Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jesus is the Better...

*** I am indebted to Timothy Keller for this post.  I first heard him say something like this (and probably better!) at a Gospel Coalition Conference.
"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning HIMSELF." ...then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about ME in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” ~ Luke 24:27, 44-45
Jesus is the better Adam. In Genesis, Adam chose to rebel, broke fellowship with God, and failed in the Garden of Eden. In the Gospels, Jesus, the second Adam, walked in obedience and did not fail his test in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Instead of hiding from God and covering his shame, he went before God in prayer and covered the shame of all who were in the first Adam.
Jesus is the better Abel, who was innocent yet lost his life to his own kin. So too, Jesus’ blood was spilled at the hands of his Israelite brothers.
Jesus is the better Noah. Just as Noah built the ark to save people from the flood, so too Jesus became the true ark who absorbed the wrath of God so that all who would enter him would have eternal life.
Jesus is the better Abraham, who answered the call of God to go to a foreign country and walk in obedience by faith. And just as Abraham was told to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, God the Father would one day sacrifice his one and only son Jesus.
Jesus is the better Isaac, who carried wood to the place of his sacrifice just as Jesus would carry his cross of wood to Calvary.
Jesus is the better Jacob, who wrestled with God and walked away limping. Jesus wrestled with God in Gethsemane, and though wounded and limping, walked away from his grave blessed and victorious.
Jesus is the better Joseph, who after suffering was appointed to the right hand of the King of Egypt and extended forgiveness and provision to those who betrayed him. So too, Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God, extending grace and providing for us who also betrayed him.
Jesus is the better Moses. Just as Moses was the mediator between God and man and gave us the Law, so too Jesus is now the only mediator between God and man, giving us the Law of the New Covenant, which is not engraved on stones but is written on our hearts.
Jesus is the better rock that was struck in the desert, giving us water for everlasting life.
Jesus is the better bread that has come down from heaven.  Just as the Israelites were fed in the wilderness by heavenly manna, the Christian is continually preserved by Jesus’ body.
Jesus is the better pillar of fire.  Just as Moses and the people were led by a pillar of fire in their wanderings toward the Promised Land, so too Jesus is the light of the world who leads us home to the true Promised Land.
Jesus is the greater Samson, who in his last feat pulled the coliseum down upon himself and his enemies. Jesus pulled down the wrath of God upon himself and spared his enemies.
Jesus is the greater Boaz. Boaz redeemed Ruth and brought her and her despised people into community with God’s people. So too, Jesus redeemed his bride, the church, from all the nations of the earth and gave them an eternal community.
Jesus is the better David. Just as David killed the giant Goliath, who defied God and taunted his people, Jesus slew the giant Satan at Calvary and comforts the people of God.
Jesus is the greater King David.  Rather than staying home from war, Jesus went to war. Rather than committing adultery like David, Jesus saved the prostitute and gave her back her dignity. Rather than covering up sin by murdering Uriah, Jesus, the true light, exposed sin and saved the dying criminal crucified beside him.
Jesus is the greater Solomon, and, because of his wisdom, when he taught it was not as one of the scribes.
Jesus is the better temple of God that we enter to worship the Lord.
Jesus is the greater Elijah, who, after defeating the false prophets of Ba’al, offered up the sacrifices at Mt.Carmel. So too, Jesus exposed the religious frauds for who they were and, rather than offering a sacrifice to prove Yahweh is the one true God, he is Yahweh’s sacrifice.
Jesus is the greater Nehemiah. Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem, but Jesus ushers in the city known as the New Jerusalem.
Jesus is the greater Esther, who risked her life by entering the palace of king Xerxes.  But Jesus gave his life at Pilate’s palace.
Jesus is the better Job. Job suffered as an innocent man under the onslaught of Satan, and so too Jesus suffered as an innocent man and bore the wrath of God, the wrath of Satan, and the wrath of mankind. And just as Job’s friends were of no use to him in his agony, Jesus’ disciples slept when he was in great distress.
Jesus is the greater Jeremiah, who in exile was known as the weeping prophet just as Jesus, the man of many sorrows, wept at Lazarus’ grave and over those living in exile in their own land.
Jesus is the greater Isaiah, who saw some future events unfolding. So too, Jesus has perfect knowledge of eternity past and eternity future.
Jesus is the greater Hosea, who married an unfaithful, whoring wife yet pursued her in love. Jesus does the same and more for his unfaithful bride, the Church, every hour.
Jesus is the greater Jonah. Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish because he ran from the will of God, and, by God’s power, he appeared again and proclaimed God’s Word, which led to the salvation of the Ninevites. But Jesus spent three days in the grave because he ran toward the will of God, faithfully preached the gospel, and appeared three days later, which led to the salvation of the world.
On and on it goes. Jesus is not only the true and greatest of all the people in the Bible - He radically recycles everything in the Old Testament according to his person and work. 
He is the better prophet.
He is the better High Priest.
He is the better King of all Kings.
He is the better lamb to be sacrificed.
Jesus is the better.

