Christianity 201

September 18, 2015

Standing on Tiptoes

Today’s thoughts are from Michael Thompson at the blog Kindling Word. The piece today starts with a description of his one-year-old daughter walking filled with wonder and out-of-breath excitement. I encourage you to click the link below to read the devotional from the beginning. What follows is the teaching section.

Running on Tiptoe!

…I have lived long enough to make my share of terrible mistakes. I have been around the block enough times to run into a myriad of cul de sacs. I have chased far too many rabbits down far too many trails only to wind up in far too many brier patches.

Life has many ways of draining expectation and neutering hope.

  • Disappointment poisons the dreams of life that are the fountain of hope.
  • Defeats crush the opportunities in life that are the expressions of hope.
  • Dead ends stifle the purpose of life that is the substance of hope.
  • Dullness numbs the vitality of life that is the energy of hope.

All these common experiences of life on the blue planet tend to knock all of us back on our heels. Then we lose the keen edge of life lived in hope.

It is the de-anticipating of life.

The enemy of our souls wants to empty life of the expectation that gives meaning to the mundane and significance to the struggle. He is dead set on the “steal, kill, destroy” triumvirate that sucks the life out of living.

Yet I know this to be true:

…life was never intended to be lived defensively back on your heels.

It was meant to be experienced on tiptoe.

  • Wide awake wonder.
  • Wide ranging gratitude.
  • Wide open expectation.
  • Wide-eyed surprise.

Jesus called it “life more abundant”. John said it is life lived “in perfect love without fear”. Peter describes it as living “with an inexpressible and glorious joy”. Paul simply called it “life that is truly life!”

Life as it should be. Life as it will be. Life as it can be!

I’m not pretending this sort of life is easy. We aren’t tiptoeing through tulips.

Life is hard.

James makes it clear that pursuing Jesus is no picnic. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Pain hurts us. Frustrations hassle us. Boredom haunts us. Disillusionment hamstrings us. Failure humiliates us.

Life as it is seldom gives us a vision of life as it can be.

But life is meant to be alive…rich with discoveries until the day we die!

One of my great joys is being around my two friends, John and Jack, who in their 80’s vibrate with the energy that comes from always wondering, “What’s next!?” After 8 decades of real life, they are still running on tiptoe…just like Isabella!

Maybe that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

I love Habakkuk’s picture of this fleet-footed chasing of our adventurous God, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19)

So in honor of the parable I saw as Isabella bounced across the floor, I want to radically adjust my approach to life.

I want my baby back, baby back, baby back!

That inner child who dreams and dances and wears himself out in the pursuit of wonder, and is always…

…running on tiptoe!

February 28, 2015

“Jesus Rejoiced in the Holy Spirit”

Each time you read the Bible there is something new waiting for you that you’ve not noticed before. If you migrate between translations this happens more frequently, a word or phrase suddenly strikes you and have to simply stop reading and think about it.

While reading Michael Card’s book, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement (IVP), I was struck by  Lk. 10:21. The NCV is one of many translations that uses the phrasing I chose for today’s post title:

21 Then Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the people who are wise and smart. But you have shown them to those who are like little children. Yes, Father, this is what you really wanted.

The NIV uses

 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said…

Although this is not one of the ‘trinitarian’ verses in scripture, the Holy Spirit is mentioned. If like me, the phrasing was unfamiliar to you, perhaps you were raised on the KJV which omits this:

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said…

but the phrase hagios pneuma is there.

The occasion is the return of the 70 (or 72) from their mission trip and report that demons were subject to them. Jesus’ full prayer is:

My Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that is what pleased you.

My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who really knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too.  (CEB)

So while the verse isn’t, you can see that this passage actually is expressing all three persons of the Trinity.

Card points out that this missionary report is much different than when The Twelve were sent on a similar journey:

We are not told if the first mission of The Twelve was successful or not, but the failures that surround them before and after their first mission are not cause for hope.

We also know from Luke 9:49 there was confusion when they (the disciples) went out on their own:

“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” (NIV)

So to return to our key verse, Jesus rejoices in the report of the larger group. Matthew Henry takes particular note of the phrase “in that hour;”

It was fit that particular notice should be taken of that hour, because there were so few such, for he was a man of sorrows. In that hour in which he saw Satan fall, and heard of the good success of his ministers, in that hour he rejoiced. Note, Nothing rejoices the heart of the Lord Jesus so much as the progress of the gospel, and its getting ground of Satan, by the conversion of souls to Christ. Christ’s joy was a solid substantial joy, an inward joy: he rejoiced in spirit; but his joy, like deep waters, made no noise; it was a joy that a stranger did not intermeddle with. Before he applied himself to thank his Father, he stirred up himself to rejoice; for, as thankful praise is the genuine language of holy joy, so holy joy is the root and spring of thankful praise.

Henry’s phrase in the last sentence, “he stirred up himself” is interesting, because he was working from the KJV, which we’ve noted omits the reference to the Holy Spirit. Still, it is interesting to consider Henry’s wording.  I would like to spend more time on this phrasing, however…

What is the application to us? The IVP New Testament Commentary notes:

The theme of rejoicing continues as Jesus turns back to the disciples and blesses them. They should feel happy and honored because they are seeing things that the prophets and kings longed to see (1 Pet 1:10-12). This passage emphasizes that what Jesus is doing is what the saints of the Old Testament had hoped to see. Many great saints of the old era did not get to experience the blessing, but Jesus’ disciples are blessed to be a part of this new era. The statement recalls 7:28: the lowest person in the kingdom is higher than the greatest prophet of the old era.

Sometimes we think how great it would have been to see Moses perform miracles before Pharaoh or watch Elijah defeat the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. Jesus says that the situation is in fact the exact reverse—they long to see what we experience, because to know God and life through Jesus is what they had wished to experience all along. In effect, Jesus says, “Count your blessings, for they are many and have been desired for centuries.”

That ought to make us rejoice in the Holy Spirit.