Gifts

The Nails, The Thorns and The Lamb

Lamb Crown of ThornsThis is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

-- 1 John 3:16

In the Ladies’ Bible Study we’re doing Max Lucado’s He Chose the Nails for Lent. We’ve done this study before, but the revelations in it are so profound that it bears doing again. Plus, Max Lucado is a supreme storyteller.

I feet moved to share just a bit about the symbols of Easter that I had never considered before.

NAILS

Nails are meant to bring things together. They are also used to repair broken things. As a carpenter, Jesus undoubtedly had plenty of experience with nails. They were definitely tools of his trade. He spent his young life creating, building and mending. And in a very real way, he finished His life by doing the same thing for the Kingdom of God and all of humanity. Those nails tore his flesh, but as he was suspended between Heaven and earth, the joined them together by making a way for us to get back to God. Those nails repaired our broken relationship with our Father Creator. Those nails built a stairway to Heaven made of His body and blood and faith in Him as our Savior.

THORNS

Way back in Genesis when Adam and Eve thought it would be fun to be like God, God punished their sin by cursing the ground with thorns so it would be hard for them to get food (Genesis 3:17-19). So right there, thorns became a symbol of the punishment for sin. And remember Myrrh from the Christmas story? It was the spice used for anointing the dead which was harvested from a bush with long thorns. And there, after the terrible scourging, Roman soldiers made a crown of thorns and pressed it into Jesus’ tender flesh. The punishment for sin and symbol of death’s anointing turned into an ironic acknowledgment that Christ, the truest King of the Jews would take all the punishment for the entire world’s sin on His head until His death.

LAMB

In the agrarian societies of the Biblical lands lamb and sheep were a major source of nourishment. But of course, you had to raise it and care for it before it could be dinner. Later, the lamb became a symbol of sacrifice: first, when Abraham was about to sacrifice his only son for God and the sheep appeared, then later at the very first Passover when God commanded His people to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and use its blood to cover their doorways so that they would be saved from Death. Eventually, Jesus became the unblemished Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. How this works is a mystery, but there is a recurring pattern of God’s transforming work in our lives: that some form of death always precedes new life – and death never has the last word. Jesus, the unblemished, sinless lamb of God gave up His life in this world so that we could have life in the world to come. When we crucify our old, worldly ways to the cross daily, we die to sin so that we can live for and in Christ. We feed on the body of Christ at communion to be spiritually nourished and strengthened for the days ahead, just as the Jews feasted on their Passover lamb to be strengthened for their journey out of Egypt and out of slavery to sin and live fully as God’s special, holy nation.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

-- Revelation 22:3-4

I have no doubt that God used all of these symbols and more in all of these ways, and more, to show us and tell us the most important thing that we could ever know: That God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -- John 3:16

Wishing you a Blessed Resurrection Day,

Jen


Who Needs Luck?

Irish Frienship Wish15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.

~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

I’m a holiday person…perhaps too much. I just always loved the colorful classroom decorations for the various holidays as the year wore on, and especially all the symbols. St. Patrick’s day has lots of lucky symbols: four leaf clovers, rainbows, pots of gold and horseshoes.

I have no idea where the idea of ‘the luck of the Irish’ came from. But it does make me wonder if, indeed, there is such a thing as luck. I used to believe in that kind of stuff, but as a Christian, I find myself much more skeptical of luck, coincidence, and even fate or destiny. I now believe much more in blessings, God’s will and the hope of the blessed assurance.

Ultimately, we know that bad things still happen to good people. And we know that even as believers we have little control over our destiny, as God holds the future in His hands, and He is historically tight-lipped about what the future holds. Further, we know that we are endowed by God with free will to make decisions and choose how to live.

