Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Jubilee Year

Today's Reading:
  • Leviticus 24:1 - 25:46
  • Proverbs 10:20 - 21
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Leviticus 24:1 - 25:46
Today I learned about two concepts -- the Sabbath Year and the Jubilee Year.  The Lord commanded the people to let the earth completely rest every seventh year.  The was to be the Sabbath Year, and no food was to planted and no harvests were to be stored away.  The people were allowed to eat whatever the land produced on its own.  The Lord promised them that there would be an overabundance of harvest on the sixth year so that they will still have plenty of food to eat during the seventh year.

The Jubilee Year occurs after seven cycles of Sabbath Years (49 years), and therefore takes place on the 50th year.  This was to be a holy year.  In this year the land was not be harvested (same rules as Sabbath Year).

The most interesting thing about the Jubilee year to me is that it seemed to be a debt cancellation year of sorts.  Each person was allowed to return to the land of their ancestors during that year.  If a person was hard up and sold their land, it was only sold until the next Jubilee year.  Therefore the price of the land was set based upon the number of years, or harvests, until the Jubilee.

I tried to find out when the next Jubilee year is, however it appears to be greatly disputed.  One of the points of contention is that we don't know if the Jubilee year overlaps with the first day of the next seven year cycle.  Another problem is pinpointing when exactly the first Jubilee year was.

Christians started celebrating the Jubilee year in the year 1300.  That appears to be an undisputed fact, although I do not have a definitive link to give as reference.  I know only what I see from multiple references.  The first Jubilee was declared by Pope Boniface VIII.  There have been 27 Jubilee years since the first Jubilee that were declared by resigning popes.  The last Jubilee year was declared to be in 2000.

I am a bit baffled at which years were chosen, however, because the length between the Jubilees vary -- most are 25 years between, some are 27 years between, one is 40 years between and it was 50 years between the first and the second Jubilee declared by a pope.  I am not going to do a bunch of research right now to try to figure out why the popes would declare Jubilee years to be, on average, 25 years apart instead of 50. 

Proverbs 10:20 - 21
20  The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless.
21  The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.
Lord, I pray for your words to flow through me to share with the world.  Let not my words and my heart be filled with ignorance, but instead fill my heart with your love and let my words shine unto others like a light.  Amen.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Welcoming the Children in the Name of Jesus

    Today’s Reading:
  • Mark 9:30 - 10:12
  • Psalm 44:1 - 8
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Mark 9:30 - 10:12
The disciples of Jesus were arguing over which one of them was the greatest.  Jesus told them that it is he who serves all the others that is the greatest.  Jesus then tells them that those who welcome children in his name welcome him (9:37).

My study bible points out something important in understanding verse 9:37.  It says that children were not perceived the same way they are now -- adorable and innocent.  Instead they were perceived as weak and inferior, so those that were welcoming the children were serving what others saw as the weak and the inferior.

Of course we should still welcome our children in the name of Jesus.  Jesus knew what general society avoided realizing at the time -- children were not these weak, inferior creatures -- these children were blank slates and they were the future, and raising them in the name and love of Jesus would forever shape their lives and the lives of the people they would interact with throughout their journey through life.

Jesus then goes on to say that it is better to hang a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause one of these children to fall into sin (9:42).  Reading these verses make me realize that we do pass our sins along to our children.  All that we do and say is an example that our children tend to eventually follow.  This isn't true in all cases, of course, and some examples are more extreme than others.  The bottom line is that our children learn how to interpret and interact with the world from us.

So this reading makes me reflect on the examples I set for my children.  I certainly am trying to raise them in the Lord, more so now than ever before.  I try to pass along examples of kindness, generosity and open-mindedness.  But what else do I pass along?  What things do I struggle with that I don't want my children to be afflicted with?

I am thankful that I am undergoing this reflection of my life against the Word of God while my kids are still young.  I'll never be a perfect parent or a perfect example, but I can always aim to correct the areas where the examples I set are out of alignment with the examples that the Lord wants me to set for my children.  Thank you Lord!

Psalm 44:1 - 8 
6  I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me.
7  You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us.
The bible is full of hard lessons for us to take in when we truly use it as a measure against our lives.  One of those lessons that pops up all over the place is learning to let the Lord fight our battles for us.  The things which we claim in our name name mean nothing at all and are soon lost.  The things obtained by the Lord are perfect and everlasting.

I am now about one-sixth of the way through!  I am so thrilled that the Lord has kept me on track for this long -- I have published a post each and every day for 116 days in a row!  I have had doubts about my ability to keep up with such an extensive project.  There are many times that I wish I could just read the bible on a given day instead of writing a post that publicizes all I am thinking.  But in the end I'm better off for it.  It forces me to truly reflect on what the bible is saying to me within a passage.

There are many days when I read a passage and I think, "What am I going to write about for this?"  And then I wind up writing a long post that really caused me to flesh out my feelings and expand upon what I read.  Today was one of those days.  I thank the Lord for seeing me through this far, and I pray that He keeps me on track and gives me the stamina to finish out this two year long project.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Should Christians Celebrate The Day of Atonement?

Today's Reading:
  • Leviticus 22:17 - 23:44
  • Proverbs 10:19
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Leviticus 22:17 - 23:44

These chapters in Leviticus deal with holy holidays.  I was immediately interested in The Day of Atonement, otherwise known as the Jewish holiday Yom Kipper.  The Lord says that we must deny ourselves that day (by fasting, I presume) and that no work shall be done.  The Lord even says that all people who do not deny themselves that day will be cut off from God's people, and that He will destroy anyone who does work that day.  The Lord then concludes by saying this is a permanent law to be followed generation after generation.

So of course I have to wonder, does this count for Christians?  From all the holy days that the Lord has so far said to observe, this one comes with the most stern warnings -- to be cut off from God's people, and to be destroyed if one performs work that day.

I did some research and Yom Kipper is the most holy of Jewish holidays.  I did find that many Christians observe this day also.  In 2012, The Day of Atonement starts at sunset on September 25th and ends at sunset on September 26th.  I guess I have until then to see what all I can find out about this day -- should it be observed by me, how should it be observed by me (what all does "deny yourself" mean) and so on.

From what I have read so far, I feel like if there is any Old Testament holy day I should observe that it should certainly be this one.  I really do want to learn more about it, and would appreciate any comments on why or why not a Christian should observe this day, and what all is including in denying one's self.

Proverbs 10:19
Too much talk leads to sin.  Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
I see over and over again in the bible how the words that come out of our mouths defile us.  Most of us (including myself, of course) could probably do good getting some practice on learning when to shut our mouths!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beware Waiting for End Time Prophecies to be Fulfilled

    Today’s Reading: 
  • Mark 9:1 - 29
  • Psalm 43:1 - 5
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Mark 9:1 - 29
This reading in Mark highlights two stories that I previously read in Matthew.  The second story was where Jesus cast an evil spirit out of a boy.  The first story was the transfiguration of Jesus Christ on top of a mountain.  There a handful of the disciples witnessed Jesus transformed and speaking to Moses and Elijah.  The Lord then spoke to them from a cloud, telling them that Jesus was His son.

The verses that were most interesting to me today were 9:11-13.  In these verses the disciples ask Jesus why they were told that Elijah must come back before the Messiah does.  This same question was asked when I read it in Matthew (17:11-13) and there the disciples realized that John the Baptist was Elijah returned.

What strikes me about this particular passage in the bible is that no one realized that the prophecy had already come to pass.  They were waiting for a specific sign and were totally ill-prepared for the truth of the arrival of the Messiah because of it.

This immediately made me think about a previous post I wrote where Jesus warned us about signs of the end times.  One of the signs in particular stuck out me -- the sign was that Christians throughout the entire world would be prosecuted, killed and hated.

My response to that was basically "I don't see that yet.  Perhaps we aren't as close to the end times as we thought."  Of course I accounted for the fact that the switch could occur practically overnight.  Perhaps it had something to do with the antichrist.  But the bottom line was, I hadn't seen that sign yet.

