Jonathan

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John 14a – “Trusting Heart or Troubled Heart”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The disciples are not really even aware of what they are troubled about other than they have just been told by Jesus that this night is going to be a difficult one and that their devotion to Christ will fail…miserably.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 14:1-14

What brings us comfort and encouragement in the midst of troubling times? Something of a picture of what is to come, the better preferred future that encourages perseverance of the present trials. In this passage the disciples are not really even aware of what they are troubled about other than they have just been told by Jesus that this night is going to be a difficult one and that their devotion to Christ will fail…miserably. Yet the gracious Lord offers them comfort in powerful ways, offering pictures of the future to come that could ignite their trust in Him.

The Ultimate Future: An eternal reunion. Jesus describes the setup of eternity for He and His disciple. In my opinion, the focus of this passage in traditional Christianity over the decades has been on the individual acquisition of eternal real estate, the “mansion just over the hilltop”, my place, my property. This is an unfortunate projection of Western ideologies into the eternal. The dominant feature of this passage is not property but Person, not where we will live but Who we will live with. Look at the dominant action verbs of Christ: I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come back. I will take you to be with me! Why? So that where He is, we will be with Him also and always. The encouragement: no matter what is about to happen, it is a small interruption in contrast to the true and everlasting reality of our co-dwelling with Christ in His Father’s Kingdom, not in this one.

The Road to that Future: The Supreme and Exclusive Christ. Jesus will not merely show us the way, or tell us the truth, or give us the life. He is all these things. Our entrance into the new kingdom is Christ, not a secret password, nor some esoteric disclosure, nor monumental personal achievements. What is more, Jesus teaches that He is not only the way to the eternal future but the way to the reality of God. He is not merely the “representative” of God but the “representation” of God and an exact representation at that (Heb. 1:3). It’s obvious the disciples didn’t see this, partially due to the immediate distractions of pressing circumstances. Unfortunately, I find myself in their seat much of the time, hearing the same words,

“Jonathan, how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?”

In this eternal future we will experience Christ as God and God as Christ. The perfect union and harmony of Father and Son. In the immediate future, Jesus clarifies, that trusting One is to trust the other. There is no distinction between the character of the Son from the character of the Father. This can be a great source of encouragement.

The Immediate Future: Demonstrate the Presence and Power of Christ. For the disciples the day would come when Jesus’ presence would be recognized through them and the miracles they would do in His name. Jesus’ desire is for the Father to be glorified. This is the ultimate purpose of prayer and the end to which we must pray if we are to be in harmony with Christ. But the divine expectation is that our lives would harness and release greater miracles through the indwelling Christ than by the incarnate Christ on earth. In this sense, Jesus is truly not gone, but with us in a way that He could not be in His physical form. We have one who is passionate about us and passionate about His Father. He is the best Mediator to stand in for us before the God who is also passionate about us. His prayers for us will never get answered in the negative for He will never pray for us apart from what the Father wants for us. What an encouragement to pursue Christ and persevere for Christ as He labors for and through His own!

The bottom line is that our hope and trust is to be lifted from our efforts in encountering with our circumstances and placed firmly and finally in the Christ who is in perfect with the Father, who has promised us eternity with Him and the means of living in stunning victory here as we live with faith in Christ alone.

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John 13c – “Love vs. Pride”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , ,

In this final moment with His men, before Christ offers Himself to the darkness in order to liberate mankind from it, His motive of love is the same expectation He lays before His disciples.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 13:31-38

The Priority of Love: In this final moment with His men, before Christ offers Himself to the darkness in order to liberate mankind from it, His motive of love is the same expectation He lays before His disciples. He qualifies it in 3 ways:

1. It is a new command, a divine decree that must be obeyed; an edict that given the right moment and opposing forces will go against our natural instinct. It is one we must die to in contrast to preserving our own rights and fallible sense of justice (which usually involves something murderous and destructive). The Commander in Chief issues the order that His army operate in this with right hearts and right responses to each other.

