Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Reflection, Part I

            With today being the last day of 2013, I figured it would be the appropriate time to reflect on what has been a whirlwind year for me, as well as look forward to what is in store for the year ahead. I am not the type that puts much stock into New Year’s Eve; oh yes, I celebrate it and enjoy its fanfare. But I see no reason why this day in particular is set apart for people to make radical changes to themselves. One can do that any day if it is necessary. Any person who purposes to change themselves can accomplish it; innumerable examples could be given, from celebrities to ordinary people.
            The one thing I have always done on New Year’s Eve (besides eat, drink bubbly nonalcoholic beverages, watch a marathon of some old TV show, and catch Dick Clark’s botched countdown to the new year, God rest his soul) is reflect on the past year and what has transpired in my life. I see what great things have happened, what stupid things I have done, and all the routine things that filled in the gaps. And from this I see what changes I can make to my life, and, most importantly, just how much God has blessed me. And 2013 by far has been the greatest and most blessed year of my life thus far. (It sounds cliché, but it is true.)
            When I rang in the New Year I was in the middle of my senior year of high school. While many of my friends had their college plans decided, I was still up in the air. I had settled on a major, and was sitting on a full ride scholarship offer from Northern Kentucky University. But I wanted to be sure that whatever decision I made followed God’s plan for my life, though I was not particularly close to Him at the moment. Our winter retreat would change that for a while, enough, I believe, for me to seek God’s guidance for my immediate future. I can recall two vivid memories from the retreat: me carrying a giant rusty wheel up from a steep creek bed as part of a scavenger hunt, and having to wear rec specs the entire time due to having my glasses broken. I was also able to preach in church upon getting back.
            The next month I attended a scholarship competition at Wilmington College. I was pretty sure by this point that I was going to attend Northern Kentucky (NKU), but I still enjoyed the experience. High school was not being neglected either: I went up to UD Arena and saw the referees screw over our basketball team against an urban Dayton team as we lost by three. I was enjoying my last busy months at Franklin High School, goofing off with friends and applying for dozens of scholarships.
            On my second visit to NKU, I got everything squared away, paying fees, signing up for housing and orientation, and accepting my scholarship. I had no idea what I was in for. Back in Ohio, I was ready to graduate, knowing I would not miss high school, but would miss being around all the friends that I was growing closer to. Plus, it was easy sailing, for the most part.
            Attending baseball and softball games became a semi-regular experience for me, as both teams were performing quite well. The softball team ended up undefeated and the baseball team were district champs (I think), and I followed them through the tournament. The end of the year events started getting tacked off. My struggle with my fellow student (we have a love-hate relationship) for valedictorian had finally ended with me victorious, and that involved a couple of TV filmings. Our National Honors Society Banquet came and went along with the preparation for and taking of two AP exams.
            Then, it was all over. Many seniors’ exams were exempted, so I only came back to work on a speech with others for graduation. That day came, and I did not shed a tear. I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t sad. I delivered my speech, which people said they “actually liked” although parts of it seemed over some heads, and then we said our goodbyes and left. “Goodbye” being a relative term because I attended about 25 graduation parties, including mine, which was nice.

            High school was over, and my focus now had to switch to college. I had a general idea of what to expect, but I had no idea what all was in store…

Monday, December 30, 2013

Jude 1d

Here mentioned in the perfect tense, Jude also is writing unto those who are "preserved in Jesus Christ". This means that Christians are continually "kept" by God, all the way until the with of Jesus Christ, which Jude looks forward to in v. 21.

The application: In John 17, Jesus prays to His Father that He has kept His children for as long as He has lived on Earth (John 17:10-12). The only one that was lost was Judas, "the son of perdition", who was, like in Jude's purpose of writing, one who was numbered among the believers but never truly was. John would later explain this in his first epistle when speaking about antichrists- "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (I John 2:19). Hence Christ's preservation is guaranteed to only His genuine children. But we know that this preservation spoken of is not about the temporal world, because many have been martyred for true faith. Rather Christ guarantees, and Jude writes to, genuine, blood-bought believers who shall "never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:22-30, where Jesus also tells the difference between false believers and real ones). The Holy Spirit in our lives is evidence of God's preserving power (Eph. 4:30).

