Are There Sins Separating Me From God?

There’s a fairly prevalent idea out there in Christianity that our sins separate us from God because God can’t be in the presence of sin. But is it true that God pulls back from us because we’re too dirty for Him, or is there something else going on?

The idea that God can’t be around sin is largely based on a verse in Habakkuk that reads, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13, KJV). When we look at the context, though, we see God just told Habakkuk He planned to work with the vicious Chaldeans, and this verse is part of Habakkuk asking God why He would ever associate with such wickedness.

If we accept the premise that Jesus was and is fully God (as I believe we should), then we know God doesn’t shrink back from sin as if scared to get His hands dirty. Rather, He dives right in among sinners so that He can wipe sin away and replace it with holiness. God gets close to sinful people so He can set things right.

But there are also verse that talk about iniquity separating us from God and revealing that God will not fellowship with evil. While we don’t have to worry that we’re so filthy God wouldn’t touch us, if we want a close relationship with Him we need to figure out what’s going on here. Continue reading

Am I Ready To Hear What God Says?

As the Passover approaches, those of us who believe Jesus intended modern-day Christians to observe it are given a task. Before following Jesus’ instruction to take the Passover symbols “in remembrance of Me,” we’re told to examine ourselves.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the Lord’s cup in a way unworthy of the Lord will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. (1 Cor. 11:26-19, WEB)

Every year I hear these scriptures read, and every year since my baptism in 2008 I ask myself, “How?” What can I do to examine myself and determine if I’m keeping the Passover in a worthy manner?”

click to read article, "Am I Ready To Hear What God Says?" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Photo credit: “Remember this day” by Tim Sackton, CC BY-SA via Flickr

The Lord Examines

Perhaps the reason why I’ve always felt like I was hitting a wall when trying to examine myself is found in a very familiar scripture:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:9-10, WEB)

There’s no way we can successfully examine ourselves without God’s help. Maybe that should have been obvious, but I only connected it with Passover after hearing Len Martin’s sermon on self-examination (which you can listen so by clicking here; I highly recommend it). We need to ask God to examine us, or our self-examination isn’t going to bear much fruit. Continue reading

Top 5 Reasons for Christians to Keep God’s Holy Days

Today we celebrate Yom Teruah, also called Feast of Trumpets and Rosh Hashanah. But why? After all, I’m Christian and most people think of this as a Jewish holiday. Same goes for Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, which we’ll observe 10 days from now, and Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles that starts in two weeks.

I believe these festival observances, along with others already completed this year, are for Christians today. When Jesus came to this world, it wasn’t to set up a new religion. He was the next step in God’s plan for the world and these days are part of the covenant He makes with His family. He’s still inviting us to gather for “reunions” at certain times of the year.Top 5 Reasons for Christians to Keep God's Holy Days | marissabaker.wordpress.com

1. They Belong To God

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.” (Lev. 23:1-2)

The holy days aren’t Jewish or exclusively Old Testament. They belong to God Himself. We talk about Leviticus 23 as the chapter where God gives Israel the Feasts, but that’s not quite accurate. God doesn’t say, “Here are your holy days, Israel.” He says, “These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times” (Lev. 23:4). Continue reading

Rhythms of Worship

The people of God are set apart, with different priorities, habits, and festivals than the rest of the world. We may celebrate national holidays of our homelands, such as July 4th for Americans, but those are not the observances that shape our identities as God’s people. The kingdom we belong to under Christ’s authority has a different calendar.

A couple months ago, I read Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith. In Chapter 5: Practicing (for) the Kingdom, he discusses “rhythms and cadences of hope” that Christians observe in weekly and annual practices. For him, this means Sunday, Easter, Lent, Advent, Christmas and others. He connects the observances to a rich history of “a people gathered to worship the Messiah, who does not float in some esoteric, ahistorical heaven, but who made a dent in the calendar — and will again” (p. 157). Rhythms of Worship | marissabaker.wordpress.com

But when you read the Bible, you won’t find those days he talks about on God’s calendar. Even the one mention of Easter in the KJV is a mistransltion of pascha, or Passover (Acts 12:4, Strong’s G3957). Rather, we find the church from the Torah to Revelation on a calendar even more unique than the one Smith claims for Christians. I know it puzzles many Christians that I would keep the “Jewish holidays,” but I find it equally puzzling that they would continue a tradition of co-opting pagan holidays and attaching them to Biblical events God gave no instructions to observe. When we search the scriptures looking for God’s version of liturgical rhythms, we find a worship pattern far more richly layered and deeply rooted in God’s plan than what man has invented. Continue reading

Remembering Our Passover

“This do in remembrance of me,” Jesus told His disciples at His last Passover. We obeyed that instruction last night in a holy, meaningful Passover ceremony. Let’s not forget, though, that Christ’s work as our Passover didn’t end with that service on the beginning of the Passover day.

I woke up this morning after our Passover service in a warm, comfy bed. The morning after His last Passover, my Savior was taken into the judgement hall where He would be condemned and tortured. I’ll be cooking and blogging this afternoon; Jesus spent His Passover afternoon hanging on the cross.

For the past couple years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to remind myself of how Jesus spent the day after His final Passover ceremony on this earth. I’d like to invite you to join me in taking a few moment out of your day to meditate on the weight of His sacrifice. Have a blessed Passover day, my friends!

Why I’m Keeping Passover On Nisan 14

While some churches might question whether or not the Passover is relevant to modern Christianity at all, the question in the churches I’ve been associated with has been whether Passover should be observed on the 14th or 15th  of the Hebrew month Nisan/Abib. We’re convicted of following Jesus Christ’s example of taking the Passover (see last week’s post), but are haunted by a question of when.

Timing Passover is complicated by the fact that the Hebrew day begins at sundown, which means traditionally the Jews could kill the Passover lamb on the 14th, but eat the meal on the 15th that evening. If you look at a Hebrew calendar, you’ll see that this year the 14th of Nisan falls on Friday, April 22. That means the 14th actually begins at sunset on Thursday and ends on Friday evening.

This post is going to be a bit more of a technical deep-dive than usual. I almost didn’t share it, but the question of a 14th or 15th Passover is one you’ll run into if/when you start keeping Passover. I wanted to re-study the topic for myself, and thought some of you might find it interesting as well. I’ve been keeping Passover on the 14th since I was baptized in 2008, but it’s always a good idea to take a second (or third) look at your assumptions to make sure they line up with scriptures.

When trying to answer the question of when to keep Passover, we often go to sources outside the Bible such as oral and written Jewish tradition and historical writings from the time of Jesus. While those can be useful, the most important question when tackling a subject like this is, “What does the Bible say?” We have to start with all the information God gives us directly in scripture and then see what other sources can add. If those sources contradict the inspired word of God, then they’re no good.

The Command

Let’s start with the very first Passover in Exodus. Pharaoh has refused to “let my people go” through 9 different plagues and the final plague, death of the firstborn, is eminent. Before that plague hit Egypt, God delivered instructions for what the Israelite were supposed to do so the plague would pass over them. Continue reading