Didn’t Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses [See Mark 15:47] know about the amount of spices on the body? Didn’t they remember the giant stone? Two women could not roll that stone away, could they?

sealed tomb

I believe the women did not stop and think about the obstacles in the way. Instead, they focused on their goal. That goal was to do one more kindness for Jesus by going to the tomb where Jesus’ body lay and finish the burial preparations, as was the Jewish custom. Yes, Joseph and Nicodemus did prepare Jesus’ body “on the day of Preparation, that is the day before the Sabbath” [read Mark 15:42]. Because it was almost the Sabbath, when all work had to cease, these two men might have been in a hurry to get things done, in order to place Jesus in the new tomb, on the same day Jesus died, as was the custom. The women did not act impulsively. Luke 23:55-56 records, “The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned [home] and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” To these women this Sabbath rest must have felt like the longest Sabbath rest ever! But, it was worth the wait!

The women did rest on the Sabbath, but they didn’t waste any time the day after the Sabbath. All four Gospels give different details and together they paint one big picture of what happened on that awesome day!

two women

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary [mother of Joses] went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen as He said. Come see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him…’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his [men] disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’” [Matthew 28:1-10].

The Gospel of Mark adds a few more details and has its own uniqueness:

angels and women at empty tomb

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the MOTHER OF JAMES, and SALOME BOUGHT SPICES, SO THAT THEY MIGHT GO AND ANOINT HIM [JESUS]. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. AND THEY SAID TO ONE ANOTHER, ‘WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE?’ And looking up, they saw the stone had been rolled back – it was very large. AND ENTERING THE TOMB, THEY SAW A YOUNG MAN SITTING ON THE RIGHT SIDE, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’ AND THEY WENT OUT AND FLED FROM THE TOMB, FOR TREMBLING AND ASTONISHMENT HAD SEIZED THEM, AND THEY SAID NOTHING TO ANYONE, FOR THEY WERE AFRAID’” [Mark 16:1-8].

There are also verses in Mark [in our Bibles] that were not in the earliest manuscripts. For instance:

Jesus with Mary

“Now when He [Jesus] rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that He was alive, and had been seen by her, they would not believe it” [vv. 9-11]

TWO ANGELS IN TOMB

In Luke’s account of the Resurrection of Jesus [24:1-12], the main details are similar. On the first day of the week, the women left very early in the morning and brought spices to the tomb [v.1]. The women found the stone rolled away [v. 2] and did not find Jesus body in the tomb [v. 3]. But, instead of one angel or young man, “TWO MEN STOOD BY THEM IS DAZZLING APPAREL” [v. 4]. The two men in dazzling apparel knew the women were afraid [v. 5], so they encouraged them with these words: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” [vv. 5b-7]. The women did remember and returned “to the eleven disciples and all the rest” [v. 9]. In Luke’s account of the Resurrection, he identifies the women to be Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James “and other women with them who told these things to the apostles” [v. 10]. Luke wrote that THE APOSTLES DID NOT BELIEVE THE WOMEN AND SAID THAT “THESE WORDS SEEMED TO THEM AN IDLE TALE” [v. 11]. All except PETER wanted to see for himself and “ROSE AND RAN TO THE TOMB; STOOPING AND LOOKING IN, HE SAW THE LINEN CLOTHS BY THEMSELVES; AND HE WENT HOME MARVELING AT WHAT HAD HAPPENED” [v. 12]. John’s Gospel includes John and Peter running to the tomb [Read John 20:1-10].

PETER AND JOHN

What about John and his Gospel? Surely John [“the disciple whom Jesus loved”] would be able to present the events of the Resurrection of Jesus in chronological order and also tie up loose ends; wouldn’t he? It’s important to get all the facts right, isn’t it?

To be continued…

Lydia photo
Lydia

The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Rsurrection [Part II]

Crhist Synogogue Ruler

Many disciples who followed Jesus during His ministry on earth were women. We saw evidence of this in PART I, using only one short Gospel passage in Luke. The women disciples ministered to Jesus and His men disciples in sacrificial ways. The women disciples were both faithful and generous servants and devoted and courageous followers of Jesus.

