Sunday, April 21, 2013

Statement of Faith

I believe there is only one God (Rom. 3:30, Gal. 3:20, Isa. 43:10-11, Isa. 44:6-8, Mark 12:29-34, Eph. 4:6), who is the eternal, immeasurable, and omnipotent ruler of all. (1 Tim. 1:17, 1 John 3:19-20, Matt. 19:26, Rev. 19:6, Eph. 3:20) He has neither beginning nor end. (Rev. 1:8, Rev. 4:8, Gen. 1:1) Because I believe these things about God, I reject the belief that He was once a man who was elevated to Godliness, because that would require the confines of human limitations to be placed upon Him, and would negate his eternal omnipotence. As He always was, as He always is, and as He always will be. (Rev. 1:8) Likewise, as a man, he would be a created being, negating the eternal nature of God having no beginning or end. In the same manner, I reject the idea that any mere person may be elevated to the status of godliness. I believe God to be the same in form and power throughout the ages. I reject the idea that God the Father consists of flesh, blood, and humanly materials on the same basis as I reject a once-human state. (Num. 23:19)
            I believe God to be a Spirit (John 4:24), but the language cannot clearly define the meaning. When I speak of God as a Spirit, I do not mean as one entity such as a soul, that occupies one space and time. God is indefinable and unfathomable. By Spirit I mean all-encompassing light, love, goodness, energy, and life. (I John 4:8, Isa. 60:19, John 1:3-5) Not one entity in a singular location, but an entity that is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Because of the all-powerful nature of God, and because He is not confined to a solitary physical body, I believe that Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are also God, manifested in different forms and charged with unique tasks, but still branches of the same entity and Spirit that is God.
This is the Trinity: not that three separate Gods exist, or that three separate beings exist, but one God exists in three manifestations, each of the same all-encompassing power and being. (1 John 5:7-8, John 10:30) God the Father, who exerts His presence over the heavenly realm. (Ecc. 5:2, Ps. 115:3, Luke 11:2, Matt. 23:9) Jesus Christ, who as the same Spirit of God also has no beginning or end, and was neither created nor can be destroyed, and by whom as The Word the Earthly realm was created. (Gen 1:1, John 1:1) In order to provide salvation and atonement (that is, freedom from our sins and the bonds of human and worldly sinfulness, and the gift of eternal life in the heavenly realm) The Word was born into a human body, which retained a human consciousness and human functions, desires, and needs along with the Spirit of God manifest as The Word within him. (John 1:14, 1 John 4:9-11) These were not two separate consciousnesses or entities inhabiting one physical body, but the Spirit of God manifest as The Word engulfing the consciousness that was man, so that the two became one. Because of his Godliness, Jesus was able to live fully according to what was commanded in the Old Testament and the Law, and therefore was able to break the bondage of sin and the condemning Law for the world by sacrificing Himself as a blood sacrifice as dictated in the Law was needed for the atonement of sins. (Lev. 17:11, Heb. 9:22, Rev. 1:5, 1 John 4:10, 2 Cor. 5:18-19) The curse of the Law and sins’ grasp on the world being broken, and mortal death being hence conquered, Jesus was fully resurrected from the dead. (Matt. 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Rom. 6:8-11) Because of his perfect and sinless life (1 John 3:5), the Son of Man did not separate from the Word (that is God) upon resurrection, but ascended into the heavenly realm in perfect bodily form. (Acts 1:9-11, Col. 2:9) Because through his sacrifice on Earth He also freed us from that bondage, we too will experience glorified bodies as Christ does in the heavenly realm. (Rom. 6:4-5, Phil. 3:21, 1 John 3:2) In order for this to happen, our hearts must be open and accepting of this truth in faith. (Gal. 3:11, 22-26; John 3:16, Rom. 8:38-39, Rom. 10:9-10, Eph. 2:8-9)
            The third manifestation of God, the Holy Ghost, manifests itself on Earth. (John 14:26, Acts 1:8, Rom. 8:27) The Holy Ghost is of the same will and power as the Father and Christ the Son, because it is of the same entity and Spirit in a different manifestation. The Holy Ghost is the manifestation of God that directly affects us, dwelling within us to guide us and lead us. (Luke 11:13, Rom. 5:5, Acts 5:32) The Holy Ghost is the presence of God within the Earthly realm until Christ returns to Earth, when the two realms shall become one. The Holy Ghost inspires us and leads us to the knowledge and the will of God. It also inspires us in faith through the understanding and acceptance of that knowledge. (Eph. 1:17-22, John 14:26)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas

Because my birthday falls on January 6th, which is Epiphany, I began researching the twelve days leading up to that date. These twelve days are commonly known as The Twelve Days of Christmas. Yes, the twelve days of Christmas come AFTER Christmas, not before. The season before Christmas is known as Advent, which us a time of preparation for the coming of the Savior. Christmas begins on December 25, and lasts through Twelfth Night on the evening of January 5th. January 6th begins the season of Epiphany, where we celebrate Christ's manifestation to the world as the Son of God and the Savior, beginning with the visit of the Magi.

1. Christmas day was the First Day of Christmas, when God (our true Love) sent his one and only Son to become atonement for our sins (much like a partridge in a pear tree, who is known to feign injury to decoy predators and protect her helpless nestlings).

2. The Second Day of Christmas - In Catholicism this is also known as the Feast of St. Stephen, and is celebrated by giving leftovers of the Christmas feast to the poor as described in the carol "Good King Wenceslas." In relation to the song, we can view this as the day when our true Love gave us two turtle doves, that is, the two Testaments, old and new, that proclaim the word of God. Turtle doves are often used to represent devout love and faithfulness. When Jesus was brought to the temple to be consecrated after his birth, two turtle doves were sacrificed in accordance with the Law of Moses.

3. The Third Day of Christmas - This is the day when our True love gave to us three French hens, which can be viewed as the Three Theological Virtues. These three virtues are faith, hope, and love - but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)

4. The Fourth Day of Christmas - On this day our True love gives to us four calling birds (or colly, in the original English tradition). These birds represent the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Today is also the Feast of the Innocents, which remembers the thousands of children who were slaughtered by Herod in his fearful search for the one who was prophesied about. This event is commemorated in the well-known Coventry Carol.

5. The 5th Day of Christmas - Today our gift from our True Love is five golden rings, which represent the five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books are also known as the Torah. They outline the history of our sinful humanity and introduce us to God's grace through the promise of a Savior.

6. The 6th Day of Christmas - This day celebrates the 6 days of creation. Just as geese a-laying is the beginning of new life, so was the creation that gave life to all around us. Today is also the Catholic feast of the Holy Family, which is a great day to be thankful for the blessing of family and strive to live in the faithful love that the Holy Family exemplified.

7. The Seventh Day of Christmas - Our True Love gives to us seven swans a-swimming, which represents the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. "If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." (Rom. 12:6-8 NIV) This is an especially interesting thing to think about as we enter a new year and set our resolutions, as we can think about the gifts that we have been given personally and how to best use them this year to the glory of God.

8. The Eighth Day of Christmas - On the eighth day of Christmas our True Love gives to us eight maids a-milking. These young ladies represent the Beatitudes. These are eight blessings given by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. They demonstrate his teaching of love and humility, and exhibit God's mercy and compassion.

1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
3. Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
5. Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3-10 NIV)

9. The 9th Day of Christmas - This day our gift from our True Love is nine ladies dancing. The nine stand for the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). These are given to us as guidelines for how to live a life in Christ and love one another.
10. The 10th Day of Christmas - Today our gift from our True Love is ten lords a-leaping. We can view them as representative of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
11. The 11th Day of Christmas - Almost there! On the 11th day of Christmas our True Love gives us eleven pipers piping, which represent the eleven faithful apostles. It doesn't include Judas who betrayed Jesus. I also find the pipers to be symbolic of the apostles who, after the ascension of Christ, traveled, taught, and proclaimed the good news of a risen savior.

12. The 12th Day of Christmas! On this day our True Love gives to us twelve drummers drumming. They stand for the 12 point of the apostles creed, which is statement of the Christian faith and beliefs. Tonight is also Twelfth Night, which celebrates the end of the Christmas season and marks the coming of Epiphany. Some traditions that historically take place on Twelfth Night are drinking wassail, baking pastries and cakes, and overall merrymaking. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night was considered the end of the Winter Festival that began on All Hallow's Eve. Christmas decorations were also traditionally taken down on Twelfth Night. The most famous literary reference is the Shakespeare play by the same name.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Talking Donkeys

For the last six months I have been working my way through the Bible. I started with the New Testament, and then moved on to the Old Testament. My reasoning behind reading it in that order was to become more well-versed in the events surrounding the coming of the Messiah so I could more easily recognize the parallels and prophesies concerning it in the Old Testament.

If I can be completely honest, I struggle with the Old Testament. Somewhere mid-Genesis I found myself alternately appalled and bored. Currently I am reading the Book of Numbers. Come to find out, it literally is a book full of numbers. Imagine that! The book includes detailed census counts of the Israelites as they wandered the desert.

Last night I was feeling especially down in the dumps, and decided to continue my reading. Admittedly, I wasn't excited about more OT numbers, details, and blood, but I was still searching for some kind of comfort. I began reading at Numbers 22. The chapter recounts the story of a man named Balaam who the Midianites try to entice into cursing the people of Israel. God commands Balaam that he must not curse the people of Israel, because they are a blessed people. Anyway, the part of the story that struck me was Balaam and his donkey. Balaam started down a path that was contrary to what the Lord had commanded, so the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. (Numbers 22:22) Balaam's donkey was able to see the angel of the Lord, but Balaam was not, so the donkey kept doing whatever she could to avoid going further down the path. Because Balaam could not see that the path was blocked by the angel of the Lord, he continued to beat his donkey for her disobedience. Finally, the Lord gave the donkey the power to speak, and she laid quite a guilt trip on her master. The Lord then opened Balaam's eyes and he was able to see the the angel of the Lord.

