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Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.
Psalm 119:20


Many portions of Scripture declare the importance of knowing the Bible. But have you ever meditated on this one? When I consider the habits of my soul in terms of “longing”, I can think of several things which have nothing to do with God’s rules.

The one and only example I have of this is Jesus. As we consider his response to Satan when he was tempted after 40 days of fasting, we catch a glimpse into the utter psychological reliance Jesus placed on the word.

kramskoi_christ_dans_le_desert.jpgThen Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Matthew4:1-11, ESV

Constant longing for and reliance upon on God’s word.

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Words for the Sufferer

Jesus, the Good ShephardIn America, we seldom struggle as much the apostle Paul or anyone else in the New Testament. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t struggles for the believer in America. After all, we are not commanded to live in any geographical area, but rather to honor God regardless of our environment. It is the intensity of this relationship with God that will bring about our suffering in any circumstance.

Additionally, the trials of a believer are not exclusive to his or her interaction with the outside, unbelieving world. It seems Paul is more concerned with solving problems within the church than offense it experiences from the outside world. Paul himself wrote of the abandonment he experienced from people whom he thought of as his spiritual family:

“…for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessolonica – Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.”

“…Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.”

“…At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.” (NKJV)
2 Timothy 4:9-16

Confronted with abandonment from many of his supposed spiritual allies, did Paul press on alone? It would seem to be the burden of the Christian to be in that position from time to time doesn’t it? Paul corrects our view of such matters:

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might fully be preached through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen! 2 Timothy 4:17-18

Paul would not have us believe he was the only one whom God would preserve in such a way. In Romans 8, he emphatically proclaims,

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

~

What’s interesting to me in those passages is that Paul specifically names Christ as the member of the trinity who ministers to us amidst tribulation. Were I left to my own logic, I’d think the Holy Spirit, who indwells us and seals us for everlasting salvation, would be the one who lovingly stands with us. But I’ve forgotten that Christ is our high priest (Hebrews 4:14), who “was in all points tempted as we are, yet was without sin.” The writer of Hebrews goes on to say,

Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (7:25)

Over and over again in the NT, we see that our companion, our constant source of sympathy, our ultimate provider of salvation, is Christ. He is actively involved in our lives amidst suffering. I hasten to say that every moment we doubt God’s provision in hard times is a moment in which we shame our Savior.

Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

If you are in a trial, or you sense one is on the horizon, though you may not see him, feel him, or hear him, recognize that Jesus stands with you, strengthens you, makes intercession for you, and consoles you. Through him you will overcome.

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minute-with-henry.jpgI spent some time hiking with a man who practiced many of the contemplative and introspective aspects of Buddhism last week. More than once, he explained that he believes the self is perfected through constant reflection and meditation. “What is your ultimate example of this?” I asked. “Even the Buddha said that to make him the ultimate example would mislead others, because they need to find enlightenment through themselves, on their own journey,” he responded.

Fortunately, for the Christian, we are not left unto the dreadful prospect of finding our ultimate understanding of perfection within ourselves. In this excerpt from Scougal’s “The Life of God in the Soul of Man”, he carries us through several misinterpretations of Christian religion, until he reveals the true, Bible-based description of what it is.

I hasten to point out how accurate many of the false pretenses of religion which he presents are still apt descriptions of the distortions of Christianity that prevail today. For this reason, I believe we do well to think for a minute with Henry on the topic of religion.

~

I cannot speak of religion, but I must lament, that among so many pretenders to it, so few understand what it means: some placing it in the understanding, in orthodox notions and opinions; and all the account they can give of their religion is, that they are of this and the other persuasion, and have joined themselves to one of those many sects whereinto Christendom is most unhappily divided. Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties, and a model of performances. If they live peaceably with their neighbors, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of worship, frequenting the church, or their closet, and sometimes extend their hands to the relief of the poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves. Others again put all religion in the affections, in rapturous hearts, and ecstatic devotion; and all they aim at is, to pray with passion, and to think of heaven with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind and melting expressions wherewith they court their Saviour, till they persuade themselves they are mightily in love with him, and from thence assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian graces.

