OYB February 16
Julie FerwerdaAre you ready for change in 2009? Grab a One Year Bible (NLT), commit to reading it daily, and join Julie Ferwerda on an extraordinary adventure that will transform your life as you experience its relevance in a fresh, understandable way. In addition to 20+ years in Bible teaching ministry, Julie is a professional speaker and writer. Her works have appeared in publications such as Focus on the Family, Discipleship Journal, Christianity Today, Marriage Partnership, Brio, and Revolve Biblezines & Devotional Bible (for teens). She's also the author of "The Perfect Fit: Piecing Together True Love," and also the upcoming book, "One Million Arrows for God: Raising Your Children to Change the World." Learn more at www.JulieFerwerda.com.
- 2009 Feb 16
Special today: A mini-sermon from Julie (Hey, it's Sunday when I'm writing this). For those who are stopping by for the first time, we have been in an ongoing look at the two primary holidays, Christmas and Easter, and their origins, which we have discovered were not established by God.
Today I reflected on these holidays from a human standpoint. I wondered what is it that compels us to celebrate them while at the same time, leaves us feeling so burdened by them—at least parts of them? As I thought about Easter (think bunnies and eggs), and then I thought about Christmas (think Santa Claus and presents under the tree), I noticed that they are usually fun for our kids, because they have elements of gratification without any responsibility on our children's part. Our kids show up for all the fun, which is centered around their enjoyment, while we do all the work. So of course they love these two holidays! And these holidays are both burdensome and fun for parents. Burdensome because we have to expend so much energy, time, and money to make them special for our kids. Fun because we get to see the wonder and excitement in our kids' happy hearts.
But then, two things struck me. First, even if you throw out the fact that we are not celebrating the right Festival, at the right time of the year, in the way that was instituted by God, these two mock "Christian" holidays are spent looking down, focused on our children. Instead of looking up as all of God's children to celebrate Him, we are looking down to celebrate our children. We have it all backwards because, if we are honest with ourselves, these holidays are ultimately about our kids. Second, if we were to look up as the true Festivals established by God taught us to do, celebrating our Heavenly Parent, we would be filled with the joy and energy of His presence.
When we instead look down to celebrate our children, we do two potentially harmful things. We get used up by giving to them in a way that only satisfies their fleshly appetites, and secondly, we teach our children to look to us for their provision and gratification, instead of pointing them to feasting on God for all their provision like we are supposed to be doing.
I know we haven't talked much about the origins Christmas yet, but since we have opened the discussion about pagan holidays, consider Jeremiah 10:2-4: This is what the LORD says: "Do not learn the ways of the nations... For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter." Many of our practices of celebration today go back to ancient Babylon, and we can see here that God was specifically addressing the "Christmas tree" in this passage (even though it had not been given that name yet until later).
So get this. In Matthew 7:11 when Jesus spoke to the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount, He said, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" I believe Jesus was, at least in part, addressing the pagan customs from whence come holidays like Christmas and Easter. His point for us is that, if we get our eyes off gratifying our children with these pagan practices, our children and we will find that His gifts to us will far surpass any material gift we could buy for them. That is how our lives will be filled with joy. So today, look up my friend.
If you'd like a great article that is well laid out and easy to understand as to the origins of Christmas from Babylon, visit this site. Notice how it is the same people, Ishtar and Nimrod, who had a hand in Easter traditions that also had a hand in the origins of Christmas, as we know it! It is important to note, however, that while this article is informative and accurate according to pagan holiday history, I do not agree with other important doctrinal teachings of the church who published this, so be forewarned.
As we delve into Leviticus, the third out of five books of Torah, and a very difficult one to understand at that, keep in mind that many of the principles here that seem archaic and downright strange actually have some beautiful relevant symbolism. We can certainly work hard to uncover these deeper meanings, but it will take time and group effort!
We have already learned that Torah actually means, "teaching." In his book, "Restoration: returning the Torah of God to the disciples of Christ," Thomas Lancaster gives a richer picture of Torah. "Torah comes from a Hebrew root word that is used as an archery term meaning "to take aim, to shoot," such as shooting an arrow in order to hit a target. It is derived from the Hebrew verb yarah, "to cast, throw, shoot," The essence of this word then is "to hit the mark." The Torah is God's aim for us."
Lancaster goes on to say that traditional interpretation of Romans 10:4, "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes," is incorrect. Jesus did not come to put an end to the Torah, but He IS the end of the Torah. He is the end (fulfillment), but not the ending. He is the goal of Torah, but not the termination of it, in His own words, "Do not think that I came to abolish the law (Torah)." Matthew 5:17.
In the mean time, here is an amazing, beautiful understanding for you to keep as the backdrop in your mind as to what it reveals about God's sovereignty and the sheer magnitude of His limitlessness, and that is what God has "coded" into the five books of Torah. Ask any Hebrew scholar, and you will find that every 50th Hebrew letter in Genesis and Exodus adds together to spell "Torah." Every 50th letter in Numbers and Deuteronomy spells "Harot," or "Torah" spelled backwards. What are they pointing at? Every 7th letter in Leviticus spells "Yahweh." Now isn't that just beyond inspiring?!
3:16 Remember, all the fat belongs to the Lord. I have no problem with this statement. I just wish He'd go ahead and take mine! ☺
Jesus heals a paralyzed man. There are so many applications we can make from this passage. Two of my favorite applications are this: when I am in a weakened condition (physically, emotionally, spiritually), the faith of my friends can bring me to a place of healing. Also, my spiritual healing is the first and most important healing Jesus can give me. The healing of my human body is only temporary and should not be desired first.
Questions for reflection:
Do you ever feel the burden of traditional holidays instead of the joy? How have you added to this burden, if at all? Do you think this burden is God's design for you or for a day to celebrate Him?
If you have children, is it your priority to teach them to look to God for their provision in all things? How can you accurately do this in a practical manner?
When you are in a weakened condition, do you share the burden with your friends so that they might carry your mat to Jesus? Or do you try to handle it on your own, not wanting to trouble anyone? In the same way, do you take the time to share the hurts and weaknesses of your friends? God has made us so that we need the help and faith of our true godly friends in time of need. Remember Galatians 6:2: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."