Friday, October 24, 2014

On Biblical Mysticism and Quiet Times

Tim Keller has a new book on prayer coming out soon, and I can't wait to read it. The quote below is from an interview by Matt Smethurst with Keller about the book and the topic of prayer.
You argue for a “radically biblical mysticism” a la John Owen and Jonathan Edwards—or what John Murray called an “intelligent mysticism.” How should we view the intersection between theology and experience when we’re on our knees?
Biblical meditation means, first, to think out your theology. (That means having it clearly in your mind. Know what you believe.) Second, it means to work in your theology. (That means self-communion, talking to yourself. For example, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” It is asking yourself, “How would I be different if I took this theological truth seriously? How would it change my attitudes and actions if I really believed this from the bottom of my heart?”) Third, it means topray up your theology. (That means turning your theology into prayer, letting it trigger adoration, confession, and supplication.) Do those things, and your theology will intersect with your experience. 
In what ways is our evangelical concept of a “quiet time” lacking? 
Most conceptions of the evangelical “quiet time,” at least as I was instructed in them, tended to focus mostly on inductive Bible study. So it was more information-driven and less oriented toward communion with God. However, in reaction, we see lots of people talking about lectio divina—which can be defined in a lot of ways.
But I’ve often heard it described as reading the Bible not for theological truth, but in order to “hear a personal word from God.” The trouble is that you hear what God is saying to you in any particular place by discerning the text’s theological meaning. You can’t be sure that anything that happens to hit you that day is God speaking to you in the Bible. Yet if you spend all your devotional time using commentaries and other texts to figure out a passage, it takes up all the time and energy, and your prayer time is often perfunctory.
I’ve concluded that most people should set aside regular time in which we are studying the Bible, seeking to understand its meaning. Then, out of this study, we should choose passages to meditate on during our times of prayer. Martin Luther and John Owen believed (rightly) that before prayer it was important to meditate on biblical truths until our affections and hearts were as deeply engaged as possible. I find that their instructions on communion with God fit in with neither the typical evangelical “quiet time” nor the new emphasis on lectio divina
The entire interview is well worth a read.

Don't Cheapen the Treasure

"The deal is all of Christ for all of your nothing. Don't cheapen the treasure with your currency. Come and buy the unsearchable riches of grace with your poverty of spirit. That is all he will accept."

From The Story-Telling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, by Jared Wilson (Kindle version, location 585)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

True and Better

Tim Keller says "Jesus is the true and better...."


Ideas For Improvement

Want to improve in your Bible reading practices? Here's some great and helpful ideas  - 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading The Bible by Bronwyn Lea
Very few of us have the inclination or interest in diving into three years of seminary education in order to get a better handle on the Scriptures. However, every believer should long to get a better grip on the Bible. The good news is that it does not require a graduate education to do so.
At seminary, I learned Greek, Hebrew and all manner of intimidating subjects ending in –etics, but some of the things that have stayed with me most clearly were not things from textbooks, but off-the-cuff comments from teachers who had walked with God far longer than I had. They were post-it sized truths, easily understandable and readily applicable. Years after graduating, these are the things I still remember.
1. Read ‘King’ When You See ‘Christ.’
Christ, or Messiah, means “anointed one,” and priests and kings were anointed. Substituting "King Jesus" for "Christ Jesus" when reading draws attention to the fact that Christ was not Jesus' last name, but in fact His title: one of great honor and esteem. Making that one switch alone breathes new life into reading the New Testament.
2. Read ‘You’ Differently.
Almost all the "you" words in the New Testament are plural you's rather than singular you's. The Southern "y'all" expresses it beautifully: the epistles are written to believers corporately, not believers alone. This does not diminish personal responsibility at all, though. If anything, it heightens it: we pray together, believe together, suffer together, raise the armor of God together. All y'all.
3. If You See a ‘Therefore,’ Find Out What It’s There For.
Therefore, take note in bibles where paragraphs are divided up with headings inserted by editors. If the paragraph begins with "therefore,” you might have to pick up a bit earlier to understand the context.
4. Realize That Not All ‘If’ Statements Are The Same.
This was a watershed one for me: not all "ifs" are the same. Conditional “ifs” are not the same as causal “ifs.” Some IF statements are always tied to the THEN one (if you stand in the rain, then you will get wet). Others have more risk involved: the IF statement is necessary, but not sufficient, to bring about the THEN one (if you study for an exam, then you will pass).
This makes the world of difference in studying Romans 8: "If you are led by the spirit of God, you are children of God." I had always read that and been afraid I wasn't spirit-led enough to be considered God's child. It was a glory-hallelujah moment to realize this was the first type of if: "If you are led by the Spirit of God (and you ARE!), then you are also always and forever His child.” What a difference!
5. Recognize That Lamenting is OK.
Yes, there is joy and peace and hope in Christ. But true believers still mourn and lament. There is space in the life of faith for complaining, tears, grit and depression. Just look at the Psalms.
6. Realize That Prophecy is More Often FORTH-Telling Than FORE-Telling.
So often, our focus in approaching prophecy is to ask “what did they say about the future?” However, often the prophets weren’t talking about the future (foretelling), they were explaining and interpreting Israel’s history and current predicaments in light of their covenantal behavior (forth-telling), and had little to do with the future. Israel may have painfully aware that they had just suffered military defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, but it took the prophet’s words to explain from God’s perspective why this had happened and what lessons they were to learn from their experience. Poor old Jeremiah.
7. Become Familiar with the Idioms of Your King.
Jesus' words were so often hard to understand: cryptic, in parables, couched in Hebrew idiom. He spoke of eyes being lamps and people being salt: language often so far removed from my understanding it was temping to skip over the gospels to the much more familiar epistles.
However, if we have called Jesus "King" and “Lord,” we dare not skip over His words just because they are hard. Commentaries and a little Internet research on the gospels go a long way towards filling in some of the cultural and linguistic blanks. As his followers and servants, it is our responsibility to keep on seeking understanding.
8. Remember What You Learned in English Class.
The Bible is not an instruction manual. It's not a "how-to" book for life. It is a collection of 66 books of literature, and to interpret it correctly, you need to remember what you learned in English class about interpreting different genres of literature.
Biblical truth is found in poetry, but we must read it as poetry. It is found in narrative, but we must read those as stories. It is found in proverbs, and we must treat those as such. Just a quick moment to think “what book am I reading from? And what type of literature is this?” can make a world of difference. Truth be told, the Bible is not an easy read, but it is absolutely worth the effort.
9. Read to Study. But Also, Read to Refresh Your Heart.
Amid the hours of serious Bible study, I treasured this advice. Sometimes, we read to study and understand and wrestle with the truth. But sometimes, we read to make our hearts happy. “Delight yourself in the Lord,” for “your words are sweeter to me than honey.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Covers Everything

