24 September 2006

Folks who believe God whispers to them and nobody else have always been spiritually dangerous because this belief-system accomplishes two truth-distortions at once -- it attempts to make God small (read ... manageable, malleable, and tamable) and it attempts to make them big (read ... to be feared, revered, and stood in awe of).

Of course, God can't be tamed anymore than any of us can sit on our own laps. And none of us deserve to be revered any more than we deserve the taste of strawberries and cream. And yet how easily we lust for both these lies to be true. We lust with envy that God would be smaller. And we lust with pride that we would be bigger.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:22-23 ...

22 that, in reference to you former manner of life,
you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted
in accordance with the lusts of deceit.

23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind

I like the phrase Paul uses here ... "lusts of deceit" because there's perhaps no greater deceit than lust. And lust isn't just sexual. It's wanting what we don't have, even if we know it will kill us. Like Frederick Buechner writes in his book "Wishful Thinking", "Lust is the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst."

I'm no expert, and I'm certainly not a professional theologian, but I think that much of our mis-steps as Christ's followers would take care of themselves if we gave more time and thought to listening to, understanding and obeying God ... and less time and thought trying to figure out how to be God's mouthpiece.

Uttering the phrase "thus sayeth the LORD" should scare the begeebers out of us. Even the most confident of prophets had inferiority complexes. Misunderstood. Seldom listened to. Chased out of town with regularity. Hardly ever invited over for dinner more than once. Being God's mouthpiece is one misunderstood gig -- and it's all too often taken up by people who are more ego-driven rather than Spirit-led, and more fear-based than Christ-centered.

And yet, you can't get around the fact that God does indeed ask us to speak for Him. I guess that one of the litmus tests for whether God has really asked us to speak for Him, should be that while speaking we should be quaking in our boots because our reverence for being God's mouthpiece demands it, more than because we're afraid somebody will misunderstand us or read something into what we've said that God never intended.

God asks pastor-teachers to speak on His behalf weekly, and even sometimes more often! This makes me think of the words of Reinhold Niebuhr in his book "Leaves From The Notebook Of A Tamed Cynic" (which is a collection of Niebuhr's journal entries as a young pastor in Chicago).

From Niebuhr's journal in 1915 ...

"They say a young preacher must catch
his second wind before he can really preach.
I'd better catch it pretty soon, or the weekly
sermon will become a terrible chore.

"You are supposed to stand before a
congregation, brimming over with a great
message. Here I am trying to find a new little
message each Sunday.

"If I really had great convictions, I suppose
they would struggle for birth each week.
As the matter stands, I struggle to find an
idea worth presenting, and I dread the approach
of each Sabbath.

"I don't know if I can ever accustom myself
to the task of bringing light and inspiration
in regular, weekly installments.

"How in the world can you reconcile the
inevitability of Sunday and its task with the
moods and caprices of the soul? The prophet
only speaks when he is inspired. The parish
preacher must speak whether he is inspired
or not. I wonder if it is possible to live on a
high enough plane to do that without sinning
against the Holy Spirit?" (p. 12)

Niebuhr speaks my mind ... living in a cautious balance between "willingness to be God's mouthpiece" and a severe case of the "yikes!" God, give me the discernment I need to obey you without being afraid. And give me the courage I need to follow through on what You ask me to -- regardless of whether it's opening my mouth or keeping it shut. Godspeed.


Gregg Lamm

No comments: