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Truth with Grace

27 Jan

DisciplesThis day, Gentle Reader, I’m going to do something a bit radical, a bit different. This will be a precipitous plummet from the unspeakably, incomprehensibly,  sublimely, divine… into the unbelievably mundane and concrete.

“The Word of God”

Just that phrase… alone… In the beginning was the Word… Then God said, “Let there be light…” Upholds all things by the word of His power…

So many… so many references to words. And what are we? What are we doing here? What are we called, expected, commanded to do here? What is our nature, our potency, our purpose?

There was a day, shortly after my own ordination, where somehow God came to me in that “fullness of majesty” form. I was set to trembling, not with fear… oh, it’s so hard to find a “right word” for this. But sometimes, He can come so clothed… so robed in His power and might…. that my “insides” just tremble, like when a booming bass drum passes me at a parade. An Isaiah 6 moment, I call these…

Look there… Look at Isaiah 6 for a moment… just up to the words, “here am I, send me!”

Binding, loosing… blessing, cursing… into the mouth, out of the mouth from the heart come words… over and over, Jesus and scripture proclaim the power intertwined with words spoken into the universe.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Power, faith, will, time and space are all woven into our use of words.

You could spend a month, even a year, even more… pondering such things and still not fully plumb their depths.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Ordained to the Gospel Ministry”… that’s what the paper said. And suddenly, terribly, all this struck me with the force of a tidal wave. How could I DO this? How could I DARE this? How could I so presume? Minister, servant, messanger… of, to, and for the Word of God… Jesus. I was frozen, deer trapped in headlights paralyzed. I daren’t move, daren’t speak.

How could I ever dare to speak? Had my lips been cleansed? Perhaps so… but… but… I sully them so easily. My heart is frail and fallen, so my words.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Been there? Know these moments? I was struck with the ridiculous notion that now that I was fully equipped, empowered, and commissioned to do precisely what I’d been prepared for since childhood… only now, in this moment, did I feel fully the sense of my own inadequacy to do so.

On my own, from my own head, from my own heart… the words that came would often be those best left unspoken. And yet… my role in Kingdom was to be a “voice in the wilderness”, a voice available for Jesus to speak grace into the moments and connections of my relationships, the universe He crafts around my own timeline.

Been there?

I know you have, in some way, to some extent, some time or other. The Book of James, if nothing else, readily brings such questions to mind.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, there’s all that sublime and cosmic.

There’s the challenge brought by James the Apostle.

There’s (at least) my own sense of utter incapacity to surmount his challenge.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So here’s the unspeakably mundane and simple…

If you, like I, struggle with “taming the tongue” and refraining from ever wounding another with words… try this…

Try to speak only what Jesus said, or WOULD say in public.

Can we not bear with that 24/7? Well perhaps try for one morning, or afternoon, at work. Or one session at Church. Or one hour at home over dinner.

One hour too long? (It has been for me!)

OK, try a half an hour, or ten minutes at a time. Try it for one phone call at a time.

Simple resolution: I will not speak words that Jesus did not, or would not speak publicly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You have no idea how challenging this simple resolution is… or the extent to which it will constantly pull you into His mind, as you devote to Him your voice.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Do I succeed all the time!? LOL! Heaven’s no! I have my days, weeks, hours… my frailties, faults, and failures aplenty, yes. But the effort itself is pleasing to Him and draws more grace to your heart than otherwise. AND, this is a transforming exercise that takes this wildly ethereal and brings it nitty-gritty concrete and within our grasp.

Pray for me, Gentle Reader! So a work in progress. Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 
5 Comments

Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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5 responses to “Truth with Grace

  1. JenniferPowellInspired

    January 28, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    Hi Little Monk. I have recently found myself in the same position of doubt as I am beginning ministerial licensing process through my church. Suddenly I think, ‘Who am I? And What on Earth am I doing here?’ But then I remember, even though some people are just fine without God, I am not. I cannot live without Him (in both the most literal and figurative senses), and I know there are others like me. It is to them that God wants ME (specifically) to speak.

    I believe I can represent God to some people somewhere in a way that nobody else can. Through using MY voice, somebody will hear HIM. Because I’ll say, phrase, present THE WORD in a way that’s close enough, familiar enough. and gentle (or harsh) enough for them to take it in. Now – knowing the Word… that’s a whole other ball of wax. But, I want to make the point here that our unique, individual, expressions in Christ are beautiful masterpieces of His Creation to be used in their fullest.

