Saturday, January 20, 2007

Are You Inspired?

I will tell you something that I'm not sure I've ever shared on this blog before.

Pretty much every time I sit down at my retro Mac to write a post for "Blog In My Own Eye," I pray that God will inspire me through His Holy Spirit; that He will not let me mislead others; but instead that He will use me to draw others closer to Him - and me along with them.

It's something I've done for about the last year year and a half of my blogging endeavors, after a time when I was wistfully remembering how Mike Cope would begin each of his sermons during our tenure at Highland with the prayer that God would "pour through me the gift of preaching."

I don't believe that such a prayer - for Mike, or me, or anyone else - is a solid guarantee that God will answer with a sudden earth-trembling wind-stirring inrush of holy inspiration and an infallible prevention of error and an inarguable gift of persuasion.

But I do believe it's a good place to start.

I think it'd be a good place for everyone who shares The Story to start. I'll go further than that. I think it's dangerous for anyone to speak, ostensibly on God's behalf, without the assistance of His Holy Spirit.

We make His indwelling such a thing of ultimate mystery; of fear and even dread - perhaps that we'll somehow lose control of ourselves and become scripture-spouting lunatics, or glossalalic-babbling weirdoes, or just some of those glassy-eyed people who murmur intense blessings on you when you check out at their register at Lifeway Book Store. Or the notion of His home in our hearts may be a thing of doubt - maybe that we're not sure when we are or aren't indwelt by Him or whether we're speaking by His inspiration.

While there is certainly an element of mystery and depth to the Spirit that we may never understand, I believe that what scripture says of the way He lives within us is fairly simple and direct.
Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. - I Corinthians 12:3-7


The mention of the name "Jesus" is no guarantee of the Spirit's inspiration. (I hope you can deduce that by watching Televangelical TV.) But no one who tells The Story and proclaims Him as Lord and lives out that Story in service can do so by any other means.

I believe that the Spirit's inspiration is no more complicated than that.

People today are inspired as were people of century one A.D. It's expressed in their writing, their speaking, their art, their music ... now just as it was then.

I haven't seen the manifestation's of the Spirit's presence that most folks call "miraculous." I haven't seen the blind made to see, or the deaf to hear, or the lame to walk, or the dead to rise. I do see in scripture a tapering-off of those incidents as years pass in century one. But I also try to keep an open mind about century twenty-one.

What I do see are miraculous results of the Spirit's residency.

People are still persuaded that God loves them enough to have sent His Son to live and die and live again for them, so much so that they resolve to die to themselves and live for Him and for others.

Isn't that miraculous?

And the effects - unlike a wonderful but temporary healing of the body - are an eternal healing of the soul.

I do see and hear and read extraordinary insights into the deeper meaning of scripture - some of those insights already centuries old, but later than century one; others in blogs written and sermons shared and lives lived in the past few months and weeks and days. I believe they are inspired by the same Spirit.

Should they be in the canon of scripture?

In a sense, I believe they are. God remembers them. And I think He wants us to share them, just as Paul did before judges and governors and kings. Our stories as believers are part of the ongoing Story of Christ; the way He works in and through our lives. Now, I believe the canon to be complete due to its sufficiency of truth. (Scripture was never intended to convey all truth - the atomic weight of artificially-induced elements, for instance; or the meaning of a half-smile on your beloved's face.)

Yet Christ living in us is a story that has great power, and is a worthy supplement to the gospels of scripture.

Just like the epistles.

And, like the subtitle of my blogging buddy Matt Elliott's blog says: "Every day I write the book."

13 comments:

DJG said...

An excellent practice....and I think it shows in your writing that the Spirit is guiding you. I know I am blessed everytime I read.

laymond said...

Brother Kieth-Just two questions I leave you with now.

Do you sit down to the keyboard totaly unprepared to write.?

And does Brother Cope assend to the podieum without a prepared sermon. are you truly asking for guidance, or a blessing of what you have already prepared?

I may have other comments as we see what is said, If you don't mind?