2. It must emulate the quality of Christ’s love. The love expressed between disciples must reflect the purity and power of love Christ offered to them. They would gain a firsthand, front row seat to the depth of that love beginning with the Garden and all the way to Golgotha. That kind of love must leave us all with the sense of futility. You can’t just say “Yes Sir!” to loving like Jesus loves! It takes much more than sinful, fickle, fallible humanity to engender that kind of love. We need not only a divine example, but also divine power to do so, to counteract our natural instinct for self-survival against the supreme example in Christ of self-denying, self-sacrificing love. The Holy Spirit would become absolutely necessary in empowering us to obey this impossible command apart from divine enablement.

3. It reveals our devotion to Christ. This kind of love will be the proof to the world of the reality and supremacy of Christ as our Master and Lord. It may not draw everyone to Christ, but it will declare to the world that we are His disciples and that even the most vitriolic, intractable atheist cannot deny. Our Christ-like love for each other, love that mirrors the beauty of divinity within the horror of hostility, will offer the world an up close and personal revelation of the reality of the living Christ. It will reveal to the world that Jesus, fictional or historical, is alive in those who profess devotion to Him. And this may cause at least the question if not stimulate the personal hunger to be known to and by such a God. The qualifying mark and priority of the disciple of Christ: Christ-like love.

The Fallibility of Pride: We have such good intentions, don’t we? We want to be seen as noble, and upright, and dependable. We fail to realize that unless we are willing to take the deep look into our own caverns, we may miss the fact that we are aiding and abetting the Criminal that will rise to bring us down and bring harm to those we love the most. Such was the case with Peter. I believe he believed what he was saying, but we know he didn’t realize what he was saying.

Ironic, that the gospel writer records Peter referring to Christ as “Lord” in this. Peter basically tells the Lord…that He is wrong! (Luke 22:31-33; Mark 14:27-31; Matthew 26:31-35) This is the evidence of the presence of the Criminal who operates like a computer virus attaching itself to normal functions but corrupting processes while masquerading as native, innate elements. Allowed to exist, it spreads its corruption until the host is completely compromised and the system operates more like the virus in opposition to its original design.

Peter has continued to give room and board to his pride. By not taking Jesus as seriously as he should have, in presenting himself as utterly dependable and unflagging in loyalty rather than asking for help and strength, he made the mistake so many of us do: to believe more in ourselves than in Christ. This is where Christ is betrayed, disowned, and abandoned. This fallibility of pride leaves us vulnerable to our own destruction and the exposure of our true character in stark contrast to the character of Christ.

Tragically, the persistence of pride will find us always in opposition to Jesus and unable to carry out His commands, even the command to love as He did. What is demanded and required is the crucifixion of pride and the necessary reesurrection of His divine life within us. Apart from Him, the moment will inevitably come where we will disclose our true allegiance to our true master: ourselves. Apart from Christ, Peter did. Apart from Christ, so do we!

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John 13b – “Dining with Darkness and Light”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sitting at the table with love and light incarnate was darkness in conflict. Judas had already been prompted to betray the Lord.

3-crosses-at-left-2

READ JOHN 13:18-30

The Darkness: Sitting at the table with love and light incarnate was darkness in conflict. Judas had already been prompted to betray the Lord. (I say “the” Lord because Judas could never claim Christ as “his” Lord personally based on what Christ knew of him as quoted in John 6:64, 70; 13:10-11) Judas had tasted the fruits of fellowship with Christ (Hebrews 6:4-6) but had not given himself to Christ. This is not the condition of a free agent but of prey. A man can never exist apart from allegiance to either Christ or the anti-Christ in whatever form that takes.

Judas had occupied the seat of honor at the table, on the left hand of Christ, had his belly full of the ancient Passover meal and the new Passover communion, his feet washed by the Servant Master, Jesus, and yet he remained unswayed to abandon his destructive course of action. It is when Christ offers the bread to Judas that there is clarity and his journey to the dark side was complete: the darkness had finally moved in to where it was already welcome.

Oh to have a special prescription of glasses with the ability to view spiritual and non-spiritual activity simultaneously – to be able to see Jesus extend grace in this choice morsel of bread, watch Judas extend his hand to accept the bread but not the grace; and then to watch in the moment the transfer of food occurs to see satan or his minions enter into Judas and fully establish their fortress from which they could operate with no more conflict! I remember watching the demons drag of Carl in the movie “Ghost” and see a similar scene here except here, Judas opens the door and welcomes them in.

