Saturday, October 06, 2007

I love this guy!

That’s kind of a weird thing for me (Andrew) to write, but let me explain …

I enjoy all the courses I am doing this semester, but my Christian Education and Equipping class is a real joy! The course has a simple aim: to equip us (both laity and the 'pro’s') to make disciples of Jesus Christ who will make disciples of Jesus Christ. Darrell Johnson believes the best way to make disciples is by helping people engage with texts of scripture. We spend a lot of our time looking at how Jesus makes disciples in the gospels.

Darrell Johnson who shepherds us through is amazing! He preaches with the kind of authority that Jesus talks about, he cares for his students, but most of all the love he has for Jesus spills out of him. I think this is why I love this guy, because he is so deeply in love with Jesus, and we can see it, and it’s contagious!

This week, Darrell went the extra mile for his students … he wrote a 10 day devotional packet on the Psalms and Ephesians for us to linger in during our upcoming reading week.
To share some of Darrell’s love for Jesus around, here is a link to the devotional pack for you to linger on as well. Darrell also wrote us an email with some additional thoughts after he did his first devotion today. I will post this email and any further ones he sends as comments on this post.

Enjoy lingering …

More on Darrell: Bio / Free Sermons / Regent Audio / Books
More on Jesus: listen to Darrell / read your bibles

8 comments:

Andrew & Jessica said...

Darrell's email - Day 1 devotion

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

As I said in class yesterday, the Lord has worked in me a deep affection for you; I am so enjoying working with you all. I rejoice in the ways He has made you, is redeeming you, and has gifted you. You give me much for which to be grateful this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

After reading the whole of Ephesians this morning, I am once again in awe of what the Lord did for and through Saul of Tarsus, Paul the apostle. My goodness – what a vision of the Triune God! And what a vision of God’s plan and purpose for the universe and us! And to think he is thinking all of this in a jail cell! So I pray today that you will be freshly caught up with what was given to “the prisoner of the Lord” in whatever circumstances you find yourself right now. I was struck in my reading with words and phrases like “every spiritual blessing,” “freely bestowed,” “lavished upon us,” “surpassing greatness of His power,” “being rich in mercy,” “surpassing riches of His grace,” “the unfathomable riches of Christ,” “to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,” “exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine.” And to think such thinking and feeling and writing emerges from a crummy prison hole. Mercy.

Then as I read Psalm 1 & 2 again, I was taken by how carefully crafted they are. As I said in the little “notes” on your page, these Psalms are not actually prayers; they are there to help us get ready to pray. Psalm 1 calls us to once again turn from all the other words that demand our attention and allegiance, and turn again to the Word that “breathes life,” as Walter Bruegeman puts it. Psalm 2 puts our praying into perspective; none of the “enemies” we are going to want to pray about have any ultimate sway in life; all the “enemies” futilely seeking to “throw off” the presence and claims of the Living God.

I pray that during this Reading Week you are able to do read well, that of all your reading you will be able to say, “thank You Lord.” And I pray that you are aware of the Living One drawing near to you to draw you into the life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In Christ, Darrell

Andrew & Jessica said...

Darrell's 2nd email

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

I trust you are beginning to feel the gift of a break from the pace. I find that when I “pull back” from the pace and “let down” a bit I then realize how fatigued I was becoming and drop into a kind of “fatigue funk.” I then need to trust the Spirit to do His renewing, reviving work.

What a gift Psalm 139 is for the soul! I am especially taken by verses 7-12 today - the “if” clauses of the prayer. The Psalmist seems to be contemplating all the places where he might find himself alone, and realizes to his delight that in all of them Yahweh is present. Notice the “behold” in verse 8 – “If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” The Psalmist is startled and surprised that the Living One is even present in the place of death! In verses 11-12 the Psalmist contemplates the ultimate “alone place,” the place of depression, and realizes that even there he is not alone – even in the darkness the Light of the world is present. Bless you dear Jesus.

Notice the personal pronoun You and Your. It would be a good exercise to actually count them. You, You, You, You,… Your Spirit, Your Face, Your Hand, Your Book, Your thoughts, etc.

I want to pass on something Phillip Yancy once wrote about the Psalms. “In my fixation with the details of the psalms – their categories, interpretive meaning, logical consistency, poetic form – I had missed the whole point, which is that the Psalms comprise a sampling of spiritual journals. They are personal letters to God…they are personal prayers in the form of poetry, written by a variety of people in wildly fluctuating moods.” He says he then learned to come “to them not primarily as a student wanting to acquire knowledge, but rather as a fellow pilgrim wanting to acquire relationship.” Isn’t that good?