Mike said...

Thanks so much for these words, Keith.

There is a problem with fundamentalism: it tends to think always in terms of either/or. Either you prepare or you rely on the Spirit.

If I'm reading scripture correctly, and if I've understand my own spiritual journey correctly, this isn't an either/or.

I'm not just asking the Holy Spirit to put the stamp of approval on what I've done. I'm asking for the Spirit's help and power throughout -- to convict hearts (including my own) with godly truth.

In other words, I don't think the best preaching is necessarily from the one who wins speech contests and scores high on an IQ exam.

Keith Brenton said...

laymond, most of the time - MOST of the time - I know what I want to write when I sit down at the keyboard. I've searched it out for faithfulness to scripture. I feel fairly certain that what I want to say is what God would want me to say.

But there have been times, like the post The Post I Didn't Intend to Write, when it didn't come out that way at all.

There's a song leader at my church who also serves on a worship planning team. All the songs had been chosen for Sunday night worship; they were queued up in EasyWorship for the projectors; they were printed in the Order of Worship. And they were just wrong, and he knew it. They were songs of joy and happiness, and our church had just had a traumatic loss and funeral the past week that was fresh on our hearts. So he led songs of lament. And they were the right songs to sing.

I think Mike's right. It's a both/and.

But that prayer for inspiration is still a good place to start.

Big Mac said...

Thank you Kieth for a very good and comforting post. I have for some time been saying a similiar prayer before teaching a Bible Class based on James 3:1 and had not thought about being inspired by the Spirit, but basically that is what I'm asking for because I don't want to be guilty of misinforming anyone. I just want to convey the clear meaning of scripture, and thereforI invoke The Father's guidance. It matters little to me how He might give that assistance but of one thing I'm sure, we need to seek His counsel and guidance in all our endeavors. Doyce Hall

JP Manzi said...

Thanks for sharing Keith, something that maybe I should do more often is pray before I write or talk about God.

Laymond said...

Jn :17:17: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18: As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19: And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

laymond said...

Preacher Mike- I am sure you have never read anything I have written. And I am not suggesting you should.
I am a 66 year young CoC Christian, was raised in the Church (Grandpa was a preacherman). And now my resume is complete. those on the conservative road call me ultra-liberal, I like to think I am moderant in my understanding of the word, I can see both ends of the line from where I stand. and hold no anomosity toward those on the right or those on the left. But now my resume is filled (Ultra liberal Christian democrat fundamentalist) Thanks for filling in the blanks.:)
May God Bless you and your work.

Anonymous said...

Keith, you are exactly right on this. I pray a similar prayer before every sermon. It has almost become a liturgy for me in that I repeat certain phrases that center and ground me, in humility, and in reliance upon the Spirit before I rise up to teach.

In our old Scottish churches I remember our practice was to announce the scripture and say something like "If I read correctly, and barring any mistakes, I will be reading from the .... version of the New Testament [and then the citation]" After the reading, we always said, "May God add His blessing to the reading of His holy Word." Required? Nope, but it helped us take our place in God's kingdom with humility. I appreciate you, brother.

David U said...

Write the dang book, ok? WRITE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

DU

TCS said...

good post. Either you have mentioned it before or in a email to me. But you have implied that you pray for guidance over your words...see I remember!

We would all do well to pray for words whether we appear before kings or common men.

Jason said...

Keith,

Thanks for your confession. I do the same when I am teaching my teen classes, or speaking in front of the "big church."

I think unfamiliarity with Spirit and His work in our lives lead to under appreciation of the Spirit and under approporation of the Spirit (I heard Chris Seidman say this at NYCM -- some of the best teaching on the Holy Spirit I have ever heard).

As Spirit filled followers of Jesus, we must realize that because of the Spirit's coming that we now live in/with the intersection of heaven and earth (NT. Wright, Simply Christian).

Matt Elliott said...

Just amazed to be mentioned by a writer like you and in the same post with Mike Cope.

But mostly with a writer like you.

:-)