Thus are these things which have any resemblance of piety, and at the best are but means of obtaining it, or particular exercises of it, frequently mistaken for the whole of religion: nay, sometimes wickedness and vice pretend to that name. I speak not new of those gross impieties wherewith the Heathens were wont to worship their gods. There are but too many Christians who would consecrate their vices, and follow their corrupt affections, whose rugged humour and sullen pride must pass for Christian severity; whose fierce wrath, and bitter rage against their enemies, must be called holy zeal; whose petulancy towards their superiors, or rebellion against their governors, must have the name of Christian courage and resolution.

But certainly religion is quite another thing, and they who are acquainted with it will entertain far different thoughts, and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it. They know by experience that true religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul, or, in the apostle’s phrase, “It is Christ formed within us.”

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Siloam

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sing a song I wrote for my church. Here are the lyrics:

They say I cannot know you
Your word is too old to trust
They say I do not notice
We’ve proven that we aren’t God-breathed dust
bethesda.jpg
They say heaven’s wide open
And no matter what, we can walk right in
Head held high, never broken
Never sorry, as we cling to our sin

Well I cannot agree
Lord please bend my knees

I am undone
I’m undone at the sight of your glory

Make me your son
Make me your son, make me holy

I heard your love is fire
And it burns away all my straw
I heard your love is a rock
And I can hide away from this brimstone pouring down

I heard your love is a fountain
A spring of everlasting life
Is your love a rainfall
To wash off the mud that covers my eyes?

Well I may not see how
But I know you can help me now

I am undone
I’m undone at the sight of your glory

Make me your son
Make me your son, make me holy

You say you’ll never forsake us
That you indwell us now, till you come again
I say I’ll wait for you, when the faith becomes sight
When you wipe away every tear, and erase all our sin

I believe you are the end of my soul
you compel my heart to be whole
you satisfy my deepest thirst
and you’re remain wonderful when I’m at my worst

I am undone
I’m undone at the sight of your glory

Make me your son
Make me your son, make me holy

We are undone
We’re undone at the sight of your glory

Make us one
Make us one, make us holy
Make us one, make us holy

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One of my best friends, a youth pastor, has shared with me how one day he’d like to be a bartender. As someone who values conversation, he sees the occupation as a great opportunity to share his life with others. The maxim in vino veritas (in wine there is truth) is the operant idea here. Sometimes people won’t open up until they’ve consumed a little bit of “truth serum”.

Last Thursday, I had the chance to experience this theory. After my last philosophy of education course, some fellow students and I joined my teacher for some beer at the local brewery/restaurant Boundary Bay. Looking around the table, there were a few people who were mere Theists (mere belief in God with no corresponding moral doctrine), an liberal Atheist, a liberal Christian, a recovering ex-Mormon, and an agnostic. It was quite enjoyable. After all, talking about values in class is hard work…talking about them outside of class is fun!

As the night went on, about half our group left for home, and I was left with the recovering ex-Mormon (REM) and the agnostic. REM is a happily married mother of two. She was curious about my political/religious views and, in order to continue the enjoyable evening, offered to by the agnostic and me another beer.

I accepted.

You don’t turn someone down when she wants to know what your beliefs are and buys you beer as you explain. Plus, Boundary Bay beer is the best. I’ve been trying to get my youth pastor friend to come up sometime to enjoy it with me.

As much as I could while not turning the evening into a Billy Graham crusade, I tried to share my beliefs. I also wanted to learn more about theirs. Neither of them was particularly compelled to ask more that would lead to me sharing the gospel…so I didn’t push the matter. But they both came away probably knowing the importance of Christianity to me, and that it has a big impact on my life. The recovering ex-Mormon might even bring her family to my church.

It’s times like these when I wonder how some people dismiss alcohol as evil…and would never imagine enjoying it with others. None of us were drunk or even close. No one did anything stupid. All of our personal convictions were expressed, not compromised.

I’m reminded of Luke 7:13

“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

Sometimes condemnation is inevitable. But as someone who is ultimately accountable not to men, but to God, I make judgment calls like this not based on what others say – but on what is wise. The fruit of this method of evangelism has proven itself to me over and over: people get a clear picture of Christ and their need for him, whether or not they accept it for themselves.

There’s no reason to say drinking alcohol over dinner is the only true way of witnessing to others. You don’t even have to have alcohol. But you do have to show hospitality to people, and you do have to share the faith that is within you. To some extent, you have to be willing to understand people with whom you disagree and love them enough to enjoy their company for a little while. I encourage you to practice some form of hospitality toward both the believers and unbelievers in your life. If you place God first as you do it, you will be blessed.

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