The angel of the Lord asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her." Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road of oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back." - Numbers 22:32-34 (NIV)

Why did this story strike me? It is very easy to follow what I want. It isn't always so easy to see the Lord opposing my choices. I think sometimes I am a bit like Balaam, following a path that I think is the best, when all the while the Lord is standing in opposition. It is easy to lash out and place blame on the things around me that I feel like are causing me problems, like Balaam lashing out on his donkey, when those things may simply be placed there as intentional stumbling blocks meant to hinder my progress down the wrong path. Perhaps the things that I see as standing in my way are actually things that guard me from utter disaster. I just find it unfortunate that I don't have a talking donkey to tell me so.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pointing to a Random Verse

I wasn't quite sure if it was an acceptable thing for me to do, but I thought it was worth a try. I was in a state I can only describe as extreme frustration, praying desperately that God help me to see His path for my life. I opened my Bible and pointed to a verse at random. I opened my eyes, looked down, and read the words under my finger: "You have made known to me the paths of life"...really? REALLY?! I felt discouraged. If I already knew my path, why would I be asking so fervently? Dwelling on this, I noticed that I had gotten so caught up in the first part of the verse, I had ignored the second part: "you will make me full of gladness with your presence." (Acts 2:28) Ah ha. I do know the paths of life after all. I need to rejoice in the fact that God is always present with me, and will always be there to guide me. I just need to actually trust Him and listen! I am not supposed to know exactly what is in store for me, God will reveal it to me when we get to it.
You have made known to me the paths of life, you will make me
full of gladness at your presence. - Acts 2:28

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Falling Off the Bull

Summertime gives me a great chance to finally slow down and think about things. It also gives me the time to come up with sappy analogies. Bear with me here! I'd like to compare our troubles in life to a rodeo. More specifically, bull riding. I apologize in advance to all of those real tried-and-true cowbows out there, my knowledge of the sport is pretty much limited to the stands at the county fair and the movie "8 Seconds." Reguardless, it is the best analogy I can think of to illustrate my point.

Imagine yourself as a rookie bull rider. You have never been on a bull before, but you trust in yourself and your natural ability. As you wait behind the gate, the feeling is indescribable. You feel the adrenaline rush, like you could conquer anything. You feel certain you will be an all-star your very first time. The gate tighten your grip...the bull bursts from the shoot and it is a purely exhilarating experience...for all of half a second. One moment you are on top of the world (and the bull), the next you are flat on your back in a cow pie. You could quit right there. After all, you didn't succeed like you were sure you would. Your coach picks you up (do they have coaches in bull riding? I don't know, but in my story they do) and brushes you off. He gives you directions and guidance as you climb on again. As the gate opens, though, the rush is too much. Everything your coach told you has been lost in the exhilaration of the moment, and before you know it you are reunited with that cow pie. Time and time again, your coach picks you up and gives you guidance and directions, and time and time again you get caught up in the excitement and the visions of your own glory. Before long, frustration sets in and for the life of you, you can't figure out why you try and try but always end up with the same painful results.

Each time you fall, though, your coach is there to pick you up. As he is giving you yet again more guidance, you realize that you have been focusing on entirely the wrong things. Your goal has been the exhilaration and excitment of the moment, and achieving glory for yourself. Finally, you listen to what your coach has been saying all along. You will still fall off the bull from time to time, but your with you coach's guidance the pain of falling becomes much less. By focusing on the guidance of your coach rather than your own exhilaration and glory, you are finally able to achieve that glory. Not because of yourself, but because of He who gives you strength and guidance.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight."
-Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trinity Lutheran - South Divide in Sidney, Nebraska

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hand It Over

Pastor greeted me after church. "You seem so much happier lately!" he remarked. "What changed?" I paused. What has changed? I gave the run-of-the-mill answer, "Things are just getting better!" Driving home, I really started considering it. I can definitely feel a change, but can I pinpoint the cause? Yes, I believe I can. It's all about control. I will admit it. My name is Jessica, and I'm a control freak.

 People have been telling me for a long time that I need to relinquish control over to God. Yeah, yeah, I know I would respond. I acknowledged that giving up control was what I needed, but it seemed like an entirely impossible task, and some deep down part of me still held on to the self-absorbed notion that I need to get what I want despite what God wants. Yes, I prayed for guidance, but it was with a feeling of "please guide me to what I want." As I was reading scriptures one night, though, I noticed something. Jesus' disciples didn't spend their time with him constantly asking where their lives were going, or for earthly things they desired. If they didn't focus on those things when they talked to Jesus, why did I? It suddenly didn't make sense, and I honestly had a moment where I felt extremely selfish. If the disciples weren't asking Jesus for help and guidance in their personal lives, what did they ask him? They asked for understanding. The disciples were frequently asking Jesus to explain his teachings, and were focused on their eternal lives rather than their mortal lives. They were so ready to hand control over to Christ that they shed control of their own personal lives, dropped everything, and followed Him.

The things I want in my life are not necessarily the reason God put me here. I don't understand the purpose God has for me yet, but that's ok! That realization wasn't so bad. The part that I am struggling with is being alright with it if I don't get the things that I want, and trusting that while gaining understanding and working as an instrument of God, He will provide for me. Yes, I'm still a work in progress, but I'm working through it step-by-step!