As I was contemplating my devotional for this month, I decided to share a spiritual discipline versus writing another blog post about peace. When you practice this discipline, you can experience God’s peace in your life. Right now.
Meditation on Peace
What follows is a guided meditation on the Word of God based on the Christian spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer (a.k.a. meditation). In his classic book on spiritual disciplines (A Celebration of Discipline), Richard Foster observes:
In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied.”
One way we can “disengage” from the pressures of the world is with contemplative prayer or Christian meditation. Foster states that words used in Scripture “to convey the idea of meditation” occur more than fifty times—and that’s just in the Old Testament!
These words have various meanings: listening to God’s word, reflecting on God’s works, rehearsing God’s deeds, ruminating on God’s law, and more. In each case there is stress upon changed behavior as a result of our encounter with the living God. Repentance and obedience are essential features in any biblical understanding of meditation.”
As followers of Christ, we don’t practice meditation for the sake of clearing our minds or relaxation (although relaxation may be a happy outcome just the same). Instead, we meditate on Scripture and the Lord’s promises in order to bring about repentance in our lives, so that restoration replaces resistance and rebellion; obedience overrides resentment.
Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
Today’s devotional will walk you through a Scripture-based meditation that centers on Jesus Christ as our source of peace. As you participate in this contemplative prayer, you will…
It’s like a breath of fresh air just swept across my Bible Study world. As one who gravitates towards studies that dig into the historical context of Scripture, the original languages, and the local customs of the time, I tend to prefer studies by (or similar to) Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer. I enjoy digging into the Word—excavating hidden treasures and deep truths—so much so that I may have forgotten how wonderful it is to simply read the Word of God without commentaries, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, and theological resources at my fingertips.
Each week’s study is bracketed with a brief written introduction by the author (there are no videos) and discussion questions for a small group. (Since I completed the study on my own, I read through them, and answered anything applicable.) There are five days of homework to be completed each week: the first four days center on Scripture reading, reflection, and application, and the fifth day is reserved for review and reflection.
From the author bio on the back cover:
Kim Erickson began following Christ after the death of her three-year-old son from strep throat in 2008. Her growing relationship with the Lord and her Bible saved her from the pit of grief. During this time, she also developed a deep, abiding love for the Word of God. Kim’s love of Scripture led her to develop a website and teaching blog to help other women fall in love with it, too: lovemyword.com. An elementary school teacher turned lawyer, Kim lives in Florida with her husband and son.”
Erickson’s explanation about how God used this tragic event to draw her close to Himself and heal her heart is interwoven throughout the book. She shares tidbits here and there so as not to detract from the study of the Word. Her testimony—though heart-wrenching—is extremely refreshing, exuding a joy and peace that only the Lord could bring.
On the first four days of each week, you begin with Scripture. First, you read through the specified passage (short), and then you reflect upon it one verse at a time specifically looking for what it says about God. Erickson has provided a helpful guide for this part of the study, so you know what to look for during your review.
Following the Scripture study, there are insightful notes and open-ended questions to help you think through the meaning of what you’ve read and how it applies to your life. Each day concludes with a Bible verse and a specific prayer to apply what was learned that day.
On the fifth day of each week, you begin by asking the Lord to “reveal anything you may have missed the first time through the lessons.” I love that. Then, she guides you through a review of that week’s Scripture reflections, applications, and lessons learned. And then, there’s my favorite part of the study: Stillness before the Lord.
Be Quiet. Be Still.
Each week ends with a reminder to be quiet and still. To listen to the Lord. To remember what you’ve learned. To listen to the Holy Spirit. This is a very important part of the study and should not be skipped.
God has been showing me over and over and over again throughout the Prophets that, as His people, we need to slow down, be quiet, pay attention, and listen. We cannot continue living a hectic pace of life with the volume on everything turned up and expect to be able to hear what God is saying! We have to carve out time to be still and know that He is God.
Time for Reflection on the Entire Study
The final week (week 7) of the study is a review. Each day, you revisit one of the previous weeks and reflect on what God has revealed to you through this study. The book ends with suggestions for taking it deeper with goal setting and accountability.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I highly recommend His Last Words. I recommend it for small groups and individuals. I recommend it for women and men. I recommend it for Christ followers and those who aren’t yet sure about this whole Jesus thing. In fact, if you or a friend have not yet put faith in God, this is the study for you!
There Were Not Enough Sources
Now, being the Bible nerd that I am, I have to confess that I was a lot disappointed in the “Notes” page at the end of the book: There were only nine footnotes for the entire study including only six sources (one of which was an English dictionary).
While I loved relying primarily on the Bible for this study, I believe a few more resources would have shed a more light on certain passages. For example, while reflecting on Jesus’ restoration of Peter in John 21, Erickson laments,
We don’t know why Peter was grieved by the third ‘do you love me?'”
Um…yeah, we kinda do know why he was grieved. With a little more research or a more scholarly commentary, the author would have seen that Jesus was using one word for “love” (agape) in His first two questions, while Peter was answering with a completely different word (phileo). The third time Jesus asks Peter “do you love me?” He switches from using His word (agape)to using Peter’s word (phileo). This is what grieved Peter, and a study of the interplay of these two Greek words for “love” adds texture and depth to the interaction between Jesus and Peter, as well as one’s interpretation of the passage. This can easily be overlooked if you’re relying exclusively on an English translation. I’m not trying to underplay the role of the Holy Spirit at all; however, we must keep in mind that the Bible was written in other languages, and the Holy Spirit has enlightened many theologians as they did their own research on the Scripture.
