Tag Archives: new covenant

VULTURES

mark twain“It is not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that give me trouble. It is the part that I do understand that gives me fits.”~Mark Twain [aka Samuel Clemens]

These days it seems as if, people choose to believe in God, they want God to be their version of God. The Bible to say what they want it to say.  If a minister, or a believer, stands on the WORD, the whole WORD and nothing but the WORD, chance are someone is going to be offended.

“Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the door and see all the people.”here-is-the-church-color-4

I learned this little hand rhyme probably before I could read. I remember struggling to fold my hands just right. Bending the fingers in towards the palm, lifting the pointers to form a steeple, thumbs aligned closely together, then opening them to reveal my tiny wiggling fingers.

In those days, the rhyme fit the world. I was a baby boomer baby.  A miracle to my mom and dad (since they never thought they would have another child) and – a pain in the butt to my brother who thought he would always be an “onliest” as he had been for 9 years.  It was not unusual after WWII for church doors to open wide and to reveal a sanctuary full of music, prayers, literugy, sermons, and grateful families of a grateful nation. The covenant between God and His people had been shakened, but it still stood.  Christian faith in America was still considered a foundational rock.

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace.All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. “~Malachi 4:1

Today I was driving by a church that is close to us. Like most traditional churches turkeyvulture3it has a steeple with a cross on the top. I heard the rhyme in my mind as I looked at the church. The dreary overcast skies pulled my eyes up to the steeple and then the cross. Two vultures sat on the cross. It is probably nothing unusual in this as vultures like to roost high up in trees or electric poles, but I had just never seen two vultures actually perching on such a small post before. They were probably just resting and cleaning themselves before the next circle around the area, but it looked as if they were picking at the cross itself. I struggled with that metaphor as it immediately coursed through my mind. (English teachers are like that. We often see the metaphors behind an image or story.)

Vultures are not pretty; certainly not my favorite critter. They do their job well. They do the job that Nature’s God adapted for them to do in a world carved by man’s choices. They tear apart dead things, fight with their peers for each morsel, and eventually allow the tinier animals to begin the next step of the clean- up process. By the time nothing remains except the basic structure of what once existed, the vultures are on to their next project.

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.” ~Malachi 4:2

We argue over what is righteous in God’s sight. We argue over the relevance of the Old Covenant vs the New Covenant. We argue over traditional music vs modern music. We argue if the sermon is too long or too short.  We argue among ourselves when someone disagrees with our perception of what church doctrine should be. We argue as if we can comprehend what righteousness is on this side of heaven.

There are vultures everywhere these days which is not really a happy thought for this Easter season. But it is the reason to remember why Rabbi Yeshua referred to himself as the narrow gate.  It is the reason to remember the sacrifice made by Our Father and His Son.  It is the reason, we must remember to read the WORD – all the WORD, nothing but the WORD.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”  Matt 7:13

Vultures wait on that wide road; waiting to tear apart the church, it’s people and all things associated with it.  Rabbi Yeshua understood the role of vultures in nature and society. He understood man’s vision of the “church”, so He became the narrow gate between the Old and New Testament because He and the Father knew the children all too well. Legalistic. Judgmental. Arrogant. Impatient. Foolish. Idol worshipers.  Human vultures sitting on a cross.  Waiting.

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” ~Malachi 4:5-6

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Wonder

“Without wonder, learning was dead.”  ~ Taylor Caldwell, pp 34, Glory and the Lightning, 1974

Glory and the LightningClassic literature transcends generations.  It is embedded with truths that not only lived during the author’s time frame, but continue to live in each succeeding age. That is how it got its name. The cool thing about classic books?  They give you a tiny window, constructed in an author’s mind, that allows us to peek into the past.  The words.  The themes.  The struggles.  The technology (or the lack thereof).  The family structure.  The society and mores.  Elements of life that come alive once again through the words of an individual who took the time to open the window for the rest of us, and it allows us to wonder.

My husband, kids, and former students will tell you that I wonder a lot.  They will tell you I drive them nuts with questions that they can’t answer. A lot of times, I just wonder.  Sometimes, I’m driven to try to find an answer.  My favorite thing to do in a new locale is to go to historical museums or older areas of the town – longing to find a new window to peer through.  If I’m brave enough and strong enough, I may even open the window I am gazing through, and let the sweet breeze of knowledge filter through my essence and become part of who I am.  Wonder becomes the first step to wisdom.

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Prov 4:7 (NIV)

In college, I thought I knew a lot about the Bible. In fact, I was pretty sure I had a complete handle on it. I had “read” most of it by then (skipping over those really boring “begetting” parts and tedious laws of the OT…after all, what relevance did they have since Christ brought the New Covenant?), had gone to church, Bible school, Sunday school my entire life, and debated it many times with friends and family in my life.  Not much to wonder about in the Bible (or so I thought) since I already “knew” it.  What else was there? So I decided to  take  “Bible as Classic Literature” at The Ohio State University as one of my electives.  Should be an easy class, right?

Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.” Prov 4:8 (NIV)

books of wonder

I didn’t realize how huge the window in the Bible really was until that class.  The professor wasn’t a believer.  He taught it merely from the words he “read”.  He didn’t understand Jewish tradition (I didn’t either at that point). He didn’t like discussion that disagreed with his viewpoint. (This is when I learned that sarcasm used by a teacher is not effective – at all) But the Bible he chose to use for the class was wonderful. The particular one I used for this class (with all its notes and highlighting) is long gone; burned in our house fire in 2009.  But the window I opened during that class carried such a sweet breeze that the book still exists in my mind.  The fine, tiny print in black and red. The sound of the  translucent, fragile paper as I turned pages. The corresponding stories listed side-by-side for easy comparison.  My black ink pen bleeding through to the other side of the page. Even so – the window was thrown wide, and I began wondering in earnest.

“She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.” Prov 4:9 (NIV)

Classic literature makes us wonder, contemplate, hypothesize and dig deep into our inner core.  It challenges our long held beliefs with new ideas and concepts.  Whether we adapt those ideas and concepts as “truths” is our choice – our free will.  It encourages…discourages; lifts up…tears down; opens…closes  windows; in other words, it offers new knowledge and the optional advancement of wisdom.

I still love to wonder and can’t wait to wonder even more when I get to the next phase of  my soul’s journey.  God created us in His image (Gen 1), so it has to be part of His character.  It makes me wonder what kind of debates go on in heaven.  Is wonder what led to Luciel (Lucius, the Fallen One) choosing to follow his own truths instead of God’s truths? Is there a point where wonder becomes destructive in heaven as it has done here on earth?  I wonder as I wonder as I wonder.

wonder

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The Ark

Sundays are filled with blessings.  Time in Church…the WORD…prayer…reflection…Love…Grace…Peace…family…  Is it any wonder that the 4th commandment reminds us to observe sacred times?  The Sabbath…the Shemitah were established to reminds us of what “…Thy Kingdom” would look like – if we could just quit getting out of the ark to walk a path where temptations slither and threaten to latch on to us with poisonous fangs.

ark
noun/Latin/OE
  1. 1.
    (in the Bible) the ship built by Noah to save his family and two of every kind of animal from the Flood; Noah’s ark.
    • a vessel or sanctuary that serves as protection against extinction.
      “a starship ark built by their android protectors”
    • archaic
      a chest or box.
      “the ark was of Italian walnut”
    • a large, flat-bottomed boat.
      noun: ark; plural noun: arks
  2. 2.
    short for Ark of the Covenant
    • a chest or cupboard housing the Torah scrolls in a synagogue. (Google definition)

Yesterday was no exception.  We carved some early pumpkin faces.  Played with the Grands.  Hugged on the daughter and her husband.  Watched some football. Took some memory pictures.  Fun times.  Yet – in the back of my mind –  words our pastor shared, continued to vibrate.  Harmonic flashbacks that accessed a melody taught long ago in my small, rural, traditional church.  My pastor then was probably one of the holiest men I knew…next to my father.  WWII prisoner of war and unable to have children with his wife, he was no stranger to pain and suffering. Yet, when my father had his heart attacks, it was my pastor’s smile, words and hugs that brought peace into our home.  He understood Christ Jesus in a way that few people ever do.  He was the first one that ever connected all the “arks” in the Bible for me. A long ago lesson that, somehow, I had forgotten.

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.”  Gen 6:14 KJV

Big_Ark_in_Dordrecht_3The first time an ark is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis.  Most people know this story.  God asks a special man to build an ark of cypress wood.  The ark holds God’s treasures for a period of 40 days and nights that brings them through a terrible time.  In Jewish tradition the word for ark is teyvat which in Hebrew has no relation to the word that is used in Ark of the Covenant which is aron kodesh. They do not consider them related at all.  And yet – in English – the words are one and the same.

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matt 5:18

It makes you wonder.  Why is this one little word out of the thousands that have been translated from Hebrew to English in the Bible was treated so differently? I have a feeling that it wasn’t a mistake.

“Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.” Ex 25:10 KJV

In Exodus 25, God tells Moshe to build another ark.  This ark was smaller.  It was947563-ark3 more ornate.  It was would also carry something special.  It would be carried on poles.  It would hold the treasures of God’s laws and keep them safe in times of trouble.  An ark that would travel with the Jewish people.  An ark that would sit in their tabernacle where Yahweh  would join with them.

