February Blog Series - The Heart Loves

Monday, January 31, 2011

I am looking forward to writing the February series.  The title will be, "The Heart Loves."  There are 25 (+) scripture verses that include both of those words and it is going to be fun and challenging to see what God has to say as I explore them. 

Since it is February and I will be writing about Love, to fill out the month, there are a few New Testament passages that can't be ignored.  They don't necessarily incorporate both words, but leap off the pages of my Bible when I consider God's incredible gift of love.

Have you ever thought about how amazing that gift is?  We love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19).  Imagine how different the world would be if He had not planned to give us the power to love.  If love had been eliminated at the beginning of creation, the world would be a very different place. 

I will be posting each day during the month of February and would love to have you join me.  If you would like a daily email with the post, let me know and I will get you on the email list.

January 31 - All Things New

January 31 – All Things New

“And the one who was seated on the throne, said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’  Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Revelation 21:5)

The prophecies from Isaiah are finally at their completion.  “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NRSV)

Paul tells the Corinthians, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away: see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I get excited when I find a great new book series … I know that I will be entertained in the author’s world for quite some time.  I love discovering a new television series; I am fully engaged when a film maker comes up with an extraordinary new way of looking at things.  I am entranced with science fiction because I love seeing the ways that authors expand how we see reality. 

Those things pale when set beside the creative power of God.  We can only begin to imagine the depth of intricacy found in His creation.  Yet we take it for granted, great minds reason away the mystery and enormity of it.

Each branch of science and philosophy attempts to understand creation from its own perspective, yet it is God who understands creation completely … from every perspective.  The glory of this creation is that it is also God who has given us curious minds to search out that understanding and has placed His creation into our hands so that we will come to understand it. 

We worry that mankind is attempting to be God, to create life, to transform creation to suit our own needs. We worry about these things as if God isn’t fully aware and has not set His creation into motion.

God is God.  Change will happen, transformation will occur.  Humanity will continue to understand more and more of His creation and will constantly look towards taking on the role of Creator.  We needn’t worry.  God is still God.  He is still above creation and in complete control of all things in the universe.  All things.

And when He is ready … He will make all things new.

January 30 - New Heaven and New Earth

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 30 – New Heaven and New Earth

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:1-2)

In many ways it is easy to see God as the Creator of all things.  We recognizes that He constantly renews creation by bringing spring after the winter, by sending rain to water the earth, by settle the cycles of the seasons into place, by causing the earth to move so that we have day and night – heat and cool.  This is easy for us to accept.  He creates new life with each new birth … of children, of animals, plants and trees.  We honor Him for this continuing renewal of His creation.

After the flood in Genesis, God promised that He would never again destroy mankind that way and sealed the promise with the sign of the rainbow – and He hasn’t.  Through all of the mess we have made of life on earth, God has never wrought complete destruction on His creation.

However, that time is limited.  The Revelation points to a time when God will rain down destruction like we have never seen.  All of creation will face this destruction because of sin.

The glorious thing about that destruction is that at the end of it, God will create anew.  We will get the chance to experience the freshness and excitement of a new creation. 

Over and over we see that God offers to those who love Him incredible gifts.  The gift of a fresh, new creation – the new heaven, the new earth … a new Jerusalem (which represents the home of the King of all Creation) – these are beyond our imagination, yet they will be set before us as our home for eternity.

God wants us to live with Him and He brings before His bride the gift of a fresh, new home.  Sin won’t exist there, tears and sorrow will be gone, death will have no power.

January 29 - New Song

Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 29 – New Song

“They sing a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;’” (Revelation 5:9)

“…and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders.  No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have
been redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3)

The new song that is sung in heaven before the throne of God celebrates a victory that has not yet been won.  In Revelation 5, we see that the new song is sung by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, celebrating the Lamb who is worthy to take the scroll.

The victory has been won.  Christ conquered death and sin, purchasing redemption for mankind through his blood on the cross. Everything about the new song speaks to the victory that He won in the past … through His past actions.

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open it seals …

…because you were slain and with your blood you
…purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
…You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.” (Revelation 5:9b-10a)

He brought victory to God’s kingdom on earth through His actions.

The 144,000 who were able to learn the new song in Revelation 14 had also won an incredible victory over themselves.  They kept themselves pure, did not defile themselves with women.  They are the first fruits offered to God and the Lamb.  No lie was found in their mouths and they are blameless (Revelation 14:4-5).

Through their victory and the fact that they offer themselves as first fruits of the harvest – the harvest will be approved. 

We may or may not sing that new song – but we will hear it and we will know it when the time is right.  Jesus’ victory over all things is guaranteed.  Through Him we will know this victory, we will hear the new song and we will stand in the New Heaven and the New Earth with Him.

January 28 - New Name

Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28 – New Name

“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17)

What is this name that is given?  The next time this is mentioned is in the next chapter – Revelation 3:12, “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.”

A change in name generally means that there is a change in the character, conduct or the status of an individual.  In Isaiah 62:2 – the restored Israel is told “you shall be called by a new name.”  In John 1:42, Jesus says, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas.”  He gave him a new name.

When Jesus comes again to reign – everything will be changed.  Our names will identify us with Jesus Christ.  We will no longer be part of this world, but be wholly part of the new Jerusalem, with the name of God, with the name of Jesus Christ.  We will be His alone – and will have no need to associate with anything that is of this world today.

January 27 - New Commandment

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January 27 – New Commandment

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

John is a perfect example of the transformative power of Jesus’ love.  His original meeting with Jesus occurred with his brother, James as they were mending their nets (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19).  In Luke 5:10, he is mentioned as being a partner with Simon in the fishermen.

