Book Summary: The Healing Light by Agnes Sanford

The Healing Light by Agnes Sanford

Barbara and I chose to re-read this classic book on healing. I read it over 40 years ago and thought it a bit strange. But when I heard that my mentor Dallas Willard had very high respect for her and in his last days, kept this book and the Bible at his bedside table, I knew it was time to revisit.  I still think she has some odd ideas – but I haven’t been involved in praying for people like she had so I wanted to give her a second chance.

Her terminology often raises red flags but I think that her power to be an instrument of  healing in so many peoples lives stems from a Christ-centered life. Would that we all could pray and see as many people healed as she has. I would encourage you to read it with an open mind and glean what value you can from the book.

Introduction

The book opens with an introduction that I quote extensively:

The scientific attitude is the attitude of perfect open-mindedness,” writes Agnes Sanford. “It consists in an unshakable faith in the laws of nature combined with perfect humility toward those laws and a patient determination to learn them at all cost. Through this humility scientists have learned how to conform to the laws of nature and by so doing have achieved results. Through the same meekness those who seek God can produce results by learning to conform to His laws of faith and love.

“The first step in seeking to produce results by any power is to contact that power…

“The second step is to turn it on…

“The third step is to believe that this power is coming into use and to accept it by faith. No matter how much we ask for something it becomes ours only as we accept it and give thanks for it.”

Glenn Clark, who wrote the introduction, says that there is something besides following these steps and that is “a climate of faith.” He goes on to say that the book isn’t just about healing. It is a guide to redemptive, creative living. (NOTE: Glenn was the founder of Camp Farthest Out – A Global Outreach of Creative Christian Living). We have taught extensively to our prayer teams about creating a climate of faith when praying for others.

Chapter I God Works Through Us

Agnes starts with an analogy about healing prayer. If you have an electric iron,Iron it does no good to speak to the iron and say “Iron this shirt.”. You first have to plug it in. She says that it is the same as connecting to the healing power of God. We cannot just speak to an illness and see it change. We need to speak to it out of our connection with God. This is reminiscent of Luke’s (the physician) words when he makes the enigmatic statements: “And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.” (Luke 5:17) and “all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.” (Luke 6:19). Why these statements? Isn’t the power of the Lord with Jesus to heal at all times? Yes, because He was connected to the source. And is this power to heal something that flows like electricity? Luke seems to think so. So, even though her terms are a bit strange there is some Scriptural basis for this terminology. Her central point in these opening chapters is that this healing power is none other than God Himself.[1]

Later in this first chapter she talks about how joy “is the heavenly ‘OK’ on the inner life of power.” In other words, when we experience joy in trial, it is God’s wink to us that all is well. You cannot fake it. In her example of the healing of her baby, it was the joy of the minister who prayed that turned on the light for her.  The baby was healed because:

The life of God flowed through him [ the minister ], and could therefore be turned on by him for the healing of a child. He knew it, and therefore had the courage to speak with authority.

We have often taught others about the prayer of command. She taught me something I missed all these years. Amen – meaning “so be it” is a prayer of command. When we say amen, we are saying a prayer of command.

Going back to her electricity example, she says that for electricity to work it’s magic in a house the house needs to be prepared for it. So with us, for the power of God to work through us, we need to be prepared for it.

The Kingdom of God is within you,” said Jesus. And it is the Indwelling Light, the secret Place of the Consciousness of the Most High that is the Kingdom of Heaven in its present manifestation on the earth.  … Learning to live in the Kingdom of Heaven is learning to turn on the light of God within.

Few of us in the north would ask God to produce a full-blown rose out of doors in January. Yet He can do this very thing, if we adapt our greenhouses to His laws of heat and light, so as to provide the necessities of the rose.  And he can produce a full-blown answer to prayer if we adapt our earthly tabernacles to His laws of love and faith so as to provide the necessities of answered prayer.

I am not so sure about this next statement (the first of many!):

Some day we will understand the scientific principles that underlie the miracle working powers of God, and we will accept His intervention as simply and naturally as we do the radio.

This implies that the miracles are based on scientific principles not yet discovered. I could say that: “Some day we will understand God’s laws [the deep magic using Lewis’ terminology] that underlie the miracle working powers of God…” The next statement shows that this is what she meant.

If one thinks of a miracle not as the breaking of God’s laws but as His own using of His laws, then the world is full of miracles.

The difficulty I have then is whether we will know on this earth these laws.

God does nothing except by law. But He has provided enough power within His laws to do anything that is in accordance with His will. His will includes unlimited miracles. It is for us to learn His will, and to seek the simplicity and the beauty of the laws that set free His power.

There is a lot to unpack in this – but suffice it to say that we are to always be praying in accordance with the will of God which will be in keeping with His laws.

Chapter II – The Scientific Attitude: Choosing A Healing Prayer Objective

I have often embarked on prayer projects. I have never heard anyone else describe them as such. Agnes invites us into such prayer projects:

One decides upon a definite subject for prayer, prays about it and then decides whether or not the prayer-project succeeds. If it does not succeed, one seeks a better adjustment with God and tries again.

I have used this approach for years and have learned so much about God and prayer for which I am eternally grateful. Little did I know that I probably learned it from Agnes years before. She attempts to describe the scientific method and then applies it to prayer. She believes (and don’t we wish that all scientists applied this) that humility in the face of the data is essential for the success of the scientist. They must go where those “stubborn facts” and data point independent of preconceived ideas. And she then turns it to us:

Through the same meekness those who seek God can produce results by learning to conform to His laws of faith and love.

The first step in seeking to produce results by any power is to contact that power. The first step then in seeking help from God is to contact God. …So the first step is to relax and to remind ourselves that there is a source of life outside of ourselves.

The second step is to turn it on, by some such prayer as this “Heavenly Father, please increase in me at this time Your life-giving power.”

The third step is to believe that this power is coming into use and to accept it by faith. No matter how much we ask for something it becomes ours only as we accept it and give thanks for it.

And the fourth step is to observe the operations of that light and life. In order to do so, we must decide on some tangible thing that we wish accomplished by that power, so that we can know without questions whether our experiment succeeded or failed.

Let us understand then that if our experiment fails it is not due to a lack in God, but to a natural and understandable lack in ourselves.

We need to be careful with this last statement. We may think as a result of this, that healing thus depends on us getting the right approach and the right words and action. Sometimes Agnes comes across that way. Later, you will hear another reason that healings do not happen and having the wrong process is not one of them. That is why I don’t think that is what Agnes is saying. My approach has been at this stage in the project to ask God what went wrong – recognizing that my approach may be wrong or it may not be God’s time to heal yet. This is the first hint at where Agnes and I differ. She believed (I think) that all will be healed if but we can get “it” right. More on this later in the book

One way the experiment can fail is that: “We might be mistaken concerning our need of these things” that we are asking for. Again, my approach is then to bring the very prayer itself before the Father and see if this is really something that needs to happen.

I love her next suggestion in our project: Start simple.

Let us choose one of the very simplest of prayer-experiments, remembering always that it must be tangible; that is, it must be something that we can put the finger on and say either “This has been done.” Or “This hasn’t been done.” … Let us not be afraid, then, to choose for our first prayer-experiment an objective that is simple and personal.

This objective must of course be in accordance with God’s will, for it is as difficult to make God’s power operate contrary to His will. …a wise seeker after God had better study the laws of God and adapt his prayers to those laws.

Agnes then surprises us with her suggestion for a simple prayer project. For me, it would be something like: “Safe travel to the store.” Simple. Measurable. But for her:

The simplest and most direct of all prayer-projects is the healing of the body.

In tracing her reasons for this, she sheds some more light on her understanding of God’s will in the matter of healing. She believed that because the Father delights in giving us good gifts and therefore since the gift of health is good, the Father always delights in granting healing. She goes on:

But those parents and teachers who dimmed the shining of His eternal Glory in our infant minds taught us that God often willed us to suffer. “Well, God’s will be done,” they sighed, when prayer for health brought no relief from pain.

It is a giant leap of logic to say that because we are not healed and therefore suffer, that God wills us to suffer. It is far more complex than that – but again – hold on. More later.

We see that the lack of success in healing is not due to God’s will for us but to our failure to live near enough to God so that He can accomplish His will in us.

Deciding once for all, then, that God is a loving Father who delights to give good gifts to His children, let us learn how to accept those gifts. Let us choose as a prayer-objective the healing of the body, because it is the most simple and the most obvious prayer-objectives.

Here she plays some of her cards on the table. We don’t succeed in prayer because of “our failure to live near enough to God. I am not convinced that anyone is always close enough to God to accomplish the healing of everyone we pray for.” This is an easy out when someone isn’t healed. “At this time in my life, I am just not close enough to God for them to be healed.”

One of the questions I am often asked about prayer for healing is whether or not we need to pray multiple times for healing. Healing from a cold according Agnes, may only take a few minutes. But:

If we have sought Him for the rebuilding of bones or nerves or sinuses, the complete healing may take time and patience. In which case, while we seek daily to reconnect our spirit with the Spirit of God in prayer, we need not repeat any request for healing that we have said. … That does not mean that we should pray only once for the matter. Most of us need every day to enter into God’s presence and focus our attention first upon Him and then upon the area that needs healing, so that God may have every opportunity of continuing his creative work in us.  But after the first time, we may say, “Thank You,” instead of, “Please.” “Thank You that Your Life is entering into me rebuilding everything toward health.” We may then use our creative imaginations and make a picture in our minds of that perfection which we hope will be ours. And finally we may look steadily at that picture until it is accomplished. Thus by harnessing the imagination and training the will, we can arouse and build our faith.

Agnes tells of a little boy with a leaky heart. She has him imagine himself as a football player running down the field with a healthy heart each night. A month later his heart was perfect. Thus he had wrestled with God as his partner against the powers of destruction and had prevailed. The will of God for him was not a leaky heart, but health.

I am not going to question if the boy was really healed. I believe her. I am just not convinced that it was the power of the game he played each night.

Chapter III Turning on the Light of God’s Creative Energy

I always cringe when a preacher starts getting into physics. And I cringe a bit when Agnes does it. She states that we are made of energy. But we are made of both matter and energy and one can be converted into the other. So it is a true statement but only tells part of the story. But when she then makes a theological application:

when we establish a closer connection with God in prayer, we should receive more abundant life—an increased flow of energy.

Here is where we take what she learned and readjust it consistent with what know of God and of His universe. I don’t know what to call it (she calls it energy), but we definitely receive more from God as we get closer to Him in prayer (e.g. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”). I just don’t want to call it energy which has a clear material definition in physics.

The vibration of God’s light is so very real that even a child can feel it, and it was my experiments with children that showed me the action of an invisible but powerful light-vibration shining from the Father of Lights.

I too, along with those that we have prayed for, have experienced heat when God’s healing power is in action. I often use it as an indication that God is at work healing. And it is very physical and can be measured with physical instruments. I am just not ready to call it “the vibration of God’s light.” I see it more as the Spirit of God moving upon the body and setting in motion the body’s natural healing mechanism. Have you ever felt the heat around a wound or a sprain. This is the healing action of our body.  So, let’s just allow Agnes the right to call it electricity or God’s vibrating light. No problem. Let’s keep learning from her, because as Dallas Willard told a skeptical Richard Foster, “When Agnes prays, things happen.” Here how she describes how to initiate this healing power of the Spirit:

I just forget everything else and think about God and believe that He can do it. And He turns it [the electricity] on, and when He is through with it, He turns it off.”

She gets a “scientific” explanation from a scientist that confirms her understanding and terminology. But again, let’s keep drawing upon what is real and factual in what she is saying. She notes that children perceive the heat more often than adults. This is not my experience, but she has prayed with more children than me – so let’s go with it. She explains that this is because our hearts have become dull to God’s truth as adults. And that may very well be. She later makes another deduction that this manifestation of heat is literally God himself.

In talking with an injured G.I., Agnes tells him that God can hurry up the natural processes that go on in the body. Here is how she told him to pray:

Come into me now and help nature in my body to mend this bone, and do it quick. Thanks. I believe you’re doing it. Then make a picture in your mind of the leg well. Shut your eyes and see it that way. See the bone all built in and the flesh strong and perfect around it. Then after you see the leg well, give a pep talk to all the healing forces of your body. Say, ‘Look here, I’m boss inside of me and what I say goes. Now get busy and mend that leg.’ And then congratulate them and tell them they’re doing a good job, because they won’t work for you unless you encourage them. And after this, forget them and think of the life outside of you again, and say Thank You, God. I believe it’s going to be O.K.’ ”

Again, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. We are told to believe what we have asked for. So for Agnes, that means to visualize it as well. That has not been part of my healing prayer protocol, but I like it as a tangible way to believe that we have received what we have asked for. I believe that as Jesus spoke to inanimate objects we can speak to our bodies as part of the healing process. So let’s move on.

Here is her summary:

    1. Choose the same time and the same place every day, make yourself comfortable and relax.
    2. Remind yourself of the reality of a life outside yourself.
    3. Ask that life to come in and increase life in your body
    4. Make a picture in your mind of your body well
    5. And give thanks that this is being accomplished

I like this as something simple we can give people and see nothing out of alignment with God’s way of healing.

Another step she adds for the prayer:

In order to receive God’s life in the body, we must first be able to forget the body so that we can quiet the mind and concentrate the spiritual energies on God.

Quieting the mind is not easy she recognizes. Our nerves can become our masters.

We must teach them to be our servants, adjusting themselves to our demands for more or less tension. This can be done by a simple process of re-education.

Nerves are like children. They respond to suggestion better than to command. In fact the subconscious mind that controls the forces of the body has an almost wanton disregard for command. “Relax!” we tell ourselves sternly, and the nerves laugh at us and tighten up more than ever. “Now you’re relaxing,” we congratulate them, and with a pleased smile they relax. So, we speak gently and soothingly to the nerves all the way up the body and in the head.

Let us now open our spirits to receive the more abundant life of God. How easy this becomes when we realize that God is not a far-away sovereign, but is actually the medium in which we live

This last step—the step of giving thanks! God is standing before us with the answer in His hands. But unless we reach out our hands and take it by giving thanks for it, we are not apt to receive it

I am not sure how to respond to this bit about nerves are like children. I have practiced speaking to parts of my body. I am just not sure about some parts responding better to suggestion than to command.

Chapter IV The Re-Birth of Faith: Re-Educating the Sub-Conscious

When we quote scientists as providing foundational evidence for either our theology or our praxis, we need to be careful – or at least footnote it. Agnes starts off this chapter telling us that psychologists tell us that “nine-tenths of our thoughts lie below the level of consciousness.” I don’t know what she is talking about. What are thoughts? And what is consciousness? Without footnotes or even definitions we are left in the dark. And then it gets even more muddled. She mixes the non-conscious mind (which controls our breathing) with the sub-conscious mind – where there are true thoughts. And then says that what controls our breathing is an inner control center that is part of spiritual body that “acts on orders from God Himself.”

I have to stop. Let’s see if we can summarize what she is trying to say independent of her muddled science. She certainly is trying to prove scientifically that if I say: “I am getting a cold” that this sends a conflicting message to our white blood cells who are trying to fight the cold. Without finding out if this is scientifically provable (and it should be measurable), it still doesn’t make sense. Why does telling our immune system that trouble is coming tell it to slack off. Isn’t prevention the best medicine? Advance warning to put the immune system on high alert? Agnes says it says “Slacken off your defense.” Our adrenal system responds to advance warnings of trouble ahead. Why do our white blood cells not follow suit.

She addresses the question about how are we to deal with accusing thoughts. She says that we should not resist them. She uses Jesus’ words out of context and says: “Resist not evil.” But in the Greek, the word is an adjective. So, most translations include the implied “person.” We are not to resist the evil person. “Evil resisted gains strength.” So what does she think James is telling us: “Resist the devil and he will flee” so that he can gain more strength? She gives us two solutions: Turning our back on troubling thoughts and replacing them with a new set of thought patterns.

if we find ourselves thinking, “One of my headaches is coming on,” we correct that thought.

“Whose headaches?” we say. “God’s light shines within me and God doesn’t have headaches!”

Sorry. I just cannot support that approach from Scripture even though she is trying to prove the approach from science.

There is no record in the whole Bible of a holy man who remained an invalid.

That is except:

    • Isaac’s eyes were dim – he couldn’t differentiate between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:1)
    • Jacob – who was given a limp by an angel.(Genesis 32:31-32)
    • Mephibosheth – who was lame and remained faithful to David even as he was deceived by his servants. (2 Samuel 19:24-30)
    • Ahijah the prophet – eyes were dim (1 Kings 14:4)
    • Elisha was ill before his death (2 Kings 13:14)
    • Philippians 2:27 reveals that Epaphroditus had been extremely ill, indeed he had nearly died, but the Lord had mercy on him.
    • Timothy – who had frequent ailments (1 Timothy 5:23)
    • 2 Timothy 4:20 tells us that Paul left Trophimus ill at Miletus

She then says:

we find no instance of an acceptance of illness as the will of God

Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his frequent ailments. Isn’t that accepting illness? Wine wasn’t to heal but rather to dull our sense of pain. I hope you the reader don’t think I am nitpicking. I want to learn as much from her as I can about praying for healing because she had a track record that cannot be denied. One other option is to say her success was a sign meant to deceive. That I don’t accept either. Thank goodness we don’t need perfect theology to heal.

Chapter V The Law of Love

This chapter was confusing to me and did not add anything to my understanding of God’s working in the world. Also, there are a number of statements that seem just flat out wrong. So, my summary may not capture what Agnes was trying to capture. It seems she is saying that there is a current of God’s love that can be blocked by us – by “hatred and fear and misery” as well as anger.  Jesus is the one who has unblocked this flow of love.

She claims that the early followers of Jesus expected Him to come back in their lifetime (which appears to be true) but when He didn’t they became discouraged.

Sadly they postponed their glorious vision of a new heaven and a new earth. Sadly they laid aside their hopes of being “clothed upon with immortality” and accepted death.

I am not sure when she thought “accepted death” happened. Nor do I know exactly what she is saying. Do we never accept death? It seems like Stephen accepted death and he was pretty early on. Paul accepted his approaching death a few decades later.

Towards the end of the chapter, she attempts to instruct us towards a pathway to healing as follows:

And we become perfected in love by trying to do it. The method is so simple that any child can learn it. It is merely to connect in spirit with the love of God, send that love to the other person, and see him re-created in goodness and joy and peace.

It is not exactly clear how she wants us to “send that love” but it appears that we do this by projecting it with our thoughts. She gave another example of a man who stopped a bull from attacking by following her method:

“I am God’s man and you are God’s bull,” he thought in silence. “God made both of us, and in the name of Jesus Christ I say that there is nothing but loving-kindness between us.”

When asked what to do if an armed burglar was in your house:

One would project into the burglar’s mind the love of God, by seeing him as a child of God and asking God to bless him. And if one were strong enough in faith and love, the burglar’s mind would change. He would leave the family unharmed and go away.

There is the clear call to pray in this case but I am not so sure that we are to project God’s love into another’s mind. Of course she covers all situations by saying it all depends on your being strong in faith and love. So, if your family gets killed, you have an excuse – you weren’t strong in faith.  I don’t see this in Jesus’ teaching at all.  Maybe by projecting love she means – love your enemies. But I don’t see Jesus telling us that if we love our enemies, they won’t kill us. Ask Stephen.

Chapter VI Re-Education in Love: Healing Laws Liberated

If we apply her teaching to the question, “How do I love my enemies?” we can follow her train of thought:

He must re-educate his subconsciousness. He must form new thought habits of love and compassion and friendliness and joy, so that his instinctive and natural reaction to every situation, every person and every animal may be one of love.

the real reason why most people do not learn Christian love is quite simply that they do not want to do so.

Let us think of the person whom we have selected for the day’s assignment and hold up this person before the mind, surrounding him with the light of God’s love. Some of us see in our minds the picture of Jesus Christ and then see the other person, placing the picture of the one we would forgive upon the picture of Christ. Having done this, we say to the one whom we would learn to like, “I forgive you in the name of Jesus Christ, and I give thanks to God because you are now forgiven. Amen.”

We then proceed to the second step of forgiveness, which is to say, “I bless so-and-so in the name of the Lord,” and to look with expectancy for the changes that the Lord’s blessing will accomplish in her.

We learn to give forth love in learning to forgive our enemies. Then we learn to give a forgiving and healing love to all who cross our paths and need our love

Finally love flows through us spontaneously and naturally to both man and beast—and completing the circuit, flows back to us again from God.

Although this may seem like a “turn-the-crank” fool-proof method, it does in fact have some merit as steps to loving your enemies.

Chapter VII – In the Shadow of His Wings

Heads up on a science alert. Most X-Rays and Cosmic rays do pass through thexray comsic ray body (duh – that’s why we take X-Rays). But hardly any visible light passes through the body completely. If the skin is thin enough, you can see some light passing through our fingers. Our eyes can see some bright light shining through our eyelids. So, watch out for: “Sunlight penetrates the open spaces of the body”

As a sponge is in the ocean and the ocean is in a sponge, so we are in God and He is in us. Rufus Mosley

I actually love that analogy of us in God and God in us.

Many a healing is not finished simply because the one who prays does not hold his faith long enough, is unwilling to seek help in prayer or does not know where to find that help.

[Once, I] spilled boiling oil on my hands while officiating over the cookstove. If I lose my temper at such times, the hand is burned. If I do not lose my temper, the hand is not burned.

As our prayers, our mental training and our acts of forgiveness fuse into a high consciousness of God’s indwelling, we become more and more aware of an inner source of power that can be tapped at will.

This being so, let us gladly seek Him without as well as within.

Again, the principle which I accept is a good one. Our awareness of God’s indwelling can be very instrumental in our ability to tap into His power for healing. If we are going to pray for healing, we need to be as much in God’s presence as possible. But the degree to which that happens does not guarantee healing.

Chapter VIII – Doctors, Ministers, and God

I like the following comment:

If all men could eat only of the tree of Life, planted in the center of the garden, and never absorb into their beings the results of knowing both good and evil, men could live above death and above the pain and illness that lead to death.

Somehow, in all the years that I have read about and heard about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Agnes’ comment opened my eyes. “never absorb into their beings the results of knowing both good and evil” is a great insight. I always had a bit of question about what was wrong about knowing evil. Paul says that we are not unaware of the devil’s schemes. That’s knowing evil and that is a good thing. Wise as serpents to the evil around us is a good thing.

A couple weeks ago I preached a sermon on intimacy with God and one of my sub points was about the Hebrew’s understood knowing and knowledge. For them it wasn’t just an intellectual fact retrieving knowledge but an intimate and personal encounter with the object of their knowing. No wonder we don’t want to partake of the knowledge of evil. And Agnes’ comment about the pain of the results of having that kind of knowledge in us is helpful. Wonderful.

