Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Last Supper

Sup amigos? School and life have had me pretty busy, thus the reason for no posts in the last 2 months. With the semester wrapping up really soon (2 weeks!!), I'm hoping I'll have more time to post, but I'll be busy studying for Boards and getting ready to start clinic, so we'll have to wait and see. But I wanted to post today because the worship service at church this morning was just incredible. With Easter just one week away, the focus this morning was on the Last Supper, but it was presented in an entirely new way for me. Most sermons focus on the fact that it was the last night Jesus spent with the twelve before He was crucified, but tend to look over the fact that they were also celebrating Passover that night. (For those who don't know, Passover is a Jewish celebration of remembrance for when God sent the tenth plaque to Egypt (the death of the firstborn), saved them from the angel of death, and led them out of slavery into freedom and eventually, the promised land.)

In his sermon, Kyle Idelman went through the different elements of the traditional Passover meal that the Jewish people take part in. They started by eating greens dipped in salt water. The salt water represented the tears shed by the Hebrews while they were in slavery in Egypt. They ate unleavened bread, which was bread without yeast. God told the Hebrews to leave the yeast out of their bread because they wouldn't have time to let the bread rise when they were released and set free from Egypt. They ate it to remember how quickly their salvation came. Also, the yeast in the bread represented sin. (More on that later.) They dipped their bread in different sauces. First, they dipped it in a sauce made from bitter herbs and roots, and if you eat this sauce, it will literally bring tears to your eyes. This was so they would remember the bitterness of their slavery in Egypt. Next, they would dip the bread in a sweet sauce, to remember the sweetness of their salvation and of the promised land. They would then fill up 4 cups of wine and pass it among themselves. The first was the cup of salvation, to remember their salvation from Egypt. The second was the cup of deliverance, to remember their freedom. The third was the cup of redemption, to remember the redemption of their people. The fourth was the cup of praise, to remember to give praise to God for what He has done. Each cup was filled to the brim, because a full of cup of wine is said to represent joy. They drank and told the story of the Passover with complete joy. Lastly, they would eat the meat of the Passover lamb. God told the Hebrews to slaughter a spotless lamb, to paint the door frames of their homes with its blood, and to eat the meat. On the night of the Passover, the angel of death would pass by any homes with the blood of the lamb on the door frames. If any home was without blood, any firstborns inside would be killed. All firstborns in Egypt, human and animal, were killed on that night, and that was the final straw for Pharoh. Having lost his own son, he told Moses and the Israelites to leave his country. So, although a horiffic event, the Jewish people celebrate it with joy every year because it brought them freedom.

So, back to the Last Supper. This was what Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the night before Jesus was crucified. If you read the accounts in the Bible, there is no mention of them eating a Passover lamb that night. Whether they were or not, we don't know. However, there was still a lamb at the table, reclining and celebrating with the disciples. Jesus is our spotless lamb, that was slaughtered so that His blood could bring us grace and freedom. It makes the reason we celebrate communion even more meaningful and powerful for me. When Jesus broke the unleavened bread that night, he said "This is my body." Jesus was without sin, and the bread was without yeast, or sin. And when Jesus told them that the wine was his blood, poured out for all, he was presumably holding the cup of wine that was the cup of redemption, because his blood redeems us all. The Passover story and its celebration served to point the Jewish people toward Jesus, and when we read them today in the Bible, they serve the same purpose. Jesus, our Passover lamb, freed us from slavery to sin. His blood saves us, just like the blood on the door frames saved the Hebrews on that night thousands of years ago. This all changes the way that I will celebrate communion in the future. It means so much more to me now, and I'm thankful that God keeps revealing Himself to me in so many new ways. He continues to amaze me and I have no choice but to give thanks and to worship Him, and I'm thankful for the reminders of how great He truly is.

Sorry this was such a long post, but it really helps my understanding of things when I can just spit it out like that. But I also hope that you are able to take something new away from it like I was. Anyway....just wanted to give you something to think about as we look forward to celebrating Easter next Sunday!! :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Something's gotta give (and no, this is not a reference to that really awkward Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton movie)

This last month of school, more specifically the last 2 weeks, has been really busy. 5 exams and one full-metal gold crown later, I've made it through unscathed. (At least I hope...still waiting to see how one exam and that gold crown turned out, haha.) I'm really thankful for a break, even it is a short one. I'm glad I can have one weekend where I don't have to worry about studying or about an impending project due date. Last week on top of studying for a Pathology test, I came down with a cold, the likes of which my immune system hasn't had to battle in years. So as you can imagine, with the hours spent buried in my notes and the hours spent working in the lab this past week, I haven't had time for much else.