So then, how are Christians different than anyone else? The answer is in what we believe and how that belief changes how we view things. Non-believers may see themselves as victims of venomous fate, or see themselves as naturally lucky or cursed, or believe that all they have is due to their own hard work and smarts. But what happens when the luck runs out, or the business fails, or they fail? When things look bleak, who do they turn to? Where does their help come from? I can tell you from past experience, they are hopeless. They have nothing to put their faith in that is firm and unshakable. They can ‘hope’ that things get better, but unlike Christian ‘hope’ they have no assurance of a loving God who sifts everything through His perfect will and “plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Christians who truly believe and behave like God is control have no fear of the future while the world is in chaos and anxiety is pervasive. Christians who know God is in control don’t need to hoard or save excessively. They get on their knees, and then they get to work. And eventually this calm assurance begins to attract the attention of others. And when others ask about your ‘luck’ or your hopeful assurance, be ready to explain it. Be ready to explain that Christ’s death on a cross of shame freed us to live a life reconciled to God, as his precious children. And because we can trust Him to bring something positive for our benefit out of every situation, because we can rely on Him to lead us in His will, we never have to be anxious, we never have to feel hopeless. Our help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and earth. Our feet will always be on the solid rock even when the storm is raging around us. And when our time comes, sooner or later, to leave this earth, we know for sure that a glorious Heaven is waiting for us.

So, who needs luck? Just give me Jesus!

Top ‘o the Mornin’ to ye,

Jenny 

May there always be work for your hands to do.

May your purse always hold a coin or two,

May the sun always shine on your windowpane.

May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain,

May the hand of a friend always be near you,

May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

 


Treat and You Will Be Treated

Treat and Be TreatedYou will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. -2 Corinthians 9:11

Reciprocity. The Pastor recently gave an excellent sermon on this foundational principle. God rewards those who do His will, and the manner of his reward is to bless people in the ways they have blessed others. Give and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Sow righteousness and reap a harvest of blessings.

Of course, God is no heavenly ATM machine who rewards people who do good only so they can be rewarded. If your motive is earthly accolades or greedy accumulation, then you will get your reward in praise and stuff, but not in heavenly blessings.

Serving the Lord is kind of like Halloween Trick or Treating, I think. One year, full of greed for candy, and quest for adventure, my neighbors and I decided to go all out. We came up with creative ideas for Halloween costumes and enlisted parental aid in making our imagined outfits a reality. With my mother and father’s assistance and direction, we crafted 3 costumes based on the Muppets. Kermit was made from a cardboard structure overlaid with green felt and half a plastic baseball for eyes. Fozzy the Bear had a chicken wire structure overlaid with brown fake fur, topped with a porkpie hat and neck scarf. Miss Piggy was the most ambitious, with a cardboard structure overlaid with papier-mâché and hand painted in pink. They looked great!  However, they also covered our entire heads and had only small holes for seeing. No matter, it was gonna be awesome.

We drew a map of the neighborhood and discussed and debated the most efficient route for maximum candy. We decided to head waaaay up the main road, several blocks from home and use pillowcases so we could really have a huge haul.

The long-awaited night came! We felt no need to head out early while the sun was still up. Time was not an issue. Up we trudged, block after block passing our friends collecting only in our neighborhood. Yes, the giant heads were kind of hot. Okay, my glasses were totally fogged up. But what enthusiasm we had!

When we finally began knocking on doors, people were amazed and delighted by our costumes. Our pillowcase bags began to fill up. With the foggy eyeglasses and limited vision, I began tripping over roots and landscaping. No problem. Our bags began to get really heavy, and we were still blocks away from home. No worries. Miss Piggy twisted her ankle in the fancy shoes she wore. We pressed on. Fozzy the Bear began to sweat so much his fur was getting soggy. But on we went.

Eventually we realized that we had to return home, only halfway through our route, to empty our sacks and get back out there.  By the time we returned home, weary, sweaty and bruised, we sadly realized it was much too close to bedtime to head back out. Nevertheless, we DID have nearly a pillowcase of candy each!

The next day in school, we learned a sad truth. While we were far away collecting Peanut Chews, Milk Duds, Jawbreakers and gumballs, right on the other side of the street the new family that had moved in was handing out full sized chocolate bars and extra treats for kids from the street.

We missed it. We missed seeing our neighbors. We missed seeing our friends and walking around with them. We missed coming home and seeing more friends come to our door in their costumes. In our quest for more we got more of what turned out to be not so important and missed out on what we realized was really important to us. And we got sore muscles, chills, and bruises to boot.