However, the imagery of John in the Gospels is one of ambition (Mark 10:35-45) and surprisingly – violence (Luke 9:51-56).  Jesus called John and James the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) and had to deal with his intolerance in Mark 9:39-40 when John stopped someone from doing miracles in Jesus’ name.

So, how does the man that is portrayed as ambitious, violent and intolerant become the man that taught so much about love?  The only answer is that Jesus Christ transforms personalities when in His presence.

John is active in the book of Acts, but never says anything and is always found with Peter.  He is there when the lame man is healed (Acts 3:1-10), he was imprisoned with Peter (Acts 4:1-22), he went to Samaria with Peter (Acts 8:14), but never speaks.  Paul calls him a pillar of the church in Galatians 2:9 and that is the last we hear of him from outside sources.

This man is completely and totally transformed.  Jesus took the power that was behind his ambition and violence and molded it into power that would be used to teach love.  John’s letters are filled with love and though the Revelation seems to be filled with all of the awfulness of the end of the world, it is also filled with presence of Jesus and His love for His children.

John is one of those amazing examples of how Jesus can transform a person’s behavior from the inside out.  John’s basic personality remained the same, but the application of that was molded into a loving expression of the life of Jesus to the world.

January 26 - New Birth

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 26 – New Birth

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

It wasn’t too long after Jesus began His ministry and had called His disciples together that He was approached by a man from the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus.  Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus about the incredible relationship that He had with God.  The miracles that were being performed could only happen if God were with Jesus.

Jesus’ response to Nicodemus was, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

Their interchange in the next few verses helped to explain what Jesus meant – being born of both water (naturally) and the Spirit (spiritually) was necessary to be a part of God’s kingdom.  Nicodemus still had trouble understanding what Jesus meant and Jesus’ words were a little harsh.

You are Israel’s teacher, and you do not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  I have spoken to you of earthy things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:10-12)

We don’t know whether Peter was there to witness this exchange, but I’m certain that he would have heard about it and now, in this letter, he explains a little bit more about this new birth.

Jesus’ gave us a chance at being born again – being born anew – through His death and resurrection.  This new birth offers us everything that we could imagine and brings us into not only God’s kingdom on earth, but the everlasting kingdom.  This is a promise to those who choose to see beyond the earthly realm into the heavenly realm and who choose to believe.

Peter tells us that this new birth brings us an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade and that though we have to face trials right now, we are being refined.  And finally, he reminds us that we are “receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.” (1 Peter 1:9) 

January 25 - New and Living Way

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25 – New and Living Way

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith …” (Hebrews 10:19-22a)

I have to tell you. Sometimes reading scripture and having a little bit of information is exciting.

The word ‘new’ in this passage is translated from the Greek word, “prosthatos.”  This is the only time it is used in the New Testament and its meaning is powerful.  In essence, Paul is telling them that the way Jesus opened to God by His blood had never existed before. 

There are actually 57 uses of the word ‘new’ in the New Testament and the largest percentage of them are translated from the Greek word, “kainos” which might mean ‘unknown, strange, having been in existence for a short time; unused.’  Another well-used word is ‘neos’ which might mean ‘being superior to what went before; being young; a novice.” 

But, Paul wanted his readers to understand that Jesus Christ created an entirely new path to the Holy Place – to God with the blood that He shed on the cross.  It had never, ever existed before.

I am old enough to remember the early days of the Interstate system.  It was such an astounding way for us to move across the country quickly, bypassing small towns and allowing travel to happen so much easier.  But it didn’t take long for us to become accustomed to the Interstates and expect them to be there so that we could have an easy life.  Today – just 55 years after Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act, we take it for granted.

Do we do the same thing with this incredible gift that Jesus Christ gave to us?  He opened a new and a living way to the Most Holy Place.  It exists within our own hearts.  We don’t have to rely on a human high priest to enter once a year and place petitions before God, we have access to God ourselves.

This new and living way exists within our hearts.  Christ forged the path for us.  We should be thankful that we can come before the Most Holy God on our own with Him as our Great High Priest.

January 24 - New Covenant

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24 – New Covenant

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (Jeremiah 31:31)

The passage in Jeremiah 31:30-35 is filled with what we now recognize as prophecy regarding the coming of God’s Son – Jesus Christ.  The words from this verse were made perfect in Jesus and fulfilled in Luke 22:20 when He is at the Last Supper with His disciples.  “And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”

We find the direct allusion to the Old Covenant from Exodus 24:8, “Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.’” He confirmed, along with the people of Israel, the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 17:1-27.  God would make them a populous people.  As a sign that they were a covenant people, they needed to be circumcised to show to Whom they belonged.  What was their responsibility within the covenant words?  Genesis 17:1b, “…the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty (El-Shaddai); walk before me and be blameless.”

By the time Jeremiah came into the picture the people of Israel had long since broken the covenant many times over.  However, since a covenant is very different from a contract, just because one side broke it, did not mean that it wasn’t still in effect.  As long as God kept up His side of the covenant – it still existed.

In Exodus, the covenant was confirmed in blood.  The New Covenant that comes from Jeremiah reads, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sin no more.”

The day of the New Covenant was coming and Israel was told that things would be quite different in the relationship God had with His people and with the world.  It was made perfect in Jesus Christ.

Paul quotes from Jeremiah, saying that God found fault with the people and delivered this message.  Then he says, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)

The New Covenant is not only for the Israelites, but for all people.  God will be our God and we will be His people.

When we get to the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, we see the complete fulfillment, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

The Covenant is perfectly fulfilled.

January 23 - New Man

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 23 – New Man

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:15)

Paul has been writing to the Ephesians regarding the divide between the uncircumcised and the circumcised … the Gentiles and the Jews.

