Faith University

Todays Reading : Mark 9

 

While preparing and researching for the blog today, I came across several headings and overall topics.  The heading that I found most interesting was “Slow Learners”. I think that this is intriguing because in the grand scheme of things we collectively are perpetual learners and sometimes others grasp ideas faster than others.  From the beginning of our journey from birth until we pass away we are learning in this Faith University.  Currently we are in the midst of graduation season, which makes me reminiscence of undergrad and graduate school.

The formal ceremony that the graduates attended is called Commencement.  It is the beginning of their journey with this newfound knowledge and confidence. Many will go into the world and succeed without question, yet there are many who continue to have life lessons that will allow them to continue to grow and mature.  The latter set understands that the process that started them at the beginning is not finite, yet a continual process.  These individuals see that the process might be slow, but the reward is great.

One particular time that I remember very well in undergrad as a Slow Learner is Organic Chemistry II.  This was a class that was required for my degree program. I enjoyed the class, but the lab session always created new adventures in learning.  Many of the labs were multi-week labs.  So you would start a certain portion of the lab, allow it to mature, then on the returning week the completion of the lab is finished and your results would be recorded.  Almost 90% of the time, my second week lab had some type of mishap that would happen and I would have to stay several hours later to complete the lab.  The only saving grace that made me smile during these weeks was the final product would be correct and the yield within the required range.

In Mark Chapter 9, Jesus is continually teaching his disciples some of the most important aspects of the journey in this Faith University.

  • Take time to experience the presence of God without questions, concerns, or haste.
    • In Mark 9 : 2-6 : And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one[a] on earth could bleach them.And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,[b] it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
    • God does not need our outward show of grandeur or pomp; he just wants to share time with us. Sometimes He gives us a glimpse of Glory.
  • Remember in all things enter any situation with prayer.
    • Mark 9:27 -29  27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”[e]
    • After several of years with Christ the disciples had forgotten the basis of all the lessons: prayer. They had been given the Spirit to heal and cast out demons, but they had forgotten that the communication and relationship with God is the true power of the process.  It is more about the communication and relationship than the results.
  • Open your mind to the different ways God will bless you.
    • Mark 9: 38-4138 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,[f]and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us.41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
    • Sometimes we forget that God chooses to bless us in the most amazing and uncommon ways. Let us pray that we allow God to open our eyes and soften our hearts to receive the blessings He has for us no matter how they are given to us.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for allowing us to have this journey in this Faith University and continue to teach and strengthen us daily.  God, thank you for being the Master teacher and mentor who will guide us through every possible hurdle with love and compassion.

 

 

The Sermon on the Mount: The Reset

Today’s Reading Matthew 6

 

Over the last several years, I have come to embrace the concept of the Reset.  It is a concept that allows you to manage the complexities of life with a reasonable expectation of change.   The definition of insanity is where you continue to repeat the same thing over several repetitions with the expectation that things will change.  The concept of Reset knows that the result will have an impact at a later time, yet not instantaneously.

I became familiar with the concept in the beginning of my career as a pharmacist.  At one of my first assignments as a newly credentialed pharmacist, I had the opportunity to work with many different individuals. One such individual would consistently finish a closing shift with everything in disarray.  Each morning after the individual worked, I would have to open the pharmacy, which was in a state of chaos and flux.  After a couple of weeks of this behavior, I allowed myself to listen to the concept of RESET.  I would come into the pharmacy without being disgruntled and upset and saw it as a chance to RESET the pharmacy and then create a place of healing and peace. This allowed me to take control of the situation and not allow others to determine my overall mindset and spirit.

Over the last several weeks, we have been able to enjoy the risen Christ and the Easter season. Until recently, I did not know that the season of Easter is 50 days, which span from Easter Sunday to the day of Pentecost.  This is a season of RESET.  Christ has reset the complete bounds of death and sickness and darkness.   Before the Passion and the cross, Christ was teaching about the RESET in his Sermon on the Mount.

