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Improving Your Observation Skills

Improving Your Observation SkillsWe live in a world of screens that compete for our attention. Though it’s easy to be attracted to the things competing for our attention on our phone, television, or computer screen, it takes a little more work to really notice things that are going on all around us. The same can be said for the way we approach the Bible. We often have a superficial understanding of a given passage because we rarely take the time to really observe what the text is saying.

On this program, Michael Horton discusses this issue with Jim Gilmore, author of Look: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Observation Skills. Join us for this special edition of the White Horse Inn.

Host Quote:

“If we consider reflection, I think at one level, the difference between, let’s say, watching a video and reading a book is you seldom stop the film to say I’m going to think about this scene right now. You’ll do that with a book but there’s even a further step away as to not have anything that’s in between and observing your surroundings. I think we’re losing our sense of reflection.

“We’re losing a sense of quietness. Sometimes you put those ear buds on because it’s noisy, so you’d rather listen to your own music than the street noise, not a bad decision. So part of it is a call not just for more reflection but for more quietness. I think what’s happening with social media particularly is just making the world increasingly noisy, noisy being the lowest form of intelligence that exists. It’s not even data or information. It’s just this random stream of just blah, blah, blah. It all to me sounds like what the adult sounds like to the kids on Peanuts. It’s the getaway from that world.” – Jim Gilmore

Term to Learn:

“Therapeutic Culture”

The move to the therapeutic in society has been induced by several cultural developments. The intense psychologization of men’s attitudes and feelings as the primary subconscious level of “who we are,” the altering definitions of justice as primarily the accommodation of society to remove all barriers from self-expression and empowering fulfillment of the self, and the movement to the individual subject as the arbiter of that freedom to happiness apart from external structures and forces. The good life of justice, freedom, happiness have been internalized to such a degree that boredom and the external forces which upset that interior life are now seen as the greatest of evils. Justice has been re-defined in the last century as the removal of external barriers and the material empowerment of the individual towards the good life perceived to be desirable.

Men’s attitudes and feelings have come to arbitrate justice and goodness in the late modern society. Safety and security have been held out as the primary good of Western culture above what previous generations saw as essential to promoting the good life, namely liberty, self-reliance, and responsibility. Conventional ideals of moral responsibility have gradually become subordinated to state interpreted therapeutic ideals. “Modern culture is unique in having given birth to such elaborately argued anti-religions, all aiming to confirm us in our devastating illusions of individuality and freedom,” writes Philip Rieff in his magisterial, The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Jacques Ellul argued in the mid-century that whenever a culture’s ethical outlook could not keep a pace with its technological developments, propaganda was the fated result – the subconscious alteration of men’s attitudes and feelings through technological means of domination. Modern cultural production has moved into the business and technique of manipulating a sense of well­being under what Jürgen Habermas has called a “therapeutocracy.” (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Culture,” WHI [blog], October 05, 2015)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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When it comes to the Reformation, one of the most important topics to discuss is Martin Luther on Scripture. Recorded on location in Germany, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at Luther’s teaching on Scripture and his three steps for reading and studying the Bible.

Martin Luther and the Bible

When it comes to the Reformation, one of the most important topics to discuss is Martin Luther on Scripture. There are a number of things that we could say about this topic, but let’s look at just a few.

The first is the authority of Scripture. We see this in Luther at the Leipzig Debate in 1519. One of the monuments to Luther, in Eisleben, has an etching on the side of a very angry-looking Roman Catholic official. That angry-looking official is Johann Eck. On the other side of Eck is Luther, and Eck is holding in his hand some bound-up documents, while Luther is holding a book—the Bible—and that tells it all. Eck at Leipzig appealed to the teachings of the councils, the teachings of the church, and those rolled-up documents represent that. He came at Luther and the Wittenberg Reformers from the context of the church and the church’s authority. And Luther said to Eck, “I have an authority that is older than yours,” and, of course, this astounded Eck and he said, “Name them.” Luther said, “Paul and Peter and John.” He appealed directly to the authority of Scripture at Leipzig and, of course, he did the same thing at Worms. So, at Worms he said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” When he said, “Here I stand,” he was standing on Scripture and standing firm on the foundation of Scripture. And because Scripture is authoritative, we should read it and we should study it.