It seems so obvious when we read Paul’s words that the coming of Jesus Christ was to bring unity, but two thousand years later we are still so far away from being that one new mankind … humanity.  We are no more unified than we were in those few years after His crucifixion.  We have great gaping divides between us and allow them to separate us in so many ways – from personal to ideological divides.

Jesus destroyed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles, yet we find new ways to restore it – not just along religious paths, but any other that we can conceive.  He is still able to destroy those barriers, but we have to be committed to their destruction as well.

This is a glorious passage in Ephesians.  Paul talks about how we are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.  It seems so easy for us to talk about this on Sunday mornings among people with whom we are familiar, but when it comes to real life applications, we celebrate the borders and the divisions, insulating ourselves from the world in as many ways as possible.

When Christ returns, He will find one way or another to break those divisions and borders to pieces.  It may come forcibly and in ways that we will not appreciate.

Ephesians 2:21 says, “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”

When all nations and all peoples finally come together we will see that glorious temple, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22)

Jesus came to bring the kingdom of heaven to fruition on earth.  We have decimated it in as many ways as we can.  I want to be part of that kingdom of heaven while I live here on earth.  He’s taught us how to do it.  If we have to wait until He returns to bring it about, it is our peace and relationship with Him that is made more difficult while we are yet alive.

January 22 - New Creation

Friday, January 21, 2011

January 22 – New Creation

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Sometimes life is too weird for words.  God interjects Himself into our little worlds with moments that remind us how close He is to us … even when we feel so far away.

Yesterday morning I was talking to one of my mother’s closest friends. As we talked about the transformation that occurred in her life when we lived in Sigourney, she was asking about the Greek word for repentance – metanoia.  We processed through some of the different Greek words that are translated as repentance, we talked about the word itself and as we did, she kept talking about the radical change that had happened in her life.  Jesus came in and transformed her completely.  The change He wrought in her was nothing short of miraculous and she knows that had all of that had not happened one Sunday morning at the altar, she would have no family and no friends because she was well on her way to alienating everything that meant anything to her.

I remember seeing a woman walk into church that morning – her face painted as brightly with garish lipstick and eye color that hid any beauty.  Her clothing was wild and strange and she didn’t fit in with those nice Methodist church-going folk.  But, Dad offered a chance to come to the altar and allow Jesus to come in – and something thrust her forward.

The next time I saw her, I didn’t know who she was … gone was the hardened face and eyes that had held pain and anger, gone was the desperate need to be bigger than reality.  What was left was a beautiful woman holding on to the love of Jesus.

As I talked with her yesterday, she still remembers that it was my parents who discipled her along those early years – Dad wasn’t easy on her and mom simply loved her and grew to need her in her own life.

But, then in the background, as we talked about verses relating to repentance, her husband simply said, “1 Corinthians 5:17.”  We both had our Bibles in hand and flipped to that verse, reading it aloud.  All she could do was say to me, “That’s who I am … every day because of Jesus Christ.  I am a new creation.  Everything became new.”

I hadn’t looked at the verse I had scheduled to write for today.  I process on the calendar before the month begins and then I write each day as the Spirit leads.  Today He led me to my friend and popped this little verse in tonight to remind me of its great importance.

Christ has made all things new.  The old has passed away.  Everything becomes new in Him.  That is a joy beyond words.

January 21 - New Bread

January 21 – New Bread

“Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)

I love baking bread and one of the things that I don’t do well yet is maintaining a long-term yeast or even a sourdough that will flavor and help my bread to rise.  Some San Francisco sourdoughs have existed for decades and create incredible breads.  I can’t do that.  Someday I’ll figure it out, but not right now.

Yeast was a treasure for bakers.  It was nourished and fed every day so that they could make bread that would rise well.  It doesn’t take much yeast to transform an entire batch of dough.

Paul calls on us to toss out the old and no longer rely on it, but to become who we are at the very base of ourselves.  Then, he reminds them of their history – the day when God told the people of Israel to bake their bread in a hurry – to not use yeast because they didn’t have time to wait for it to rise.  The lamb’s blood had just been painted on their doorways so to escape the angel of death and they were ready to leave Egypt.

Jesus Christ is the sacrificed lamb.  His blood bought our escape from death.

In 1 Corinthians 5:8, Paul says that the old yeast is that of “malice and wickedness.” Bread without yeast is the bread of sincerity and truth.

Yeast can live forever and a little bit can permeate a lot of dough.  That yeast of malice and wickedness doesn’t take much to turn a person or even an entire group of people into people that no longer live in sincerity and truth.

Get rid of the old yeast … we really don’t have time in this short life to allow it to permeate our lives.  Live like the ancient Israelites did during their escape from Egypt.  Be prepared and ready to move at all times. 

January 20 - New Life

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 20 – New Life

“But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” (Romans 7:6)

What are things that hold you captive and keep you from being the person God calls you to be?  What things enslave you and stop you from growing and transforming each day into His emissary here on earth?  What stops you from finding your place within God’s will every moment of every day?

It’s funny … I’ve been thinking about this a lot this last week for some reason.  And my answer is to all of those questions is … fear.  Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of perceptions, fear of anger, fear of scorn, fear of judgment, fear of loss, fear of losing, the list becomes incredible when I stop to think about it.  Consequently, I try not to think about it too often and I try to move forward without allowing fear to rule me.

FDR said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself … Jesus tells us that perfect love casts out all fear.

FDR is absolutely right – and the only perfect love I have ever experienced is that from Jesus Christ, and to be honest – I’m definitely not afraid of His judgment or His criticism, His scorn or failing in front of Him.  He’s the only one I can be absolutely myself with. 

But I have a problem moving my fears away from the immediacy of my surroundings and the people that I encounter regularly to Jesus.

The people in Paul’s time had a problem with this as well.  They were so accustomed to living under the Law … they couldn’t bring themselves to realize the freedom that came from walking in Jesus’ will.

