|Peter, from Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth
I see you
|Peter, from Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth
What do you want? John 1:37
And no-nonsense, getting down to business,
the first thing you ask us,
in this most beautiful of books.
is a question.
What do you want?
I am today ashamed of the smallness
of my desire.
But I must be honest about it.
Here it is.
I place it in your hands.
Please grant it.
But if you transform it,
or deny it,
still, be thou blessed.
Just give me your joy.
Give me yourself.
In Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, good and bad angels speak persuasively to Faustus. He chooses the path of adventure, exploration and experience.
Two voices, saying different and opposite things. It’s a more common experience than I had realised. Billy Graham had a crisis with two voices--reason and Charles Templeton; orthodoxy and Henrietta Mears. He chose to believe in the literal inspiration of the Scriptures. He moved upwards into fame and adulation. Templeton lost his faith, and ended up bitter, because you see, he really did love Jesus, and felt he had lost something.
Or pray, think, study scripture and think for myself? Encounter Scripture for myself. One is easy; one can be difficult and painful.
But, of course, if the truths of evangelical and Christian orthodoxy are the truth, they will withstand questioning. And Christ himself will withstand all questioning, of that I have no doubt!
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels,
4 Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
5 It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil .
What’s beautiful is that these traits–being patient, kind, not indulging in envy or boasting, not being proud, or rude, or self-seeking, or easily angered–are all behavioural traits.
So the gifts which God gives you, which you can do nothing about either way–eloquence in speech, spiritual gifts like tongues, prophecy, spiritual wisdom, understanding and discernment, faith, the ability to endure heroic self-sacrifice– have nothing to do with character, with the kind of person you really are.
What matters is the behaviour that the wise man of the age, as well as the simplest and least privileged of God’s children can adopt–being patient and kind, not arrogant or boastful or rude or easily angered, not keeping a record of wrongs.
Easy, isn’t it?
Except when someone takes it upon themselves to be just the opposite to us. To be impatient and unkind, to be jealous of us, to boast, to show off, be rude, self-seeking and irascible.
Our reactions reveal to what extent we are really controlled by the spirit of God.
And if, we fail?
We repent, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again.
And that is the true beauty of the Christian life.
This is true of bloggers as well as preachers. That which comes from the heart and spirit speaks to the heart and spirit. That which comes from the mind and intellect speaks to–at most–the mind and intellect.
“That which comes from the heart will most likely go to the heart, though I know God can take that which comes but from the lips and carry it to the heart when he pleases, yet ordinarily that which comes from the heart goes to the heart, therefore ministers when they come to speak the great things of the gospel should not seek so much for brave words, and convincing ways of man’s wisdom but let them get their own hearts warmed with that grace of the gospel, and then they are most like to speak to the hearts of their auditors….
Otherwise they speak with the tongues of men and angels, yet become like the sounding of brass and the tinkling cymbal. You must be desirous of such kind of preaching as you find speaks to your hearts, not that comes merely to your ears: how many men love to have the word jingle in their ears, and in the mean time their hearts go away and not one word is spoken to them? But when you find a minister speak to your hearts, close with it, bless God for it, and count it a sad day when you go from a sermon and there is not one word spoken to your hearts in that sermon.”
JEREMIAH BURROUGHS ON HOSEA, P495.
H/t Dave Bish,
who further quotes Jeremiah Burroughs
Christ as soon has he is married to the soul takes it as it were by the hand and walks to the Galleries and there opens his heart to her. There is many a sweet tune that a gracious heart has with Christ in his Ordinances, where Christ opens even his whole soul to it… Here is the fruit of our union with Christ. Oh that our hearts were inflamed with desire after further conjugal communion with him!”
Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
Prophets, Deserts and Alternative Power Sources
I was thinking last evening of prophets. It is interesting how many of them had to go out into the Judean desert to hear the word of God.
Why? I used to wonder. Why did one need to go into the desert–outside, often in opposition to the traditional power structures of the day–why did one need to be powerless, lonely, quiet, possibly hungry and thirsty, and sensorily deprived to hear God?
I now realize that, of course, one has to. It is the best, if not the only, way. The voice of God, a well-bred, considerate, gentle voice for the most part–a gentle whisper, Scripture calls it–is not easily heard amid the noise and clamour of popularity, friendship, social life–all good things, all good things. Except they do militate against the solitude one needs to hear God. Almost to a man, prophets don’t choose the desert. They are only human. God has to call–sometimes push–them into the desert. Because it is in the desert that a prophet develops his greatest and priceless gift: his ability to hear the voice of God.
Let’s consider Moses. An interesting part of his story is that he did not choose to go into the desert, nor does he go there in obedience to the voice of God. He is pushed there by his own sin. He loses his temper, takes the law into his own hands, kills a man, and flees to the desert in terror when this is discovered.
And in the desert, outside the court to which he had once belonged, and its power and pomp, he experiences God, and in a dramatic way that could only have happened in the desert. A fire that steadily burned and was not consumed. Continually renewed energy. A manifestation of infinite Power. And with it, a simple new name for God, I AM WHO I AM.
And in contradistinction to the power of Pharaoh, Moses is given power, a shadow of God’s power. He can turn sticks to snakes, turn the Nile bloody, summon locusts and frogs and pests, turn the land dark at noon. He is a man to be listened to–and he finally is.
* * *
Elijah also operated outside, and in opposition to, the normal centres of power–Kings, who were anointed, but who, continuing in sin, had lost their ability to hear the word of God. Ahab interestingly calls him, “You troubler of Israel.”
He is given power of his own. He can command the rain. He can command fire. He can do what 400 false “prophets” could not.
David, Daniel, the list goes on. Men formed in the desert, operating outside normal locii of power, often in opposition to them, yet gifted by God with such extraordinary and startling power that people had to sit up and pay attention.
Because power eventually comes from God. Comes from the Lamb who has all “power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise.” Comes when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.
And, interestingly, looking at prophets from both Old Testament and the New (John the Baptist, and later Paul and John who both had amazing Christophanies) this divine power always, I think, falls on the powerless who operate apart from and often in opposition to the normal locii of power. It falls on those who have learnt to hear God’s voice in the solitude and loneliness of the desert.
“Roots of Bitterness” and Water from the Sanctuary
Hebrews 12 14-15
Make every effort to live in peace with all men
and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord.
15See to it that no one misses the grace of God
and that no bitter root grows up
to cause trouble
and defile many.
Here is a beautiful verse I have been thinking about for the last few weeks.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men.
Interesting. Not “live in peace with all men,” but “make every effort to live in peace with all men.”
There is a time for confrontation when necessary. When? When someone else’s sin is affecting you, for one. What about on a larger sphere, in a church, for instance, or an organization? Sometimes–and one needs to make doubly sure that this is indeed the case–one is picked to be the one to say something. By and large, the prophets in the Old Testament who were picked to say something could have done without the responsibility: Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, for instance. They were scared. So make every effort to live in peace with all men. When something is patently wrong, and everyone seems to be silent, IF you hear the Lord’s voice telling you that you are the one to speak up, and see a change happen, then it would be disobedience not to speak.
* * *
And to be HOLY. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.
Holiness, a beautiful and old-fashioned word. Can one handle confrontation with holiness? Gosh, it’s difficult, it’s beautiful when one manages it, and one can only do with a lot of prayer.