Mar 31

A Priest Who Prays

by Leave a comment

“Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great

...

“Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great High Priest who intercedes for us. Having been reconciled with us through his death, Jesus is now laboring for our healing through his prayer: “Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34 nrsv).

What does this mean for you and for me? It means that not only do we stand forever forgiven, but Jesus is also forever praying for us. And what is he praying for? He is praying that you and I would be completely new people, people in whom he can make his home.

When Paul asks the Colossians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” he is urging them to reflect on the wonder of Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and the splendor of Jesus, the High Priest who now prays for us. This is how God is “making all things new.”

The glorious Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit) is on a mission to transform every one of us. That does not happen by anything we do of ourselves. Jesus did it all. And Jesus does it all—by continuing to pray for each of us. But we do participate in this transformation. We set our minds on these truths: we are forgiven, and Jesus is praying for us. And when Jesus prays, things happen. He will not stop until he has made us all new people.

Soul Training – Changing Narratives:

Make a small notecard today with the following 2 phrases; “I am forgiven” and “Jesus is praying for me”. Place the card in a place that you will see it over the next week. (Examples: Next to Computer Monitor, Refrigerator Door, Bathroom Mirror, Phone Screen Background or Coffee Table)


 

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Posted in Apprenticeship, Kingdom of God, Narrative | Tags: / / / / / / / /

More Less
Jan 16

God as Abba

by Leave a comment

What does Jesus’ use of the word Abba tell us about his relationship with God the Father? Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father

...

What does Jesus’ use of the word Abba tell us about his relationship with God the Father?

Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Luke 10:22). Jesus revealed an enormous amount of information about his heavenly Father through a single word: Abba.

God as Abba. In the garden of Gethsemane, during his final hours before the crucifixion, Jesus addressed God using a unique title: Abba. This is key because Jesus’ use of this title reveals something important about the nature of the God he knew. Abba is best translated “Dear Father.” It is a term of intimacy, but it also contains a sense of obedience. The fact that Jesus addressed God with the word Abba tells us that, to him, God was not distant or far removed, but was intimately involved in his life. It does not in itself tell us that God is good (neither dear nor father necessarily means good), but as New Testament scholar C. F. D. Moule notes, “The intimate word conveys not a casual sort of familiarity but the deepest, most trustful reverence.”

Jesus uses this title in his address to God while facing the most difficult hour of his life. He prays, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36). Jesus is facing torture and death. In the Gospel of Luke we are told that he was in so much anguish his sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Yet he prays, “not what I want, but what you want.” How can he speak to God in this way at such a difficult moment? The only answer I can see is that he trusts his Father.”

God is a good and loving Father, Jesus is telling us, and he is so good that we can obey him no matter what.  But some people may ask, why did Jesus doubt at all?  He was God, after all!  True, he was God, but he was also fully human.  Incarnation (becoming human) implies limitation.  Because he was full human, Jesus experienced everything we do, which includes fear and doubt.  But notice:  even in the midst of doubt, in the moment of his deepest suffering, Jesus trusted in his heavenly Father.

Does the idea of God as Abba change the way you think of God?   

 

Taken from The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Posted in Blog | Tags: / / / / /

More Less
Oct 27

Bearing the Weight of Today’s News Feed

by Leave a comment

smashed cars--unsplash

I’m coming out of the closet. No, not like that. I mean about television. I think it’s overrated. Seriously. I know I fall in the minority on this one, but it’s time I just let people know how I really feel.  People ask me all

...
smashed cars--unsplash

I’m coming out of the closet.

No, not like that.

I mean about television.

I think it’s overrated.

Seriously.

I know I fall in the minority on this one, but it’s time I just let people know how I really feel.  People ask me all the time, “Do you watch insert hit TV show here?”  It seems like I always answer no.  Sometimes I haven’t even heard of the show.

I think the biggest reason why I don’t watch television is because there’s nothing good on.  Sitcoms are less and less funny with their toilet humor and canned laughter.  All of the crime dramas have the same plot.  Heck, one of the shows has a similar storyline with the only difference being the cast and the locations: Miami, New York, and Los Angeles.  Where’s the originality?  More importantly, where are the core values?  Nothing is safe or sacred on television anymore.  And then there’s the nightly news.

More than ever, it seems that the events of our world are spiraling out of control.  Through every form of media, there is a new story surfacing about the brokenness in our world.  Religious persecution in the Middle East, racial tension in Ferguson, MO, domestic violence in professional football, missing airliners in the South Pacific, the Ebola outbreak in Africa and hostility between Russia and the Ukraine.  I could go on and on.  And don’t get me started about the openly gay football player, Michael Sam.  Or about the recent string of sudden celebrity deaths, such as Robin Williams and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Closely following the events of our day causes me to experience anxiety and sadness.  I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way either.  While reflecting on this pain, I realized something insightful: Today’s news feed is more than our souls can bear.  This incredible weight is tossed on our collective laps and I think we are having a hard time reconciling the important issues.

