Monday, January 30, 2012

Following

Last week I walked outside of the YMCA where I get some exercise and noticed something that put a smile on my face.  There was a line of about 20 children, probably all 5 and under, grabbing onto a rope, 10 or so on either side, and an adult in the front (and one behind) saying, "Come on, keep up, follow me."  I smiled as I watched this "duck waddling" group of children all keep in step as they held on to the rope and kept walking.

What is it about following that seems so child like?  Scriptures, and especially the Gospels where Jesus talked a lot about it, speak a lot on following.
Mark 1:16-18 (NIV)
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
17 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."
18 At once they left their nets and followed him



Luke 5:27-28 (NASB)
27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me."
28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.


These two examples seem easy to digest.  What we must remember is that they didn't know Jesus, and didn't know what we know about what would happen when they chose to follow him.  AND, once someone chose to "follow", it didn't get easier:
Luke 9:23 (NIV)
Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Or how about this series of incidents immediately following in Luke 9...
Luke 9:57-62 (NIV)
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."
58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
59 He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."


Interestingly, Jesus never said, "Believe my arguments".  He said, "Follow me".
I remember years ago a teacher say, "If you can talk someone into the Kingdom of God, someone else can talk them out of it."
We're not called to argue people into believing in God, we're told to follow Jesus' way, follow Jesus, and in following, learn from him to live in such a way that this following is real.

It's that position of being a learner, an apprentice.  There we hear the words of a teacher... "Ok, listen, follow my thoughts, do what I do here..., do it your own way, but learn how to do this...".
We follow because there is wisdom, experience, knowledge, and even safety in doing so.

Jesus tells a story of people building houses.  Some houses are built foolishly, on sand foundations that shift and move and can't stand up to the storms of life.  Some houses are built wisely on a firm foundation and when storms come they survive because they were built soundly.

Each person is building something...each of us are "house builders".  Each of our houses will go through storms, tests, trials, character building things disguised as gut wrenching "why?"...
It is not the lack of storms that identifies our following.  We cannot choose what will come our way.  All we can do, say is, "Lord please help me to stay close to you, because I trust you, and I want to follow you."

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Monk in Each of Us

This Sunday our Church fellowship will celebrate Communion.  I love Communion because it is such a mysterious attraction of my seeking fellowship in worship with God. That sense of fellowship, the presence of God, the real person present and in worship, prayer, taking bread and cup a connection is made in body, soul and spirit...I love that.

I've always been fascinated by the lifestyle of a Monk.  I think it's the unhurried, reflective, seemingly quieter lifestyle that appeals to me.  Perhaps also its the "daily rhythms" of life that help preserve a sense of order and balance in terms of both "doing" and "being".

That's the key thing, our "doing" vs. our "being".  It was in Genesis that we're reminded:
Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Our first identity is a stamp of God upon us.  We're image bearers, "Adams" which is pronounced "AH, "DOM"...the ONES - male and female - created by God for communion, fellowship, the pure joy of creation.
When we're "doing" only, we're probably going to miss "being".  We're not machines that "get things done" - even for God.  We're connected to God in image...we bear the image of God...the character of love, joy, peace on all levels of existence.

Maybe the reason the Monastics learned to stop and "re-center" what they were doing on God was so that they wouldn't be tempted to think that what they were doing was eternal, but temporal, but that something was eternal, and therefore far more important than what they were doing.
We are physical beings, and also spiritual beings...  Romans 8:14-16 (NIV) 
14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.


That "Abba" means "Daddy".  There's something inside of each of us that wants to cry out to God as "Daddy".  And we should.
Think about it...how do we come to this place of relating to God personally.
1.  There's talking AT God - "Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let this food to us be blessed...."
2.  There's talking TO God -  "Our Father who are in heaven, holy is your name, let you Kingdom come, let your will be done...."
3.  There's listening TO God -  How? Where? Does this really happen?  We do it in relationships all of the time, so why not with God.
4.  There's being WITH God - the fact is, that scripture is replete with people who fellowshiped, worshiped and discovered the presence of God.

This is where we come back to the Monastics.  There's a little bit of being a "Monk" in all of us.  We simply desire the relationship quality more than anything else...we're made for that and our hearts will always be restless when we're trying to fill it with something different than him.

