√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
Cliff notes characters from Mark 2
• A paralyzed man, Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth, the teachers of the law who were Pharisees and John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees who were fasting.
• Focus: Mark 2:25 He [Jesus] answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2 is a rich resource of who, what, where, when and why Jesus brings about the renewal of the worn out, run-down, or broken. All that information was the key to why I distilled my focus to the last four verses of the chapter where Jesus reveals his own Sabbath identity“…The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Jesus is Lord of the seven-day-a-week rhythm we call Sabbath. His Sabbath identity is the encouragement of all the “renewals” I saw in this chapter. Jesus’s Sabbath identity was made for us too. His Sabbath identity is the bridge of encouragement that connects our human need to our renewal.
II Corinthians 4:13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak,
Genesis 11: 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
The II Corinthians passage led me to a deliberate search for what the Bible had to say about the words “spoken” and “speak” and that’s how I arrived at Genesis 11. Genesis 11 is the story of Babel where God chose to confuse their words to deal with their desire for power. God recognized there was such a powerful relationship between desire and words that “nothing they plan to do will be impossible.” The story reads as if it’s only an act of suppression about words. I think it’s more a lesson about the focus of desire.
When our focus as followers of Jesus Christ is our desire to raise our voices and plead with God to reveal his power contained in our words everything changes. In the midst of all the confusing babel around us today we need to let our desire be God’s power. That desire will give new power to our words and reveal the timeless truth of that same phrase “then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Speak up!
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Per·se·ver·ance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
The issue isn’t whether we’ll have trials. They come in all sizes and shapes, and to everyone. One thing all trials have in common, large or small, is they focus our attention on a specific situation. Perseverance becomes a spiritual exercise for us without a known end date or predictable outcome. Perseverance in the midst of the trial is where our faith and expectations begin to rely on the value of just getting through this one day. All we have is the hope we can endure.
Endurance is the byproduct of the spiritual exercise of perseverance. It’s a result of doggedly putting one foot in front of the other every day during the trial and letting “perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Perseverance is the muscle-building exercise of faith that results in endurance.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters”…not for the pain, fears. tears, stress and struggle of the trial but that it reminds you every day of your need to depend on Jesus to get you through. God is building your endurance and insuring your survival on that one fact alone. You just need to show up every day.
My approach to reading the Bible has been the same for a long time now. I read and write about small portions of a chapter, often just a couple of verses. I know God is trying to speak to me and sometimes it’s just easier to narrow my focus in that way so I can hear better. I really had no good explanation of why that method works so well for me until I found this quote attributed to Jean-Pierre de Caussade in the book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life.
“Fix your attention upon what you are reading without thinking about what follows. . . . Pause briefly, from time to time, to let these pleasant truths sink deeper and deeper into your soul, and allow the Holy Spirit time to work. . . . Simply let the truths sink into your heart rather than into your mind.”
I read the Word and other resources because I believe there is the reality of the life of Christ in them. I expect that reality to change my life in Christ too. Up to this point in this post I’d only read from the book Discernment. That quote was good but it felt incomplete without a Scripture reference so I did the digital version of randomly opening the Bible hoping for an unexpected surprise of applicable truth from the Word and up popped this verse of the day from biblegateway.com: Colossians 2:9-10.
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” [NIV]
That truth isn’t particularly mystical because of course the Bible is full of applicable wisdom. Nevertheless it’s interesting to consider that particular truth in that particular moment could be the reality of blessing from the Holy Spirit to remind me that “In Christ” is where I want to be. In Christ I am being brought to fullness of both heart and mind. May it be so!
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
There’s a reassurance in being part of a church body and all the services that body offers. We share a focus, we share some like beliefs, we meet together and sometimes we even share our innermost thoughts. Church is a spot dedicated to “family” intimacy but learning obedience to our faith with that kind of intimacy is hard. It’s not purposely hidden but in my experience it doesn’t happen frequently either.
There are moments in life with God that may be so meaningful and intimate they are closely guarded because they’re soul-bearing revelations. That kind of intimacy strips away all our pretensions of adequacy and sophistication. It’s that intimacy of inadequacy that reveals the real and absolute naked truth of our need for God. God bless and multiply those moments when that kind of intimacy makes it plan for us to see it’s how the “righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”
Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ…22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
17 reality, however, is found in Christ
* 22 things that are all destined to perish with use
23 self-imposed worship…[ 3 versions]
– lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence NIV
– no value against fleshly indulgence NASB
– no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires TLB
Sometimes I begin by reading a passage of Scripture and jotting phrases that catch my attention [see above]. My go-to version is usually the NIV. I frequently re-read the same passage in a few other versions hoping slightly different words will gel into a focus. Then the hard part begins: to trust God really has something in that Word that will nourish faith in my daily life. I try to write a sentence or two based on those phrases. Today that focus seems to be either/or.
Either you learn how to live every day as if “reality, however, is found in Christ” OR all you’re investing yourself in is “self-imposed worship.” Is it possible, even likely, the very best spiritual nourishment we choose, reading the Bible, praying, service, church attendance and even writing a blog about faith, can become self-imposed worship of rules and regulations, not Christ?
We all know the answer to that question is yes. The Scripture is very discreet about how it words *verse 22 so I will be too. “Reality, however, [that’s] found in Christ” requires the same diligence of daily nourishment for our hearts that food does for our bodies. Both kinds of nourishment are subject to the same natural processes. Unless our investment is able to renew the reality of Christ in us and become our true worship that has real “effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires” it’s just the waste of “self-imposed worship.”
“…We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of GOD…”
.Brother Lawrence from The Practice of the Presence of God.
I’m at one of those transition places between what I wanted to know and what I still need to know. I’m looking for that new focus of my daily study. Usually I begin with THE Word and then find my words but all I have today is word ideas prompted by that quote from The Practice of the Presence of God. It feels like I’m beginning backwards but I’ve just spent a few weeks on the assurances that access to “high notions of GOD” are built right into those who dwell with his Spirit inside them. Here I am Lord. I love you, please lead me…to your “Whatever” and the fullness of understanding there’s “Nothing” you will withhold as I continue to ponder the mystery of how to practice these high notions of God…and their wisdom for daily life.
Proverbs 16:20 Whoever listens to what is taught will succeed,
and whoever trusts the Lord will be happy.
21 The wise are known for their understanding.
Their pleasant words make them better teachers.
22 Understanding is like a fountain which gives life to those who use it,
but foolishness brings punishment to fools.
23 Wise people’s minds tell them what to say,
and that helps them be better teachers.
24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
making people happy and healthy. NCV