In Matthew Chapter 6, Christ is resetting our perspectives on several critical points in life: Giving, Prayer, Fasting, Money, and Worry.  Anyone of these items would and can cause chaos in the absence of Christ in the first century.  These same items that are preached on at the mountaintop are some of the items that we still have issues with today if we are not in the company of Christ.  Even if we are in true devotion of Christ these five things still shake us daily, but we have a anchor in Christ to keep us focused.  So how does Christ walk through these five:

  • Giving: Give without being boastful and give with a sincere heart. It’s not for the outside to know how much or how often you are giving.  God sees the heart and not the hand.
  • Prayer: God knows the desires of the faithful and the prayers of your heart before you can create the words.  It is not the performance of the prayers, yet the time spent in devotion with him.
  • Fasting: God does not take pleasure in your hurting and suffering as a show, but he wants the time of your devotion from other things( fasting) and focusing the time on Him. He will provide all of the things that you need for growth and survival and prosperity.
  • Money: God creates the opportunity for you to have wealth and prosperity.  He doesn’t want money or riches.  He creates these with the spoken word, he wants you to desire His presence as much as the riches the world desire.
  • Worry: When we RESET our purpose and understanding, then worry will cease to be.  We know that we will be cared for and reside in the promise that God has for us.  This knowledge will then allow us to not focus on the unknown, yet embrace the being of God.

Father,

As we reflect on the Sermon on the Mount, we see that is relevant today as it was when you spoke these words into existence.  Allow us to not get caught up in the chaos of the world, but be able to allow the Holy Spirit to RESET us daily in the knowledge of your mercy and grace. Amen

Two elements of a suffering Servant

 

Todays Reading : Isaiah 52

The two elements that I think about during Easter are the bread and wine.  Two items that were the reminder of the Passover feast have become the representation of Christ’s new covenant with us.  But the choices of these elements werevery intentional and purposeful.  Christ chose these to give us a true representation of the sacrifice and process that would be necessary for our salvation.

During the traditional Paschal Feast, a lamb has to be sacrificed and the blood placed on the doorpost of the family to show that there had been proper sacrifice to atone for the sins of the family.  The process of sacrificing a lamb begins with the lamb being brought into the house of the family.  The lamb is brought into the house four days before the sacrifice. This originally was to emphasize the meaning of the sacrifice to the Egyptians, but then it became a symbol of the closeness that you had to be to the sacrifice.  The lamb had an intimate bond with the family and you knew the cost of the life given for you.  The lamb was taken care of and not harmed before the sacrifice.  Jesus was familiar with this custom as he was practicing his faith; but, he is revealing a new type of intimacy and price for sacrifice.

The elements that he intentionally uses are common among the people and they also have strong meanings.  Bread has been for several centuries the sign of health and food. Many times the people were so hungry that they only had a small piece of bread to eat and sometimes it was not available daily.   But Jesus had a different view of bread.  The seed of the wheat, first, has to be buried before it sprouts new life. Then once the wheat has grown, it has to be harvested and threshed.  The outer coating of the seed has to be broken to allow the inside of the seed to be use for nourishment.  Next the seed has to be crushed and grounded into a powder or flour.  Next the flour has to be worked until it is suitable for the loaf.  The process that transforms the seed into the bread, completely changes the form and the nature of the wheat.

The next element that he uses for the new covenant is the wine. Wine has for ages been the vehicle for celebrations, healing and ceremonies.  From ancient times to the modern times, wine was used to purify water in order to make it potable.  But the process of making wine is a very intricate process.  The vinedresser finds the correct fruit and then properly harvests the grapes.  Then the grapes are placed in a wine vat and pressed with extreme hard labor that crushes the skin and the essence of the grape.  The result is pulp and juice.  Then the juice and the pulp are stored for a time until the correct amount of fermentation has occurred and then the wine is ready to consume.

With the understanding of these elements it is easy to understand the verse of today: Isaiah 52:13-15

Behold, my servant shall act wisely;[b]
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle[c]many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.

Jesus was preparing us in the last supper for the transformation that was about to take place.  He was showing us that these were the true representation of His body and what was going to happen to it.  The process of his sacrifice was going to be unlike that of the traditional Paschal Lamb, he would have to endure a process that would change the physical, emotional and spiritual forms to produce something that was more power. He would not be recognized after the process.  “As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.”  This was the preparation to the eternal.  This is one reason that the women who came to see him after the resurrection didn’t recognize him, because they saw the marred and crushed body of the Messiah before he was transformed.   I am thankful for the sacrifice and the transformation of the body for my salvation.