But then:

It will be possible for one who daily receives from God his spiritual sustenance to live without illness or decay for a longer and longer period of time.

Chapter IX Being the Lord’s Instrument for the Healing of the Sick

Agnes has talked of this before in our posture of praying for others, but somehow I am hearing it for the first time:

Forgetting the heart, I fixed my mind upon the presence of Our Lord and invited Him to enter and use me.

How often is that the way I pray? I often concentrate on the one being prayed for and attempting to hear God’s direction as to how to pray. But the preparation described by her seems good and right. Start by concentrating on the presence of the Lord.

But if God had wanted him to live, why wouldn’t He heal him without a healer?” some people ask. God wants us to have electric lights. But He will not put them in a house without an electrician. God has graciously endowed us with the dignity of free will.

When addressing the fact that some who are healed and then gradually lose the joy of knowing Jesus, she attributes it to giving back. Those who continue in the joy and love of Jesus are those who gave back to God and to her. Those who did not continue in joy are those who never give back. She takes “As you give, so shall you receive” and makes it “As you have received, so shall you give.” I am not to sure of this logical reversal. She calls it a law of God that must operate in this world yet she makes: “If you speed, you will go to jail” into “If you go to jail, you will speed.” This can easily lead to a doctrine of works. I have received and therefore I must give back.  It is very different from “Freely you have received; freely give.” Jesus emphasizes the word “freely” by using it twice.

It is not necessary to “be a healer.” It is only necessary to learn to pray for others as effectively as we do for ourselves. … I present first a simple human way of becoming a receiving and transmitting center for love-healing by the laying on of hands.

Chapter X – Further Hints on Healing

I love this bit of instruction and wish that all who hear from God and pray for others to be healed would practice these simple disciplines:

the ominous phrase, “I feel that it is my duty to tell you this.” Neither will we say, “God told me to come to see you.” Maybe He did, but it is most unwise to mention it.

If guided to go to a stranger, we are forced to state the purpose of our call immediately. “I heard your husband was very sick,” we can say. “And I came because I think I can help you.”

Having entered the door, let us not hasten to instruct. Rather, let us quiet ourselves and prepare to listen with the deep comprehension of the one who loves

Often as I sit and listen with keen and loving attention to a tale of woe I pray, “Oh God, please make her say the thing that will lead me into her mind.”

And I go into that door and make myself a part of that problem, no matter how trivial or sordid it may be. I do not stay on the outside and offer sage advice.

“You mustn’t think like that” may be helpful for a third or fourth visit, but it is almost sure to be wrong for the first.

“I surround myself with the protection of Almighty God and in the name of Jesus Christ I say that nothing shall get through to hurt me.

Thus we can enter into the patient’s sorrow with a deep serenity, holding the doors of the mind open always for joy. We grieve with the patient because we love him and so his sorrows are ours.

Yet we rejoice because we know that God through us is mighty to lead him out of sorrow into joy.

How many lives and minds would be saved if only Christians knew that in dealing with the mentally ill, one does not appeal to their reason!

I laid my hands upon her head and communed in my mind with the Father of this child and with His greatest representative among men, my friend Jesus. When I felt His presence without and His authority within, I said loudly and firmly, “In the name of Jesus Christ I direct and order that from this time forth, this child shall never again be afraid at night.”

She doesn’t talk a lot about healing mental illness. But it appears as if she has some experience attempting it.

This is not as easy as it sounds. For in order to make the sick mind well the healer must believe unfalteringly that it will be well.

it is much easier to heal the body than to heal the mind.

How many times have I done this!

A natural impulse when God first sends His “electricity” through our hands is to attach too much importance to this outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

I found myself at one time watching eagerly for this new current of life that flowed through me, feeling disappointed if it did not come and pleased if it did. This distracted my attention from God and focused it on myself.

The essence of all healing is to become so immersed in the Being of God that one forgets oneself entirely

Sometimes the sudden increase of life in the afflicted part causes temporarily an increase of pain, either at that moment or a few hours later

Chapter XI – The Healing of Emotions

This warning is useful but is outside my experience base:

[there is ] a danger in spiritual healing—the danger of becoming either emotionally sterile or emotionally unstable.

This simple practice is useful both for us and for those we pray for with damaged emotions:

rooting and grounding of the emotions in the ordinary, human love of Jesus Christ, expressed through the normal channels of everyday life.

This is a profound truth that again, I either forgot, or it is truly a new insight:

Acts and words can be directly commanded and controlled. We can decide what we are going to say and what we are going to do, but we cannot always decide how we are going to feel.

emotions are not under the direct control of our wills.

I love this idea that we can control our actions and our words but we cannot always control our emotions.

We have practiced and taught this next truth for years. She presents a reason to pray in teams:

[Practicing healing alone can close] our eyes to those lingering faults of our human nature that lie deep in the subconscious.

She believes that the regular practice of confession is a path towards healing emotions. Here are her simple steps towards that end.

Choose the same time and the same place every day for an act of preparation for confession

Relax and lift the mind into the presence of God, and do so with a pencil and paper in the hand. Then divide one’s life into seven periods.

Ask the Holy Spirit of God to bring into the remembrance any unforgiven sins (or any uncomfortable memories as we would probably call them) from these years that still linger in the subconscious.

Write down these sins as they come to mind. Write them down simply, briefly, without using names or mentioning circumstances or any kind of alibis. Having done this, set aside the paper and forget the whole matter until the next day.

On the next day at the same time and the same place take the second period of one’s life and do the same thing. And so on through the seven days.

I am not sure about the same time and place – but I have begun this process but have not finished it yet. I think it is worthwhile.

She describes how she did this and then brought this before a priest who forgave her in the name of the church and offered absolution. She felt nothing until she started home. Then she experienced the Holy Spirit’s washing and cleansing. She knew that Jesus loved her and forgave her.

Through the confessional my heart caught on fire. Its dullness and boredom was burned away, its coldness was turned to warmth, its pride was melted into humility

I had to believe that God had the power and the will to heal that specific disease of that specific person through me, at that time.

Chapter XII The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Agnes returns to this central theme of her belief in healings that don’t happen:

Why did not every Christian who repented on his own knees show forth the results in a life of power? For the same reason that every Christian who believes in God does not receive healing—lack of faith.

In this chapter she continues her treatise on the power of forgiveness – some through the confessional some metaphysically. We are to discern what to use with each.

When looking to pray for healing and forgiveness she offers these two ways:

the way of affirmation and of power and the way of repentance and humility… For the law of rhythm, of balance, holds throughout the universe

We are to balance these two ways of dealing with healing and forgiveness. Throughout this she is demonstrating the need to be attuned horizontally and vertically when praying for people for forgiveness or for healing. Again, something that we practice and have taught.

Chapter XIII Intercession: Healing from a Distance

Agnes brings up something that I believe but rarely practice. We pray at a distance for healing but rarely to invoke the forgiving power that Jesus gave us at a distance. Some of us are okay with hearing a confession and offering absolution when in the presence of the person. But at a distance?

This law [of forgiveness of sins] will work at a distance as well as in the presence of the sick person. But the method of intercession is much more difficult than healing at the bedside of the sick.

In this chapter she reiterates something we teach:

The first step in intercessory prayer is to find out the will of God

Let us begin our intercessory prayer then by quieting ourselves, holding each suggested person up before the Lord and seeking for His guidance concerning our duty toward that person.

[She once was praying for a child and] asked His instructions concerning this matter. The answer was almost as clear as a voice within my mind: “Pray for him now, from this place, and he will recover.”

I prayed, and felt after the prayer that sense of peace and of release that means that the prayer-work is finished. So I knew that the child had recovered.

As we become skilled in prayer, we dare go one step further, to ask “Lord, will he recover?” and then face the answer.

Here again is her explanation of why all are not healed when it is God’s perfect will. We depart ways on this but she at least addresses the possibility.

God’s perfect will for this His child is life, as it is always life. But His infinite wisdom knows that the sum of the skill of the doctors, the faith of the patient and my own spiritual development is such that in this life His will is not to be completed.

Here again she reiterates some simple steps towards intercessory prayer which I find helpful:

the first step in intercessory prayer is to quiet ourselves before God and with His guidance to choose our path, fearing not to follow it wherever it may lead.

The second step is to contact the power that heals and fill ourselves full of it. Love is the healer. In order to fill ourselves with His whole Being, let us think of Him, imagining His presence, seeing Him with the eyes of the mind, trying to love Him with the heart

Let us ask Him to enter into our spirits and fill us with His own consciousness of the Fatherhood of God; to enter into our minds and think within us His own thoughts; to enter into our hearts and feel through us His own love.

Let us beseech Him to come and dwell within us. Let us ask Him to enter into our spirits and fill us with His own consciousness of the Fatherhood of God; to enter into our minds and think within us His own thoughts; to enter into our hearts and feel through us His own love.

This insight is again powerful sounding and new to me. I cannot speak to how valid it is:

And the success of our prayer depends as much on the depth of our love to man as on the height of our love to God

Those in convents and monasteries … have learned to rise into God, but they have not learned to sink again into man. They reach a high state of religious contemplation and there they stay.

Then if we would help man through intercession, we must hold God by one hand and man by the other hand, never separating ourselves either from the love of God or from the love of man.

I like this quote she offers:

Thomas Kelly says, “First He takes the world out of our hearts, so that we can give our hearts to Him. Then He puts the world back into our hearts, so that we can give Him to the world

Chapter XIV Two or Three Gathered Together

This chapter is devoted to praying together for others:

These are different from the fact finding step that John Wimber taught and that I have believed:

For the one who would send forth health must think health and nothing else. If he would inquire of the patient’s symptoms let him do so at some other time, and not turn the hour of prayer into a gossip circle.

If we can see Christ, and Him self-given for the patient, and then see the patient well, healed by the love of Christ, we will be sending forth a pure stream of that love

I saw my wife shrink back from praying for others during a season when our own daughter was chronically ill for 3 years. But I am not sure that this is a valid prohibition. If this was true, I would never intercede. I love the scene from Season 3 of The Chosen where little James is a cripple and yet one of Jesus disciples. The issue that Jesus healed others and not him has obviously not escaped his notice. But when Jesus sends him out with the 12 to heal, little James has to address the issue with Jesus. Basically, Jesus told him that it would be even more powerful for the people to see one cripple heal another.

One should not attempt any work of intercession while in the grip of his own pain. Let him first rise above his own illness and then he can see clearly the wholeness of another.

This is a curious statement for me since the miraculous healings that I saw with Barbara my wife were cancer and arthritis. Even now, my arthritis in my knee has improved through prayer.

Organic diseases, such as cancer and arthritis, are naturally much more difficult than functional diseases. Nevertheless they are sometimes healed.

I like her reasoned answer about concentrating our prayers on our family when there is so much need outside our family.

No mother would refuse to feed her child because she could not at the moment feed every hungry child on earth

This chapter contains a number of stories of healing and protection.

She then lays out some simple steps for praying for protection:

How can one set in motion this protective force and so respond to the prayer-requests of those in danger?

First, let us be still and know that He is God. He is from everlasting to everlasting,

Let us know also that He is love, and that He has made us of Himself and for Himself.

Here is a broad claim that I cannot support:

We must keep this clearly within our minds, for if we once accept death through man’s hate as God’s will for anyone, we lose the power to protect a single one in prayer.

This stems from her belief that death is never God’s will for anyone.

Chapter XV For the Healing of the World

I haven’t said much about the terminology that Agnes uses that I amEarth uncomfortable with but here is one:

Our thought-vibrations are not limited by time or space. The sorrow of a nation is the sorrow of the world, for it creates in the air a thought-vibration of sorrow.

I am not convinced there are actually thought-vibrations that spread sorrow throughout the world. She uses this phrase nine times in the book and doesn’t really explain it. She approaches it as if it is not just a metaphorical description of world views and attitudes of people. But as if it really is some physical thing that happens.  If she means that our thoughts can be transmitted mediated through the Holy Spirit I believe that. But I think she really believes that they are physical. She thinks that we can transmit love and healing in the same way. Lord teach me if there is some reality You wish to teach me concerning this.

This chapter is all about the Biblically sound idea that our prayers are not to just be offered for those we know but the whole world. Certainly Paul and Jesus modeled this. Jesus, use this chapter to make this more of a reality in my life.

How can we pray for the immense needs that are scattered across the globe. Agnes offers some good suggestions for approaching the overwhelming needs of the whole world through prayer:

My own answer to this is to simplify my prayer-objectives; to choose only a few objects for prayer at a time and to make them plain, concise and concrete

In other words, if we are going to pray effectively for the world or a sick friend or one in danger or anything else, we must believe that the thing for which we pray is at that moment being accomplished.

So our first step in world prayer is the seeking of guidance. “Lord, for what or for whom shall I pray at this time so as to further the coming of Thy kingdom?”

Pray for people not just vague nations . Once God has revealed some leaders or people in these nations,

One by one we bless these leaders of nations, hold them up into the light of God’s love and send the love of Christ into their minds.

She encourages us to do this in groups – not individually

The ones we pray for healing are normally open to the healing – but the leaders of the world are usually closed minded. …But how can we direct this great flow of life into a closed mind? By repenting not only of our own sins but of the sins of the world. … And by taking that one to the cross of Christ and there receiving for him forgiveness, healing and life.

This suggested method of prayer for the world, then consists of two parts: first, simplifying our prayer-objectives, and second, praying for the world in the sacramental as well as in the metaphysical way…confessing, that is, the sins of our nation and our world, repenting for them and doing penance for them in our own name and in the name of the nation . . .and having done so, seeing by faith the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven on this earth.

My Conclusions

Agnes has done a valuable service to the Kingdom of God. In her quirky way, she led the way for generations of healing ministries to apply her simple techniques and heal many. You can see her teachings being modified and worked out in the ministries of John Wimber, Francis MacNutt and Dallas Willard.

Here are the my take-aways from the book.

Scientific approachEven though she gets a lot of the science wrong, I love her attempt at using the scientific method to learn how to successfully pray for people and see them healed. It is also my experience that there is much benefit in praying for the body to do what it was made to do – heal thyself.

Prayer of CommandI am going to think of Amen from now on as a prayer of commend. So be it. Dallas Willard’s amen is sometimes: “And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Start Simple– This is an important principle that runs throughout the book. We may disagree with what is a simple project in prayer, but we agree on the KISS principle. 

The Process of PrayingI love her simple steps that she offers. But I especially like the waiting on God at the beginning of a prayer time.

Visualization of the HealingI was not taught this nor have I practiced it. We are told to expect to receive what we have asked for so I think visualizing it is a good thing and will alter my process to include this.

Focusing on God’s Presence – The strong emphasis on the pray-er being focused on the presence of God is powerful. I am changing the way I practice healing prayer based on this principle.

Prayer ProjectsI love the idea of prayer projects and have been doing it for years with pretty amazing success. This is a much undertaught methodology for prayer.

Team approach to Intercessory Prayer – This too is a much under utilized method of praying. I love the idea of starting small and focused.

Prayer for Protection This is something we learned a while ago and have taught our prayer teams how to do this. Agnes adds some additional insight to the process that I find helpful.

The Healing Power of Forgiveness – Although there was nothing new in this for me, her teaching in this area is very much needed. I am encouraged to pray at a distance the prayers of forgiveness that I have prayed in person. Though not new, I don’t practice it currently and will!

Practical Guidelines on Approaching Healing Prayer – These are very practical and well worth teaching.

[1] She says that when we try to heal just by asking, we are missing the importance of being filled with God Himself.

Book Summary: Becoming Dallas Willard by Gary Moon

Becoming Dallas Willard by Gary Moon

This is a fascinating biography of a man who had a tremendous impact on me. A professor of philosophy for many years, family man and Christian author and mentor, this book traces Dallas’ life back to its roots. It is immensely helpful in seeing the path he took to “become” Dallas Willard. I am not going to summarize Dallas’ life story here. Get the book. You won’t regret it. Instead, I am going to provide quotes and occasional commentary.

Dallas and Salvation

In typical Dallas fashion, Dallas blows the sides off what we had presupposed about salvation.

What does it mean to be saved? It means eternal living here and now; a life of interaction with Jesus here and now, and that is the only description of Eternal Life in the New Testament.  See John 17;3

This quote led John Ortberg (a good friend and disciple of Dallas) to write Eternity is in Session.

The author commented on Dallas’ view of salvation:

Salvation for Dallas meant far more than merely a decision.  It meant a new way of living, healing of the soul, living with God in the present moment.

The book describes an account when Richard Foster helped a man in the church to accept Jesus as his Savior. Dallas’s response: “Well, I hope that was good for him and Ieads him into accepting Jesus as his life. ”

Dallas was not all that convinced that just praying a prayer converted a man. A man must become an apprentice of Jesus to become one of His followers. For Dallas, salvation was “a new way of living, healing of the soul, living with God in the present moment.”

Some of Dallas’ Books

The following quote might provide the motivation for reading: Renovation of the Heart.

A carefully cultivated heart will, assisted by the grace of God, foresee, forestall, or transform most of the painful situations before which others stand like helpless children saying “Why?”

Wouldn’t we all love a carefully cultivated heart? Quoting Dallas’s wife Jane concerning Renovation of the Heart, Moon wrote:

Because of my decades as a therapist, my favorite chapters were six and seven, “Transforming the Mind,” about thoughts and feelings. I even have a favorite sentence: “The single most important thing in a person’s mind is . . .” Now, isn’t that an attention getter?

By the way, Dallas finished the sentence with: “What you think about God.”

When asked what his book, The Divine Conspiracy is all about, Willard said that it

presents discipleship to Jesus as the very heart of the gospel. The really good news for humanity is that Jesus is now taking on students in the master class of life. …Whereas the gospel of atonement or sin management is that your sins can be forgiven, the gospel of the kingdom is that you can live in the kingdom of God here and now. …. a person can have the gospel of sin management and continue to run life on their own. But if we are alive in the kingdom now, we know that our sins are forgiven, precisely because the life of heaven is now in us, and we are learning to live the moments of our life with God. … To glorify God means to think and act in such a way that the goodness, greatness, and beauty of God are constantly obvious to you and all those around you.

One recorded incident that I found interesting was a time when Dallas was asked “If you could only bring one book [besides the Bible] with you, what would it be?” Much to everyone’s surprise, he said The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. This was certainly one of the most fascinating books I have ever read.

There is an extended story about how the book Hearing God came about. Don’t miss my summary of this book.

Big Ideas of Willard

Another landmark idea of Willard’s is that we are not called to “sin management.”

Simply managing sins does not lead to the abundant life that Jesus promised

Dallas’ interjection of “availability” is brilliant and precise. When Jesus said: “The Kingdom of God is at hand” He was saying: “It’s available.”

The good news is more than the kingdom of God per se. The gospel is, more precisely, the availability of the kingdom of God. … Availability is what constitutes the news of his good news

One of the battles he faced academically was a rising school of philosophy that denied the reality of real things. Dallas pushed the envelope and declared that even intangible things like the kingdom of God are real:

You can go to the “thing” itself and experience and grasp its reality, even if that “thing” is the kingdom of God on earth.

One doesn’t think of Dallas as playful. Certainly not from his writings. But various stories in the book give us another picture of the man. He saw great value in play.

Work is the creation of value. Play is the creation of value that is not necessary.

One of Dallas’ most profound truths that was brand new to me was:

For those who have put their life in God’s hand, the Universe is a safe place.

This is truly a truth that must be lived to be understood. Who cannot catch this truth that the universe is  a safe place for those in God’s hand in all of the teachings of Jesus and Paul? Me! I missed it.  Jesus told us not to worry and be like the birds depending on their heavenly Father to feed them. (See the end of Matthew 6)  Paul told us that all things work together for good for those who love God. (See Romans 8:28).  Examples of understanding truth by living came from people like Lacy Borgo: “It was his idea that the universe is perfectly safe that completely disrupted my life,” she recalls.

I remember reading it for the first time and thinking the idea that God is completely for us and that all he created is therefore slanted in our favor was wrong, or at best it was crazy. Since my childhood everything I had learned said otherwise. This fearful line of thinking was at the root of my sense of self and my sin. To give it up, to trust that God was good and that there was goodness to be found would mean the undoing of me and my sinful habits—it would mean a dangerous freedom.

“The obviously well-kept secret of the ordinary,” Dallas once wrote, “is that it is made to be a receptacle of the divine, a place where the life of God flows. . . . That is why everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest adult, naturally wants in some way to be extraordinary, outstanding, making a unique contribution or, if all else fails, wants to be thought so—if only for a brief time.”

I have loved this quote of Dallas for a long time and have often compared it to an atheist’s view of our destiny.

Bertrand Russell View:

You are the product of causes that have no purpose or meaning. Your origin, your growth, your hopes, fears, loves, beliefs are the outcome of accidental collections of atoms. No fire, heroism, or intensity of thought or feeling can preserve your life from beyond the grave. All the devotion, all the inspiration, all the labor of all the ages are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system. The whole temple of human achievement must inevitably be buried in the debris of a universe in ruins. That’s what we’re all headed for.

Dallas’ View:

Our destiny is to be part of a tremendously creative team effort, under unimaginably splendid leadership, on an inconceivably vast plane of activity, with ever more comprehensive cycles of productivity and enjoyment. God’s aim in human history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with Himself included as its primary sustainer and most glorious inhabitant. He is even now at work to bring this about. You have been invited, at great cost to God Himself, to be part of this radiant community. You, right there in your life. You will not only survive death, you yourself were made to bear an eternal weight of glory you cannot now even fathom, and you will one day know.

Dallas and People

There is a lengthy description of Dallas and Richard Foster’s time at a little Friends church. Richard was the young pastor. Dallas a lay leader. It was a living laboratory where Dallas’ ideas about the kingdom of God and discipleship were worked out. Moon writes:

What were the explosive ideas explored in the living laboratory? The three most prominent were the kingdom of God as a present reality, salvation as an ongoing life with God, and the participation in spiritual disciplines as a means of transformation.

Dallas greatly respected Agnes Sanford. He had two books with him as he was dying: The Bible and Agnes’ The Healing Light. Moon provides this story from early on in Dallas and Richard Foster’s relationship.

At this time Agnes Sanford was about to begin a three-day conference on prayer at Bill’s church. Dallas suggested to Richard that if he wanted to learn to pray for people, he should attend this conference. Richard, who had read her book The Healing Light, was skeptical. “Why should I?” he replied. “Because,” Dallas said simply, “When Agnes prays things happen.” “You see,” Richard said, “Dallas saw in Agnes someone who actually did it—who went to the ‘thing’ itself, who had a real and interactive relationship with the Trinity. She was fearless.”

