Tag Archive | Scriptures

What are You Celebrating this Sunday?

Honey

Are you ready to celebrate? This Sunday is Pentecost, a fantastic time to celebrate some of God’s best gifts to us: the Scriptures and the Spirit. You can have a super-simple celebration, or you can create something elaborate.

Here are a few ideas that you can easily adapt for your home.  Although the suggestions are simple, they are able to communicate profound truth. If you’d like to read more about celebrating Pentecost, you can also go to this link, which will provide further background and additional ideas: celebrating Pentecost.

Here are several easy-to-implement ideas:

1.  Celebrate the incredible gift of the Scriptures by eating foods that symbolize the Word of God: bread, milk, and honey. Read corresponding Scriptures, such as Matthew 4:4, 1 Peter 2:2, Psalm 19:10-11, and Psalm 119:92, and 103. Emphasize the spiritual nourishment, strength, and sweetness that God gives us through Scripture.

Use symbols of light, such as a candle or a flashlight, to represent the guidance and comfort that we gain through Scripture. Read Psalm 119:105. (All of Psalm 119 is a rich celebration of the Scriptures.)

2.  Celebrate the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit to God’s people by eating foods that have been fried in oil, which symbolizes the Spirit.

English: An oil lamp made of clay used for the...

Light an oil lamp. Talk about the need to refill the lamp and our need to be filled continually with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

3. Celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church! (You can read about it in Acts 2.) With cake and candles, thank God for His Church, which is made up of all believers in Christ. It would also be a great time to take a minute to pray for the Church.

I would love to hear about your Pentecost celebrations, and I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas here.

Happy Pentecost!

Frozen to the Sword

SwordDoes anyone remember reading about Eleazar, the son of Dodai the Ahohite? Probably not–but he was an incredible warrior, one whom we would do well to consider. According to Old Testament accounts, Eleazar was one of David’s “mighty men.” In a battle against  the Philistines one day, “the men of Israel retreated, but Eleazar stood his ground.” Not only did he stand his ground in the middle of a barley field, bravely facing the enemy onslaught, but he “struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword.” And here’s the rest of the story: “The LORD brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.”  (2 Samuel 23:9-10, NIV)

Perhaps you are an Eleazar, fighting spiritual opposition and feeling overwhelmed in the battle. Perhaps there are those who should be standing with you but who have retreated instead. As you stand there, keep your hand on your sword, which is the Word of God. Keep your hand frozen to the sword. Don’t let go of the Scriptures for even a moment; hold on to its promises and commands and prayers.

Eleazar must have known that dropping his sword or even loosening his grip on it would have meant defeat for his cause and certain death for himself. We, too, must know that our spiritual well-being and success depend on this sword of God’s Word: we conquer by clinging to its truth, or we suffer defeat by losing our grip on it.

Stand strong, “Eleazar.” Though your hand grow tired, keep it frozen to your sword. “And the LORD will bring about a great victory.

It’s Time to Celebrate!

Have you ever celebrated Pentecost in your home? This coming Sunday is Pentecost, which God gave to us as a special day of rejoicing (Deut. 16:11). Observing Pentecost with your family or friends can be a wonderful celebration. Although Pentecost is not a complicated celebration,  it is one of great joy.

Pentecost was one of the seven feasts that God instructed the ancient Israelites to observe (and one of the three which required mandatory attendance in Jerusalem). Pentecost is a time to rejoice in God’s goodness to us.  At Pentecost, we celebrate three gifts:

1. The gift of the Scriptures. Pentecost is held fifty days after Passover. (Pentecost means “fifty.”) Fifty days after the first Passover in Egypt, the Israelites were at Mount Sinai. With loud sounds and with fire, God gave the Law and the Ten Commandments on Pentecost as part of the first covenant. God told the people to present to the LORD two loaves of bread as part of the Pentecost offerings. This bread, unlike the Passover bread, was “baked with yeast” (Lev. 23:17).
The first thing we celebrate are the Scriptures that God has given to us.  These words that are not just idle words—they are life to us (Deut. 32:4).  Like bread, they are nourishing to our spirits; like honey, they are sweet to our souls; like a lamp, they guide us.

