Tuesday, January 26, 2016

when He weaves it all together

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I'm always in awe when the Lord so faithfully sews together passages of scripture that I'm studying and that I hear either during a sermon, a podcast or somewhere else. It's happened countless times and it's a beautiful reminder that He's intimately involved in my life- knowing precisely where I am and meeting me right there in the midst of it, that the Word of God is active and living and breathing, and that scripture is perfectly constructed and written under the divine inspiration of a God who does not, and cannot change.

We can take Him at His word, always and forever. And we can always count on Him to provide what we need at the right time, if we are seeking after Him.

Count it all as JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Last year, The Village Church started a new sermon series through James. (Go listen). Last week I listened to the sermon on James 1:2-18 about facing trials of various kinds. It's funny because the last time I studied James was when we lived in Texas and attended The Village. I was, at the time, also doing a women's bible study at the church on the Sermon on the Mount. And it was incredible the parallels that God was revealing to me between the words written by James and the words spoken by his brother Jesus.

Like I said, He's there, weaving it all together for us. We just have to listen.

I recently studied through Hebrews. and wow was it fruitful. I had always wanted to study Hebrews but to be honest, it's a bit difficult. I've started reading through it and given up about 5 chapters in, probably on multiple occasions. I've got to say, enduring through this book this time around was incredibly rewarding.

In chapter 12, almost to the end of the book. the author is begins to wrap things up. Now, while I want to write a dissertation about all that he's written, I'll stick to this one verse. It's an incredible summary verse:

Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

So Jesus, founded our faith. He perfected our faith. And as other versions say, He finished our faith. We also read in Hebrews about how He is the trailblazer, the pioneer, the forerunner, of our faith.

In other words, He blazed the trail. He walked the road. He paved the way.

For us.

What the author of Hebrews is so clearly conveying to us is that Jesus has already done it all. Experienced it all. And then He finished it all. He is seated at the right hand of the Father signifying that He's done, the work is finished, complete, done.

And that's why we're in exhorted in this verse to look.to.Him. The author has already stated before: "consider Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1). In other words, look to Jesus. Gaze upon Jesus. Because He's awesome? Yes. Because He deserves all the honor and glory and all of our attention, passion and consideration? Yes. But it's even beyond that.

The path is rough. It gets hard. There are mountains to climb. Waters to wade through. Thorns to push through. It gets dry. It gets lonely. We get rained on. We become weak. We hunger. We thirst. We tire.

And yet, we are called to endure. To press on. To be steadfast. To not drift. To not waiver. To not shrink back. To persevere. To continue on.

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:36

Jesus endured. Jesus endured the cross. Jesus endured the ultimate trial. And Jesus counted it as joy because He saw what was set before Him. Through the cross, through that trial, He would gain the crown as Savior. He would be consecrated and appointed as the great High Priest (Heb 5:5). He would become the source of eternal salvation for His beloved (Heb 5:9). He would secure for us eternal redemption (Heb 9:12) and an eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15).

And through His enduring the cross, through His steadfastness, Jesus was perfected. As Hebrews 5:9 says, "And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him."

Now let's go on a rabbit trail here for a second because I'll be totally honest and say that this verse made me uncomfortable. Not because I don't like what it says, but because I didn't understand it! How could the God of the universe be made perfect? Wasn't He already perfect, long before He walked the earth? Certainly before He hung on the cross?

Yes. A hundred times yes.

But the phrase "made perfect" here is not referring to His holiness in regards to sin. He was always sinless and perfect. It is referring instead to His consecration to a position, to a specific office. We can just as easily us the word "consecrated" in place of "made perfect". (The Greek word being used here is nagazio.)

In other words: through the cross, through His suffering, Jesus was consecrated to (made perfect for, became qualified for) His office as Savior, Great High Priest, Mediator. As Matthew Henry puts it, "He perfected the work of our redemption by shedding His blood and was thereby perfectly qualified to be a Mediator between God and man."

I also want to include this note from the Reformation Study Bible because it's worded so well. "This does not mean that Jesus finally became sinless, since He was always without sin, but that He finished the course of suffering that was set before Him, including the sacrificial death. Having done this, He was "made perfect" or completely qualified to serve as the uniquely effective High Priest."

The point I'm making here is this: Jesus blazed the trail. Jesus endured. Jesus completed the faith. Jesus was consecrated to His position as High Priest.

Therefore, we too can now walk the trail. We can endure. We can have great faith. We are being perfected and consecrated and already are consecrated into the priesthood of believers all because of Jesus.We can walk the path because He's already finished walking the path. We can follow the trail because He's not only blazed the trail, but He's completed the trail. We can endure because He endured to perfection.