Preserve (verb used with object)
to keep alive or in existence; make lasting: to preserve our liberties as free citizens.
to keep safe from harm or injury; protect or spare.
to keep up; maintain: to preserve historical monuments.
to keep possession of; retain: to preserve one's composure.
to prepare (food or any perishable substance) so as to resist decomposition or fermentation

Seal (verb used with object)
to affix a seal to in authorization, testimony, etc.
to assure, confirm, or bind with or as if with a seal: They sealed the bargain with a handshake. ("The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God..." -Rom. 8:16; II Cor. 1:21-22)
to impress a seal upon as evidence of legal or standard exactness, measure, quality, etc. (The sanctifying work of Christ after salvation)
to close by any form of fastening that must be broken before access can be gained. (Satan had to ask permission of God before doing anything to Job.)
to fasten or close tightly by or as if by a seal: She was sealing envelopes. My lips are sealed.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

ER Visit

            I was in the emergency room yesterday for another kidney stone (actually, two). The pain was worse, the situation different (I had church the next day instead of school and I was more experienced in the art of passing these stones), and, perhaps most importantly, my thoughts were different. Okay, so my thoughts are always different, and on a variety of things. But for awhile my thoughts camped on how much our healthcare industry could change in the near future.
            When I walked into the ER, I immediately went up to the desk and told them, with the help of my mother who was at the time more apt to speak than I, what it was that was ailing me. They promptly sent me back to a room to process me and get my vitals. Then it was immediately off to my room.
            In my room, the doctor was in to see me expeditiously. Following was the nurse, who was in a number of times to take care of various things as well as just to check up on me. Also in was a lady to take care of payment and insurance, and the CT scan workers to take me to and from the room to get a scan. Finally, at the end of the night, the doctor checked in on me again and two men stopped in to check me out.
            Everything moved like clockwork. When I was feeling better, there was even a TV to pull over and watch. All tests were processed on time, and the nurse wrote out the proper prescription for the future. And all of this cost my family $150. Yes, a $150 copay is a lot of money for my family, but it beats the thousands that would have been paid otherwise any day.
            The goal with the Affordable Care Act is to change all this. This is not to say there were not flaws in our healthcare system, but this law has us moving in the direction of socialized medicine. Yes, 20% of our economy now goes through the government. Seeing the people the Barack Obama has been involved with in his past, as well as the law’s language that has caused 5 million to lose their health coverage (as well as countless others’ to go up, my family’s by $1000), I believe it is the goal of “Obamacare” to move us into a single-payer system. This system would have everyone purchasing insurance from the government, and middle and upper class citizens footing the bills of lower class and “underclass” citizens- those on welfare and other forms of public assistance.

            If I were in Canada on their socialized medicine, I would have still been waiting when I was discharged. If I were in Europe, we would have paid much more through taxes than we did to our insurance company. Yet this is the very system we are headed to. I will have more on the Affordable Care Act on a later date.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jude 1c

Jude is writing to those that are "sanctified by God the Father". Since his message of infiltration into the church is so important, it is many for all Christians. Hence, Jude is under the assumptions that all Christians are "set apart" for God's work and "separate" from the world. It is also important to note that Jude says "sanctified BY God the Father". It is through nothing that we can do on our own.

The application: The first sanctification is mentioned in Lev. 11:44 when God tells Israel that "ye shall be holy, for I am holy". All through the Old Testament, God demands sanctification from His chosen people before an important event (Mum. 11:18, Josh. 3:5, I Sam. 16:5). God sanctifies us at salvation from the world to His work and perfect plan, and commands us to be sanctified not just for big events but at all times! How can we live up to such standards in a world like this? Jesus, who Himself was sanctified (John 10:36), asked God to sanctify believers through His truth; "thy Word is truth" (John 17:17).  "And the Word became flesh..." So in order to be sanctified, we must really on Jesus Christ and His Word to do the work through us and in us. Paul mentions being "sanctified in Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 1:2). Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one offering (death on the cross) he (Jesus) hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Our answer to being different from the world and following God's plan for our lives comes through intimately knowing Jesus Christ, the living Word! Them we also must, in return, "sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts", to be ready to give an answer for why we believe what we believe.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Bible Study/Jude 1a,b

I've been going through a study in Jude and II Peter 2 for awhile now, taking it one phrase at a time and breaking down the meaning of each part of each verse, as it relates to the overall meaning of sections and the chapters as whole parts. Both chapters are very similar, written to churches warning them of "false teachers" and "ungodly men" that had crept into churches to try to do them harm, while acting like they were doing good. I thought I would begin to share these studies I've been going through.

Jude 1a,b
Jude calls himself "the servant of Jesus Christ", instead of saying a brother of Jesus Christ. It would have been so easy to extort his position to gain fame or reward, but instead by this point has a better relationship with his brother and is doing the will of God (Mark 3:31-35).

The application: It is not anything that we have done, but what Christ has done through us. Therefore we must not use our position for pride or gain, but only to serve God.