It has been said that the longest 18 inches is between the head and the heart.
It is one thing to believe about Jesus in your head, it is quite another to experience Him.
So this is our symbol for the week:
My brother-in-law, John Frahm, was a Lutheran Missouri-Synod Pastor.
His theology was correct, but it was all in his head, not his heart.
Here he is decades ago, with my sister Sally, when he was a pastor.
A group of people in his church were excited about Alpha, a program that was sweeping across the world, bringing new life to dead churches. John studied the curriculum and thought he could make it better. In his pride, he re-wrote it and sent it to England for the founders to consider. When they finally had a phone conversation, they told him:
Frankly, Dr. Frahm, we don’t think you get it. We’d like you to go back and watch the videos, not with the purpose of changing them, but for your own heart.
Though shocked, John did as they asked. He said, “By the fifth video everything in my head fell to my heart. I wept. I wept for the sense of love and forgiveness that overwhelmed me, and I wept in repentance for how I had been pastoring.”
John eventually went on to study with Alpha in London and was put in charge of bringing Alpha to American campuses. (My sister and her husband, who now live in Independent Living in an Assisted Living Facility called Querencia in Austin, will be on Alpha’s upcoming new marriage video series. They are such opposites, they had the camera crew in stitches! Yet the Lord has kept them close and refined both of them.)
This week we will see the moment when the Lord crossed that long distance from the head to the heart for Peter, James, and John.
2 Highlights from Last Week:
How God Feels About Our Sin
This fits right into the message of this week of going from the head to the heart. As long as we see sin as breaking a rule instead of breaking a heart, we may be in the category of those “who don’t really get it!” This from our own Susan was golden, I’ve colored some of it in red.
As to the discussion from last week about is God disappointed with us, and Sylvia saying the better way to describe it is that He is grieved, I want to share what I learned from the book I’m reading, Tim Keller’s The Prodigal Prophet (about Jonah) for my book discussion group. We met yesterday and the chapter we were discussing touched on this as well. God is talking to Jonah about how Jonah had compassion for the plant, and God says that He has compassion for Ninevah. Keller said that the word used in these verses for “compassion” means to grieve over someone or something, to have your heart broken, to weep for it. God is saying that His compassion is for people, which Keller said is radical language because it is the language of attachment. Because God needs nothing and is perfectly happy in Himself, not ‘needing’ us, how could He get attached to us? Keller says that He loves only voluntarily. He voluntarily attaches His heart to us, meaning that the sadness of our condition makes Him sad; it affects Him. So I’m thinking, in a divine, mysterious way, our pain, my pain…my sin and the disaster it wreaks in my life, the condition of my heart…God is also bound-up with so that it affects Him, too. In a small, human way, I know the pit I’ve felt in my stomach when something is not going well for one of my children, or when they suffer the sting of their wrong actions and behavior. So with God, infinitely more does He feel it. My sin hurts Him because His heart is attached to mine.
“My sin hurts Him because His heart is attached to mine.”
How To Pray During this Pandemic. Diane’s prayer from last week was so helpful:
Father, in this time of global pandemic, my inclination is to protect myself and totally avoid others. Help me, Lord, to be wisely cautious and follow good health advice; but also to be aware of the needs of those around me, to deny my selfish needs and take up my cross and follow you, whatever that means for me in this situation. Help me to be kind. Help me to risk loving others in ways that are safe or even not safe, when that is called for. Help me, as the mother and grandmother and primary caregiver to many, be generous and sacrificial in my caregiving. Give me strength, courage, love and peace in the midst of confusion and uncertainty and fear. Help me to totally trust you, for you came to earth because you loved us. You breathed our air full of germs and diseases, so you can identify with us in our distress. You promise that you will be with us always, and, in the end, you will rescue us from earth and welcome us into your presence.
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- Can you identify in any way with John Frahm’s story? If so, share something about it.
- How do you think the Lord would have you respond during this pandemic?
Monday: The Transfiguration – We Need Glimpses of His Glory
The same year Christ found me, I began witnessing to my neighbor Carol. We were both so young. She asked me, “Why should I believe Jesus is superior to Mohammed or Buddha?” Being so new in the faith, all I could tell her was to ask God to show her. She went home, flipped open her Bible, put her finger down on the page, and came to the Transfiguration. He showed her the truth and she knew it in her head. Yet she resisted surrendering to Him. Thirty years later, when speaking in Indiana, I met her for lunch, wanting to bring her some comfort as her husband had died of cancer. I found a transformed and radiant Carol. I asked her what happened. She told me, “I knew I couldn’t face Bob’s death without Jesus.” And He met her. Everything in her head fell to her heart.
Similarly, the disciples are going to be facing the crucifixion of the One they thought was the Messiah. Spurgeon writes: “Christ is about to go to a shameful, dishonorable death – crucified as if he were a criminal worthy of death. So that the disciples will not remain discouraged, he gives them a glimpse at his glory. They will know that he is indeed the Messiah.”
