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

sealed tomb

What does John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” [John 20:2b], have to say about the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does John put all the information found in the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke] together in a neat chronological ordered package, since John wrote his Gospel last [around A.D. 85]? It would be nice to wrap this up in a box tied up with ribbons and bows, wouldn’t it? However, just as the three previous Gospels, John presents his narrative with his own observations, sharing his unique insights and focusing on what he believed was important to emphasize. It is true that “All Scripture is inspired by God” [II Timothy 3:16a]. It’s also true that the Holy Spirit used the unique personality of each Gospel writer to relay different perspectives concerning the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

mary magdalene with candle

jesus has risen

Let’s examine what John’s Gospel says in chapter 20:1-10. The narrative starts just like the other three Gospels: “Now on the first day of the week….while it was dark” However, Mary Magdalene is the only woman mentioned who goes to the tomb and sees the humungous stone rolled away from the entrance. Instantly [or so it seems], Mary Magdalene runs to Peter and John to tell them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and WE do not know where they have laid Him.” [The pronoun “WE” indicates that Mary Magdalene was accompanied or was met by other women going to Jesus’ tomb.]

john and peter running

Next, Peter and John have a foot race to the tomb and Mary Magdalene follows. Peter was first to enter the empty tomb and saw “the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place of its own.” [It was the custom in those days for the master who is leaving his dinner but intends to return, to leave his napkin folded at his place, so that his servant would know that he was returning. When he was finished with his meal the master would just drop the napkin unfolded at his place. In the same way, the folded face cloth was a sign that Jesus was not finished because HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD!] After awhile John, who reached the tomb first, but stayed outside, finally went into the tomb, “and he believed.” What did they believe? John said they believed, yet they “went back to their homes.” Their belief was not all there yet, but their belief would grow as they began to “understand the Scripture, that [Jesus] must rise from the dead.” John and Peter were beginning to believe Jesus and what He said to them was making a little more sense because of Mary Magdalene’s “WAKE-UP CALL!” Sometimes, not always, some men need a little push to get out of their “Man-Cave“ and “keep on keeping on” and who better to do this than a woman? The opposite is also true. Men and women need to work together to spread the GOOD NEWS that JESUS IS ALIVE and wants to make a difference in people’s lives.

mary and peter and john

The Gospel of John is often called, “The Gospel of Belief.” An excellent example of a growing “belief” or “faith” is found in the life of Mary Magdalene. She, along with other women disciples heard Jesus’ teachings and watched Him live them out. They also watched Him die on the cross and saw where His body was laid. Mary Magdalene was the first one to rise early in the morning to go to Jesus tomb. Other women followed her lead. She got men to follow her lead. Even when the others left for home, she lingered at the empty tomb, hoping that something would happen. She had a faith that would not die. This is what John’s Gospel records when she was alone at the empty tomb:

mary weeping

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you know where they carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ [which means Teacher]. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went to announce to the disciples, ‘I HAVE SEEN THE LORD’ – and that He said these things to her.” That very evening, what Mary Magdalene told the disciples came true – Jesus appeared to them ALIVE [John 20:11-18 and 23].

Magdenlena

Those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord have no trouble believing in the four Gospel accounts concerning the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus died on the cross to take care of our sins, as well as the sins of the world [Read John 3:16], and that He defeated death by RISING FROM THE DEAD AND IS ALIVE FOREVERMORE. Jesus‘ DEATH and RESURRECTION is the focus of our faith and is most important to us. In the four Gospels we also learn about the women disciples and their sacrificial service, their perseverance and endurance, their loyalty and trust, their bravery, as well as their leadership qualities. When there were no men to lead the way, women like Mary Magdalene and the other Marys and Joanna and Salome encouraged their brothers to believe that Jesus was alive. Jesus being alive made the difference and Christianity would spread all over the World.

Joyful Jesus

For the skeptics out there who read the four Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus and the women who first discovered the empty tomb, they have more questions they want answered. Do you believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ just as the women did or do you believe that finding out how many angels and women were there at empty tomb is essential to believing? Skeptics have so many questions. Let’s face it; skeptics are always gong to be skeptical. But those who believe in Jesus Christ will “walk by faith, not by sight” [II Corinthians 5:7]. We will trust in what the Bible says and learn important truths without worrying about “every jot and tittle.” As a woman, I have much to learn from Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples. How about you?