With that said, honestly, I think that this is one of the best Bible studies I’ve done in a really, really long time! I loved it, and I recommend His Last Wordswith no hesitation whatsoever!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
In the documentary, The Last Days of Jesus, a few well-known (thanks to the History Channel H2) liberal scholars collaborate to weave a “new” narrative about the Crucifixion based on extra-biblical sources: secular historical records, selectpseudepigraphal writings, and recent archaeological discoveries.
Last Days of Jesus
Produced by Simcha Jacobovici, The Naked Archaeologist—featuring local UNC Professor James Tabor and numerous international scholars—this documentary approaches the story of Jesus from a Scripturally skeptical, yet historically intriguing, point of view.
Although I do not agree with each of their conclusions (which is my right based on my own research), the documentary is saturated with excellent historical reminders and re-enactments, fantastic footage filmed throughout the Holy Land and the ancient Roman Empire, and an extra-biblical perspective on the story of Jesus.
I rather enjoyed this documentary. As an INTJ and lifelong learner, I prefer to gather information from a variety of scholars and perspectives—especially when their views are filmed on-site in Jerusalem, Galilee, Caesarea Maritima, and Rome! I always learn something and gain interesting insights into the culture and time of Jesus and His followers. ⚠ PLEASE NOTE ⚠ This is NOT a Scripture-centered approach to the Passion story, so only watch it if you’re interested in understanding how some skeptics explain the crucifixion of Jesus in first-century Judea.
The last 30-minutes of the documentary gives Jacobovici a platform to weave together a fanciful theory of the Passion based on nothing but speculation and potentially correlative events. (They only correlate provided you completely disregard the timeline presented in the Gospel accounts—most of which were written either by eyewitnesses or based on eyewitness testimony.) Jacobovici’s theory rests on the expansion of the Passion timeline: placing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem six-months prior to Passover. In other words, “Holy Week” becomes “Holy Six-Months.”
The Last Supper may very well be that ‘doomed’ strategy meeting where they were looking for a way out and they couldn’t find one.” Jacobovici
His theory is that Jesus was arrested after the Temple cleansing during the Feast of Tabernacles (not Passover, as Scripture clearly states in ALL four Gospel accounts) and left to rot in jail for six months, thus losing popularity with the masses.
My Opinion on the “Last Days of Jesus” Documentary
When it all comes down, the conclusions reached by Jacobovici and the other scholars are based on a logical fallacy: argumentum ex silentio (argument from silence). The unnecessarily expanded timeline, the Triumphal Entry dated to six-months earlier than everyrecorded account places it, Jesus’ six-month imprisonment (nowhere mentioned or hinted at) and subsequent loss of popularity (again, nowhere mentioned or hinted at), the critical role of Aelius Sejanus in the politics of Judea—ALL of this is based on speculation and conjecture. I’m so disappointed with the ending of this documentary.
Oh well. It is what it is. I enjoyed mostof the documentary, learned a couple new things, and LOVED seeing some of my favorite places in the Holy Land .
Be encouraged by the following facts:
Many knowledgeable, liberal scholars used to deny vehemently that Jesus ever actually existed—they don’t deny it anymore! Many intelligent, liberal scholars also used to deny that He was crucified (or that anyone was ever crucified, for that matter)—they don’t deny that anymore either! Many liberal scholars still deny that He was raised from the dead—stay tuned…
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
By leveraging his years of teaching the Bible and the input of his students at Tabor University, Leonard Sweet has created an intriguing list of unpopular social habits of the most important man who ever lived. Highlighting Jesus’ proclivity to re-interpret the Law and break away from cultural norms and religious legalism, Sweet shows us how Jesus is more radical than we have been led to believe. He challenges us to take a fresh look at the Messiah as a rebel and savior.
Bad Habits of Jesus
Sweet’s book provides a fantastic reference list of the so-called “bad” habits of Jesus. It’s a great resource for preachers in need of sermon ideas and Bible study leaders in search of a new angle to engage their members—study questions provided at the end of the book offer helpful discussion starters for small groups.
The book itself is well written; however, I think the editing went awry in many places. The mixed analogies boggle the mind. For example, in the chapter presenting Jesus’ habit of taking off by himself without telling anyone He was leaving, Sweet writes,
The soul needs two things as a tree needs water and light: solitude and society. Together they form a barbell that the soul lifts to get strong and healthy.
I’m not exactly sure why a tree’s needs were brought into it, and I don’t see the point in switching the analogy to barbells which are never picked up again. Sweet continues by carefully connecting a number of church billboard-worthy statements:
Solitude is not solo time but soul time with God. Solitude is a relationship word, another name for relationship with the self and with the Source. Solitude is not a time-out from relationships, for relationship is central to solitude. Aloneness is not soulful sophistry but sophistication and maturity of relationship with God.
In my opinion, stringing together a number of “sticky statements” like this actually detracts from the overall message and readability of the book. Sadly, it happens repeatedly throughout the book. Another example follows:
Stories and signs don’t lack truth value; they lock in truth value. Truth for Jesus was timelessness made timely by the time-full. And to live relational truth is dangerous in a world of philosophical truth.
These sentences themselves may be well-crafted works of art, but even museums leave ample space between paintings on a wall!
Don’t get me wrong: I am not in favor of “dumbing down” theology. But I cannot condone making it more complicated than it needs to be. As Sabrina Fairchild remarks to Linus Larrabee in the movie Sabrina, “Sometimes more isn’t always better, Linus. Sometimes it’s just more.” The author of this book took a relatively simple subject and muddied up the waters for no good reason.
So, I enjoyed the content, but I did not care for the form in which it was delivered.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”