May we see Jesus -- his death, resurrection, and reign -- as the fulfillment of all God's redemptive activities! 
May we see HIM as better. 
May we follow HIM as he is superior to all else.
May we receive HIM as our Christ. 
And may we share him with those around us.

Reading the Bible for All Its Worth

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

Though it, at times, can be hard to understand, and though many people use it to bring division, the Bible is one of God's best gifts to humanity.

Dig into it.
Pursue the truth within it.
Treasure it within your heart.
Explore God's Self-Disclosure.

Embrace the Christ it unveils (every page points to him!)
And share it with those around you!

Here are some thoughts and tools to be equip you to better read and understand the Bible:

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Spiritual Disciplines + Practices

One way Christians have spoken about embracing the journey of learning how to follow Jesus - to be Christian - is to incorporate routine spiritual disciplines and/or practices into your life...

What are spiritual disciplines?
  • The disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us. ... They are God’s means of grace.” ~ Richard Foster, Celebration of Disciplines
  • Henri Nouwen saw the disciplines as a means “to create space to meet with God that you other wise had not planned on.
  • M. Robert Mulholland described them as “things that intrude into our lives to align us with God’s purpose.”
  • My favorite description…Douglas Rumford said they were “a means to develop soul memory for reflexive spiritual responsiveness.”
Another way of referring to the disciplines is to call them spiritual practices. Spiritual practices are exactly what their name suggests; they’re ways to be deliberate about matters of the soul. A spiritual practice is a tool for becoming aware of God within the normalcy of life—it injects the sacred into elements that could otherwise seem just everyday.

Dallas Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines, compiled a list of spiritual disciplines + practices he believe were modeled in the life of Christ. He also placed these disciplines into two categories: the disciplines of abstinence (or “letting go”) and the disciplines of activity.

Disciplines of Letting Go
These practices allow us to relinquish something in order to gain something new. We abstain from the busyness of life. We stop talking for a while to hear from God. We give up buying another material possession to experience God more fully. First Peter 2:11 warns us to “abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” Identify what is keeping you from experiencing greater strength and perspective.
Do you talk too much and end up gossiping or complaining?
Are possessions controlling you?
Are you too worried about what others think?
Are you, at times, overcome with anxiety?
Are you usually stressed and easily angered?

Here are some of the disciplines that will help you LET GO and become more dependent on God.

Solitude—Spending time alone to be with God. Find a quiet place to be alone with God for a period of time. Use the Bible as a source of companionship with God. Listen to Him. Remain alone and still.

Silence—Removing noisy distractions to hear from God. Find a quiet place away from noise to hear from God. Write your thoughts and impressions as God directs your heart. Silence can occur even in the midst of noise and distraction. But you must focus your attention on your soul. This could mean learning to practice some forms of meditation; but it could also mean changing your life is rather simple ways…talking less or talking only when necessary and in it’s place quietly thinking about God. And it could mean turning off the radio, the music, the podcast, and the TV.