We need glimpses if His glory to sustain us in the dark times. Raphael endeavored to communicate that through his famous painting by including what the disciples went through when they came down from the mountain.. We will look at Raphael’s painting tomorrow.
4. Read Mark 9:2-8
A. For context, what hard truths did Jesus tell the disciples in the last chapter?
B. Whom did Jesus take up the mountain and what did they see? (2-4)
C. What is Peter’s immediate reaction, and why, do you think? (Challenge question!)
D. Why do you think Moses and Elijah were there? (Another challenge question!)
E. What did God clarify in verses 7-8 and how?
Tuesday: Enveloped in Wonder
Raphael’s painting of The Transfiguration was considered the most famous painting in the world for nearly five centuries. Here, in the museum that has the original, his purpose in depicting two scenes at once is explained:
5. What comments do you have on the above?
6. In chapter Ten of King’s Cross (The Mountan) read up to “The Death of Glory” and share your notes and comments.
Wednesday: The Death of Glory
7. Read Mark 9:9-13
A. What orders did Jesus give them, and why, do you think?
The disciples were told not to speak of it – until after the Resurrection. One reason for this is to avoid jealousy among the disciples (remember, these folks argued over who would be the greatest.) They needed to see his glory before the Crucifixion – but the lessons learned would only be useful afterwards. (Charles Spurgeon)
B. John the Baptist had said he was not Elijah — what does Jesus say here? Can you explain
the apparent contradiction?
8. Has the Lord ever given you a glimpse of His glory? If so, share briefly here.
9. Read “The Death of Glory” in Chapter 10 and share your notes and comments.
Thursday: I Believe, Help My Unbelief
10. Read Mark 9:14-18
A. Describe the scene that James, John, and Peter return to see. Find all the details that must
have so distressed the father of the boy.
B. Why do you think Raphael included this scene in his painting?
11. Read Mark 9:19-29
A. Describe the conversation between Jesus and the father. (21-24)
B. What happens next?
C. What do you learn from this narrative that you could apply to your life?
D. Is there a specific area in your life that you could pray as the father did in verse 24? If so,
do it here.
12. Read Mark 9:30-34
A. What hard thing does Jesus clearly tell them here?
B. Why, when He was so clear, do you think they did not understand?
N. T. Wright thinks that because Jesus usually spoke in parables, they were looking for a
hidden meaning. I tend to think that when things are so painful to hear, we don’t want to
believe them. Though doctors told us Steve would die, I refused to believe it.
C. Does this give any light on why He had Peter, James, and John behold His glory at the
Friday: A Glimpse of Glory
13. Read the last section in Keller’s chapter 10 entitled “A Glimpse of Glory” and share your
notes and comments.
14. What do you think you will remember from this week’s lesson and why?
This has been an exhausting week! Homeschooling my grandson while taking care of his 9 month old brother…raising kids is definitely for the young! What stood out to me this week is from Keller’s portion on “A Glimpse of Glory.” He said,”through Jesus we don’t need perfect righteousness, just repentant helplessness, to access the presence of God.” The father of the possessed boy needed belief and he was humble enough to see it and admit it. He got it!!! Oh Lord, forgive my arrogance. Open my eyes, my heart to see my need for You, to cry out to You in my unbelief and know You will hear…bowing before You in worship.
Oh Sharon — that does sound exhausting. Is this new because of school being closed?
Yes. It’s supposed to only go through this next week but I foresee it to be longer.
I am interested in hearing how individual congregations are responding to this crisis. Here in New Brunswick, Canada, we are under a state of emergency and all churches are asked to remain closed. We are all being asked to stay home except for emergencies. Many churches are video broadcasting Sunday services on Facebook or their websites. If you have an interesting stories in what your fellowship is doing, let’s share and encourage each other.
Because our church meets in homes, we are trying our first zoom service tomorrow morning — it will be more like a Bible study, but you can see everyone who is participating, and when a person speaks, his or face zooms to fill the screen. I’ll let you know how it goes!
I just did my first zoom web meeting yesterday. It was really easy for me to use. I’m sure it will work well considering the times we are in.
Our church had just started live streaming it’s service last month which has been a blessing for this time to already have that set. Tomorrow will be our first Sunday to not meet in person, and the service will be on Facebook and YouTube (both tonight and tomorrow). Our community group is planning to do Zoom for our meetings. I’m thankful for technology but also really weary of all the many emails, videos, posts. We’re planning to watch service tonight and then be completely tech free tomorrow, just to take more time to be quiet and pray.
Honestly, the thought that keeps coming to mind amidst all this, is to not waste this time. This is a terrible pandemic and I am so sad for those who are suffering, lost jobs, lost loved ones, and especially those who do not know Him. But, I have loved just being home with my husband, my boys, doing “home-school” –actually I’m leading my 13 year old, and when he’s finished for the day, he is 100% teaching Philip his kindergarten material (You’d be shocked at how much it is each day!), so that’s an unexpected side blessing! Love how they are bonding.