Then when Judas goes out, John adds, “…and it was night” Judas is in His natural element for that supernatural element is now personified in Judas…as natural. His going out is also his walking away from Christ and running to his true master with conviction and loyalty.

The Light: Look again at Jesus in 13:21. He is troubled in spirit. No doubt this is due to what He must face, the agony of body and soul. But do you suppose that part of His anguish here deals with what He knows will happen to Judas? Throughout this entire meal the Light never flickers, never wanes, but burns steady and bright – so bright against the backdrop of demonic treachery from a “friend” of Christ.

Who in their right mind would not choose to consider their life under the control of One who, as God, would still hold out an invitation to a child of satan to come in from the darkness? Who would not desire to consider the transfer of allegiance from satan to a Savior of such love and grace as to offer hope at the same moment that a demonic partnership was being struck?

Jesus’ persistence with love and light gives hope to us all that there is no sin too bad or strong that will cause the divine light of grace to ever be extinguished (John 1:5). The door will never be closed to the Father’s home in this age of grace. We must deliberately, defiantly, walk away from His grace and in this our destiny is sealed. Yet none can accuse Jesus of withdrawal. That Light, so committed to the perfect will of God enough to tell Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly”, is the same Light so perfect in love that it would offer grace at the last moment. As the light fades from Judas’ life, like the light of a candle that one blows on to extinguish, in contrast, the Light of Christ burns brightly and reminds us that there is a God greater than the darkness around and within us. There is a God who still offers the most heinous of sinners the way home.

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John 13a – “The Master Servant and Servants’ Master.”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , ,

At this Last Supper, Jesus shows the “full extent of His love” and demonstrates the non-negotiables of what it means to be His follower.

3-crosses-at-left-2

READ JOHN 13:1-17
The 3 main characters at the table in this scene: Jesus, Judas and Peter. There are also 3 main objectives with motives: redemption motivated by love; betrayal motivated by disappointment and greed; control motivated by pride. The first is in opposition to the last two because they come from hearts not authorized with an eternal perspective and divine devotion. The latter 2 cost nothing. The first will cost everything.

At this Last Supper, Jesus shows the “full extent of His love” and demonstrates the non-negotiables of what it means to be His follower and what it means to represent Him as a servant in His name. Ironic that while in the mode of a servant, Jesus leads the way of how His disciples should live.

He displays both natures as Master and Servant without sacrificing the character of either. For Jesus, both are displayed seamlessly and interchangeably. He never became something He wasn’t. He was and will always be the Master, but there will also always be an aspect of His serving them, the absence of which will make it impossible for them to serve to His satisfaction. Essentially we find our greatest fellowship with Christ when we let Him be who He is and let Him have His way without resistance and without aid.

Jesus must serve those who follow Him: Peter’s resistance to letting Christ have His way is met with the gentle rebuke and ultimatum: “Peter if you get your way, You will not share in mine!”

A choice must be made: either to press for autonomy and insist on our way of doing things, countermanding the direction of Christ, or to submit with humility to whatever Christ deems is necessary for us. This is the mode of submission that begins with the defeat of pride, ego, self-rule.

Jesus is clear: to share companionship with Him, we must be clean and He must do the cleaning. Sidestepping that will actually put us at odds with God and in danger of furthering an agenda that conflicts with His. The tragic results will be a lot of work with no or negative eternal rewards, and worse, no fellowship with Christ. Christ will always stand in vehement opposition to what opposes His perfect will…even that opposition is with one who walks with Him! This is the main goal of life: to be with Christ, to share life and purpose with Him. If that is the heart’s true intent, Jesus the Master must be also Jesus, the Servant.

We must let Him do what only He can do. Peter came to that reality reluctantly and still held on to his own way. That proved fatal to his desire and ability to truly serve Christ since he would do so only on His terms.

Those who follow Christ must serve each other. Christ was also clear on the application: those who are cleansed by Christ and now share life and purpose with Him, must show this by serving fellow followers. Jesus absolutely expects His followers to love and serve each other as He loved them. (John 13:34-35).

In the subsequent chapters the theme of loving one another will be dominant. Jesus gives an example and expects it to be emulated. We are to do for each other what He did and does for us. He verifies His identity as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ but also clarifies His example as the standard operating procedure for those who are His. Our mode is servanthood. Our immediate beneficiaries: fellow followers. It is obedience to Jesus’ example, the humble serving of one another, that truly honors the presence and purpose of Christ and guarantees His promised blessings.

