How matzah means freedom


My girls and I have been studying the events surrounding Easter, what Jesus last days on earth were like.  Today were made matzah bread and talked about the last supper.  I wanted to impress upon them not only the importance of the last supper, but the importance of this meal to the disciples as part of their heritage.

The meal that they were eating was in remembrance of the Exodus, pharaoh finally relenting and letting the Jewish people to leave the country.  It is a story of  freedom from slavery, and a story to remember the cost of that freedom.  It was a time to reflect upon all that God has done for His people.  While the people must have been elated to be free, it had to be a confusing time as well.  They had spent 400 years as slaves, what would they do now?  How would they live?  Where would they live?  

It is fitting that Jesus chose this celebration of freedom to declare the actions that would bring about our own freedom.  We have been in bondage to sin much longer than 400 years, and it can feel like an impossibility to truly be free of it, much as the Jews must felt at the thought of ever being free of pharaoh.  It would cost Jesus everything to provide this freedom, much more than the discomfort that the Egyptians experienced before freeing the Jews.  And yet the cost to those being freed is minimal, simply a willingness to follow, a desire to be free.  

It was a beautiful thing to see my youngest daughter's excitement to be eating something similar to what Jesus must have eaten that day.  To share in that with Him.  And it saddened me when I realized that despite the command to "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19) I have so often missed the harsh reality of the sacrifice that was made for me.  Jesus endured terrible suffering, so that on the day of judgement I would not have to be given the punishment of suffering.  Jesus endured the humility of every sin I have ever or will ever commit so that when I stand before the throne His Father will not see those sins, only the sacrifice of His Son.  Jesus endured the pain of separation from God so that I will not have to.  And the most beautiful thing?  None of it was done out of obligation, but out of love.

In Matthew 26 we read about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.  He is in anguish about the path that lies before Him.  Three times He requests that if there is any other way, if God can accomplish the reconciliation between Himself and mankind in any other way to please let that be done.  Jesus knew that what was to come was going to be excruciatingly difficult.  And yet, He didn't turn from it.  He loves each and every one of us so much that if this was to be the only way He was willing to go through it.  Stop and think about that.  This isn't the case of making the choice between you going through something difficult rather than your spouse, child or loved one having to go through it.  Jesus didn't just die for those who loved Him back.

This is like going through terrible hardship for the person at work that said horrible things about you in order to get the promotion.  Or the burglar that broke in to your house and stole everything of value that you had.  Or the drunk driver that hit the vehicle your loved ones were in and killed them and still showed no remorse.  It's hard to understand why Jesus would chose to die for those that hated and despised Him, and yet He chose to die for each of them as well.

Only love can make you do that.  Have you ever had a family member that made some terrible choices in their life?  Perhaps they became addicted to drugs and began hurting those around them.  Or perhaps it was your loved one that was the drunk driver.  When you love someone, you don't stop just because of their actions.  You love them in spite of their actions.  THIS is what Jesus has done.  He chose to love us in spite of our sins.  

For me, that is what makes Easter so special.  That is what I want my children to understand.  We don't need to be perfect to approach Him.  He already knows all the dark places in our heart and He has chosen to love us anyway.  He has chosen to cover our sins with His gift of salvation.  

Like the Jews who were freed from Egypt, we have been freed from the slavery of sin.  We may not know what the future holds, but if we are willing to follow, God will provide for us a new life, one in which He will provide for all of our needs. (Phil. 4:19)  That is true freedom!

Questioning God’s existence

 
It’s easy to do when you look at the evil that is in this world…If God is so ‘good’, why does he let ‘bad’ things happen?  …Good question…  If there is no God, how do you know what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’?  …Better question…

So assuming you’re willing to admit you believe in God, (I assume if you're reading this, you do) let’s admit that this world doesn’t deserve all ‘good’, and “we” don’t deserve to always be happy.  Admit it- I bet you can name something you did today that you shouldn’t have, and could cause an unfavorable repercussion.  And each little bad decision leads to another bad decision, and so forth.  They pile on top of each other, getting higher and higher, until they finally topple over and cause that large repercussion that shocks and shatters your ‘world’ as you know it.  I know I’ve made more than my fair share of bad decisions.  Think about it- it all started with a bite of an apple… I mean, who would have seen the damage that would cause?  The only ‘person’ that sees it all: God. 

