Thursday, April 21, 2011
If you have been following my blog for very long, you have likely realized I use my blog more as a way to journal my own inner struggles and quests for truth than to report "on the life of". A wife of a successful business man and mother to five incredible children, three who have special needs, my life is a constant balancing act. Most of my time is spent trying to be everything to everyone. And sometimes I fail.
Natalie, now twelve, was adopted at age three from Russia and has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I homeschooled her (along with the rest of the gang) until she entered the public school system last year when I noticed she wasn't processing information the way her fifth grade curriculum required. After a few tests within the special education department, it was noted she could use some "extra help". Unfortunately, being plucked from Natalie's "safe" environment at home to be placed into a situation that allows for the constant scrutinization by fellow peers did not settle well with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). In her valiant effort to prove her worthiness as a public school student, Natalie fell short. Being one of the only fifth grade girls in her class who did not own a cell phone, maintain a facebook account, wear the latest fashions, sport blush with the occasional eyeliner, and have a boyfriend did not make her the most popular. Teem those things with the fact that people born with FAS tend to be missing the extra sensibility called "tact", and you have a disaster. Basically, Natalie felt it was her obligation to let everyone in her class know why she didn't need a cell phone at age twelve, why she didn't need boyfriends...and why they didn't either....and so on. Get the picture? No tact = no popularity.
Having grown up in the public school system, I understand a thing or two about behavior (as most of you can probably relate). Basically, kids can be cruel. In response to Natalie's lack of "tact", she was shunned. Completely. And she didn't like it. After some time passed, unbeknownst to me (because of course, Natalie didn't even realize why she was being shunned), Natalie began to figure out that she could fit in and be accepted if she acted like everyone else and looked like everyone else. To make a long story short, she ended up stealing things from other students. If she thought make-up would make her more popular, she would steal make-up from a peer's backpack and wear it at school (removing it before coming home)....if she thought wearing silly bands would make her popular, she would steal silly bands and wear them at school (removing them before coming home). Having three special needs children in your home will make you more in tune with life than you ever thought you could be...trust me. So, when I started noticing the slightest change in Natalie's walk, demeanor, looks, etc., I began investigating. She was busted. I found her hidden stash in her bedroom.
To remedy, I went to the principle and asked him to give her in-school suspension in hope fear would over-rule the temptation to "fit in". After the second and third offense, however, I realized the temptation was just too much for Natalie. Since FAS and OCD tend to go hand in hand more often than not, I did not want to risk the act of stealing becoming an obcession with Natalie. I moved her back home to be homeschooled. That was in February.
Before I get to the rest of the story, I think it is important to remind you that FAS impacts the way Natalie communicates. She truly processes all information differently than one who does not have FAS. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to decipher and decode Natalie's sentences and thought patterns...for instance:
One day Natalie was creating sentences from a spelling word list for school. One of the words was verdant. Natalie's sentence read: My family is verdant. She received a huge red "x" for her sentence with a note from her teacher stating that she had obviously not looked up the word before attempting to write her sentences. Natalie was terribly upset by the red "x" across her paper and pleaded with me to read her sentence and decide for myself if she was indeed wrong while attempting to persuade me that she had looked up the definition before writing the sentence. I took her paper in hand and said: "Ok, then, tell me the definition of verdant." She replied: "Green". "We're green, Natalie?", I asked. "Yes!", she nearly screamed. I took myself out of my own head (figuratively) and put Natalie's head upon my shoulders for a moment when the proverbial light bulb went off. As it turned out, Natalie's sentence was very appropriate since our family is big into recycling, conserving energy, and eating organic....we are a "green" family indeed. Ha! Ha!
This is one of about two-million "Natalie-isms". Dissecting the meaning of her thought patterns is a constant job, and staying on top of the process can be exhausting. At times, I am not on my game...this is when disaster knocks. And it knocked a couple of weeks ago in a tremendous way!
It was Wednesday, and I left the house at 12:15 to retrieve Hopey from preschool while leaving Caleb, Natalie, and Charlie at home. (Caleb gets out of school early on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). When I returned, Caleb was frantic and Natalie was in a state of panic. They were both speaking at the same time about the explosion in my bathroom. With Hope in my arms, now shrieking as she sensed the fear in her brother and sister, I tried to get both to calm down and let me know what happened. Caleb kept saying: "Natalie has done something, but she won't admit it!" while Natalie was simultaneously crying out: "I swear, mom, I didn't do anything!" (Swearing is another one of those things I will blame on Nat's stint in the public school---lying, though, she learned on her own).