Unfortunately much else includes time spent with the Lord. It amazes me that I can still get so busy that I just brush off spending time in the Word when I get up in the morning. Or before I go to bed at night.  But I won't think twice about staying up until 3:30 learning a list of hundreds of drugs and what they do, only to get up less than 3 hours later and head off to take an exam on said list of drugs. I won't think twice about skipping a morning of class for the sake of my body fighting off a cold, but I still have trouble getting up a mere 30 minutes earlier than I normally would and opening up my Bible or spending time in prayer. Something's gotta give, and God doesn't like it when that something is him.

This is something I've battled time and time again, but it's a battle that I've got to keep fighting if my relationship with God really is what matters most to me. I did really well last summer and last fall about getting up 2 hours before class and spending time with God every morning. Somehow, the weekends slipped through the cracks, but for the most part, I began every day in the Word. Even this semester started off well, but then it was so dark when I woke up and it was so cold, I just couldn't make myself get out of my warm bed. Enough with the excuses. Maybe I need to switch to nights and give that another try. I'm much more alert at night and more likely to stay up later than I am to wake up early. But where's the real sacrifice in that? I've just gotta figure out my new battle strategy and roll with it. I don't want these last few weeks to become the norm for me. So if you're reading this, I would really appreciate your prayers. I'm open to suggestions too. Accountability and encouragement have always been a vital part of my walk with Christ, and I'm so grateful that God has blessed me with brothers and sisters who have been there to help me fight. You all are awesome. Anyway.....just wanted to give you a piece of what's been on my mind this week. Get it?? Piece of my the title of my blog, only different?? Clever, right?? ;)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm not ok with ordinary

My world got rocked tonight at the Post. I love it/hate it when that happens. Kyle Idleman spoke to us about "Advancing the Kingdom", which basically boils down to missions. I can't tell you how many times I've heard sermons, devotions, and Sunday school lessons about missions, but tonight God decided to grab my shoulders and give 'em a good shake. Tonight I realized that I've become complacent with just living an ordinary life, or the American dream if you will. There's nothing wrong with wanting to help others and provide for my family that God will hopefully bless me with someday- those are both really noble goals. And I also hope to use dentistry on mission trips to help reach people in need someday as well. But why have I been so concerned with the future? I often find myself asking God what His will is for my life....will I get married? Who will my wife be? Will I have kids? Where will I end up practicing dentistry? Notice a theme? Those are all questions that deal with the future. So what about the here and now? Everything I pray about right now deals with school, family and friends, people who are sick, relationship stuff....pretty typical, everyday stuff. My life right now is just ordinary. I'm not ok with that. God's not ok with that. Why am I not actively seeking opportunities to minister to my classmates and the other several hundred students at ULSD? Why am I not sharing the Gospel? Why am I ok with being ordinary when God wants me to be extraordinary? Why am I not willing to do what it takes to be the person God wants me to be? Why am I not praying that God would use me however He sees fit? Why do I put limits on what I ask God so that I get the answers that I'm ok with? Why am I asking so many questions? Haha....moving on. To be honest I think I'm scared. I'm scared that God might tell me to pack up and move to Asia. Or Africa. Oh, I'd be ok with going on a mission trip for a couple of weeks. The point is, whether or not God is calling me to move overseas, I should be willing to go if He wants me to. I should be willing to do whatever it takes for the sake of the Gospel. That's what it means to be extraordinary. Now, it doesn't have to be something extreme, like moving overseas. It could be as simple as asking my classmates how I can be praying for them. That simple question could open so many doors. God can use me in so many ways here in Louisville. After all, He has me here for a reason and I believe that reason is to share the Gospel with the people I live life with everyday- friends, classmates, future patients. God may not want me to move overseas, but I should be ok with that possibility because God will break me down until I am. I don't want to miss out on the work that God is doing or the work that he has planned. I've sinned for too long by not truly living out His will. It will take some time I'm sure, but that's something I'm going to change. Ordinary just doesn't cut it anymore.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Peace that surpasses all understanding

It's funny the way that God works. I don't mean "haha" funny, but more like ironic funny. In our house group (just another name for a small group) we've been studying the book of Philippians. Last night, we were in chapter 4 and we talked about peace. It's actually one of my favorite passages. Allow me to post the passage we read from...

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." --Philippians 4:4-7

Ok, so last night we discussed what it means to truly have "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" and what that looks like in our lives. We all tend to want to take care of things ourselves, or at least I do, and that causes a lot of stress, worry, and anxiety in our lives. This isn't what God wants for us. He wants us to literally give our worries and fears to him. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 not to be anxious. He tells us again in Matthew 11:30 "For my yolk is easy, and my burden is light." God wants us to trade in our problems for His peace. To end the night, we all talked about an area or two in our own lives where we need to practice giving it up to God and receiving His peace. Little did I know that God would give me chances to put all of this into practice so soon.