I am also SO THANKFUL for this blog and Dee’s teaching and that it can’t be changed by the virus! I will also add that Ligonier is making their classes free through June, and they are allowing you to make your own private group or do it alone. Such a great resource.
Great to hear that your churches can do these things because of technology. We going to try listening to a local service via internet as well. Unfortunately, many small rural churches do not even have internet hookup at their buildings, let alone the technology to do a service. We need to pray for the many seniors who do not understand internet technology enough to see a worship service online; that they will worship God still in their own way, even though they may be lonely and isolated in their homes.
This week I will remember the contrast of the darkness of my sin to the glory of Christ and to worship Him I need repentant helplessness. I have had a new look at the Transfiguration and the context in which it happened.
C. What do you learn from this narrative that you could apply to your life?
God can remove evil spirits from anyone. The boy was not personally asking for healing. We can and should pray for evil spirits to be removed from our loved ones.
D. Is there a specific area in your life that you could pray as the father did in verse 24? If so, do it here.
Jesus, I pray for my loved ones who as adults have forsaken God or treat God as an optional addition to their lives. I don’t understand how evil spirits work today, but they seem blinded to the truths of God by the spirit of the age. I also pray for my grandchildren who are not being taught about God because of the unbelief of their parents. My heart bleeds for them and I believe yours does too. With the father in this story from Scripture, I plead with you. Oh, God I believe you are able; help my unbelief.
7. Read Mark 9:9-13
A. What orders did Jesus give them, and why, do you think? Jesus told them not to tell until after the resurrection. I think he told them not to tell I think because they didn’t yet understand so they would have been sharing and causing confusing because they didn’t yet “get it.”
B. John the Baptist had said he was not Elijah – what does Jesus say here? Can you explain the apparent contradiction? No I cannot. I always have thought it was somehow referring back to Elijah’s original time in earth… I never understood Elijah coming again.
8. Has the Lord ever given you a glimpse of His glory? If so, share briefly here. He has given me a glimpse of His glory in creation. He has given me glimpses of His glory in others’ stories. He has given me glimpses of His glory in watching people worship. He has given me glimpses of His glory in the whispers of Gospel understanding in my heart.
10. Read Mark 9:14-18
A. Describe the scene that James, John, and Peter return to see. Find all the details that must have so distressed the father of the boy. The scene is an arguing crowd. The other disciples are there and the scribes are also there. The father was distressed because the child had been tortured since childhood (the text does not specify how old the boy is now). The son got hurt each time. I can think of a whole slew of reasons this situation would distress the father, especially during the time he lived. In this particular moment I would think that the father was distressed because his last hope was slipping from his grasp…the disciples could not heal him. The father probably came to Jesus with hope that finally the son could be healed because undoubtedly he had tried a myriad of other things. But the disciples attempt was unsuccessful.
B. Why do you think Raphael included this scene in his painting? It is a stark contrast of the lowest low and the highest high here on earth. The crowd arguing, the desperation on the father in his hardship, the disciples not understanding but Jesus in full power fulfilling the Gospel plan.
11. Read Mark 9:19-29
A. Describe the conversation between Jesus and the father. (21-24) it is interesting to me that Christ asks how long the boy has suffered. The father answers the question and then begs Jesus to have compassion in them. Jesus answers (uncharacteristically I think) with a declaration of power and the statement, “All things are possible for one who believes.” Then the father cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
B. What happens next? Jesus saw a crowd running so he rebuked the spirit telling it to come out AND never enter again. The spirit (as usual) gives one last rebellion in crying out in anger and convulsing the boy one last time to do as much harm as he can (but yet doesn’t take his life like the unclean spirits did with the pigs) and then the boy is still, healed.
C. What do you learn from this narrative that you could apply to your life? God has authority over ALL. Evil cannot touch me without His permission and if He gives His permission then He has reason and will not leave me. I just believe. Belief can be a choice and we can ask God for more belief.
D. Is there a specific area in your life that you could pray as the father did in verse 24? If so, do it here. I have been more and more aware of my unbelief in my prayers for those lost in my life and situations that I have written off as “unchanged level.” God, I DO believe, help my unbelief!! Change my mindset to see things as yours and within your hand. Halo me to know my role (NOT in charge!) God, shed my fear and grow my trust in you.
12. Read Mark 9:30-34
A. What hard thing does Jesus clearly tell them here? Jesus tells them that he will suffer and die and then rise again.
B. Why, when He was so clear, do you think they did not understand? I agree with N.T. Wright. I also think that they were just in the wrong mindset … like one of those pictures that has two images hidden together. Many cannot see more than one picture even though there are two. You just can’t see because your mid has already decided what the image is. The same with mysteries/riddles…once your brain goes down one track it is near impossible to get it into a different way of thinking.
C. Does this give any light on why He had Peter, James, and John behold His glory at the transfiguration? They needed to see the power and reality of who Jesus IS to fall back in and be able to understand.