When we serve God, we need to be sure that our goals and planning are from Him and for Him and not for our own purposes or praise. Even when our goals are good, and our planning is sound, if it is not in God’s timing or will, the odds of us ending up unfulfilled are high. We need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit so that when we receive our ‘marching orders’ we’re ready to get moving.

When we cheerfully serve, cheerfully give and cheerfully follow after God, with no motive other than to please Him, He will be faithful to provide us with strength, success and support. And these He will provide in amounts and in ways that we could never have imagined. Great is His faithfulness!

Wishing you lots of Halloween treats,

Jen


He Lifted Them Up and Carried Them

    Balloon USAAnd he became their Savior.

In all their suffering he also suffered,

    and he personally rescued them.

In his love and mercy he redeemed them.

    He lifted them up and carried them

    through all the years.

-- Isaiah 63:8-9

I love America. I can’t sit through the American Adventure show at Disney’s Epcot without my heart swelling in pride and overflowing into copious tears (click here to check it out). It takes me back to my childhood, when every year my Dad and I would pack up and head to the Towson Independence Day Parade. Banners waived, local politicians shook our hands, bands played Sousa marches and sirens blared. That patriotic feeling of pride in our freedoms was planted deep within my heart. And even learning about her flaws and blemishes in college only soured me temporarily because for all her mistakes and flaws, she’s still the best and freest country in the world, in my opinion.

The hubby and I read a lot of books on various episodes in American History. And the more we read, the more we are astonished at the obvious ways God blessed this country and intervened to direct our path. Like the stubborn Israelites, we have at times rejected God, turned our backs on His mission and even denied His Lordship.  But despite our revisionist history, I think it is fair to say that we are a Christian nation. It was the love of Christ and desire to serve Him freely that brought the pilgrims to our shores. It was the belief that all people have inherent value and rights bestowed by God that underpinned our Declaration of Independence and later Constitution. It was our belief that God created us for good works that led us to grow our country with hard work and enterprise. It was our conviction that enslavement of other humans was repugnant that led to the election of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. It was our faith that evil can only be conquered by Good that led us to go to war for freedom around the world. Oh yes, I know that many of these ideals were corrupted by greed, lust for power and other ulterior motives. Just read the Bible and any history book to see that it has always been that way. Nevertheless, this county was founded and built to a great extent by people of faith seeking to serve God and serve others as freely as possible.

God has lifted us up and carried us through all the years. You may say that things look a little bleak right now. You may question whether God has lifted his loving hand of protection from us. You may feel that our beloved ideals are being twisted and trampled and the very freedoms that led the Pilgrims to venture to these shores in the first place are the ones most under attack. That may well be. Let’s face it, Jesus promised us troubles and persecution in this world. But He overcame the world, and we must too! This isn’t a time for hand-wringing, this is a time for sleeve rolling, and bootstrap pulling – and knees bending in prayer! Never has America needed the salt and light of Christians more. Never has our culture strayed so far from Biblical principles of morality and holiness. Never have more Americans been ignorant of the Bible, and unaware of who Jesus is and what He has done for them. The ‘news’ programs argue over solutions this country’s problems, but we who know the power of Christ, know what the only lasting solution can be: being born again into the family of God through faith in Jesus.

As we celebrate our freedom and the many blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, let us also resolve to be brave in our faith. Our country desperately needs our Good News of love, forgiveness and redemption. Take up the flag, but also take up the cross and confidently declare: ‘Imitate me as I imitate Christ!” 1 Corinthians 11:1.

Wishing you freedom and bravery,

Jen Jahromi


Christ, Our Passover Lamb

 

Christ our Passover Lamb

1 Corinthians 5:7-8

I love literary symbolism and our Bible is chock full of it. My favorite is the ‘type,’ a literary prefiguring where a person or story serves as a metaphorical prefigure of another that is to come later. There are so many, and that’s what amazes me: thousands of years in the past Christ was hinted at by so many stories in the Old Testament.

In Sunday School we just learned about the first Passover. Passover is such a ‘hint’ at what God was preparing with the Messiah and Easter that in hindsight, it’s almost impossible to miss. But I’ll hit some highlights to show just how much of an unbroken line there is from Moses and the Hebrews to us today.