After calming Hopey down, I left her safely with Caleb while I set out to assess the damage in my bath. My stomach was in butterflies and my hands were shaking...remember, they described it as an "explosion". When I entered the bathroom, I could see nothing but fog...lots of fog. And a smell in my bathroom choked me. I stormed out of the bathroom, slammed the door behind me and demanded Natalie tell me what she had done. Her response: "I swear to you mom, I found it like that. I didn't do anything!"
For all of you who have children with FAS, you will understand what I went through in the next thirty minutes while trying to pry the truth from Natalie...for those of you who do not have a child with FAS, there is no way on earth you could ever understand. Once a child with FAS has lied, he/she will go to the mat to make up lie after lie after lie to cover up the original lie until it is such a bundled up mess you just want to throw it away and forget it ever happened...but I couldn't, because I had a very thick fog hanging in my bathroom.
Finally, I said: "Natalie, I know you did something, because fog doesn't just appear out of no where. There is a reason you are not telling me the truth, but I have to get Hope and Charlie out of this house just in case you have done something that can be dangerous to them." Then I looked toward Caleb and said: "Caleb, let's get these little ones out of here!" Natalie, who was still on her knees from begging me to believe she was telling me the truth, quickly stood and wiped the tears from her eyes, ready and eager to leave with us. Quite deliberately, I turned to Nat and said: "Oh, no, you aren't going with us. Since you are not telling me the truth about this situation, you will have to stay here and deal with it the best you can. Good luck!" And with that, I turned toward the door.
And as we say in the South: "with two shakes of a sheep's tail" that little girl starting spilling the truth. Just as I suspected, Natalie Grace Hollis was not prepared to go down in the fog-ridden house alone. Ok, I can chuckle about it now, but two weeks ago I was mad enough to bite a nail in half with one chomp.
As it turned out, while I was retrieving Hopey from preschool, Natalie was meddling in my bureau drawers. She happened upon some pepper spray that I had when I was in college (I don't even want to share how many years ago that has been), and it had been long forgotten. In her state of curiosity, Natalie had taken the pepper spray and sprayed it all over my bathroom, not knowing what it was. Soon, she began to choke and realized she had done something very wrong that needed to be covered up....with every chemical cleaner she could find in my house. The result? A chemical reaction of fog and a smell I hope to one day forget.
I did not speak to Natalie for three whole days after this event. I was too angry and certain I might say something I would regret if I did try to talk to her. All I could think of was her stealing at school and how she was now trying to steal from her own mother. Why else would she be rifling through my drawers as soon as I left the house? Oh, I brooded.
On the following Sunday, Chappy took Caleb and Lydia golfing. I was left in the house with Natalie, Hope and Charlie trying to figure out how to best deal with my hurt feelings toward my twelve year old daughter. Like I stated before, because of FAS, communication with Natalie is difficult, but I knew I had to try to talk to her and find out "why". I called her into the great room and began:
"Natalie, I am sure you have noticed I have been avoiding you the last few days. I want you to know I am furious at you for what you did, but mostly because you lied to me. Daddy is going to be gone with Caleb and Lydia for two hours or more, so I am going to give you time to explain to me why you did what you did, and I am going to be quiet and just listen to you. I know you have a hard time formulating your thoughts, so try really hard to take this step by step and explain to me what happened."
Her response, just as she told it to me:
"Mom, I lied to you because I knew you would be so mad at me for what I did. I didn't mean to make a big mess and didn't know what that spray stuff was. I went to your room to look for my adoption papers because I think you are telling me a lie about my birth mom. Do you remember when we watched "August Rush" with Gigi and Poppy? Well I started thinking Elena (her birth mom) might have really wanted me but she thinks I am dead and you and dad stole me. When I went through your drawers I found that spray and knew I shouldn't spray it, but I couldn't help it. Something inside of me just had to know what it was. I told my hands not to grab it but they did anyway. When I sprayed it, the smell was so bad I had to cover it up. The next thing I know I was choking and there was smoke everywhere. And that is the truth. I am sorry I did all of that and lied to you."
"Natalie, do you really think I am lying to you about your birth mom?"
"I'm not sure and it bothers me alot."
