Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Holy Days of Jesus

Years ago, when the apostles of Jesus were leading the church, they taught the disciples to stop their work and their labor on seven days of the year for special days of celebrating their relationship with God. These seven days are called "Holy Days" or "Annual Sabbaths." Together with the Passover, each of these days emphasize a special part of God's relationship with mankind and show, step by step, God's plan of salvation.

Passover begins at sundown tonight and starts this year's cycle of these very special "Holy Days." For the Christian, Passover has two deep meainings. First, it looks back to the time of God's deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt that culminated with the sacrifice of a lamb to shield each household from the death angel because of the lamb's blood on the sides and top of the door.

Second, with the sacrificial death of Jesus on this very day of Passover almost two thousand years ago, the life's blood of Jesus shed in His death shields those who have made a covenant with God from the "wages of sin" which is death and opens up eternal life as a gift from God through Jesus. (Romans 6:23) Each year we gather with other believers and follow the instructions Jesus gave to His disciples in John 13 to wash each other's feet and share broken unleavened bread and wine that remind us of the covenant we made with Jesus. (1Corinthians 11:23-33 and elsewhere.)

The Days of Unleavened Bread immediately follow the day of Passover. The seven days of Unleavened Bread begin with a Holy day and end with a Holy Day, or annual Sabbath observance. During these days we take all the leavening (like yeast and baking soda) and leavened food products out of our homes and avoid eating them.

Why do such an unusual thing for a week? First, because the Bible tells Christians to do so. The apostle Paul taught the Gentile and Jewish Christians in Corinth, Greece to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread. In his instructions to them he emphasizes the spiritual lessons that the observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread remind us of each year. 

Paul writes, "Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Through our covenant with Jesus, His death and sacrifice on Passover so many years ago, He removes the penalty of death, atones for our sin and grants us righteousness through faith before God. In a real sense, the sacrifice of Jesus has "deleavened" us before God.

As our part of our covenant, we promise to repent of our sin which is rebellion before God and renounce sin. While the sacrifice of Jesus and God's grace covers all the sins we have or will commit, obedience to God is something we promise to Him. Putting leaven out of our homes and lives for seven days is also a physical reminder of the challenge we have taken upon ourselves to love God and our neighbors. Sinning against God, ourselves or our neighbors is not showing love, but rather selfishness, malice and wickedness.

As Christians, we are called to learn to do better and covenant, or promise to God, to work each day to put malice, wickedness and sin out of our lives. God knows how effective a physical reminder can be to teach those lessons and gives every Christian the opportunity to benefit by living for a week without leaven.

You are invited to join us in following what Jesus did, His disciples did and what the apostle Paul taught the New Testament church to do and put leaven out of your homes and avoid eating leavened food from Monday night, March 29 at sundown until sundown on Monday night, April 5th.

We will be meeting at our regular location on Tuesday afternoon for our Holy Day assembly and Sabbath services. The last Holy Day we will be combining with some of our friends in Cincinnati and celebrating these wonderful days of hope with them.


Guy Swenson
Common Ground Christian Ministries

Sunday, March 21, 2010

43 Kids - What a Great Way to Spend the Sabbath

Good weather and Goliath sure brought the kids out to our monthly "Kid's Camp" at Anna's House in Indianapolis this past Sabbath. We've never had so many kids come and so many adults helping out. I am amazed how the kids just "eat up" the chance to hear basic stories and Godly lessons from the Bible. 

The kid's crafts this time included painting styrofoam balls ("smooth stones"), a felt shepherd's pouch, a shield for their heart and trying to hit a Goliath picture with a little slingshot. (I know David didn't use a slingshot, but give me a break - can you imagine kids swinging a real shepherds sling in a closed room?)

We had several families bring their children for the first time. We're also starting to see kid's with disabilities come. It takes more staff to handle children with special needs, but boy do the kids enjoy their time together with others. For the past several months, Brian and Carrie O'Rourke have been driving 2 1/2 hours one-way to be with us. They and their four young adults have been a big help, as have Jeff and Julie Parker and their family and our local members.

We also were visited by the pastor and youth pastor from the Brownsburg/Chapel West Seventh Day Adventist congregations. Pastor Steve Manoukian is from Lebanon and he ran some children's ministries in Beirut. We have a number of common interests, including minstries and evangelism.

Finally, our Ministry House is coming along. We're redoing the porch. The old porch didn't have a good foundation and had bowed the wall of the house out. We're getting close to the final "buttoning up" of the inside, laying laminate flooring, putting in kitchen cabinets (to be donated from the Cabinet Barn in Shelbyville) and drywall taping/painting. We've also started raising funds for the siding. One of the neighbors has moved in to keep watch on the house - we appreciate people looking out for us in the neighborhood.

Enjoy the pictures from our Kid's Camp and the house updates.

Guy Swenson
Common Ground Christian Ministries

Ministry House - a New Front Porch In Progress - There Will Be a Gabled End Built

Sunday, March 14, 2010

English as a Second Language for the Neighborhood

Two weeks ago, Julie Malloy from the Lord's Pantry came upstairs and was crying. She wasn't mad or frustrated. She was hearing my wife Jennifer leading an ESL class and our Spanish speaking immigrant neighbors speaking English. It was a long time dream of hers that was happening.

Some months ago Julie had shared her desire with us to see English teaching offered to the immigrants in the neighborhood. Not knowing English was an obstacle to work, shopping and becoming a more integral part of the neighborhood. We had also seen the same need.

My wife, Jennifer has taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in West Virginia and in Brownsburg, Indiana. There are now two ESL classes being taught in the neighborhood - an afternoon class of about 15 that Jennifer leads and a second class of about 21 led by a Butler University professor and his students on Thursday evening.

Stephanie Smith, Jeff Parker and I help out in Jennifer's class. We've gotten to know some wonderful people from the neighborhood who really appreciate someone helping them develop better English language skills. I'm including some pictures from the ESL classes.

Next Sabbath is our monthly "Kid's Camp" with the neighborhood children. We're looking forward to seeing the kids - "David and Goliath" is on tap!

Finally, we've gotten the last of the bulk orders from congregations for the booklet "If God So Loved the World, Why Are So Many People Going to Hell?" We will be sending it to the printer and look forward to distributing it.

Guy Swenson,
Common Ground Christian Ministries.