"When we 'get saved,' we aren't just receiving the redemptive thing God is doing in our lives,; we are also embracing the redemptive thing God is doing in the world. Having the eyes to see salvation this way helps us to see worldly treasures as pitiful. It is the kingdom of heaven that is a treasure worth selling everything to own, because the kingdom of heaven covers everything and is our everything."

From The Story-Telling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, by Jared Wilson (Kindle version, location 541)

Basis For Identity

Paul Tripp on Who You Really Are - Great stuff!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making It Up




HT: The Poached Egg

Devotion Struggles

Struggle with personal devotions? Here's some ideas from Tim Challies that may help.
One of my lifelong struggles has been finding freedom in the most basic part of the Christian life—personal devotions. It’s not that I don’t do them, of course, but that they rarely seem to come easily and naturally. I want to wake up longing to read the Bible and eager to pray. I want to get up in the mornings thinking, “I just can’t wait to hear from God and speak to God.” But so often I find myself reading and praying out of simple obedience. That duty is too seldom joined by delight.
It isn’t always that way. There are times—times I love—where there is tremendous joy and freedom. For weeks now I have been in one of those periods, and it has been a joy and a delight to spend time in the Word and to pray. And in this time I’ve been drawn to parts of Scripture that rejoice in Scripture. I was recently transfixed by Psalm 19 and David’s sheer joy at this great gift of God. After listing so many of the benefits of God’s Word he says,

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
David tells us that God’s Word is precious. David is king over his nation and has access to all of its wealth, yet he looks at it all and sees that it is nothing compared to the surpassing worth of God’s Word. Where other men’s desire is to enrich themselves with gold, David’s desire is to enrich himself with the wisdom of God through the Scriptures.
David tells us that God’s Word is pleasurable. I don’t think there is any natural substance more delicious than honey (though perhaps maple syrup could be a close contender), and yet David can proclaim that God’s Word is sweeter even than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. As honey brightens the eyes, God’s Word brightens the soul.
David tells us that God’s Word is protective. He knows that the wisdom of God revealed through his Word will warn him and protect him away from sin and its consequences. David can look at his life and see those times he did not heed the warnings and receive God’s protection, and now he knows: God protects us through his Word.
David tells us that God’s Word is profitable. The Word of God does not only warn, but it also profits. Those who heed God’s wisdom and obey his law receive all the benefits that come from walking with God. They receive the greatest reward of all: they are with God and in God today and every day.
God’s Word is precious, pleasurable, protective, and profitable. What a gift it is!