"Are you going to keep going through my stuff until you find those adoption papers?"
"I know I'm not supposed to, but I probably will anyway, because I can't help it. I think about it all of the time."
So, Natalie and I spent the remaining two hours going through her adoption paperwork line by line. I showed her everything...I even had her read the papers out loud to me to make sure she understood every single horrible word. And she cried. And I cried.
Natalie cried because of the rejection she felt from her birth momma's statements in the adoption paperwork while I cried because I wished her adoption story wasn't so ugly.
Natalie cried because she was happy I wasn't mad at her anymore while I cried because I hadn't taken the time to get past my own anger enough to get to the bottom of the "bathroom fog saga" sooner. Three days was too long for anger to separate us, and the realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
Natalie cried because she has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome because of a teenage mother who was a homeless alcoholic and drug addict....while I cried because Fetal Alcohol steals so much from Natalie. It makes her compulsive enough to spray pepper spray all over my bathroom and impulsive enough to try to cover it up with all kinds of chemicals....it takes the edge off of her comprehension of the severity of telling lies....and then the final bite, probably worst of all, it hinders her ability to communicate. Natalie lacked the necessary skills to come to me and make things right, so she had to wait in misery until I came to her and gave her uninterrupted time to try formulate her thoughts to express her side of the story.
This was a huge lesson learned for both Natalie and myself. Yes, I failed as a momma for a few days while I stewed in my anger....but I learned so much about Natalie. And my heart grew for her.
What does Betsy Brown have to do with all of this??? On Thursday evening, our family stopped to get a bite to eat in Alabaster, Alabama on the way to Florida for a long Easter weekend. Upon leaving the restaurant, Chappy with Charlie in his arms, sent Natalie back to tell me to watch my step when coming out to the car because there was a big step off of the curb and he was afraid I might fall when carrying Hopey out to the car with me. (I had stayed in the restaurant a bit longer to let Hopey finish drinking her water while Chappy left to pack Charlie into the car seat). A woman in the parking lot overheard Chappy use Hope's name and said: "I think I follow your wife's blog...is that little Charlie you are holding?" By the time I came out to the van with Hopey, Chappy introduced me to Betsy Brown who could call each of our children by name. We had such a great time meeting Betsy, who is a tremendous prayer warrior. Hope literally jumped into her arms and gave her huge hugs and many excited smiles. Their spirits connected supernaturally.
God used Betsy Brown to remind me why I keep this blog going....we all need each other. Perhaps the struggle I shared today will help someone else in another city deal with a similar journey....and maybe I will meet another Betsy Brown who will happily inform me of her prayers for our little Hopey's heart. We serve a God who is so great it is unfathomable, but at the same time, He takes the time to be involved in the minute details of our lives. Truly, He blows me away.
So today Father, and every single day, I trust you with Natalie's Fetal Alcohol Syndrome...with Hope and Charlie's Down syndrome....with Hopey's heart defect, with my energetic teenager (Caleb), with my drama-queen (Lydia) and with the love of my life (Chappy)....but most of all I trust you to teach me through my many failures. Thank you for your never-ending mercy!
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Monday, April 18th is Passover. How will you honor the day? While a Passover Seder meal can be very elaborate, since we have little ones at home who have short attention spans, ours will be simple. Here is how our family will celebrate:
1. Our table will be beautifully set to signify an important event. In the center of the table will be a plate holding three things: horseradish, a bone, and matzah (from Exodus 12).
To the present day Jews, the horseradish (or bitter herbs) represents the bitterness of slavery in Egypt; but for Christians, the horseradish represents the slavery/bondage of sin.
Likewise, to present day Jews, the lamb's bone symbolizes the unblemished lamb eaten before the Hebrew slaves fled Egypt, the lamb whose blood was placed over the doorposts to ward away the death angel. To Christians, however, the bone symbolizes the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus' physical body, that was sacrificed on the cross for our salvation.
Last, Matzah symbolizes the unleavened bread eaten before the Hebrews fled Egypt. For Christians, the Matzah represents a celebration of being free from the bondage of "leaven" or sin, because of the blood that was spilled on an old cross.
The historical story of Passover intertwines so perfectly with the death and resurrection of Jesus. As a family, we discuss all of these similarities before eating to set the mood for the evening.
2. We will eat a traditional Passover meal/feast (I will be happy to forward recipes for anyone who might be interested). The meal will not include any leaven (yeast).