Fasting—Skipping a meal(s) to find greater nourishment from God. Choose a period of time to go without food. Drink water and, if necessary, take vitamin supplements. Feel the pain of having an empty stomach and depend on God to fill you with His grace.

Frugality—Learning to live with less money and still meet your basic needs. Before buying something new, choose to go without or pick a less expensive alternative that will serve your basic needs. Live a simple, focused life.

Secrecy—Avoiding self-promotion, practice serving God without others knowing. Give in secret. Serve “behind the scenes” in a ministry that you are assured few will know about.

Sacrifice—Giving of our resources beyond what seems reasonable to remind us of our dependence on Christ. Choose to give your time or finances to the Lord beyond what you normally would.

Disciplines of Activity
Dallas Willard writes, “The disciplines of abstinence must be counter-balanced and supplemented by disciplines of engagement (activity).” It’s choosing to participate in activities that nurture our souls and strengthen us for the journey ahead.

Study—Spending time reading the Scriptures and meditating on its meaning and importance to our lives. We are nourished by the Word because it is our source of spiritual strength. Choose a time and a place to feed from the Word of God regularly.

Worship—Offering praise and adoration to God. His praise should continually be on our lips and in our thoughts. Keep praise ever before you as you think of God’s mighty deeds in your life.

Song Scripture has many references to singing praise and prayer to the Lord. There‘s something significant about the fact that whenever we gather, historically, God's people sing. It’s a weekly practice for most of us—even if you don’t sing, you’ve still shared an experience with a group of people, and that is at the heart of what happens when we sing: sharing an experience with God and one another. It’s a profoundly countercultural practice. Song can also to be done on your own. Read psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs from the Scriptures; or sing along with a favorite praise song or hymn.

Prayer—Talking to and listening to God about your relationship with Him and about the concerns of others. Find time to pray to God without the distraction of people or things. Combine your prayer time with meditation on the Scriptures in order to focus on Christ.

Fellowship—This is mutual caring and ministry for one another within the body of Christ…meet regularly with other Christians to find ways to minister to others. Pray for each other. Encourage one another.

Confession—Regularly confess your sins to the Lord and other trusted individuals. As often as you are aware of sin in your life, confess it to the Lord and to those you may have offended.

Submission—Humbling yourself before God and others while seeking accountability in relationships. Find faithful brothers or sisters in Christ who can lovingly hold you accountable for your actions and growth in Christ.

The Secular + Sacred Combined
The spiritual disciplines + practices are a tool for becoming aware of God within the normalcy of life—it injects the sacred into elements that could otherwise seem just everyday. They make room for God the Holy Spirit to fill us and shape us in simple and spiritually refreshing ways. So in applying just some of these spiritual disciplines + practices, we find that the lines can be blurred between those things spiritual and what is secular.

Incorporating these disciplines + practices into our daily routine reminds us: 
Gratitude can happen when we’re mowing the lawn.
Worship and grocery shopping are compatible.
God can be pursued and experienced during your daily commute.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Intelligent Mysticism

Following Jesus is not simply learning to believe certain things nor is it only spiritual experiences. Following Jesus will always involve both the mind and the heart -- a kind of intelligent mysticism of sorts…
“It is necessary for us to recognize that there is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith…of living union and communion with the exalted and ever-present Redeemer…He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love…The life of true faith cannot be that of cold metallic assent.  It must have the passion and warmth of love and communion because communion with God is the crown and apex of true religion.” ~ John Murray, Redemption Applied
Intelligent mysticism. Wow, now give that some thought. An encounter with God is a mixture of the affections of the heart and the convictions of the mind. In other words, our choice isn't between doctrine or experience, nor is it between knowledge or spiritual power. Encountering God involves both; in fact, when done well, they actually stimulate one another.

How about you? Are you emphasizing one over the other?

What are some ways you can cultivate an intelligent mysticism in your daily life?