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John 12d – “Shades of Darkness”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This is how bad darkness is: to hate the truth and light so much that when it becomes more fully disclosed, the hatred increases all the more.

3-crosses-at-left-2

READ JOHN 12:37-50

The Power and Poison of Darkness: When a person has all the evidence, even standing right there in front of them, along with miraculous signs and historical texts to back it up and yet they refuse to believe – darkness has truly taken over! For such a person, there is nothing they can do to change their deplorable condition. It is in need of divine intervention even more than ever! These Jews had already made their minds up about Christ and in that state it isn’t too difficult to see how every word Jesus would speak or miracle He would perform would only fuel their indignation and hostility and inflame their commitment to eradicate Him. This is how bad darkness is: to hate the truth and light so much that when it becomes more fully disclosed, the hatred increases all the more.

The Prospects and Possibilities in Darkness. Then there are the holdouts, the fenceriders – impacted by Truth but too afraid to let go of the opposing traditions. What a torment: to know that what you are about is wrong but to be too afraid of what you’ll lose to consider what you will gain. The forces of darkness do their best work to keep humankind chained up by fear refusing to allow any motivation and inspiration of what is always greater. The aim is to legislate life through fear than allow faith to liberate it through love.

The Problem and Paralysis in Darkness: Here, the Jewish leaders subscribed to the cold grip of fear and rejected the warm embrace of faith. As long as there is the compulsion to “pay the piper” or pander to the oppressive forces against divine authority, truth will always be irrelevant and never worth losing one’s life over. The Pharisees exerted a power of which they were only pawns and not at all the source of. The power of darkness is to keep people ignorant of the long term benefit of true freedom while enslaving them to short term priorities and luxuries that actually disqualify from eternal gain.  Here these “leaders” were afraid to follow their true “Leader” and thus became complicit in the conspiracy against Him.

A Key to the Prison: The fact that “belief” is mentioned 7 times in this passage underscores its significance as an expectation of God and a qualification to the life of faith in opposition to a life lived in fear. Jesus makes it clear that to side with Him, to believe Him, to fix one’s devotion on Him is to affirm the will and wonder of God. No one can say they follow or love God if they do not follow or love the Son. This is not so much an presentation of our power and character of belief but the clarification of the harmony and unity between Father and Son. All that Jesus said and did, and the way He said and did it, was a perfect expression and extension of the Father. Is it correct to say, that The Father could not have done it any better since He was completely at work in His fullness in His son? This is the consummate example of how our Christian lives should be lived: giving proof to the work and presence of the Father by what He wanted, the way He wanted it. The “way” may be the clear defining distinction in the works of God being performed by His servants.

In coming to Earth, Jesus didn’t have His eyes on the task of judgment but on salvation. He didn’t come to punish but to liberate people already in darkness. His goal: to offer a divine opportunity for those who walk in darkness to no longer stay there. When you think about it, in reflection of His years of ministry – the healings, exoricisms, the feedings, teachings, resurrections, etc. – that is precisely what He did: bringing people out of darkness into His glorious light!

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John 12c – “Preparing for the Darkness”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Yet even in the midst of the inquiry by Gentiles and the anguish that is now laying siege to Jesus' soul, His prayer and desire: “Father, glorify Your name!”

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 12:20-36

The Greeks that came to Jesus here represent the eventual scope of Jesus’ redemptive mission. Their search for Christ may have been out of curiosity but at this juncture in the life of Jesus it is not insignificant. Commentators describe these Greeks as part of Gentile groups in pursuit of truth and enlightenment and would thus frequent Jewish festivals and feasts. Obviously hearing about Jesus from others, they wanted to see firsthand that which would enhance their pursuit. It seems that the reputation of Jesus is what draws them gravitationally toward Christ – His teachings, actions, and character.  Now, through the Church, the same must be allowed to hold true.