Among the many things Luther said about the Bible, he offered a lot of counsel about how to read it and study it. One text in particular that helps us is a preface to a collection of his writings in German. He gives three steps for reading and studying the Bible. The first step is oratio, or “prayer.” The Psalms are especially helpful here. Luther was very familiar with the Psalms. As a monk, he would have been in the Psalms seven times a day. They took Psalm 119:164 very literally: “Seven times in the day I will praise Thee,” that text says. So Luther and his fellow monks would take seven periods out of their day to spend in the Psalms. Luther loved the Psalms. Some contend that Luther had the Psalter memorized, and he often had the Hebrew Psalter with him, and after that he would also have the Latin Psalter with him as a monk. This was a book he lived in, and it was a book that taught him not only that he should learn Scripture but that he should pray Scripture. So, the Psalms can be very helpful for us as we think about Scripture and as we seek to approach it prayerfully.

The second step is meditatio. Luther says the temptation is to push on, to rush on, to just simply read the text. Luther cautions us, he counsels us, he encourages us to simply pause, to meditate on God’s Word. And again, the Psalms are helpful here because the psalmists often call on us to meditate on God’s Word.

The third step in studying the Bible is tentatio, or “struggle.” Just as Jacob wrestled with the angel, we wrestle and struggle with Scripture. The struggle, Luther says, comes from our unbelief, our doubt, our stubbornness; ultimately, it comes from our sin, and the Word of God confronts it all.

That’s Luther on Scripture, the authority of Scripture, and how to read and study and learn and labor in and even love this Word that God has given us.

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 (This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Reflections of Grace Slider

I felt as if I was going through the motions of life, but without the joy.  “Lord, where is my joy today…. I was walking along a river, and my surroundings were beautiful, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I knew Jesus was there, but I was yearning for something more this day and wasn’t sure what. I felt cantankerous and out of sorts.  I just kept walking.  All at once, Jesus was on the scene.  Activity was going on all around me, but it was as if I was encapsulated in the sweetest air that was almost palpable.  I stopped, took a deep breath, and looked up.  There, above my head on a bare tree branch, was a lone sparrow.  He was hopping around and just stopped when I looked at him, and he looked right back at me.  At that moment, I remembered Jesus’ Words in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Matthew 6:28 & 10:29)

Honestly, at that moment I had this profound sense that Jesus knew what kind of day I was having, and He was letting me know through this little sparrow just how important I was to Him.  Interesting, too, that I was having a woman kind of day. You know, one of those days when you feel totally unattractive. Then He shows me this unattractive little brown bird.  And at that moment I saw the sparrow through His eyes, and I actually felt love and was delighted with the little guy.   Jesus cared that I was having an out-of-touch kind of day, and He was walking with me through it by sharing this little bird with me.

Image: R.F. Hadley

Image: R.F. Hadley

The way I see it, we have three choices each day, to experience Jesus in this way, in our every-day, get-up, wash-face, eat-breakfast, do-laundry, clean-house kind of day:

♥ Choice 1: When you rise in the morning, at that moment, make a conscious, determined decision that He is present no matter how you “feel.”   Don’t assume that because you are feeling a negative emotion, that He isn’t right there.  He didn’t say, “I will be with you only on good days,” He said, “I will be with you always.”

♥ Choice 2: Start talking. Yes, acknowledge His presence and start talking to Him.   This takes effort.  We are so in tune to having a visible person in our presence when we are talking, that it is hard to just start talking to Jesus about just anything.  You see, I believe that God created us for His pleasure and companionship.  Didn’t He walk and talk with Adam and Eve before the fall?  When sin entered in, it cut them off from enjoying God’s daily tangible presence in their lives.  So tragic.  But then Jesus came to restore the fellowship with God that we were created for.  He paid the price for our sins long ago, so that we now have direct access to God through His Son–who is perfect in every way, and He says, “When you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”   We can walk and talk with Him now, just like Adam and Eve did.   I know this to be true because I do it.  So, as an act of your will, start talking.  Tell Him how you feel that day.  Tell Him your concerns, joys, and about the things you need to surrender to Him and are struggling with.  Don’t forget to be thankful and tell Him of your love for Him.

