You know when you open a York Peppermint Patty and break it in half it releases that woosh sound? That’s what today felt like. Yeah..today felt like breaking a York in half.
I woke up, having plenty of time to spend with God before having to get ready for church. In Isaiah, I read more prophecy about Jesus. It’s so weird: because I’ve read of Jesus’ life on earth, all of the prophecies in Isaiah concerning Him just make sense. For example: Jesus is from the line of king David; the first line of chapter 11 in Isaiah is “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” Jesse is David’s father. The next four verses describe Jesus, foretelling what will make up His life on earth, what actions He will take to fulfill the prophecy of the Messiah along with what kind of spirit (it is the Holy Spirit) will be about Him. There’s one passage in particular that I really liked, probably because, not only does it tell of better times to come (actually, perfect times, where there will be no sin, death, or destruction), but it’s also very beautiful.
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weened child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain.” —Isaiah 11:6-9, ESV
Wow. Can you imagine? Instead of carnivorous animals eating herbivores, they’re…well, friends. The wolf will be hanging out with the innocent lamb, with sheep. Leopards, whose jaws often grasp the hindquarters of the gazelle, will not harm a goat. A calf will be walking side-by-side with a lion. A lion. Then the fattened calf, the most valuable part of a man’s livestock in those days, will be with the lion as well. And all three of these animals will be LED by a child. I can picture the animals walking three abreast behind a small boy who stumbles over himself on rocks and roots, but laughs and plays as the animals follow him. Wow. There must be a lot of peace, a lot of beauty, in this future that God is describing through Isaiah. I can’t wait for it 🙂
After reading this part of Isaiah, I flipped over to Matthew. Today I read about the death of John the Baptist. Now, John the Baptist is Jesus’ cousin; he’s the man who was to make ready the way for Jesus to begin his earthly ministry, to herald his coming. Shortly after Jesus began teaching and healing and so on, John the Baptist was imprisoned for telling King Herod that he couldn’t marry his brother’s wife. Yeah, I know.
Anyway, John is in prison, and the only reason Herod has kept him alive is because he’s afraid of what the people will do, since the people knew he was a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday comes, the daughter of Herodias (Herod’s brother’s wife), catches Herod’s eye and he, like an absolute idiot, says he’ll give her whatever she wants. So what does she ask for? John the Baptist’s head on a platter. No joke. “The daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter” (Matthew 14:6-8). I don’t know about you, but I found this a tad bit disturbing. Imagine how Jesus felt when He found out His cousin had been beheaded by these people. It says in the verses following John’s death that Jesus went away to be by Himself when He heard the news. He wanted to be alone. And yet in the next verse He’s said to have been followed by crowds, who seemed to follow Him EVERYWHERE, and, even though He was trying to be alone (I would assume to mourn), He still had compassion.
I like passages like these because it reminds me that, even though Jesus was 100% God, He was also 100% man, and He still grieved, He still hurt, He still felt all of the nasty feelings (sadness, anger, etc) humans feel, but He felt them righteously and appropriately. His emotions weren’t out of control, immoral, or defective like humanity’s.
After reading this passage in Matthew, my mind was ready to go to church; I was prepared. I find that church is much more enjoyable when you’ve taken the time to prepare yourself to receive whatever things God has ready for you to learn that day, in that service. It’s kind of like preparing for any other day. On a normal day, it’s good to have time with God first thing in the morning, when your brain is reaching for something to think about as it stretches its arms. Why not give it something that will be without a doubt beneficial to think of? That’s why I like talking with God in the mornings; it gives me the opportunity to freshen my mind before I’m bombarded with whatever garbage Satan and the world are preparing to throw at me that day, to arm myself with weaponry made to win, to defeat, to vanquish. Even on Sundays, especially on Sundays, I need this weaponry. Satan loves nothing more than a Christian who goes to church, sings a hymn or two, and listens to the message, but doesn’t use the time spent with other believers to grow and mature in his faith. Once you’re saved, Satan has officially lost your soul, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying to keep you from growing, to keep you distracted and distant from the blessings of being in a running relationship with God.
Heads up everyone. Don’t just show up to church because it’s “what Christians do on Sundays.” Think of church as a place to learn, to grow, to love, and to witness the amazingness that is Christian fellowship. I’ve grown so much just because of my friends at IBC, my church in New York City. My guy friends are always giving me books to read, things to research, questions to answer concerning God and my faith. All of my girl friends supply the sentimental, emotional, relational aspect of fellowship, which I definitely need. So, because I prepare for church every Sunday and am willing to learn new things and be with other Christians, I have grown not only in my knowledge of God, of the history of my faith (my heritage, if you will), God’s word, but also in my intimate relationship with God. You need that fellowship, whether you like going to church or not. Church is not meant to hold you back, to suck up your Sundays, to be a drag; church is a place of encouragement, of support, of building up. Church is a family, a unit, a body, a team.
When I left church today, that’s how I felt, like I had just gotten finished with running a marathon and all of them were waiting for me at the other end, cheering me on and lifting me up with their words. It was really cool 🙂
The rest of the day went slowly. I came home and did Zumba on the Wii for a little while. While I was Zumba-ing, Sophie decided she wanted to dance with me. So every time I came near her, she would open her mouth, not showing any of her teeth, and gently grab onto the waistband of my sweatpants with her jaws. She’d eventually let go, but would then follow me across the floor, pawing at my legs and stomach, barking every once in a while, and jumping up and down. When I didn’t give her the attention she wanted, she came right around behind me and knocked into the backs of my knees. It was a very interesting work out.
The lady in the Zumba video was extremely enthusiastic. I didn’t know her name, so I just called her Sandra. Mom, who was sitting in the dining room, in ear shot and eye shot of me, seemed to think it was odd for me to be talking to the television whenever I told Sandra I wasn’t ready to start another song or that there was a random strand of hair sticking out behind her ear….then again, my mother might just be so used to my weirdness that she didn’t even notice 🙂
The night ended with Gracie, Jimmy, and I playing Skip-Bo and acting a little loopy…since it was late at night and we were tired and we had just gotten through a serious laughing fit in the kitchen. Jimmy is going through this phase of life where he has to be annoying all the time and doesn’t listen to anything anybody says and then wonders why people get frustrated with him. So, because I’m his sister and I love him and partly because I think it’s fun in a strange way, I decided to smack him (not really smack…it’s more like a love tap) in the stomach every time he said something he knew was absolutely nonsensical. By the end of the night, he knew not to do that anymore…either that or he just decided to not stand or sit around me 🙂
While I was playing cards with my siblings late at night, I realized that I’d never really done something like that with them. I mean, I’ve taken them out to go shopping or to eat, but I’d never just hung out with my brother and sister. It was nice to have that time with them, just us three, in our own house. Hopefully we’ll get to do that again before I leave.
Tomorrow should be interesting. I will be baking and then later attending a movie day of sorts with a fellow blogger and ridiculously epic friend. Of course, whenever we have conversations, they’re normally filled with all sorts of references to musicals, LotR, and Star Wars, talk of random unrelated things that some how direct us back to what we were originally discussing, and talk of food…always food. But hopefully the day will be fun and stress-free. Even if it’s not, I shouldn’t be worried: God’s got me covered 🙂
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” —Psalm 4:7, ESV