I do need to interject here and say that we are to look to Jesus because He set the perfect example, but we are also to look to Jesus because it is only through His perfect work on the cross that we can even step foot on the path. Jesus isn't just someone who did it well that we should aspire to be like. We have something far greater! We have Jesus Himself living within us, pressing us on and giving us the strength to endure. Not only did He already do it, and already did it perfectly, but now we are to do it in Him and with Him.

Which brings me to that last piece of the passage from James. He's telling us that steadfastness (we can call it endurance since we have been reading about that in Hebrews), when it is in full affect, perfects and completes.

Well isn't that interesting?

This verse from Hebrews has recently become one of my most treasured pieces of scripture:

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

It would seem that James and the writer of Hebrews have a similar goal in common: to exhort believers to endure to the end, in which we are completed and perfected. We will receive the reward that is promised if we press on, through the trials, down that rough, difficult trail.

And yet! As we read in this verse, we have already been perfected.

We have already been perfected.

And here we meet this idea of "already, not yet." What JOY that I am being perfected, that the Lord is working to sanctify me, that trials are bringing about a holy, complete and perfect person that I will never know this side of eternity. But what JOY that I am already perfected in Christ. He suffered on the cross. He perfected our faith. He was consecrated. And by doing all of that, I too am perfected and consecrated because when God looks at me, He sees the Mediator. The One who has already completed it all.

And all the while, he's not leaving me to myself. He's pushing me on to completeness. Often that road is filled with trials. Often it's filled with heartache and trouble. But take heart! God is using those things for our good. God is doing a work in us through the pain and through the trials.

Just look to Jesus to know where the hard road leads. The reward is great. Don't lose sight of Him.

Monday, January 25, 2016

pregnant Christian momma chats

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A year ago I wrote this post about some of the big things I feel called to do. One of them was to write a book. And a year later, I'm finally in the process of actually doing that, well sorta. But as I started collecting all the thoughts and ideas I want to include in said book, I started to feel like I wanted to start something now that has the same purpose, but that would be a place of community for other Christian pregnant mothers.

As I write this I am 28 weeks pregnant. After getting through 17 weeks of gruesome morning sickness, the holidays, and of course continuing to raise my three crazy rascals, I'm finally in a place to start mentally preparing for the birth of this precious babe.

And I want to share what I'm doing in that process with other moms who are in the same place.

We focus so much on the physical preparation for labor and childbirth- see your doctor regularly, keep track of vitals, eat a good diet and also the mental preparation- read about childbirth, take a hospital tour, take a childbirth preparation class. But I feel like we often neglect the emotional and spiritual aspects of preparing for birth. And those are so very important.

And so I decided to host these pregnant Christian momma chats so we can take the time to address those very important things.

It's something I obviously care a lot about. In going through my archive I found post after post after post on the topic.

How can we view labor and childbirth in light of the gospel? And how do I need to prepare my heart and my mind so that I have the right perspective going into such an awesome, incredible, unique, but often frightening experience?

That's what I want to get to the heart of in these chats.

So, if you are a pregnant Christian momma, you are invited to join us. I'll be live on Periscope (you'll have to download the app on your phone) every Tuesday at 2:30pm PST. My handle is @jessibridges. If you miss it live (where you'll have the chance to ask questions and comment), you can watch up to 24 hours after with the Periscope app or you can always find archived talks on my YouTube page page.

The topics I want to specifically get into are pretty endless but include:

-how our current emotional state and issues we're facing will affect labor
-that pregnancy and labor is a call on our lives from the Lord
-that unconfessed sin can lead to fear and pain in labor because of a lack of peace from and trust in God
-pain with a purpose, not for nothing
-labor as a sacrifice of self for the sake of your child (not unlike motherhood itself!)
-my one piece of advice when preparing for labor (and really life in general): no expectations
-practical examples of how I prepare spiritually for labor, scripture to meditate over

And those are just a few things, but I also want to be able to chat about the things that are on your mind too. So please feel free to hop on with us and ask questions or email me with questions thisjessibridges@yahoo.com. 

Lastly, I'm asking that if you know someone who could benefit from a community like this, please share this information with them.

Ultimately these chats are because I want to encourage you. As you prepare for your new baby, I want to encourage you to also prepare for the actual arrival of of your babe: intentionally prepare for your labor. This is not something to take lightly. It's not something that is just going to happen. Granted, it will happen. But will it happen on purpose? Will you be intentional about your labor?