♥ Choice 3:  Exercise your faith.  Believe He is there, because He is.  (In Him we live, and move, and have our very being.)   Remember, faith is something you can’t see or feel, but simply must believe because He says it is so.  So, keep talking and believing, and this will move you into the realm of His Spirit.

You will be rewarded with a tangible presence of Jesus Himself.  This kind of walk doesn’t come overnight.  It takes time to develop.  But why on earth, if we know this kind of relationship with Him is possible, don’t we want to take the time to press into it?  And keep pressing into it until we begin to hear His voice.   Yes, He will talk back.  You will become more and more able to know it is really Him speaking.  You will be conversing with God!   He will not let you down.

Most people I know who struggle with this, have a hard time believing it is His voice they hear.  He is always talking, we just don’t believe it is Him.  Have wildly abandoned faith, friends.  Be willing to get outside the box of your doubt and unbelief, and just write down what He says that you think you are making up.  That is His voice.   It comes as a thought you know you didn’t think.

The Lord constantly speaks to us and gives us His direction. It’s never the Lord who is not speaking, but it’s us who are not hearing. Jesus made some radical statements about hearing His voice in John 10:3-5. He was speaking about Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep and the only way to enter the sheepfold.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:3-5)

 

Notice that He said in verse three: His sheep hear His voice. He didn’t say His sheep CAN hear His voice or SHOULD hear His voice. He made the emphatic statement that His sheep DO hear His voice. Most Christians would question the accuracy of that statement since their experiences don’t line up. But it’s not what Jesus said that is wrong; all true believers can and do hear the voice of God; they just don’t recognize what they are hearing as being God’s voice.

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Reflections of Grace Slider

Though we have the promise that as His sheep we hear his voice, too many believers are starved for that intimate relationship that alone can satisfy the desire of their hearts. Many people who have read my blogs ask me how I can be so sure what I am hearing is really Him. Do I just make it up in my head? I get the looks. You know the ones; the small smirk because they really think you are crazy. No one can talk to God, right?. When you are ready to really press in and exercise your faith, I can assure you that when you truly hear Him, there is no one who can convince you that it is not His voice you hear.

This kind of intimacy with Jesus is the key to all that you struggle with in your life. When you know you hear His voice, you will never feel alone again. The awareness that His presence is always there gives you confidence that He is in control, even at the most terrifying times.

Key 1: God’s voice in your heart often sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts that you come to realize is not coming from you. It is just like a real conversation, because it is. I imagine Him seated next to me at the table where I study and talk to Him as if we are having coffee (which I usually am). It was at one of these times that He told me to write a book, told me what title to give it, and who to talk to when it was completed. More on that in a later chapter.

Key 2: Be still in your mind so you can sense God’s flow of thoughts and emotions within. I had to learn how to bring all my thoughts captive, and then throw them off. We are always at war with an enemy who wants nothing more than to cloud our communication with his destructive suggestions:

“What will people think? You are deceiving yourself. You are just really losing it, Dixie. What makes you think God Himself will talk to you?

And it goes on and on as long as I am receptive to his suggestions of doubt and fear, and agree with him. Remember, Satan can’t read our minds. He can only introduce his voice as if it is God’s. Don’t agree with him…you can judge it by the Word and how you feel when he speaks. Jesus only brings peace.

Image: cwgministries.org

Image: cwgministries.org

Key 3: As you talk to Him, fix the eyes of your new heart upon Jesus, seeing in the Spirit the dreams and visions of Almighty God. He gave us an imagination to use to exercise our faith. This is exciting. Step out there in the Spirit. Believe in His supernatural power working in and through you. Use your imagination and see Him sitting there smiling at you, chuckling in delight with your personality. He will show you things to come and give you visions and Words. Did you know He has a great personality? We laugh and cry together. I sing to Him, and He sings to me.

