Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

March 27, 2004

Well, hey!

I've had a very busy week. Just in case anyone thought that a librarian's work could never be backbreaking and exhausting, think again. Our library is in the midst of a major reorganization, and so I have spent the week moving books. Actually, I've enjoyed it thoroughly.

It has also been a spiritually interesting week for me. First, there was a little matter in which I needed to be corrected. I won't go into detail here, except to say that correction, when it is in the Lord and under His grace, is a wonderful thing and we need to cherish it. What does Proverbs say about correction? "He who hates correction will die." And also, "whoever heeds correction gains understanding." In fact, we cannot expect to grow, to overcome our sin-nature, to walk the God-pleasing walk of faith, if we refuse correction!

But I was speaking of my week. Next, I received a very wonderful word of exhortation from my friend Susan in Australia. Susan is one of those people whose essential beauty and heart just shine through her writing, and her word for me really came at the appointed time. Thank you, Xiuxin.

Also, this week I began jotting down some initial thoughts for my book on spiritual encouragement. I think this writing process is going to work as follows: during these early stages I will be doing a lot of scribbling that may seem almost random. A lot of snatching at passing thoughts before they get away! Some of these scribblings will undoubtedly make their way onto the blog, which is in part my electronic scratchpad anyway. This stage will in fact be one step beyond scribbling. An attempt to refine a thought, to mine it for all its worth, or (changing the metaphor) to pursue it to its natural conclusion.

At the same time I will be developing an outline for the book. This outline is actually well on its way, but will need tweaking and enhancing as I go along. The process of scribbling and refining described above should result in my being able to see clearly the essential trajectory of the book. The next stage of refinement will follow from that, and I imagine will be done off-line, however, some of this too will make to the blog, I hope.

Yes, I hope. And hope is the thing, isn't it? Hope is the spirit in which I approach this process, and hope is the very subject of the process. Hope, Biblical hope, is the first focus of my musings now. I want to think about it, pray about it, and write about it. First of all, what is it? How is it different than the ordinary way we use the term? Why is it important? How might we, as Kingdom people, offer it to others? To the lost who do not know Jesus as their Savior, yes, but also to people who know Him, but who nevertheless continue to struggle under crushing burdens? The fundamental question is (well, I'm sure if you give me a moment I can think of yet another "fundamental " question, but this will do for a start), how can Biblical hope make a difference now in the lives of those people? Answering that question is, I suppose, what enables true Biblical encouragement.

Well, such has been the drift of my thinking this week, as I've lugged books from one place to another. I've done a little research to see what's been written about the Spiritual gift of encouragement, and found only two that really focus on it. Calvin Miller's The Power of Encouragement, and David Jeremiah's similarly titled The Power of Encouragement: Lift Up the Defeated. Miller's book I read last month, and found it fine though a bit slight. Jeremiah's I've just sent for. He's become a personal favorite of mine as a preacher, so I'm particularly looking forward to reading this book.

Let's see, what else? Also this week I've begun each morning by writing out a prayer that is based on one of Solomon's proverbs. This has been fruitful for me, because it has tended to focus my mind on the confessional aspect of prayer, which I often give short shrift. Here's one example:

Proverbs 11:1 "The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are His delight."

Lord, I confess that I have often measured men by a measure of my own devising. I have valued them according to my own scale of value, calling this one more worthy and that one less based on worldly assessments: intelligence, wealth, beauty, even cleanliness. Father, I'm sorry. Forgive me, cleanse me, and help me to see people with eyes enlightened by Your Holy Spirit. Keep me from measuring men with dishonest scales that in the end only tend to sort people according to how they might meet my needs, rather than according to how You see them. I want to measure by Your measure, Father. Not mine. And You have already declared Your measure on the hill of Calvary. The Cross is Your measure of the worth of Your children. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.


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