Why is it so overwhelming?  Shouldn’t well-grounded apprentices of Jesus know how to deal with the array of emotions that come with tragic events?  In an article about the psychological effects of television, a psychology professor at the University of Sussex (UK), Dr. Graham Davey states, “News bulletins also have to compete with entertainment programs for their audience and for their prime-time TV slot, and seem to do this by emphasizing emotionally relevant material such as crime, war, famine, etc. at the expense of more positive material.”1

men reading newspaper--usplash

No wonder people experience such a wide array of emotions while watching the news.  The media is intentional about sensationalizing the day’s events in order to out-do their primetime competition.  Dr. Davey says something profound about how this personally affects humans, “If the TV program generates negative mood experiences (e.g. anxiety, sadness, anger, disgust), then these experiences will affect how you interpret events in your own life, what types of memories you recall, and how much you will worry about events in your own life.2

If we find ourselves in distress and are not in a position to influence the manner in which the media reports current events, how can we lean on our Christian formation to help us experience peace in our minds and hearts?  Gary Rollins, a Christian clinical psychologist, shares some terrific advice.

He says, “According to the Bible, there is nothing wrong with realistically acknowledging and trying to deal with the identifiable problems of life.  To ignore danger is foolish and wrong.  But it is also wrong, as well as unhealthy, to be immobilized by excessive worry.  Such worry must be committed to prayer to God, who can release us from paralyzing fear or anxiety, and free us to deal realistically with the needs and welfare both of others and of ourselves” (66).3

Collins is telling us to address our anxieties by surrendering them to God.  This is much harder than it sounds, but this practice is no less true.  I believe Collins’ advice is connected to the passage in Philippians in which Paul instructs us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

When you are feeling the weight of today’s news feed on your soul, here are three practices to help reduce anxiety.

  • Prayer: A reminder that you cannot live from your own resources. Set aside to take your concerns to God who cares for you. Not sure what to pray for? Remember, the Spirit prays in you, and sometimes silent listening prayer is needed most.
  • Sleep: Studies have shown that a good night’s rest (8-9 hours) reduces anxiety and depression.  Intentionally guard your bedtime so you can wake up feeling more equipped to handle the pressures of the day.
  • Share: Talking about your anxieties with someone close to you (i.e., relative, friend, pastor, or counselor) can help you release the burdens that are weighing you down.

What are some other practices that have helped your souls cope with today’s news feed?

 

 

1 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201206/the-psychological-effects-tv-news

2 Ibid.

3 Collins, Gary. Christian Counseling.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

 

Posted in Blog, Spiritural Growth | Tags: / / / / / / /

More Less
Oct 08

Of God and the Crowd: Who’s Winning In Your Life?

by Leave a comment

crowd gathers for updates to 1920 world series

Ever read something you just can’t shake? An idea that lingers for days or weeks? That’s how Alan Fadling’s chapter “Unhurried Enough To Pray” has been for me this week (from An Unhurried Life). The jumping off text is Mark 1. Jesus has just been baptized and

...
crowd gathers for updates to 1920 world series

Ever read something you just can’t shake?

An idea that lingers for days or weeks?

That’s how Alan Fadling’s chapter “Unhurried Enough To Pray” has been for me this week (from An Unhurried Life).

The jumping off text is Mark 1. Jesus has just been baptized and called the disciples, then he goes on a marathon journey of healing and driving out evil spirits. He even heals Simon’s mother-in-law, and continues healing into the evening. According to Mark, “The whole city was gathered around the door” (1:33).

Jesus is doing some impressive work, but it’s a lot of work.

And, he’s fully human, right? So he had to be pretty exhausted, but regardless of how little sleep he got that night, Fadling notes verse 35: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”

He didn’t hit the snooze button. Didn’t phone it in. But he also didn’t rush out to the crowds (not that there would be much of a crowd at that hour).

He went out to pray. While it was dark. After a day of doing.

Accorded to the NRSV, Jesus hid so well that the disciples went out and hunted for him.” “Everyone is searching for you.”

C’mon Jesus. People want to see you!

And Jesus goes. He doesn’t shoo them away and ask for a few more minutes. But here’s where Fadling’s insight just bowled me over. He didn’t sleep in and go straight to the crowds. He went out to pray, to spend time with the Father.

I’ve heard about Jesus’ time alone in prayer countless, but for some reason this week it really stuck.

