Balancing Between Extremes
Today’s newsletter is a devotional and reflection on contrasting choices we are faced with I trust that it is helpful and meaningful. It tends not to be a newsy newsletter but a more reflective and indeed theological and practical newsletter this week. Thanks for your patience. God be with you.
I am constantly being surprised and perplexed by the “either/or” thinking that is used to discuss complicated topics. Take for example the simple notions about evangelism. Charles Haddon Spurgeon once remarked that he was a Calvinist on his knees and an Armenian on his feet. That is to say he prayed God’s will in desiring that God would turn people’s hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet while he was preaching he believed that with passion he could persuade that the spirit had one part of the conversion narrative to accomplish and that his own willingness to share had the other part. What Spurgeon was practicing was not commonly referred to as a balanced approach but indeed holding two very different yet complementary things in tension. Life is very much like that. Jesus often spoke in metaphor and indeed hyperbole. His own disciples were often confused as to what his message or point was; particularly in the parables.
Charles Simeon, an Anglican Evangelical from the 19th century, was famous for his comment that the truth of any topic was not in the middle of two extremes but in fact in both extremes. That sounds awkward but it’s not. Think back to the comment we just made about Charles Haddon Spurgeon: a Calvinist on his knees and an Armenian on his feet. Simeon is right in far more areas of life that we would like to think. The practice of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the advice of Charles Simeon, and in fact our wisdom from the ages and from elders must give us pause to think. They are thinking. Indeed, the behavior that followed their thinking if you read their history and ministry has a great deal of application today: from the areas of church life, personal prayer, and devotional life to the public realm in good governance and to the political battles that are waged in all parts of the world.
Since we are so near the time of the inauguration in the United States it is interesting to note how Harry Truman chose scriptures from two parts of the Bible for his inauguration. He had in fact 2 Bibles open to him and laid his hands on each; 1 was open to the 10 Commandments and the other was open to the Beatitudes. I think it’s obvious on 1 level the contrast between those 2 passages. Yet there is this complementary nature of what God expects of us and how he also in his call to holiness and piety from the 10 Commandments calls us to that deeper meaning of life, compassion, and humility in the Beatitudes. I would draw us and our attention to that wonderful sermon in the final verses of the Beatitudes:
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16
(And the 10 Commandments: Exodus 20:1-17)
We are all called to be salt and light. You know the depth and meaning of those phrases. I indeed find that to be a prophetic and passionate call from Jesus to be that which preserves and gives flavor. Furthermore, without salt there is no long-term viability of life. In addition, without light, not simply in the natural order of things (the photosynthesis of the sun which gives us the basic building blocks for life itself) but in Jesus this gift of life and light that comes to us… without him there is indeed no life.
“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:3-9
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” John 14:6-7
Quote of the Week: Martin Luther King Jr: “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk then by all means start moving.”
News from the Family: Please pray for Sam Breakey and team in the church health and renewal work, and for the renewal that they are seeking in the life of our churches. For those churches currently being encouraged by this process, pray especially that the Holy Spirit would help people discern where the church is presently at and what future steps they should be undertaking in the power of the Spirit to see new things happen and God’s powerful presence in their lives flourish.