And isn’t Paul out-burst of praise in Ephesians 1:3-14 good? The blessed One blesses us with every blessing! I think the blessings Paul particularly has in mind are found in the finite verbs of the long sentence: chose, predestined, we have, lavished, made known, obtained, sealed. Which of these do you especially rejoice in today? Which of these do you long to experience more?

When I was studying at Fuller (1969-1973) J.B. Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English was doing for that time what Eugene Peterson’s The Message is doing for this time. Here is how Phillips paraphrases 1:5-6 – “He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ – that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears toward the Beloved.” Indeed, Lord, make is so for me and my friends in the Christian Education and Equipping class.

Pray for all the preachers for tomorrow! And good Sabbath to you.

In Christ, Darrell

Andrew & Jessica said...

Darrell's 3rd email

The Lord’s Day

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

I trust that on this Canadian Thanksgiving day we will actually have time to give thanks! Someone has said that thanksgiving is “inner health made audible.” Would you agree? And would you agree that we could also say “giving thanks is a way to nurture inner health”? I give thanks for you all today!

Psalm 107 is an appropriate song for this day. Like many of the Psalms, this one is bracketed by “lovingkindness,” or “covenant-love” (1 and 43). And the specific dimension of this love highlighted in the Psalm is “redeem” – in God’s “covenant-love” God redeems, God rescues and releases. So the Psalmist identifies four different human conditions in which we see God so love to rescue and redeem. Notice the four-fold refrain: “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses” (6, 13, 19, 28) – “Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, and His acts of wonders for the children of humans” (8, 15, 21, 31). With which of these four conditions do you most identify today? How does the Psalm minister to you?

The prayer Paul prays is also so appropriate for this Lord’s Day. The more I live in it and pray it, the richer it gets! Notice that Paul asks for a two-fold work of the Spirit of God: one, for “revelation”, and two, to “be enlightened to know.” Paul realizes that we cannot know God unless, one, God opens up to us; and two, God opens us up to what God opens up about God. Oh, dear God, we cannot know You unless You tell us and show us Who You are. Thank You for doing so in Jesus! And now, dear God, open the “eyes of our heart” to truly grasp and live in what You tell us and show us. Notice, when speaking of the energy God makes available to us in Christ, that Paul, so to speak, “piles on” energy-words: power, working, strength, might. All of it at the disposal of believers. Lord, please help me and my friends understand what this means and live our lives in the fullness of what You give.

Tomorrow I will be doing an interview with a Christian radio program on the Book of Revelation. They like what I have written and want to ask me questions to help their listeners appreciate the approach I have taken. Pray for me, as I will be walking some fine lines!

Enjoy Reading Week!

In Christ, Darrell

Andrew & Jessica said...

Dear Sisters and Brothers:



What great texts for the beginning of the week!



I wonder how much time elapsed between the experience David refers to in 40:1-3 and his prayer of 40:13, 17. The fact is, that’s life, isn’t it? The Lord “brings us out of the pit” at one point in our lives, and then, at another later time, we need to be “delivered” yet again. Note that the reason David is in distress this time is both external and internal: on the one hand, “those who seek my life to destroy it” (40:14); on the other, “my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see” (40:12). Life is like that too, isn’t it? In my experience, the internal is the more usual cause of distress and that from which I need to be delivered yet again. Which makes me pray 40:11 all the more: “You will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your loving-kindness [covenant-love] and Your truth will continually preserve me.”



As you likely know, the writer of Hebrews reads 40:6-8 Christologically – see Hebrews 10:5-7. I am thinking today that that hermeneutical move might justify us reading 40:9-11 Christologically: to hear in these words the voice of the Lord Jesus as He lives His humanity before His Father. In Hebrews 2:12 author quotes Psalm 22:22 – “I will declare Your name to my brothers and sisters, in the great congregation I will sing Your praise.” That is the same idea of 40:9-11. I want to join Jesus in praying these words, especially 40:8, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your torah is within my heart.”



Paul’s declaration of the gospel in Ephesians 2:1-10 is in many ways the fulfillment of Psalm 40: God has taken us out the pit of death (!) and brought into Christ: made alive with Him, raised up with Him, seated with Him. Because of God is rich in mercy (2:4) and rich in grace (2:7) – “surpassing” riches! Justice is God giving us what we deserve; mercy is God not giving us what we deserve; grace is God giving us what we do not deserve!



I think the church has throughout the centuries understood, and then lived, what it means to “be alive with Christ” (2:5) and what it means to “be raised up with Christ” (2:6). But I do not think we have understood, and then lived, what it means to “be seated with Christ” (2:6). Talk about being lifted! The “raised up” and “seated” follow on Paul’s great declaration in his prayer in 1:20 – that Christ is raised and Christ is seated “at God’s right hand, far above…” What does it mean for Christ to “be seated” and, then, for us to “be seated” with Him? Huge implications for discipleship and ministry (which we will try to explore in a coming lecture).



Well, I am off to do the radio interview. The program will be aired next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on 106.5 FM. (I will find out the times).



May He put “a new song” in our mouths today.



In Christ, Darrell

Andrew & Jessica said...

Dear Sisters and Brothers:



It seems to me that today is the day we actually begin to feel the benefit of Reading Week. I trust that you will be able to get some good work done.



I said in the notes for Psalm 42 and 43 that these two Psalms could really be one given the thrice repeated refrain “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” (42:5, 11; 43:5). After reading/praying them this morning, I can, however, see why the editors of the Book separate them. In Psalm 43 there is a marked shift in tone and focus: from almost exclusive lament in 42 to almost exclusive petition in 43. This could, of course, simply be due to the way the Holy Spirit answers us: as we pour out our souls in lament He slowly moves us to petition; as we take our sorrows and disappointments to God, the Spirit slowly enables us to then see Who God is and what God can do, and we cry out for God to do what only God can do. [A note: with Psalm 42 we move into Book 2 of the Psalms, and for the most part, Psalms in this second section address God with the generic word “God” and not the personal, covenant name “Yahweh.”]. The psalmist, the sons of Korah, ask our questions: when (42:2)? Why (42:9; 43:2)? What “when?” and/or “why?” question(s) are you asked the Lord today?



Notice that the thrice repeated refrain is addressed not to God but to the psalmist’s soul. One of the most influential preachers of the 20th century, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, wrote a now “classic” book on these two Psalms entitled Causes and Cures of Spiritual Depression. Here is one of his insights that helps me the most. “I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this: that we allow our self to talk to us, instead of talking to our self. . . . Have you realized that most of your depression in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. They start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Yourself is talking to you. The main art in spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself.” Isn’t that on the mark?



So we turn to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and let the words of the gospel address us; or, following the lead of Lloyd-Jones, we address ourselves with the words of this letter. They are words that lift the soul into the life and purposes of the God for whom the psalmist was “panting.”



Although 3:1-13 does flow from 2:11-22, I put the two sections together today largely to make sure we finish reading Ephesians by the end of Reading Week. Should you one day lead people through the letter as a discipleship manual, it would be best to consider the two sections on separate days.



“Remember” (2:11) is the only exhortation of chapters 1-3; “remember” is not so much a call to do something as to be something. Remember “the mystery of Christ” as Paul calls it (3:4): that all along, God has been planning for us Gentiles to be included in what He was doing in the history of Israel ! All along, we who were thought to be “aliens” and “strangers” (2:12, 19), were being “brought near” (2:13, 17) as the “fellow” – fellow heirs, fellow members of the body of Messiah, fellow members of the promise in Messiah. Glory! Thus the picture of unity and oneness painted in 2:18-22. “We both have access.” “Access” is a key word in the life of Israel ; only certain humans have “access” to the Holy place and the Holy God. In Christ Jesus, in Messiah, we both – Jews and Gentiles – have full, free access into the presence of the Holy God, and more to the point, into the LIFE of the Holy God. Did you notice the prepositions in 2:18? Here we have the ideal form of prayer: to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. We will explore the implications of the prepositions later in the course.



Architects tell us that the height and breadth of a building is a function of the cornerstone: the stronger the cornerstone, the higher and broader the building can be. “Christ Jesus Himself the cornerstone” (2:20). If He is the center of a community, the community can be wonderfully inclusive. But once something else – even something else in His name – takes the central place, community begins to move in exclusive ways. May He – and nothing else – we the cornerstone of the churches we serve.



The radio interview did not go as well as I had hoped. I feel that after most such interviews. The interviewer (Charles Morris) thinks it was good…yet. So, once again, I have to trust that the Spirit takes what I was able in the moment to give and uses it for Christ’s glory. You can hear the interview on radio (Monday and Tuesday, 106.5 FM or 550 AM [8 am & 10:30 pm]) or on line at www.haventoday.org



Soul – you have access to the Living and Holy God – so go for it!



