I am fascinated by the Moravians founded by the reformer Jan Huss, remarkable for their 24/7 prayer which led to a worldwide burst of missionary activity, remarkable for sacrificial exploits like selling themselves into slavery to be able to credibly preach the Gospel to slaves.
Comenius, a Moravian Bishop (selected by Life magazine as one of 100 most influential people of the last millennium) turned down an invitation to participate in Swedish educational reform, to plant a “hidden seed” of the Moravian simple love of Christ, so that the kingdom of Jesus would grow in future generations. The “hidden seeds” he had to plant in the face of bitter persecution came to life when Count Zinzendorf invited the persecuted Moravians to his now-famous estate, Herrnhut.
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The talk among Christian writers and bloggers often drifts to agents, advances, Amazon sales ranks, platform, Twitter followers, Facebook likes, comparison and subtle showing off. I hear the preoccupation with building mini-kingdoms, building platforms, fame and glory and wealth, and it sometimes seems as if the simple love of the Lord Jesus that made us want to be Christ-followers in the first place gets squeezed out (and sometimes the simple love of writing gets squeezed out too) in the pursuit of success, fame and money.
So when I hear of someone unfocused on fame, platform, recognition and money who quietly sows secret seeds for the kingdom, I am deeply and inexplicably moved, to the point of tears.
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When I was an undergraduate at Oxford University, the Rector of the largest Anglican Church in town, St Aldate’s, was a man called Michael Green (who now, incidentally, attends the church I attend, St. Andrew’s, Oxford.)
I wasn’t a Christian as an undergraduate. I was on a six year break from following Christ, which was most foolish of me, because, you see, I knew Jesus as a teenager, really knew him.
And so the Christian Union at my college, Somerville, used to pray for me, and students from my college and from other colleges used to invite me to St. Aldate’s with them, and I would go when I felt distressed and overwhelmed, and listen to Michael Green intently, and with pleasure.
But of course, being a Christian is all about surrender, moving into the invisible kingdom so that you are no longer belong to yourself but to Him, and without that surrender, it’s just nice ideas–and that surrender I did not make then.
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My daughter Zoe is now an undergraduate reading Theology at Oxford University, and is leading her college’s Christian Union. The Christian Union has a retreat before term, and Rev. Canon Dr Michael Green, now 85 years old, spoke at each of the two retreats—this distinguished writer, apologist and pastor humbly spending a few days with 25 young students.
Zoe was as impressed with the character of the man as with what he said. The subsidized retreat was £22 per head for the weekend, and Michael lined up and insisted on paying his £22, though he was the speaker everyone had come to hear. He signed up for his slots of washing up and spiffying up. If he came too late to get an armchair, he, aged 85, sat on the floor with the students: “No, you came first. You keep the sofa.” He took meticulous notes as the young speakers spoke!!
We were impressed to hear this. Roy said, “Perhaps he is teaching these young leaders what it is to be a Christian leader.” Non-entitled. Willing to serve. Humble. Not self-seeking.
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It was a splendid retreat, my daughter said, and Michael preached it not for money, not for fame, not for his career, or enhancing his platform, but for the love of Jesus. He may not see the fruit of his teaching in these young people’s lives, but he is planting seeds, secret seeds, for love of God, for the Kingdom.
I am a gardener, and I have had a life-threatening illness, and the thought of sowing without knowing if I will ever see the harvest…it’s tough. So I was particularly inspired by how Michael Green sowed seeds whose fruits he might never see for the love of Jesus, sowed spiritual seeds of the love of Jesus, sowing into the foundations of the great and invisible Kingdom which grows and grows, and which shall never pass away.
I heard the awe and respect in Zoe’s voice at observing Michael Green’s humble, exemplary behaviour, an example that will linger long after she has forgotten everything he said. Following Jesus is something that is caught not taught, it is often said. Words are forgotten, but meeting someone whom Jesus has transformed, that one does not easily forget.
I thought of Michael Green pouring everything into teaching 25 young students, and I prayed, “Oh Lord Jesus, do I love you enough? I do not yet. Lord Jesus, increase my love for you.”
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During this summer, I heard Rolland Baker who has taken in thousands of orphans in Mozambique talk with simple intensity about the love of Jesus. I jotted down notes as spoke:
“Following Jesus is putting all your eggs in one basket, one person. There’s only one person you trust, only one you go to.
The point of following Jesus is not that he will make your life work a little bit better, accelerate your path to wealth, health, success, fame… Jesus is the point.
He is not the one who gives you what you want; he is what you want. Jesus himself is the treasure, not the means to treasure.
Jesus is how God gives us the desires of our heart. Everything you need is in Jesus.
Miracles, signs and wonders and the things we tend to seek Jesus for go with the territory. We don’t chase miracles, we chase Jesus and miracles chase us. When we follow Jesus, he follows us. He finds us.
Never chase joy, wealth, fame, health by itself–you will never get it. Chase Him. The rest comes with the territory.
If you base your joy on anything but Jesus, your laughter will turn to grief.
Jesus’ emphasis was himself. He is the treasure in the field.
When you are in love with God, everything that happens is enjoyable because He gives us joy.”
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I listened, and wondered if I loved Jesus enough.
What is the point of being a Christian if we do not love the Lord Jesus? And, oddly enough, we cannot quite create love for Jesus within ourselves.
We increase it within ourselves in only way I know to do difficult things. We put in the work (in this case, reading the Gospels and meditating on them). And we pray to–love Jesus more.
We reach out our hands and hearts, and ask Jesus to fill them with love for Him so that we might be totally turned into fire.