We are so accustomed to living with each other that we don’t know what it is like to actually live a life free from the baggage that traipses along on its own behind us.

To be honest, I don’t know how this is supposed to work.  I can come up with the standard platitudes and happy stories that will tell you how it is supposed to work, but in reality, you know that each day we look for proof that Jesus’ love outweighs our questions and our fears.

What I do know is that every day I look for that proof, I find it.  Every day I am honest with Him about my fears, He doesn’t negate them or ridicule me, He simply loves me.  Every day I open my heart to Him, Jesus shares His heart with me.

This is the new life that He offers us, this is the freedom from fear that He brings to us. 

January 19 - New Teaching

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19 – New Teaching

Mark 1:27 “They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching – with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’”

In Mark 1:22, we read “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

Jesus came to the people of Israel with authority that they had never seen before.  He came to proclaim that the Kingdom of God had come.  He spoke with the authority that only comes from the Father and He taught the Israelites that God’s law had been corrupted through the centuries – that the spirit of the Law was being destroyed by the way they had interpreted the letter of the Law.

We take much of Jesus’ teaching for granted today.  We are used to the words and this teaching has been incorporated into our lives to the point that is ingrained in nearly everything we do and say, but to the people living in first century Judea, He startled them out of their complacency with the things He taught to them.

The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, was filled with statements that contradicted all that they knew.  We see over and over the words, “You have heard it said ….” Followed by, “but I say to you” in that passage.  Jesus was re-ordering their thinking about the way they perceived the Law.

In Matthew 5:17, just as He begins teaching, He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

His teaching was new because it brought hope in the darkness, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

Jesus astounded the people of Jerusalem and surrounding areas with His teaching.  And even later, this new teaching continued to astound people.

In Athens, among incredibly learned men, Paul astounded them with the Gospel of Jesus and the resurrection.  “Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears and we want to know what they mean.’” (Acts 17:19-20)

Jesus’ teaching continues to astound us today.  These ‘new’ ideas still have the power to change our lives and the world around us. 

January 18 - New Tomb

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 18 – New Tomb

“Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.  He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.” (Matthew 27:60)

Joseph honored Jesus with this type of burial.  The Jews believed that having been crucified as a criminal, Jesus was cursed by God.  However, he was buried in a fresh tomb owned by a rich man – this would have been a burial that honored Jesus Christ.  Tombs cut out of rock were expensive and the same passage found in John also emphasizes that this was a new tomb (John 19:41), probably prepared by Joseph for a close relative who was either quite old or close to death.

Jesus was not left on the cross which was common to the Romans because Joseph of Arimathea requested his body.  He was also not buried in a common grave with the other criminals. The fact that this is a new tomb is also important to the story in that there was no other body (or bodies) in the tomb and thus no confusion over who was no longer then when Jesus returned from death.

We know a little about death in these tombs from bits and pieces.  The women came with burial spices for the body, but the story of Lazarus’ death found in John 11 tells us that everyone was prepared for a bad odor to come out of the tomb when Jesus ordered the stone to be rolled away.  I personally love the King James wording, “Lord, by this time he stinketh!” (John 11:39)

Not only did the tomb of Lazarus not stink, but he walked out of that tomb after four days, alive and healthy.  Jesus Christ offered proof of resurrection, but that proof was soon forgotten by those who loved him.  They were focused on the pain of their sorrow and could not imagine that a great miracle would possibly happen.

Matthew 27:61 paints a picture of their despair, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there across from the tomb.”

They watched Joseph lay the body of Jesus in that tomb, they watched him roll a stone over the front of it to secure the tomb and they just sat there.   This moment of despair would be transformed when they returned after the Sabbath and discovered the angel who gave them the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

The best news about this story is that whether the tomb was old or new, it was not enough to hold Jesus Christ.  He left the tomb, He left death behind.  It is this resurrected life that He offers to each of us.

January 17 - New vs. Old

Monday, January 17, 2011

January 17 – New vs. Old

“He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old.” (Luke 5:36)

This is part of the passage in which Jesus also talks about putting new wine into old wineskins.  He points out that the ‘new’ must be given its own space to do its thing.  The Pharisees had been poking and poking at him, complaining about the new way of doing things that he encouraged – especially with his own disciples.  They didn’t particularly approve of the fact that he chose to eat with Matthew – a tax collector and obviously a sinner.  They didn’t approve of the fact that his disciples were living their lives – eating and drinking, while John’s disciples fasted.  They just plain didn’t approve. 

With their vocal disapproval, Jesus told a parable or two, to emphasize that they weren’t very flexible when it came to new things.  The old is fine – as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the new.  And no one should expect that the new can patch up the old … the patch will tear away and both will be destroyed.

I drove into a small community the other day and was struck by the changes that have occurred there.  Ten years or so ago, Max and I spent time in this little town as it was just on the cusp of thriving.  A group of people had attempted to turn the town into an artist’s community and brought in many different types of artisans who opened up the shops along the main street, filling them with activity.

But, the community wasn’t really ready to do much more than simply exist, so there wasn’t much support.  Year by year, the artisans moved on, the shops were boarded up again and the downtown area died one more time.  Now, there is a desperate desire to ‘renew’ the community, but the people who want to do it are more intent on holding on to their power and the structure that they’re comfortable with, so what is left is a small grocery store, a little cafĂ©, a couple of antique / thrift shops and a whole lot of empty buildings.

The old prevailed, the new moved on and the community will probably never make anything more of itself than what it is right now.

Jesus came to change all of that for His people.  He came to release the Jews from the stranglehold that the ‘old’ had on them.  The thing of it is – they really didn’t want anything to do with that.  They wanted everything to stay just as it always had.  They complained about the way things were, but they didn’t want the new to transform them … so, it didn’t. 