We don't have to put on scratchy robes, memorize prayers, chants, even live in a cloistered setting to practice a life of continual relationship with God.  Stopping during the day at repeated intervals to just say "thank you Lord for being with me, I love you Lord, and I'm listening if there's something you want to say to me" is a good beginning point in this journey of communion.
John 15:15 (NIV)
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 
This is God's gift to each of us...the opportunity to break free from "doing" to "being".

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ALL IS GRACE

It was about 15 years ago that I ran across the writings of Brennan Manning.
A Catholic Priest who became a monastic, and also an alcoholic; who after going through recovery began to write on the love of God.  Through his book, Abba's Child, I was set free of the thought that my performance and efforts were what caused God to love me. When I read "The Ragamuffin Gospel" I was undone.  No Protestant who should believe in grace through faith quite captured the heart of the gospel as he did.

Brennan learned all of this in both serving and in recovery.
It all started for him very early.  In February 1956, while Brennan was meditating on the Stations of the Cross, a powerful experience of the personal love of Jesus Christ sealed God's call on his life.  "At that moment, the entire Christian life became for me an intimate, heartfelt relationship with Jesus."
In the late 1960's he journeyed to Spain and lived in a monastic order serving the poor in a rural village.  During that time he lived for six months alone, in a cave, practicing the solitary and contemplative prayer life of the desert fathers.  During his retreat in this cave, he was powerfully convicted by the revelation of God's love in sending his Son to be crucified.  One mid-winter's night he heard from the Lord:
"For love of you I left my Father's side.  I came to you who ran from me, who fled me, who did not want to hear my name.  For love for you I was covered in spit, punched and beaten, and fixed to the wood of the cross."  
Later Brennan who say of that event, "those words are burned into my life.  That night, I learned what a wise old Franciscan told me the day I joined the Order - 'Once you come to know the love of Jesus Christ, nothing else in the world will seem as beautiful or desirable."


I wanted to blog on him because his writings are so simply profound.  A new book has come out and I am anxious to read it and recommend it to you also:  "All is Grace" is a memoir on his Ragamuffin life.  
There is a powerful video of this is on You Tube.  You can find it at:


As you watch this, realize just essential his message is not only for a lost and dying world; but also for us as individuals who believe and love poorly.



Peace

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Selective Spirituality

1 Samuel 15:13-23 (NIV)
13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, "The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD's instructions."
14 But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?"
15 Saul answered, "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest."
16 "Stop!" Samuel said to Saul. "Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night." "Tell me," Saul replied.
17 Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel.
18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.'
19 Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?"
20 "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.
21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."
22 But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king."


I don't like this story...it bothers me on multiple levels.  It strikes me at the core of my own faith, service to God (or at least attempted service), and this area of obedience.  See, like most Christians I have times of "selectivity" in listening and obeying.  I wished I could say it were not so, but I know the truth, so I'll be honest about it.

The question is "why"?  Why do we fall into this syndrome of selective spirituality?
Part of the answer is that we're simply not perfect beings.  The Psalmist says something very comforting to us:
Psalm 103:13-14 (NIV)
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.


He knows we are dust.  He knows us!
The question then becomes, "Do we know ourselves?"

First of all, we are made in the image of God...all of us, every human being.  We are not merely robots that respond to commands instantly; nor are we non-thinking, non-choosing machines.  We are people whom God has deposited various components of who we are.
We are physical beings
We are emotional beings
We are social beings
We are intellectual beings
We are spiritual beings.

God has put within us the ability to make choices on a number of different levels - often in combination within us.

This selectivity is understood on one level - we're human.
But on another level this selectivity shows that we've not paid attention to all that God has deposited within us.
Point blank...I say I trust, but that trust must not be on principles, or commands, or ideas; but that trust must be in a Person.

When you trust the Person - God - you don't have to live selectively, you can choose Him each time.
Saul doesn't have to be within us.
We can stop rationalizing, stop arguing, stop compromising the very person we trust in.
We can put our faith into the practical area of choice, and say "I'd rather do what I know is right before you God, because I know you are truth."

Peace

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fully Human

Luke 2:52 (NIV)
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

The word for stature is helikia, a word that implies maturity...growth in more than physical ways.  It implies formation of character, principles, values that serve to guide a person in living.

In a recent message surrounding this passage I mentioned that for some Jesus' growing up was not equal to our own - he was God.  But that is the fateful error (sorry to say, but heresy) of those who refused to believe Jesus was fully human, as well as fully divine.  In other words, we must not diminish his humanity in order to understand all that he is.
Being "fully human" is not just a way of describing Jesus; it is also an objective for each of our own lives.

Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.


