Don Carson | That By All Means I Might Win Some: Faithfulness and Flexibility in Gospel Proclamation
Advances in the Study of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic | Benjamin J. Noonan (New Resourse for Pastors and Scholars)
Digging Out the Words
For the past decade, doctors and psychologists have been taking notice of the health benefits of reflective writing. They note that wrestling with words to put your deepest thoughts into writing can lift your mind from depression, uncover wisdom within your experiences, provide insight and foster self-awareness. From autobiography to blogging to the increasingly popular genre of memoir, writers similarly laud the benefits of writing. Whether publically, anonymously, or privately, confessional writing can free the writer “to explore the depths of the emotional junkyard,” as one describes. In my own experience, writing has no doubt been a helpful way to sift through the junkyard, though perhaps most effectively when exploring in good faith and not merely reveling in the messes.
Writing is helpful because the eye of a writer seeks the transcendent—a moment where the extraordinary is beheld in the ordinary, a glimpse of clarity within the chaos, beauty in a world of contrasts. When Jesus stooped over the crumbled girl at his feet and wrote something in the sand, the written word spoke more powerfully than the anger of the Pharisees and well beyond any shame of the young woman. For those of us looking on through story, his words remain unknown but no less powerful. Writing is a tool with which we learn to see ourselves more clearly, a catalyst for which we can learn to see thankfully beyond ourselves.
Picture above: Rembrandt, Man Seated at a Table Covered with Books, 1636.
In the C.S. Lewis novel, Till We Have Faces, the main character, Orual, has taken mental notes throughout her life, carefully building what she refers to as her “case” against the gods. Finally choosing to put her case in writing, she describes each instance where she feels she has been grievously wronged. It is only after Orual has finished writing that she soberly recognizes her great mistake. To have heard herself making the complaint was to be answered. She now sees the importance of uttering the speech at the center of one’s soul and profoundly observes that the gods used her own pen to probe the wounds. With sharpened insight Orual explains, “Till the words can be dug out of us, why should [the gods] hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”(1)
There is something about writing that can introduce us to ourselves and to the image of another--both outside and within us. Daring to utter the words at the center of our souls we may find the words leading us to truer selves. What if God could use your own pen to probe the wounds of your life? In the intimate descriptions of life recorded in the Psalms, the writers express loneliness, joy, even frustration with God. “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?”(2) Yet the psalmists seem to walk away from their words, not with tidied moralisms or regret and recanting, but with a clearer sense of what they meant and what they did not know—and of the one who helped them see. And, I would add, their honest words have been a source of encouragement to countless lives, pointing many to wisdom, to beauty and depth, to a God enthroned on high.
As Jesus stood with the girl at his feet in the middle of a group armed with power and hatred, the one who called forth creation and worked the heavens with his fingers, crouched down in the sand and with his human finger changed a life with a word. Face to face with God in human flesh, her despair and shame was remade into a startling glimpse of the God in the midst of it.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (Orlando: Harcourt, 1980), 294.
(2) Psalm 30:9.
When You Are Immortal
By John Piper
When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. (Acts 23:12)
What about those hungry fellows who promised not to eat till they had ambushed Paul?
We read about them in Acts 23:12, “When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.” It didn’t work. Why? Because a string of unlikely events happened.
What had those hungry men lying in ambush overlooked? They failed to reckon with what happened to Paul just before they made their plot. The Lord appeared to Paul in prison and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (Acts 23:11).
Christ said Paul was going to Rome. And that was that. No ambush can stand against the promise of Christ. Until he got to Rome, Paul was immortal. There was a final testimony to be given. And Christ would see to it that Paul would give it.
You too have final testimony to give. And you are immortal until you give it.
What would happen if the Holy Spirit really had His way with us? (Matthew 5) - Kendall Harmon @ Christ St. Paul's
Every Calvary Step Was Love
By John Piper
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)
The love of Christ for us in his dying was as conscious as his suffering was intentional. If he was intentional in laying down his life, it was for us. It was love.
“When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
Every step on the Calvary road meant, “I love you.”
Therefore, to feel the love of Christ in the laying down of his life, it helps to see how utterly intentional it was.
Look at what Jesus said just after that violent moment when Peter tried to cleave the skull of the servant, but only cut off his ear.
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52–54)
It is one thing to say that the details of Jesus’s death were predicted in the Old Testament. But it is much more to say that Jesus himself was making his choices precisely to see to it that the Scriptures would be fulfilled.
That is what Jesus said he was doing in Matthew 26:54. “I could escape this misery, but how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
In other words, I am not choosing to take the way out that I could take, because I know the Scriptures. I know what must take place for my people to be saved. It is my choice to fulfill all that is predicted of me in the word of God. It is my choice — every step of the way — to love my people to the uttermost. And I want them to feel this. And be utterly secure and free and radically different from the world.