Moon recounts many encounters Dallas had with his grad students:

Dallas believed in pushing against boulders. “Why don’t you go home and push on a large rock for a while!” was the advice a graduate student once got from his mentor when he was faced with a mental block—a common occupational hazard encountered by those who make a living from sustained intellectual work.

For more details about Dallas and People check out:

Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith and Formation: Edited by Gary Moon. This contains 30 testimonies from people closest to Dallas. Read it and you will be encouraged to become an apprentice of Jesus.

Dallas-isms 

Dallas was known for creating pithy phrases that capture big ideas –  called “Dallas-isms.”

    • The fires of heaven burn hotter than the fires of hell.
    • Know does not mean “to know about him.”
    • Don’t be asking for an opportunity to speak, ask for something meaningful to say
    • Knowledge, biblically speaking, always refers to interactive relationship.
    • Reality is what you can count on, and what you run into when you are wrong.
    • Dramatic communications from God are not signs of Christian maturity.
    • Simply managing sins does not lead to the abundant life that Jesus promised.
    • If you want to do what Jesus did on the spot, you have to practice what he did off the spot.
    • Not planning to go to London does not help me get to New York.
    • Consider carefully the type of persons who were first called Christians.
    • An obsession with doing Jesus’ commands may prevent one from being the kind of person he is.
    • Holiness is not different action but different being.
    • What does it mean to be saved? It means eternal living here and now, a life of interaction with Jesus here and now, and that’s the only description of eternal life in the New Testament, John 17:3.
    • The question of the evangelist should be, “If you don’t die tonight, what are you going to do tomorrow?” And the answer should be, “I’m going to trust Jesus with all of my life, with everything, and that will allow me to live in the kingdom of God.

Another great Dallasism that Mary Poplin turned into a book is the question: “Is reality secular?” I “stole” that idea for a talk I did at an AI Conference which I entitled: “Is Technology Secular?” What is real was a major part of his professional work as a philosopher. But he lightens it up a little for us lay folk:

Reality is what you run into when you’re wrong.

In his relentless pursuit of truth, Dallas was following His master:

Jesus is the kind of person who would be the first to say you must ruthlessly follow the truth wherever it leads.

Coming to the end of oneself is a major theme in advancing the kingdom within our own life for Dallas. Thus he quipped:

Where do you find God? At www.endofyourrope.com

When asked to describe the church, Willard said:

This isn’t a delivery room; it is the nursery. . . .

When asked about our purpose here on earth:

Why did God not take us on up to heaven? . . . We are left here to be witnesses. . . . We are put here to know God. . . . We are put here to arrive at the chief end of man [which is to glorify God]. … How can we glorify God? We glorify God by bearing much fruit. . . . You bear fruit by abiding. And to abide is to rest in. We are left here [to learn how to hear God’s voice and] to learn how to rest in God, to abide in him and bear fruit. . . . How can I abide? We find the answer in John 15:10. If you “obey” you will abide.

Later, he would call obedience the engine that pulls the train for spiritual transformation,

Dallas and Renovaré

 Key ideas taught in the Renovaré Institute (which was intellectually founded on Dallas’ ideas).

    1. It is actually possible to become like Jesus.
    2. Living in the kingdom of God: What is the gospel of Christ?
    3. The total human system—all of which is to love God.
    4. Learning how to hear God.
    5. Spiritual disciplines: concept and history.
    6. Salvation as a life lived with God.
    7. Celebrating each of the streams of living water.
    8. Importance of classical devotional literature.
    9. Scripture as fifteen ways of being “with God.”
    10. Being with God in prayer.
    11. Living as an apprentice to Jesus.
    12. Spiritual Formation in the roles of our life.

An Overview of Dallas Willard’s key ideas

    1. An adequate understanding of spiritual formation is needed to effectively care for one’s spiritual life.
    2. The nature of spiritual formation in Christ determines the method by which it is to be known.
    3. Relationship with God is an experiential reality.
    4. The Word of God carries with it God’s experiential presence.
    5. God’s experiential presence (or Word) is inherently transformational.
    6. As embodied persons in relationship with a loving God, informed human participation is essential for spiritual growth.
    7. The good news is that God’s reign is available to anyone who relies on Jesus.
    8. Jesus is the master of living life under God’s reign and he wants to teach his students how to live under that reign in their actual lives.
    9. Students of Jesus will rule the universe with him for eternity.
    10. Sin is primarily a disconnection from the life-giving resources of God.
    11. Bodily disciplines place the regenerate person into contact with the life-giving resources of God.
    12. Understanding formation in Christ involves understanding how to bring the various dimensions of the human self under God’s reign.
    13. Knowledge of the reality of Christ and his kind of life is available.

Dallas and the Bible

To observe someone living in a way that matches the wild descriptions of Jesus makes us want to read the Bible again to find out what we have missed.

To know how much Dallas revered the Scriptures, when asked what spiritual discipline was most helpful to him he said: “Memorizing Scripture.

Our Relationship with God

Dallas once used this metaphor to describe our relationship with God:

The mid-size dog had a solid white coat. His eyes seemed blue, but it was hard to tell as they were clouded by the blindness. As we watched, the woman ran backwards, making large figure-eight patterns. She was dragging her feet across the pebbles and old asphalt as she ran, creating scraping sounds for her dog to hear. The dog had a tennis ball in its mouth and seemed to be laughing with joy as he tried to stay close to her. The woman was smiling back at her companion and saying, “I’m right here.” “I see you.” “I’ve got you.”

We are like this blind dog and God leads us in ways we cannot really see but we hear Him continually telling us: “I’m right here.” “I see you.” “I’ve got you.”

Summary

I cannot summarize this book. You need to read it and be inspired to have the character of Christ formed in you (a definition of Spiritual Formation).

Book Summary Abraham Lincoln – Lessons in Spiritual Leadership

Abraham Lincoln – Lessons in Spiritual Leadership

By Elton Trueblood

Elton Trueblood served as spiritual advisor to American presidents from Hoover to Reagan. Gerald Ford kept a copy of this book on his desk in the Oval Office during his presidency.

This book changed completely my understanding of Lincoln’s faith. Wonderfully written and with many profound insights, I highly recommend the book to all who have any interest in Lincoln or in Spiritual Leadership

Preface

Here are some quotes from others on Lincoln’s faith:

“He is one of the few men in history, our own history and all history, whose religion was great enough to bridge the gulfs between the sects, and to encompass us all.” Willard Sperry Dean of Harvard Divinity School

“Lincoln,” he said, “has always been my hero in religion and statecraft.” Reinhold Niebuhr

Trueblood challenges us at the end of the preface with this gem:

The next best thing to being great is to walk with the great.

Chapter 1 The Spiritual Pilgrimage of Abraham Lincoln

In this chapter, Trueblood traces the journey of faith that Lincoln walked:

Underlying all particular decisions was a moral revulsion against human slavery, a mystical sense of the importance of the Union, and an abiding conviction that the divine order could be ascertained and followed.

I wasn’t aware how deeply Christian his family roots were. In many respects on this pilgrimage, Lincoln doesn’t come to faith but he comes back to faith.

Writing to a Quaker about the tension with passivism and responding to oppression, Lincoln said:

“Your people,” he wrote, “have had, and are having, a very great trial. On principle, and faith, opposed to both war and oppression, they can only practically oppose oppression by war.”

Trueblood reflects on that with this:

The difficulty was not that of following a moral principle at personal cost; the difficulty was that of knowing what to do when there is more than one principle, and when the principles clash. …the major key to Lincoln’s greatness is his spiritual depth. … A major element in Lincoln’s greatness was the way in which he could hold a strong moral position without the usual accompaniment of self-righteousness.

One remarkable thing Trueblood highlights was:

The standard which he inaugurated, making it possible to refer to prayer and to divine guidance without embarrassment, has been continued to this day.

Tracing that crucial journey in the early days of the war, Trueblood says:

There were a few hints of theological depth even in the years before the crucial autumn of 1862, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Lincoln’s was the kind of mind which did not reach its true magnitude except in experiences of sorrow and strain.

Chapter 2 – The Agonizing Interlude

This chapter traces the first years of the civil war and the major turning point in Lincoln’s faith.

Wrestling with the need to address injustices and preserve the Union were a primary focus during this period. Reflecting on this period in Lincoln’s journey, Reinhold Niebuhr said:

This [period] is a nice symbol of the fact that order precedes justice in strategy of government; but that only an order which implicates justice can achieve a stable peace. An unjust order quickly invites the resentment and rebellion which leads to its undoing.

Chapter 3 – Lincoln and the Bible

I never knew how well Lincoln knew the Bible until reading this book. I learned that Lincoln carried a devotional with him for much of the latter part of his life. I even obtained that devotional for my own devotions. It is 365 days of Scripture and a brief reflection or poem or hymn. https://www.amazon.com/Lincolns-Daily-Devotional-Carl-Sandburg/dp/1429093544/ref=monarch_sidesheet

Here is something Lincoln said his friend Speed (an atheist) about the reliability of the Bible:

You are wrong, Speed; take all of this Book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier man.

Lincoln’s religion reflects in many ways Samuel Johnson’s perspective:

The Christian religion has very strong evidences. It indeed, appears in some degree strange to reason, but in History, we have undoubted facts, against which, in reasoning a priori, we have more arguments than we have for them: but then, testimony has great weight, and casts the balance.

Lincoln believed that God was a God of History. He believed that God took note of the way our founding fathers handled the slavery issue and believed that the Civil War was the day of reckoning for both sides.

Chapter 4 – Lincoln at Prayer

Like with his relationship with the Bible, Trueblood document’s Lincoln’s prayer life:

Talking with God seemed to the mature Lincoln more important than talking about Him. …That idea that there could be direct communication between finite minds and the infinite Mind had become, for Lincoln, an idea of overwhelming magnitude.

For more about steps to discerning God’s will in prayer, check out my post on this topic.

Chapter 5 – Lincoln and the Church

Of course, one of the main arguments against Lincoln’s faith is that he never joined a church. Reading this chapter changed my whole perspective on Lincoln’s view of the church. For the first time, I do not look down on his reasons for not joining a church. What I never knew was how faithful he was to church going and how influenced he was by some of his pastors. Membership was the real issue for Lincoln.

Listen to this quote of his:

Blessed be God, Who, in this our great trial, giveth us the churches

Chapter 6 – the Final Paradox

This final chapter addresses the role of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Can God be on one side in this great conflict when both sides read the same Bible and pray to the same God? Does God get involved in guiding one side or the other without taking sides?

“Guided freedom is a paradox, because the ascription of all the glory to God for anything good that is in us does not imply any destruction of our freedom as human personalities, but precisely the reverse: our actions are never more truly free and personal and human, they are never more truly our own, than when they are wrought in us by God.” Donald Baillie

Lincoln had a pervading sense of the sovereignty of God. He was deeply influenced by an English statesman – John Bright.

“I believe the question [of the role of the sovereignty of God] is in the hand, not of my honorable Friend, … nor in that even of President Lincoln, but it is in the hand of the Supreme Ruler, who is bringing about one of those great transactions in history which men often will not regard when they are passing before them, but which they look back upon with awe and astonishment some years after they are past.” John Bright

Lincoln knew very well, [that] it is difficult to look forward and see where the Guiding Hand is leading. But seen in later perspective, the working out of a plan is sometimes obvious.

God’s hand in the course of events is seen in the working out of an objective moral law. A sin as great as the sin of enslaving other people was bound, thought Bright, to have agonizing consequences for a very long time.

Lincoln believed in Providence, but, in Niebuhr’s terms, he understood “the error of identifying providence with the cause to which the agent is committed.”

Trueblood talks a lot in this chapter about the danger’s of invoking God’s will in your decision making:

When dedicated people forget the ubiquity of this danger, they are almost sure to become self-righteous. Only the person who recognizes that he is personally involved in the evils which he seeks to eliminate has any chance of avoiding this primary moral mistake. Lincoln, conscious as he was of the radical difference between the divine will and the human will, understood that ambiguities appear in the moral stance of even the most dedicated crusaders.

Reinhold Niebuhr said: “It was Lincoln’s achievement to embrace a paradox which lies at the center of spirituality of all western culture; namely, the affirmation of a meaningful history and the religious reservation about the partiality and bias which the human actors and agents betray in the definition of meaning.”

Noting the difference between the faith of Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Trueblood wrote:

Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were patriotic and also reverent men, but there was a crucial difference between them, because Lincoln appreciated paradox as Jefferson David did not.

“If God now wills the removal of a great wrong and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.” Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln had a real vision for reconstruction that was never realized. How might

Just a few days before he was killed

our country be different if he had lived?

One who saw this clearly was Winston Churchill, who pointed out that “the death of Lincoln deprived the Union of the guiding hand which alone could have solved the problems of reconstruction and added to the triumph of armies those lasting victories which are gained over the hearts of men.”  At the Cabinet meeting on … the very day on which he was shot, the President spoke of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders with kindness.

His only certainty lay in the conviction that God will never cease to call America to her true service, not only for her sake but for the sake of the world. He desired unity and he knew that vision is the secret of unity.

As always, this summary gives you just a taste of the treasures Trueblood has given. Get the book. It was available in my library.

Book Summary Waiting on God by Andrew Murray

Waiting on God by Andrew Murray

Waiting on God

Preface

“PREVIOUS to my leaving for England last year, I had been much impressed by the thought of how, in all our religion, personal and public, we need more of God. I had felt that we needed to train our people in their worship more to wait on God, and to make the cultivation of a deeper sense of His presence, of more direct contact with Him, of entire dependence on Him, a definite aim of our ministry.”

Murray opens this set of 31 meditations with this fact: We need more of God. John Eldredge in his book – Getting Your Life Back – tells us that we would have more of God if we gave more of ourselves to Him. These daily meditations will help you give more of yourself to God as you learn to wait on Him and Him only.

Murray gives another shot over the bow: “The great lack of our religion is, we do not know God

Oh Lord, train us to wait on You. Train us to cultivate a deeper sense of Your presence. Train us to make more direct contact with You. Train me to be entirely dependent upon You. And Lord, help me to teach others.

“whoever does them [the ways of God] and teaches others, will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19

“Blessed is the one who does them and teaches others.”

Day 1 WAITING ON GOD: The God of Our Salvation

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation. Psalm 62:1

Summary of the Meditation

If salvation “comes from God and is entirely His work” therefore our “first and highest duty is to wait on Him.” Waiting is the only true way to know God. Every problem we have in working out our salvation comes from a “defective knowledge and practice of waiting on God.” Murray equates waiting on God with “absolute and unceasing dependence upon God.”

Murray then tells us why there is this deep need for learning and practicing waiting on God:

The Nature of Man

    • “Man was not [created] to have in himself a fountain of life, or strength, or happiness: the ever-living and only living One was each moment to be the Communicator to him of all that he needed.”
    • “Man’s glory and blessedness was not to be independent, or dependent upon himself, but dependent on a God of such infinite riches and love. Man was to have the joy of receiving every moment out of the fullness of God.”

The Nature of God

    • “God, as Creator, formed man, to be a vessel in which He could show forth His power and goodness.”
    • God began the work of salvation, God will continue it, and God will complete it.
    • “God, as Infinite Love, delights to impart His own nature to His child as fully as He can”

Why don’t Christians know the blessedness of waiting? “Christians do not know … their own absolute poverty and helplessness, that they have no sense of the need of absolute and unceasing dependence, or of the unspeakable blessedness of continual waiting on God.”

“May God teach us the blessedness of waiting on Him.”

Father – where do I not know my own absolute poverty and helplessness. Where am I not in a position of absolute and unceasing dependence? Do I actually believe that there are unspeakable blessings of waiting on You continually?

Day 2 WAITING ON GOD: The Keynote of Life

‘I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord!’— Gen. 49: 18

Summary of the Meditation

Murray admits that we don’t know exactly what Jacob is talking about in this passage. He is prophesying over his sons’ future destiny. Clearly it is a statement of faith. He then drops this gem on us in this devotion:

God cannot part with His grace, or goodness, or strength, as an external thing that He gives us, as He gives the raindrops from heaven. No; He can only give it, and we can only enjoy it, as He works it Himself directly and unceasingly.

God’s grace comes to us – not as something dispensed from heaven – but He comes with it. This reminds me of something Paul says in Romans 8. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, with Him, graciously give us all things.” Notice the “with Him.” God comes with all of His good gifts.

And he exhorts us, in our private and public prayers to practice waiting on God.

What holds us back? Murray says: “We hinder Him either by our indifference or by our self effort, so that He cannot do what He would. ”

Father, reveal to me my indifference. Where am I indifferent to You or Your ways? And where am I relying on my own efforts? Have thine own way O Lord.

Day 3 WAITING ON GOD: The True Place of the Creature

These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. ESV Psalm 104:27-28

They all wait for You
To give them their food in due season.
28 You give to them, they gather it up;

Open wide

You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good. NASB Psalm 104:27-28

Summary of the Meditation

“Just as much as it was God’s work to create, it is His work to maintain. As little as the creature could create itself, is it left to provide for itself? The whole creation is ruled by the one unalterable law of— waiting upon God!”

Murray is telling us that God does not leave us to fend for ourselves. He provides. Our job is to wait on Him. That can easily be misinterpreted to say: God will bring me a job. I just need to wait for Him to do it. Clearly Murray isn’t saying that. He goes on to say that the word wait in Hebrew is used to inspect a wall. So waiting in not passive. It is actively looking. Looking for the job that God will provide. But not being anxious about it. He will provide. I will pursue – actively inspecting the walls of employment.

“And just as this is the very place and nature of God, to be unceasingly the supplier of every want in the creature, so the very place and nature of the creature is nothing but this—to wait upon God and receive from Him what He alone can give, what He delights to give.” … If once our eyes are opened to this precious truth, all Nature will become a preacher, reminding us of the relationship which, founded in creation, is now taken up in grace”

Papa, I know my place in the scheme of things. I know Your place. Yet I so often put it all on me. I put all the weight on me to get the car through inspection. I put all the weight on me to help Barbara through these difficult health issues. O Lord, help me to wait on You who desires – nay delights to give us good things. May I be like that little bird with my mouth wide open to be filled!

Day 4 WAITING ON GOD: For Supplies

The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season. Psalm 145:14-15

Summary of the Meditation

“What the universe and the animal creation does unconsciously, God’s people are to do intelligently and voluntarily. … He is to prove that there is nothing more noble or more blessed in the exercise of our free will than to use it in waiting upon God.”

Murray starts the meditation by encouraging us to pattern our waiting after the animal kingdom and an army. For the animal kingdom, we need to see God’s faithfulness.  Then, Murray uses the analogy of the army that doesn’t move forward until it is fully supplied. In the same way we are to not move forward until we have received the grace and strength we need to move forward.

Next he addresses how our praying should be shaped by waiting. He says that even when there is much praying, there is often very little waiting:

“In praying we are often occupied with ourselves, with our own needs, and our own efforts in the presentation of them. In waiting upon God, the first thought is of the God upon whom we wait. We enter His presence, and feel we need just to be quiet, so that He, as God, can overshadow us with Himself. God longs to reveal Himself, to fill us with Himself. Waiting on God gives Him time in His own way and divine power to come to us.”

How do we do it?

“Just be still before Him, and allow His Holy Spirit to waken and stir up in your soul the childlike disposition of absolute dependence and confident expectation.”

Jesus, show me where I am relying on my own broken cistern. My own supply.

Show me where there is much praying and very little waiting and then help me to wait.

Day 5 WAITING ON GOD: For Instruction

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long. Psalm 25:4-5

Summary of the Meditation

“I SPOKE of an army, on the point of entering an enemy’s territories, answering the question as to the cause of delay: ‘Waiting for supplies.’ The answer might also have been: ‘Waiting for instructions,’ or, ‘Waiting for orders.’”

Murray asserts that the need for instructions is as important as supplies for the army and to us.

“The writer [of Psalm 25] knew and loved God’s law exceedingly, and meditated in that law day and night. But he knew that this was not enough. He knew that for the right spiritual apprehension of the truth, and for the right personal application of it to his own peculiar circumstances, he needed a direct divine teaching.”

Cessassionists would disagree  and could just as easily say:

4 Make me to know your ways from Your written word, O Lord;
teach me your paths as I read the Scriptures.
Lead me in your truth and teach me from the Bible,

But Murray is clear that this instruction is to come directly from God.  And how does he say that it comes?

“And what is needed in us to receive this guidance? One thing: waiting for instructions,  waiting on God. ‘On Thee do I wait all the day.’  We want in our times of prayer to give clear expression to our sense of need, and our faith in His help. We want definitely to become conscious of our ignorance as to what God’s way may be, and the need of the Divine light shining within us…”

And the emphasis is on the “all the day.”

Lord, help me not just to wait on you in my quiet times. But all the day long. In all that I do. Not to become crippled in doing but empowered in my doing. And Lord, I need to hear directly from You. Be it through illumination by You from Your word or through others or through the still small voice of Your Spirit, I ask for You to speak.

Day 6 WAITING ON GOD: For all the saints

Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Psalm 25:6 (ESV)

Summary of the Meditation

Murray asks us to turn our attention and prayers away from ourselves and towards all the saints who are waiting.  “how many there are, sick and weary and solitary, to whom it is as if their prayers are not answered, and who sometimes begin to fear that their hope will be put to shame. And then, how many servants of God, ministers or missionaries, teachers or workers, of various name, whose hopes in their work have been disappointed, and whose longing for power and blessing remains unsatisfied.” He tells us that this is a way to bear one another’s burden and so fulfill the law of Christ.

How do we do that? Murray teaches by example:

Blessed Father! we humbly beseech Thee, Let none that wait on Thee be ashamed; no, not one. Some are weary, and the time of waiting appears long. And some are feeble, and scarcely know how to wait. And some are so entangled in the effort of their prayers and their work, they think that they can find no time to wait continually. Father! teach us all how to wait. Teach us to think of each other, and pray for each other. Teach us to think of Thee, the God of all waiting ones. Father! let none that wait on Thee be ashamed. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Father, bring to mind those who are waiting for You. I seem to get caught up with just the few who are immediately in front of me. But I know there are many. Open my mind and my heart towards them. And may I pray for them.

Day 7 WAITING ON GOD: A Plea in Prayer

May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you. Psalm 25:21

Summary of the Meditation

Murray encourages us to hold to and claim this promise from Psalm 25 that we reflected on yesterday: “none who wait for you shall be put to shame.”

Then, based on this Psalm, Murray calls for something I cannot abide with:

If we draw near to God, it must be with a true heart. There must be perfect integrity, wholeheartedness, in our dealing with God. As we read in the next Psalm (26: 1, 11), ‘Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity,’ ‘As for me, I will walk in my integrity,’ there must be perfect uprightness or single-heartedness before God. As it is written, ‘His righteousness is for the upright in heart.’ The soul must know that it allows nothing sinful, nothing doubtful; if it is indeed to meet the Holy One, and receive His full blessing, it must be with a heart wholly and singly given up to His will.

