Joy Through Surrender

Scripture: Hebrews 12:2
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Reflection: Joy Through Surrender
By Matt Tullos

Joy—The vocation of unquenchable, serene satisfaction in God.

Jesus teaches us courageous surrender. We see Him running headlong into His own demise for the sake of a greater eternal intention and destiny.

Jesus embraced the pain for joy.
He climbed the tall mount of suffering for bliss.
He met every hostile foe for love.
He challenged every lie for truth
The first warrior of grace…
He approached the unapproachable.
And it was for joy.

The first Artist of redemption endured the pinnacle of human suffering, alienation and shame. Amidst meaningless chaos, He hewed purpose out of the hard soil of humanity. Jesus’ hands were true to the task as He demonstrated the law of mercy.

In the presence of enemies, rebels, in the pretext of religiosity, God’s Son stepped out of the far reaches of glory, set His eye on the bride and it was for the joy.

“It is grace at the beginning, and grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie upon our deathbeds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us in the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the Grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Strangely, surrender is the most fulfilling thing you can ever do. Satisfaction and bliss will never be achieved unless you succumb to the sweetness of a divine relinquishment.

When this surrender overrides your fear, your pride in the self-made life, and the anger you have because of old wounds, joy abounds. You enter into a surrender which leads to death. This is the bliss of a purposeful holy death of your own petty kingdom.

The Cross became the cure.
It was for joy.
It was for love.
It was for us.
How could I hold tightly to my life and miss the joy of reckless worship?
I kneel at the cross and live in joy. I am free to live
the life today that I’ve always wanted to live.

The same joy that was set before Christ is now before us. We can look to Him and remember what this life is about. It is a race toward a life surrendered totally to Him and His glory.

Does your sacrifice bring joy or is it an obligatory nod toward a distant God?
What lights the joy flame of your heart?

*From a series Matt Tullos wrote called 39 Words. A few of these posts are available in audio form via Soundcloud. — John

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Arise, O God, maintain your cause. — Psalm 74.21

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 5 (Listen – 4:48)
Hebrews 12 (Listen – 4:36)

Love Guided Thoughts :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: Song of Songs 8.7
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.

Reflection: Love Guided Thoughts :: Throwback Thursday
By Richard Baxter (1615 – 1691)

Get but the love of God well kindled in your heart, and it will find employment, even the most high and sweet employment, for your thoughts.

What abundance of matter can a lover find for his thoughts to work on night and day! And will not the love of God then much more fill and feast your thoughts?

How easily can the love of money find matter for the thoughts of the worldling from one year to another?

It is easy to think of any thing which you love.

Oh what a happy spring of meditation, is a rooted, predominant love of God! Love him strongly, and you cannot forget him.

You will then see him in every thing that meets you; and hear him in every one that speaketh to you: if you miss him, or have offended him, you will think on him with grief; if you taste of his love, you will think of him with delight; if you have but hope, you will think of him with desire, and your minds will be taken up in seeking him, and in understanding and using the means by which you may come to enjoy him.

Love is ingenious, and full, and quick, and active, and resolute; it is valiant, and patient, and exceeding industrious, and delighteth to encounter difficulties, and to appear in labours, and to show itself in advantageous sufferings; and therefore it maketh the mind in which it reigneth exceeding busy, and findeth the thoughts a world of work.

If God has no room in the thoughts of the ungodly (Psalm 10.4) it is because he is not in his heart. He may be “on their lips,” but he is “far from their hearts.” (Jeremiah 12.2)

Do those men believe themselves, or would they be believed by any one that is wise, who say they love God above all, and yet neither think of him, nor love to think of him; but are unwearied in thinking of their wealth, and honours, and the pleasures of their flesh?

*Abridged and language updated from Christian Ethics: The Work of Love.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 8 (Listen – 2:23)
Hebrews 8 (Listen – 2:22)

Last Priest Standing

Scripture: Hebrews 7.27
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

Reflection: Last Priest Standing
By Jon Polk


Quoting Psalm 110:4, the book of Hebrews favorably compares Jesus several times to the mysterious Melchizedek. The only other biblical reference to this king-priest is a brief interaction with Abraham in Genesis. The name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” and he was the king of Salem, which is “king of peace.” Certainly Jesus fits both of these titles.

However, foremost in the comparison is the acknowledgement that Jesus has become our priest forever, as Melchizedek’s life was said to have no beginning and no end.

Under the old Levitical priestly system, a plurality of priests came and went; they were temporal, finite human ministers. Jesus (like Melchizedek) was not a Levite. He was from the tribe of Judah. While all other priests pass away, Jesus alone remains as our permanent priest to continually minister redemption and intercession.

Jesus’ personal sacrifice was so perfect and complete that it put an end to sacrifice itself. It put an end to the rote and routine rituals practiced by the Levitical priests. He did not need to make sacrifices for his own sins – he had none – nor does he need to make sacrifices repeatedly for our sins. The sacrifice of his own life was the last and only sacrifice necessary for our salvation.