In Christ, Darrell

Andrew & Jessica said...

Dear Sisters and Brothers:



Of the many blessings of living in a rain forest is the “justification” it gives to a more contemplative life. I lived most of my life in Southern California , and for most of the time (like 45 years!) felt life “a fish out of water.” The SoCal climate calls one to “be active, play tennis, ride your mountain bike” - which I did. But the climate did not call one to “slow down, be reflective, read a good book, take time to think substantive thoughts.” All that to say, I am glad for the rainy day! I trust you will be able to do some quality reading today.



How about the texts for today’s devotional reading? Two of the most life-giving prayers in the Bible; indeed, two of the most life-giving prayers in all of human literature!



I cannot begin to tell you what Psalm 51 means to me; there is not a week that goes by in which I do not turn to it in one way or another. I think the whole Psalm is to be understood as an expression of “a broken spirit and a contrite heart.” Everything David prays in the Psalm comes from this “sacrifice You will not despise” (17). Notice that David is using the full range of the Old Testament “sin vocabulary” – sin (2, 5, 9, 13), transgressions/rebellions (1, 3, 13), and iniquity/perverted-twisted-ness (2, 5, 9) – he leaves nothing out of his confession and plea. Notice the bold verbs he uses – blot out (1, 9), wash me thoroughly (2, 7), cleanse me [or, ‘de-sin’ me] (2, 7), purify (7), hide Your face (9), do not cast me away (11), do not take Your Holy Spirit from me (11) [which is what I feel God might do when I sin – don’t you?], restore (12), sustain (12). The boldest verb is “create” (10) – “create in me a clean heart.” The Hebrew is ‘bara’. Ring a bell? It is used in Genesis 1 for God’s activity in creation. In the OT only God ‘baras’, for only God can ‘bara’. Like God, we can ‘asah’; we can take one thing and out of it make another. But only God can make something out of nothing – ‘bara.’ David is asking for a whole new work of creation: start over with me Lord and ‘bara’ a clean heart in me. Oh, yes, dear Lord!



Which is why I coupled Psalm 51 with Ephesians 3:14-21. It seems to me that Paul is praying the full implications of David’s prayer. Here is what the Living God wants to ‘bara’ in us! The Spirit working deep within our inner-person, Christ dwelling in our hearts, we learning to live in Christ’s ultimately incomprehensible love, and being filled up to the full with the fullness of God! My goodness! We need to pray this prayer slowly, one line at a time, rejoicing that God really does want this for us. [I have exegeted this prayer in chapter 5 of my book Experiencing the Trinity].

Dear Triune God: will you this very day answer this prayer in our lives as You did in the lives of the apostle Paul and those he loved.



Amazing texts. Amazing grace. Amazing Lord.



In Christ, Darrell

fromthefieryfurnace said...

Dear Sisters and Brothers:



Derek Kidner, in his little commentary on the Psalms (which I keep close at hand), refers to Psalm 68 as a “rushing cataract – one of the most boisterous and exhilarating in the Psalter” (p. 238). Of course, for the Psalmist is thinking about Yahweh’s victory of His enemies and His subsequent ascension to the place of authority and sovereignty. Tradition has it that this Psalm was sung during the Feast of Pentecost, the harvest feast (Feast of Weeks), for it celebrates God’s in-gathering of the harvest from what He has sown in the world. So many riches to take from today’s reading! Most precious to me today are verse 19 – “Blessed be Yahweh, who daily bears our burdens,” and verse 33 – “The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!” It would seem that these two works of God usually go together: God bears our burdens with and for us, and gives us strength to keep going. Yes, Lord, so be it for us this day.