If to draw near to God requires: a true heart; perfect integrity; wholeheartedness; allow nothing sinful, nothing doubtful – we are all doomed. If God judges us by the integrity of our walk, there is no hope. He is taking David’s Old Covenant theology of works and law and proof-texting this idea. The scripture is clear – “there is none righteous, no not one” and “our righteousness is as filthy rags.” You cannot have both.

So what is going on in these Psalms? The more we draw near to God, the more we see our need to be like Him – to walk in integrity, to appropriate the imputed righteousness from Jesus’ finished work. And the more we appropriate that imputed righteousness, the more our heart longs to walk in that way.

Murray does acknowledge that our first attempts at walking in integrity may fail, but he strongly implies that it is possible. He turns these failures around  and sees them as a means of blessing that waiting brings about.

A soul cannot seek close fellowship with God, or attain the abiding consciousness of waiting on Him all the day, without a very honest and entire surrender to all His will.

So the blessing in our failures is the open door to honest and entire surrender to Him.

He encourages us to specify exactly what we are waiting for:

It is good that we sometimes count up to ourselves exactly what the things are we are waiting for, and as we say definitely of each of them, ‘On Thee do I wait,’ we shall be emboldened to claim the answer, ‘For on Thee do I wait.’

What will motivate our waiting and awaken our attention to wait on God?

It is the presence of a beloved or a dreaded master that wakens up the whole attention of the servant who waits on him. It is the presence of God, as He can in Christ by His Holy Spirit make Himself known, and keep the soul under its covering and shadow, that will awaken and strengthen the true waiting spirit.

Lord, as I spend time in Your presence, awaken my whole attention to expectant waiting.

Day 8 WAITING ON GOD: Strong and of Good Courage

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:13-14

Summary of the Meditation

The Psalmist tells us that he would have fainted had it not been for his belief that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Lord, we can grow weary (and faint) with all that is going on around us. But, do we really believe that we will see Your goodness? Do I really believe that I will see Your goodness in my family? In today’s troubles? Do I really believe that You will make a way for me in every situation I face – TODAY?

Am I waiting? Because that is the assurance of things hoped for. The evidence of things unseen. Do I believe that my quiet and confident waiting will be blessed and result in blessedness?  Do I have the courage to believe that God will hear and help? Murray tells us:

one of the deepest secrets of [waiting on God’s] blessedness and blessing, is a quiet, confident persuasion that it is not in vain; courage to believe that God will hear and help; that we are waiting on a God who never could disappoint His people. … Is waiting on God a work so difficult, that, for that too, such words are needed, ‘Be strong, and let your heart take courage’? Yes, indeed.  … The Psalmist says – Be strong and take courage. We normally think that applies to powerful and dangerous endeavors. But no! We must be strong and take courage just to wait!

Murray tells us we need to be strong and courageous to wait because we face:

    • Enemies before whom we are impotent
    • Spiritual needs which are basically unseen
    • Impossible tasks (for humans)
    • Supernatural realities totally foreign to us
    • The kind of relationship with God with which we are unaccustomed
    • A God who often appears to hide Himself

We who have to wait are often tempted to fear that we do not wait aright, that our faith is too feeble, that our desire is not as upright or as earnest as it should be, that our surrender is not complete. Our heart may well faint and fail.

Murray’s solution:

We ought to make up our minds to this, that nothing was ever so sure, as that waiting on God will bring us untold and unexpected blessing. … If you say that you are afraid of deceiving yourself with vain hope, because you do not see or feel any warrant in your present state for such special expectations, my answer is, it is God, who is the warrant for your expecting great things. … God’s love is just His delight to impart Himself and His blessedness to His children.

He gives us this analogy:

As a feeble, sickly invalid is brought out into the sunshine to let its warmth go through him, come with all that is dark and cold in you into the sunshine of God’s holy, omnipotent love, and sit and wait there, with the one thought: Here I am, in the sunshine of His love.

Lord, I need your strength and your courage to face what I am facing. You spoke to me last week that I don’t really believe that You “will make a way where there seems to be no way.” Then amazingly, you made a way in a situation where there seemed to be no way. May this time of waiting grow my faith and stamina; my strength and courage.

Day 9 WAITING ON GOD: With the Heart

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord! Psalm 31:24

Summary of the Meditation

How do we wait on God? With our mind or our will? No, Murray says:

It is with the heart we must wait upon God. ‘Let your heart take courage.’ All our waiting depends upon the state of the heart.

Most of us, “know not how infinitely greater the heart is than the mind.”

People imagine that if they are occupied with the truth, the spiritual life will as a matter of course be strengthened. And this is by no means the case. … My mind is utterly impotent in creating or maintaining the spiritual life within me: the heart must wait on God for Him to work it in me.

Pastor Andre taught this morning that the Hebrew understanding of the heart includes the intellect.  Here are some quotes from  Pursue God :

    • In biblical Hebrew, the heart is where we feel feelings and think thoughts. In fact, ancient Israelites didn’t even have a word for “brain” that we know of. Jeremiah 15:16Proverbs 14:33
    • The heart is also where we make choices. So the concept of the “heart” is best understood as the “inner person” – the seat of our mind (thoughts), emotions (feelings), and will (intentions). Psalm 37:4Proverbs 4:23James 1:14-15

And another from Torah Apologetics:

So the heart is the seat of the mind, it deals with thoughts and intentions. Just as it is used the very first time in Gen. 6, describing the “intent of the heart” of man. It is not the seat of emotions.

So, with this understanding we need to better understand where Murray is going with this. Murray goes on to say that we cultivate the religion of the mind rather than the religion of the heart. He quotes Proverbs 3:5-6 about trusting with our heart and not leaning on our own understanding. He makes an analogy to the physical world. Our mind plans the food it needs to eat but it is the body’s other organs that obtain the nutrients. In the same way, our minds obtain the information about God’s ways and tell me what God’s word says. But it is with the heart that we believe.  In the same way:

And so the Christian needs ever, when he has studied or heard God’s word, to cease from his thoughts, to put no trust in them, and to awaken his heart to open itself before God, and seek the living fellowship with Him.

Here is how he says we are to do this:

I confess the impotence of all my thoughts and efforts, and set myself still to bow my heart before Him in holy silence, and to trust Him to renew and strengthen His own work in me.

Lord, I am not sure that I can discern the difference between waiting with my mind and my heart. Or my will and my heart. Based on the Hebrew meaning of heart, I am even more unsure. Teach me O Lord.

 Day 10 WAITING ON GOD: In Fear and Hope

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:18-22

Summary of the Meditation

Where is our focus? What captures our attention? Murray tells us where God’s attention is pointed and where ours should be:

GOD’S eye is upon His people: their eye is upon Him. In waiting upon God, our eye, looking up to Him, meets His looking down upon us. This is the blessedness of waiting upon God, that it takes our eyes and thoughts away from ourselves, even our needs and desires, and occupies us with our God.

Next Murray points out the apparent contradiction in the Psalm in the Hebrew parallelism – Verse 18 is saying the same thing twice. Fearing God and Hoping in God are two things cut from the same cloth. Murray address this by showing us how many apparent contradictions there are in our understanding of God:

Fear and hope (vs 18) are generally thought to be in conflict with each other; in the presence and worship of God they are found side by side in perfect and beautiful harmony. And this because in God Himself all apparent contradictions are reconciled. Righteousness and peace, judgment and mercy, holiness and love, infinite power and infinite gentleness, a majesty that is exalted above all heaven, and a condescension that bows very low, meet and kiss each other.

Another way to say this is that all parallel lines that never meet in our world come together at  infinity. All apparent contradictions come together in the infinite heart of God.

How then, do we get to that point of waiting for Him in hope and fearing Him? It certainly helps to define what we mean by fearing God. Murray doesn’t give us a  definition. I have attempted it in my blog about The Fear of the Lord .  There I attempt to describe exactly how the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Learning to work with electrical power requires a healthy fear and respect for its dangerous power. That is how it is the beginning of wisdom.  In that definition, Fear and Hope are not even apparent contradictions. Fear leads us to know the one we fear. And knowing God more, will give us more hope than we could ever imagine.

But I digress. Murray sees fear in the more traditional sense and he ties fear and hope together this way:

The lower we bow [because of our fear of Him], the deeper we feel we have nothing to hope in but His mercy. The lower we bow, the nearer God will come, and make our hearts bold to trust Him.

The Psalmist is realistic about the dangers in life:

19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.”

But Murray and the Psalmist are clear:

Not to prevent the danger of death and famine— this is often needed to stir up to wait on Him— but to deliver and to keep alive.

The danger of death and famine are to stir up our need to wait on You Lord. Finally, Murray’s plea:

Children of God! will you not learn to sink down in entire helplessness and impotence, and in stillness to wait and see the salvation of God?

Father, continue to cultivate a healthy fear of You in me. You are an untamed lion.  And may that fear lead me to pursue You and in pursuing You, learn more about waiting on You.

Day 11 WAITING ON GOD: Patiently

Be still [Rest] before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. Psalm 37:7-9

Summary of the Meditation

Do you want to cultivate a Christ-like character? Here are Murray’s thoughts:

And nowhere is there a better place for cultivating or displaying it than in waiting on God. There we discover how impatient we are, and what our impatience means.

We think we are impatient with circumstances and other people, but ultimately he says, we are impatient with Him. Waiting on God opens our eyes to His wise and sovereign will

And to [helps us to] see that the sooner and the more completely we yield absolutely to it, the more surely His blessing can come to us.

All the spiritual disciplines have great value. But they can go no farther than this, that they point the way and prepare us in humility to look to and to depend alone upon God Himself, and in patience to await His good time and mercy. The waiting is to teach us our absolute dependence upon God’s mighty working, and to make us in perfect patience place ourselves at His disposal.

How do we develop this patience?

It is resting in the Lord, in His will, His promise, His faithfulness, and His love, that makes patience easy. And the resting in Him is nothing but being silent unto Him, still before Him.

Finally, in our patiently waiting:

Seek not only the help, the gift, you need; seek Himself; wait for Him.

Papa, help me to see that all of my impatience is ultimately directed at You. Show me where I am impatient.  Help me to rest in You; in Your will and Your promises. Finally Lord, may I not seek you as a means to an end but as the end itself.

Day 12 WAITING ON GOD: Keeping His Way

Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:34

Summary of the Meditation

Murray shoots right over the bow right out of the gate: If we are not walking in His ways, we cannot expect to find Him. I fear that Murray is building too much from the Old Testament Psalms’ works ethic. How can we find Him when we are not born again – yet we do. Or as Paul says: He finds us. Then he states it in a different way: “We may be sure that God is never and nowhere to be found but in His ways.” Ah! I find God in the way He wants to reveal Himself.

He notes that the Psalm speaks of both the inner-life (“waiting”) and the outer-life (“keeping His ways”). Both are needed. And they need to be in “harmony.” The “inner [waiting] must be the inspiration and the strength for the outer.”

Here is a statement about God’s economy: “Do what God asks you to do; God will do more than you can ask Him to do.”

Murray also further refines his understanding of keeping His ways: “Give up your whole being to God without reserve and without doubt; He will prove Himself God to you, and work in you that which is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ.”

Here are ways he suggests that we can keep His ways:

    • As you know them in the Word
    • As you have learned them from nature
    • As they are providentially pointed out
    • As directed by the Holy Spirit

Unlike a works mentality, Murray concludes by saying that as we are content to receive all that God has in store for us: “’Wait on the Lord, and keep His ways’ will be command and promise in one.”

Papa, I know that I fall short in many ways – not just outwardly but inwardly in my waiting. Yet You remain faithful.  Thank You for teaching me Your ways.  I am so grateful that You allow me to find You even after I have strayed. Your mercy never fails.

Day 13 WAITING ON GOD: For more than we know

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool! Psalm 39:7-8

Summary of the Meditation

Do you ever reach the point in your waiting on God that you think: “What do I really want Him to do? What exactly am I waiting on Him for?” Although this may feel disorienting, Murray actually thinks it is a good place to be in our waiting.

God is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above what we ask or think, and we are in danger of limiting Him, when we confine our desires and prayers to our own thoughts of them.

When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they doubted that God could set a table in the wilderness.

Yes. God had done it: He could do it again. But when the thought came of God doing something new, they limited Him; their expectation could not rise beyond their past experience, or their own thoughts of what was possible.

Are we only waiting on a repeat performance or are we waiting for a world premier?

Let us believe that every promise of God we plead has a divine meaning, infinitely beyond our thoughts of them. … let us therefore cultivate the habit of waiting on God, not only for what we think we need, but for all His grace and power are ready to do for us. In every true prayer there are two hearts in exercise. The one is your heart, with its little, dark, human thoughts of what you need and God can do. The other is God’s great heart, with its infinite, its divine purpose of blessing.

Murray believes that seeing the feebleness of our requests and the little dark heart we have and God’s gigantic heart “is what waiting on God is meant to teach you. …Wait on God to do for you more than you can ask or think.”

May it not be that you have had your own thoughts about the way or the extent of God’s doing it, and have never waited on the God of glory, according to the riches of His glory, to do for you what has not entered the heart of man to conceive? … you hardly know what you have to expect. I pray you, be of good courage— this ignorance is often one of the best signs.

In “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis said:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Papa, show me the littleness of my expectations. Show me where my desires are too weak. I see that in me. Show me where my waiting is not the expectant waiting that You deserve. Show me how I am content with trifles and You want to give me Yourself. Where am I limiting You and what You can do in my waiting?

Day 14 WAITING ON GOD:  The Way to the New Song

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3

Summary of the Meditation

This meditation has more to do with Patience than a new song. Murray sees patience as:

    • foreign to our self-confident nature
    • indispensable in our waiting upon God
    • an essential element of true faith

What is patience. In the English:

The word patience is derived from the Latin word for suffering. It suggests the thought of being under the constraint of some power from which we want to be free.

In waiting on God it is of infinite consequence that we not only submit, because we are compelled to, but because we lovingly and joyfully consent to be in the hands of our blessed Father.

Here are some more of Murray’s insights on Patience.  It:

    • Is our highest blessedness
    • Is our highest grace
    • Honors God
    • Gives Him time to have His way with us
    • Is the highest expression of our faith in His goodness and faithfulness.
    • Brings the soul perfect rest in the assurance that God is carrying on His work.
    • Is the token of our full consent that God should deal with us in such a way and time as He thinks best.
    • Is our losing our self-will

Again, more about patience. It is:

    • The great stillness of soul before God that sinks into its own helplessness and waits for Him to reveal Himself;
    • The deep humility that is afraid to let its own will or its own strength work aught except as God works to will and to do;
    • The meekness that is content to be and to know nothing except as God gives His light;
    • The entire resignation of the will that only wants to be a vessel in which His holy will can move and mold
    • A grace

All these elements of perfect patience are not found at once.

if we are to wait on God in all patience: we need to be strengthened with all God’s might, and that according to the measure of His glorious power. … it is in the course of our feeble and very imperfect waiting that God Himself by His hidden power strengthens us and works out in us the patience of the saints, the patience of Christ Himself. …Patient waiting upon God brings a rich reward; the deliverance is sure; God Himself will put a new song into your mouth. … [If] you sometimes feel as if patience is not your gift, then remember it is God’s gift, and take that prayer (2 Thess. 3: 5 R.V.): ‘The Lord direct your hearts into the patience of Christ.’

Lord, You were patient in Your waiting for Your mission to be carried out. But You waited – when Your time was not yet at hand. Help me to learn to wait patiently. And then put a new song in my heart whereby I may sing Your praises.

Day 15 WAITING ON GOD: For His Counsel

But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel. Psalm 106 :13

Summary of the Meditation

Murray opens this meditation by remembering the three times the Israelites failed in Canaan during the time of Joshua: Going up against AI; making a covenant with the Gibeonites; and settling rather than taking the whole inheritance. All three were because they did not wait for his counsel. We are all in danger of this. Hearing God’s word, but then doing it our own way without waiting for God’s counsel.

Our whole relation to God is rooted in this, that His will is to be done in us and by us as it is in heaven. He has promised to make known His will to us by His Spirit, the Guide into all truth. And our position is to be that of waiting for His counsel, as the only guide of our thoughts and actions. In our church worship, in our prayer-meetings, in our conventions, in all our gatherings as managers, or directors, or committees, or helpers in any part of the work for God, our first object ought ever to be to ascertain the mind of God.

Ah! But how to do that? So little is written on learning to listen to God together.

I will let Andrew pour his heart to us on this issue of our need to learn to hear God together:

The great danger in all such assemblies is that in our consciousness of having our Bible, and our past experience of God’s leading, and our sound creed, and our honest wish to do God’s will, we trust in these, and do not realize that with every step we need and may have a heavenly guidance. There may be elements of God’s will, applications of God’s word, experiences of the close presence and leading of God, manifestations of the power of His Spirit, of which we know nothing as yet. God may be willing,

God is willing to open up these to the souls who are intently set upon allowing Him to have His way entirely, and who are willing in patience to wait for His making it known. When we come together praising God for all He has done and taught and given, we may at the same time be limiting Him by not expecting greater things.

A minister has no more solemn duty than teaching people to wait upon God.

More stillness of soul to realize God’s presence; more consciousness of ignorance of what God’s great plans may be; more faith in the certainty that God has greater things to show us; more longing that He Himself may be revealed in new glory: these must be the marks of the assemblies of God’s saints, if they would avoid the reproach, ‘They waited not for His counsel.’

Father, I don’t understand why this is not more well understood. Give me insight and help me to lead where You are leading on this issue.

Day 16 WAITING ON GOD: For His Light in the Heart.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

 Summary of the Meditation

Who is it that waits for the morning light? Those in darkness. The watchman protecting the city waiting for a clearer view of the enemy. The shipwrecked sailor.  Murray tells us:

Our waiting on God can have no higher object than simply having His light shine on us, and in us, and through us, all the day.

What is that light? Murray answers:

‘The light of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.’ … Our heart is meant to have that light filling and gladdening it all the day. …But can we indeed enjoy it all the day? We can.

And how do we enjoy the light of God’s glory all day? Murray says that it is analogous to the flora and fauna. What do they do to enjoy the light of the sun?

They do nothing; they simply bask in the sunshine… The only difference between nature and grace is this, that what the trees and the flowers do unconsciously, as they drink in the blessing of the light, is to be with us a voluntary and a loving acceptance. Faith, simple faith in God’s word and love, is to be the opening of the eyes, the opening of the heart, to receive and enjoy the unspeakable glory of His grace.

Sometimes, the light reveals the pain of sin within. He continues:

The first beginnings of light may be just enough to discover the darkness, and painfully to humble you on account of sin. Can you not trust the light to expel the darkness? Do believe it will. Just bow, even now, in stillness before God, and wait on Him to shine into you. Say, in humble faith; God is light, infinitely brighter and more beautiful than that of the sun. God is light. The Father, the eternal, inaccessible, and incomprehensible light.

And this light is something we can trust.

What would I think of a sun that could not shine? what shall I think of a God that does not shine? No, God shines!

Shine your light upon me this day. May I walk in the light of Your love and grace all the day long.

Day 17 WAITING ON GO: In Times of Darkness

Isaiah 8:17 17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.

Summary of the Meditation

The questions that this meditation begs is: Does God really hide his face? When we have the 24/7 Holy Spirit, is it possible to hide His face? What does it mean when we say “God is hiding his face.” Is His face the same as His presence? In human relations we can be present but not looking at each other face to face. Is that what is going on? Jesus had the Holy Spirit and yet the face of God was hidden. But isn’t that a different situation when the sin of the whole world is laid upon Jesus?

Murray seems to take a different approach and doesn’t directly answer the question. . He picks up from the Scripture that the Prophet is waiting on God who is hiding His face from Israel. And from the context, the people of Israel were in rebellion during Isaiah’s day. He says that we should use our access to God to intercede for “our less favored brethren.” Those who are less favored according to Murray:

    • Have little joy or spiritual life in the preaching and fellowship
    • Are in much error and worldliness
    • Seek after human wisdom and counsel
    • Trust in ordinances and observances
    • Have little power for conversion or edification
    • Have little of the Spirit working in their midst
    • Trust too much in men and money
    • Have too much formality and self-indulgence
    • Have too little faith and prayer
    • Have too little love and humility
    • Have too little of the spirit of the crucified Jesus
    • Have nominal profession

These are those with whom God is hiding His face. So Murray doesn’t really answer the question except by saying the ones from whom God is hiding His face are those who are hiding their face from Him. And his call to us is to intercede and wait on God for these less favored brethren.

There is a strong emphasis in this meditation, for us to be waiting on God for those who are in all kinds of error or who are lukewarm.  Clearly the people of Israel during Isaiah’s time were in great darkness.

Papa, who is walking in darkness right now that I need to be waiting on You for? With whom and for whom, can I be waiting on You?

Day 18 WAITING ON GOD: To Reveal Himself

It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

Summary of the Meditation

Murray identifies two precious thoughts in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

    • Revealing language from God’s people who are united in their waiting on Him
    • The blessing of united waiting on God is that God reveals Himself

He identifies (again) the things that are hindering our united waiting:

    • There are evils in the church to which no human wisdom is equal
    • Ritualism, rationalism, formalism, and worldliness are robbing the church of its power
    • Culture, money and pleasure are threatening our spiritual life
    • Infidelity, iniquity, and wretchedness appear more powerful than we can cope with.

But he tells us that promises of God and the power of the Holy Spirit are more than enough to meet these challenges if we will but wait on Him for them. What does united waiting on God look like for God’s people? The same as it does with an individual. It would mean developing and having:

    • A deeper conviction that God must and will do all
    • A more humble and abiding entrance into our deep helplessness
    • Entire and unceasing dependence upon Him.
    • A more living consciousness that the essential thing is, giving God His place of honor and of power;
    • A confident expectation that God will, by His Spirit, give the secret of His acceptance and presence and at the right time, a revelation of His saving power

What would be the aim of this united waiting on Him

    • It would bring everyone there under a deep sense of God’s presence
    • It would mean that everyone would leave with a sure knowledge that they have met with God Himself
    • They would leave knowing that they have left everything in His hands and that now is a time of waiting

What can leadership do to usher us into God’s presence:

“The godly minister has no more difficult, no more solemn, no more blessed task, than to lead his people out to meet God, and, before ever he preaches, to bring each one into contact with Him.”

Waiting before God, and  waiting on God, are the one condition of God showing His presence.

He pictures it working as follows:

A company of believers gathered with the one purpose, helping each other by little intervals of silence, to wait on God alone, opening the heart for whatever God may have of new discoveries of evil, of His will, of new openings in work or methods of work, would soon have reason to say, ‘ Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, He shall save us: this is the Lord ; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’ ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God!’

