Apr 13, 2012

Thoughts on Hebrews: Exaltation & Humiliation

In preparation for our study of Hebrews 12 this summer at Northland Camp, I've been studying the rest of Hebrews to lay a good foundation of understanding before jumping into chapter 12.
This past week I've spent the majority of my time in chapters 1 & 2, & it has been such an encouragement & challenge to me I wanted to take a few minutes to share what the Lord has been showing me through His word.

Chapter one of Hebrews is all about the exaltation of Christ & clearly emphasizes His superiority over everything. Superiority over angels; superiority over Moses; superiority over the Old Testament priests; superiority over the Old Covenant; etc. In Hebrews 1:10-12 the author makes a reference to Psalm 102 in stating: "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, & the the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but You remain; they will wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and Your years will have no end." The author here is emphasizing Christ's absolute authority & exaltation over everything. Compare that with the Psalmist's contrast of man's fragility & the Lord's stability: "My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass, but You, O Lord, are enthroned forever; You are remembered throughout all generations." (Psalm 102:11-12)

What an incredible, & obvious contrast! I have been enjoying a great commentary on Hebrews from the Tyndale New Testament Series (awesome stuff!), & the author, Donald Guthrie, had some great thoughts on these particular verses:

             This passage speaks to the Son's role in creation; the author draws attention to a profound idea about the Son, i.e: His changelessness. The earth & the heavens seem substantial enough, yet they will perish. 
The transitoriness of the apparently changeless material creation serves to heighten the contrast with the Divine stability. There is a majestic ring about the words but thou remainest. This statement focuses attention on the unshakable stability which is further enhanced by the striking picture of God rolling up the heavens & earth, now tattered like a worn-out garment, as if they are of no further use. This magnificent glimpse by the Psalmist into the winding up of the present age is intended to lead to the climax; but You are the same. 
In face of the disintegration everywhere else, the unchangeable character of the Son stands out in unmistakable contrast (Guthrie pp. 77-78).

The author continues to drive the idea of Christ's obvious superiority, glory & absolute sovereignty over all of creation in vs. 13: "And to which of the angels has [God] ever said, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a foot stool for your feet'"?

The idea of the Son's enthronement is now repeated to bring out the most obvious contrast between Jesus Christ & the highest order of created beings. At no time are angels ever conceived of as sitting, & therefore the enthronement of Jesus at once established His superiority. Not only is His sovereignty stressed, but also His absolute power over His enemies. That this idea is prominent in the writer's mind is clear from his repeating the statement in chapter 10:12-13. In both chapters 1 & 10, the enthronement & victory are linked with Jesus Christ's atonement for sins (Guthrie pp. 78-79). 

This obvious picture of Christ's power, authority, & absolute sovereignty makes the humiliation of His crucifixion even more striking. We just celebrated Easter last weekend, & I took time on Saturday to read through the gospel of John & then watch the movie the Passion of the Christ. I am very visual, so it was very intense & emotional for me to see a representation of just how much suffering & humiliation Christ went through to redeem humanity. Then to read the opening of Hebrews again early in the week just underlined the sacrifice He made in coming to earth as a man. From power over all, to the image given to us in the Passion of the Christ; Jesus beaten to the point of death, no strength left, unrecognizable, crawling towards His cross to make atonement for humanity's sin....crazy, determined love. It was a great reminder to me of just how incredible the gospel is. I would encourage you to take some time this week & really focus on the contrast of the glory that Christ had in heaven to what He chose to embrace for the sake of redeeming us. 

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:2-5 ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

Christ: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." (John 10:17-18a)

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Apr 6, 2012

Update on Life

Um...instead of trying to make excuses for why I have been MIA for over 3 months, I'll just leave it at this: I have been insanely busy; God is good, & things have been going well =) The Lord has been teaching me SO much this semester, & I am really excited to see what He has in store these remaining 5 weeks of the semester.

A couple of weeks ago I was able to come home for spring break. It was a much needed break & a wonderful time with family & friends.