God has made us in his image - that includes our physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual,and social dimensions.  Interestingly, scripture says that God has no physical form - he is a Spirit, not a physical body - thus we are told not to make a physical representation of him in the form of an idol.
So, our image-bearing is more those aspects of the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and social dimensions.
To be fully human is to know that God has made us with these.  To pay attention to those aspects of our being is simply "watching over our soul".

Jesus said,  "... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."   John 10:10 (NIV) 

I am a man, a husband, a father, a pastor, a professor, among many things.  Yet my identity is mainly as a follower of Jesus, a disciple - "a learner" - which is what discipleship means.  I am learning how to live my life the way the Jesus would live my life if he were me.  God has been faithful to me for my 62 years to develop and "grow" me.

OH, there is so much more to go; but this one thing I do, I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me (that's Paul's words - Phil 3:12).

Fully Human...that's God's gift to us.

Peace

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 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.
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."


In just one week the Winter/Spring semester begins for me at Christian Life College - Madison.  I am a Pastor in both my passion and my sense of God's calling.  That is what I do most of the time.  The other part of my time is to have the privilege to teach a college class and enjoy the academic side of Spirituality.
I don't think a lot of people think about their faith often enough.  We're told that the greatest commandment is "to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, your mind."  It certainly seems important to think with our mind.  In a classroom I often ask questions...seeking to get students to think and personalize the material.

This next Semester's class is a course on "Development and Growth"...how do we as Christians grow and develop in soul, spirit, and mind?
One aspect of this course is to dive into some material in a book - Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, written by Peter Scazzero.  He has some really helpful things to say about how we do, or do not, grow-up in emotionally healthy ways, and he has a lot of experience - he almost quit his faith and his ministry because of his own lack of emotional health.

My own experience in this is similar.  There came a time in the late 1990's that I almost quit.  Almost quit ministry, almost quit the church, almost quit on just about everything.  I was discouraged, burnt out, and fed up.

The truth is that we live in a society where being a member of a church has proved to be of little help when it comes to marriage, divorces, friendships, parenting, sexuality, singleness, addictions, depression, etc...  The truth is that Christians have about the same percentages as the general population when it comes to all of these areas.  Which is one reason why some people QUIT.  They grow up in church, but when it comes to their experiences they feel frustrated by the lack of progress...and when people don't quit, they stay but without the passion, staying passive for years.

SOMETHING is missing, somethings not right, and that deep gnawing feeling is right where many find themselves.
There are no end of suggested solutions, and I've tried them all:
  • More Bible Study
  • More Community Programs
  • This is Spiritual Warfare
  • Healing Prayer
  • Worship
  • Mission/Serving
  • Need to get hold of God's grace more
All have a place, but none are solutions...in fact, as a stand alone they can only serve to deceive us into thinking we only need time and to try harder.

What is true about us is that we resemble an Iceberg...what people see is the 10% we project, and the real US is the 90% below the surface.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 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.
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."




A Yoke is a two-animal collar.  It meant they pulled together.  They were a team and together they could do what neither of them could do alone.  The weariness and burden-bearing that would be singular is changed into something that felt quite restful.
What's interesting is that in Israel during Jesus' day, the farming with Oxen was usually done so that one experienced Ox worked with a younger one, so that the younger one grew up understanding what it was suppose to do.

Jesus says, hook yourself up with me.  I'll help you get "un-wearied", "un-burdened", you'll find that it is more "rest" than work.

I'm going to blog some more on this as my semester goes along...but I thought you'd might to start "thinking" with me also.

Peace

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What about "IF" faith?

Yesterday I mused on the idea of "High Faith".  The words faith and high don't necessarily ring a bell; but I wanted to think out loud about how we approach faith, or don't approach it on a daily basis.  Most of us who believe in Christ struggle with the daily aspect of walking out faithfully the faith we affirm on Sunday.  It's easy to be a Sunday Christian.  I can say, act, do the right things in the company of my believing friends; it's Monday thru Saturday that my faith leaves me perplexed.
Think about these two accounts.
Mark 9:2-9 (NIV)
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.
3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!"
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.


