I wrote this post on the plane to a conference a few months ago and noticed it on my USB key, so I thought I would post it.
A good friend gently reminded me that they felt I had been becoming increasingly cynical and abrupt in my comments and in my speech. For the longest time I had accepted that perhaps my ‘brashness’ as some might call was a result of the way God made me. It has come to my attention through conversation and the very timely reading of “The Way of the Heart” that perhaps this is not the case.
While there is meritt in the argument that we have been created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and that some people’s personality (emphasis on “personality” being distinct and different from character) reflect God in different ways (for example the merciful and the just) this has long been my excuse in seeing the world as black and white with very little grey in it.
I have understood literature such as “Wild at Heart” to justify this kind of character. While this type of literature has been helpfull to some degree, I have fallen into using it as an excuse for my behavior.
When I read in 1 Cor 13, a passage gravely misquoted in the context of marriage, it states that Love perservers through all circumstances. This has come to light when reflecting on my words, and for the most part I realize that squandering speech on meaningless things that will all one day “come to pass” as my father would say, has been prominent not only in my life but in our culture as well.
There are things, many things that are better left unsaid. “Fire of the soul” has been explained to me well as in Nouwen’s book “The Way of the Heart”, which I will at this point encourage you to read, it is very very accessible and a short read, though quite profound in its brevity. I have not realized that too many words has allowed for some of the ‘fire of the soul’ to escape. And things that ought to have been left in Communion with God, have escaped and lost their value and conversation. I have invaded the own privacy of my soul in a sense.
Perhaps more profound monastic spiritual disciplines should be a focal point in these next years, Solitutde, Silence and Prayer as covered by Nouwen.
Reflections on Reading
Upon reflecting on some of the reading I have been doing for my MTN courses, I read a chapter in the ‘Great Giveaway’ on preaching the word, and was struck by the paradigms of thought with regards to expository preaching and narrative preaching as outlined in the chapter.
The Middle Ground
While there seem to be both positive and negatives in both styles of preaching, Fitch lays down some guidlines for allowing the community of believers to work out the interpretations of scripture as a congregation. This idea combined with either narrative or expository preaching allows for the congregations to work out the interpretation of the scripture in their context as a whole. I would love for the oppurtunity to practice these disciplines. Currently in our church we do look at the interpretations of the scripture during our ‘small group’ times.
On a more personal level I was convicted. It was made very obvious to me that I often treat scripture like a consumable. I feel lost without sermon outline, even some times offended and hopeless. A good friend pointed this out to me during a rather lively and terse conversation about preaching. While I think there is wonderful merit in the discipline of thought in combination with allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart as an individual, I have often discounted the times of community as less important to my needs (another symptom of my consumerism).
I am hopefully that indeed where there are scientific and contextual shortcomings of narrative preaching that the Spirit of God can narrate the text. He is capable of such wonderful things, making the scriptures applicable to our lives but not necessarily formative to our agendas. So many times in my life I have been made aware that God has re-interpreted for me in my mind the scriptures as they apply to his agenda and not mine!
What can we do to allow more of the Holy Spirit in the Church? How do these concepts manifest themselves in our times of ‘Bible Study’. How do we let the Spirit lead?
I was reading on my friend Santosh’s Blog a little bit of David Fitch’s view on Spiritual gifts.
Santosh writes “In order to exercise these gifts, church members need to recognize, affirm, test each other’s exercising of the gifts in the arena’s of Christ’s body.”
While I completely agree with the above statement, it raises an interesting question. That question is what about those who come to serve, there are a number of people in the fringes of our churches that may not necessarily be believers. They may not even know that they are gifted, they might benefit from the more structured approach . Funelling works great for them. There are also those who come to serve and so the ability for them to serve where ever needed is important.
I think that the Holy Spirit has the ability to alter one’s giftedness over time as it sees fit. One of the struggles I have had and I think we experience it in our ecclesiology is the separation between learned talents and god-given gifts. The ability to discern these two different blessings (some are bestowed from God and from other believers, the other are learned as a result of circumstance).
An example in my life would be the ability for me to work with technology. While God might use this gift to an extent to bless other people (or just keep me out of trouble), it is not explicitly referred to as a ‘spiritual gift’. On the other hand, the ability to discern right from wrong, or have wisdom or knowledge beyond ones years is most definatly a spiritual gift.
My intention is not to compartmentalize but the word “Gifts” and its colloquial definition with regards to our Christian culture has been stretched to cover secular talents more so than spiritual gifts.
I suppose I have arrived at the following conclusion:
The change that has happened with regards to the term gift, a spiritual gift and a talent (that may not necessarily come from the Almighty) which is causing confusion in our interpretation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and its manifestation in the Body of Christ.
Gifts, how do we know them? Do we pray for them(Phil 1:19)? Are they given directly from other ministers (Rom 1:11)? Do we simply stumble across them? Do they come with repentance (Acts 2:38)? Do we already have them? (1 Cor 1:7)