Jesus’ high priestly ministry on our behalf is perpetual, never-ending. If we could grasp the full ramifications of this reality, it would radically impact our daily lives.

We can rest in the security of knowing that our eternal priest ,Jesus the Christ, is forever working for the salvation of those who seek him and he is alive to intercede before God on our behalf.

Considering this continual priestly work of Jesus Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish minister in the early 1800s, wrote:

I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor. He prayed most for Peter who was to be most tempted. I am on his breastplate. If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; he is praying for me!

We would be wise to consider what practices of our faith have become routine and need to be revitalized by the living presence of Christ.

May we remind ourselves regularly of the powerful intercessor and high priest we have working for our good.

Prayer: A Reading
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in your; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 7 (Listen – 1:55)
Hebrews 7 (Listen – 4:01)

The Long Journey to Maturity

Scripture: Hebrews 6.11-12
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Reflection: The Long Journey to Maturity
By Jon Polk

“Now I know my ABCs. Next time won’t you sing with me?”

Letters of the alphabet are the elementary building blocks of language. The learner must comprehend the sounds of letters before combining letters to make works, before combining words to make sentences, and so on.

Once the student has mastered a language, it would be foolish and useless to continue to rehearse the very basic ABCs.

Like language learning, there are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity, but how will we know when we have arrived? We must move past merely knowing the basic teachings about Christ’s life, death and resurrection and beyond simply acknowledging our need for faith and repentance.

To be sure, no one but our sinless high priest Jesus will ever be fully spiritually mature in this lifetime, but there are some indicators to help us know we are headed in the right direction.

As rain-soaked land is expected to produce a bountiful crop, the mature Christian should produce what Paul describes to the Galatians as the fruits of the spirit, i.e. God-honoring, selfless character traits. As land that produces thorns instead of crops is worthless, James declares that faith that does not produce actions is dead, useless.

Marks of spiritual maturity include character growing in likeness to God and actions that demonstrate our love for God and care for his people. In reality, we can never truly arrive; this is a never-ending process.

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson describes discipleship—the process by which we mature spiritually—as a lifelong journey:

For recognizing and resisting the stream of the world’s ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that seem useful: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. Pilgrim tells us that we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ.

Indeed, the journey of spiritual maturity is a one-way trip. We are warned of the dangers of falling away after tasting the goodness of God. Our calling is to diligently work until the end of our lives, moving forward ever onwards towards maturity.

As the writer of the anonymous hymn succinctly stated, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

Prayer: A Reading
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in your; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 6 (Listen – 1:48)
Hebrews 6 (Listen – 2:58)

Milk of the Word, A Precedent to Growth

Scripture: Hebrews 5.2
He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Reflection: Milk of the Word, A Precedent to Growth
By John Tillman

Hebrews chapter 5 begins with an exhortation to deal gently with the ignorant and those who are straying. Yet a few short paragraphs later, the writer rebukes the readers, telling them that it is difficult to teach them when they don’t even try to understand.

The author wishes to discuss complicated topics of Christ’s transcendental priesthood, the Trinity, and the incarnation. But how can the writer go on when the readers are not ready for such theological complexity?

Just like the chastised readers, the maturity of western Christianity is in question.

Our world needs a gospel-driven worldview, yet half of those raised in church can’t identify the Great Commision. What is it? Who said it? What does it mean? Where is it in the Bible? One out of two don’t know.

This is not just an indictment of our lack of biblical knowledge. More knowledge isn’t the answer. Jesus didn’t call Peter to build a biblical trivia team. Peter, and by extension every Christian, is called to feed a flock, starting with the young. Starting with milk. Milk changes a lamb to a ram.

However, even the simplest of disciplines, church attendance, has been in decline since 1959. We can’t, therefore, blame millenials for it. It’s not that we are still drinking milk when we should have been weaned, but that we’ve never drunk it consistently.

The reason for that may be that our culture disdains milk and small beginnings too much. We desire something for nothing. We want spiritual marathon ribbons without putting in the hard miles.

Perhaps we should redefine milk—not as a marker of immaturity and shame but of growth. The purpose of milk is to progress toward consuming and digesting the more complex proteins of scripture.

Babies physically grow faster in their early years than at any time in their life. But the growth of the visible is nowhere close to as impressive as the cognitive growth that is happening in their brains. The growth we can experience by the simple application of spiritual practices to our lives can be similarly exponential.

Prioritizing the basics of faith—Bible reading, reflection, prayer, and corporate worship—is a spiritual intake process that matures with us, leading deeper into scripture as we repetitively read and absorb God’s Word.

If we expect to effect change in our complex and demanding world, we don’t need to beat up ourselves or others. We just need to consistently drink our milk.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said to us: “Everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.” — Matthew 10.26-27

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 5 (Listen – 2:43)
Hebrews 5 (Listen – 1:57)

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