  1. The Need for Salvation: Moses was a miracle baby who should have been killed in infancy. These were desperate times for the Hebrews. Although living as slaves, God blessed them and increased their numbers. But Pharaoh feared their power. They were abused and oppressed and had no spiritual leaders. After crying out for God’s mercy, it still took 10 terrible plagues until they were set free from bondage. Before Christ arrived, there were 500 years of silence from God. The Israelites strayed from God’s word and devised their own sects and rules. They were occupied by Greece and then Rome, persecuted and burdened by extreme taxation. Still Rome feared there would be uprisings. Today the world is still in need of deliverance from sin and suffering. People still subjugate and abuse others, and we are still pushing God out of the equation and trying to do things in our own power.
  2. The Leaven: God instructed the Hebrews to rid their homes of yeast and any kind of leavening. Yeast is a wonderful symbol of sin: “Your boasting is not good.  Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?”  (1 Corinthians 5:6). The thing about yeast is that it is in the very air, surrounding us always just like the temptation to sin. The Hebrews had to prepare by ‘cleansing’ themselves and their homes. John the Baptist made it abundantly clear that God wanted Israel to repent of sin and cleanse themselves with the waters of baptism. Repentance first and then Deliverance. Today we know that arrogance and pride are the number one reason people refuse faith in Jesus Christ. But if we repent and accept Jesus as our savior, we will be delivered from sin.
  3. The Blood of the Lamb: For God, atonement requires blood: Leviticus 17:11 "…it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” God instructed the Hebrews to paint the blood of the unblemished sacrificial lamb on the doorposts of the house so the Angel of Death would pass over them. Jesus came as the new Passover lamb, pure and unblemished by sin, dying as a sacrificial atonement for the sins of all mankind. Now, we must all be symbolically covered by the blood of Jesus to receive forgiveness from and reconciliation with God.
  4. The Feast: In the original feast they ate the lamb that had been sacrificed along with unleavened bread and other foods, and drank wine. By Jesus’ day the Passover meal (Seder) had become ritualized including starting with a prayer over the wine to remember the deliverance of the first Passover. Jesus used the symbol of eating the body of the sacrificed lamb at The Last Supper when breaking the bread: This is my body, broken for you. He changed the prayer over the wine from a remembrance of physical deliverance to one of spiritual deliverance: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This meal is now our Holy Communion.
  5. Deliverance: The original Passover caused the death of all the first-born Egyptian boys and animals. It was so terrible that Pharaoh finally granted freedom to the Hebrews and sent them out of Egypt with all the resources they would need for their journey. By Jesus’ day Israel was crying out for deliverance from Roman rule and persecution. They expected their Messiah to come as a king and conqueror, driving out the Romans and reestablishing the line of King David. Instead, they got a meek and mild teacher, healer and miracle-worker who delivered people not from worldly captivity, but from the captivity of sin and death. This is a far better deliverance - a permanent, eternal one. But so many people then AND NOW could not fathom this gift from God. They didn’t accept His free gift of redemption then, and many do not now. Others, however, are just waiting to hear this miraculous Easter story of God’s love and receive eternal salvation.

There’s plenty more that could be said about the symbolism and similarity between Passover and Easter. In fact, a whole study could and probably has been done on it. For me, it all highlights just how almighty God actually is in planning and spanning thousands of years of human history, weaving together people and events to bring about His good and perfect will for us. He is so much bigger than we could ever dare to imagine. He knows and loves each one of us intimately and personally and yet can hold the universe together at the vastest and most microscopic levels. He is an amazing, awesome God.

PRAYER:

Father God, I am in awe of You. You have performed wonders, brought about miracles, woven together history, and yet are still concerned about me. I am humbled. Help me to share Your Awe with others. Make me an Easter Person who keeps the miracle of reconciliation and resurrection in my heart and on my mind always.