To be continued…

IMG_1951

Lydia

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 Resurrection [Part III]

It is finished

What did Jesus’ disciples think when Jesus shouted, “‘IT IS FINISHED,’” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”? Was this the end? Did they follow Jesus in vain? Both men and women devoted their lives to following Jesus. In Part I, we saw that women followed Jesus, as did men. The women 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.

Book of Luke

“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].

women at foot of the cross

The women not only followed Jesus during His ministry on earth. We discovered in Part II that there are many Gospel passages mentioning 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].

Jesus body in tomb

After three long hours nailed to the cross, Jesus exclaimed, “IT IS FINISHED!” and then He beathe His  last.. What was next? The disciples would later learn what “IT IS FINISHED” really meant. First, they needed to take care of Jesus’ body.

“When evening came, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Mgdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb” [Matthew 27:57-61].

glasses on Bible

Mark identifies the other Mary as “Mary the mother of Joses” [15:47]. Luke thought it was important to record, “The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how the body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested, according to the commandment” [23:55-56]. John adds, “Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight” [19:39].

Empty tomb

These disciples, both men and women, wanted to make sure the body of Jesus was laid to rest properly. The women made sure they knew where Jesus’ body was laid, so they would be able to go back after the Sabbath rest, to anoint the body with more spices. I believe they thought it would be the final time they would be able to minister to their Lord. Because the women wanted to minister to Jesus’ body for the last time, not with food but with spices, they were the first disciples to learn what Jesus meant when he said “IT IS FINISHED!”

Christ's cross defeated devil

Many times when we go to minister to others, we are also blessed.

To be continued…

My Good Side

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].

The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection

gospels

“What am I – CHOPPED LIVER? The four Gospels in the New Testament are filled with the exploits and experiences of men disciples and their interactions with Jesus. The New Testament time period can be described as a male dominate world. After skimming through the Gospels, some may come away thinking that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all about Jesus and His ministry and partnership and friendship with His men disciples. After all, the Gospels were written by men, Right? But, what about the women? Did Jesus have women disciples? In order to find out about Jesus’ women disciples, one must read the New Testament closely and with a focus on finding certain Scripture passages, some well known and others not so much.

imagesCAPBEZO8

First, we need to know what a “disciple” is. A disciple is a follower, a student, a learner, a believer. Jesus’ disciples believe that He is the “Way and the Truth and the Life” [Read John 14:6]. The disciples of Jesus learn from His teachings and by following His example. He is their Teacher, Savior and Lord. Disciples of Jesus have accepted His forgiveness through His death on the cross, believe that He rose from the dead and will someday return to make all things new. Jesus’ disciples have given their lives to Him and no longer want to follow the ways of the world. Jesus’ disciples want to love Him above all else and share His GOOD NEWS with the whole world.

According to the Gospels, who are the women disciples who followed Jesus? For some of the answer, let’s go to a Bible passage that is not talked about very much, at least in my experience:

c. praying prostrate

“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].

glasses on Bible

According to Luke 8:3, the women who followed Jesus were His servants. They must have “bought the groceries” and prepared meals for Jesus and His men disciples. They must have did all the menial tasks in order to free Jesus and His men to do the work of spreading the Gospel. These menial tasks of cooking, doing the laundry, budgeting money for groceries, searching for good food at reasonable prices did not get much attention. They were thought of as unimportant way back then as they are even now. But, if you asked Jesus, He would say that being a servant is the most important role of a disciple of His: “If anyone would be first, he [she] must be last of all and servant of all…For even the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve, And to give His life for many” [read Mark 9:35-37 and 10:45]. These women served their Lord and their fellow disciples with the sacrificial love of Christ.

towel and basin

Being servants does not mean the women were not also students. I imagine whether they were serving or sitting, they were also listening to Jesus teachings. [Women are known to be able to multi-task.] Jesus lifted women up as being equals to men by giving them their rightful place, in being His students [disciples] and learning alongside men. This was different from the custom of the day. Men and women were not allowed to learn together in synagogues. Jesus’ women disciples were His students who listened intently and learned from the Master. In addition to the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the women might have even helped with the writing of the Gospels by providing important information only they knew about. For example, according to WIKIPEDIA, theologian Adrian Hastings suggests that Joanna was one of “Luke’s sources for information regarding the Herodian court.” Jesus’ women disciples were humble servants, devoted students, courageous followers and were just as important as the men in the spread of the Gospel [GOOD NEWS]. They were faithful to Jesus to the very end and beyond.