    Anyway – My only job is to be the absolutely most ‘Jennifer’ I can be within the body of Christ. The value of it, the efficacy of it, is not for me to decide. That is up to God to use however He wills. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as I go forward.

    This all might not address your point directly, but your writing inspired these thoughts in me today and so I wanted to share them with you because I always love what you write and how you think. I think my challenge, as a budding minister, is to (in Christ) be searingly authentic – no ego, no pride, no attachment to my own will – but still to be super duper Jennifer, mistakes and all, and trust God to speak whatever Word He chooses within that.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Little Monk

      January 28, 2015 at 2:37 PM

      Dear Jennifer,

      What a wonderful comment. Thank you so much.

      Two phrases rang deeply in me…

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      “I believe I can represent God to some people somewhere in a way that nobody else can. Through using MY voice, somebody will hear HIM. Because I’ll say, phrase, present THE WORD in a way that’s close enough, familiar enough. and gentle (or harsh) enough for them to take it in.”

      It never ceases to amaze (and even sometimes, terrify) me… that God (Father, Jesus, Spirit) have decided in their (literally) infinite wisdom to conduct the business, the life, of Their Kingdom through making “human vessels”, “human temples”, in which to “house” the Very Person of Holy God… that we walk around now in space/time sharing Him heart to heart with each of our encounters in our human relationships.

      Frankly, if *I* were God… I’m not sure I would invest such confidence in the likes of one such as Little Monk. Nonetheless, so He has chosen to do.

      So… at least in/for my own life, there came this subtle and utterly sobering realization… my task, as a Christian, let alone a minister… is not so much to walk about “using my voice, [that] somebody will hear HIM”… but rather, that the task is to learn so to die to self that the ego “stands aside” without hesitation when the Holy Spirit in me needs to speak words of grace and truth into and onto another.

      When this happens, by the incredible brilliance of how God and grace works, those words not only bless the “other”, but they change and bless me as well. This is just an incredible exhibition of divine skill and incredibleness (is there such a word? My computer says there isn’t. Well, too bad, there is now… because for Him, there should be!) as I watch it!

      This “Him in me, me in Him, together in the Father” thing… we know this to be true because He said so… and the longer we walk in it in the “as if” of faith, believing/knowing that it is true even though perhaps we do not see it, feel it, have awareness of it, or yet experience it as our own… the closer we draw this reality into our experience, the more we are transformed into the “us” we truly are (the one in His mind/self/heart). It’s rather like a bubble underwater, gradually drawing closer and closer to the surface. For the longest time… that bubble is REAL, it is THERE, but we don’t see it, hear it, breathe it… we just don’t know. But then, at last, it reaches the surface and “pop” there it is. It always was, but now we “see”, we “experience” it.

      I find this “Christ in us” thing a lot like that. The reality of what we ARE, is both what we realize and are aware of (above the surface), and all the rest of what He knows us to be (below the surface). So much of what we experience as “real” in ourselves… frailties, doubts, fears, faults… we experience them, yes… thus we “give them” a sort of “shadow substance”, yes. But actually they are NOT real. Not real in Him. Not substantial. They are wisps of cloud and smoke on the water. They are glare and sun glints reflecting off turbulent waves. Totally distracting but utterly meaningless. We draw our life from the water in which He embraces us, that flows from His heart, His side, from the river beneath His throne. THAT is “real”, but much of it hidden, until its right time when it surrounds us here on its surface.

      All in its right time, His time. But all of it is real and already there. And it comes at His pace. And it is wondrous as it does so.

      All my career I had prayed, “Dear Lord, this day let me use my voice to your glory, grace and service. Until one day, He responded… “Cease praying that, Little Monk. From this day forth, I do not want you to use your voice for Me. From now on, I want you to be utterly silent, and simply allow My Voice to use you, as I Alone see fit. No longer are you to use your voice for Me. From now on, let My Voice simply use you.” (That was a day of profound and permanent change.)

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      “Now – knowing the Word… that’s a whole other ball of wax.”

      This made me smile deeply. This phrase, “knowing the Word…” there is no phrase in all the Bible that has more importance or deeper meaning and significance. The tricky bit is that so often the Word is spoken and thought of as “scripture”, or “theology & religious truths”, a body of knowledge, of information… like we go to school to learn. There’s some truth to that. Yes.

      But that’s not what Jesus was talking about when He said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

      The Word is not a what, or a where. The Word is not a collection of maxims, or a worldview, or a religion, or a set of beliefs for adoption. The Word… is not a what, but a WHO! Living, breathing, active; was with God, was God; applies the power that upholds all that is… all this… THIS is “The Word”.

