Friday, 29 August 2014

Jesus According to Hebrews

Here are some statements that the Biblical book of Hebrews make about Jesus!

  • He is sent from the Father
  • He is the heir of everything
  • He is the creator of everything (in the power of the Spirit and under the authority of the father)
  • He is the radiance of the glory of the Father
  • He is the imprint of the Father’s nature
  • He is the sustainer of creation
  • He is the redeemer of everything
  • His throne is established for ever
  • He loves righteousness and hates wickedness
  • He is exalted by the Father above all at his right hand
  • He is the same yesterday, today and for ever
  • His Father is working to ensure that he is honoured by all
  • He was made made (a) perfect (mediator) through his suffering
  • He is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters before the Father
  • He took on Flesh and Blood so that he might destroy the power of the devil and deliver us from slavery to the fear of death
  • He is a faithful and merciful high priest (mediator between God and us)
  • He is our man in Heaven, able to sympathise and help us when we are tempted yet he himself was without sin
  • He is quick to draw near
  • He offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears on our behalf to the Father
  • As a man, he learned obedience through what he suffered
  • He has become the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him
  • He is our forerunner into Heaven
  • He has promised to be our salvation and sealed it with an oath
  • He is a sure and steadfast anchor to the soul
  • He is our mediator in the power of an indestructible life
  • He is the guarantor of a better covenant
  • He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption
  • He has entered into the presence of God on our behalf
  • He will come again to save those who are eagerly waiting for him
  • He endure great hostility from sinners during his earthly life
  • For the joy set before him, endure the cross, scorned its shame and sat down at the right hand of the Father

Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Prayer is to the Christian as (Sexual) Intimacy is to Marriage.

Just read, in half an hour, Mike Reeves' excellent little book on prayer. It's so short, you could read it over a coffee and for £3 from here, it's a bargain.  Get it and pass it on when you've finished.

Mike doesn't draw the analogy, but basically prayer is for the Christian like intimacy (esp sexual intimacy) is for marriage. Intimacy does not make you married, nor does it break your marriage, but the amount and nature of the intimacy mutually experienced is probably the best indicator of how deeply the spouses do or don't love each other. Prayer does not make you a Christian, nor does lack of it unmake you one, but it does reveal what your attitude towards God really is deep down. He puts it like this:
In one sense, your prayer life is disgustingly revealing: it does reveal who you really are. For all your talk and theory of faith - you can affirm the truth of prayer and know that God is good - your prayer life reveals how much you really want communion with God, and how much you really depend on him. I stress, it does not tell you about your security as an unrejectable child of God, but it does tell you, very accurately, how much of a baby you are spiritually, how much of a hypocrite you are, and how much you actually love the Lord. Thus, if your tendency is to think you're rather wonderful, remember your prayer life.
Yet don't be dismayed! Yes, it means you need to start at the beginning in learning how to pray. But prayer is the 'chief exercise of faith' so of course you're naturally rubbish at prayer, because you're naturally lacking in faith. If prayer is 'the chief exercise of faith' - then of course everything, the world, the flesh and the devil - conspires against prayer. This means that you're not the odd one out in your struggles with prayer - and it's not your secret shame - which can be the crippling fear. You're just a sinner, naturally inclined away from faith and prayer. We're all sinners. And you know who the friend of sinners is? Jesus.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Creating a Web of Plausibility

The recent Storyville documentary on Lance Armstrong, trailered below, is fascinating viewing because it shows us all an eerie side to ourselves we'd rather ignore. Click here for David Walsh's take on the whole thing - also fascinating.

True, the Armstrong Fraud went on for so long due to deliberate and premeditated lying and obfuscation from Armstrong and the handful of people around him, but also because the vast majority of pro-cyclists were doping too and therefore had neither the moral high ground nor the moral energy to take him on.

But perhaps the most uncomfortable truth about it all was that we wanted the lie to be true. We all wanted to believe that it was possible for a guy not only to beat a most aggressive form of cancer, but then recover to become one of the greatest endurance athletes ever. Of course, one cannot deny that could be possible, but in Armstrong's case it wasn't. Nothing brought it home so clearly than seeing again footage (that I had seen a hundred times before), only to realise that whilst performing these incredible breakaways on the mountain stages, he was not suffering, not out of breath, no emotion, nothing. Just a calculated drug-fuelled machine, fulfilling his contract of "winning" races.

Everyone wanted to back this winning horse and when you tied this parable of sporting success to our human struggle against cancer and the Livestrong Foundation, the lie became even harder to deny or diffuse in the public consciousness. No one wanted to be the party pooper who made a wreck of this all-round feel-good gravy train apart from a couple of prophets who saw through it in the forms of Paul Kimmage and David Walsh.

Armstrong's deception was so effective because it's the lie we all want to believe about ourselves. The lie that we are the masters of our own destinies and that we are strong enough to beat up all our opposition (be it in Armstrong's case other cyclists, critics or cancer) then to stand in the glory of our victory and giving gifts to all those who idolise us (in Armstrong's case - hope of overcoming or even a cure for cancer) all the while massaging our egos reliving the moments of our epic rise to power with all those who love to receive drops of our reflected vainglory.

The shocking truth (or to use the biblical term, the mystery of sin: Rom. 1:25, Rev.17:5-7) about the human condition is that we have a toxic addiction to telling lies to ourselves and each other about everything, but especially about who God is and we crave that others reinforce this web of deceit. At its most basic level, we know this as "tolerance" but it can and has grown into full force extermination programmes in an effort not to have the lie exposed for what it is. If you don't believe me, you're only admitting and reinforcing the power of the lie in you - let that thought mess with your brain for a bit…

We need to be rescued not from our actions, but from ourselves (Col.1:21-22) not just once, but every moment of every day. (1 John 1:8-9)