To be continued…

The Lyd

Lydia

 

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

PRAY and FAST

empty churchlobstah

[CHURCH PRAYER SERVICE JUST ENDED]    [FRIDAY NIGHT LENTEN DINNER]

Is it “PRAY and FAST” or is it “PRAY FAST!” As a child I was confused about what exactly PRAYING and FASTING meant, especially when these “spiritual disciplines” were talked about during the Lenten Season. I heard adults praying fast, as though they were going for a Guinness World Record for the fastest prayer ever recited. Also, I thought “fasting” was giving up eating meat on Fridays, and sometimes on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was said in church that not eating meat during Lent was an “obligation” and a “duty” and even a “sacrifice.” If it was suppose to be a “sacrifice,” why did the “faithful” replace eating meat with going restaurant-hopping in search of delicious fish, clam, scallop, lobster and other seafood dinners? As a child, I didn’t understand where the “sacrifice” came in.

banana split love

I Corinthians 13:11-13 says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became [an adult], I gave up childish ways…For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.”

become-like-Christ-meme

As a young adult, I began seeing PRAYER and FASTING in a new light when I saw Jesus in a new light. Jesus became my personal Lord and Savior. My way of thinking was no longer based on a “foggy” understanding of religious beliefs, with “dos” and “don’ts”; following rules I did not understand, in order to earn my own salvation. Instead, I saw Jesus as a real person and I wanted to know Him better, just as I would a new friend. As I grew in knowing Jesus better by reading the Bible and attending a church where the Bible and the Christian Faith was taught and explained, as much as they could be this side of heaven, I realized that Jesus was worthy of my FAITH and TRUST. I believed that Jesus died for my sins and paved the way to Heaven for me [See Ephesians 2:8-9]. I had HOPE that Jesus not only died for the forgiveness of my sins, but that He also rose from the dead and will come again in glory to take His people Home [John 11:25-26, John 14:1-3, Acts 1:10-11, I Thessalonians 4:13-17]. When I grow in my understanding of Who Jesus is and what He has already done for me, I could not help but also grow in my LOVE for Him and the Family of GOD. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He was the perfect example, in word and deed, of the greatest LOVE ever freely given. Jesus’ LOVE was a perfect example of how I am to LOVE others.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:34-35].

Jesua, heart, sand

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you” [John 15:12-13].

STEADFAST LOVE

As I matured in my personal relationship with Jesus, I found that prayer did not sound like a politician constantly repeating his/her talking points over and over and over again. Prayer is talking with the One who knows everything about me and loves me unconditionally and forever. Prayer is telling Jesus how awesome He is. Prayer is trusting Jesus enough to confess my failings and know His forgiveness. Prayer is talking to my Forever Friend and thanking Him for all the things He has done for me. Prayer is asking the Creator of everything to help me with my struggles, as well as the struggles of others, knowing He hears and understands and will help. Last, but not least, praying is LISTENING to God by reading Scripture, or after I have done all my talking, just sit in silence before Him. In silence, I wait to hear what my Everlasting Counselor has to

holy spirit new

say to me. Also, I learned about the Prayer Safety Net. When I don’t know how or what to pray or don’t feel like praying, there is the Gift of the Holy Spirit: “Likewise the Spirit Himself helps us in our weakness. For we don’t know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” [Romans 8:26-27].

PRAYER AND FASTING is done out of LOVE. It is not done from a feeling of obligation or duty. There is no longer a need for sacrifice because of Jesus’ Perfect Sacrifice on the cross. More about how PRAYER and FASTING are linked together next time.

[YAY! ONE PAGE! I FINALLY DID IT!]

A Very Important Date in February

a camel

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 is a very important date. Wednesday has become known as “Hump Day” in the 21st Century, because it is in the middle of the week. “Hump Day” means that half of the work week is over and only the other half of the work week is left. This is an example of “seeing the glass half full” kind of thinking. However, this Wednesday is more than the middle of the week. In fact, this Wednesday marks two special “Holidays” and this may only happen once in our lifetime. This Wednesday, people all over New England and the world celebrate Truck Day and Ash Wednesday! Before you think I am being sacrilegious, please let me explain.