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.” Heb 8:8-10

On Sunday, my preacher said (and this is a paraphrase) that we needed to get on the ark again.  The ark of the New Covenant.  The Book of Hebrews uses the language of the Old Testament to strengthen the validity of this “new” covenant and encourage the new believers, despite the persecution and dangers swirling around them, to stay strong in their belief in Jesus Christ.  In other words, stay in the “ark” of this new covenant.  Again – another “ark” that would safely carry God’s treasures: His precious Son and those who choose to get in the “ark” with Him.

“This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Heb 8:11-12 KJVyeshua high priest

Rabbi Yeshua became the High Priest of this ark.  He fulfilled all the requirements that made this new “ark” possible. He lived through all the temptations – and in most cases – more than what we will ever experience.  He lived his life by the 613 commandments given by Our Father under the old covenant.  He lived life as a true Son of God, modeling for us a way to live. He fulfilled the old covenant and replaced it with the new one.  Hand-designed by His holy, omniscient Father. Sacrificing His life for our sins. Crushing His heel into the serpent’s head.  Steering the ark. Protecting His ark that carries us into His Father’s kingdom.

Three times “arks” are created in the Bible.  Three times God has filled these “arks”  with His precious creations.  I find it intriguing that there are always messages in the Our Father’s WORD just waiting for us to notice and wonder about as we go throughout our crazy lives.  I can buy all the things that will physically offer security during these troubling times.  I can fill the pantry.  I can provide alternative energy sources.  I can gather my loved ones close.  But unless I am willing to get into the “ark” of the New Covenant, I will sink pretty quickly in these stormy waters.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t tread water very long.

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Commandment Series: Prohibition of Physically Harming a Person

ten-commandments-400.hebrew abbrev“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”~ Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, the Grands came and spent their first overnight.  The air mattress took up half of our living room.   Piled high with pillows, blankets, stuffed animals  and an occasional, rather large, choc lab or two jumping into the mix, they played, drew pictures, giggled and laughed until finally…Grandma and Papa gave the thumbs up to the start to “movie night”.  Popcorn crumbs.  Stray pieces of paper.  A cold nose of  a lab pressed into tiny hands.  By 9:30, both were sound asleep and content.  Love danced, much as David did, around our home in a big way.

I love Mother Teresa’s quote for this reason.  Love in the home teaches love for those outside the home.  But as we all know, it is not always easy.  After all, people are different.  Different colors.  Different beliefs.  Different mindsets.  Different everything.  There is not one person that is the exact duplicate of someone else.  Buckeyes falling from a buckeye tree.  To love someone that we totally dislike is…sometimes…lol…most times, one enormous, challenging, overpowering test thrown into our life journey.  To kill – whether it is emotionally, physically, spiritually, verbally – hits all of us at one time or another.

“You shall not murder.” Ex 20:13

the-sixth-commandment-GoodSalt-lwjas0406In the Old Testament, God wrote upon the tablets a pretty simple concept.  Don’t kill anybody physically.  Jewish tradition still looks at in a fairly straight forward way.  Don’t physically harm anyone.  I like to think that these were simple commands because the Jewish people were babies in Faith.  When we are raising babies, we don’t use long complicated stories or sentences to get our point across.  Everything is stated in the simplest terms possible.  “NO!”  “STOP!”  “OK!” “GO” The Jewish people were the first to stand on their faith in Jehovah-Tsid-Kenu. By the time of the New Covenant when Rabbi Yeshua walked this earth, He could already see where we were headed.  There were already many ways to destroy a life.  So He used a more complicated parable to support and expand this radical concept – LOVE, PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES.  loveyourenemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matt 5:43-48

When we watch the news and see all the pain, degradation and mutilation that humans do to each other, we often feel anger and revenge thoughts enter into our sphere.  When a loved one shatters a vow, a trust we have placed in them, those thoughts appear just as strongly.  Yet, thankfully, most of us never resort to a physical murder. We’ve become pretty sophisticated.  We use psychological or emotional “murder” instead.  A FB post full of a few choice words – retaliation (an eye for an eye) – revealing a secret or two.  “Killing” words can be pretty damaging these days.  When I’m hurting I force myself to start looking for positive words instead of concentrating on all the injustice of the world that can be flashed across all our screens in high definition video – or living through a more personal bump in my life road (that feels like I’m watching a high definition video).  I kick my rear end in gear and into the book of Matthew and remind myself about the commandments of the New Covenant or cry as I sing the Psalms in my heart.  The promises that Our Father says over and over reassure me, and I can pray with a healing heart.

Jewish tradition has another neat way of looking at things.  Their Sages have written that as one sleeps, their souls ascend to Heaven.  While they are there, heaven-of-angelsthey record in Heaven’s books all the things that they did during their day.  Then they sign the book.  Traditionally, as practicing Jews say the Shema, (“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deut 6:4-5,)  they are also thanking God for returning their soul at the start of a new day.