Father,

Thank you for the awesome sacrifice and humility you endured to save us.  Thank you for the redemption and the elements to remind us of the love, power and glory you have.  Thank you for the remembrance of your victory over death and sin.  Amen.

 

Daniel’s longest night

Daniel Chapter 6

Over the last eight years, Jillian and I have had many long nights with our three children.  There have been nights where the kids have caught a virus or an illness and we are up all night with either child.   These nights have come and go as most parents can attest, but there have been some nights that have truly tested our faith. One particular night is when Oliver was in the hospital when he was six weeks old and had a procedure to secure nutrition.  He had to have a specialized intravenous preparation to give him the essential nutrients for his body to heal.  The procedure that her had to undergo would place an intravenous line directly into his heart and then he would be able to get the medication.  While in the procedure room with him the medical staff informed me that the next hours will be critical because of the risk of his body not maintaining the proper temperature and the risk for infection. After the procedure was completed, we returned to our room.   In the middle of the night we were woken with alarms in the room that he had dropped in temperature.  The drop was so significant the team had to use extraordinary measures to stabilize his body temperature and vital signs.  This was the longest night that I can remember.

In this chapter of Daniel, Daniel is presented with a long night as well.  To the causal onlooker, life and death are weighed in the balance, but for Daniel this was another opportunity to show God’s love and grace. In the previous chapters, God has revealed many times before that the circumstances that we are present with are chances for God to do some amazing work: for both you and the other person.   At this point in the journey Daniel is approximately 80 years old.  He has seen the height of the Jewish authority; been exiled into a new land; made high officer in three different kingdoms; interrupted and conveyed the hardest information to ruthless kings.  Through all of these years and experiences Daniel has seen the glory of God and how these situations worked out for God’s Glory.

Daniel  2: 46

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. 47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 

 

Daniel 3: 28

28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

 

Daniel 4:1-3

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.

How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

At the beginning of the chapter, Daniel is reappointed to the highest position in the kingdom and is not admired by many except the new king Darius.  Darius makes proclamations about praying to other entities and deities, except for him.  This proclamation backfires on the relationship that Darius has with Daniel and Daniel is sentenced to the lions’ den.  This is a punishment that others have seen as ultimate condemnation for the acts against the king.  But this a final testament of the faith of Daniel, he was blessed by God to survive the punishment.

As we go through our journeys we will face many difficult and dark times.  Some we are able to navigate easily and others may be challenging, but we must always remember that when we have a relationship and have an unwavering faith in God, we will come out in the morning with renewed sense of self and bountiful blessings.

Two promises

Today’s Reading Jeremiah 31

Jeremiah is one of the big prophets that is critical to the history and wisdom of God in the Old Testaments.  Jeremiah is the author of the Book of Jeremiah and Lamentations.  He has an eyewitness account the fall of Jerusalem and conquest of the Babylonians.  But in these verses in Chapter 31, he reveals two promises that have been addressed previously: God will bring his people to him AND God will dwell in them.

Jeremiah 31: 31-34

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

In this section, God reveals for a second time (first in Isaiah with the coming of Christ) that He will create a new covenant with Judah and Israel.  This is important because the children of Israel new something big is going to happen, but they are not sure when or how.  This is the covenant with Christ. This promise meant that some suffering and sacrifice would have to be made.  God reveals here that he understands the ultimate price is something that we, as humans, were unable to complete.  He has seen our inability to complete our promises and He being a merciful father will aid us in this promise.  After many times and attempts, God steps in and creates peace in the disorder that we have made.

The first promise is Salvation with Christ.  The second promise is the creation of the temple of God dwelling in each of us with the Holy Spirit.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I willbe their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This is the combination of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working in tandem for His benefit for us. God is revealing the promise of not only will He save us from the hurt and destruction that we have subjected ourselves, but He will wipe away everything that is blocking our connection, then He will then reside within us.  He even states that there is no one that would be able to take credit for or against it because He will reveal Himself to everyone.  These are the promises that God has made.  Let us remember.  {Further reading Romans 8}

Postmortem

Today’s Reading : I Kings 17

It has happened again, God has intentionally brought this message and passage of Scriptures to me this week.  Over the last year, God has been reintroducing the same concepts at different venues or times.   Last week, our children had this verse presented to them with the main idea of “Give to God” and then as I am preparing for this writing my theme is “Postmortem”.  These themes are completely different, but their main composition is the same: Give to God in all circumstances and He will provide everything.