3. After our meal, around the table, Chappy and I will share the story of Jesus' death and resurrection and how we believe the original Passover in Exodus was God's way of painting a beautiful picture of the Savior who was to come. One aspect of this time that always blows me away is when we discuss how Jesus died just as the Passover lambs for the Passover meal were being slain. Not a bone was to be broken in these sacrificial lambs (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12). Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 Corinthians 5:7).
During the Passover time, a sign was hung on each lamb's neck to identify the name of the owner of the perfect, unblemished lamb....essentially, that lamb was taking the place of the person's name it carried around its neck....bearing the death penalty of sin. Each time the family looked into the eyes of the little lamb, they were reminded of the magnitude of their sin and the fate of death that had been placed on the little lamb because of someone else's sin.
In the same way, Jesus died with a sign hung over His head: YHWH, the Hebrew initials meaning Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. He was our unblemished lamb, a constant reminder of the eternal death penalty we all deserve because of our sin.
How can all of this be coincidence? It cannot be. THAT is why Passover is so absolutely magnificent! And to top it all off, Jesus rose from the grave in three days; He arose from the grave on the Feasts of Firstfruits! It makes me so excited just thinking about it all. Our Father is so meticulous in His plans, because He doesn't want us to miss anything.
From "A Family Guide To The Biblical Holidays" (which is a MUST for every family yearning to follow God's Way): "On Nisan 17, when Israel emerged from the Red Sea, this emergence was a shadow of the fulfillment of the day of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:9-14). This was the first of God's people to emerge from sin (Egypt). It was fulfilled 1,478 years later on Nisan 17, 30 a.d. when Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven as our high priest, the Firstfruit of the resurrected (John 20:17)." I'm lifting my hands toward the heavenlies and shouting right now....no human author could write such an amazing picture story of love! And it all began in Exodus, for us today.
4. We will conclude our evening with some dessert (typically yummy maccaroons) and some songs of worship. The Passover meal will be behind us, but the week celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread will be in full force. Again, remember, yeast represents sin. So, during this week, as a family, we use the time to open our hearts and minds to specific ways we can overcome our sin nature. This is a designated time during the year for us to be brutally honest with ourselves about weaknesses, temptations, and sin. Galatians 5:16-24, outlining the fruits of the spirit, is read each night during our devotion time during the week. In addition, we follow the suggested Bible readings from the book mentioned above: "A Family Guide To The Biblical Holidays". (I cannot say enough good things about this book!)
INVITATION: If you live in the Nashville area and would like to celebrate Passover with our family, let me know....you can bring a dish or two to share as we celebrate our salvation (and the roots of our faith) together!!! The only rules for food are: no leaven and no pork/shellfish.
Sooooo, the question everyone is asking by now: How about Easter? Well, did Jesus celebrate Easter? Of course not. What about the early church...did they celebrate Easter? Ten years after the resurrection of Jesus, in Acts 12, we learn of Herod's persecution of the followers of Jesus:
"Now about that time, Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover."
So, ten years after the resurrection, the feasts of God were still being celebrated while Easter was not mentioned (although a few translations have inserted the word Easter in the place of Passover since it has now become widely accepted by the Christian church). This begs the obvious question: Where did Easter come from?
While I would love to elaborate on this subject, I won't. I really do not want to create any enemies with my beloved blog followers. Sometimes tradition is so deeply rooted into the fibers of our being, that even when faced with factual truth, we will not allow ourselves to believe it. I will mention, however, that the Puritans did not come to America and celebrate Easter or Christmas, but they did celebrate the Holy Days from Leviticus 23. It was not until after the Civil War that Easter became a full-on American tradition.
To close, all in all, the Easter celebration is a personal choice everyone has to make. As for me, I know the bunnies, Easter eggs, and fancy baskets have absolutely nothing to do with my salvation and honoring God, so they don't bother me. I am comfortable placing Easter in a secular category, totally separate from the Holy Day of Passover. If you have replaced Passover with Easter, you might want to dig in, study, and reconsider.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
In continuing with an End Times study, this week will cover the mysterious Rapture:
1. Read Matthew chapter 24:
Verse 22: "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened."
Consider: If the "elect" were to be carried away by the rapture, there would be no concern for them during the end time events and no need to mention them in this scripture passage. However, in Jesus' own words, it is for the sake of the "elect" that the days of the tribulation are shortened.
