Archive for the ‘Feast Days and Holy Days’ Category

What is allowed: much more than I used to believe. My faith in God has grown exponentially and with that expansion, so has the umbrella of God’s grace grown in like manner.

Romans 14:22a, 23b
Your personal convictions [on such matters]–exercise [them] as in God’s presence. . . For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful].

This passage is full of personal freedom as long as faith is the foundation. Too many Christians have browbeaten one another into believing in a very small and narrow God who is watching and waiting for the followers to step out of line. I don’t think so anymore.

In my last Bible Study class, one of the participants said her family calls these rules the “makey-uppies” and I agree with her 100 percent. Like the Pharisees of old, many start making up additional interpretations of the law to keep the road as narrow as possible. Perhaps the scriptures about the way being narrow [Matthew 7:13-14] have caused believers to create a tiny, tiny door for faith. And as they squeeze through, they pat themselves on the back for being so narrow.

Here’s a better picture: the narrow way is more like the Tardis from the stories of Doctor Who. On the outside, his vehicle looks quite small, only as big as a British style phone booth, but once inside, it’s expansive and full of rooms and possibilities. This is the way of Jesus.

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John 12:23
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified….”

There are several places in scripture where Jesus refers to “the hour.” Sometimes he speaks of it as a time that cannot be known or that the hour was approaching or that the hour had not yet come. But here in John 12, the tone changes and he identifies the time as “his hour.” From that “hour” forward, everything would be different.

I’m pretty sure most of us can’t predict when one of our “hours” is necessarily approaching, but when it does come, I think we know it for what it is. Now, I am not talking about the hour of a person’s death. I am talking about an hour of decision… an hour of transformation… an hour of self-discovery. These “hours” or times usually place a question before us: will you go or stay, will you accept or reject, will you agree or disagree, will you lie or tell the truth, (to name a few). These are those decisions that cannot be taken back.

Preparation for these “hours” is general, at best. As a Christian, the obvious things apply such as prayer, study, worship, and sensitivity to the voice of God. But perhaps it is more telling how we walk out our decisions after they are made.

I have a friend who is in a terrible marriage (who doesn’t know someone like this?) and continues to grieve and cry and rant over the circumstances. I understand in my heart and yet, I cannot help but think that the “hour” came and went. If a person decides “to stay,” then the rest of the time should be spent making “to stay” work. If not, then go, and make “leaving” work. One cannot both stay in body and leave in spirit or heart (or vice versa). It is living a lie.

When Jesus resurrected Lazarus, it was His last great miracle. He did not tell anyone “not to tell.” His time had come and everyone needed to know it. So He climbed on a donkey and entered Jerusalem publicly inviting His enemies to finish what they had started. He accepted every step, every curse, every attack, and every pain after His decision. We must do the same.

We have been fooled into believing that the decision itself is the hard part. Not at all, it’s the life after the decision that is the challenge. Thanks be to God who helps us walk out our decisions, both good and bad.

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John 12:12b-13a
…when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “ Hosanna! … ”

Hosanna means “save us.” But unfortunately, the crowds who cried, “save us!” at the triumphal entry of Jesus in Jerusalem (now marked as Palm Sunday) did not particularly like his methods. In fact, by the time Passover had arrived, they realized he was not going to overthrow the Roman occupation in the way they expected. In fact, he was unwilling to declare his sovereignty over Israel at all.

I think Judas Iscariot suffered from the same disappointment. He had his own “mental model” of how things should go and finally, decided to take things into his own hands. Perhaps he believed that Jesus, once forced by the Sanhedrin to declare himself, would establish his kingdom. (This is just a personal interpretation of the Judas story.) In any case, Judas’s way changed the course of history.

But don’t both of these cases, the crowds of Jerusalem and Judas, mirror our own efforts to control the outcomes our circumstances? In prayer, we cry out for help, but when help comes, we don’t like it or worse, don’t recognize it (like the story of a man stranded on a roof in a flood and prayed for rescue but did not recognize God in the rowboat of a neighbor or the motorboat and helicopter of strangers–he drowned, by the way).

I think God is in the prayer answering business. All prayer is answered: we must learn to accept the answers. When we say God hasn’t answered our prayers, what we often mean is that God hasn’t answered us immediately and miraculously.

We sometimes err in thinking that the phrase “Your will be done … ” means that God can choose either to answer our prayers or not. But I really think it is just a reminder that we acknowledge and accept His answers because they will always be within His will. These are the only answers we should be interested in receiving.

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Acts 2:1
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Pentecost, in Old Testament times, was actually considered a Feast Day. It was a day to bring the “first fruits” of the harvest to the Lord. It was offered in thanksgiving of what had been given to the people.

This day, we are celebrating the high school graduation of our oldest son. In many ways, he is our first fruit. He was a gift of God to us and and now we return him to the will and way of God. He turns 18 in a few more weeks and then he’ll be off to college, seeking his own future, making many of his own choices. Thanks be to God for the gift of our son.

Sergei was a foundling on the streets of Riga, Latvia. He has a few memories of his life in that country, but not many. At one time, he had a family there, but he does not remember how he was separated from them. He was in a boys’ gang for awhile on the street, but he doesn’t really remember how long… it could have been a day, a week, or even longer. When he was found by the police, he was taken to the orphanage and given a birth date and a name on June 27th. On January 21st, 1998, he entered the United States with a new name and a new family. He was chosen by God for a new life.

We gather today as a family to celebrate his harvest…. and God is with us.

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