They were to be a light to the world, bringing transformation, but they couldn’t move past their own small-minded selves.  Jesus death on the cross brought the transformation that God wanted for the world … to the world.  It was no longer just for the Jews … the old.  It was for everyone … it moved from the old to the new.

January 16 - New Tongues

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16 – New Tongues

Mark 16:9-20 is not found in two of the more reliable manuscripts, but it certainly is interesting.  Mark’s description of the Resurrection is relatively short and simple.  This longer ending adds a few more details to what we know of His time with the disciples.

In Mark 16:17-18, Jesus kind of sends out the twelve disciples with some interesting information:

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons, they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

What is absolutely fascinating about this passage is that it really does give credence to the things that we begin to see happening in the book of Acts after the Holy Spirit is poured out onto the people.

In Acts 2:4 and Acts 10:46, we do find people speaking in tongues.  In Acts 28:3-5, Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake, but he shakes it off and it doesn’t harm him.  In Acts 9:17 and Acts 28:8, we see that the laying on of hands does heal people.

New tongues, though are something we haven’t seen happening before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2 various tongues are used to bring together people from many nations … a chance to restore what had been destroyed at the Tower of Babel.

Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 14:2 that speaking in a tongue or another language is not about speaking to other people, but is about speaking to God.  “Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” (1 Cor. 14:2b)

This is a gift of the Holy Spirit, along with wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, distinguishing between spirits, and interpretation of tongues (1 Cor. 12:8-11).  It isn’t necessarily a requirement, Paul makes it very clear that these are manifestations that will be made to different people within a body of the church in order that the entire body works together to bring about the kingdom of heaven.

January 15 - Nothing New

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15 – Nothing New

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 – What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”?  It has already been, in the ages before us.

This is kind of a difficult concept, especially in the midst of a series in which the emphasis is on a creative God.

But, the writer of Ecclesiastes wanted to emphasize just that.  God created an earth that was cyclical.  As you look back on the previous verses, you see that he says

Generations come and go, but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and sets and starts all over again.
The wind blows to the south and to the north, ever returning to its course.
The streams flow to the sea, yet the sea never fills.

What has been will be again … what has been done will be done again.

This is the glory of the creation that God set into place.

These words don’t deny the fact that God can do new things or that there will be inventions and discoveries … but, God has set everything into motion and nothing that mankind can come up with will change that.

We work every day – and it doesn’t change any of those things.  In fact, as the generations come and go, they will forget history and start all over… repeating the joys and pains of their history.

While I might begin to read these words in Ecclesiastes as words of despair, as I re-read them and come to an understanding, it becomes much more comforting to me.  God set His creation in motion and He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He will not waver, He will not change.

The new things that come about do so within the ordered creation that He has fully under His charge.

There is nothing new … nothing that will disrupt God’s creation.  He brings any new thing into existence within the context of His original work at the beginning of time.  We are safe when we are within His will.

January 14 - New in Heaven

Friday, January 14, 2011

January 14 – New in Heaven

“I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25)

While this moment marks the last time Jesus is able to share a meal with his disciples before the crucifixion, He points them towards heaven and the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

When I was a kid, I really didn’t find much to like about communion on Sunday mornings.  Once a month we would be stuck in a longer church service, singing song after song while everyone paraded to the front.  In Dad’s church, the communion cups and bread were already at the altar rails (they were pretty cool altar rails) and people could take their time in prayer. Looking back, it was an extraordinary time, but during those moments when I sat in the back of church with all my friends – we couldn’t talk and chatter or do anything but sing hymns until it was our turn to go down front – I was bored out of my mind.

Believe it or not, church attendance actually dropped on communion Sundays because of any number of reasons … I was always there.  Even after I committed my life to Jesus, I couldn’t get into the passion of the moment.  There I was … up front … wondering what my backside looked like, who was staring at me … wishing I would get up already so that the morning could progress.  Nope, I couldn’t just relax and go with the moment.

I could go on and on and continue to list reasons why I have a hard time concentrating during communion.  For a girl that keeps her eyes on everything, that’s way too much activity on a Sunday morning for me to settle down.  I have a lot of entertaining communion stories … I’ll save them for another day.

The Lord’s Supper was something quite different for the twelve disciples and Jesus.  They were together as a family, sharing an intimate moment.  It may not have been a glorious, rousing feast, but this was a banquet where they were offered a matchless gift.  The wine … the blood of the new covenant shed for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind. 

Jesus knew that the next day His blood would be poured out and the next time He would share in this meal with the twelve disciples and all who follow Him would be at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. 

January 13 - New Convert

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13 – New Convert

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

Matthew 23 tells of seven woes.  Six of them specifically call out the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites and one of the simply calls out the ‘blind guides.’  Jesus is pretty angry with the scribes (teachers of the law in the NIV) and the Pharisees.  They sit in judgment on the world around them, but are completely blind to the needs of the people.  In Matthew 23:5, Jesus blatantly tells them that they are doing things only for show – simply so that others will look at them.  They have showy prayer shawls, sit in the honored places at banquets and most important seats in the synagogue, they are thrilled to have people recognize them in the marketplace and be called “Rabbi.”

It’s easy to look down our noses at these very obvious arrogant sinners and sometimes it is easier to do that than it is to look at ourselves and wonder if we are any better than they were.