      Now, in that THAT is so… then it would seem daunting to say we are to “know” all that, right? I mean, really? Does my eternal life depend on my learning, my knowing, The Word in all that magnitude? That would be kinda mean on God’s part, wouldn’t it? I mean, I’m pretty bright, yeah… but not THAT bright. No matter how hard I work, how diligently I study, however many verses I memorize or commentaries I read or theology position papers and essays I write… I’m gonna fail this final exam sure as shooting.

      Well, God isn’t mean, petty, or silly. He doesn’t set up His children who love and seek Him for failure by playing some silly buggers game of hide and seek. This is NOT the kind of “knowing” He means, and it breaks my heart that so many I walk among don’t realize this.

      My grandparents were married for 54 years. They KNEW each other. They knew each other down to the very marrow of their bones. The loved each other and lived for one another. They knew what comforted the other (and they did that), they knew what pleased the other (and they did that), they knew what pushed one another’s buttons (and sometimes they even did that, too). They had 4 children, and knew each other in the “fully biblical” sense, yes.

      But does that mean they knew everything ABOUT one another? Not necessarily. They may not have known the address of every house the other lived in growing up… or their childhood pets’ names… or everything about the other’s work… or what subject they’d liked best in school. They weren’t trying to research a biography about their spouse, they were living in love with him/her.

      There’s this world of difference between truly “knowing” another, and “knowing all about” them. Too many Christians confuse the two. A little child, trusting Jesus, can know Him with unspeakable depth. (The Kingdom of God (i.e. Jesus Himself) BELONGS to that child. He said so.) While others, great scholars, can miss Him entirely.

      God has never let me forget that no one on earth knows scripture, in every form and translation, as well as Lucifer himself. He even tried theological debate with Jesus. But while Lucifer knows all that “stuff”, he doesn’t know GOD… He heart, His love, His grace… at all. As Jesus once put it to me, “Lucifer knows the word(s) perfectly. But he doesn’t know The Word at all, because he refuses to embrace Me.” And I was never to mistake this.

      Jennifer, you know The Word. You have encountered Him, fallen in love with Him, embraced Him and lifelong commitment WITH (not just TO) Him, and you will walk in the wonder and joy of that relationship ever unfolding and renewing for the rest of eternity.

      As you embark, particularly as a woman, on your journey and adventures in seminary… there will be times you may encounter someone with “longer Christian tenure”, or “more schooling and credential” who subtly (or not so subtly) implies that they “know the Word” better than you or others. Well, that’s on them. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But it’s not all about the tests, the texts, and the grades. It’s all about the love. When we know God, as Jesus references there in John, there’s a “backpressure”, a “feedback” effect where that love FROM God, just spills out to others and bears fruit. Little children do that just fine… no credentials required. (Sometimes, on good days, Little Monks can do that, too.)

      And that’s what made me smile at your phrase… your statement. You’ve got it “right”… NOW. The tricky bit will be not to lose this… this simple love, trust, intimacy with Him… as you do what is required diligently in your training. Now, I need to say something here. I’m not denigrating seminary. It is good to get that training. It is a diligent and responsible thing to do, and valuable to acquire skill (like the worthy workman) in theology and scriptural study and languages. There is wisdom there, experienced people there, wonderful people to learn from, to hear and dialogue with, to agree (and disagree) with, and benefit from what they have learned in their service and journeys. Yes to all of that.

      But alongside that comes simply this caution, that no matter how passionately we know an experience of our own, an insight of our own, an interpretation of our own to be inspired by and highlighted by God, consistent with scripture and witness of the Holy Spirit… that validity does not imply that that same Holy Spirit may not prompt a different perspective in another believer. It has taken me decades to be dragged kicking and screaming to a truth God tried to teach me long, long, ago… that when it comes to Him, as long as an insight is scripturally sound and consistent with the Spirit of Jesus… it can readily disagree with my own, and yet also be totally right.

      I find theology particularly, to be challenged by the tension of this truth. There are those… authors, pastors, teachers, professors… who do not understand this about God. It is easy to take one’s own perspective… KNOW with absolute conviction that it is right in God… and mistake that therefore it is the ONLY right perspective in God. And this tension can be very disconcerting as a student, when one’s own insights differ from those of our authorities.

      As someone who has been there times without count, I have learned (on my good days) to take a deep breath and embrace the perspective of the authority. It does me no harm or damage to acknowledge that their outlook and insight may be just as valid in God as my own. The difference in what we see is almost always based in the difference of where we stand… it’s all a matter of the perspective. So, when I adopt the perspective (once tested for scriptural and Jesus Spirit consistency) of someone else, my own universe expands. I grow.