These verses really spoke to me and corrected my earlier thinking.  We don't have to realize that a prophecy has come to pass for it to actually have happened.  Perhaps it was masked to us.  Perhaps we took it to mean something else.  Perhaps it happened so far in the past that we aren't accounting for it being relevant for the present. 

The bible never ceases to amaze me.  I read this same story in Matthew, yet it didn't speak to me the way it did today.  It just goes to show that the bible always has something to teach you, no matter how many times you read something.  And make sure you are always ready for the return of the Lord -- regardless of what you think, or what scholars tell you about the prophecies that we are waiting on to be fulfilled. 

Psalm 43:1 - 5
This Psalm looks like a continuation of the last one I read.  My study bible mentions that many manuscripts list those two together.  It makes sense to me, because they both share that verse that stuck out to me last time -- the verse about being discouraged yet still putting one's hope in the Lord.

Both of these Psalms are attributed to the "descendents of Korah".  The name Korah was not ringing a bell to me when I read these Psalms (I have much more studying to do!) so I did a little research to find out who these people are.  What I read is that Korah rebelled against Moses.  Since I am still reading Leviticus, I haven't yet gotten to that part of the bible.  I will certainly be on the lookout for Korah and for what his descendents had to endure. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Expectations of Leaders

Today's Reading:
  • Leviticus 20:22 - 22:16
  • Proverbs 10:18
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Leviticus 20:22 - 22:16
These chapters in Leviticus deal with regulations and expectations of priests.  The rules on priests are more stringent than for others, and the rules for the high priest are the most stringent of all.  The high priest was never to go near a dead body -- not even his own parents.  The other priests were only allowed to go near the bodies of his closest relatives -- mother, father, brother, sister and daughter.

The priests were forbidden to marry a woman who had been divorced who had been defiled by prostitution.  The high priest could marry only a virgin, which means they could not marry a widow in addition to those women whom the regular priests could not marry. 

We place a high expectation upon our leaders.  Our priests, our teachers, our government -- the expectations we place upon those people are more stringent than the expectations we place upon ourselves and others.

We should be able to imitate their behaviors and follow their examples for us.  No human is infallible, of course (that's why we need Jesus Christ!), but we do expect better of our leaders than of ourselves.  Apparently the Lord expects the same from His priests -- the people chosen to lead us in how the Lord wants us to live and the people He wants us to become.

Proverbs 10:18
Hiding hatred makes you a liar; slandering others makes you a fool.
We have seen many references to foolish people so far in Proverbs.  In most cases the people called fools are slandering people, speaking ignorance, babbling nonsense and/or spewing insults.  This verse, however, points out that we aren't any better by hiding these feelings within us.  If we have feelings of hatred and are hiding them then we are just lying to ourselves.  The Lord knows our true hearts and our true feelings.

It's not enough to just suppress your words and actions.  It seems that we must eradicate them from our hearts.  One thing is for certain, the more you push these other things out of your heart, the more room Jesus has to move around and truly take over your being and your life.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pick up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

    Today’s Reading:
  • Mark 8:11 - 38
  • Psalm 42:1 - 11
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Mark 8:11 - 38
Jesus warns those who follow him that they must give up all their selfish ways and follow him completely.  He says they must pick up their cross and follow him.  I believe that means that you must be willing to follow Jesus completely, even to the point of giving up your entire life to do so.  Giving up your entire life could manifest in many ways -- martyrdom, selling all your possessions and becoming a missionary, giving up a career in lieu of a calling from the Lord, or doing God's will and embracing your calling throughout the entire rest of your life.

Jesus also says the following in verse 8:38:
If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
I think that's a very stern warning that is definitely applicable to the people we surround ourselves with.  If you surround yourself with disbelievers, you must still stand up for your beliefs in the Lord.  If you are with them and are feeling ashamed to admit that you are a Christian to them, then you need to remove yourself from the situation and reevaluate who you are hanging around.

If you can hang with these crowds yet still hold fast to and practice your beliefs -- without being ashamed as to tell them why -- then that is a good thing.  Perhaps you can slowly crack open the door to their hearts (with prayer from the Lord to soften their hearts first, of course!) so that they will be willing to hear the Word of God.  