Jesus recognizes that His hour is at hand. He remains so very clear on His mission’s purpose (12:27). Yet even in the midst of this inquiry by Gentiles, the anguish that is now laying siege to His soul, His prayer and desire: “Father, glorify Your name!”  The aim of the follower of Christ is to mimic Him and the way He reacts to situations by always keeping the Father first and foremost. Had this focus not been there, the trial ahead of Him could have overwhelmed Him to death or cowardice, to self-preservation instead of self-sacrifice. Keeping the Father first and foremost in our mind and heart affects the way we live and the way we face death—with the dignity of soul and purity of heart essential for the Father to glorify Himself in ways that will raise an abundance of true faith in the harvest of true Christ followers.

Jesus admonition to His followers in order to prepare for the coming darkness: Walk in the Light! That is not something we adopt as a practice right before the light is gone – indeed that is almost too late. We must live in proper relationship to the Light while we have it, and live in a way that takes advantage of its illumination showing us the way things are and must be.

Jesus goes one step further: don’t just walk by the Light. Put Your Trust in the Light. This is the best way to consistently walk by it and in fellowship with Christ. Trust lies at the heart of true faith. I believe there are many who walk by the Light but only until it delivers them to their desired destinations, their objectives, their goals. Then they abandon it proving that though they walked by it, their trust remained in themselves while using the Light to advance their agenda with little or no thought to the divine agenda.

Jesus goes further: the rhythm of “walking by” and “trusting in” the Light reveals and verifies one as an offspring of Light, they have “become” children of Light. Good definition of a Christian: one who walks by and trusts in the Light as a Child of that Light. Such a person has an identity and perspective that exists in diametrical opposition to the natire and impact of Darkness. Such a person is a true follower of Christ.

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John 12b – “The Procession of Joy”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Jesus knew the nature of the crowd. This was the same kind of crowd that witnessed His miracles at the beginning of His ministry 3 years prior in Jerusalem.

3-crosses-at-left-2

READ JOHN 12:12-19

Jesus knew the nature of the crowd. This was the same kind of crowd that witnessed His miracles at the beginning of His ministry 3 years prior in Jerusalem (John 2:23-25). In those 3 years, those people hadn’t changed but, thank God, neither had Christ. He knew what they were capable of for He knew their (our/my) nature. And yet…He still came. He knew within 4-5 days, this warm, hospitable crowd would become an angry, condemning mob. And yet…He still came. He knew that though He was now being led in praise and honor into Jerusalem, carried on a donkey, hailed as the instrument of blessing, that by the end of the week he would be dragged out of Jerusalem as “the goat”, forced to carry the instrument of His own death…and yet, He still came. He looked into their eyes and saw wonder, joy, curiosity knowing that by the end of the week those eyes would project hatred, hostility and condemnation…and yet He still came.

And…He still comes! Because His love for us is based on His nature to love and His perfect submission to the perfect will of a God who loves us enough…to still come! As the song says, “He looked beyond my fault and saw my need”. Praise be to God!

Vs. 19 “Every party loves a pooper” and there they are, in the background, the Party Poopers, the Frozen Chosen, the Elder Brothers, the Prefects of Piety, the Holy Critics – The Pharisees! They were indignant to people going to Jesus, they were hostile to Jesus coming to them. It is amazing and alarming how resistance to God can come from the people of God and for such “good” reasons. We must ever be vigilant as to how we judge people’s fervor and passion for Christ on the basis of our preferred methods and slanted expectations. We will find ourselves not merely in opposition to pure devotion to Christ in others but also to Christ, Himself.

In the background of devotion to Christ, many times, can also be found contempt for Him as well. The miracle is how God uses the contempt of hostile humanity as a canvas to display the magnificence of His grace and truth without compromising His commitment to be Himself or our “freedom” to be ourselves.

Praise God that in spite of an unwilling, inhospitable, hostile, resistant humanity, this God still comes!

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John 12a – “The Anointing”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In a sense, Mary was doing for Jesus what God would be doing with Jesus.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 12:1-11

What loomed on the horizon was the ultimate pouring out of one’s life, the supreme demonstration of selfless love that would bring peace to the world, healing to the nations, Spirit life to mankind. It would also be to God a sweet smelling, perfect, approved, sufficient, sacrifice. In a sense, Mary was doing FOR Jesus what God would be doing WITH Jesus. She anointed Him with perfume, “liquid love”, the fluid of her devotion. God would do the same in “anointing” the world with the blood of His Son. She poured out all her precious perfume – God would completely pour out His Son, Jesus. It is so fitting that such an expression and experience of unhindered, extravagant love would be used by God as a powerful symbol to prepare Christ for His passion, and to also inspire our passion for Christ.