Easter blessings to you,

Jen Jahromi


Aroma of Christ

Alternate text

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

~2 Corinthians 2:15

Ah, the aromas of Christmas...gingerbread, fresh coffee, pine boughs, cinnamon pine cones, cloved ham, mulled cider, candy canes, PIE...yum!  For me, smells are memory joggers. Familiar smells bring back the feelings and memories of whole episodes of my life. And scents are important to God too. The Bible often speaks of the aromas of burning meat or of incense going up to God as a sacrifice.  And that's what Paul is saying to the Corinthians.  We need to let our lives be a fragrant sacrifice to God.  And that aroma of Godliness and the Good News will either attract some to us or repel some from us.  Jesus came on Christmas day to make his entire life a sacrifice for God on our behalf.  His sacrifice didn't start on Good Friday, it began in consenting to come down to earth to dwell among us...Emmanuel, God with us. 

Sacrifice is good for us -- it keeps us humble; it makes us compassionate; it sets our hearts and minds on Jesus and his work. Times are tough. Joblessness is staggering. COVID is resurging with a vengeance. The world seems cold and cruel to many people in the world and in our neighborhoods. If you know the warmth of Christ and the hope of Christmas, then I urge you to make some sacrifices this year: a little more intentional time with the family, calls to shut-ins, cards to neighbors; a little more money in the donation buckets, a few more canned goods to the food banks, a few more bags of clothes to the needy, a few more coats or socks or toys in the donation boxes. We can have gifts under the tree spilling out into the room, but these things will rust, deteriorate or break eventually. However, our good works will earn us treasure in Heaven that will last forever -- as will the souls of those we bring to Christ. If you have a heart to give, Compassion International is one of my favorite charities. Here is a link to their Christmas Gifts page: https://www.compassion.com/charitable-gift-catalog.htm.  And of course there are the Advent Missions of our church, and our church itself (Hereford Faith & Life)!

God bless you and your family and friends as you prepare Him room in your homes and hearts for Christmas this year!

Jennifer Fefel Jahromi

www.Zazzle.com/VisionsAndVerses


Rededication at Hanukkah

Hanukkah Quilt"It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah the Festival of Dedication.."  -John 10:22NLT

A century or so before Jesus' birth, the Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes conquered Egypt and subsequently Judea and Jerusalem.  The king ordered an end to all religion but his own, and set up an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar of the Temple.  There, he even sacrificed pigs, considered unclean. This was an abomination to the Jews. 

Mattisyahu (Mattathias), was serving as a priest in God's Temple in 167 BC when a Greek official tried to force him to sacrifice to a pagan god.  Mattisyahu resisted and killed the official, which triggered reprisals by Antiochus IV against the Jews.

Nevertheless, Mattisyahu — and after his death, Judah, one of his five sons — took charge of the fight against the pagan Greeks and earned the name "Maccabee" (possibly from "hammer" in Hebrew) because of their hammer-like blows against their enemies. Three years after the Maccabee uprising, in 164 BC, they had taken back Jerusalem and purified the Temple.

And while the Greeks defiled the Jewish Temple, they would not succeed in eradicating its means for purification — oil. Despite the pagan altars within her and impure animals that were offered to idols on the Temple's holy ground, a day's worth of purified oil remained concealed on the Temple grounds with its seal intact. This jar of oil, sanctified to the God of Israel, would help push back the spiritual darkness that had overcome the Temple. And while it was only enough for a single day, it miraculously burned for a full eight days.  By the last day, the Jews had prepared enough sanctified oil to keep the light shining perpetually. To commemorate this, they established the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah. 

On the Christian calendar, Hanukkah falls during Advent, a time of preparation -- both for the celebration of Christmas and for the eventual return of the Messiah, Jesus.  Advent and Hanukkah are both solemn occasions that call us to be re-dedicated to God, and to be prepared to do His work in the world.  For the ancient Jews, there were more conquerors to come, and more challenges to their faith and very existence. For Christians today, we see similar efforts by authorities to diminish our faith. For now, it might be a relatively benign 'Holidays' or 'Winter Festival' instead of Christmas, and closed churches due to COVID, but the Book of Revelation suggests that much stiffer tests of our faith will come.  Let us be re-dedicated and prepared then, for whatever may come. During this joyous eight-day season of Hanukkah, be prepared to reach out to People here and around the world with the Good News that Jesus is the Light of the World.

"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness."  (John 12:46)

May you be filled with oil of joy this upcoming Hanukkah and clothed with the garments of praise during this Holiday Season!

Jennifer Fefel Jahromi

www.Zazzle.com/VisionsandVerses


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