Make us at our church such a people who wait on You in a united fashion.

Day 19 WAITING ON GOD: As a God of Judgement

‘Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for Thee: . . . for when Thy judgments are on the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.’—Isa. 26:8,9.

‘The Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.’—Isa. 30:18.

Summary of the Meditation

Andrew begins by showing how God is a God of both mercy and judgment – exhibited by the Exodus; the flood; the expelling of the Canaanites and others. Judgement punishes sin; mercy saves the sinner. His point is that as we wait on God, His holy presence will stir up and discover hidden sin, bring us very low as we see the sinful nature within, our heart’s true opposition to God’s ways and our inability to walk in them.  He tells us not to be surprised as we begin to wait on Him because we will only discover more of our otherness from God.  “Wait on God, in the faith that His tender mercy is working out in you His redemption in the midst of judgment: wait for Him, He will be gracious to thee.”

There is a second and more solemn thought he brings up. As we experience the judgements of God, we are to realize that there are thousands of our brethren who will face this judgment. Are we not to warn them?

He doesn’t explicitly pick up on how we learn righteousness when God’s judgments are on the earth.

Finally, the meditation would read in a very different way if we took the Hebrew definition for the word judgments מִשְׁפָט mishpat as “the act of deciding a case” or the “process, procedure, and litigation before judges.”  We should be waiting on the completion of the trial when the case is decided – justice poured out. Murray takes the traditional approach to God’s judgements – his revealing of and punishment for our sins. But “waiting for His judgements” is more accurately seen as Isaiah waiting for God to bring justice. That casts a different light on the text for this morning.

Lord, I am waiting on You to set all things right. For bringing justice to this world. I long for justice in the wrongs done to me by my friends. I know that I wait with others for justice – especially in the persecuted church. May this waiting open my eyes to You and Your ways.

Day 20 WAITING ON GOD: Who waits on us

‘And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you; and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.’—Isa. 30:18

Summary of the Meditation

God waits for us more than we wait for Him. Let that sink down into our very marrow. Andrew claims that:

The vision of Him waiting on us, will give new impulse and inspiration to our waiting upon Him. It will give an unspeakable confidence that our waiting cannot be in vain. If He waits for us, then we may be sure that we are more than welcome; that He rejoices to find those He has been seeking for.

And what does God’s waiting look like? Murray says the best comparison is that of a Father waiting for his child to come to him; to come back home. “He waits with all of the longings of a father’s heart.” And how does that help us? Murray tells us:

“Yes, connect every exercise, every breath of the life of waiting, with faith’s vision of your God waiting for you.”

But wait! How can He be waiting for me when I have been waiting so long for Him? Murray tells us:

“you ask, how is it, if He waits to be gracious, that even after I come and wait upon Him, He does not give the help I seek, but waits on longer and longer?”

Two answers:

    • God is a wise husbandman, ‘who waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it.’ He cannot gather the fruit until it is ripe. He knows when we are ready. … God waited four thousand years, until the fullness of time, before He sent His Son: our times are in His hands: He will avenge His elect speedily: He will make haste for our help, and not delay one hour too long.
    • God is more than the blessing; and our being kept waiting on Him is the only way for us to learn to find our life and joy in Himself.

Murray describes us as ladies-in-waiting for the Queen. What a privilege! What joy in serving the sovereign!

Finally, how blessed it is when the waiting God meets with His waiting servant!

So brothers and sisters: “let waiting be our work, as it is His.”

Papa, I need to recognize that You have been waiting on me for a long time. In what ways are you  waiting on me today?

Day 21 WAITING ON GOD: The Almighty One

They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with eagle wings; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.’—Isa. 40: 31.

Summary of the Meditation

Murray starts with a great insight.

Waiting always partakes of the character of our thoughts of the one on whom we wait.

In other words, what we think about God will shape the way we wait. Is God a cruel taskmaster? We will wait for the other shoe to drop? Do we think of Him as capricious? Then we will wait not knowing what to expect this time. And so on. But oh what a God we wait on. Faithful, true and merciful.

This is the fertile ground out of which springs this much quoted verse from Isaiah.  God is the Almighty and Everlasting one. And because Isaiah saw God in this way, he saw how waiting on Him will produce strength and endurance.

Where does the eagle soar? In the highest heavens. We are meant to live in As the eagle stirs up its nest...the heavenlies. Seated with God. “You are born of God. You have the eagles’ wings. You may not have known it: you may not have used them; but God can and will teach you to use them.”

We are taught to use our eagle wings in the same way an eaglet learns.

He stirs up your nest. He disappoints your hopes. He brings down your confidence. He makes you fear and tremble, as all your strength fails, and you feel utterly weary and helpless. And all the while He is spreading His strong wings for you to rest your weakness on, and offering His everlasting Creator-strength to work in you. And all He asks is that you should sink down in your weariness and wait on Him; and allow Him in His Jehovah-strength to carry you as you ride upon the wings of His Omnipotence.

Papa, Everlasting and Almighty one. Stir up my nest until I learn to wait on You. Reveal my disappointed hopes. Where am I confident in myself? Lord, what would it look like today for me to ride upon Your wings?

Day 22 WAITING ON GOD: It’s Certainty of Blessing

‘Thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me.’ —Isa. 49:23.

‘Blessed are all they that wait for Him.’ —Isa. 30:18.

Summary of the Meditation

Murray chides and challenges us with the fact that we are so slow of learning “that this blessed waiting must and can be as the very breath of our life, a continuous resting in God’s presence and His love, an unceasing yielding of ourselves for Him to perfect His work in us.” And with that slowness is also fear – fear that it may not be true.  “Let us listen to God’s answer, until every fear is banished, and we send back to heaven the words God speaks, Yes, Lord, we believe what You say: ‘All they that wait for Me shall not be ashamed.’ ‘Blessed are all they that wait for Him.’”

Both of these passages in Isaiah point to a time in history when God’s people were in dire straits and there was no possible way out. Do we believe God’s word to them for our situation. No disappointment is possible!  If all we had was a vague sense that God was going to deliver us, we would despair. But we have God’s promises. And we need to “wait before Him, until He Himself reveals to us what His promises mean, and in the promises reveals Himself in His hidden glory!” Let’s not let the depth of the meaning of these promises pass us by. And God Himself comes with all of these promises. In the midst of our deepest trouble, a simple word directly from God can calm the storm. “Peace! Be still my son [or daughter].” That is enough to stop the raging sea within.

What place does waiting have in our personal life? The measure of its faith or power is not because we have beautiful visions of what God can do or even that we speak eloquently of it. “No; it is what we really know of God in our personal experience, conquering the enemies within, reigning and ruling, revealing Himself in His Holiness and Power in our inmost being.”  And the blessing is present even while we wait. Because what we have is Him even while we wait for the fulfillment of what we are waiting for.

“the Everlasting God meets, in the greatness and the tenderness of His love, each waiting child, to shine in his heart ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ Read these words again, until your heart learns to know what God waits to do”

Father, help me to reflect upon our history together. You have conquered enemies within and have ruled and reigned in my life. You have revealed Yourself in my inmost being. Thank you that You come with all of Your promises.

Day 23 WAITING ON GOD: For Unlooked for Things

‘For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him.’—Isa. 64:4.

From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him. ESV

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9

From of old we have not heard, neither have our eyes seen a God beside thee, and thy works which thou wilt perform to them that wait for mercy. Brenton’s LXX

Summary of the Meditation

Murray highlights the difference between the RV and AV translations. The RV (and ESV)  – no one has seen a God that works; The AV (and Paul in 1st Corinthians) – no one has seen the work God will do. Although he chooses the AV to concentrate on, he tells us that they both tell us that if we wait, things (God – RV/ESV or God’s hand – AV) will be revealed to us that we cannot conceive. (Notice that the LXX has both!).

My bigger question (since I think the work of God and God Himself are pretty inseparable and so the difference makes no difference) why does Paul use love Him vs waits for Him? This amazing revelation comes to those who wait – or those who love Him. Andrew doesn’t address this at all. I think it might be saying – to wait on Him is to love Him.

Murray concentrates this meditation on that God alone knows what He can do for His waiting people.  He points us to the preceding verses in Isaiah as to how desperate the situation was. And God knows we need this kind of revelation in the church. Murray says – look at the church. We do His work using our wisdom; we demonstrate little of the Spirit’s power in what we do; we don’t manifest the unity that will draw people to Himself; how little we demonstrate the holiness God calls for; and how little the world sees of men and women in Christ and Christ in them.

How can we reverse this sad state in the church and in our hearts. You guessed it. Waiting on God. And what should we wait for?  “We must desire and believe, we must ask and expect, that God will do unlooked-for things. We must set our faith on a God of whom men do not know what He has prepared for them that wait for Him. The wonder-doing God, who can surpass all our expectations, must be the God of our confidence.” And if we take Paul’s version of this quote, these things have been revealed by the Spirit.

Lord, I know my vision of what you can do and what you will do and what you have done is very limited. Reveal to me your heart.

Day 24 WAITING ON GOD: To Know His Goodness.

‘The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him.’ — Lam. 3: 25

Summary of the Meditation

Murray tells us that our first entry into waiting on God is usually waiting for him to bless us with some answer to prayer. But, he says:

God graciously uses our need and desire for help to educate us for something higher than we were thinking of. We were seeking gifts; He, the Giver, longs to give Himself and to satisfy the soul with His goodness. It is just for this reason that He often withholds the gifts, and that the time of waiting is made so long. He is all the time seeking to win the heart of His child for Himself. He wishes that we should not only say, when He bestows the gift, How good is God! but that long ere it comes, and even if it never comes, we should all the time be experiencing: ‘It is good that a man should quietly wait’: ‘The Lord is good to them that wait for Him.’

He encourages us to make waiting on God a habit, a disposition, second-nature, the very breath of our soul, the very root of our life with God.  Our knowledge, understanding and experience of God’s goodness will grow as we grow in our waiting on God.

Lord, it is hard for me to imagine me growing in knowledge and understanding of Your goodness. You by very definition are good. But I can see growing in my experience of Your goodness and growing in my waiting on You. I will watch to see how the others grow beyond what I imagine as I pursue growth in waiting on You.

Day 25 WAITING ON GOD: Quietly.

‘It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.’— Lam 3:26

Summary of the Meditation

‘TAKE heed, and be quiet: fear not, neither be faint-hearted.’  (Isaiah 7:4)

‘In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.’ (Isaiah 30:15)

‘The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him’ (Hab. 2: 20).

‘Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God.’ (Zeph. 1: 7).

‘Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord; for He is raised up out of His holy habitation’ (Zech. 2: 13).

Murray tells us that these scriptures show us the “deep connection between quietness and faith, and show us what a deep need there is of quietness, as an element of true waiting upon God.”

Why the deep need and deep connection? Murray says that our nature is so estranged from this infinite being, “that it needs our whole heart and desires set upon Him, even in some little measure to know and receive Him.”

Murray tells us what can keep us from this quiet waiting:

As long as the waiting on God is chiefly regarded as an end towards more effectual prayer, and the obtaining of our petitions, this spirit of perfect quietness will not be obtained. But when it is seen that the waiting on God is itself an unspeakable blessedness, one of the highest forms of fellowship with the Holy One, the adoration of Him in His glory will of necessity humble the soul into a holy stillness, making way for God to speak and reveal Himself.

Let everyone who would learn the art of waiting on God remember the lesson:  ‘Take heed, and be quiet;’ ‘It is good that a man quietly wait.’ Take time to be separate from all friends and all duties, all cares and all joys; time to be still and quiet before God. Take time not only to secure stillness from man and the world, but from self and its energy.  Let the Word and prayer be very precious; but remember, even these may hinder the quiet waiting.

How can we be quiet in the midst of the cacophony of sound around us?  Habit and discipline: “Though at first it may appear difficult to know how thus quietly to wait, with the activities of mind and heart for a time subdued, every effort after it will be rewarded; we shall find that it grows upon us, and the little season of silent worship will bring a peace and a rest that give a blessing not only in prayer, but all the day.”

Lord, the promise seems too great. Just do it and the blessing will flow. Humble my soul into silence before You. Show me today what is keeping me from waiting in silence before you.

Day 26 WAITING ON GOD: In Holy Expectancy.

‘Therefore will I look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.’— Micah 7: 7.

Summary of the Meditation

The essence of this meditation is that we must wait with holy expectancy. My God will hear me. Murray says that: “A holy, joyful expectancy is of the very essence of true waiting.” He starts by summarizing a little book called “Expectation Corner.” That book illustrates the truth from James’ letter: We have not because we ask not – and when we ask, we are not continuously looking for the answer to arrive.

When we have been given a promise of God, we must wait with “confident assurance” that my God will hear me. He digresses from this a bit when he tells us of the great promise that should be central to all prayer petitions: “the one great petition which ought to be the chief thing every heart seeks for itself — that The Life of God in the soul may have full sway; that Christ may be fully formed within; and that we may be filled to all the fullness of God.” This Murray says is what we ought “to seek and dare to expect.”

He closes with a thought about stillness in our waiting. As we unite ourselves in the death of Jesus, we become still – because “there is no stillness like that of the grave.” “As we cease from self, and our soul becomes still to God, God will arise and show Himself.”

Lord, I often wonder how dead to self I really am. How united with You, Jesus I am? Is it really “not I who live but Christ who lives in me?” Father have your way in my heart and soul that I may rest expectantly waiting for the fulfillment of your promises to me.  Especially the promise to be fully formed in me and to be filled to all the fullness of God. Amen.

Day 27 WAITING ON GOD: For Redemption.

‘Simeon was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was upon him. Anna, a prophetess, . . . spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.’— Luke 2: 25, 38.

Summary of the Meditation

Murray concentrates this devotion on the waiting on God that was done by believers in the Old Testament. They were waiting for consolation and redemption – what has already been accomplished in Jesus. So he asks – do we still need to wait? Yes he says – for two reasons: “But will not our waiting, who look back to it as come, differ greatly from those who looked forward to it as coming? It will, especially in two aspects. We now wait on God in the full power of the redemption: and we wait for its full revelation.”

    1. Waiting in the full power of redemption. We know that the redemption was accomplished and our position secured. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. “Our waiting on God may now be in the wonderful consciousness, wrought and maintained by the Holy Spirit within us, that we are accepted in the Beloved, that the love that rests on Him rests on us, that we are living in that love, in the very nearness and presence and sight of God.”
    2. We are waiting for the full revelation of this redemption. “As we maintain our place in Christ day by day, God waits to reveal Christ in us, in such a way that He is formed in us, that His mind and disposition and likeness acquire form and substance in us, so that by each it can in truth be said, ‘Christ liveth in me.’”

He makes a distinction that I have never considered: Our life “in Christ” is in heaven and Christ in us is on earth. I had never thought of it that way. And they are meant to complement each other. He puts it this way:

the more my waiting on God is marked by the living faith that I am in Christ, the more the heart thirsts for and claims the CHRIST IN ME. … And the waiting on God, which began with special needs and prayer, will increasingly be concentrated, as far as our personal life is concerned, on this one thing, Lord, reveal Your redemption fully in me; let Christ live in me.

He lists two other differences between Old Testament waiting and the New:

    • The place we take (seated in the heavenlies)
    • The expectations we entertain

One last point he makes:

Learn from Simeon and Anna one lesson. How utterly impossible it was for them to do anything towards the great redemption — towards the birth of Christ or His death. It was God’s work. They could do nothing but wait.

And so it is impossible for us to make the revelation of Jesus in us a reality. We are helpless and feeble in making the revelation happen. But, he concludes this meditation:

As gloriously as God proved Himself to them the faithful and wonder-working God, He will to us also.

Jesus, teach me more about the distinction between You in me (on earth) and me in You (in heaven). Reveal more to me the distinction between the waiting Anna and Simeon did and my waiting which has the full power of the redemption present here and now. I hear what he says about how our waiting for answers and deliverance becomes transformed into waiting for You – work that in me O Lord.

Day 28 WAITING ON GOD: For the Coming of His Son

‘Be ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord.’— Luke 12: 36.130

‘Until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, in His own time, He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.’— 1 Tim. 6: 14,15( R.V.).

‘Turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven.’— 1 Thess. 1: 9, 10.

 Summary of the Meditation

The opening Scripture is from Jesus’ brief exchange about the Master of the house who is coming back from a wedding. So, for Murray [and Jesus], we are to be like those waiting for their Master to return from a celebration and be alert and watch carefully for his return. Murray says that waiting on God in heaven is joined by God with waiting for the return of His Son. “The present life and the coming  glory are inseparably connected.” Learning to wait on God for His power and promise is a preparation for waiting for Jesus’ return. He warns us against the danger of separating them.

It is always easier to be engaged with the religion of the past or the future than to be faithful in the religion of today. As we look to what God has done in the past, or will do in time to come, the personal claim of present duty and present submission to His working may be escaped. … There is such a danger of our being so occupied with the things that are coming more than with Him who is to come; there is such scope in the study of coming events for imagination and reason and human ingenuity, that nothing but deeply humble waiting on God can save us from mistaking the interest and pleasure of intellectual study for the true love of Him and His appearing.

Waiting for Christ Himself is, oh, so different from waiting for things that may come to pass! The latter any Christian can do; the former, God must work in you every day by His Holy Spirit.

He warns against concentrating on one “waiting” for the other. Those that are waiting on God should not neglect waiting for Jesus’ return and those waiting for Jesus’ return should also be waiting on God.

Waiting on God must ever lead to waiting for Christ as the glorious consummation of His work; and waiting for Christ must ever remind us of the duty of waiting upon God, … The hope of that glorious appearing will strengthen you in waiting upon God for what He is to do in you now.

And as I quoted earlier, waiting in the now will prepare you for waiting for His coming. He ends the meditation on a separate topic – the bridal spirit.

Tender love to Him and tender love to each other is the true and only bridal spirit. … It is not when we are most occupied with prophetic subjects, but when in humility and love we are clinging close to our Lord and His brethren, that we are in the bride’s place. Jesus refuses to accept our love except as it is love to His disciples. … Those who love most are the most ready for His coming.

Jesus, this is a new concept: tying waiting on God and waiting for You to return. Reveal more to me about this over the next week. Also, I am challenged by the call to the bridal spirit – where I love Your disciples as much as I love You. Show me how I can do that.

Day 29 WAITING ON GOD: For the Promise of the Father.

‘He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.’— Acts 1: 4.

Summary of the Meditation

Murray is telling us that just as the first disciples had to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power, so we need to wait continually. He shows us how this waiting and subsequent infilling happened several times to the same disciples. So we need to wait for this continual infilling of the Spirit.

In one sense, the fulfillment can never come again as it came at Pentecost. In another sense, and that in as deep reality as with the first disciples, we daily need to wait for the Father to fulfil His promise in us.

He also provides us some of his pneumatology – his doctrine of the Holy Spirit:

    • The Holy Spirit is not a person distinct from the Father in the way two persons on earth are distinct.
    • The Father and the Spirit are never without or separate from each other: the Father is always in the Spirit;
    • The Spirit works nothing but as the Father works in Him.
    • Each moment the same Spirit that is in us, is in God too
    • The Spirit in us is not a power at our disposal.
    • Nor is the Spirit an independent power, acting apart from the Father and the Son.
    • The Spirit is the real living presence and the power of the Father working in us
    • The Spirit given at Pentecost was not a something that God parted with in heaven, and sent away out of heaven to earth. God does not, cannot, give away anything in that way.

Finally, he ties this back to waiting: “he who is most full of the Spirit will be the first to wait on God most earnestly, further to fulfil His promise, and still strengthen him mightily by His Spirit in the inner man.”

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit! Any attempt to define one member of the trinity apart from the other creates confusion in my mind. Open my mind and my heart to the incredible beauty of the Trinity.

Day 30 WAITING ON GOD: Continually

‘Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.’— Hos. 12: 6.

Summary of the Meditation

Just as continuity is critical to life, continuity in our waiting on God is critical to life in the Spirit. We are to learn to wait on Him continually. Murray recognizes that there are special times of waiting, but “the maintenance of the spirit of entire dependence must be continuous.” And thus, for all who want everything there is from God, we must learn to wait continually.

Murray encourages us by saying that this is possible. Whatever your heart is full of will occupy it. “When the heart has learned how entirely powerless it is for one moment to keep itself or bring forth any good, when it has understood how surely and truly God will keep it, when it has, in despair of itself, accepted God’s promise to do for it the impossible, it learns to rest in God, and in the midst of occupations and temptations it can wait continually.”

He encourages us to not worry about starting imperfectly. There will be frequent intermissions and failures. But he encourages us to believe that God is superintending the process. Waiting is not fruitless. Even while we wait in darkness. God is working behind the scenes in them. “Waiting continually will be met and rewarded by God Himself working continually.” And no quid pro quo. Not: “If I wait continually, God will work continually.” No! Since God is working continually in my life, I will wait continually upon Him. “Take time until the vision of your God working continually, without one moment’s intermission, fill your being. Your waiting continually will then come of itself.”

Father, work in me this “waiting as a life style.” Lord, what is the first step I can take to grow in this?

Day 31 WAITING ON GOD: Only

‘My soul, wait thou only upon God;  For my expectation is from Him. He only

is my rock and my salvation.’— Isa. 62: 5,6.

 Summary of the Meditation

How fitting to end this series of meditations with the one word: only. How often we have other preoccupations and distractions? I certainly do. Murray tells us that we won’t find many companions with us on this journey.

On a side note, Murray brings up the topic of the bronze serpent. It is an odd enough story from the book of Numbers where this statue on a pole is erected under God’s instruction for all to look at and be healed from a plague God sent upon His people  (Numbers 21:4-9). Then this statue becomes an idol that the children of Israel are burning incense to and Hezekiah destroys it (2 Kings 18:4). It is here that it is given a name: Nehushtan. All of this is to say that when we are waiting on anything but God alone, we succumb to the temptation to become distracted by good and holy things: the arc; the temple; church and doctrine; means of grace and divine appointments.

Murray’s remedy: Recognize that we are an immortal spirit destined for the privilege of  eternity and union with God. Religious thoughts and reflections; spiritual disciplines and works of service “very often take the place of waiting on God.” Our two great enemies (not sure why the devil is not included as a third) are the world and self. “Beware lest any earthly satisfaction or enjoyment, however innocent it appears, keep you back from saying, ‘I will go to God, my exceeding joy.’”

Father, I feel this even now. I am not waiting on You only!  Murray wants us to beware of “Pleasing self in little things may be strengthening it to assert itself in greater things.” He calls us back to two foundational truths to keep us on track: “They are: your absolute helplessness; and, the absolute sufficiency of thy God.”

