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Following Jesus, The Pioneer Pilgrim (via Jonathan Gibson)

A reflection on the longing for the better world which Christians experience, and how Jesus has walked through the darkness of this life to bring us to eternity with himself.
From Jonathan Gibson:

One of the ways in which the Psalms connect to Jesus Christ is in the sphere of typological experience. The psalmist or the person described in the psalm (like the blessed man in Psalm 1, God’s anointed king in Psalm 2, or the righteous sufferer in Psalm 3) is a type of Christ in their experience. That is, the fullest and most perfect expression of their desires, disappointments, and sufferings is found in the life experience of Jesus Christ. In this regard, the psalms are not just about Jesus; they were also experienced by Jesus.
As the true, faithful Israelite, Jesus perfectly experienced the desires expressed in this psalm, especially the vivid, intense pulsebeat for heaven and for God. Jesus was the Son of Man, born of Mary, but throughout his life he never forgot that he was a son of heaven. During his earthly ministry, he wandered from place to place like his patriarch fathers before him. In fact, he didn’t even have a tent to dwell in. “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). Why? Because for the joy set before him, he endured the cross and then sat down at his Father’s right hand in his presence (Heb. 12:2). This world was not his home, he was just a-passing through.
The life of our Lord is one of those parts of the Bible—like those of the patriarchs in Canaan and those of the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem—where the affectional pulsebeat for heaven, for God, is pumping strong. Jesus was the pioneer pilgrim, the one who in his earthly life embodied the perfect longing for heaven, the perfect longing for God. And because he perfectly lived out this longing, God looked with favor on him as our Anointed King. When Christ died, the temple curtain was torn in two: God removed the angelic barrier that had stood between him and humanity since the day Adam was expelled from the garden-temple of Eden.

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let his little child come in.

And when God does let us “come in” to his heaven after our earthly pilgrimage, we will find that C. S. Lewis and Augustine were right: we were made for another world, we were made for God. The deep longings we experience now will be met then, fully and finally, not simply in heaven itself, but in God himself.

Read the whole post here.


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Empathy – The Fellowship Of Suffering (via Rut Etheridge at Gentle Reformation)

Some reflections of nurturing a capacity to go beyond recognising a hurt to having a sense of the impact of the hurt – while not allowing the situation to be about your experience.
Rut Etheridge at Gentle Reformation:

Every emotion you’ve felt, the Lord has felt. I don’t know how that works, exactly. I do know that he’s felt your emotions and mine without the taint of sin. But that only means that unlike us, Jesus has felt what it is to be fully, uncompromisingly, relentlessly human, an image-bearer who never fell. He knows empathetically what it’s like to hurt as a human, but moving beyond what you or I can experience, he experienced the pains of a fallen world in the holiest and most holistic manner possible. What he never experienced was the corrupt and corrupting responses you and I daily conceive and enact as we face trial and temptation. He endured to the end, unstained by rebellion against his Father’s law. He was tempted in every way we are, but remained without sin (Hebrews 4).
As adopted, beloved sons and daughters of God, siblings of Jesus Christ, we are called to live as he did in this fallen world, learning sympathy as we suffer and ever straining toward empathy. We will never be our Savior, nor is any Christ-like suffering we endure ever identical to what Jesus endured and accomplished as the unique son of God, the spotless substitutionary sin-bearer. Jesus calls us to take up our own cross, not to carry his. But as Paul puts it so personally and poetically, it is the cry of the maturing Christian heart to come as close as possible in life to what the Savior endured and experienced in this world, through whatever times and circumstances the Lord would allot us (Philippians 3).
We are to seek empathy with Christ not in the sense of trying to mimic particular actions of his or trying to recreate historical circumstances and cultural conditions long past. We want to approach empathy with the Savior by having a heart made increasingly like his, filled with affections taught by God’s word and flowing forth in words and actions which draw attention to the glory and goodness of our heavenly Father (Philippians 2).
Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that he wants to know Christ, both in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering. Indeed, we often experience the power of Christ’s resurrection most truly and tangibly in the midst of our suffering the trials he calls us to endure for his sake. This is the case with my friends, and with countless other Christian sufferers throughout history.
None of this is to even come close to suggesting that only Christians suffer, or that Christians by definition suffer more severely than others, much less that only Christians suffer nobly and admirably. I wish that could go without saying, but sometimes Christian discourses on suffering can seem self-important and forgetful or dismissive of the pain shared by those who don’t share our faith and who endure that pain in an exemplary way. At the risk of falling into that same trap of self-importance, however, there is something unique not only about the purpose and principles of Christian suffering, but about the Christian’s capacity with regard to suffering.