Just beware that you are not ashamed of being a Christian in any situation that you are put in, for you wouldn't want Jesus to be ashamed of you before the Lord.

Psalm 42:1 - 11 
This is a Psalm of the descendents of Korah. They are pleading to the Lord to rescue them from their enemies.  It was a very short Psalm -- only five verses.  The verse that stuck out to me the most was verse five:
Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again -- my Savior and my God!
I think this verse is an excellent reminder that no matter how hopeless, discouraged or depressed we feel; we should always lift our hearts to the Lord to guide us through those times.  There are occasions where I've had really bad days, and my emotions are overwhelming me.  When those days come to pass and it comes time for my nightly prayer, all I can do is release those feelings to the Lord.  Oftentimes I can't make a coherent prayer those nights, I just pray that the Lord be there for me and take those feelings from my heart.  When I do that, the next day is always a better day.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are All Tattoos Forbidden by the Bible?

Today's Reading:
  • Leviticus 19:1 - 20:21
  • Proverbs 10:17
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Leviticus 19:1 - 20:21
These two chapters in Leviticus rehashed many of the rules we've already seen, particularly the rules on sexual sins from the last reading in Leviticus.  There were a few new ones that I found interesting.  The first is Leviticus 19:27, which says you must not trim the hair on your temples or your beards.  This was perplexing to me at first, but my study bible suggests that this was to distinguish oneself from the Canaanites.  Therefore I would have to conclude that this probably is not valid for us anymore.

The thing that stuck out to me the most is verse 19:28.  The NLT version says that one should not mark themselves with tattoos.  The King James Version reads that you shall not print any marks upon yourself.

I have two tattoos, so this is quite alarming to me.  I consider my tattoos pretty and non-vulgar or offensive -- one has an angel in a garden with my two girls names on it, and the other has my favorite flower (fuchsia), some butterflies, and my son's name on it.  But now I have to wonder, did I royally screw up?

My study bible suggests that this verse might have to do with painting one's body, which is a pagan tradition.  Its placement is right after that verse about hair cutting (another distinguishing commandment, one that most would agree is no longer relevant) and the verse is directly preceding a verse that forbids witchcraft and fortune telling.  So it is sandwiched between two verses having to do with pagan practices.

I work with quite a few people who are Indian.  They have many pagan festivals and one of the traditions before many of them is that they paint themselves with elaborate henna designs.  If I had to guess right now, I would say that is the type of thing the Lord was commanding us to avoid.  We shouldn't paint marks on ourselves in celebration of festivals to other gods and/or idols.

On the other hand, I know that our bodies are a temple for the Lord and they should be fit for Him to live in.  A tattoo could be a violation against our own bodies.  I have yet to read those verses in the bible but I know they are there.  Also, I can't discount these laws simply because they are part of the Old Covenant.  I know I can discount those things which are unclean, or that makes a person unclean, but the Old Testament is also filled with many laws that few would argue are outdated --such as bestiality and incest being forbidden.  

So are tattoos like the two I have forbidden by the Lord?  The answer is I don't know yet.  I will have to pay attention to all references of the body and marks upon it as I go forward, and pray upon it as I do.  One thing is for certain, I cannot take back what I already have done.  I can only move forward from here and decide for myself before making any decision to get a new tattoo.  I can promise I won't take the situation lightly; I will not get another tattoo if I feel it is wrong after studying the bible.  If I read through the bible and decide that it's okay then a new tattoo will probably be in my future.  Regardless, it is no longer a decision that I can take without serious regard to what the bible speaks to me.

Proverbs 10:17
There is only one Proverb to read today, so I will quote it:
People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.
I couldn't agree with this statement more.  If we go our own ways with disregard to being corrected in our ways then we will wind up far from where we should be and be completely lost.  I am so thankful that I finally made it a priority in my life to study the Word so that the Lord can call me to correct the things in my life that are causing me to be separated from Him.  With His direction I can forge a new path for myself, one that aligns with His will.  I can aspire to live the life He wants me to live.  I have no doubt that my life on Earth will be more fulfilling, and the reward to it all is everlasting salvation.