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Posts Tagged ‘devotional’

Disciplines

At the Cor Deo Conference on Saturday (mp3s to follow) there was a great question on Bible reading.  It was addressed to Ron and he both answered at the time and has written some more thoughts here.  I thought I’d add my two-pence, because, well, that’s what I do.  Whether invited to or not.

The question of disciplines arises whenever you emphasize God’s approach to us in Christ, over and above our approach to Him.  Well then, people ask, what place does our devotional life have?

I attempted to answer that with the preface to my own devotional, but let me put it another way.

On Saturday I spoke of the difference between a medieval system of salvation and the gospel announcement of Christ as Saviour.  Bible reading happens in both paradigms.  But in the system, it’s a rung on the ladder.  In the announcement paradigm, it’s a revelation.

Here’s the thing – when I haven’t read my Bible for a while and/or when I’m in a bit of a spiritual slump, the devil plays a brilliant trick on me.  He adopts the voice of an earnest religious devotee and says “Ah Glen, what a pity you’re so far from God.  But not to worry” he says, masquerading as a spiritual adviser, “two weeks of solid Bible reading and you’ll be back on top of your game.”  Ug, I think.  And so I slide deeper into my spiritual sulk.

The system paradigm just doesn’t get me reading.  But what if I realize the gospel?  What if I tell myself, “Closeness to God does not lie on the other side of two weeks hard graft!  Closeness to God is IN JESUS.  And that’s where I am.  Let’s pick up this gracious word and be reminded.”

If I’m believing in the system, I might open the Bible but only to receive a lecture, or a to-do list.  More often I’ll leave it closed.

If I realize I’ve already arrived, you never know, I might just open the Bible, eager to receive Christ!

 

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I’ve been thinking about suffering recently.

Easter tells you everything you need to know. Meditate on each of these truths for 5 minutes and it will revolutionize your thinking about God, yourself and the world.

1) The Cross shows us God’s perfection…

Therefore suffering can never be incompatible with the all-wise, all-powerful, all-good God (1 Corinthians 1-2)

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2) The Resurrection shows us God’s purpose…

Therefore His plan has never been to pretty up this old creation but to raise it anew (1 Corinthians 15:36-50)

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3) The Son of Man must suffer and be glorified…

If that’s the route for The Man how could man tread any other path.

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4) On the Day of Man (6th day), Jesus puts us to death. On the Day of Rest (7th day), He finishes the old creation. On the Day of New Creation (8th day), He rises into a whole new week, a whole new world.

Christ’s purpose is not simply to restore Paradise but to bring us into a reality greater than anything we’ve seen. 

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Self-pity is, for me, like a low-level virus, a background throb, a sapping sickness.  It heavies my bones and fizzies my blood.

But the other day I gained instant relief.  I was reading Psalm 103 in the King James version.  Verse 13 says:

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him.

Could this be true?  Does the LORD Himself pity me?  Yes.  With fatherly affection and concern.  I provoke the heart-felt pity of the living God.

You might think this would confirm my dreadful indulgence.  After all, heaven seems to agree with my self-obsession.  Actually no.  He pities the fool who pities himself.  In spite of my wallowing, the LORD’s pity is a great ‘nonetheless.’

A father whose child cries only for attention may still choose to pick up the boy, spin him round and kiss him.  He is not caving into the child’s manipulation.  Instead He is loving from his own free grace.  And the boy is weaned from self by the love of another.

In the same way our Father in heaven reaches down in His Son to self-pitying wretches.  And He lifts us up, not to confirm our self-centredness but to replace it.  Now that heaven pities me, I simply have no need.  What could my own self-preoccupation add to the divine pre-occupation of the LORD, who sets His affections on me?

And so this verse brought a tremendous release.  Just as the LORD’s love frees us from self-love, His service frees us from self-service, so His pity frees us from self-pity.

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This is part of the Preface to The King’s English.  Here I explain the point of daily ‘Bible time.’

To live by faith means looking to Jesus for all our hope, joy and peace. In doing so we recognise that we have no spiritual resources within ourselves.  Instead we must constantly seek the gracious gift of Christ, given to us by the Spirit. The Christian life is a constant dependence on the Word from beyond. Every day I must hear of His grace and trust Him afresh. Why? Because every day I forget His good news and live in the flesh.

The Scriptures are where we meet the risen Christ.  We read the Bible, not as a spiritual offering but as a desperate receiving.  We open the Bible not to impress God, but that He might impress us again with His gospel.  We approach our daily devotions as beggars asking our gracious Father to please feed us again with the Bread of life.

In the history of the church there has been no better description of the Bible than: ‘The Spirit’s testimony to the Son.’  It is not a road map or an instruction manual for life.  It is a biography of Jesus: commissioned by the Father, authored by the Spirit and addressed to the church.