He closes this meditation and this book with the following:

No words can tell, no heart conceive, the riches of the glory of this mystery of the Father and of Christ. Our God, in the infinite tenderness and omnipotence of His love, waits to be our Life and Joy. Oh, my soul! let it be no longer needed that I repeat the words, ‘Wait upon God,’ but let all that is in me rise and sing: ‘Truly my soul waits upon God. On Thee do I wait all the day.’

Father, I long to put this into practice. Work these truths deep in me so that all that is in me will rise and sing: “I wait only on You all day long. ” Amen.

Book Summary: The Cross and the Prodigal by Kenneth Bailey

Rembrandt's Return of the ProdigalThe Cross and the Prodigal:

Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants by Kenneth Bailey

This is a book summary of The Cross and the Prodigal written by Kenneth Bailey. This is one of most engaging, interesting and inspiring exegesis of Luke 15 that I have ever heard or read. We first heard Kenneth Bailey speak at our church in Florida. At that moment I knew I tapped into a source of understanding the gospels as never before. This summary will be mostly quotes from the book. I don’t have much to add. Get the book – there is a lot more background then there is here.

This little book looks at the three parables in Luke 15. The Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin and the Parable of the Lost Sons. It spends the most time on the famous prodigal son parable. Kenneth starts us off with the following:

Across the centuries since the rise of Islam, Muslim voices have echoed the cry “Christians have perverted the message of Jesus” and pointed to the famous parable of the prodigal son as evidence.

One of the following arguments is used to support this:

There is no cross and no incarnation, no “son of God” and no “savior,” no “word that becomes flesh” and no “way of salvation,” no death and no resurrection, no mediator and no mediation. The son needs no help to return home. The result is obvious. Jesus is a good Muslim who in this parable affirms Muslim theology.

He then asks the following:

… how is it that both the incarnation (God comes to us in Jesus) and the atonement (the cross is a saving power) appear to be missing?

This Bailey does masterfully. Starting with how we read parables and how we need to listen to them with the ears of 1st century Middle Eastern peasants, he tells us the following about Parables:

What lies between the lines, what is felt and not spoken, is of deepest significance. Indeed, it almost cannot be expressed because it is not consciously apprehended. What “everybody knows” is never explained.
We start with the complaint of the Pharisees and scribes and Bailey shows how the next three parables all are Jesus’ answer to this complaint:

Luke 15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them (ESV).”

Parable of the Lost SheepParable of the Lost Sheep

Then he dives right into the first parable:

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them,

His first observation is:

This verse (Luke 15:4) is a startling response to the complaint of the Pharisees. The Pharisees began as a lay movement, and they were expected to work for a living in some secular profession. One could not accept money for teaching the law. Thus Paul was a tentmaker and Jesus a carpenter, and thereby addressing Pharisees as “working men” was not a problem. But shepherds were considered unclean by the rabbis,” who referred to such people as “people of the land and avoided them. Clearly Jesus did not consider shepherding an unclean profession.”

Pharisees no doubt expected Jesus to say something like this: “Which of you, owning a hundred sheep, if you received a report that one was lost, would not send a servant to the shepherd responsible and threaten him with dismissal if he didn’t find the sheep?”

Then also the story Jesus tells is best understood as a reshaping of Psalm 23, with himself at its center. This possibility turns this first parable into an amazing introduction to this trilogy of three stories. Jesus claims to be the divine presence among the people searching for the lost and thus fulfilling the promises of Psalm 23,

Old Testament Parallels to this Parable

He also believes that Jesus is drawing upon Jeremiah 23:1-8 (ESV)

23 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.
5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”

and Ezekiel 34:1-31.
34 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? …

Notice Luke 15:4 “If he has lost one of them.” No self respecting middle easterner would say that. Arabic translations in the past have turned this into a passive to read “If one of them is lost,”… at both ends of the Mediterranean the speaker never blames himself.

Jesus broke the common speech patterns of the day by placing responsibility on the shepherd, saying “If he has lost one of them.” This departure from traditional idiom is important. Jesus is saying to his audience, “You lost your sheep. I went after it and brought it home. Now you have the gall to come to me complaining! Don’t you realize that I am making up for your mistakes?”

Moving on:
(Vs 4) does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?

Parable Addresses an Age-Old Problem

Bailey addresses the difficult question: What matters more: Should we put the group at risk to rescue one member of the group?

Christian missionaries have debated this point with communist dialecticians in China. Does the lost individual matter or are “the people” alone important? Indeed, it is the shepherd’s willingness to go after the one that gives the ninety-nine their real security. If the one is sacrificed in the name of the larger good of the group, then each individual in the group is insecure, knowing that he or she too is of little value. If lost, he or she will be left to die. When the shepherd pays a high price to find the one, he thereby offers the profoundest security to the many.

5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

Bailey notes that the shepherd had to carry the sheep back over very, very difficult terrain. He also points out that:

When the lost is found, the task of restoration has barely begun. This theme disappears in the second story only to reappear with all of its glorious fullness in the third story. It is a crucial theme within which lies the cross.

In all of these early Eastern artistic presentations of the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Good Shepherdthe price paid is emphasized by the extraordinary size of the sheep. Clearly Christ’s passion is foreshadowed in this text and in these representations of it.

The Pharisees, as religious leaders, were indeed the “shepherds of Israel.” Thus it is easy to see that in this parable Jesus is holding them responsible for any “sheep” (read: person) that is lost from the community. In the parable the shepherd does four things:
• Accepts responsibility for the loss.
• Searches without counting the cost.
• Rejoices in the burden of restoration.
• Rejoices with the community at the success of restoration.
Jesus here sets a high standard for the church in any age.

6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Jesus’ subtle humor is evident in this verse. The “righteous” who “need no repentance” do not exist. Naturally, heaven’s joy over them will be minimal. As the parable concludes, the ninety-nine sheep are still in the wilderness!

But more important is the fact that the lost sheep is clearly symbolic of a repentant sinner. This comes as a complete surprise. How can this sheep represent “repentance”? Quite simple, Jesus is defining repentance as “acceptance of being found.” The sheep is discovered to be missing. The shepherd pays the price to search for, find and restore the lost sheep.

Parable of the Lost CoinParable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then Jesus is also the Good Woman. Clearly this is what he intends his listeners to conclude.

Who was responsible for losing the sheep? … the peasant woman can blame no one but herself. All through her search she mutters repeatedly, How stupid of me! Why didn’t I secure the coin on its chain more firmly? Or as I prefer, Why didn’t I tie my cloth more tightly? Her remorse and desperation stem from this sense of undeniable responsibility, and her joy, like the shepherd’s, cries out to be shared.… the peasant woman can blame no one but herself.

Starting to tie the 3 parables to one pointed message for the Pharisees and scribes, Bailey observes that the shepherd had a party for men while the woman had a party for women.

In the first story the lost is one in a hundred. In the second story it is one in ten, and in the parable of the prodigal son it is one in two.

The second progression is in regard to the availability of the place where the lost article can be found. The lost sheep is in the wide wilderness; the coin is confined to the house. But the sons are lost as they fall out of the circle of a father’s love.

The Three Parables

Bailey provides this helpful summary:

Actors in the Drama The Lost Sheep The Lost Coin The Lost Son
Jesus the shepherd the woman the father
irreligious sinners lost sheep lost coin the prodigal
Pharisees ninety-nine the nine the older son

Parable of the Lost SonsRembrandt's Return of the Prodigal
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’

The request itself is a form of mutiny. The prodigal is impatient for his father to die. Theologically, Jesus is affirming that humankind in their rebellion against God really want him dead!

In the villages when I come to this point in a sermon on this text, I always ask, “Who must be the reconciler?” The villagers always answer from their pews, “His brother, of course.” Everybody knows this. Furthermore, he must start immediately. It is up to him to step in at once and try to reconcile his brother to his father.

And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

First century Jewish custom dictated that if a Jewish boy lost the family inheritance among the Gentiles and dared to return home, the community would break a large pot in front of him and cry out “so-in-so is cut off from his people.” This ceremony was called the Kezazah (literally “the cutting off”). After it was performed, the community would have nothing to do with the wayward person

14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

True Repentance or Not?

“Father, I have sinned before heaven and your sight.” Jesus was addressing a scholarly audience. This sentence is a paraphrase from the mouth of Pharaoh when he addressed Moses after the first nine plagues.

The language of the Aramaic version of this text is even closer to Luke 15:18 than the Hebrew [ in the account with Moses]. Everyone knows that Pharaoh was not sincerely repenting.

20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Things didn’t work out the way the son anticipated. What did happen was radically unorthodox from every perspective.

As the prodigal returned to the village he expected his father to remain aloof in the house while he made his way through the village. To say the least, he would be “subdued” in the process by the crowd in the street. As soon as they discovered that the money had been lost among the Gentiles the Kezazah ceremony would be enacted. The son would then be obliged to sit for some time outside the gate of the family home before being allowed to even see his father. Finally he would be summoned. With the boy already rejected by the village, the father would be very angry, and the boy would be obliged to apologize for everything as he pleaded for job training in the next village.

Thanks to Bailey, most of us have heard how radical the father’s response was.

The father, in his house, clearly represents God. The best understanding of the text is to see that when the father leaves the house and takes upon himself a humiliating posture on the road, he becomes a symbol of God incarnate. He does not wait for the prodigal to come to him but rather at great cost goes down and out to find and resurrect tthe one who is lost and dead. These actions (seen in a Middle Eastern context) clearly affirm one of the deepest levels of the meaning of both the incarnation and the atonement.

Islam claims that in this story the boy is saved without a savior. The prodigal returns. The father forgives him. There is no cross, no suffering and no savior. But not so. The incarnation and the atonement are dramatically present in the story and form its first climax. The suffering of the cross was not primarily the physical torture but rather the agony of rejected love. In this parable the father endures such agony all through the estrangement.

Next, Bailey addresses the question: Did the prodigal repent?

21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

Notice that the son doesn’t finish his prepared speech.

Traditional Western interpretation has said that the father interrupted the son and didn’t give him a chance to finish his speech. Rather, faced with this incredible event he is flooded with the awareness that his real sin is not the lost money but rather the wounded heart. The reality and enormity of his sin and the resulting intensity of his father’s suffering overwhelm him. In a flash of awareness he now knows that there is nothing he can do to make up for what he has done. His proposed offer to work as a servant now seems blasphemous. He is not interrupted. He changes his mind and accepts being found. In this manner he fulfills the definition of repentance that Jesus sets forth in the parable of the lost sheep. Like the lost sheep, the prodigal now accepts to be found.

Restoration of Fellowship

22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

The “best robe” is naturally the father’s finest robe. In the story of Esther, Haman is asked what he thinks the king should do for the man the king wishes to honor. His first suggestion is to have him dressed in royal robes the king has worn (Esther 6:1-9). The prodigal will attend the banquet attired in his father’s most elegant robe. The guests that night will recognize the robe and treat him in a respectful manner because of the clothes he is wearing. They will understand that he has been fully restored to sonship.

The signet ring and the shoes are symbols of sonship according to Bailey. A fully restored son.

The Elder Son
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.

Bailey notes that a son never works the field but is an overseer. Bailey notes that it would be normal for him to go immediately in – but “he stands aloof.”

26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.

Bailey says that the proper translation here is not servants but young boys who would not be allowed in the feast but would gather outside. The servants would all be hard at work on the banquet.

27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’

Bailey notes with great insight that sitting down to eat with sinners is exactly the complaint of the Pharisees and scribes at the beginning of the chapter. That is what the Father is doing.

The young boy does not say, “Your brother has returned.” “Return” is a big word in the Bible. … Indeed in Hebrew the word “return” and the word “repent” are the same word (shub). Here in the parable the young boy tells the older son, “Your brother has hēkei.” In Greek hēko can mean “has arrived”; it can also mean “is here.” There is no hint of the prodigal having made a journey of repentance and return. Rather, he has simply appeared and only then did things start to happen.

If the older son had been told “your father has received your brother safe and sound ” (as in the RSV and NIV), the older son would have rushed at once into the banquet because such a report would have meant that the father had not yet decided what to do with the prodigal. The older son would naturally want to be present to insist, “Make the irresponsible fool get a job and return the money before you let him in the door!” But if the father has already received the prodigal “with peace” then the two of them are reconciled—and the older son’s point of view has already lost.

28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,

At such a banquet the father sits with the guests. The older son often stands and serves the meal as a “head waiter.” The important difference between him and the other servants is that he joins in conversation with the seated company. By stationing the older son as a kind of hovering head waiter, the family is in effect saying, “You, our guests, are so great that our son is your servant.” But can he bring himself to serve his brother?

He refuses to enter the banquet hall where the guests have already arrived. In any social situation, banquet or no banquet, the male members of the family must come and shake hands with the guests even if they don’t stay and visit. They cannot stay aloof if they are anywhere in the vicinity of the house. Failure to fulfill this courtesy is a personal insult to the guests and to the father, as host. The older son knows this and thereby his action is an intentional public insult to his father.

Because it is in public, this rebellion of the older son is more serious than the earlier rebellion of the prodigal.

For the second time in the same day the father’s response is incredible. Once again he demonstrates a willingness to endure shame and self-emptying love in order to reconcile. The parable briefly and succinctly states, “His father came out and entreated him.” It is almost impossible to convey the shock that must have reverberated through the banquet hall when the father deliberately left his guests, humiliated himself before all, and went out in the courtyard to try to reconcile his older son.
The father’s agony of rejected love is more keenly felt with the older son because of the son’s public insult. Earlier in the day the father paid the price of self- emptying love in order to reconcile the prodigal to himself. Now he must pay the same price to try to win the older son.

29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

The Elder Son’s Sin

The elder son refuses to participate in reconciling his brother to the village because he:
• Rebels against his father. In this speech he insults his father for the second time in one evening by omitting any title. The phrase “O father” is an essential sign of respect.
• Has broken a relationship, not a law.
• Accuses his father of favoritism
• Reads himself out of the family.
• Refuses partnership with his father.
• Despises his brother.
• Catches himself in an unsuspected trap. He says that the younger brother devoured “your living with harlots.” Thereby he refuses to acknowledge that the portion given by the father to the son was really the prodigal’s to do with as he pleased.
• Understands his relationship to his father as that of a servant before his master.
• Needs to be forgiven by his father and his brother.
• Falsifies the meaning of the banquet. The young boy tells him that the banquet is in celebration of the father’s success in creating shalom. The older son cries out, “you killed for him the fatted calf.” The banquet is in honor of the father not the brother. The older son does not allow himself to understand this.
• Is consumed with envy, pride, bitterness, sarcasm, anger, resentment, self-centeredness, hate, stinginess, self-satisfaction and self-deception. Yet he appears to see his actions as a righteous search for honor.

31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

If the father is an oriental patriarch, he will cry out, “Enough! Lock him up! I will deal with him later!” By contrast, this father bypasses the omission of a title and overlooks the bitterness, the arrogance, the distortion of fact and the accusation of favoritism. There is no judgment, no criticism and no rejection. He opens his reply with teknon, which is not the ordinary word for “son” (huios). Huios is used for son in verses 11, 13, 19, 21, 24, 25 and 30. The new word (teknon) introduced here is a special word for “son” indicating love and affection.

The parable of the prodigal son is unfinished. Jesus leaves the account in midair. The entire trilogy moves to its poignant climax in the courtyard. Inside the banquet hall tense guests wait to see if the son will give up his rebellion and enter the house in humility. But the ending is missing. Clearly it is omitted on purpose. Jesus’ reason for this omission is obvious in that he is addressing the group of religious sinners who stand in opposition to his message. There is still a chance for them to be reconciled to the Father, present among them in Jesus’ person. In hardness of heart they can also reject his love and increase his suffering. … Is not the end of the story the cross ⁵? But another option is still open.
Jesus is telling them, “This is my explanation of why I sit and eat with sinners. What now are you going to do with me?” Each reader or listener is pressed to ponder the same question.

The Parable of the Two Lost Sons—the Theological Cluster

Sin. The parable exhibits two types of sin. One is the sin of the law-breaker and the other the sin of the law-keeper.
Freedom. God grants ultimate freedom to humankind, which is the freedom to reject his love.
Repentance. Two types of repentance are dramatically illustrated: (1) earn your acceptance as a servant/craftsman, (2) accept the costly gift of being found as a son/daughter.
Grace. Grace is a freely offered love that seeks and suffers in order to save.
Joy. For the father, joy is in finding. For the son, joy is in being found and re- stored to community.
Fatherhood. The image of God as a compassionate father is here given its finest definition in all of Scripture.
Sonship. Each son returns to the father either defining (the older son) or in- tending to define (the prodigal) his relationship to the father as that of a servant before a master. The father will not accept this definition.
Christology. Twice the father takes upon himself the form of a suffering servant who in each case offers a costly demonstration of unexpected love.
Family/community. The father offers costly love to his sons in order to restore them to fellowship in the context of a family or community. The family is Jesus’ metaphor for the church.
Incarnation and atonement. The father empties himself and goes down and out to meet the sons where they are (incarnation). In the process he demonstrates costly redeeming love (atonement).
Eucharist. As he partakes in the banquet the prodigal is sitting and eating with the father who through self-giving love won the prodigal into fellowship with him- self. Thus the heart of the Eucharist is clearly affirmed.

The book concludes with a play that Bailey wrote about this parable.

The Didache – A book summary

The Didache

Didache means teaching which means it is the teachings of Jesus as expounded by the Apostles. In all probability it was penned in the late first century. It most probably was composed by Jewish Christians and is the earliest known catechism

Part I – The Way of Life

Chapter 1 – The First Commandment.

This chapter expands on the first two great commandments: Love God and Love Your Neighbor. It quotes extensively  from the Sermon on the mount as to what it means to love neighbor. It also has the negative golden rule: What you don’t want done to you; don’t do to others

Chapter 2 – Gross Sin forbidden

This chapter goes over the 10 Commandments and expands on them.

It expands on

    • Adultery – to include fornication and pederasty
    • Murder – to include infanticide and abortion.
    • Not bearing false witness to include – “ you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued; nor shall your speech be empty.”
    • Not coveting to – “You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious (aggressively greedy or grasping), nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbor.”

It concludes this category of sins with: “You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.”

Chapter 3 – Other sins

You shall

    • Flee from evil and any pretense of evil
    • Not be prone to anger
    • Not be jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper;
    • Not be a lustful one;
    • Not be a filthy talker
    • Not be an observer of omens
    • Not be an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier (after the manner of the low-class Orphic practitioners according to Plato’s Republic were those who practiced divination),
    • Not be a liar
    • Not be money-loving, nor vainglorious,
    • Not be a murmurer,
    • Not be self-willed nor evil-minded,
    • Not exalt yourself, Luke 18:14
    • Not give over-confidence to your soul.
    • Not allow your soul to be joined with lofty ones, but with just and lowly ones shall it have its intercourse.

On the positive side:

You shall

    • Be meek
    • Be long-suffering
    • Be have pity and be empathetic
    • Be guileless
    • Be gentle
    • Be good
    • Be always trembling at the words which you have heard – hold what you learn in high regard – honor; write them down.

Chapter 4 – Various Precepts

You shall:

    • Pray for him who speaks to you the word of God, remember him day and night and day; and you shall honor him as the Lord; for in the place whence lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord
    • Seek fellowship with other followers of the Way in order that you may learn from them
    • Do not long for division but be an agent of reconciliation.
    • Have all of your judgments be fair – not prejudicially judge one over another
    • Be decisive
    • Do not draw things out when you offer your gifts – do it now.
    • Do not murmur when you give
    • Do not turn away him who is in want
    • Share everything you have with your brothers and sisters
    • Do not claim anything as your own
    • Do not withhold discipline from your children, no matter what the age
    • Teach your children the fear of the Lord
    • Do not prescribe an action or attitude to your employees or contractors out of bitterness
    • Be subject to your employer
    • Hate all hypocrisy
    • Hate all that is not pleasing to the Lord
    • Keep all of the commandments of the Lord – neither adding to nor taking away
    • Confess your sins in the presence of other followers of the Way
    • Come to the Lord in prayer with confession

Part II – The way of death

Chapter 5 – The way of death

The way of death is this:

    • Murders
    • Adulteries
    • Lusts
    • Fornications
    • Thefts
    • Idolatries
    • Magic arts
    • Witchcrafts
    • Violent seizing of another’s property
    • False witnessings
    • Hypocrisies
    • Double-heartedness
    • Deceit
    • Haughtiness
    • Depravity
    • Self-will greediness
    • Filthy talking
    • Jealousy
    • Over-confidence
    • Loftiness
    • Boastfulness
    • Persecutors of the good
    • Hating truth
    • Loving a lie
    • Not knowing a reward for righteousness
    • Not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment
    • Watching not for that which is good but for that which is evil;
    • Where meekness and endurance are far
    • Loving vanities
    • Pursuing requital
    • Not pitying a poor man
    • Not laboring for the afflicted
    • Not knowing Him that made them
    • Murderers of children
    • Destroyers of the handiwork of God
    • Turning away from him that is in want
    • Afflicting him that is distressed
    • Advocates of the rich
    • Lawless judges of the poor
    • Sinning without end

Part III Ecclesiastical Instructions

Chapter 6 – False Teachers and Food offered to Idols

Our life is to

    • Follow in the teachings and admonitions of the Lord
    • Bear the Lord’s light yoke and thereby follow His command to Be perfect
    • Not be afraid if we cannot fully bear the Lord’s light yoke, but to do it as best we can
    • Eat the foods we are able to bear – except for foods sacrificed to idols

Chapter 7 – Baptism

Concerning Baptism:

    • First instruct those who are to be baptized in the Way of Life and the Way of Death
    • Baptize into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in running water
    • If running water is not available, use cold water from a lake or ocean – and if you cannot use cold water use warm water.
    • If none of those are available, pour water on the head three times into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit
    • Instruct the baptizer to fast one or two days prior to their baptism

Chapter 8 – Concerning Fasting and Prayer (Lord’s Prayer)

    • Don’t fast when the hypocrites do – on the 2nd and 5th day of the week, but fast on Wednesday and Friday.
    • Don’t pray as the hypocrites do but pray the Lord’s prayer three times a day

Chapter 9 – The Thanksgiving (Eucharist)

Celebrate the Eucharist as follows:

    • First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever.
    • And concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
    • Don’t let just anyone celebrate this Thanksgiving with you but only those who are baptized.

Chapter 10 – Prayer after Communion

The following should be prayed after communion:

We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. You, Master almighty, created all things for Your name’s sake; You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but to us You freely gave spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Your Servant. Before all things we thank You that You are mighty; to You be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Your kingdom which You have prepared for it; for Yours is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maran atha. Amen.

