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?