No matter what we experience that is good, we all have to come down the mountain.  Life is not lived on the mountain, but down on the earth.  What we'd like to do is build an altar on the mountain top and stay there...who doesn't want the "high"?  Yet Jesus brought them down...to where life was not filled with dazzling white, and visions, and clouds that amaze; but rather to where "stuff" happens.
Later in that passage...just 5 verses later, and obviously as they re-enter the world from the mountain top:

Mark 9:14-24 (NIV)
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.
15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 "What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.
18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."
19 "O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered.
22 "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
23 "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" 



Faith is essential, and at times quite elusive.  Nine times in the gospels Jesus says, "Your faith has healed you."  Not all were believing Jews.  A Roman Centurion soldier, a Cannaanite woman are two of those he speaks these words to.

Peter, James, and John go "up" on the mountain and see the amazing.  Then they go down and see the typical.  What is in between?
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 


In the midst of the high, coming down is a dose of reality.  None of this glory is to be noted until after he has died and been risen.
There will be a crucifixion and then a resurrection, and then the other side...you can speak about it then.  Not today.  Today we enter the world without that glory.

They go down and meet frustrated people.
The disciples are frustrated.
Arguing, failing to solve the problem, no healing, unbelieving...that is normal.

"O Unbelieving generation, How long...?" Jesus says.  You can sense his own exasperation.  The disciples hang around Jesus all of the time.
They've seen him pray; and they've seen him heal.
Why can't we do it?  They are looking down, humbled and feeling like failures.

The father is frustrated.  He doesn't want an argument, he wants his son to get healed.
The boy is frustrated.  He is the one who has the seizures.
There's nothing more frustrating than to be a parent and watch a child go through something like that.
Yet, this has demonic roots to it.   That makes us feel uncomfortable.  Who would diagnose a demon today?  Jesus did.
He asks, "how long has this been going on?"
"A long time - from childhood - he's almost died - 
"IF" you can do something.

IF faith is comfortable faith.
IF is not mountain top faith... it is everyday, normal life.
"IF?" Jesus says, "IF?"...

It's a challenge isn't it?  What do you believe in?  What are you counting on?
"Everything is possible to those who believe..."
He doesn't make a promise that everything will happen the way we want it to because of faith.

Hope is sometimes framed by "IF" faith.

Jesus, I believe, but I doubt; I hope, but I fear; I pray, and I waver;  I ask, and I worry;
I believe...please help me with my unbelief.

I understand the IF prayers and faith.

Since most of us spend little time with the tiny book of Jude, let me quote from it to end this:
Jude 1:21-22 (NIV)
21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt.


Peace

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"High" Faith

Faith is a footbridge that you don't know will hold you up over the chasm until you're forced to walk out onto it.  (NICHOLAS WOLTERSTORFF)

So much of our journey with God involves "choosing" to trust in someone other than our own selves.  In his book, Faith and Doubt, John Ortberg talks about the way in which faith really works.  He has this chapter that begins with the idea of "Mountains" and with that jumps into the theme of "height" as a metaphor.
Altars in ancient times were built in "high places".
Sacrifices were made in Israel by "high priests".
Today we speak of "high ideals" and "high achievements" and politicians who run for "high office".
When someone is a snob, arrogant, we tell them to get off their "high horse".
When someone gets addicted to drugs they get a "high", and when they seek to get off their addiction they seek a "higher power".
Heights attract us in ways that go beyond simple statements.

About six weeks ago I did a wedding at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  They were only the foothills and not the mountain tops and it was still awe inspiring.
Heights humble us because they speak to our smallness.
One of God's most important designations is "The Most High" which means he is over "all" things.  God most high...someone who cannot be controlled, managed or defined by our own terms.

Some have called faith a "leap".  As if it's not reasonable, not measured, without regard for common sense.  Yet it isn't that at all.  Faith is like putting on glasses.  We need glasses for vision correction.  We simply see, but not clearly.  Yet faith is more than that, it's also passion and commitment.  In faith we say I'm willing to make a commitment (say my wife in marriage) that goes way beyond "knowing", "predicting" what is going to occur.

Faith is a commitment.
Faith is a passion.

During Worship this morning I remembered the story of the French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pasca.  He was - is - one of the most brilliant person who ever lived.  Yet he struggled with depression, was unhappy with life.  Then one day it all changed.  His demeanor changed almost over night, and his family and friends wondered how it all could happen so suddenly.  What had happened was that he an encounter with God.  Interestingly, he never spoke about it to anyone.  In fact, no one would have known it occurred if it hadn't been for an accidental discovery after he died.  His nephew and a servant were taking care of his affairs, including what to do with his clothing.  They discovered a piece of paper sewn into his coat.  It turned out to be a crumbled piece of faded paper.  It was nine years old by that time, and yet it recorded what happened.  These were the words he wrote that night:
Fire. GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob. 
Not the God of the philosophers and of the learned. 
Certitude. Certitude. 
Feeling. Joy. Peace. 
GOD of Jesus Christ … 
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD. 
Grandeur of the human soul. 
Joy, Joy, Joy, tears of joy …4

Ortberg, John (2008-09-02). Faith and Doubt (p. 70). Zondervan


Faith is like that...mysterious, passionate, wonder-filled, and yet it is exactly what makes life real.