This morning, I woke up to a text from my mom telling me that my Mamaw was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Her right side was swollen, she was in extreme pain, and they later found that her white blood cell count was high. She has pretty bad rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and after a consult with her RA doctor, my mom and Papaw drove her to Louisville where she received injections in her shoulder, elbow, and knee. She's still in pain, but she got to go back home after a long morning and she's going to be ok. 

Earlier this evening, I got a text from one of my best buds a brother in BG. His dad was in a bad wreck tonight. At the time, all he knew was that he was hurt, but knew no other details. Just a while ago I got an update, and his dad was going in for a scan and had possibly hurt either his kidney or spleen. More updates will come, I'm sure.

What a day, right? But why tell you all of this? God calls us to rejoice in Him, regardless of the circumstance. From the moment I woke up, my day could have been full of worry. And I'll admit, I initially started to worry. But as I was showering I remembered what we talked about last night, and I put it into practice. I prayed. And I prayed again on my way to school. And I prayed again in class. Every time my dad sent me a text to update me, my heart jumped a little. And right now, my heart goes out to part of my BG family, so I've been praying. But there is absolutely NOTHING that I can do to change the circumstances. And in all honesty, that's ok with me. God stands outside of time. He sees everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen, all at the same time. He knows why this is happening. He knows why something that occurred 10 yrs ago happened. God has a plan, even though we can't see all of the details. But He sees it all. So why worry?? Nothing will ever surprise our Lord. I can pray for healing of my family members and dear friends, but I can't worry about it because it's not up to me how it all turns out. So while I'm concerned about my friend's dad, and while I was concerned about my Mamaw this morning, I'm not worried. I'm rejoicing in the truth that our God is in control. Whatever happens is ultimately for His glory. I'm praying for peace, and God is coming through. He always does. :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How long?

I'm not one to just post some song lyrics or a random link, but I wanted to add this as a follow-up to last night's post. This song is by one of my favorite artists, Andrew Peterson. "The Reckoning (How Long)" is cry to God, asking how much longer we have to wait for Jesus to return and for God to set this world right. The lyrics in this song sum up my feelings over the last few days exactly. I'll be the first to admit that my selfish, human side doesn't necessarily want Him to return just yet, because there's tons of stuff I want to do here on Earth....but there will always be something else. When I'm downright honest with myself, I can't help but let these words be my prayer as I listen to this awesome song. Just follow the link below. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do. :)

"The Reckoning (How Long)"

Monday, December 27, 2010

I want to move to Narnia

I just recently finished re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I read all of them when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, but as a kid, I missed most (if not all) of their symbolism. I remember enjoying them a lot, so I was really excited when I found out a few years ago that they were going to start making them into movies. Thankfully, they've stayed pretty true to the books and I've loved all three of the movies they've turned out so far. (Hopefully, they'll turn the other books into movies as well, but that's neither here nor there.) After seeing the first two movies (which were The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe followed by Prince Caspian) I decided to re-read the series because as I had also realized after starting college, there was a lot of theology woven into the books; I wanted to catch what I had missed as a 9 year old. As I read each book, I fell in love with the them and the story that they told.

In my last post, I wrote about how I've rediscovered the birth of Christ and just how monumental it really was. Much in the same way, re-reading these books has helped me rediscover how incredible God's story is. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, tells the awesome story of our God. God creates man, but man turns away from God over and over again because of sin. But rather than destroy everyone out of anger, God chooses to show them how much He loves them by redeeming them through Christ. And then He goes even further by giving them instructions on how to live as His adopted children once they've been redeemed. And if that wasn't enough, He ends it all by giving them a glimpse of what's to come when He once and for all destroys sin, the one thing that stands between Him and His beloved children. He creates a new Heaven and a new Earth that's perfect and free from sin, where His children can be with Him forever. The best part?? It's all true. How awesome is that?! Although they are works of fiction and fantasy, The Chronicles of Narnia mirror this story, but simplifying the major points. All of this is just a long way of saying that I was able to draw the comparisons and similarities between the books and the Bible as I read, and that's what I loved so much about the books. They're purely fantasy, but you can sense the longing that the children in the books have to be with Aslan the lion, the God-character in the series. 

It was as I read about their longing for Aslan that I realized that's the same way God wants us to long for Him. Whenever the children were sent back to England from Narnia, they never stopped thinking about being back in Narnia with Aslan. How much more should we want to be where our true, living God is? The last book really got me thinking about this as well. As the book wraps up, the children are called to Aslan's country, where Aslan lives. They soon realize after arriving that Aslan's country is a mirror of both Narnia and England, only bigger, better, and perfect. And I may be off, but right now that's how I envision the new Heaven and new Earth that are mentioned in Revelation...a perfect Earth that's never felt the effects of sin. And I'm so excited to be there someday. But honestly, as long as I'm with my God and Creator, I don't think it really matters where I am.