Verse 37: "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be."
Consider: During the flood, Noah and his family were not raptured away from the terrible scene. Instead, they had been prepared by God's Word on how to deal with the worldwide judgement that was to come. Because they were prepared, they endured to the end.
2. Read 1 Corinthians 15:
Verses 51 and 52: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed---in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed."
Consider: If all are changed, how has the church come to believe only the true believers of Jesus will be raptured from this verse and how has the word "changed" morphed into a word to denote being "raptured"? Historically, prior to the rapture theory, this scripture passage was believed to signify that ALL people, the elect and non-elect (including those who had already experienced death), would be changed at the last trumpet sound into new immortal bodies prepared to be given a sentence of the eternal fate, either eternal life or eternal separation from God.
3. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4, a letter written to followers of Jesus by Paul, but pay close attention to verse 4:
"But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day (end time events) should overtake you as a thief."
Consider: The term brethren, obviously, indicates followers of Jesus. The verse does NOT state the brethren will not be overtaken, but that the brethren will not be overtaken by surprise as a thief that comes in the night. In other words, the "brethren", because of the Word of God, have been prepared for what is to come.
4. 1 Thessalonians 4:
Verses 13-18: "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words."
Consider: When taken in context, Paul was speaking to the Thessalonian church, who were concerned about the saints who had died prior to Jesus' resurrection. Paul was comforting them by offering assurance that following the defeat of death at Jesus' resurrection, all of the dead saints of old were resurrected as well. In other words, their spirits, which had been disrobed of their bodies at death, were raised and caught up with Jesus in the spiritual realm following His death and resurrection.
Because Paul preached and believed he would see the return of Jesus during his lifetime, when he said "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air", he was probably expressing that their bodies would equally be disrobed of human flesh at the return of the Messiah, and that they too would enter the spiritual realm. The "rapture"then, according to Paul, would describe the event when our physical bodies are disengaged from our spiritual bodies....moving from the state of mortality to immortality either through death or by way of the second coming.
5. Luke 21:25-28: "There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Hebrews 9:28: "So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time nto to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him."
Consider: Jesus came once to be the world's needed blood sacrifice to once and for all pay mankind's sin debt. At His second-coming, He will separate His followers from those who have chosen to follow evil, and will ultimately set up His eternal Kingdom on earth. First coming is mentioned in scripture. Second coming is mentioned in scripture. A third coming, or rapture, is not mentioned.
6. The rapture theory was not taught or embraced until the late 1700's and early 1800's, so it is a fairly new concept.
The church, as a whole, teaches "theory" today, but packages it as "doctrine" in order to sell it as absolute truth when in actuality, "doctrine" personifies sinful man's best effort to understand God's Word within the context of personal bias, prejudice, church tradition and preconceived notions.
A dangerous weapon attacked the scriptures in 1551 when verses were added to God's Word. Up until this point, scripture was divided into books and was read as a whole. When numbered verses were added, preachers and teachers of scripture began to master the art of Homiletics, which is derived from Greek philosophy and rhetoric. Greek orators of their day, called Sophists, were able to preach whole "sermonettes" on one or two verses taken from Homer while standing behind a pulpit or sitting on a stage. They became so studied in "style" and "deliverance", it is said they could work up a crowd into a frenzy while expounding on only one or two verses. Today, Homiletics is taught regularly in seminary....and most pulpits are filled with teachers who preach entire sermons on one or two verses of scripture. As a result, much of the framework of scripture is lost resulting in theories (such as the rapture) becoming accepted and unquestioned.
The rapture is dangerously accepted by many in the church today who wholeheartedly believe the theory without putting much study into the subject. If incorrect, what will those believers do when they are caught off guard like the parable of the virgins who ran out of oil in Matthew 25? The message is twofold: Do not rely on a pastor to teach you what scripture says...read for yourself! AND, be Prepared!