The ugly “other side”, which always seems to dwell alongside evil, is that in the same moment that extravagant love is being expressed, the polar opposite and demonic perversion of love: miserly, self-centered, murderous, hostility to God which would, by necessity and nature, scheme to rob, malign, corrupt, murder and eliminate that love. The love of Judas and the chief priests stands in stark contrast to the love of Mary and Jesus. Where Mary and Jesus sought to demonstrate love and life, their counterparts sought to destroy it and replace it with death disguised as religion.

And this is how the week begins!

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Scripture Meditation: “Stop and Consider.”

Categories: Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, Tags: , , , , ,

...as long as we try to access the divine Whisper of divine Affection on the run, we may only hear the wind and not the Spirit.

stillness-2Transform Thought:

From the statement on meditation taken from the Quest Study Bible that I referenced in my “Soul Food” blog, I want to look at 2 aspects in greater depth. I will deal with the other in a subsequent blog. The first point of consideration comes from the following paragraph:

“In some ways meditation doesn’t easily fit into the Western culture. We value action and busyness more than stopping and considering. The author of this psalm was from another time and culture, one with a tradition that valued meditation. As a result, meditation came more naturally for him and others with his Middle Eastern background. We have to overcome some cultural obstacles to learn to meditate.”

Zero-in on the line, “We value action and busyness more than stopping and considering.” Sure does sound like good, ole fashioned, Western philosophy to me!

It’s been said that we remember what’s important to us. Try this one: we meditate on what’s important to us. In my teachings I have explained the art and discipline of meditation employing the picture of a cow chewing its cud again…over and over…again. That action describes “rumination” and applies to mental activity as well. Specifically regarding meditation, it can be a very deliberate practice engaging the entire mind and heart. (More on that later).

The statement points out our tendency toward NOT ruminating, not deeply, intentionally, considering because our gravitational preference is toward activity. The way I see it, we value INDUSTRY over INTROSPECTION, COMMOTION over CONTEMPLATION. As a matter of fact we sometimes rush TOWARD action to AVOID considering!

Years ago while bustling from one place to another, a friend of mine walking with me and observing my actions for over a year, out of the blue asked me a question that stopped me dead in my tracks. “Jonathan, what’s driving you?”
He noticed my tendency to a rapid gait, rapid speech, and like manner in many things. This prompted the question. I remember that day as the beginning of several weeks where I was constantly returning to that scene and then re-asking myself the same question: “What is driving me?!”

You may be wondering, “Wasn’t that a simple enough question? How could that have taken several weeks to answer?”
Answer: (Yep, you guessed it!) I was too busy to stop and consider it seriously. I came to a painful recognition that I had begun to value what I was doing for Jesus more than who He is. In Matthew 7, Jesus confronts a great group of people at heaven’s door. They came with expectations that their entrance was guaranteed on the basis of their effort, their eternal security locked in by their temporal industry. They offered their resume of religious duties, the likes of which would surely convince God that He is now obligated to let them in. Jesus responds to their demand with a chilling response: “Depart from me, evildoers, I never knew you!”

Wow! These people spent so much time doing what they considered to be good enough but never considered what Christ truly wanted. His response reveals the central priority of His desire: for us to be in mutually intimate harmony with Him. What, however, is more chilling, is that in all their activity, they never even realized that were not attentive to God on His terms. They were living for their work but not living for God. Jesus’ statement implies that there never was a relationship and just because they were deeply involved in some pretty significant work, this did not draw them one step closer to God nor the security of eternity with Him. Apparently God is more interested in what comes out of heart than what comes from our hands.

Look at a portion of Jesus’ message to the church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation.

2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Revelation 2:2-4

Here, INDUSTRY trumped INTIMACY. Sounds like these folks needed to take time and consider the Whom they were so busy “doing” for. Hmmm…sounds like they aren’t the only ones!

In Psalms 46 in the midst of tremendous, calamitous chaos, the world convulsing with cataclysmic tremors, nations seething with rage, and the Lord dispensing divine wrath and judgment, this same God, who is also our refuge and strength, says,
Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)

In one sense of the word, this passage could be translated,
“Stop your striving. Experience the truth of who I am as God”.