After reading Ephesians 4:1-16, you likely see why I choose Psalm 68 as the companion Psalm. As Paul reflects on Jesus giving gifts to His church (4:7, 11), he goes back to Psalm 68, verses 18. As you know, this is the “instinct” of nearly all the writes of the New Testament: when declaring one of the great Christological moments (incarnation, baptism, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, etc.), they (under the leading of the Holy Spirit, the church has believed) find in the OT a text that points to and interprets the moment. Paul, along with all the NT writes, lives with the conviction and consciousness that the Risen Jesus is alive and ascended to the throne. Paul sees in Psalm 68:18 the affirmation of this fact and a text that explains what the Risen, Ascended Jesus is presently doing from the throne. Here is the difficulty with the text: Paul is quoting the LXX version of the Psalm. The Hebrew text, after speaking of Yahweh’s ascent, speaks of gifts “received”; the LXX speaks of gifts “given.” Why did the LXX make this shift? Likely because in Psalm 68:19ff we have a picture of the Ascended One sharing the spoils of His victory; the emphasis of the whole Psalm then being on “giving” – what the Ascended One “received” He “gives.” Paul, I think, knew both the Hebrew and LXX texts; the later better interprets what Paul knows to be true of the Ascended One – He gives…and gives…and gives. “Give” (or “gave”) is the key verb of Ephesians 4:1-16 – see verses 7, 8, 11. The key action of the Jesus of the text is “give.” Jesus leads a “host of captives” – you and me and millions of other women and men He has won. And then He turns around, so to speak, and gives His “captives” to one another in His Body. We are His spoils and His gifts to His people! We are gifts! And we are given to one another to help one another “grow up” – to grow up into the fullness of adulthood, a fullness measured only by the fullness of Christ Himself. The church is the community of people won by and gathered together by the Ascended Lord, to whom He then gives gifted-people to help His people become like Him. Oh, Lord, make us Your church! Help us walk (4:1) in this reality to the glory of Your name.



Enough for today.



Later in the course I will develop with you my understanding of how the Ascended Jesus, through the Spirit, gifts us.



“Let God arise!”



In Christ, Darrell

fromthefieryfurnace said...

Dear Sisters and Brothers:



One of the reasons I am so drawn to the Psalms is represented in Psalm 71 – they are so “God-oriented,” indeed, “God-saturated.” In these 24 verses the psalmist uses the pronoun You/Yours 34 times! And cries out “O Yahweh” or “O God” or “O You Holy One” 11 times! I want this to be true of my praying, don’t you? Especially meaningful to me today are what is prayed in verses 6 and 17-18. As I approach a mile-stone birthday in a few weeks, those prayers are more and more the prayer of my heart. Will do pray them on my behalf – “until I declare Your arm to this generation”?



As we saw yesterday, in the second half of his letter (chapters 4-6) Paul turns from indicative to imperative, from “what is” to “what ought to be.” In chapters 4 to 6 we find six “therefore” exhortations. Given what God has done, is doing, and will do for us in Christ, “therefore…” (4:1, 17, 25; 5:1, 7, 15). If we were reading Ephesians without the constraints of a Reading Week, we would take each of these sections one day at a time. I think, by the way, that the repeated “therefore” is also a rhetorical devise for a piece of writing intended to be read aloud (see Colossians 4:16 – true of all of Paul’s prison epistles); the “therefore” serves as an audio “cue” that we are moving on to another implication of the Gospel. This devise prepares us for the “finally” of 6:10 (I wrote in the notes for this coming Sunday, “this time Paul means it,” because I also have in mind his letter to the Philippians were he says “finally” twice – like some preachers I know!).



I think we are to understand all that follows a “therefore” as descriptive (and proscriptive) of “growing up into Christ.” The content of these sections is what maturing as a disciple of Jesus is all about. Note again Paul’s use of the verb “walk” (4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15); discipleship is not just about thinking the right things, but about walking the right way. A good exercise would be to simply make a list of all the exhortations Paul makes in chapters 4 to 6: the list would paint a picture of the maturity to which the Holy Spirit is moving us. Which of the exhortations do you especially want to see mature in you? Today I am especially moved by 5:1 – “Therefore, be imitators of God…walk in love, just as Christ…” Is there a higher form of maturity than THAT? Yes, Holy Spirit, fulfill this exhortation in me and my friends.



I head off this afternoon to Galiano Island with the Regent Faculty for our annual retreat. I will, therefore, not be able to send you a note on Saturday and Sunday. I have enjoyed “walking with” you through the readings of the past eight days. If you have been doing the exercises the past week, would you be willing to tell me something of your experience?



See you Thursday morning. May we indeed “walk” in the days to come in the fullness of what Ephesians has unfolded before us: refusing the ways of the “old self,” embracing the ways of the “new self,” not in any way grieving the Holy Spirit (“by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”), being filled with the Spirit, standing firm in the armor of God against all the subtle ways of Jesus’ enemy, praying at all times in the Spirit, making known with all boldness the mystery of the gospel (for which we just might end up in chains!).



Oh, by the way, the radio program will be delayed – there was some kind of glitch with the recording device (a gracious way of saying I think I did not push the right buttons on the machine1).



Grace to all you who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.



In Christ, Darrell