That's what I've really been thinking about for the last week since finishing the Narnia series. God gave us the Bible so that we could see how much He loves us, so that it would point us to Him so that we could be saved by the blood of His Son, and so that someday soon we can all be with Him and remain in His presence forevermore. And that's what simply amazes me. It gives me a new perspective with which to read my Bible. It gives me a renewed sense of hope. And it reassures me that God has everything under control, because He already knows how everything will end someday. I'm thankful my God is who He is. And I'm thankful that He's able and willing to use even a book series written for children to reopen our eyes to how awesome His story is and how awesome His plans are for us. Our God truly is an awesome God. :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

"That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown"

I'll be up front about admitting that I'm a horrible blogger. Life has gotten way too busy for me to update my blog faithfully, but here we are. Allow me give a quick school update, because that's not the main reason I'm posting today. I'm halfway through my second year of dental school. I'm surviving and finding ways to enjoy it even though this is the toughest and most hectic year of the four (or so we've heard; honestly, they're all hard, ha). Most of my time is spent studying or working on lab work for several classes. This spring will be the final push before we start seeing patients this summer. We take National Boards Part 1 this summer, and we start treating patients in clinic sometime in June or July. Terrifying? Yes. Exciting? You bet!

Enough about school. Today is Christmas Eve. I've always loved the Christmas season. Like any kid, I always looked forward to opening presents on Christmas morning, and let's be honest...I still do, ha. But as I've grown older, especially these last few years, I've come to appreciate the time spent with family much more. But even though I've "grown up" in church and have been a Christian since I was 7, I still don't think I've ever really appreciated the reason we even celebrate Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ. But this Christmas season has been different for me, and I'm grateful for that.

After some "shopping" and a lot of driving back to Etown for church, I now consider Southeast Christian Church my church home in Louisville. I've joined a small group, I've made lots of new friends, and I truly love worshipping there on Sundays. For the last few weeks, we've been in a sermon series called "Socks and Underwear". Socks and underwear are typically gifts that you get at Christmas that you really don't want, even though they may be exactly what you need. So, that has been the theme as we've taken a different approach to the Christmas story: The Jewish people back in the Jesus' day viewed him as their socks and underwear. When they expected the Messiah, they envisioned a warrior king, not a poor, humble carpenter born in a barn. However, Jesus was exactly what they needed, even though they didn't realize it. Studying the prophets and the Gospels from that approach has really given me a renewed sense of awe, humility, and gratitude for the Gift that we received over 2,000 years ago. 

I also had the pleasure of seeing Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God" last Thursday in Nashville at the Ryman with some of my best friends. What a night! For those of you who have never heard of it before, it's a concert, for lack of a better word, that is completely based on Scripture. Starting in the Old testament, it goes through the Bible and explains Israel's (and our) need for a Savior; it ends with the birth of Christ in the Gospels. The music is very powerful and thought provoking, and it opened my eyes yet again to the truth of the Christmas story. Jesus came to redeem a world that was ravaged and oppressed by sin, and the entire Bible is devoted to telling that story. The Old Testament isn't just a compilation of books of laws, poems, and prophecies, but rather story that points directly to Christ. I've heard that all throughout college, but for the first time, it resonated and really affected me.

Growing up singing Christmas carols, reading the Christmas story from Luke, seeing the birth of Christ portrayed by various Christmas programs had given me a view of the birth story that wasn't entirely accurate. Jesus wasn't born on just a silent night, and most likely it wasn't all calm. He was born during a Roman census in a tiny, crowded city. He was born in a dirty barn that was full of animals, behind an inn. There were no nurses, no doctors, no midwives. Mary and Joseph were young, newly married virgins who were probably scared to death to be delivering a baby alone in such filthy conditions. And that's not even the half of it. This wasn't just a boy that grew up to become our Savior. Jesus left his throne in Heaven, spent 9 months in Mary's womb, and was born as a tiny baby into these conditions...not a birth that's fitting for such a King. He was with God from the beginning. He was there when God spoke everything into creation. He witnessed the downfall of man. He knew what he was being born into, and knew that he would have to die alone on a cross. He knew exactly what he was coming to do, and he did it willingly because he loves us so much. That is why we celebrate Christmas.

**Forgive me if you read all of this and said "Duh, Ryan." I just wanted to express the complete awe and humility that I've been blessed to feel these last couple of weeks. I really believe this is the first time that I've truly appreciated just how amazing and how huge the birth of Christ really is, and even though it saddens me that it has taken 24 years for it to happen, I'm truly grateful for this revelation. I'm even more grateful that the God of the Universe loves me enough to save me in such a way. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and that you and your families will be blessed this season. :)