So, do you think that, maybe, just maybe, He sees things in a different way than we do?  Psalm 147:5 (ESV) “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.”  1 John 3:19–20 (ESV) 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; 20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.”  God is not locked in time like we are.  Don’t lock Him in that box.  God is eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.

We’ll never fully understand the “why’s” of the evil around us; but we can trust He does.  Job 13:15 (ESV) “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”  Remember Job?  Wow- can you imagine?  His life was everything he could have ever asked for; and it was suddenly taken away from Him (his children, his wife, his possessions, his health…).  Naturally he questioned God; he was angry; hurt; bewildered… but he NEVER lost faith in the Lord.  Job 1:21 (ESV) “The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”  Shouldn’t we all react like Job?  Just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean we should use it as an excuse for our lack of trust and faith.  God is in control.

‘Bad’ things don’t mean that God is “indifferent, uncaring, unjust or powerless to protect us.  Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world, where both believers and unbelievers are hit with the tragic consequences of sin.  God allows evil for a time although He turns it around for our good.  (Romans 8:28 (NLT) 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.)  We may have no answers as to why God allows evil, but we can be sure He is all-powerful and knows what He is doing.” (Tyndale Life Application Study Bible New Living Translation; footnote Job 42:17

So now, taking into account the ‘bad’ things in this world; how much worse would they be without Jesus?  Imagine when you are lost; distraught; grieving- where would you be; what would you have; without Him?  He is there with us through the pain.  Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)  “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”  

God loves us.  (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) We can’t, at least I can’t, truly comprehend the Love He had for you and me, to do this.  Christ gave His Life, for the ‘foul and abusive language’ I spew; for the lies I’ve told; for the anger and bitterness and pride I hold in my heart; for every bad decision I have made, and sadly, will continue to make.  How?  Why? 

So, maybe we shouldn’t constantly question why He lets ‘bad’ things happen.  Maybe we should praise Him for the ‘good’ He does allow.  We deserve all the evil that comes down to us.  We deserve, every one of us, to be condemned to Hell.  Romans 3:10-18 (NLT) 10 As the Scriptures say, No one is righteous— not even one. 11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one. 13 Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies. Snake venom drips from their lips 14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.15 They rush to commit murder. 16 Destruction and misery always follow them. 17 They don’t know where to find peace.18 They have no fear of God at all.” But because He loves us, and we are given His grace and mercy; we are spared.

Thank God He doesn’t give us what we deserve.  Thank God He forgives.  Thank God He IS!  Question Him no more.  Thank Him; trust Him; Love Him. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” John 16:33 (NLT) I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Love Unlimited