truck day 1

Truck Day marks the start of a new beginning, when Red Sox fans forget about last year and anticipate spring and a brand new baseball season. When fans see the huge truck pulling up to Fenway Park and boxes and boxes of baseball equipment being loaded up into it, they know that baseball is not far away. But, before real baseball games can be played, the equipment truck and RED SOX players head to Fort Myers, Florida for Spring Training. [Pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 18th and on February 24th is when position players arrive and the first full squad workout is scheduled.] Some players are already at Spring Training.]

truck day 2

The equipment truck leaving Fenway is a reminder to all and to the players especially, that they need to refocus on Baseball. They need to get into baseball shape by being disciplined in eating healthy foods and performing exercise drills and baseball drills. Pitchers and catchers work on getting to know each other, in order to be in sync when they play for real, as do the position players and coaches. All players need to practice their positions on the field. They need to practice hitting, catching, running bases, stealing bases, bunting and sacrificing, as though everything is new to them, in order to get rid of the winter rust. Spring Training games start on February 29th to further work on baseball skill and regain muscle memory. All this hard work is in anticipation of OPENING DAY [April 4th, in Cleveland] when they here those magic words, “PLAY BALL!” The RED SOX players are also motivated to work hard by looking forward to achieving the end goal: winning the World Series in the post season. After playing 162 games, players want to play more games to win the ultimate prize in baseball.

WS BANNER ONE

WS AT CHURCH

As an avid Baseball [Red Sox] fan since 1967, I have the habit of equating the game of baseball to my spiritual life, as well as my life in general. I see many parallels between Ash Wednesday and Truck Day. The parallels do not make each event equally important. However, Truck Day does explain the importance of Ash Wednesday to me. As I wrote in a previous blog post, “Life is Baseball is Life!”

ASH WEDNESDAYAsh Wednesday is the beginning of the Season of Lent, which lasts for forty days, not counting Sundays. The meaning of Ash Wednesday is a reminder to Christians of their need for Jesus’ saving grace. “Ashes to ashes” means “We come from dust; we return to dust” without the power of God to save us. The term “Ashes to ashes” comes from the 1661 version Book of Common Prayer and used is used even now for funeral services. The origin of the term comes from Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and dust you shall return.” Realizing that we are only ashes and dust is only half of the story of Ash Wednesday. The other half is realizing “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers we are dust” [Psalm 103:13]. Ash Wednesday helps to refocus on who we are, who God is and how much Jesus has done for us.

“For our sakes [God the Father] made [God the Son, Jesus] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God” [II Corinthians 5:21].

lent

During the Forty Days of Lent, Christians take time to reflect on Jesus’ time on earth, His death on the cross, His Resurrection and His Second Coming. One of the first things He did was spend time, before starting His ministry, in the desert fasting and praying and He was tempted by the devil [Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13] for forty days. In the Gospel accounts, believers find Jesus using Scripture to fight off temptation. Jesus does not succumb to wanting to satisfy Himself with food or riches or greatness or the temptation to go ahead of God and question His authority . Jesus was able to do what no one else could never do and that’s why Christians have hope: “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted [Hebrews 2:18].

lent 2

During Ash Wednesday and throughout the Forty Days of Lent, Christians everywhere practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting, seeking forgiveness and forgiving, spending time in solitude and Bible reading, giving of their time and money to serve others. Christians do these things, not to gain salvation, but to realize what a great salvation they have already been given through Christ the Lord. As they renew their “spiritual memory” by refocusing on these disciplines, believers grow into a closer relationship with God and joyfully anticipate celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection and look forward to His glorious Second Coming, when they will receive their PRIZE. Let Christians everywhere be encouraged on Ash Wednesday to find peace, bear fruit in their lives, be thankful and to “…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14].

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” [Hebrews 13:20-21].

Have a Blessed Ash Wednesday!
And
GO SOX!

‘Nuf sed” for now.

Lydia photo

Lydia

The Dumbest Stuff I Have Ever Heard – Or So I Thought

choclate chip cookies

One of the reasons I haven’t written a blog post until now is that I’ve been doing important research. It all started when I saw a commercial on TV and thought it was the dumbest idea ever. The commercial was about a certain type of cookie. No doubt, most Americans would say that homemade chocolate chip cookies are their number one favorite [including me]. However, when it comes to store-bought cookies and childhood memories OREO cookies would be listed as number one in the hearts and stomachs of children and adults since 1912. During my childhood there was only one kind of Oreo Cookie: “MILK’S FAVORITE COOKIE.”