Matthew 23:13-14 tells us that they shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.  Matthew 23:15 tells us that they corrupt new converts.  We find in Matthew 23:16-22 that money is more important than the house of God, they have twisted everything around.  In Matthew 23:23-24, the tithe to the temple is more important than justice, mercy and faithfulness and in Matthew 23:25-26, they are more concerned with how things look on the outside than they are with how things really are on in the inside.  Perception equals reality.  Matthew 23:27-28 continues in that same vein – whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside, but dead on the inside.  Matthew 23:29-32 accuses them of decorating the graves of the righteous, saying that they would not have killed the prophets as others did long ago, but Jesus knows better … they have already allowed John the Baptist to be killed and are plotting His death.

These woes should challenge each of us to review our own interaction with ourselves and the world.  It is so easy to allow bits and pieces of Pharisaical behavior into our interactions with people around us, justifying it with our good intentions.  But, like them, it is easier to become a brood of vipers than to offer justice, mercy and faithfulness.

January 12 - New Treasure

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 12 – New Treasure

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matthew 13:52)

The entirety of Matthew 13 is made up of parables and in some cases – explanations.  Jesus began by teaching the crowd in parables and by Matthew 13:36, had moved inside a house to finish the conversation with only His disciples.

If you look at each parable, you will find that He is trying to teach the people – including His disciples – about the Kingdom of Heaven.

The parable of the sower begins the chapter and He explains it in Matthew 13:18-23.  The kingdom is the seed that is sown.  Those who hear it and don’t understand it, when the evil one comes, he snatches it away – the seed sown along a path.  The seed sown on rocky soil doesn’t grow roots and will only last until persecution comes, so the person falls away.  Seed sown among thorns is the man who hears about the kingdom of God, but deceitfulness of wealth chokes it away.  Seed sown on good soil is shown in the man who yields crops – in other words teaches others so that the word grows and grows.

Then He tells the parable stating the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed seeds in a field, but the enemy came along and sowed weeds in the same field while everyone slept.  The weeds will be harvested first and burned, then the wheat gathered into the barn.

He tells two more parables to the crowd – those of the mustard seed and yeast – comparing them to the kingdom of heaven.

With the disciples, he explains the parables of the weeds then tells how a hidden treasure in a field and the pearl of great price are like the kingdom of heaven.  Finally He tells another apocalyptic parable – that of the net.  The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the lake.  It catches all sorts of fish.  The bad were thrown away and the good were gathered into baskets.

Jesus ends by asking the disciples if they understand everything He has told them.  They respond by saying ‘yes,’ but you wonder if they really do understand it all.  Some of those concepts are difficult for us to grasp and they didn’t have years of scholars interpreting the parables.

It is important for them – and for us – to understand the concepts of the kingdom of heaven.  This brings us to the climax of this passage.  There are new treasures and old for teachers of the law … those of us who have had experience in knowing Jesus Christ … to bring out of the storeroom.  If we are going to share the kingdom of heaven with those around us, we need to know what these treasures are.

For the disciples – the old treasures were the Law – life the way they were used to living it.  The new treasures were those things which changed because Jesus Christ lived among them.  He wanted them to grasp the difference and be ready to share what it was that meant in each of their lives.

He wants the same thing for us.

January 11 - New Wine

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 11 – New Wine

“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)

I’ve always preferred restoring old things to purchasing new.  I remember a friend many years ago who was always changing out her furniture. She and I were close friends and lived in the same community for about five years, but in those five years she purchased three different living room sets. 

At the same time, I was taking antique pieces in to have them stripped and refinished.  I couldn’t imagine simply getting rid of them because I was tired of the way things looked in my house.

When I think about all of the ‘stuff’ that I have managed to acquire over the years, it really isn’t about the fact that I’ve purchased a bunch of new stuff, it has more to do with the fact that I have somehow saved things from my grandparents homes and as it ended up, two separate households from my parents, as well as my husband’s family and things that he and I managed to acquire before we got married.  A lot of old stuff – and because these things hold memories, I keep using the old and do my best not to replace them with a lot of new.

Jesus, however, came into the world to bring new life and what was happening was that people were trying to layer His teachings over their old lives.  It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now.  He came to make all things new.  He doesn’t want us to go out and get new lives, but He does want us to allow Him to completely make our lives over so that when He fills us, we don’t bust apart.

A lot of us try to make Jesus fit into our traditions, into our church traditions, into our family traditions.  We try to make Him fit into what we are comfortable with, thinking that He is going to do things that seem safe and normal to us.

The reality of Jesus is that He will make our lives new … completely new, so that when He fills us up and asks us to pour ourselves out, we can do so without falling apart.  That old wineskin will burst if He were to allow us to fill it with fresh, new wine.  Only by allowing Him to lead us into change – into a new life – can we be filled to overflowing with His love.

January 10 - New Heart and a New Spirit

Monday, January 10, 2011

January 10 – New Heart and a New Spirit

“I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19)

“Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31)

“A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Hearts of stone – immobile, unresponsive to God.

Hearts of flesh – tender, yielding, responsive to the Lord God Almighty.

The people of Israel had moved so far from God that they no longer cared to live within His will.  They knew what it was He asked of them, but they completely refused to be in fellowship with Him and to abide by the law that He had set up so that fellowship could occur.

The only thing that would transform them would be something supernatural, something that could only come from God.

These words were written just before the exile to Babylon.  God was at His wits end with His people. 

That supernatural event, that thing that could only come from God to transform the hearts and spirits of humanity was the coming of Jesus and even then, it took His sacrifice on the cross to make any transformation possible.

We can be the recipients of this incredible gift – a heart that is made tender by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.  God is the one who did this for us.  We don’t have to work to receive the gift, we simply have to accept it.

A tender heart … filled with love.  Transformation made possible by the gift of Jesus Christ.

January 9 - New Gate

Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 9 – New Gate

There are two references in Jeremiah to the ‘New Gate.’  The first is in Jeremiah 26:10:

“When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord.”

The other reference is in Jeremiah 36:10, “Then in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the Lord, in the chamber of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord’s house.”

