1. Darkness is temporary
2. Darkness is directional
What has a piece of string got to do with your audience remembering the point of your lesson? We learn from my friend Barry Edwards, and the prophet Ezekiel.
“Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair inside the city. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city. And scatter a third to the wind. For I will pursue them with drawn sword.” Ezekiel 5:1–2 NIV11
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God bless, Malcolm
What is the most disgusting thing you’ve ever tasted? Durian is the one for me.
A few years ago I visited my daughter when she was working in Indonesia. Friends – at least I thought they were my friends up to this point – had what they thought was a good idea. Harliem and Vania said we must try durian. It’s a fruit common in that part of the world. I’m always up for new experiences. When I heard durian was one of Harliem’s favourite foods, as well as that of another mutual friend, John, I felt safe. Harliem stopped the car. We entered a shop. He bought some durian. I popped it into my mouth.
It immediately became clear that this slice must be ‘off’. But no, it was not. How I managed not to spit it out, I will never know. Swallowing was an herculean effort. It’s impossible to adequately describe the taste. Something like rancid socks soaked in fermenting foot-sweat. I thanked Harliem for the ‘experience’, and vowed, “never again”!
But what has all this do with Jesus?
A taste experience
I tasted something horrid, but Jesus tasted something far worse. Death.
“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2.9 NIV11)
To taste something is to come to know it. Jesus found death, tasted it, experienced it and embraced it. We will all taste death, but not in the same way.
A diabolical experience
Death is feared by many, but for Jesus it was far more fearful than for the rest of humanity. In death, the full horrors of the penalties for sin were laid on him. His separation from the Father was beyond his comprehension, and so frightful that he prayed for ‘plan B’ (Matthew 26:39).
Only by going through this experience could he defeat the devil,
“so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—” (Hebrews 2:14–15 NIV11)
…and set us free from the fear of death (Hebrews 2.15)
An avoidable experience
Jesus did not need to die. He was sinless.
“we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV11)
A glorious experience
The glory and suffering of Jesus are linked. It’s a theme in Hebrews (2:18, 5:8, 10:32, 11:26, 11:36, 13:12). We have the same sequence here as in Philippians:
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,” (Philippians 2:8–9 NIV11)
Dying gave Jesus the taste of death. It was diabolical and avoidable, but glorious. I will never taste durian again as long as I live. And Jesus will never taste death again. He lives for ever.Jesus found death, tasted it, experienced it and embraced it. Click To Tweet
What does the fact that Jesus tasted death mean to you? What difference does it make to your relationship with God?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
God bless, Malcolm
PS – Meet some westerners who actually like Durian!
Drifting and Driving
Warning from Hebrews
- “When I try to control everything”
- “When I get frustrated.”
- “When I stop reading my Bible.”
- “When I avoid people.”
Are any of those familiar? Some of my own signs are:
- Not answering the phone when it rings
- Getting inappropriately angry over trivial things
- Reading the Bible but not feeling it’s message in my heart
- Listen to God – Hebrews 3.7, 15. Read the Bible, but don’t stop there. Pause before leaving. Ask yourself the question, “What was relevant to me from this passage today?” The better question might be to ask God directly, “What are you teaching me today, Father?”
- Listen to Friends – Hebrews 3.12-13 (Prov. 27.6; Gal 4.16; Eph 4.15). We need friends who care. They have insight we do not. They see us from a different angle. Listen to your friends, and pray for the strength to accept the truth they offer.
- Listen to You – James 3.14; 4.8. We are responsible for what is in our hearts. A lot of it is good, but not everything. It’s true that just because we have a clear conscience does not mean we are pure of heart (1 Cor 4.4), which is why we need 1 and 2 above. But you have a conscience for a reason. Listen to it. What is it saying? Guard your own heart by being honest with God and other people.
Structure for Spontaneity
Penny and the Park
Consistency and Intimacy
Jesus and Daniel
- Aspiration. Clarify your aspiration. This is not the ‘goal’. Goals change, but aspirations remain. We’ll never achieve full Christ-likeness in this life, thus we aim to grow, not arrive. Examples of aspirations would be to have the compassion of Christ, the courage of Christ, the faith of Christ. Which particular aspiration is right for you, right now, at this point in your life?
- One. Find the one tool that will move you in the right direction. That tool becomes the focus of your goal. It could be the Bible, prayer, friends, books etc. Choose only one. Life has enough complexity already.
- Action. Now we have an aspiration and a tool we need an action. Make it simple. Include a verb, and make it daily if possible. The action is not the point, but it will move you in the right direction.
- Goal. Your goal is to execute your action connected with your tool in pursuit of your aspiration. What is your goal?
Here is my focus for growth this year:
- My Aspiration: To be like Christ in that he found spiritual food, fuel, and faith from God’s Word. Last year saw significant growth in my prayer life. My Bible focus was OK, but only OK. Not where I think it could be, nor where I want it to be.
- My One Tool: The Bible!
- My Action: To spend the first 30 minutes of my day in Bible study before anything else (other than ablutions, a cup of tea and a five-minute gratitude journal).
- My Goal: To do this every day for 90 days from January first (four days ticked off so far as of 4 Jan 2018).
- To feel close to God and provide me with prayer fuel
- To feel spiritually fed and focussed at the start of the day
- To have integrity as I teach other people
- A daily reminder in OmniFocus
- A tick-list in my Full Focus Planner
- A reminder in the Coach.me app.
Quick Quiet Time Thought: Hebrews 2:12
Here’s a short reflection on Hebrews 2:12 from my Bible study this morning.
The writer quotes Psalm 22: “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
This Psalm was seen as Messianic by the early church. Jesus quotes it on the cross, Mark 15:34. The point of the quote in Hebrews is to demonstrate that Jesus praises God to his family. The astonishing fact that we are his brothers and sisters is reinforced by quoting the Psalm. However another point struck me.
Jesus delights to sing God’s praises among the faithful. “Sing” translates humneso, from which we get ‘hymn’. Jesus ‘hymns’ God’s praises to and among his spiritual family. The Hebrew original of Psalm 22.22 is that he ‘ahalls’ God. Halal, when attached to yhwh gives us the word hallelujah.
If Jesus hymns God and hallelujahs him, we’re in good company when we sing God’s praises among our brothers and sisters. We’re singing with Jesus. What a thought!
Do you have a comment on this verse or my reflections? Leave a comment below.
I hope you have a wonderful quiet time today.
God bless, Malcolm
Quick Quiet Time Snippet: Hebrews 2:11
I took a look at Hebrews 2:11 this morning. A profound and inspiring verse. Here it is:
“Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 2:11 NIV11)
I thought I’d try an expanded explanation to help me grasp its significance. Here’s what I came up with. Not elegant, but comprehensive:
What do you think? Have you tried re-writing a verse of the Bible like this? I find it helps me when I then go to pray about it afterwards.
Let me know what you think. Leave a comment in the box below.
God bless, Malcolm