Chapter 11 – Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets

    • Receive anyone who teaches according to this teaching of our Lord
    • Do not receive those who teach anything contrary to this teaching
    • Allow an apostle to stay one or at most two days. Throw him out after that.
    • Don’t accept an apostle who asks for money
    • Accept what a prophet says in the Spirit without judgement. They will receive from the Lord if they are in error. Know that everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet. Judge them, not their words, by whether or not their life conforms to this teaching. If they don’t practice what they preach, they are a false prophet.
    • If the prophet asks for money, he is a false prophet

Chapter 12 – Receiving other followers of the Way

    • Receive all who profess at first – but watch carefully his ways. Discern if he is a true follower by the fruit of his life
    • Don’t let him stay more than 2 days as a guest
    • Assist him on his journey as much as you are able
    • After 3 days, if he wants to stay, let him work. If he is not willing to work, kick him out and have nothing to do with him

Chapter 13 – Support of Prophets

    • True prophets and true teachers are worthy of the support of the community
    • Give of the first fruits of your labors to the teachers and prophets in your midst. If you have no prophets or teachers in your midst, give to the poor.

Chapter 14 – Christian Assemble on the Lord’s Day

    • Gather every Lord’s day together with fellow followers of the Way
    • When you gather:
      • Share communion
      • Confess your sins
      • Give thanks
    • Do not allow those who are not reconciled to gather with you. Encourage them to be reconciled.

Chapter 15 – Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof

Appoint bishops and deacons from your midst. Here are the qualifications:

    • Meekness
    • Not lovers of money
    • Truthful
    • Proven

Honor them as you honor your teachers and prophets

Follow Matthew 18 in reproving one-another.  Do not reprove in anger but in peace.

Have nothing to do with those who do not repent once confronted per Matthew 18.

Keep the discipline of prayer and the giving of alms ever with you as group of followers of the Way.

Chapter 16 – Watchfulness and the Coming of the Lord

Always be ready and prepared for the Lord’s coming. For you know not the day nor the hour.

Watch out for the wolves that will appear in the last days. Watch for when love turns to hate; when lawlessness increases; when the community of faith betrays one another. Watch for the coming of the Anti-Christ. He shall do signs and wonders and the whole earth will be in awe of him.

Many will fall away – but those who endure will be saved.

Here are the signs of His coming:

First there will be signs in the heavens. Then there will be the sound of the trumpet. Then the resurrection of the dead. Not all, but only His saints. And then shall the Lord appear with all of His saints with Him. And the whole world shall see His coming in the clouds!

Book Summary – War on the Saints by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts

Introduction

I picked up this book because I realized, yet again, how ill practiced I was about spiritual warfare. A close friend told me last summer that Barbara’s illness was a demonic attack. I couldn’t say that. Lord, am I so insensitive to the working of demons that I am missing this? Many have said that the way we were treated at our former church, where we labored for more than 40 years, was the result of demonic activity. I had not treated it that way.

So it was with the hope of getting some [more] insight into spiritual warfare I went to this book (which I had try to read many many years ago).

From 10,000 feet, my primary takeaways were this:

    1. Christians can be demon possessed
    2. The Baptism of the Spirit opens us up to the spiritual world and thus can open us up to the demonic.
    3. Lies are the primary weapon of Satan and his minions
    4. Passivity in all areas of our lives leads to both demonic oppression and demonic possession (See chapter 4 notes)
    5. Truth from the word of God is the primary offensive weapon we have.
    6. Deliverance from possession should not be attempted until the ground given to the enemy was taken back. In other words, Satan only can make in-roads into the life of a believer, if we give him ground (open sin, believing falsehoods, passivity of will, etc).

Overall, I felt there were nuggets of truth in this book. Yet I came away not feeling like I knew any more about how to conduct spiritual warfare in prayer. And I am not sure I am any better at discerning whether something is of God or of the flesh or of the devil. They give the example of Paul from the book of Acts where he was restrained from going some place once by the Spirit and once by Satan. But how? More example prayers would have been helpful. At one point they say that one who has the armor of God on does not rely on reason – but throughout the book they encourage us to rely on reason – not on impressions of the Spirit.

I did not agree with their distinctions about the presence of the person of the Father and the Son. (see my notes from Chapter 6). I did not agree with their simplistic way of dealing with discerning whether something was from God or not (see my notes on Chapter 5).

Can a Christian be possessed by a demon?

I did not buy a lot of what was taught in this book. But the one thing taught that I have changed my opinion on was this question: Can a Christian be demon possessed? For most of my walk with Jesus, I have believed that a Christian cannot be demon possessed. Much ink has been spilled on this subject. But simply put, the main argument is that once the Spirit of God dwells in a person, a demon cannot dwell in the same person. Darkness and light cannot dwell together. An additional argument is that the Scripture does not directly address the question. All the people who are delivered from demons are non-Christians. But some New Testament individuals who self-identify as Christ followers are possessed. “Satan entered into Judas.” (John 13:27). Satan filled the heart of Ananias (Acts 5:3). Under church discipline, Christians are “handed over to Satan” (1 Timothy 1:20) and “delivered to Satan” (1 Corinthians 5:5).

Here is what changed for me.

I have increasingly come to the understanding of how compartmentalized we are in our faith. Much like the famous booklet, My Heart –  Christ’s Home by Robert Munger, when we first receive the indwelling Holy Spirit, certain rooms are not opened to Him. And as we walk with the Spirit, over time, we may shut Him out of rooms He previously inhabited. Accepting this understanding, it is easy for me to see that a demon can take up residence in one of these uninhabited (by the Spirit) rooms.

Experience over the past 25 years has affected this change of opinion as well. With the fall from grace of so many icons of the faith whom I deeply respected (Ravi Zacharius and Jean Vanier as the most recent) and others I didn’t know as well, I have questioned: How can this be? How can the Spirit of God dwell in such men? I have come to see their lives in this compartmentalized framework – where the Spirit of God inhabited them and enabled them to do the amazing things they did. But, there were rooms in their lives that were opened to demonic possession. I cannot describe their actions as just the work of the flesh nor even demonic oppression (which Jesus experienced in the wilderness).

Over the years, I have seen that all of the works of the flesh Paul lists in Galatians 5:17-19 are within the scope of possibility (and in many cases actuality) in my life. But the despicable and disgusting acts of some of these fallen leaders have never been even remote temptations to me. Am I better than them? No! Am I deceiving myself that I could not fall into such sins? Perhaps – but I don’t think so. My conclusion has been that they have given ground (see chapter 4) to Satan in certain areas (rooms) of their lives and demons have entered and possessed.

Many Christians disagree on this subject and I held a different opinion for over 50 years so it is not a completely settled question. At this point in my journey it is the best explanation for the truth revealed in scriptures and my experience in life.

Passivity as Ground for the Enemy to Enter

This was a new idea for me and I think I can buy into it. For them, it is the chief means by which Satan enters a Christian. We can be passive in many areas of our life (see the notes on Chapter 4). We can be active and attentive and alert in most areas but be passive in another area. This provides additional support for the compartmentalization of possession.

The following represents the major points I took away from each chapter (Direct quotes are indented or in quotation marks):

Chapter 1 A Biblical survey of Satanic deception

Knowledge of truth is the primary safeguard against deception. The “elect” must know, and they must learn to “prove” the “spirits” until they do know what is of God, and what is of Satan. The “knowledge of truth is the first essential for warfare with the lying spirits.” “Nothing can remove a lie but truth.” [from chapter 3 where this statement is given as the central premise of the book].

Chapter 2 The Satanic Confederacy of Wicked Spirits

Evil spirits do not know the future but they know what they are going to do and thus can predict “accidents” and deaths. I found this as a helpful approach to several amazing stories I have heard from people who visited fortune tellers. How did the demons know that? Because they were going to cause it.

Chapter 3 Deception by Spirits in Modern Times

The thought that God will protect a believer from being deceived if he is true and faithful, is in itself a “deception,” … Christ would not have warned His disciples “Take heed . . be not deceived” if there had been no danger of deception.

The Baptism of the Spirit opens one to the spirit world. Previously we were led by principles from God’s word – now as we attempt to keep in step with the Spirit – we are more open to being deceived.

Those who have their eyes opened to the opposing forces of the spiritual realm, understand that very few believers can guarantee that they are obeying God, and God only, in direct supernatural guidance, because there are so many factors liable to intervene, such as the believer’s own mind, own spirit, own will, and the deceptive intrusion of the powers of darkness.

A saint can know they are not being deceived if the message bears the fruit of the Spirit and / or is consistent with the character of God.

We cannot therefore, at this time, over-estimate the importance of believers having open minds to “examine all things” they have thought, and taught, in connection with the things of God, and the spiritual realm. … What, then, is the condition of safety from the deception of evil spirits?”

        1. Knowledge that they exist;
        2. That they can deceive the most honest believers (Gal. 2: 11-16);
        3. An understanding of the conditions and ground necessary for their working, so as to give them no place, and no opportunity of working; and, lastly,
        4. Intelligent knowledge of God, and how to co-operate with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 4 Passivity – the chief basis of possession

They believe that possession is “much more wide-spread than is supposed” based on their definition. They take possession to mean: “a hold of evil spirits on a man in any shade of degree.”

What gives ground to the enemy?

    • known sin
    • every thought suggested to the mind by wicked spirits, and accepted
    • every faculty unused invites their attempted use of it.

“Truth of every kind makes free, while lies bind up in bonds. Ignorance also binds. Man’s ignorance is a primary and essential condition for deception by evil spirits. The devil’s great purpose … is to keep the world in ignorance of himself, his ways, and his colleagues… This builds off Paul’s statement that there is a great on-slaught on  the church in the latter times. They say it would be ‘an army of teaching spirits.’”

Speaking about Eve, they say that she was good – but “goodness is no guarantee of protection from deception.”

Interesting tidbit: “it is not recorded that he [Satan] appeared on earth since the time of the Fall.” I am not sure where Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness fits into that. This is something I don’t agree with.

Passivity can be manifest in:

    1. The mind
    2. The will
    3. The body
    4. The spirit
    5. The conscious
    6. Reason and Judgment

Chapter 5 Deception and possession

They claim that our individual faculties can be possessed while the rest of us remains faithful to God. For example, the person who gives himself to slander and “it lends itself to sin; and becomes liable to possession.” This makes sense of something I experienced a few years ago. God told me that a person was possessed – but theologically I struggled with that. But this person had given himself  over to a significant amount of slander (which I didn’t know about at the time). In one particular meeting with him, when God said the demon was going to manifest itself, his speech became almost unintelligible. Sitting with two others, we all agreed that we had no idea what he was talking about. Normally he was the most lucid and articulate of individuals. But I didn’t see how that was manifesting possession until now.

Though one cannot establish a point where possession happens, they agree that there is:

    1. Sin without possession
    2. Sin that opens the door to possession
    3. Sin that is the result of possession

In this section, they also claim that possession can pass away without deliverance but merely by the person confessing and renouncing the sin that caused it.

In the subsection: DUAL STREAMS OF POWER

This is what I have experienced with the person mentioned above:

“How sane and reasonable he is! What a passion he has for souls!” may be said with truth of a worker, until some moments later some peculiar change is seen in him, and in the meeting. A strange element comes in, possibly only recognizable to some with keen spiritual vision, or else plainly obvious to all.

Here is an interesting thought they put forth:

Christ as a Person is in no man. He dwells in believers by His Spirit–the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8: 9), as they receive the “supply of the Spirit of Jesus” (Phil. 1: 19; Acts 16: 7 R.V.).

Here is how they describe the Trinity:

God the Father, as a Person, is in the highest heaven. His presence is manifested in men as the “Spirit of the Father.” Christ the Son is in heaven as a Person, His presence in men is by His Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of the Father, and of the Son, is on earth in the Church, which is the Body of Christ; and manifests the Father or the Son, in, and to believers, as they are taught by Him to apprehend the Triune God. … According to them, only the Spirit is present in person.

The counterfeit “Presence,” as an influence, precedes the counterfeit of the “Person” of God, through which much ground is gained.

From the subsection: OBSESSION AND ITS CAUSE

What it is: “Obsession” means an evil spirit, or spirits, hovering around, and influencing a man with the object of obtaining a footing in him, and gaining possession, in however small a degree

The deliverance of persons under obsession of any kind, or degree, is by truth, such as:

        • Giving them knowledge how to detect what is of God or the devil
        • Showing them that they should accept nothing from without either in suggestions to the mind, or influence of any kind coming upon the body (The Holy Spirit works from within)
        • Teaching them how to stand in Christ, and resist all besieging attacks of the powers of darkness

“casting out” may avail in some cases, it is not the only means of deliverance.

Here is an interesting statement:

“it is never safe in any case to feel God’s presence with the physical senses, for it is almost beyond doubt a counterfeit ‘presence.'” I do not buy into this from a scriptural point of view. More later.

I agree with the following statements:

    • The presence of God always results in: The retention of the use of the will, and faculties.
    • The counterfeits always result in; The loss of personal control through passivity.

In addressing “automatic writing, what they say is from the evil one

        • The person writes what he hears dictated audibly in a supernatural way.
        • He writes what he sees presented to his mind supernaturally, sometimes with rapidity as if compelled.
        • He writes automatically, as his hand is moved, without any mental, or volitional action.

This is interesting in terms of journaling. When God speaks to me (and others) through prayer journaling, it is not something dictated. It is not written without volitional effort. We are not compelled but we do write what is presented to our minds supernaturally. So I agree with one and three are of the evil one. But with item two I only agree with the fact that we are not compelled.

Conversely, addressing what is true spiritual journaling:

In writing under Divine guidance, three factors are required:

        • A spirit indwelt by, and moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1: 21).
        • An alert and renewed mind, acute in active power of apprehension and intelligent thinking (See 1 Cor. 14: 20).
        • A body under the complete control of the spirit and volition of the man (See 1 Cor. 9: 27).

Chapter 6 Counterfeits of the Divine

This was a challenging chapter. I didn’t agree with much of it. They claim that one of the tactics of the enemy is to provide a counterfeit of the divine presence. “the basis of this counterfeit, is the mistaken location of God; either (1) in them (consciously); (2) or around them (consciously).” They make a distinction that the Father is not present as a person in the believer. Jesus is not present as a person in the believer. The Spirit is present as a person in the believer. The Father and Jesus as person’s are in heaven. This seems to violate Jesus own words in the Gospel of John.

I think the Spirit mediates the presence of Jesus and the Spirit mediates the presence of the Father. “Anyone who does not have Christ does not belong to Him” Romans 8

Some believers so live inwardly in communion, worship and vision, as to become spiritually introverted, and cramped and narrowed in their outlook; with the result that their spiritual capacity and mental powers become dwarfed and powerless. Others become victims to the “inner voice,” and the introverted attitude of listening to it, which is the ultimate result of the location of God as a Person within, so that eventually the mind becomes fixed in the introverted condition with no out-going action at all.

Again – they feel that the location of God as a Person is not within except the Holy Spirit. I agree that contemplatives can become so fixated with introverted naval gazing that there is no out-going action at all. But I fundamentally disagree that the person of the Father and the person of Jesus does not reside in us.

They claim that

Sensuous feelings, or “conscious” physical enjoyment of some supposed spiritual presence is not true communion of spirit with spirit, such as the Father seeks from those who worship Him (John 4: 24).

Here I take another exception. If words can cross the bridge between spirit and mind (or heart) (which they accept), why cannot sensuous feelings – like a feeling of warmth or nearness communicated by the presence of God.

This also seems to miss the fact that since God is Spirit – location as we know is not something we can pin down. How many dimensions exist in our physical reality? Which dimension(s) does God locate in our of universe. The key is that as Spirit he is not located in our space time reality at all. But he can intersect with our reality. In a simplistic view (viz a viz – Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott), a being can be in the 4th dimension or 4 dimensional  (Abbott doesn’t take time as the 4th dimension) – fully located there but still manifest itself in the 3 dimensions of space. And do it in some weird ways. That is just a mathematical fact.

The Lord’s words recorded in the gospel of John, chapters 14, 15 and 16, give the truth very clearly concerning His indwelling in the believer. The “in Me” of being with Him, and in Him, in His heavenly position (John 14:20) both speak of Jesus’ presence as a person with us.

This seems to my little brain – just muddled thinking. Not really understanding the scriptures nor the power of God – not really understanding how Jesus can be in heaven – how we can be in heaven and on earth at the same time. The central question here is Does the Spirit of God dwell “in us” here on earth? What about when Jesus appeared to Paul? Was that Jesus’ presence here on earth?

I like their identification of wrong speaking – useful in my Discernment blog:

Some of the suggestions made to the believer by deceiving spirits at this time, may be:

        1. “You are a special instrument for God,” working to feed self-love;
        2. “You are more advanced than others” working to blind the soul to sober knowledge of itself;
        3. “You are different from others,” working to make him think he needs special dealing by God;
        4. “You must take a separate path,” a suggestion made to feed the independent spirit;
        5. “You must give up your occupation, and live by faith,” aiming at causing the believer to launch out on false guidance, which may result in the ruin of his home, and sometimes the work for God in which he is engaged.

For them all physical or sensory experiences of God’s presence are counterfeit. Were tongues of fire sensory? Did Stephen see Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father? Here I have a very different view of the intersection of the body and soul with the Spirit. Those who are by nature emotional – their emotions are much more affected by the seam between spirit and soul. Those who are by nature very influenced by the body (athletes, dancers, etc) the body gets affected when the Spirit of God touches their spirit.

They claim that Jesus did not hear the voice of the Father and when He did it was for the sake of others. But this misses two major points: What was going on during those long times of solitude? AND Jesus’ statements that He only speaks what He hears the Father tell him.

At the heart, they are somewhat cessationists:

A careful study of the epistles of Paul–which contain an exhaustive epitome of God’s will for the Church, the Body of Christ, as the books of Moses contained God’s will and laws for Israel–seems to make it clear that God, having “spoken to us in His Son,” no longer speaks by His own direct voice to His people.

Again – for the book on discernment, I find these helpful:

From the subsection: HOW TO DETECT THE SOURCE OF “TEXTS” SUPERNATURALLY SPOKEN

      • Does the believer rely upon these “texts” apart from the use of his mind or reason? This indicates passivity.
      • Are these texts a prop to him?
        1. undermining his reliance on God Himself;
        2. weakening his power of decision, and (right) self- reliance.
      • Do these texts influence him? and
        1. make him elated and puffed up as “specially guided by God,”
        2. crush and condemn him, and throw him into despair and condemnation, instead of leading him to sober dealing with God Himself

Here is another helpful discernment:

“Fear of the devil may always be regarded as from the devil”

Chapter 7 – Ground and Symptoms of Possession

One of their central premises is that Satan can speak to believers. But the form and the way he speaks depends on the degree to which they have given ground or even be possessed.

They tell us to watch how things come into the mind. Basically if they come out of the blue be very skeptical. “It is best to be suspicious of the abnormal in every shape and form. … A sudden inability to listen, described as “absent-mindedness” or “preoccupation,” when the person is compelled to follow some “thought” suggested, or picture presented to the mind, or to follow the words of another, are all indications of the interference of evil spirits…”

The Lord’s words in Matthew 13: 23, that the good ground hearer is “he that heareth the word and understandeth it,” show that the mind is the vehicle through which the truth of God reaches men to win their affections, and bring back the will into intelligent and loyal co-operation with God. In like manner the mind is the hindrance to Satan’s carrying out his schemes to win back control of the believer. For the success of his plans, the enemy knows that the mind must be lulled into inaction and disuse by some means or other, either by stratagem or attack.

Passive yielding to circumstances is a sign of evil interactions:

The believer slowly loses power of decision, he becomes more and more tossed about by letting everything in his environment decide for him, and sometimes thinking and believing it is God choosing and deciding for him by “Providences”; he therefore does not choose or decide for himself, but passively drifts, and accepts the choice or decision made for him by “circumstances”; or else he is full of impulses, with no central poise of any kind.

Chapter 8 The Path to Freedom

They strongly encourage us not to cast out a demon until the cause of the possession is dealt with – otherwise the demon will come back.

True deliverance comes when we accept all the truth about ourselves and all the ground given to the enemy.

The man himself must

    • ACT to get rid of passivity;
    • he must revoke his CONSENT given to evil spirits to enter, and
    • by his own volition insist that they retire from the place (Ephes. 4: 27) they have obtained by deceit.

The key point in this chapter concerning discerning the Spirit: “one single contradiction is sufficient to reveal a lying spirit at work.” Here again, me, with limited knowledge and experience compared to these writers, I protest. We can often attempt to discern the Spirit and only get part of the message. Another part might be heard in such a ways as to appear as a contradiction. But the whole message is not wrong. Look at the lying spirit speaking in and through Balaam. Not all he said was not of the Spirit.

Also his example stretches me. If in praying for the sick, you sense that God is going to heal the person and they die, they say a lying spirit is present. No – we so want the person to be healed and restored – it is easy to speak our wishes and conflate them as from God.

In another brief form a summary of the steps to deliverance may be given as follows:–

    • Recognize persistently the true cause of bondage; i.e., the work of an evil spirit or spirits.
    • Choose to have absolutely nothing to do with the powers of darkness. Frequently declare this.
    • Do not talk or trouble about their manifestations. Recognize, refuse and then ignore them.
    • Refuse and reject all their lies and excuses, as they are recognized.
    • Notice the thoughts, and the way in which they come, and when, and immediately declare the attitude of Rom.6: 11 against all the interference of the enemy.

Hindrances to deliverance from deception and possession may again be given here briefly, as:–

    • Not knowing it is possible to be deceived;
    • Thinking God will not allow a believer to be deceived;
    • Saying “I am safe under the Blood,” without intelligent knowledge of conditions;
    • Saying “I have no sin,” to open the door to an “evil spirit”;
    • Saying “I am doing all that God wants, so all must be right”; without seeking to understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5: 10- 17).

Some hints on overcoming passivity of mind, are as follows:–

    • Act as far as you can, doing what you can.
    • Take the initiative, instead of passively depending on others.
    • Decide for yourself in everything you can. Do not lean on others.
    • Live in the moment, watch and pray step by step.
    • Use your mind, and THINK–think over all you do, and say, and are.

Chapter 9 The Volition and Spirit of Man

Here they address the question: How does the Spirit work in individuals:

They make a point that part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Not Spirit-control. This is a helpful distinction.

Something we have seen on retreat, where people who are Baptized in the Spirit take every little movement as a movement from God:

believers sometimes think that then He alone acts in them, and they are infallibly, or specially guided by Him, with the result that everything which takes place in their inner life is necessarily His working.

They use Paul’s example from 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul says some things come from the Spirit and some from his mind. This is helpful.

Chapter 10 Victory in Conflict

Here is a bold statement:

If the man is right with God, standing on Romans 6, with no deliberate yielding to known sin, then any manifestation of sin coming back again unaccountably, may be dealt with as from evil spirits.