 This may or may not have been a recently constructed gate and to be honest, scholars really aren’t sure which wall this gate was located on.  These points of entry were constructed as structures containing rooms and were also courtrooms.  We see them used that way in Deuteronomy 21:19, Ruth 4:1-12; 2 Samuel 15:2; Amos 5:10-12.

In Jeremiah 26, the prophet has just spoken and when he was finished, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and called for his death (Jer. 26:8).  So, we find the Israelite officials leave the palace and come to take their places at the gate.  The priests and prophets once again declare that Jeremiah should die because he prophesied against the city of Jerusalem.

Once again, in Jeremiah 36, the prophet hears the word from the Lord and asks Baruch to write the words down on a scroll.  Jeremiah couldn’t leave because of restrictions placed on him, so he told Baruch to go to the people and read the words to the people.  He did so and the words terrified the officials of the city.

But, the people did not want to listen to the words of the prophecy and continued to punish Jeremiah.  We know, in hindsight, that the city of Jerusalem did fall and Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the palace.

“This is what they Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city through disaster, not prosperity.  At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes.” (Jeremiah 39:16)

The New Gate is only mentioned in the book of Jeremiah, but it was part of an incredible story of God’s fulfillment of prophecy.

January 8 - New Thing

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 8 – New Thing

“See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9)

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

In Isaiah 42, Isaiah prophesies about the coming of the Messiah.  In Isaiah 43, the Lord tells the Israelites that He will bring them out of Babylon. 

Can you forget the things of the past?  Can you set aside those things that have happened so that you are able to see the things that can come? It is nearly impossible, but God wants to do new and incredible things in our lives and sometimes, to make that happen, we have to let go of those old things that tie us to our past. 

In Isaiah 48:6, God says to the people of Israel, “From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you.”

He says this to them as He is concerned about their stubbornness.  He wants them to know that He is aware of all that they do and just so they don’t try to proclaim that idols or other gods do great things, He announces that He will do new things – things that the people don’t know and understand so they can’t claim ownership.

God is all about new creation.  With every birth, He brings new life to the earth.  His creation is constantly renewing itself. Every bit of creation is unique and when it comes into being – it is gloriously fresh and new.

He wants to do a new thing in our lives and in our world.

January 7 - New Song

Friday, January 7, 2011

January 7 – New Song

Ps 96:1, “O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.”

Ps 98:1, “O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.”

Ps 144:9, “I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you … “

Ps 149:1, “Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. “

The call to sing a new song in the Psalms generally has to do with praise to God following a victory.  Whenever God stood with the Israelites and helped bring them to victory, the celebration would require a new song of praise.

This new song comes not from us, but from Him:

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3)

There are so many things that we believe we have to do to make God happy.  We have to obey Him, we have to praise Him, we have to teach people about Him, we have to confess our sins, we have to repent, we have to … we have to … we have to.

The truth of the matter is that He really does all the work.  We try so hard to make our walk with Him all about the struggles we have to go through, the hard work of being a Christian, the things we have to give up.  But, God is the one who puts that new song in our mouths, He is the one that fights our battles for us.  God is the creative power behind everything that we are.

Like the Israelites who just could not believe that God would really fight their battles for them and insisted on stepping out on their own, we refuse to really believe that every single thing we do during the day can be handled by Him.

Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The victory has already been won … and if we pay attention, we don’t have to fight the battle.  Not only has God won the battles, but He places the new song in our hearts so that we can sing praise to Him … for He has done marvelous things!

January 6 - New Growth

Thursday, January 6, 2011

January 6 – New Growth

“May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth, like abundant rain on tender plants.” (Deuteronomy 32:2)

These words come from the beginning of the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy, which he recited just after he finished writing out the law. 

The last couple of years have been glorious for me as I’ve been able to watch crops get planted, grow, mature and then be harvested.  The cycles are awesome.  But, the most beautiful sight is in the spring when the new plants are just rising above the black dirt.  That new growth is filled with promise.

Do you remember putting seeds into dirt as a child and waiting for them to grow?  I suspect we put our little seeds into Styrofoam cups every spring in Sunday school.  I checked those things out every single day until I saw that first burst of green show.  I would check the dirt to ensure that it wasn’t dry and if it was, I learned to carefully give them enough water to help it grow – not too much to drown.  Then I could hardly wait for them to be strong enough to replant in the ground. 

Our hearts sometimes feel like dried up dirt – there isn’t enough moisture available to allow fresh new growth.  I have to tell you that the older I get, the more cynical I become.  I’ve experienced enough life to question everything.  However, the one area of my life that I continually allow to bring fresh renewal is in my scripture study.  God easily moves beyond my cynicism to sprinkle showers on me so that there can always be fresh new growth.  I can’t imagine how joy-less my life would be without His Spirit filling me.

He pours out His blessings … abundantly … and those bring new growth … even in our driest lives.

January 5 - New Life in Jerusalem

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January 5 – New Life in Jerusalem

“For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 9:9)

The Israelites had lived as slaves to the Babylonians, far from everything they knew and loved. 

Then one day, God answered their prayers and Cyrus, King of Persia, in his first year in power was moved to allow the Israelites return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

The Israelites felt as if they had been given renewed life … a new chance at freedom.  They had a new opportunity to live with God as their Holy King.  While we know it didn’t last forever, it did begin the period of time in which Jesus Christ came to earth.

These words can apply to our own lives as well.

We are slaves, but God has not forsaken us.  While we aren’t living under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, we do live in an alien world, under the reign of sin and death. 

God has extended His steadfast love for each of us through the King of Kings and Lord of Lords … Jesus Christ.  We have been given new life to set up the house – the Temple of God within ourselves. 

Jesus can help us repair our ruins and brings safety to our lives – wherever we may live.