2. The gift of the Holy Spirit. Fifty days after Jesus gave Himself as the Passover Lamb of God, the disciples were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. With loud sounds and with fire, God gave the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as part of the new covenant. So the second thing we celebrate is the Holy Spirit, who gives us boldness, comfort, power, and instruction.

3. The gift of the spring harvest, and the promise of the fall harvest. Pentecost in ancient Israel occurred at the time of the wheat harvest in the spring. When the Jews gave their “firstfruits” as offerings to God during this festival, they were thanking God for the spring harvest as well as for the coming fall harvest. Pentecost is  a “firstfruits” celebration for us, too, meaning that we are offering to God our first and best–not our leftovers–both as an expression of gratitude for what He has given and also as a statement of confidence that He will provide again.

English: Picture of wheat from Czech republik

The Jewish people traditionally read the book of Ruth on Pentecost because most of the story of Boaz and Ruth occurred during the spring harvest in Bethlehem (which means “house of bread”).  God gave Boaz and Ruth good things in their lives, such as a son, a grandson, and a great grandson, King David–this was a “spring harvest.”  These blessings were also promises of abundant good things still to come: the Messiah came through their family line!

Ruth in Boaz's Field

We learn in Acts 2 that on the day of Pentecost, after the disciples received the Holy Spirit, three thousand people became followers of Christ. This was an “harvest” of souls–an abundant spring harvest! It gives us confidence that God will also bring the “fall harvest” that He has promised.

An interesting Jewish tradition on Pentecost is to read from Ezekiel 1, a passage which refers to a great windstorm and to fire. Perhaps these images were in the disciples’ thoughts as they then encountered for themselves the sound of a mighty wind and the sight of fire. In the excellent book God’s Appointed Times, Barney Kasdan makes these comments:

Imagine thousands of Jewish worshipers leaving the Temple after the morning service (at the third hour, Acts 2:15) having just read the passage from Ezekiel 1. Suddenly some of the same manifestations of the Holy Spirit started to appear before their eyes! No wonder they were amazed and perplexed by the windstorm and fire. It certainly got their attention! They must have wondered if God was revealing his Shekinah glory for the first time in early 600 years! The glory of God was present at the giving of the Law; the same glory was manifested at the giving of the holy spirit. The prophet later wrote: “I will put my Spirit in you and cause you to walk in my statutes…” (Ezekiel 36:27). *

It is fascinating, too, to see in Romans 8:23 that the Holy Spirit is referred to as “firstfruits,” that is, He is God’s good gift to us, and He is also a promise of the abundance of good gifts still to come.

So how can we celebrate all of this on Sunday?  Here are some simple ideas, which you can either simplify or embellish.

1. Decorate (optional):  Use flowers, greenery, or other decorations to represent spring. Perhaps using your best dishes will make the time more festive.  If you have something that symbolizes harvest (such as wheat, barley, or fruit), that would be great, too.

2. Celebrate the Scriptures:  Serve bread, and talk about how the Scriptures nourish us. Read Deuteronomy 8:3. Serve honey (or jam for children under 2), and talk about how the Scriptures are sweet to us.  Read Psalm 119:103. Light candles or use flashlights as you discuss how the Scriptures are like light for us. Read Psalm 119:105.  You may also want to read Psalm 19:7-11.

3.  Celebrate the Spirit: Express thankfulness for God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. You might read Acts 2:1-4 and Romans 8:5-16. Other verses about the Holy Spirit that you may want to read are John 14:16-17, 26.

4.  Celebrate the harvests:  You may want to serve barley soup as a reminder of the spring harvest.  (You can easily add barley to vegetable soup or to beef-and-vegetable soup.)  Thank God for what He has provided for you and your family recently (the spring harvest), and thank Him that He is going to provide in the future (the fall harvest).  Read Acts 2:38-41, noticing the spring harvest of souls. Perhaps you will want to pray for more laborers to work in the harvest fields (Matthew 9:38) and for God to bring an abundant fall harvest of people who will love Him.

Happy Pentecost!

*Barney Kasdah. God’s Appointed Times: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Celebrating the Biblical Holidays. Clarksville, Maryland: Lederer Books. 1993. pages 55-56.