“Soon afterwards He [Jesus] went on through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve [men disciples] were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Suzanna, and many others, who provided for them [or Him] out of their means” [Luke 8:1-3].

cross, crown, nails

Along with following Jesus during His life, there are many Gospel passages that mention Jesus’ women disciples witnessing His death on the cross. Mary Magdalene is mentioned throughout these Gospel passages, along with the other women who followed Jesus to His crucifixion. [Matthew 27:56-61; 28:1; Mark 15:40-47; 16:1-19; Luke 8:1-3; 24:1-12; John 19:25; 20:1-18].

In the above Scripture references, we find Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross, along with Mary the mother of James and Joseph, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, Mary the mother of Jose, Salome, Mary the mother of Jesus and His mother’s sister [just to name a few]. These women followed Jesus to a hill called Calvary, also known as Golgotha or “Place of the Skull,” where He was nailed to the cross and hung on that cross dying. Most of the men disciples were hiding, except for Peter and John, “the disciple whom [Jesus] loved” [John 18:15-18, 25-26 and 19:25-27].

Christ CrucifiedChrist's burial

Why did these women follow Jesus to the cross to watch Him die? They couldn’t do anything to stop His execution. I believe they did not want Jesus to die alone, surrounded by those who hated Him. The women disciples loved Jesus so much that they wanted to be with Him during His darkest hours. I am sure they were afraid for their own lives, but they loved Jesus more than their fears. Also, I believe they wanted to make sure their beloved Teacher’s body had a proper place to rest in peace.

mary and john

The women’s courageous love for Jesus did not go unnoticed by Him, even as He hung on the cross in excruciating agony. Jesus saw His mother Mary and wanted her to be cared for. John 19:26-27 records, “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son [meaning John]!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” Jesus loved His mother Mary who believed in Him from the beginning. One need only read her “Magnificat” in Luke 1:46-55 to understand Mary’s devotion and joy in her Son. In verse 47 she sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” Mary knew she needed her Son to be her Savior.

women at foot of the cross

Jesus did not only see Mary His mother. He also noticed the unconditional and sacrificial love of Mary Magdalene and the other Marys, Joanna, Suzanna and many other women disciples; all of whom were healed by Jesus from their brokenness and given new meaning to their lives. Showing compassion and kindness and love to Jesus and to others in His Name is always noticed and rewarded by Jesus. I wonder if that is one of the reasons why some of the same women were the first to find His Empty Tomb.

To be continued…

Lydia photo

Lydia

Present day disciples may serve Jesus by following one of His teachings: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it [given] to one of the least of these My brothers and sister [the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the prisoner], you did it [served] Me” [Luke 25:40b].

Which Came First – The Repentant Heart or The Forgiveness of God?

lent

“Forgiveness” is an extremely difficult concept to grasp, especially when it comes to the forgiveness of God. It is very hard, for me at least, to wrap my head around God’s forgiveness. When does God forgive us? Do we have to “clean up our act” before God can forgive us? Do we have to confess our sins before we have a chance to be forgiven by God? Do we have to perform some sort of penance in order for God to forgive us? The Lenten Season is a good time to meditate [“chew on”] the awesome and unfathomable forgiveness of God.

ASH WEDNESDAY

When did God forgive us?

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – BUT GOD SHOWS HIS LOVE FOR US IN THAT WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US. Since, therefore, we have been now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” [Romans 5:6-9].

God planned to forgive us “while we were yet sinners” through the Christ’s Perfect Sacrifice on the cross. God’s plan to save sinners [I am a sinner] began “before the foundation of the world.” Sinners need only to get with God’s plan and accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, in order to experience the joy of God‘s forgiveness of all their sins. [Read Romans 3:23 and 6:23]

wolman at the well

Do we have to “clean up our act” by not sinning anymore before we have a chance to be forgiven by God?