If we all thought we were traveling to Heaven at the end of our day to write about all the things we did or said, would it make a difference? Would it make “Thou Shalt Not Kill” (meaning more than the physical act), more real to us?  Would it make it easier to obey?  I have found that I like thinking about this Jewish tradition. Traveling to Heaven each night, writing my part of the daily human existence in the Book of Life, signing my name at the bottom, and then thanking God when I awake in the morning seems like a fantastic way to start each day of my life.  Wisdom and discernment make the sixth commandment a little easier to obey. Just another choice.

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A New Step

I am in a quandary.  I’ve stewed…walked a few circles of prayer in my head….stopped writing…worked on old chores that have been sitting around years…stared at anything as I’ve tried to scroll through this maze of thoughts. Have you ever felt like that?  As if the Trinity is trying to nudge you into a new thought – a new direction – a more complicated dance?  It’s  totally not fair when you’re dancing with a fantastic partner who suddenly throws in a new step.  You stumble.  You trip over your feet or His feet – until you finally – maybe – figure out what He is doing.  I’m still doing a few of those stumbling, catch-up steps; trying to look graceful and in time with the music – when in reality, I feel like my 7 year old self at my first dance recital:  scared – hyperventilating – fearful…

 “When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this -man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took OFFENSE at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”  Matt 37:53-57 KJV

It is an old story about the way people think.  A story about rejection.  A fulfillment of prophecy.  The ultimate betrayal of a homegrown boy by people He knew and what they thought they knew about Him.  I’ve read it many times over the course of my 63 years.  It was this time through the story when My Lord threw in a new step.  I blinked.  I stumbled.  I didn’t recognize this step, but there it was in the shape of a simple word:  OFFENSE

 Offense:  of·fense  əˈfens/ N.  Annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.

They took offense to Jesus.  Do I?  It is a question that I have avoided thinking about even though it has been in the back of my mind almost every day for the past few years.   We all have standards or principles that we live by in our life. These days, Christians want Christ to be LOVE, JOY, PEACE, GOOD NEWS.   It’s part of our contemporary songs and worship.   It’s easier to get people to listen and agree with our thoughts.  It’s the part of the 70’s that has stuck to our society like glue.  When we think of Jesus, we think we get the “new covenant”.  He didn’t reject people.  He didn’t stick to all the old rules…didn’t always wash before eating…didn’t quit healing just because it was the Sabbath…chased the money changers from the temple… told us not to judge others… You get the picture…Jesus, the communal, perpetual hippie.  I’m sure most of you have seen the FB poster or e-mail referring to Jesus as a socialist.

“And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.  And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?  When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?  And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be OFFENDED in me.”  Lk 7:18-23 KJV 

Same base word, but this time a verb.  The steps are tripping me up big time at this point.  Am I offended by who Christ is?  Is He more than the Jesus Freak version that has invaded our culture?  The music spins a little faster.  However, Our Father steps are a tempo, and soon, the music is silenced as the Holy Spirit begins to sing.  Christ IS more, He IS the WORD, and I am convicted.

It is hard to write this and know that I am offended by the One I love.  Even as I write this, tears gather at the corner of my eyes.  Turning the words of the stories over and over in my head, I began to see that the things Rabbi Yeshua rejected were the “religious trappings” of the day – not the WORD.  Compare it to how many of our churches are rejecting the age old traditions such as: dressing up for church, singing old hymns, reciting of creeds or psalms. Those are the things He rejected.  But Rabbi Yeshua never rejected the WORD; instead, He embodies ALL the WORD.  He is the WORD.  He is love, peace, joy, good news…He is also what we don’t want to talk about in our societal dance.  You know  – the scary stuff  – the stuff that makes us uneasy and afraid to talk about in the normal course of our day– sin, judgment, gnashing of teeth….Hell. 

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.”  Rev 19:11-13 KJV 

I re-read that last verse over and over, and my typing falters. I pray a little more. Then I look at my hand resting in the hand of My Lord.  His eyes are questioning.  Do I want to learn this new step in the dance?  I have the choice.  I can continue the dance the same way I have been dancing for years – steps that are comfortable and acceptable with the music of our world, or I can incorporate this new step, and challenge myself within the status quo.  I am questioning within myself.  How much difference will it make at this point?  Why is it important now?  I am praying harder.   I’m not sure my feet will move in step with the One who leads, but I move my foot forward….testing the floor boards beneath my feet….and trusting the One who leads.

Let the dance begin, and hopefully, I won’t trip over this new step….too much…too often…horse-white-jesus

(picture from Google images)