Monday, October 31, 2005


Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in his devotional Morning and Evening, writes about how vital it is for us to move in step with the Holy Spirit.

Common, too common is the sin of forgetting the Holy Spirit. This is folly and ingratitude. There is no spiritual good in all the world of which He is not the author and sustainer. They who yield to his influence become good. They who obey His impulses do good. They who live under His power receive good. Let us revere His person, and adore Him as God over all, blessed for ever. Let us own His power, and our need of Him by waiting upon Him in all our holy enterprises. Let us hourly seek His aid, and never grieve Him. And let us speak to His praise whenever occasions occur. The church will never prosper until more reverently it believes in the Holy Ghost.

Our relationship to God can resemble a moth being drawn to a flame. We are intrigued and attracted by the warmth and light. Our desire is to come closer, to draw nearer, to know God more fully and intimately, to enter into new and stimulating dimensions of His work. But we’re afraid of getting burned.

Some people are worried about going out on a limb, and they haven’t been up the tree yet.

- Vance Havner

We are like a ship at anchor, tugging at its cable, quivering to be away. The pull is downward. The sails are set, but the wind is ineffective while the anchor holds. Suddenly someone slashes the cable, and with a bound, the ship springs forward, driven by a mighty wind, sails all full. A sense of freedom is felt on every side. The wind now has control. The downward pull is no more. It is free. The cable has been snapped. Another power, the wind, has it in hand.

- Oswald J. Smith

Some of us really need to getting farther out on the limb, to slash the ropes, and let Him control, move, direct, and use us. But we are often more interested in using Him, than in Him using us. Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. But until He controls us we will not be spiritually and emotionally free.

Once it was my working, His it now will be;
Once I tried to use Him, now He uses me.

- A.B. Simpson

How do we cross that line, from us controlling Him, to Him controlling us? We have to admit that we are inadequate of ourselves. We have to admit that life – much less ministry - is not difficult, it’s impossible. We cannot make it on our own. Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” In his book Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent, Ben Patterson tells a story from his personal life that illustrates our utter dependence on God:

In the summer of 1988, three friends and I climbed Mount Lyell, the highest peak in Yosemite National Park. Two of us were experienced mountaineers; two of us were not. I was not one of the experienced two....The climb to the top and back was to take the better part of a day due, in large part, to the difficulty of the glacier that one must cross to get to the top....As the hours passed, and we trudged up the glacier, the two mountaineers opened up a wide gap between me and my less-experienced companion. Being competitive by nature, I began to look for short-cuts I might be able to take to beat them to the top. I thought I saw one to the right of an outcropping of rock - so I went up, deaf to the protests of my companions.

Thirty minutes later I was trapped in a cul-de-sac of rock atop the Lyell Glacier, looking down several hundred feet of a sheer slope of ice, pitched at a forty-five degree angle.....I was only ten feet from the safety of a rock. But one little slip and I wouldn’t stop sliding until I had landed in the valley floor about fifty miles away! I was stuck and I was scared.

Patterson’s words are a non-religious way of describing the predicament that a few of us fall into in “following” God. We refuse to admit our need of Him, and we get stuck. We get stuck because we’re competitive. We get stuck because we want our way. We get stuck because we want to make an impression. We think we have life under control so we take short-cuts. We take the right hand turn around an outcropping of rock - and we’re stuck. We have to, as Paul says in Galatians 5, “live by the Spirit….walk by the Spirit….keep in step with the Spirit.” Which takes us back to Ben Patterson, who was stuck and scared. He writes:

It took an hour for my experienced climbing friends to find me. Standing on the rock I wanted to reach, one of them leaned out and used an ice axe to chip two little footsteps in the glacier. Then he gave me the following instructions: “Ben, you must step out from where you are and put your foot where the first foothold is....Without a moment’s hesitation swing your other foot across and land it in the next step. Then reach out and I will take your hand, and I will pull you to safety...But listen carefully: As you step across, don’t lean into the mountain! If anything lean out a little bit. Otherwise your feet could fly out from under you, and you will start sliding down.

When I’m on the edge of a cliff, my instinct is to lie down and hug the mountain, to become one with it, not lean away from it! But that was what my good friend was telling me to do as I stood trembling on that glacier. I looked at him real hard....For a moment, based solely on what I believed to be true about the good will and good sense of my friend, I decided to say no to what I lean out, step out, and traverse the ice to safety. It took less than two seconds to find out if my faith was well founded. It was.

God reaches out to each of us and asks us to take two very little, very big, steps of faith. One is a step of admission. The other is a step of submission. And he asks us to take those steps every day.

In a recent dMail, I sent out a list of books that I’ve enjoyed. Mike Unruh, CTK’s Director of Leader Development, was kind enough to share some of his favorite books over the past few years. There’s some stuff on this list that I definitely want to read, and you might want to as well. Thanks, Mike, for sharing!

The Brothers Karmazov Fyodor Dostoyevsky I think Dostoyevsky's best work, story about intense desire to grasp meaning of life and explore the depth of our struggles and sins.

Synchronicity, The Inner Path of Leadership Joseph Jaworski His journey to an understanding of the deep issues of leadership

Hopeful Imagination Walter Bruggeman Literature for handling both brokenness and surprise in ministry today.

The Gospel in Brief Leo Tolstoy His integration of the four bilbical Gospels into a single account of the life of Jesus. His goal is a solution to "the problem of life". A work that emphasizes the necessity of maintaining your spiritual condition in a chaotic and indifferent world.

In the Name of Jesus Henri J.M. Nouwen Reflections on Christian Leadership

The Adult Years Frederic Hudson Mastering the Art of Self Renewal Don't let the boring cover fool you...this is a primer on continual revitalization, reorientation, and positive change.

The Call of Stories Robert Coles Teaching and the Moral Imagination. His proposal that we can move directly from stories to our lives.

The Ethics of Martin Luther Paul Althaus All of the major ethical issues whtich concerned Luther. Not for the faint of heat.

Intimate Allies Allender and Longman God destroys the whore, and then he marries the bride...Whew...

Encouraging the Heart Kouzes and Posner The art of encouragement that exceptional leaders use to inspire extraordinary performance in others.

Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Great fiction with powerful word pictures of darkness and redemption

Out of the Question and Into the Mystery Leonard Sweet A good read from a good thinker.

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