Oreo CookiesIn the 21st Century there are now dozens of Oreo flavors, from banana to peanut butter. There are also seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin. I tasted my share and liked most of them. I also enjoyed the size changes – the Double Stuf Oreos and the MEGA STUF even more. But, NABISCO just went too far in challenging my acceptance to change when it introduce the newest Oreo cookies. I was dumb-founded when I watched the TV commercial about “NEW! OREO THINSTHE THIN AND CRISPY SANDWICH COOKIES.” What is the world coming to? How could anyone twist them open? Even if you could, would it worth it? How would the OREO THINS stand up in milk? Would they crumble and disintegrate? Making OREO THINS by taking away most of the creamy inside and slimming down the chocolate cookies on both sides was absolutely ludicrous. More than being absurd, “OREO THINS” was an oxymoron, as far as I was concerned!

Lyd and Cookies 1

 

In order not to become a crass and crumby cookie critic, I needed more information before pronouncing judgment. I needed to do my own research before making a decision on OREO THINS. What better way to find out the truth than doing a taste test to see if OREO THINS held up to the OREO name. For the span of two + weeks I taste tested OREO THINS and OREO MEGA STUF side by side, with milk of course. Before even taking one bite, reading the packages made me favor the MEGA STUF [13.2 oz] over the OREO THINS [10.1 oz]. However, I knew MORE was not always better, so I continued with the tasting. Surprisingly enough, even though the MEGA STUFF OREOS are my all-time favorite [with all that creamy stuff inside], the OREO THINS were not so bad. Despite the small amount of creamy stuff in between two skinny chocolate wafers, I could still taste the creamy stuf. There was just enough of the stuf and wafers to taste like an OREO COOKIE. The OREO THINS also stood up to milk. I didn’t try twisting the thin sandwich cookie open. I never could twist any cookie open because of my cerebral palsy, but I’m sure it can be done.

MEGA STUF OREOSOREO THINS

Besides enjoying eating OREO COOKIES for more than two weeks, I learned a valuable lesson. I should not make hasty judgments without knowing what I’m talking about. I must admit that writing about OREO COOKIES was fun using my tongue-in-cheek “Lydia Humor.” This leads me to a more important topic. Judging people without knowing them is much more serious than deciding what cookies to buy. Hearing people who call themselves “Christians” pronounce hateful judgments on all people who call themselves “Muslim” is extremely disturbing and unconscionable. Some Christians and others on the far right [politically] paint with broad strokes and judge all people who are Muslims to be radical extremists who belong to ISIS and want to kill innocent men, women and children with homemade bombs. This way of thinking is totally ignorant and downright stupid and frightening.

Muslim and Nun

Nowadays I cringe when someone says “Evangelical Christian” because most people equate that title with those who are narrow-minded and judgmental, arrogant and abusive, angry and intolerant. This is very sad and very wrong, yet very true of some “Evangelical Christian” groups. This is not how God wants His people to be. Instead of being narrow-minded and judgmental, I want to be well-rounded and respectful. Instead of being arrogant and abusive, I want to be humble and kindhearted. Instead of being angry and intolerant, I want to read and learn about different people groups and have others teach me about things I know very little about. How beautiful it would be to engage in conversation by asking a person who is Muslim to tell me about Islam and the Quran. My interest in that person may cause that person to ask me about my beliefs. Even though the person may not ask me questions, at least the person who is Muslim has met a Christian [me] who is not a radical extremist filled with hate. At least, I will hopefully leave a MEGA TASTE of God’s goodness and love with the person.

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” [Psalm 34:8].

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” [Micah 6:8].

“By this all men will know that you are My [Jesus’] disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:8].

“You shall treat the stranger [[foreigner] who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself…” [Leviticus 19:34].

“…You shall love your neighbor as yourself…” [Mark 12:31].

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be put in your lap” [Luke 6:37-38]. [These verses remind me of MEGA STUF OREOS AND MILK!]

[Also see First (not one) Corinthians 13.]

Another reason that I have waited until now to send a post is I need to take my time and make sure there are no typos and mistakes. In my last post, “Auntie Got Tongue Lashed by a Reindeer”, I found many mistakes after I sent it out. I ended up making corrections and some additions and re-blogging it. You may want to read the edited version. I worked on this recent blog post all week and read it over at least a dozen times. I hope it has less mistakes than the last one. If not, I hope you will still understand the important message I’m trying to convey. Thanks for reading my blog posts.

cookie monster

                          Lydia