Key 4: Journaling. The recording of your prayers and God’s answers brings great freedom in hearing God’s voice. It is a two-way conversation on paper. I have found it to be a fabulous catalyst for clearly discerning God’s inner spontaneous flow, because as I journal, I am able to write in faith for long periods of time, simply believing it is God. Doubt blocks divine communication. When you are familiar with His Word and His Spirit within you, you know when the voice you’re hearing is not His. With journaling, I can receive in faith, knowing that when the flow has ended, I can test and examine it carefully, making sure that it lines up with scripture. My belief is that when you blindly step out in faith, He will never let you down. Jesus smiles and is delighted that you are venturing outside your reasoning. Isn’t that what faith is?

You will be amazed when you journal. Doubt may hinder you at first, but throw it off, reminding yourself that it is a biblical concept, and that God is present, speaking to you, His child. Relax. When we cease our labors and enter His rest, God is free to flow (Hebrews 4:10). Sit back comfortably, take out your pen and paper, smile, and turn your attention toward the Lord in adoration, seeking His face. I just write out my heart to Him…I talk to Him on paper, fixing my gaze on Jesus. I even tell Him about my poor attitudes, my doubts, and my frustrations. When I am through with my prayer, almost immediately I begin to write again as His voice speaks to my spirit. I entitle it “Jesus says:” It sometimes goes faster than I can write, but I simply write it down. Later, as I read my journaling, I am always blessed to discover that I am indeed dialoguing with God. And the best part? When I go back and read what He said, weeks or months later, I have yet to find a time when everything He says hasn’t come to pass.

Just step out there and do it!! Don’t be afraid you are making it up. That is what faith is. You will fall in total love with this wonderful, exciting, personable, smiling, and full-of-love Jesus.

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Thank You
Wisdom Matrix
Patheos
Bizvid

e2 media network presents its first live webcast featuring Jeff Allen (An Examined Life Podcast), Dixie Diamanti (Reflections of Grace Podcast), Dewey Bertolini (Jesus in HD) and Suzanne Lederer (Experience God). Together with host Jefferson Drexler (Parent Like You Mean It), they discuss various aspects of encountering and experiencing God healing in peoples’ lives in the 21st century.

The webcast was taped live on February 25, 2015.
Four more live webcasts are planned throughout the year, with the next one coming in April regarding Educating and Equipping Families.

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Suzanne Lederer leads us in connecting with God through Lectio Divina, or “Sacred Reading”.

Luke 10:38-42

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Check out suzannelederer.com for a deeper look into the age old worship practice.

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Suzanne Lederer leads us in connecting with God through Lectio Divina, or “Sacred Reading”.

Colossians 1:19-22 (NLT)

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
  He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
 by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.  Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

Check out suzannelederer.com for a deeper look into the age old worship practice.

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Suzanne Lederer leads us in connecting with God through Lectio Divina, or “Sacred Reading”.

Luke 10:30-37 (NLT)

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

From Suzanne:

Christians have been practicing Lectio Divina for 1,500 years. It was designed to cultivate a slower, more reflective reading of Scripture, a devotional approach. Think about a letter you receive from a special friend or lover, you can’t wait to open it, you savor every word, and it is personal and intimate; words just for you. This is the heart of practicing Lectio Divina! It forces you to get out of your head and tap into your heart, your emotions, and to stop and listen to what God has to say to you, paying attention to the deeper layers of your soul which are often hiding and need to be surrendered to God where you will receive grace and love. This can be scary at first, which was my experience. I was not really in touch with my deeper feelings and motives, and wondered: will God meet me as things begin to surface? My desire for Him to change me in the deepest places propelled me to move forward, to be open and make myself available through the practice of Lectio Divina.

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Suzanne Lederer leads us in connecting with God through Lectio Divina, or “Sacred Reading”.

Colossians 2:11-14 (NLT)

11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

Check out suzannelederer.com for a deeper look into the age-old worship practice.

 

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Suzanne Lederer leads us in connecting with God through Lectio Divina, or “Sacred Reading”.

Romans 6:6-11 (MSG)

Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

Check out suzannelederer.com for a deeper look into the age-old worship practice.

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