Sara spent Friday night at my house & we had a great talk about what the Lord is doing in our lives this year; it has been so amazing to see how God is working! We usually meet before class on Thursday mornings to talk through our devotions for the week, but it was super nice to have an extended time just to talk & pray. And Heather (in the middle) is our former roomie & dating a guy from my church, so she was in Chetek as well. We all got together for brunch & coffee on Saturday morning. Super fun time =) So thankful for both of these girls!

Later on Saturday, my mom & I went to my grandpa's 80th birthday party. It has been really great to get to spend time with my grandparents recently as in the past I was unable to see them very often. We had a great time, & in honor of St. Patrick's day we also got to enjoy some interesting green foods...Haha! 

Thursday, I got to go down to the Dells to see my sister & her family. Bri was already all worn out by that afternoon!

 That evening we went to Ginza of Tokyo, a Japanese grill & got to have dinner at the Hibachi grill. Basically, it's dinner & a show! The chef grills the food right at your table & entertains you while he's cooking. There's a lot of fire involved, & since I have a little bit of a pyro in me, I especially enjoyed that. Haha!
 The following day, my wonderful sister treated us to Starbucks & pedicures...oh my word; it was so much fun! Bri got in on it too. She asked for a pedicure, which the lady graciously did. Then, the little punk (very princess like) stuck out her hands & said "now can you do these nails?" Oh goodness....too cute! And a troublemaker =)
 And she's already got the puppy-dog eyes down...this is what she uses on Ryan.
 I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend at home; I love being able to catch up with my friends & family. God has blessed me so much with my sisters & my mom & the close friendship that we have. I couldn't have asked for a better break =)

Jan 11, 2012

Thoughts on Colossians 3:12

Last night I was having one of those moments where you just lie in bed, thinking deep thoughts...I know what you're thinking, it's Christmas break! Deep thoughts are for geeks! I agree, I agree! But it turns I just so happen to be a geek..so there I was lying there thinking deep, geeky thoughts about what I really want out of life. Do I really want to glorify God in my every day life, in everything I say & do? In how I manage my time? In how I treat others? In what I focus my thoughts on? Or do I just want "enough God" to make me look good to my Christian circle of friends & family? In considering this & searching my heart, I decided, yes, I really do want God, His character, & the life of His Son Jesus Christ to permeate everything I say & do...not just when I'm in public, but every moment. I started considering what exactly that looks like, & my once-deep thoughts started drifting into sleepy thoughts. Well, I usually spend about 20 minutes in prayer before I drift off to sleep, but last night I still could not sleep! So, I turned over again, & picked up a devotional book that my mom had borrowed me earlier this week. It is called "A Gentle Spirit," & it is by a conglomeration of different authors; it has a short devotional entry for every day of the year. I've never really been a "go in order & read just one page" kinda person, so I'm pretty sure the entry I read was from some date in June. But it was just perfect for what I had been musing about earlier! God in His word lays out what a Christ-like life should look like moment-by-moment. Particularly in the verse that this entry was based out of: Colossians 3:12. This entry was authored by Barbara Johnson & she uses the analogy of a wardrobe to give a unique perspective into this verse:

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, hold & beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering."

Have you checked your spiritual wardrobe lately? The apostle Paul listed the Garments of the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Colossian believers. First on his list is tender mercies, which are acts of empathy for weak or hurting people. These tender mercies are kind of like the underclothes of the wardrobe. They are the foundation of everything that goes on the outside. Next on Paul's list is kindness: treating others with honor & significance.
Humility is next. No matter how much we win or lose in life, God wraps us in a beautiful cloak of grace.

Meekness is one of my favorite things to wear. Meekness makes it possible to endure difficult circumstances & poor treatment at the hands of others. 
How about longsuffering? Sometimes I wish that old rag would just wear out so I could get something more glamorous & colorful. But I know God has fashioned even this to enhance my life. Bearing with others & forgiveness are the outerwear of God's designs. They are the last things we pull on over everything else before we go out into the world. 

Above all else, Paul says, put on love. Without this, we are never fully dressed. 