      The reason I’m saying all this is that such tensions sometimes tempt us to question and doubt the grace and insight God has shared with ourselves. It is always healthy to question, test, discern, explore, and share in accountability. Yes. It is in fact a bit dangerous NOT to. (“It is not good for man to be alone.”) But at the same time, our criteria of truth and discernment and trust of Him in His teaching needs to remain anchored in scripture itself and the revelation of Jesus Christ there, and affirmation of the Holy Spirit.

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      OK, I’ll hush now. Just wanted to thank you for your comment and respond to those really clear echoes from it. I am so pleased that you are pursuing your call to ministry. Let nothing discourage this trusting journey the deeper into His heart and His service.

      Grace to thee — The Little Monk

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • JenniferPowellInspired

        February 4, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        Thank you so much Little Monk!

        The last paragraph of the first section you wrote about the day God changed you brought tears to my eyes. YES LITTLE MONK! I, too, pray that way. I ask Him to make me a glove that moves only according to His hand, but your experience encourages me to give over to Him more and more and more of myself. It’s a practice more so than a decision, unless, of course, you have a day like you did and He just comes and re-frames EVERYTHING.

        And thank you for your insight into seminary. I’ve already been a bit concerned about the cautions you outlined, and am going in with awareness. Luckily, I’m very stubborn, and, though I know I shall certainly be challenged about a great many things (and also how awful it is going to feel to walk through doubt in relation to the current intimacy I have with our Beloved), I trust God.

        And, yes, it seems everything in His Kingdom is paradox. I figured out a while ago that one cannot walk with Him unless one can be very comfortable with entertaining (and accepting) two (or more) seemingly opposing points of view with regard to just about everything!

        I’m so glad and grateful for your kind and thoughtful and amazing reply. I’m sure you will be one that I lean on when going through the seminary experience. Holy Spirit through you exemplifies what it is to be a ‘seasoned’ and ‘refined’ follower of Christ. I can only aspire…

        God Bless you Little Monk! And I hope your sermon at the little church went very well last week. I’m excited and so very happy for the people in your little church. Surely God is doing a wonderful work within. Blessings and Grace and Praises to God!

        And thank YOU again.

        Like

         
  2. pipermac5

    February 16, 2015 at 10:23 PM

    God doesn’t call the “qualified”. He qualifies the called. Look at the motley crew that Jesus assembled to become the torch-bearers of the kingdom of God once He was no longer on the scene. Four were fishermen who could barely read or write. Two of those, James and John, He called “the sons of thunder”, probably because of their hair-trigger tempers. Peter’s mouth got the better of him many times. After proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ, moments later, he told Jesus to forget about all that suffering and crucifixion nonsense. Matthew was a tax-collector. Judas was a self-serving thief and traitor, and Simon was an insurrectionist. Who would have ever guessed that they would become the dynamic founders of the Church, but they had been with Jesus, and were eyewitnesses of His resurrection.

    Paul was the only Apostle with a “seminary degree”, and yet he counted his high-falluting background as more worthless than dung. Luke was a medical doctor, which is obvious from the precision of his writings. Mark fled the Garden of Gethsemane naked during Jesus’s arrest.

    The person who believes that he/she is really prepared to proclaim “Thus says the Lord” is either badly-deluded or has an ego the size of Texas. The closer I get to having a blog post ready for publication, the wilder the butterflies get. I get butterflies even preparing comments on other people’s blogs, because I want to “get it right”. I know that I am not “qualified”, but when God gives me the words to say, I have the obligation to say them, butterflies and all.

    God bless!

    Steve

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Little Monk

      February 16, 2015 at 10:36 PM

      Thank you, Steve,

      You are absolutely right about the “called” versus “qualified” servant. It never ceases to amaze me, how vastly different are God’s standards for “intake interviews” from our human ones.

      He chooses the weak and foolish of the world, to show forth His own glory and grace. That used to confuse me. Now, it simply comforts me. For I know I am weak and foolish.

      I have come to realize that for His own reasons, He has chosen to conduct His Kingdom Business through the instrumentality of those in whom Christ dwells and moves. Day by day I see that the only limits God knows, to reaching forth His hand in power and grace… is the size of the person/glove He is wearing at the time. His hands know no limits but those we place upon Him. His voice knows no limits but our tongues and lips.

      We can rest utterly in Him, and trust that He is always and only Good. Isn’t that Good News?

      Grace to thee, and welcome — LM

      Liked by 1 person

       

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