This statement has a lot packed in it but one thing it calls us to: stopping and considering; deliberately, stepping away from the hustle and bustle, surrendering to stillness, sometimes best done in solitude. When it comes to meditation, we must decide to be in a place where the cacophony of the world and the static of our life is reduced to low enough decibels that we begin to hear the still, small voice of God. But as long as we try to access the divine Whisper of Divine Affection while on the run, we may hear only the wind and not the Spirit.

Consider this: the Bible is more than just a book about stories. It is a book about 1 story, His-story, being lived out through the many stories of humanity. It is a sacred book of the divine self-disclosure of God Himself in relationship with mankind in any dimensions. For us to access the depths and riches and wonders of the mind of God, we most certainly will need the tutelage of the indwelling Spirit, but we also need to come in humility, sit down at the table of wisdom, and feast on the kind of truth that enlightens the mind and satisfies the soul. This “Soul Food” is rarely good or beneficial when we are cramming it in us with other foods – traffic, ESPN, American Idol, reconciling check books, fretting over expenses, etc. – because divine “soul food” must be the main course, not the side dish.

So what do you think? Is it time to cease the striving and settle into the work and wonder of knowing God through His own “authorized biography”? Is it time to Stop and Consider?

Let’s follow Jesus’ example who had to be one of the most, if not the busiest man ever but never seemed to be in a rush, never seemed to be stressed. Lived life in rhythmic harmony with His Father. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus did not merely find time, but made time to be with His Father. That relationship empowered and sustained Him in the stewardship of life and accomplishment of the will of God. Keep in mind: it is stillness together with Christ that holds us together in Christ. But as this article indicates, that ain’t natural for us. It is a state of being that must be learned, practiced, and defended against the regular, incessant, voices of this world seducing us away from true fellowship of peace and rest with God.

Transform Tips:

Years ago when I was the director of a youth camp for a church in Miami, Florida we instituted a “Time Out” everyday during camp week at 4:30pm for 5 minutes. Adults and students alike were to dedicate this time to stopping, stillness and silence. This meant for 5 full minutes (an eternity for teenagers!) no swimming, no playing, no selling food at the snack shop, no walking, no talking. In a camp of 300 Jr. and Sr. High School students this miracle happened each day! They could use the time to pray, sleep, dream, reflect, hold their breath, anything…just to learn the value that they could “turn off”. It was pretty amazing for folks visiting the campus at around that time to walk around and hear no noise and see nothing human moving, like a spell had been cast over us. Then promptly at 4:35pm motion and activity whirred back into rhythm and life.

Maybe we could practice our own “Time Out” each day for a week…in a place where you won’t get fired! A time to remember that we are more than human doings, that we are human beings called into fellowship with the Holy God.
Here are some other suggestions of “Stopping to Consider”.

  • Determine a time and place with the optimum environment for stillness and silence. Consider this a sanctum, a sacred place to meet with God and then meet with Him there.
  • Before you start to meditate on the Scripture take several minutes in silence and consider Whom you are talking to or simply to disconnect from what you were doing or need to do. Consider taking a brief walk, savoring a cup of tea or coffee right before diving into hearing the voice of God in His Word.
  • Pray Psalm 119:18 to God but say it in your own words. (I was going to write it out, but thought “Nahh. They’ll have to stop and look it up!)
  • As you read the Scripture, take time to think through, read the entire chapter in one sitting but ruminate on 1-2 verses at a time rather than the whole chapter.
  • Journal your thoughts and reactions. I have found that writing is a discipline that forces me to slow down and adjust to the rhythm of careful thought and heart-felt contemplation.
  • Don’t wait until the end of your Scripture meditation to pray to God. Take time throughout your meditation to pray to God in response to what you’re considering. Dialogue with God as He “speaks”.
  • Close your time with prayers of praise and gratitude and confession and requests for divine guidance before moving on to intercession for others.

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Scripture Meditation: “Savoring True Soul Food”

Categories: Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Frankly, meditating on Scripture is one of my favorite topics and disciplines. Though I have been doing this for over 40 years, I still consider myself a student who has neither yet perfected nor reaped the full benefit of this timeworn discipline and, in a manner, art.