 
Some days being married is such a blessing; and others—it almost seems like a curse. What is it about your spouse that can make you feel like you’re on top of the world one minute, and wish you were buried six feet beneath it the next? Marriage will either teach you to love as Christ, or it will harden your heart. Maybe it’s not a marital problem we have, but a spiritual one instead.
No one really tells you beforehand how hard marriage is.  Sure it’s tough, and you think you get that until, one day, out of nowhere, it hits you: some days, this doesn’t seem worth it. I had plenty of people tell me marriage was hard; it takes a lot of hard work, yada, yada, yada… but no one gave me prime examples. For instance, I felt like a complete failure as a wife and person and Christian as the first overwhelming feeling of detestation washed through me instead of love for my husband. I didn’t know it was normal. (It is normal, right?) I’m not going to lie, there were days that not only did I wish I hadn’t married him, but that I’d never met him. Harsh, right? I know. And I know there have been times he’s wanted to just drop me on the side of the road and leave me. (Or wish I just disappeared, and not come home.)
We’re never going to be perfect, or have that perfect marriage. It’s not a coincidence that we’re called to love our spouse unconditionally, as Christ loves the church. (Ephesians 5:26) Marriage merges the two individuals into one (Ephesians 5:31-32, Mark 10:6-9, Genesis 2:24-25) so that each of you cares for the other as you care for yourself, (Ephesians 5:29-30) taking care of their needs, wants and desires. Jesus gave up everything for His church. We are to be Christ-like; therefore we are to give up ourselves for our spouse. (Ephesians 5:21) Submission is not weakness. Jesus submitted His will to God in sacrifice for us. (Mark 14:36) We are joined in unity with our spouse. Christians are joined in Spirit with God. (1 Corinthians 6:17) God made a New Covenant with His people through Jesus, and promised never to break it (Psalm 89:34); nor does He want you to break your marital covenant. (Deuteronomy 22:19) God accepts our sinful selves (meaning He knows who we are and the sin in us and loves us anyway). We need to accept our spouse for who they are and love them anyway. Loving our spouse is the greatest love we will have, next to loving God; yet the love from our spouse will never compare to the love from God.
We need to understand that as humans, we aren’t perfect. We will never be (on this earth anyway). But as Christians, we are to strive for His perfection. (Matthew 5:48; Galatians 6:8) Our marriages will never be perfect, in comparison to Christ and His church, but we must strive for that type of relationship. Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love God and then love others. (Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:27) But how are we loving God when we aren’t unconditionally loving the one person we vowed to love forever? And if we can’t love our spouse, who loves us, cares for us, knows us deeply, how in the world are we to love others?
 

Intentional



Life is a little crazy at my house right now, and honestly, I feel a little overwhelmed by the tasks I have taken on sometimes.  You know how it is, we tend to put on several different hats and try to be the best we can at all of them:  wife, mom, employee, friend, Christian.  Sometimes one hat takes precedence over another because of the phase of life we are in, other times hats get dusty from lack of use.

For the last several years I have set a personal challenge for Lent.  First, let me explain that I don't "do" Lent in the traditional sense.  I don't usually give something up, or avoid meats.  Not because I don't think those are worthy things, but because I chose to focus on something different for Lent.

For me, Lent is a time to focus on who Jesus is and what He has called us to do - Love Him and love others ((Mark 12:30-31).  Jesus spent a great deal of His life here on earth focusing on helping others, loving on others, and teaching them the Truth.  With that in mind I have chosen to spend the 40 days of Lent in acts of service rather than of penance.  Now, I am not saying my way is better than any other way.  But between prayer and service I really feel closer to Him, and isn't that what our goal should always be?  To walk closely with God.

All that being said, this year has been especially difficult for me to stay on task.  The hats that I wear seem to loom large over the day and it is too easy to let them overshadow my relationship with Jesus.  When the pile of dishes in the kitchen sink loom, (which is bad enough but imagine not being able to find ONE clean coffee cup!!!) and the task list is so long I can't find the end of it, it is so easy to "put off" my private study and prayer time, "just for a little while".  After all, God understands.

The problem is, He does.  He understands that I am allowing the things of the world to replace Him, (1 John 2:15) and that saddens Him.  (Ezekiel 18:21-23)  This Lent season I am learning to be intentional.  I have to be intentional about the task I have prayed about and embarked upon for this Lent season.  I must be intentional about keeping God before me (Exodus 20:3).  I need to be intentional about imitating Jesus in my life (1 John 2:6).  It's not an easy task, and it is one that I find I have to focus on daily, sometimes minute by minute.  But I know first hand that the time I spend focused on Jesus is NEVER wasted - and everything else still gets done.  :)




If you are interested in my Lent challenge, you can find out more here.  