When I think about being transformed into the image of Christ, I think mostly about doing the things Jesus did (mostly service at church or in the community kind of things).

But what if one of Jesus’ most important doings was more about being?solitude

Fadling writes: “What if following him [Jesus] is about more than just doing the kinds of things he did in ministry…? What if following Jesus is also about living life in relationship with the Father just as Jesus himself did? When I think about how Jesus often got away to quiet places to enjoy the presence of his Father, I’m drawn to follow Jesus there, too.” (93.2)

But so much of the time that just seems like a waste of time. Going away, being present to God.

No one sees that, no one takes notice. No church newsletter has a feature about Phyllis who spent time in solitude this month. They feature the canned food drive, the mission trip, opportunities to lead a small group. All good things.

The crowd-pleasing disciples were in the same boat, “But Jesus seemed more interested in rising early to focus on the Father and on his work. This passion got Jesus up early. The disciples, on the other hand, were more moved by the expectations of the crowd. For them, the crying needs of the crowd seemed to drown out the Father’s quiet invitation.” (94.4-95)

The crowds are loud, the crowds are big, there’s a time and place to go to the crowds, even Jesus knew that, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” (1:38).

But making space for God is crucial, too.

And though God is present just like the crowds, God won’t shout at you or demand. The voice will continue to call, waiting for a response, for you to rise early (or stay up late you night owls) and come away, just to be.


What in your life has drowned out God’s quiet invitation? The good work you do to serve the needs of the crowds? An overly full schedule? Just slipped your mind?

Posted in Blog, Soul Training | Tags: / / / / / / / / / /

More Less
Sep 08

Habit, Discipline, and Looking For Relationship in the Right Place

by Leave a comment

We’re all creatures of habit. But, we all know how difficult it can be to be disciplined, whether it’s a diet, budgeting, or anything else that presents itself as a challenge. Some habits are more easily formed than others. I, like millions of others, log on to

...

We’re all creatures of habit.

But, we all know how difficult it can be to be disciplined, whether it’s a diet, budgeting, or anything else that presents itself as a challenge.

Some habits are more easily formed than others.

I, like millions of others, log on to Facebook every day.  Personally, I’m not very serious with it.  I post goofy stuff, mostly Star Wars affiliated pictures.  (So, don’t friend me unless you like pictures of little Lego Stormtroopers on their day off.)  But, many people use Facebook to connect, reconnect, share and reach out.

During this past Lent, however, I gave up Facebook and kept a prayer journal instead.  I learned a great deal from this simple change.

First and foremost, I realized that I had been going to others rather than going to God.

Facebook is such a great outlet for frustrations, fishing for support, and even passing on prayer concerns.  And, again, all of this can be great for parts of our relational selves.

But, I noticed that while I was doing this I was not going to God with any of my concerns and worries. Worse, in some cases, we may treat Facebook much like the internet prayer service Jim Carrey’s character, Bruce, created in Bruce Almighty.  We post our worries and joys there hoping others will read and validate them.  It is not much different from sending an email to a hopefully concerned diety.

But, where is the relationship?

I realized I was not going to God for that relationship, but posting on Facebook.  The prayer journal highlighted this. Prayer journals do not have to have professional looking prayers.  By keeping it like a journal, it is more like a conversation with God.

  • “Why did this happen?”
  • “Why did I lose my temper today?”
  • “Please help my neighbor.”
  • Or, “thank you for all I have.”

German philosopher, Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.”

In the medieval mystical tradition, the simpler  the better.  In The Cloud of Unknowing, the author states, “Short prayer penetrates heaven.”  So, say ‘God’ when we desire good and say ‘help’ when we need help. Much like diets and budgets, the best way to start is the simplest.

**Photo credit: mac_filko--sw11 / CC 2.0

**Photo credit: mac_filko–sw11 / CC 2.0

Please don’t misunderstand me, I went back to Facebook after Lent and there are plenty of pictures of little Lego Stormtroopers.  But, I cannot let that habit overshadow and over take the development of my relationship with God.

The prayer journal helps focus my intentions and attention.  It is a discipline.  And, it is one aspect of a relationship with God.

A more recent book, Never Pray Again, suggests that prayer is over prescribed.  That doesn’t mean we should stop praying. Prayer, in the ‘unceasing’ form Paul wrote of, should be an action of our life, not just a verbal, interior contemplative exercise.

Pray first for God to form His will in you so you can then put that prayer into action in the world around you.

Posted in Blog, Soul Training | Tags: / / / / / / / / / /

More Less
123
Back to top

Sign Up

Nam ut dolor at erat dignissim pellentesque. Aliquam erat volutpat.