Saturday, April 2, 2011
"Just as it was in the day of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man." Luke 17:26
You may have noticed I didn't post last week; instead, I have been reading, studying, and pondering with much prayer. In fact, I have put an additional 15 hours of study into what I am about to write, and I still feel quite inadequate to relay the progression of my study of eschatology. Above all, be reminded that I am but a sinner who has been saved by grace. I am imperfect in every way imaginable in comparison to the Almighty whose Holiness causes me to gasp. I do not speak for Him, but believe it is the responsibility of God-followers to know Him as best we can given our meek and humble stature as mere servants of the King of the Universe, and the only way to know Him more is to study His Word. The following post will take you around your knee to get to your elbow, but if you will stick to it to the end, you will be incredibly challenged:
Most believers are living in a what I will call a spiritual cocoon. I can speak on this subject, because for 35 years, I was in that cocoon. Going to church every Sunday and Wednesday, sitting in pews that have been intentionally positioned to show respect and reverence for a knowledgeable speaker who stands behind a podium, I was naively lulled into believing each speaker had greater knowledge than I on the subject of God because of his degree and "spiritual gift". I was wrong, and perhaps you are wrong too.
I will give one "for instance" that will hopefully give you cause for pause and consideration; however, first I need to lay some groundwork from which we all need to agree:
Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of many nations who would ultimately become what is referred to as God's Chosen People. So, WHO are those people? If your answer is "the Jews"...you are partially correct. Actually, the Jews are descendants of the tribe of Judah, but there were eleven other tribes who were dispersed throughout the world and "lost" as Ezekiel prophesied along with the tribe of Judah. In other words, millions of men, women and children who were part of the twelve tribes of Israel were purposefully scattered throughout the world in 70 A.D. following the brutal siege of Jerusalem by the evil Titus. For survival, it was necessary for them to "blend in" to other cultures which resulted in their loss of identity over time. They married outside of their lineage, mixing with other races of people, until generation after generation began to completely forget where they came from. If you stop to think about it, most of us cannot give historical perspective on much more than our great-grandparents without significant geneological study. Thus, it should not be very difficult to understand how this happened to the Israelites (now called Jews).
Ezekiel 36: "Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds; to Me their way was like the uncleanness of a woman in her customary impurity. Therefore I poured out My fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it. So I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds. When they came to the nations, wherever they went, my Holy Name was profaned when they said of the Israelites: 'These are the people of the Lord and yet they have gone out of His land.' So I had concern for My Holy Name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. Therefore say to the house of Israel, "I will sanctify My great Name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord when I am hallowed in you before your eyes....for I will take you from among the nations and gather you out of all countries, bringing you back into your own land." (the regathering process began, of course, in 1948 when Israel was declared to be an independent state).
Are all who call upon the name of the God of Israel actually a part of the twelve tribes of Israel? Could you and I have a remnant from the blood of Abraham, from one of the twelve tribes of Israel, running through our veins? Might that explain our yearning to know more about the Almighty? It is quite possible and exhilarating to consider. However, let's say that idea is way too far fetched for your daily dose of faith---then consider this verse: Galatians 3:29: "If you belong to Christ, you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." So Jesus followers, according to Galatians 3, are Abraham's seed just as much as the "twelve tribes of Israel", the "Hebrew People", and the "Jews" are. Doesn't that immediately draw you to begin to consider the Old Testament in a brand new way?
By the way, while we are on the subject, I personally do not like the term "Old Testament". The Hebrew word for the Old Testament is "The Tanakh" derived from the following Torah (first five books written by Moses), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). Basically, T-N-K has been put together to form the word Tanakh which, for me, holds meaning. The term "Old Testament", unfortunately, seems to denote something that is worn out and out-dated....whereas the term "New Testament" gives the erroneous impression of replacement....the "new" replacing the "old". There is no place in scripture where the Old Testament was done away with and replaced by the new, just as there is no place in scripture that replaced the lineage of Abraham with "Christians". In contrast, the Old Testament is relevant and the seed of Abraham is equally relevant.
Now that I have layed some groundwork, I want to propose that you open your minds to consider an error being taught by many in the modern church today. Be warned, there is a spirit of religiosity that will not want you to see this truth for one reason: if you begin to open your eyes to knowledge proving what you have been taught to believe all of your life in church is NOT truth, you will become a seeker who will dig and dig and dig to know God's truth in every single aspect, no longer relying on the instruction of a pastor/teacher, because an eternal relationship with the Creator of the Universe is on the line. Having said that, fellow seekers, here goes:
FACT: God does not change. PERIOD.
1. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 discuss clean and unclean (Hebrew word for unclean is Taref which actually means unfit for use) foods. The message was for anyone wishing to choose to follow God's way. Many of the Levitical Teachings were for that particular time period (meaning instructions for how to get along while living in portable tents in the wilderness with millions of other people and without a police force), but some of the regulations given are still pertinent today. Because the "Old Testament" is too often assumed to have been replaced by the "New Testament", important wisdom is overlooked. One of these areas, I believe strongly, is in the arena of food.
Several years ago, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer (thankfully, today he is cancer-free). During that frightening time, Chappy and I began to seek out books that have been written about eating healthy in order to avoid diseases. One fact that continually stared us in the face centered around the danger of eating pork and shellfish. To be honest, two southern- pork-barbeque-loving individuals couldn't have been more surprised to learn that pork and shellfish have been created with digestive systems that are very different from the systems of cows and chickens. In addition, we learned that eating grouper is healthy while catfish is extremely unhealthy.
Upon studying this information at length, our family has not consumed pork or shellfish for over seven years. Recently a friend of ours said to us: "I wouldn't give up pork for anything!" How about you? You are probably aware pigs are known for eating their own waste, garbage, and even their own piglets that die from disease....did you also know they have one of the quickest and poorest digestive systems of any animal? This is an important fact. Because the pig processes everything so quickly, the toxins are not removed and become stored in the pig's fat. So, when pigs are slaughtered under traumatized factory conditions, pigs release those toxins (and hormones) into their muscles....and those toxins are passed right along to the consumer. And shellfish, are you read for this? Shellfish, like pigs, are scavengers (or God-made garbage cans). They take out all of the pollutants from the ocean and carry them around...when tested, shellfish are found to be full of mercury, heavy metals, and industrial contaminants. So, if you are looking for a healthy body, you might want to stay away from both pork and shellfish. No matter how well you cook them, you cannot rid them of harmful toxins that have become a part of them.
For the record, unclean foods consist of the following:
Boar, Pig, Coyote, Dog, Fox, Hyena, Jackal, Wolf, Donkey, Mule, Horse, Zebra, Cat, Cheetah, Leopard, Lion, Panther, Tiger, Armadillo, Bear, Beaver, Camel, Elephant, Gorilla, Groundhog, Hippopotamus, Kangaroo, Llama, Mole, Monkey, Mouse, Muskrat, Opossum, Porcupine, Rabbit, Raccoon, Rat, Rhinoceros, Skunk, Slug, Snail, Squirrel, Weasel, Worm, Albatross, Bat, Buzzard, Crane, Crow, Eagle, Flamingo, Gull, Hawk, Heron, Loon, Osprey, Ostrich, Owl, Parrot, Pelican, Penguin, Raven, Sandpiper, Stork, Swallow, Vulture, Woodpecker, Alligator, Crocodile, Lizard, Snake, Turtle, Frog, Newt, Toad, Catfish, Eel, Marlin, Shark, Squid, Sturgeon, Swordfish, Clam, Crab, Lobster, Mussel, Prawn, Oyster, Scallop, Shrimp, Jellyfish, Octopus, Dolphin, Seal, Porpoise, Walrus, Whale
In Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, God's instructs His followers to not "defile themselves" (defile = pollute) by eating any unclean thing. In other words, for a healthy body, God taught us what we should not eat. While everything the Creator makes is good, everything He makes is not necessarily good for us to eat.
Ask yourself what the modern church teaches about this subject (if they teach the subject at all)? If you have attended church your whole life like me, you are probably already flipping through the pages of your Bible looking for Acts 10 when the sheet came down from heaven in Peter's vision. I promise you, if you will read Acts 10: 1- 35 you will find that Peter's vision was never about God's desire for Peter to eat unclean things, because God never changes. In fact, you will find that Peter was disturbed by the vision and said "No, Lord!" when God told Peter three times to "kill and eat". For most of my life, I envisioned that sheet coming down from heaven filled with sizzling bacon and fried shrimp. It was filled, however, with "all kinds" of unclean animals, beasts, creeping things and birds....including a horse, hyena, wolf, buzzard, bat, rat, and penguine mixed in with the pig and shrimp. Is it any wonder Peter said: "No, Lord!"????
Next scripture says Peter sat upon the roof (where he had been praying prior to the vision) to think about the vision, wondering what the vision meant. Since he had to "wonder what the vision meant", the vision obviously wasn't clear for him and he certainly did not believe the vision meant for him to start sizzling bats and rats during his regular morning routine. It was then, when in his most bewildered state, he heard the spirit speak to him and tell him three men were seeking him. (isn't it fascinating that he had the vision of the sheet coming down three times in a row before the spirit spoke to him about the three men who were coming to visit him?).