Oven Fried Chicken by mooshee85

Transform Thought:

Frankly, meditating on Scripture is one of my favorite topics and disciplines. Though I have been doing this for over 40 years, I still consider myself a student who has neither yet perfected nor reaped the full benefit of this timeworn discipline and, in a manner, art. Let’s be clear: when I speak of meditation, I am not referring to the Eastern discipline of “emptying your mind” but actually of purifying and satisfying your mind and soul by filling it with divine content.

One of the clearest descriptions of meditation is “focused thinking”. Scripture meditation, therefore, is focused thinking on and about the Word of God where the intention is for us to understand and apply revealed truths to our lives in humble response to God. The rewards include a greater understanding of Scripture, increased sense of personal well being, a more satisfying communion with God, and a transformed life as it is being conformed to the character and purpose of Jesus Christ. These alone provide exciting incentives to make it a discipline to feast on.  In Scripture meditation, thinking nice thoughts is not the goal. Living in true fellowship with God and others is. Look at what the psalmist says about one who meditates on the Word of God:

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.  Psalm  1:3

When someone tells me that they can’t meditate, I have learned to ask them if they have ever worried. When they answer that they have, I tell them that if they can worry, they can meditate! Worry is focused thinking on problems or circumstances in such a way that affects your mind and heart and, eventually, your behavior. Scripture meditation happens when a student of the Scripture, humble and open, takes the time, to come to the Word of God and engages it with their mind and heart as they read and study for the purpose of deeper fellowship with God and nourishment to their soul. Meditation enables Scripture to become the true soul food.

My daughter, Christine, and I were working through a meditation exercise using Scripture when toward the end of it, she read an instructional guide for Scripture meditation from one of the “help” pages in her Quest Study Bible published by Zondervan. I reviewed it and exclaimed to her that it was one of the clearest, most helpful, simple, yet profound explanations I had heard encountered.

“How Does a Person Meditate on God’s Word?

Meditation [on Scripture] is a combination of reviewing, repeating, reflecting, thinking, analyzing, feeling and even enjoying. It is a physical, intellectual and emotional activity-it involves our whole being.

In some ways meditation doesn’t easily fit into the Western culture. We value action and busyness more than stopping and considering. The author of this psalm was from another time and culture, one with a tradition that valued meditation. As a result, meditation came more naturally for him and others with his Middle Eastern background. We have to overcome some cultural obstacles to learn to meditate.

I especially loved the context clarifying the distinction between the Western and Eastern mindset as the pilgrim approaches meditation. In my opinion, the Eastern avenue seems to open up windows and doors for heart and mind of the Christian pilgrim to embrace more of the mind and heart of God, the mysteries of His infinite fullness. Our traditional, formulaic ways, usually, restricted and hindered by time, space and inner preoccupations, result in a more cerebral, lifeless, approach and result! But that’s for another day, another blog so…

I do know, however, that due to our cultural conditioning and predispositions against stillness, many would legitimately admit that they do not know how to meditate. One blog post won’t cure that (omen of more posts to come on this topic) but I have included here the brief article here from the Quest Bible along with their list of meditation techniques. I threw in a few of my own.

Transform Tips:

There are a variety of ways to meditate on God’s Word. Techniques include:

  1. Avoid just diving into the task before asking God for insight; prepare your mind and heart to receive it.
  2. *Take time to read a verse or passage over and over.
  3. *Begin to memorize all or part of it.
  4. Take note of the main characters, descriptions, actions, cause-and-effects, in the passage.
  5. Define, clarify, ponder special words or phrases
  6. *Listen! Quiet your hearts to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through God’s Word.
  7. *Consider how it fits with the rest of the Bible and life in general.
  8. *Become emotionally involved-allow yourself to feel what God feels, his desires expressed through his words period
  9. Write down your thoughts, insights, questions, responses to the passage
  10. *Move from meditation to application-connect your thoughts to action. Consider how the truth and power of the Word of God should affect your behavior.
*(Taken also from the Quest Study Bible article)

Remember, it’s actually putting into practice these and other techniques that facilitates spiritual nourishment as you feast on the wonders of His Word . I hope this article helps you to see the Bible as an invitation to that banquet table of divine revelation that can satisfy your mind and soul as you partake of and savor the fulfilling and delightful delicacies of the riches and depths of God waiting for you in His Word, the Holy Scriptures.

Bon apetit!

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