1. Darkness is temporary
2. Darkness is directional
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 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
I’m deep into the Epistle to the Hebrews at the moment. My preparation for the New Year teaching series is complete. But I want to make sure the book is feeding my soul. Not just my mind. Here’s a thought that came to me this week.
God’s Word exists to feed all of who we are. The mind, the heart, the emotions – all of us. He speaks to us. But how?
In the days before Jesus, it was “through the prophets at many times and in various ways,” Heb 1:1.
Check out some of the ways God spoke in the past:
- Moses: burning bush (Exod 3:2ff.)
- Elijah: a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12ff.)
- Isaiah: a vision in the temple (Isa 6:1ff.)
- Hosea: his family circumstances (Hos 1:2)
- Amos: in a basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:1)
And that’s not to mention a donkey, a false prophet, a flood, thunder and storms.
Now, “he has spoken to us by his Son” Heb 1:2. Why His Son? Because a son is better than a messenger.
God speaks to us today in the entirety of the New Testament. But what I’d like to focus on is how God speaks to us in the person of His Son as revealed in the Gospels. And how this helps our Bible Study and our Prayer. To do this, we’ll take the example of Jesus in Luke 7.36-50. Here is the passage in full:
“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Here’s how to make sure a passage about Jesus speaks to you. Really speaks to you. Not just enter your consciousness, but has the potential to change you. To do this we’re going to ask three questions about Jesus and the people around him.
- What do I understand about who Jesus is?
- A question about his identity
- What is revealed about his deity?
- What is revealed about his humanity?
- In this passage the words, ‘prophet’, ‘teacher’ and phrases like, “your sins are forgiven” point to something important
- What do I feel about what Jesus said and did?
- Put yourself in the shoes of the other characters in the story
- In this passage, what did Simon feel? How about the ‘sinful’ woman? The other guests?
- What do I see that’s relevant for me today?
- Is there an attitude to avoid, or adopt?
- Is there an action to copy or cut out?
- In this passage: avoid self-righteousness; adopt unconditional love; speak kindly to those burdened with guilt; be grateful for what Jesus has done for us; etc.
Putting it Together
Now you’ve done your study, summarise it and make it into a prayer.
It could look something like this, “Father, ……I understand better than before that Jesus was/is…..(prophet, teacher, able to forgive sin etc.); Like others, I feel….. (grateful, sometimes confused, loved etc.); Please help me to be less like Simon in……(self-righteousness etc.), and more like the woman who was……(grateful, loving etc.); Today, I can see ways to think and act more like Jesus by………; Please give me the strength I need………..Amen”
God speaks to us more fully through His Son. Jesus improves our understanding, our hearts, our emotions and our actions. He is the full package. Are you making the most of him? Why not try these tips and see if they help your prayer life?
How do you hear God speaking to you today? What have I missed in this short article?
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 quality quiet times.
God bless, Malcolm
Here’s a quiet time idea for today
The “iPhone Effect”
Pause the Phone
When you want to avoid distraction
- Put the phone in Airplane Mode – vibrations can be enough to cause distraction
- Put the phone in another room – i.e. out of sight
- Leave the phone behind – if you go out for a prayer walk or into the garden
When you want to use it to help your prayer time
Jesus meets us where we are
Careful with the comparisons
Power up the personal
- Try new things: Follow rabbit trails that interest you. Bible verses, characters, themes, book ideas. Try lighting a candle, going for a walk, experimenting with set prayers.
- Learn from others: Pray with people (see Luke 11.1), listen to podcasts (including this one!)
- Bring your whole self to God in your prayers: Read David’s Psalms (Psalm 18.1; 22.1). He was one never shy of being himself with the LORD. God seemed to appreciate it (1 Samual 13.14).