Peter normally wouldn't have gone with a non-Jew (who was thought to be unclean), but given the vision he had about the sheet, Peter went with the three men to visit Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. What Peter couldn't have imagined was how devout Cornelius was in seeking God through prayer and how giving he was to those in need. Remember, at that time Jews did not mix with non-Jews because they were often persecuted and sometimes murdered by those who were not a part of their faith. The vision of the sheet full of all kinds of unclean animals was God's unique way of drawing an unforgettable picture for Peter. It taught him that God considers ALL men, women, and children who choose to follow His Way to be clean and fit for the Kingdom.
Why is this important?
Once you open your eyes to accept that some of your church beliefs are not necessarily "God's Way" but merely "tradition", you will begin to study scripture with a more open mind. With open minds and hearts, we can all grow as believers. Consider this "Old Testament" (Tanakh) passage of scripture for a moment, with an open mind and with the knowledge that you are "the seed of Abraham" who serves a God who never changes:
Leviticus 23 regarding the seven Feasts of the Lord says they are to be lasting ordinances (decrees) for the generations to come, wherever we live. Let that sink in. God set up celebration times for us way back in Leviticus, times for our families to gather to meet with Him regularly, and then decreed that we have a good time celebrating throughout all generations! What an awesome God we serve.
Passover will be celebrated on April 18th by many Jews and followers of Jesus around the globe. AND, the Passover celebration is growing like wild fire in the Christian community. Why? I believe, again, prophecy is being fulfilled. Zachariah prophecied in the end times believers would go back to their "spiritual roots", and I see this as part of the "gathering" process. A miracle ushering in the end of time with seven biblical "Holy-Day"celebrations that will crescendo by way of the Feast of Trumpets when the trumpets announce the return of the Father for His children!
Followers of Jesus are finding symbols in all of the feasts. And in celebrating the seven feasts, they are finding their faith becomes more tangible and real. For instance:
1. Passover : liberation from slavery : liberation from sin
2. Feast of Unleavened Bread : intentional removal of "yeast" which is a biblical symbol of sin
3. Feast of Firstfruits: Jesus became the firstfruit ("But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." 1 Corinthians 15:20)
4. Shavuot : commemoration of the giving of the law : the disciples received the Holy Spirit on this day (Pentecost) : reminds us that God's law is now written within our hearts.
5. Feast of Trumpets: the gathering of Israel together (remembering God's sparing of Isaac) : reminds us that God will return at the sound of the trumpet to spare us for eternity's sake. Many believe the Lord will return on this special day!
6. Day of Atonement: the day the Priests would make atonement for himself and for the people of Israel : reminds us that we have direct link to God because of the supreme sacrifice of Jesus....a scapegoat is no longer needed.
7. Feast of Tabernacles: commemorating the time the Hebrew people lived in the wilderness following the Exodus : it is believed that Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, which is a beautiful portrayal of His leaving glory to "tabernacle" among us : reminds us to be joyful about the sacrifice that was made, and that our earthly bodies are temporary abodes....the Kingdom to come is an everlasting Kingdom!
Whew, this has been a long blog post. And I am certain you are wondering how this is going to tie back in to the original theme of eschatology. Basically, if I can help you accept the fact that some of the things you have been taught in church have been based on man's tradition instead of God's Word, you might be open to consider the church might not be raptured prior to the tribulation. And the rapture is what we will discuss next week....at length. Bringing ourselves to consider that Christians may not be raptured has many ramifications, because most church pews are filled with folks who do not worry about end time events since they have read the LaHaye/Jenkins books about being raptured prior to the tribulation. Lulled to sleep in their "cocoons", too many have placed their bets on a prayer they recited as children to "repent of their sins and accept Jesus into their hearts"....since that time, they await the rapture that will save them from a tribulation to come....even though no scripture explicitly states their entrance into heaven rests on a simple prayer and no scripture explicitly states a rapture will occur. Believers need to wake up from slumber and take world changing events much more seriously. Why does what we eat matter? Because it matters to God. Why does keeping the feasts matter? Because they matter to God. The End Times are drawing nearer and Eternity is at stake!
"Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to Him." John 14:21