My Favorite God


When I was a teenage girl, I was completely enamored by a certain boy band. And when I say enamored, I mean ob-sessed! Infatuated, consumed, totally crazy for the five man crew (though man is stretching it a bit)… I was convinced I was going to marry the youngest member. There was no stopping me. But by the time I entered high school, they were on their way out of the limelight, and before my sophomore year ended, they had split up. It had long been uncool to like them anymore, but inside I was crushed. I wasn’t ready to let my obsession go. Thankfully, I was able to let them go, and concentrate on my schoolwork and real boys I could actually potentially marry. But I’m not going to lie, I never completely forgot them. And for the longest time, if you asked my now husband who the one man is that I would leave him for- he could, without hesitation, give you the name of my favorite boy band mate. Everywhere we’ve moved over the past thirteen years, a cubed tote (with all five members’ faces on it) has been part of our luggage that has relocated with us (and, just to clarify, this cube is filled (heavily) with all of my fan memorabilia (magazine articles, pins, t-shirts, dolls, etc.)). And each move, my husband has griped and grumbled at how ‘pathetic’ it is that I keep it, and that he has to look at it (not to mention, he’s the one that has to move it, it’s too heavy for me to lift). The group reunited a few years ago, and I immediately knew I had to go to their concert. I watch TV shows they star in. I follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Not too long ago, they (finally) received a Hollywood Star on the Walk of Fame. And do you know who they thanked first for making it happen? A fan! A fan who never let go of her obsession; she followed them for twenty years; she petitioned whoever is in charge and got them a Star!

Why do I tell you all of this? (I promise, I’m not still obsessed!) I realized that, had I continued my infatuation with all of the zeal I had when I was twelve plus, I could’ve been the fan that got them the Star. I could’ve been the one that they thanked; that they notice at every tour; and maybe I could’ve been the wife of my ‘fave’. And that teenage girl in me that will never die was a little jealous. But the woman that I have become recognizes how wonderful my life is; without them in it. Maybe it’s because I give up easily. It wasn’t cool or easy to follow the band after they broke up (this was long before any sort of social media… we didn’t even have the internet yet!) But I’d like to say it has more to do with growing older, maturing, and recognizing the things in life that really matter. But besides all of that… I have long replaced my obsession with the group to the One actually worthy of my praise and worship: Jesus.

It may sound trite, but what started, or may have even seemed like a normal teenage rite of passage, my infatuation was more than just that. I made that boy band an idol. My thoughts were consumed by their music, they likes and dislikes (thanks to Teen Beat magazine, I knew all of their favorite ice cream flavors and hobbies). (Sadly, this is still the tedious information that floats in my head- I can’t remember what I wore yesterday, but I can tell you each of their birthdays, full names, number of siblings, etc… SAD). (And it’s even sadder to think of how intelligent I could be if my brain had room for real knowledge, or if I would’ve studied any subject in school like I studied my Big Bopper magazines). The point is though, I wasted my time, and much of my life on this idol. If I’d put only a fraction of that time into my God… {sigh}.

An idol in our lives is anything we put in priority over God. Nothing should be more important to us than God. (Exodus 20:3, Exodus 23:13, Deuteronomy 5:7). God gets angry, and jealous, and hurt when we choose something over Him. (Exodus 20:3-5) And to be honest, knowing that my ignorance of my youth has hurt Jesus, breaks me. I wasted so much energy on the wrong Passion. To know that as much as I followed the ‘band’, I should have been following Jesus. I thought I was the group’s number one fan. But as much as I revered the group, God revered me. God is my biggest fan. And I pushed Him aside and missed Him amongst all the other ‘stuff’ in my life. (And sadly, I still do at times). As I was among the thousands in the stadium crowd cheering for my favorite group, God was lost in my world cheering me on.

So what’s your idol? Maybe it’s not necessarily a singer, or even a person. Maybe it’s your job; or your kid’s activities; or your favorite sports team; or money; or [gasp] coffee… (I’m not going to lie, there are days I crawl out of bed for my coffee, not my Bible.) (I am still a work in progress).

We all put things in front of God. He is not our priority (or this world would be a very different place). I don’t mean to be judgmental or make you feel guilty. It’s a fact; we are too selfish to put ourselves last, and God first. We’re all fallible. But we won’t be forever. So instead of waiting for eternity to practice our perfections, strive for infallibility now. You won’t always succeed, but it’ll be worth the effort. (1 John 4:10)

 You can’t love God and your idol. (Matthew 6:24) Pick which idol you truly want to idolize. God or you (your other stuff that consumes you from God). Once you’ve made that decision, you’ll truly have ‘The Right Stuff’. (Sorry; I just couldn’t help it).