Read the whole post here.


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Ten Bible Passages For Severe Illness (via Kathryn Butler)

This article by Kathryn Butler at Desiring God features ten Bible verses/passages that speak of the presence of God’s love to those who are suffering.
It is helpful in encouraging Christians to remember these verses for their own encouragement, and also, of course, to share with others.
It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a helpful start.
Five are from Psalms and five are from the New Testament.

PSALM 46:1–3
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
2 CORINTHIANS 4:16–18
“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Read the whole article here.


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The Haunting Presence Of Depression (via Mike Cosper)

Mike Cosper attempts to write a sensitive and nuanced reflection on depression and suicide, prompted by the death of chef and food/travel documentary make Anthony Bourdain.

This is what’s monstrous about depression. It is not simply a bad day or even a bad few months. It is a haunting presence, a grayness that covers all of life. It insulates you from joy under even the best of circumstances, and it makes you feel as though joy has left forever.
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In times like these, I want simplistic narratives. If only he’d asked for help. If only he’d acknowledged his pain. If only he’d found a friend. If only he’d found the hope of the gospel. There may be some truth in each of these, but reality is always more complex and harsh.
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There may be any number of physical, biological, or neurological reasons that people find themselves trapped in a metaphorical burning building, and we’d be wise not to speak too glibly or simplistically to them or about them. Instead, we might offer them what God offers: a safe place to come and rest. A warm meal. The company of our presence. We might point them to the care of doctors and therapists, and we might work in our communities to remove the stigma that comes with the label “depression” so that we see it in the same way we see chicken pox or the flu. These things can happen to anyone. And they can kill you.
Of course, we can and should also point them to a Savior who is a “man of sorrows” and acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). The world simply is not what it is meant to be, and its brokenness takes a toll on everyone. Some of us might just be more sensitive to it than others.
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I wish everyone who felt the plague of depression could feel seen and known, comforted by the fact that they aren’t alone. For those who know and love depressed persons, this is a holy calling, and a difficult one.
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I pray the promise of Christ’s redemptive, acquainted-with-sorrow presence would spread throughout our depressed and depressing culture. I pray Christians could work to be faithfully present to those around them. And today, as I should do every day, I pray that those who feel lost in a gray cloud or trapped in a burning building would know that there are people longing to help them and a God whose grace is real.
“Come to me,” Jesus said, “all who are weary and heavy burdened . . . and I will give you rest for your soul.”

The whole post is at the Gospel Coalition.


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Thirteen Signs Of High Emotional Intelligence (via Justin Baruso at Inc.com)

Emotional Intelligence can seem a difficult concept to define.
This article describes how thirteen facets of emotional intelligence function in the real world.
There are explanations for each of the thirteen at the article.
Here’s a sample:

1. You think about feelings.
2. You pause.
9. You apologize.
12. You help others.

Read the whole post here.


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Learning To Endure (via David Powlison)

David Powlison on the fact that learning some spiritual disciplines can only happen by going through a protracted painful pathway.
A couple of quotes:

There’s no way you’re ever going to learn endurance without having to keep on going through something hard that doesn’t go away. There’s no way you’re ever going to learn forbearance without having to face something that you really wish you didn’t have to, and you need to somehow come to grips with it.
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It is actually the way that we learn the most profound and the best lessons that we could ever learn. It’s where faith, love, and joy are most profoundly formed.

read the whole transcript (or watch the video) here.


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Tumbling Sky – Matt Searles’ Album Of Psalms For Weary Souls Free For A Limited Time

To mark the release of his book Tumbling Sky: Psalm Devotions for Weary Souls Matt Searles is making the album which inspired the book available for free download.
The album is a wonderful addition to Searles’ two earlier productions.
The Psalms are chosen this time to reflect the ministry that they offer to those in times of lament or suffering.
I don’t know how long the offer will last.

Go here for information about the devotional book.

Go here for the free music.