In this story, we are introduced to one of the most prolific and influential individuals in Judaism and Christianity outside of Jesus and Moses, Elijah.  In the beginning of the chapter, Elijah tells Ahab that because of the heinous ways that the king has been toward God and his people that there will be a famine and drought throughout the land.  Once Elijah makes this proclamation, God speaks to Elijah and he retreats to the wilderness for safety.    The wilderness that he is sent to is North of Jerusalem and close to his hometown.   While in the wilderness, God sends him food by ravens and he drinks water from the brook. After the brook runs dry, Elijah retreats farther North to Zarephath, which a seaside town.  In this town, he greets a widow who is preparing for her last meal with her son.  This is truly her last meal of life because the famine has been so brutal that there is no more wheat or grain that survived to make any additional flour.  This widow has a small amount of flour to make one last cake of bread.  Elijah asks her to make him a cake of bread before she makes herself a cake.  The widow agrees and then is blessed with oil and flour to outlast the famine.  During some time later, the widow’s son is ill and then dies.  The widow is furious at the lack of respect and audacity that the prophet would allow her son to die.  Elijah then takes the son and prays over him and he is returned to life.

In these 24 verses, there is so much packed in that address our everyday life.   First, we must know who we are and whom we are.  Elijah knew that he was God’s prophet and was not afraid of speaking truth into the situation.  Second, when God directs us, we must go (without question).  God told Elijah to go and Elijah went.  He was directed to go home, but not the place he knew. Elijah was directed to go to a sanctuary close to where he was familiar.  He was then provided with food from some unlikely sources: Ravens. These birds are not known to be kind and cuddly, but viscous and tricky.   Third, find the people that God provides for us and ask boldly.  Elijah asked the widow boldly for her last piece of bread [and water].  Fourth, Give to God first and then he will provide unimaginable things.  The widow (who was not Jewish, believed in a great God and obeyed) submitted to the request of Elijah and was blessed. Finally, don’t limit God’s blessings. The widow saw the miracle that God preformed with the flour and was still not fully convince that he would take care of her son.

The word Postmortem has many definitions: 1.) the examination of the body after death. 2.) The reexamination of the details after a particular event. The postmortem of this story can be seen three-fold: Mental, Emotional/Spiritual, Physical. There is one resurrection in the story, but three distinct deaths that happen throughout the story.

  • Mental:The widow was suffering from mental death.  When she is introduced we can see that she is depressed and full of anxiety.  She has lost her husband.  She has not been able to provide for her family, and now she and her son are preparing to die due to lack of food.  This famine is one of the most trying times that the region has been through.  There are other stories of this time that people has resorted to cannibalism to survive. She has resigned completely to her situation.  How many times have we been in situations that have completely left us destitute and we have lost all hope?   This is the space that this woman is full entrenched.
  • Emotional/ Spiritual: This widow has probably tried all the gods of Ahab and the other kings of the time and they have not given her any relief. Elijah turns up at the scene and she immediately recognized that he is a man of God.  She has been spiritually dead for quite some time and is now having a revival of the spirit after she has loss so much.  How many times have we continually lost special things or people in our lives and we have become despondent to everything? We become numb and apathetic?
  • Physical death:This is when the son of the widow dies while the prophet of God is in their house.  The widow is completely upset, frustrated, and mad that this has happened to her son.  She expected not to worry about anything while Elijah was there.  This physical death completely shuts down everything else.  She could survive these other deaths that have afflicted her, but this was the last piece that she finally submitted everything.

The story of the widow is our story: we will undergo so many deaths in our lives that we continue to push through.  We face mental deaths daily, spiritual deaths often, and physical deaths ultimately and we try to do this on our own.  God has shown us that through his son, Jesus, we are not alone and we do not have to face these things alone because he has already overcome death.  Let us remember that we have the victory after death because Jesus has conquered death