With this in mind, I’ve not written a daily pep-talk to inspire you to greater deeds. I have no idea what you face day to day. Most of the time, neither do you.  What I do know is this, whatever you face, you need Jesus. My prayer is that you will meet Him as you read the Scriptures.

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Recently a man came to the prayer centre where I work in great turmoil.  He said “I invited Jesus into my heart 10 years ago and I think I meant it and I think I felt His presence.  But I don’t feel His presence any more.  I think I’ve finally quenched the Spirit through my sins and now He’s left me.”

The guy seemed to know his bible very well.  So I said “Can you think of a single verse that ever talks about ‘inviting Jesus into your heart’?”

He thought and said “No, I suppose it’s not in the bible.”  I said, “But you know what is in the bible…?”  We spoke of the High Priest’s clothing in Exodus 28 and 29.

“Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel in the order of their birth–six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other.  Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD….”Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD.   (Exodus 28:9-29)

“Here’s the bottom line” I said “Christ, your High Priest has you on His heart.  My feelings go up and down.  Christ stays up – all the time.  And you’ll only feel Him in your heart (sporadically) when you know you’re on His heart, forever.”

The centre of the Christian life is not your personal relationship with God.  The centre of the Christian life is Christ’s personal relationship with God.  But the good news is – Christ includes you in His communion.

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No PDAs

How do you respond to PDAs?

Cringe?

Tut-tut?

Feel superior?

What about PDAs for Jesus?

What if someone expresses costly, counter-cultural public affection for Jesus in your workplace, in your family, on the streets or even in church. Do you cringe?

alabasterIn Mark 14:1-11 we see a woman break open a jar of perfume worth tens of thousands of pounds. And she expends it all in a public display of affection for Jesus.

Jesus likes it.  He thinks, v6, it’s a beautiful thing. Verse 8 He says ‘she has anointed my body for burial’.  No-one would get the chance to do this after His death.  Jesus was an early riser you see.  So here the woman takes her opportunity in fulfilment of Song of Songs 1:12:

“While the King was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance.”

She plays the part of the beloved and the King thinks it’s beautiful.

Judas does not think it’s beautiful.  We know from the other gospels that he was the one leading the protest from v4: He thinks it’s a waste.  It could have been sold and given to the poor.

But of course Judas wasn’t going to sell the perfume and give money to the poor. He was going to sell Jesus and get money for himself.

But it’s a shocking contrast.  One follower of Jesus is moved to heart-felt, all-out devotion, centred on His death. Another follower of Jesus is repulsed by such devotion.  And this event is a significant tipping point for Judas to betray Jesus.

Prior to the moment of betrayal, Judas’s hard heart is never more exposed than here.  He kept up such a good pretence the rest of the time.  But here – in the presence of vulnerable abandonment and adoration – the true state of his heart is exposed.  Nothing threatens the impostor more than genuine love for Jesus.  He sees the woman’s devotion and he thinks the focus is all wrong.

‘Stop focussing on Jesus.  Go out and do stuff in Jesus’ name.  Go and be Jesus to the poor.’  That was Judas’s attitude.  Actual love for Jesus made him extremely uncomfortable.

So then, next time you’re tempted to disdain certain Christian music as ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ worship…

Next time you criticize some street-preacher’s unenlightened methods…

Next time you feel superior to some simple saint’s devotional sweetness while crediting yourself with getting out and doing the work…

Maybe, just maybe, that’s the spirit of Judas.

You must know that a Christian is nothing if they are not a lover of Jesus.

If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him.  (1 Corinthians 16:22)

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In Jesus’ name [repost]

Jesus prayingWhat does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?

Here’s Jesus Himself using the phrase ‘in my name’:

Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am He’ and will lead many astray.  (Mark 13:6)

This is a very strong understanding of ‘in my name’.  Here to act “in Jesus’ name” is to act as Jesus and to appear to others as Jesus.

Well now – Jesus Himself asks you to pray to the Father ‘in His name’ (John 14:13,14; 15:16; 16:23).  So when you come to the Father, come as Jesus.  Come as son, come as christ (anointed one).  Call on God Most High with Jesus’ own cry – ‘Abba, Father’ (Mark 14:36 <=> Gal 4:6).  By the Spirit, you are so identified with the Son in prayer that you pray as Jesus.  And the Father hears you as His very own Beloved.

Jesus does not point the way to prayer, nor simply blaze a trail and ask you to follow along.  He incorporates you into Himself in His own self-offering to the Father.  As you pray you are not outside the Trinity.  But neither are you a fourth member of the Trinity.  You are in Christ, filled with the  Spirit of adoption, calling on your Abba, Father.

That’s prayer “in Jesus’ name.”  But of course we do all of life – whether in word or deed – “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).  We don’t only approach the Father “clothed in Christ”, we approach the world “clothed in Christ.”  That’s our true identity.  More true than any phony masks we wear.

I say this stuff with glib assurance but as I write I realise I have no idea of the magnitude of Christ’s mediation both to God but also the world!

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