He has given us new life.

January 4 - New Wineskins

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January 4 – New Wineskins

“For I am full of words and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.  I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.  I will show partiality to no one, nor will I flatter any man.”  (Job 32:18-21)

These words were spoken by Elihu, who was getting really angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. 

But, don’t you just feel like that sometimes!

There is so much that you want to say that you feel as if you are a new wineskin – ready to burst open.  And if you don’t say something, you will find no relief.

I was talking to my sister the other day about how you can tell when someone is only barely listening to what you are saying because they are so desperate to begin speaking.  It’s not necessarily a good habit and one that I spent years trying to beat out of myself, because I discovered I missed good portions of a conversation since I was concentrating so hard on my response.

I also discovered that what I had to say wasn’t really as important as the actual conversation. 

One of my favorite television personalities was Johnny Carson.  The man was a hilarious comic, but as soon as he was sitting beside a guest, his personality took a back seat and he simply positioned the conversation to make them look good and to entertain the audience.  He asked questions to draw them out and allowed them to relax in his presence.  He required nothing for himself … he was completely confident.

Elihu had plenty to say … in fact, his words fill the better portion of Chapters 32-37 of Job.  He had listened and listened and then let Job and his three friends have it.  His words are beautiful and point Job and the other three towards God, but those aren’t the words that Job needed to hear.  Job needed to hear from God.

So, the next time I am bursting with things to say, it might be time for me to consider that my words aren’t nearly as important as I think they are.  Maybe God is trying to speak … and it might be that He is trying to speak through someone other than me.

New wineskins – bursting … kind of makes me chuckle a little bit and maybe the imagery will help me to remember to listen rather than speak.

January 3 - New House

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 3 – New House

To write this study, I simply did a search for the word ‘new’ and pulled out all of the scripture passages that used the word.  Some of them are easy to consider and others are a little more esoteric, but even with today’s verse, it is astounding how God speaks to us.

Deuteronomy 20:5, “Then the officials shall address the troops, saying, ‘Has anyone built a new house but not dedicated it? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another dedicate it.”

This passage concerns the idea of going to war.  Moses, in speaking to the Israelites, tells them that when they go to war and see horses and chariots that are bigger than theirs to not be afraid, because the Lord will be with them.

“The Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (Deuteronomy 20:4)

Because of the great power of the Lord, the officers in charge were able to send those home who had things on their mind, such as dedicating their home or marrying their wife or enjoying their vineyard.  If someone is afraid, they should go home so that no one around them becomes disheartened.

The point of all of this is that God wanted to be the power behind the nation of Israel so that they could live their lives fully.

He still wants that for us.  Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Those things that we think we have to do and face in this life are much like the battles the Israelites had to face.  We fear so many things but God wants us to remember that He will walk with us.

Leave the battle – God’s got it.  Dedicate your new house, marry the woman you are betrothed to, enjoy your vineyard.  God is in control of the battle.

January 2 - New Grain

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January 2 – New Grain

Leviticus 2:14, “If you bring a grain offering of first fruits to the Lord, you shall bring as the grain offering of your first fruits coarse new grain from fresh ears, parched with fire.”

Leviticus 23:16, “You shall count until the day after the seventh Sabbath, fifty days; then you shall present an offering of new grain to the Lord.”

Leviticus 26:10, “You shall eat old grain long stored, and you shall have to clear out the old to make way for the new.”

What was the appropriate offering to the Lord? New grain. 

What was to be done with the old grain long stored?  They were to eat it.

Things have really changed since the days of the Israelites.  No longer do we offer our first-fruits to the Lord.  We offer those things we tire of, those things that are no longer useful to us.  We offer those things that we have in excess.  If there is money at the end of the year, we might choose to bequeath some of that to the church rather than setting aside the money to be used for God’s work at the start of the year.

God never offers us second-hand creation.  His gifts to us are created by Him and offered to us freely. 

Western Civilization has transformed the world from a faith / religious based culture to one where reason and individualism predominate.  Our first reaction is to care for ourselves, our families and our things.  Several thousand years ago, the self was set aside in order to care for the community and raise the prominence of God. 

Rather than lament what has changed and what we will never be able to change back, we must find ways to commit ourselves to offering our very best to the God of Creation, the Lord who gave us life.

January 1 - The New Moon

Saturday, January 1, 2011

January 1 – The New Moon

The references in the Old Testament scriptures to the ‘new moon’ are plentiful.

Exodus 19:1, “On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai.”

Number 29:6, “These are in addition to the burnt offering of the new moon and its grain offering, and the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to the ordinance for them, a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the Lord.”

There are references to the feast of the new moon and the King’s responsibility to be there in 1 Samuel 20, then another reference in 1 Chronicles 23:31 regarding offerings made on Sabbaths, new moons and appointed festivals.

It’s difficult to understand the importance of the new moon in our culture.  The dark moon was an ominous sign and when it returned to the sky, there was rejoicing and festivals grew up around that.  These festivals were prominent in many civilizations and the Jews adopted them into their religion as well.  The new moon signified a new month and the new moon in the month of Tishri, signified a new year!

Psalm 81:3 says, “Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day.”

Amos 8:5 shows that business is interrupted, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale?”

God recognized the use of the new moon to mark time in Isaiah 66:23, “From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the Lord.”

But, in Isaiah 1:14, God calls His people to task for their abuse of the sacrificial system.  They were using it to try to get away with sin and He wanted no part of it.  “Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.”

As we begin a new month and a new year, we still recognize the power of a fresh start.  Though we may not celebrate each new moon with festivities and sacrifice, we have a lot to be grateful for in that God has offered us a chance to set aside the past and begin again.  There are always new opportunities to bring our lives before Him in repentance and worship.