I LOVE her perspective of meekness. It just struck me in a way that I had never really thought about before. I finally went to sleep shortly after reading through that entry, but it stuck with me through this morning. So instead of my current study of the gospel of Luke, I took some time to study this verse more in-depth. I wanted to look up the definition of some of the key words so I could have a deeper understanding. It was a huge encouragement to me! So I would just like to share a bit of what I found.
My personal devotions are out of the ESV version, so here is Colossians 3:12 again from the ESV =)

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy & beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, & patience."

  • Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy & sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
    • Christ was moved by His compassion (Matthew 9:35-38). Many times I feel compassion for people, but I don't do anything about it. It doesn't move me into action. True compassion doesn't allow apathy; it causes you to serve in a self-sacrificing way.
  • Kindness: Of good or benevolent nature. Considerate, helpful, self-sacrificing, mild, & gentle. Desiring to help others; charitable. Generous. 
    • I looked up the word "considerate" as well in regards to kindness. The definition was "showing kindly awareness or regard for another's feelings, circumstances, etc. Carefully considers actions; deliberate." I often get so wrapped up in my own life, that I act without thought of how it will impact others. Even if it's something as simple as going for a run when instead I could take some extra time to be an encouragement to others. This makes me consider ways that I could be less selfish with my time & try to find ways to be more aware of the needs of others.
  • Humility: Not proud or arrogant: modest. Courteously respectful. Having a modest opinion of one's own importance.
    • Of course the passage I always think of when it comes to humility is the example of Christ in Philippians 2, who " though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
  • Meekness: Humbly patient. Controlled strength. Meekness does NOT = weakness. 
    • In looking into the definition of Meekness, I found an acronym that was useful:
      • M ighty
      • E motionally Stable (don't let your emotions dictate your actions.)
      • E ducable (this coincides well with James 3:17 & the concept of being "easily entreated."       You willingly forfeit the "right to be right" in favor of being open to the teaching & critique of others.)
      • K ind
  • Patience: Bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude & calm, without complaint, anger, or the like. Quietly & steadily persevering or diligent, especially within detail & exactness. Having or showing the capacity of endurance. An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay
    • This was one of the most impacting character traits for me. Part of the reason I couldn't sleep was because of restlessness. I want to know what God has planned for my life, NOW. I'm not the most patient person in the world when it comes to the future, because I just love having a plan & a schedule. But the Lord wants me to wait right now...& not only to wait, but to wait patiently. This next paragraph sums up the kind of patience I desire to develop:
  • Composure, stability, self-possession, submissiveness, sufferance. Endurance, Fortitude. Implying qualities of calmness, stability, & persistent courage in trying circumstances. Patience may denote calm, self-possessed & unrepining bearing of pain, misfortune, annoyance, or delay--"to bear affliction with patience." Endurance denotes the ability to bear exertion, hardship, or suffering. Fortitude implies not only patience, but courage & strength of character in the midst of pain, affliction, or hardship.

One verse, so packed full of truth. God's word is SO rich! 

Jan 4, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This Christmas I got to spend the weekend down at my sister, Amber's house with my wonderful family! As you can see, my adorable niece, Bri, LOVES making silly faces for the camera =)

Bri also loved opening her dozens of presents, & helping everybody else with theirs as well. Haha!

My big brother got to come too! It's always special when we can spend time with him. He is active duty in the military, so often he is overseas or on base for holidays. It was great to spend a few days with him!

I love my sister, Amber! I am SO thankful for the encouragement she has been to me, especially over the past several months. During the 3 months I was in Peru, she was one of the only people I could count on hearing from regularly, & that meant SO much to me. She also went out of her way to prepare a big "Thanksgiving Dinner" with all the trimmings on Christmas day, all because I wasn't able to have a traditional meal over Thanksgiving. She is so considerate, & so much fun to be around.

This Christmas was one of the best I can remember. The past few years I've been been guilty of taking the important things for granted & focusing more on the lesser things. But this year, after being so far away from my loved ones for so long, it just really hit me how much I have to be thankful for just to be able to spend time with my family over the holidays. I honestly almost forgot about opening presents I was just having so much fun cooking with my mom & sister, playing with my niece, & torturing my big brother. Haha! I am so thankful for all of the blessings the Lord has given to me =)