So bold that I don’t buy it. But of course it can never  be proven because if a brother or sister manifests sin not from an evil spirit, one can always say that they are not in right with God.

From the subsection: BELIEVER SHOULD MAINTAIN NEUTRALITY TO ACCUSATIONS UNTIL SOURCE PROVED

This above statement is a major point and to my mind a helpful point.

We gain victory over Satan by using the weapon of truth.

To have victory over this persistent stream of lies from the father of lies, the believer must fight (1) with the weapon of God’s truth in the written Word, and (2) truth about facts in himself, others and circumstances.

“We would fain have come unto you . . . but Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 2: 18), wrote Paul, who was able to discern between the hindering of Satan, and the restraining of the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 16: 6).

The whole of his schemes against God’s children may be summed up under three heads:

        1. To cause them to sin, as he tempted Christ in the wilderness;
        2. To slander them, as Christ was slandered by family and foes;
        3. To slay them, as Christ was slain at Calvary, when, by the direct permission of God, the hour and power of darkness gathered around Him, and He by the hands of wicked men was crucified and slain (Acts 2: 23).

The armored and non- armored believer may be briefly contrasted as follows:

The armored Christian The non-armored Christian
Armored with truth Open to lies, through ignorance.
Righteousness of life Unrighteousness through ignorance.
Making and keeping peace Divisions and quarrels.
Self-preservation and control Reckless unwatchfulness.
Faith as a shield Doubt and unbelief.
Scriptures in the hand Relying on reason instead God’s Word.
Prayer without ceasing Relying on work without prayer.

Chapter 11 War upon the Powers of Darkness

In war, whether natural or supernatural, there are two principles governing the warfare, viz.: aggressive and defensive, i.e., the attacking force must be able to defend itself as well as to take the aggressive against the enemy.

A central point of the book is that casting out a demon by commanding only is not always effective because sometimes the ground given is not taken back. This essentially is Jesus teaching about the demon coming back to an empty house.

Then they say this:

the degree of knowledge he has about the workings of the spirits of evil determines the degree of his:

        • discernment,
        • resistance,
        • authority over them in wielding the Name of Christ,

Example of warfare prayers:

“Lord, destroy that work of the devil!” or “May God open the eyes of that man to the deceptions of Satan around him!”

Learning to do warfare prayer is important: “such a warfare by prayer needs to be learnt as much as any other subject of knowledge in the world of men.” Lord I am not sure how to do this.

Another warfare prayer they taught: “pray that any evil spirit present may be exposed”

They give a warning against praying universal prayers:

The order of prayer is therefore, first exhaustive prayer for all personal and local spheres, praying through these out to the wider range of the universal. Prayer not only exhaustive, but persistent. The believer needs for all this

        1. strength to pray,
        2. vision to pray,
        3. knowledge of what to pray

Also, concerning motivation:

He knows that to see a need for prayer is sufficient call for prayer, and if he waits for “feeling” that he can pray when he has vision to pray it is sin.

Chapter 12 Revival Dawn and the Baptism of the Spirit

“We have seen that the period in the believer’s life wherein he receives the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the special time of danger from the evil supernatural world, and the Baptism of the Spirit is THE ESSENCE OF REVIVAL”

“Few go through the crisis [the hour of Revival] without deception by the enemy in more or less degree, and only those who cling to the use of their reasoning faculties at this time, can hope to be saved from the catastrophe of becoming a victim to the subtle workings of evil supernatural powers.”

We close the book summary with some interesting statements based on their experience with the Welsh revival:

The scheme of the powers of darkness in Revival dawn, is to drive, or push to extreme, what is true.

The mistake at the time of the Revival in Wales in 1904 was to become occupied with the effects of Revival, and not to watch and pray in protecting and guarding the cause of Revival.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the essence of Revival, for Revival comes from a knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and the way of co-working with Him which enables Him to work in Revival power. The primary condition for Revival is, therefore, that believers should individually know the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Spirit fills the human spirit of the believer, and communicates to him the very Spirit of Jesus, joining him in one spirit to the Spirit of the glorified Lord, imparting to him the life and nature of Christ for the building up of a new creation in His likeness (Rom. 8: 29; Heb. 2: 2-13).

Book Summary – Reflection on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis

Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis

Chapter 1 – Introduction

Lewis starts us off by saying that we must read the Psalms as poetry: “with all the licenses and all the formalities, the hyperbole, the emotional rather than logical connections which are proper to lyric poetry.” He warns us about the parallelism used in the Psalms and to really dig into the two renderings of the one thought – and not try to make two thoughts out of them.

Chapter 2 – “Judgement” in the Psalms

He then takes the Psalmists to task: Commenting on Psalm 7:8

The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me

he says that: “this represents the fatal confusion between being in the right and being righteous.” We are not to fall into that trap.

Chapter 3 – Cursings

Lewis starts by looking at Psalm 109. This is the prototype of an imprecatory Psalm. Lewis, as do most of us, finds these disquieting at best. We find these “cursings” in the midst of Psalms we love (like Psalm 143 and 139) as well as buried in the most beloved Psalms (preparing a table in the presence of my enemies means to feed me while they have to just look on – according to Lewis).

Lewis calls these “terrible” and “contemptible.” He says we cannot just leave them alone and dismiss them but must find a use for them. We must not explain them away or yield to the thought that because they are in the Bible, “all this vindictive hatred must somehow be good and pious.” We have to admit that “the hatred is there – festering, gloating, undisguised – and also we should be wicked if we in any way condoned or approved it, or (worse still) used it to justify similar passion in ourselves.”

Here are Lewis’ observations:

    1. These are feelings that we all know all too well. And we can use these parts of the Psalms to examine if these feelings are in our own hearts. “We are all blood-brothers to these ferocious self-pitying, barbaric men.”
    2. We can use these rants to see “the natural results of injuring a human being.” We arouse these kind of feelings when we lie about another or put them down or keep them down. “Such hatreds are the kind of thing that cruelty and injustice, by a sort of natural law, produce.”
    3. “The reaction of the Psalmist to injury, though profoundly natural, is profoundly wrong.” We cannot say they knew better. The law is clear that the Psalmist is profoundly wrong in wanting the destruction of the babies of our enemies. (Lev 19:17-18; Ex 23:4-5; Prov 24:17; Prov 25:21).
    4. Lewis does not find this kind of hatred expressed in Pagan authors (Greek, Roman, or Norse). The Psalms are “more vindictive and more vitriolic than the Pagan” writings. Why is that? He explains it by saying that “the Jews sinned in this matter worse than the Pagans not because there were further from God but because they were nearer to Him. They were aware of how bad sin was and thus their emotions were more deeply felt. He recalls a time traveling with a group of soldiers during World War II and hearing them talk about the “supposed” Nazi atrocities. They dismissed them as Allied propaganda to motivate the troops. What surprised Lewis was that they were not in the slightest upset with their authorities for doing this to them. He said that the raw emotion expressed by the Psalmist is better than the indifference of these soldiers to supposedly being manipulated by their superiors. “If the Jews cursed more bitterly than the Pagans this was, I think, at least in part because they took right and wrong more seriously.”
    5. Thus “we can still see, in the worst of their maledictions, how these old poets were, in a sense, near to God.”
    6. “the ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that it (if not its perpetrators) is hateful to God.”
    7. Thus in these imprecatory Psalms, “His words sounds through.”

Chapter 4 Death in the Psalms

Lewis feels that our Christian ancestors “seem to have read the Psalms and the rest of the Old Testament under the impression that the authors wrote with a pretty full understanding of Christian Theology.” He believes this to be a false assumption. One area in the Psalms is the area of death. One is hard pressed to find the promise of the afterlife in the Psalms. Clearly we are not to read them as a counter to the resurrection.

Chapter 5 The Fair Beauty of the Lord

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance.” This is most remarkable in that “These poets knew far less reason than we for loving God.” We are to allow the love that these poets express towards God to seep into the very fabric of our being. Angels longed to see what we see and what they did not. Yet few extol the fair beauty of the Lord as do these poets.

Chapter 6 Sweeter than Honey

Lewis asks – why is the law seen as so sweet? One approach would be to see that the laws given by God were so much more beautiful and sweeter than their Pagan neighbor’s laws. He says that we can connect with that today. “None of the new ways is yet so filthy or cruel as some Semitic Paganism. But many of them ignore all individual rights and are already cruel enough. Some give morality a wholly new meaning which we cannot accept, some deny its possibility.  Perhaps we shall all learn, sharply enough, to value the clean air and ‘sweet reasonableness’ of the Christian ethics which in a more Christian age we might have taken for granted.” Can we see the wonderful beauty and sweet honey of God’s law? Steep ourselves into the rich love of the law by these poets.

Chapter 7 Connivance

Lewis here address the problem where the Psalms view other people as not made in the image of God but really bad people. We are not to learn the ways of the Psalmist in this area.

Chapter 8 Nature

Lewis address how Nature is stripped of its divinity as extolled in the pagan poets but then is made a manifestation of the Divine. Lewis claims that no poetry in any pagan culture praises Nature in this way. “Paganism in general fails to get out of nature something the Jews got.” He only found one instance that is contrary: A poem from the 14th century BC entitled Hymn to the Sun. What is unique is that it is written by a Pharaoh who broke away from polytheism and tried to establish the worship of a single creator God. Is there something about monotheism that enables us to see Nature as a manifestation of the Divine?

Chapter 9 A Word about Praising

In this chapter Lewis addresses the conflict he (and many others) have had with the notion that God demands our praise. It is everywhere in the Psalms. He first addresses the question by speaking about how we deal with inanimate objects like a painting. A beautiful painting should be admired. If one doesn’t admire it, there is something deficient in you. The painting “demands” praise. That is the first sense in which God demands praise.

But Lewis takes us to a second argument. In some mysterious way, “it is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men.” He admits that it is a “miserable idea that God should in any sense need, or crave for, our worship…” He says, that “even if such an absurd Deity could be conceived, He would hardly come to us, the lowest of rational creatures, to gratify His appetite. I don’t want my dog to bark approval of my books.”

Then he takes it another level. He says that “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…” We praise so many things when we enjoy them: the weather; a good meal; a good friend and so on. And “praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.” People with inner health are expressive when in the presence of beauty or greatness. In areas where or times when we are broken, we miss the marvelous and praise does not flow out audibly

And when we praise something, we inevitably invite others into it. “Wasn’t it glorious?” “The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.” “Praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.”

Chapter 10 Second Meanings

Lewis now goes to a much more complicated question and which therefore requires a much more nuanced argument. There are many things in the New Testament theology that can be read into the Psalms (a classic error for a modern evangelical). Lewis talks about how many fanciful and intelligent and creative things have been read into his writings. Some so “ingenious and interesting that I often wish I had thought of them myself.” Lewis wants us to be quick not to throw out all second meanings “as rubbish.” I will try to do Lewis justice – but it would be best if you read his argument yourself.

Lewis starts with an illustration recounted by a Roman historian. Apparently there was a fire in a town that originated in one of the public baths. There was a patron of the baths who complained to an attendant that the water was not hot enough. The attendant said “it will soon be hot enough.” If the fire was an accident, then clearly the attendant said something with more truth in it than he intended. But “there need be nothing here but chance coincidence” unless the attendant was involved in an arson.

But a stickier wicket is a poem by Virgil written just before the birth of Christ:

The great procession of the ages begins anew

Now the Virgin returns, the reign of Saturn [lost age of innocence and peace] returns,

And the new child is sent down from the high heaven.

“The poem goes on to describe the paradisial age which this nativity will usher in.” This could be poetically a prophetic description of the birth of Jesus. And throughout the Middle Ages was so interpreted. What are we to make of that? Is it the same as the bath attendant and just a lucky guess?

Lewis offers three thought experiments of the imagination adding up to a total of five examples.

    1. A Spirit-filled man with a track record of accurate prophesy, claims that somewhere in the universe there exists some hideous creature (with specifics). Years later, as space is explored, we find such a creature.
    2. A sci-fi writer with no religious or scientific background describes a different creature. Years later we find just such a creature.
    3. A biologist posits through scientific reasoning, that given a particular environment, such and such a creature would exist in that environment. [Something like Dr. Monica Grady has proposed for Jupiter’s moon Europa]. Again, years from now, we find just such a creature in that specific environment.

These five cases all portray a predictive power – ranging from random chance (the bath attendant) to a scientific possibility come true.

Lewis explores something more like the biologists prediction in his final example: Plato. In his Republic, Plato philosophically explores the true meaning of righteousness. And to do so, he strips it of all the positive things a righteous person might receive: honor, popularity, etc. To see true righteousness, we must see a truly righteous man treated as a man as “a monster of wickedness.” How would society treat such a truly righteous man:

They will say that the just person in such circumstances will be whipped, stretched on a rack, chained, blinded with a red-hot iron, and, at the end, when he has suffered every sort of bad thing, he will be impaled [placed on a stick to die or the Persian equivalent to crucifixion], and will realize then that one should not want to be just, but to be believed to be just.

This comparison to what happened to Jesus was not missed by the early church Fathers. Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian noted it. But for Lewis, he sees this as a pagan finding truth through common grace. “Virgil …and the slave in the bath almost certainly were, “talking about something else… Plato is talking, and knows he is talking, about the fate of goodness in a wicked and misunderstanding world… If Plato … was led on to see the possibility of the perfect example [of a righteous person], and thus to depict something extremely like the Passion,” it was not by chance or by prophetic gifting but by a knowledge of truth.

All of this plays into how we read the Psalms and how there appears to be so much New Testament theology in them. But that is the topic for the next chapter.

Chapter 11 Scripture

In this chapter, Lewis expresses his view on the authority of Scripture. Frankly, his view was a little higher than I expected it to be. Lewis says the Scriptures are:

    1. Holy
    2. Inspired by God
    3. “The Oracles of God” (Romans 3:2)

He also doesn’t have a problem with the stories of creation from the book of Genesis to be “derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical.” He believes that the stories were molded and shaped by “the Father of Lights.” “When a series of such re-tellings turn a creation story which at first had almost no religious or metaphysical significance into a story which achieves the idea of true Creation and of a transcendent Creator (as Genesis does), then nothing will make me believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.” He believes that all of the forms of the Old Testament are “taken into the service of God’s word.” He describes God’s influence as a “Divine pressure” on the writers. He uses the way Jesus taught as instructive for how the Old Testament was formed. Jesus did not use didactic rational reasons but stories and allegories and comparisons. “He preaches but He does not lecture.”

He then goes on to explain how this relates to the Psalms:

Certainly it seems to me that from having had to reach what is really the Voice of God in the cursing Psalms through all the horrible distortions of the human medium, I have gained something I might not have gained from a flawless, ethical exposition. The shadows have indicated (at least to my heart) something more about the light. Nor would I (now) willingly spare from my Bible something in itself so anti-religious as the nihilism of Ecclesiastes. We get there a clear, cold picture of man’s life without God. That statement is itself part of God’s word. We need to have heard it. Even to have assimilated Ecclesiastes and no other book in the Bible would be to have advanced further towards truth than some men do.

In the same way, we need to hear the “cursings” of the Psalmist because they show our own heart like no other ethical exposition can.

Lewis also makes an important point about how Jesus used the Psalms. Jesus said that the Psalms spoke clearly about Him and that was most important to Lewis.

Chapter 12 Second Meaning in the Psalms

He tells us that the Psalms present us with two figures: “that of the sufferer and that of the conquering and liberating king.” He relates that the Jews took the sufferer to be Israel and the king the Messiah. From these images, Lewis addresses the fact that much of the second meanings in the Psalms are allegorical. But he warns us that “this does not mean that all the countless applications of [the allegorical] are fruitful, legitimate, or even rational.”

What We can Learn about Listening to God as We Learn to Listen to Others

Introduction

I am currently reading a series of mediations by David Roper in a book entitled: Teach Us to Number Our Days. I would highly recommend it to those of you who, like me, are aging faster than you would like.  In the book, in a chapter entitled, “Learning to Listen, ” David provides ten ways you can know that you are not listening to others.

How to Know You are Not Listening to Others

    1. When I am thinking about an answer while others are talking – I’m not listening.
    2. When I give unsolicited advice – I’m not listening.
    3. When I suggest they shouldn’t feel the way they do – I’m not listening.
    4. When I apply a quick fix to their problem – I’m not listening.
    5. When I fail to acknowledge their feelings – I’m not listening.
    6. When I fidget, glance at my watch, and appear to be rushed – I’m not listening.
    7. When I fail to maintain eye contact – I’m not listening.
    8. When I don’t ask follow-up questions – I’m not listening.
    9. When I top their story with a bigger, better story of my own – I’m not listening.
    10. When they share a difficult experience and I counter with one of my own – I’m not listening.

How to Know You are Not Listening to God

Although all of these are not directly applicable to learning to listen to God, I thought I would put my spin on how to know that you are not listening to God based on the above ten principles from David Roper:

    1. When I am thinking about how to come up with the right words to say to God – I’m not listening to Him. God does not need well worded responses. Pour out your heart to him. Don’t wordsmith your response.
    2. When I try to tell God how to run the universe – I’m not listening to Him. He is not looking for advice.
    3. When I am challenging God’s ways – I’m not listening to Him. That said, He invites us to be honest with Him about what we are feeling – but a posture of listening invites us to learn His ways. God only revealed His deeds to the children of Israel – but His ways He revealed to Moses. (Psalm 103:7)
    4. When I am looking for a quick answer from God to a complex problem – I’m not listening to Him.
    5. When I am struggling to know I am loved by Him and His strong feelings toward me,  – I’m not listening to God. God has spared nothing to share His reckless love with you. And He has spoken extensively on this topic.
    6. When I fidget, glance at my watch, and appear to be rushed – I’m not listening to God.
    7. When I fail to maintain eye contact – I’m not listening to God.  God has said: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will advise you with My eye upon you. ” (Psalm 32:8). When we take our eyes off Him, we are not listening.
    8. When I don’t ask follow-up questions – I’m not listening to God. This is one of the key principles we teach about listening prayer. Keep the dialogue going when God has spoken to you. Ask follow-up questions like: “What does that mean? and “Can that really be true?”
    9. When God’s simple response is not enough for us – I’m not listening to Him.
    10. When God shares a difficult word with me and I counter with one of my own difficult words to God – I’m not listening. Again, I am not saying that we not say those difficult words to God. But when we do, it is important to know that we are not in a listening posture.

There is much that can be said about how to know when you are not listening to God – but I thought that Mark Roper’s framework for listening to others would provide a helpful window through which to look at this topic from a different angle. Most of the principles about listening to other persons apply to listening to God – because God is a person – actually three persons in one. For more about discerning God’s voice in prayer – check out my blog by the same title.

Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer or How to Recognize When God Speaks

Book Summary

I picked up this book from our church library. It was not filed in the Women’s section but Priscilla is definitely targeting it for women. That said – I think it is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to start out learning to listen to God. The whole focus is not on how to discern or recognize God when He speaks – but rather a high level summary of: the what; the how and our response to God’s voice. Note: These notes are from the 2007 edition. She basically re-wrote the book in 2012.  There is almost no correlation between that edition and the one I am reviewing.

First off, I want to say I love the way she organized the book. There are five parts:

    • Part 1: Hearing God’s Voice – This part has the two basics that we teach: Expect to Hear Him and Just do it – practice the spiritual discipline of listening
    • Part 2: Communicating with God Today – This part could be subtitled: An Invitation to Intimacy with God
    • Part 3: Revealing God’s Character – This part could be subtitled: What to Primarily Expect while Listening to God
    • Part 4: Discovering God’s Plan – This part focuses on the guidance component of listening to God.
    • Part 5: Responding to God’s Plan – The Hebrew word for listen is integrally linked to obedience to God’s voice.

In addition, each chapter contains the following sidebars:

    • A Saint Speaks – where she quotes other Christian’s response to the topic she is addressing
    • He Speaks – quotes from the Bible about the topic
    • How do you Know it’s God’s Voice? – Descriptions from others about how they discern God’s voice.

I love the chapter titles that describe God’s voice as:

    • Marvelous
    • Guiding
    • Verifiable
    • Persistent
    • Revealing
    • Peaceful
    • Powerful
    • Invitational
    • Timely
    • Fatherly
    • Challenging

I would agree with all of these as descriptors of God’s voice and will probably include it the next time we introduce listening to a group.

Notable Quotes

“Those who do not believe God speaks specifically will simply ignore or explain away all the times when God does communicate with them. However, those who spend each day in a profound awareness that God does speak are in a wonderful position to receive His word.” A. W. Tozer

“If we come to Him doubting His ability to speak, we will have a difficult time listening. So we must come expectantly.” Charles Stanley

“If you want to hear God’s voice clearly and you are uncertain, then remain in His presence until He changes this uncertainty. Often much can happen during this waiting on the Lord. Sometimes He changes pride into humility; doubt into faith and peace; sometimes lust into purity. The Lord can and will do it.” Corrie Ten Boom

“Conversing with the Father is colored by the needs of the day. Let your prayer be something definite, arising either out of the Word which you have read, or out of the real soul needs which you long to be satisfied. Let your prayer be so definite that you can say as you go out, ‘I know what I have asked from my Father, and I expect an answer.” Andrew Murray

“Note well, that we must hear Jesus speak if we expect Him to hear us speak. If we have no ear for Christ, He will have no ear for us.” Charles Spurgeon

“We can make our heart a chapel where we can go anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them.” Brother Lawrence

“I close my eyes to shut out visual stimuli … I close my ears by dealing authoritatively with distractions that threaten my ability to tune in to God. I close a series of shutters on the surface level of my life, thus holding at bay hindrances to hearing the still small voice of God …” Joyce Huggett

“Listening to God today is not about newness but about nowness.” Joyce Huggett

“I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3

“Have you ever heard the Master say something very difficult to you? If you haven’t, I question whether you have ever heard Him say anything at all.” Oswald Chambers

Minor Points of Disagreement

A couple of minor quibbles with the book. In most cases, I don’t think she really means what these statements say.

Priscilla says that the “Father’s greatest goal is for us to grow into our full spiritual potential…” I think the Father’s goal is much greater than this:  that we would fully grow to conform to the image of Christ; that we would achieve a oneness with the Trinity and with God’s people are two goals of the Father that are greater.

She also says: “Hearing God’s voice is impossible for someone who hasn’t yet been born of the Spirit.” Saint Peter heard the Father’s voice concerning Jesus’ being the Messiah.  None of us would become followers of Jesus if we did not hear His voice before we were born of the Spirit.

Finally, quoting a friend, she says that “God’s supernatural activity is so evident in my life because I have decided the only appropriate response to Him is complete obedience.” I am so thankful that God’s supernatural activity is so evident in my life not because of my complete obedience but because of His grace towards me and that I look for God’s supernatural activity.