Peace






Saturday, January 7, 2012

Epiphany - A Day Late!


Epiphany was January 6th, and I'm a day late, but was traveling yesterday, so forgive me for not getting this on time.

We’ve come to the end of the 12 days of Christmas.  Epiphany is the appearance of the Wise Men, the Magi, who came from the East to find the “King, born of the Jews”.  
Each of the days between Christmas and Epiphany celebrated an aspect of our faith.  And now, the twelfth day arrived.
“On the Twelfth Day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me:
Twelve Drummers Drumming”

What did it stand for?  The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed:
1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

There you have it...twelve days for twelve significant aspects of our faith.

There are certain advantages to knowing these 12 aspects of our faith.
Most Christians know Jesus – the Partridge who is willing to die for it’s children.
And, they know there are two Testaments (Covenants) in the Old and the New. (Two Turtledoves)
Three Essential Christ-like character: Faith, Hope Love (three French Hens)
Four Gospels (Four Colly Birds)
Five Books of Moses (Five Golden Rings)
Six days of Creation (Six Geese-a-laying)
Seven Gifts of the Spirit (Seven Swans-a-Swimming)
Eight Beatitudes Jesus Spoke (Eights maids-a-milking)
Nine Fruit of the Spirit (Nine Ladies Dancing)
Ten Commandments from God (Ten Lords-a-leaping)
Eleven Faithful Disciples (Eleven Pipers Piping)
And NOW,
Twelve Doctrinal Statements in the Apostle’s Creed (Twelve Drummers Drumming)

The key is, can you/I say what each of them are from memory?  What if we took the time to actually memorize what each of them were?  Some are easy (the first 5 I think), and some will take some work (six thru 12), but they are worth it.
Thanks for journeying with me through these twelve days.

Peace

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Days 8,9,10,&11

OK, so the 12 days of Christmas is getting a bit accelerated.  I'm off for a couple of days and want to get ahead...planning on making a final blog on the 12th day.

By the way, Shakespeare wrote "Twelfth Night".  The twelfth night is January 5, which is one of the days I'm gone, so I'll lean a bit towards that now.
The origin and counting of the 12 days is not universally held in the church.  Western churches count after Christmas and the 12th day is Jan. 6th.
The 12th day is celebrated as the day the Magi - the wise men - from the East arrived to present their gifts to the baby Jesus.  Here is the passage that records that in the New Living Translation:
Matthew 2:1-12 (NLT)
1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,
2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.
4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared.
8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.
10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!
11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. 


The event that concludes with the Magi's bowing before the child is referred to as Epiphany.

The song we've been remembering is based on a series of images/symbols, all which stand for an aspect of the faith:
On the first day of Christmas,
My true love (God) gave to me
A Partridge in a Pear tree (Jesus)
On the second day...
Two Turtle doves (Old and New Testaments)
Three French Hens (Faith, Hope, and Love)
Four Colly Birds (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
Five Golden Rings (The Pentateuch)
Six Geese-a-laying (Six days of Creation)
Seven Swans-a-swimming (Seven fold Spirit)
And, now 8, 9, 10, and 11

Eight Maids-a-Milking - There are 8 Beatitudes Jesus spoke
Matthew 5:3-10 (NIV)
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Nine Ladies Dancing - There are Nine Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Ten Lords-a-leaping - There are 10 Commandments God gave Moses
Exodus 20:3-17 (NIV)
3 "You shall have no other gods before me.
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol...
7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God...
8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
12 "Honor your father and your mother...
13 "You shall not murder.
14 "You shall not commit adultery.
15 "You shall not steal.
16 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house...
your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Eleven Pipers Piping - There were 11 Apostles who stayed true to Christ
Luke 6:13-16 (NIV)
13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:
14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,
15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot,
16 Judas son of James, (and Judas Iscariot, the 12th was a traitor.)

You got to admit..it's a clever way to teach any kind of Catechism!

Peace