“Bless be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as HE CHOSE US IN HIM BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, THAT WE SHOULD BE HOLY AND BLAMESS BEFORE HIM” [Ephesians 1:3-4]

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [I Corinthians 15:56-57].

Baby with lamb

We cannot stop sinning in our own strength because we are weak. For example, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when we see a sign that reads, “DO NOT TOUCH – WET PAINT.” We cannot make ourselves perfect before God. Jesus, the “Spotless Lamb of God” who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, is the One who makes us “holy and blameless before [the Father]” When God looks at a sinner who has accepted His Son’s Perfect Sacrifice, He no longer looks at the sin; The Heavenly Father sees His Son the “blameless Lamb of God.” Jesus is the Only One who gives us His power over sin and death. [Read John 1:29 and I Peter 1:18-19].

the truth shall set you free

Do we have to confess our sins before we have a chance to be forgiven by God?

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will become like wool” [Isaiah 1:18].

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [I John 1:8-9].

casting crowns 2

God calls us to be truthful with ourselves and with Him. He wants us to be aware of our sins in order to know how much we have been forgiven and how much we need Jesus’ once-for-all Perfect Sacrifice, which cleanses us and makes us whole. When we become aware of our sins, it is only then that we can truly be grateful for God’s forgiveness through His One and Only Son Jesus Christ. God‘s forgiveness of all our sins causes our heart of stone to turn into a “repentant heart”. God is always waiting for us to come to Him, to confess our sins to Him, to accept His forgiveness of all our sins and receive His power to begin the journey of repentance [turning away from sin] and a new life in Christ. I believe that God‘s forgiveness leads to repentance and not the other way around. It is God Who takes the first step.

casting crowns 1.

Do we have to perform some sort of penance in order for God to forgive us?

“For the death [Jesus] died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” [Romans 6:10-11].

“And just as is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” [Hebrews 9:27-28].

“Where there is forgiveness of these [sins], there is no longer any offering [penance] for sin” [Hebrews 10:18].

“For Christ also suffered once for sin, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” [I Peter 3:18).

Christ Crucified

God doesn’t want us to perform an impersonal penance, such as reciting prayers by rote or doing self-righteous acts of charity or even by denying ourselves of something we enjoy, in order appease God by paying for our own sins. The above Scriptures tell us that Jesus did what we could never do on our own. Jesus paid for all our sins by shedding His own blood on the cross and died for all our sins ONCE AND FOR ALL. Instead of doing periodical penance, God wants us to be “dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Instead of giving God our imperfect [dead] sacrifices, God wants us to give our entire lives to Him. He wants us to be “living sacrifices” by accepting His forgiveness, which leads to our NEW LIVES IN CHRIST. The NEW LIFE IN CHRIST is not motivated by guilt or false piety, but by LOVE and GRATITUDE and THANKFULNESS for what Jesus has done for us on the cross. This New Life is lived through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [rational] worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” [Romans 12:1-2].

forgiveness 2

During this Lenten Season I am meditating on the Forgiveness of God. Although my thinking is limited to human understanding and vocabulary, the Holy Spirit is not limited to human words or comprehension. I do not perfectly understand the infinite things of God. With God’s leading, I am growing into a deeper relationship with Him as I meditate on His ways.

a. praying hands

 

DEAR FATHER GOD, MAY WE TRULY UNDERSTAND YOUR UNLIMITED FORGIVENESS TOWARD YOUR FOLLOWERS, THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD AND IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

The Lyd

                                                      Lydia
This may be my last blog post for awhile because my 9-year-old computer is running on fumes. I may be looking for a new computer sooner than later.

They Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly!

p and j

Prayer and Fasting go together like peanut butter and jelly. Okay, poor choice of words, since this post is about FASTING. However, prayer and fasting are closely linked together. I wrote about PRAYER in my last blog post. Prayer is talking with God, the Creator of heaven and earth; talking with Jesus, God’s One and Only Perfect Sacrifice, who died for the forgiveness of my sins, rose from the dead, and will come again to someday take me and all His believers Home with Him for all eternity. Prayer is also listening to the Holy Spirit who helps me to pray when I don‘t have the words to say. I can freely express myself to my Wonderful Counselor because He loves me unconditionally and forever. Sometimes I pray in church, with many people, or in a small group Bible study or prayer group. However, something else is also extremely important and crucial for my spiritual growth. In order to grow in my “relationship” with Jesus, I need to spend time praying [talking] with my Forever Friend alone in SOLITUDE [another spiritual discipline]. It is also where I spend time listening to Him, by reading His Word, enjoying His creation or just closing my eyes to see God’s love and faithfulness for me in a more intimate and personal way.

christ in desert

Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days before He began His ministry [Matthew 4 and Luke 4].

FASTING is generally abstaining from food, such as meat or snacks or a whole meal or not eating food for one day or many days. Fasting is usually done for spiritual reasons. Fasting by abstaining from food is just one part of this spiritual discipline. If I am fasting from food, I just don’t sit there and wait for breakfast time or lunch time or dinner time to go by. Instead of eating, I want to make good use of that time. That’s where PRAYING comes in. During the time I usually eat food, I may pray and read the Bible or devotional book. Also, I may use mealtime as a time to help others. For example, I may use the money I save from not buying food to contribute to a worthy cause or buy food for a homeless shelter. This also is done in an attitude of PRAYER. I may visit someone who needs a visit or help someone who has a project to finish. Through PRAYER and FASTING, the Lord will show me what I need to be doing for His glory and for the good of others or He may want me to simply be alone with Him for a time.

imagesCAPBEZO8

Jesus links PRAYER and FASTING together in “His Sermon on the Mount” [Matthew 5-7]:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint you head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” [Matthew 6:5-6 and 16-18].

[In Matthew 6 Jesus also teaches how to give to the needy (1-4), He gives us “the Lord’s Prayer” (9-13), instructs us on how to forgive (14-15) and He talks about having our “treasure” in Heaven and not on earth (19-24).

c. praying prostrateb. kneeing in prayer

According to Jesus, both PRAYER and FASTING are done with an attitude of GRATITUDE, HUMILITY and LOVE, knowing that our reward is waiting for us in Heaven. PRAYER and FASTING are not practiced out of legalism or to demonstrate piety, so others may praise us for our public displays of self-righteousness.

messy eaters

But what if someone cannot fast from food? What does a person do who has a medical condition which prohibits fasting? On the other side of the spectrum, what if someone has a physically demanding job and needs energy from the food to be able to do his/her job well? What do the parents who cook meals for their small children do? They need to help their picky kids to eat healthy meals. There are many examples of people whose physical conditions or lifestyles make fasting impractical. For these people [me included] I have some practical solutions.

“For I [God] desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” [Hosea 6:6]. (Also I Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6, Psalm 51:1, Isaiah 1:11)

Christmas ScrabbleELDERS PRAYING FOR THE SICK

Instead of fasting from food, believers of the Lord Jesus may choose fasting from TV, video games, sports radio or time on the computer. They may abstain from going to restaurants or Dunkin Donuts or going to movies. They may choose to go without candy and snacks and eating small simple meals. They may choose to give up one of their usual recreational activities to do something for someone in need. Again, giving up these things is not to gain brownie points to pay for their own salvation with their own sacrifices. Substituting these things with spending more time with God and seeking to glorify Him in the things they do and don’t do is what Fasting is all about. For example, giving up watching TV gives worshipers of God more time to pray in “quietness and rest” [Isaiah 30:15]. There are many ways to fast, but only one motive and purpose behind it:

THOSE WHO LOVE JESUS FAST TO DISCOVER WAYS TO GLORIFY GOD BY DOING WHAT PLEASES HIM OUT OF AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE AND PRAISE!

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (or ‘rational service‘)” [Romans 12:1].

“And whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” [Colossians 3:17].

(Also read Hebrews 10.)

The Lyd

Lydia