Sunday, May 2, 2010

'The immersion into reality itself'

'What is the practical value of 'apocalyptic', of end-time considerations?

It is 'the completion of what NOW is - NOT an escape from it. The wholeness of what we NOW see in part - NOT its repudiation.'

Such Biblical or Prophetic anticipation 'is thus thoroughly practical; it assures us of the reality of all the acts and words whose transcendent sense is disputed and contradicted by the age we live in.' This preoccupation with Apocalyptic 'is not a florid [fanciful] passage tacked onto an end to give a flourish to our rhetoric but 'the immersion into reality itself,' the issue of God's coming Kingdom and its rule in our present life. It has a unique power to stir us to new and greater obedience, deepening our resolve and consecration and 'fortifying us for the long haul… It gives stamina to our courage and energizes our witness - realities that are in strict correspondence with what has already been begun in us and will [assuredly] be completed. This is not a new form of escapism, but the intensification of involvement with God in His [final] purposes by employing the stuff that is in our lives right now.' (From Eugene Peterson’s devotional entitled, The Completion of What Is)

'This preface is appropriate in view of the dire and tragic events of 2001 sounding an ominous note of yet greater dread for the year and decade ahead. It may well be a final decade - or at least it should be lived as if that were so. What greater evils will yet be loosed? What real defense from demonic terror against which the best of societal safeguards might be vain? On the positive side, the issue of God and of the Faith have as suddenly become elevated and central. No longer can believing constitute a mere Sunday addendum, a pleasant amenity in an ordered and secure world. The fellowship of the saints no longer casual affability, but become now the very grit of apostolic living! The wisdom of God in the uncertainty of the future to be had only in the counsel of the many; the 'time to speak to one another in the fear of the Lord' our privilege and our sanity.

'For now, at the end, as it was at the first, those that believe must be together. The one heart, and one soul and one mind that alone issues from true fellowship break the power of selfish and private living that has until now so effectually robbed us. Private, personal, devotional prayer must become a vital daily engagement with the Living God - early and late. Corporate prayer, the measure of truth of our Body, must become the apprehending of our High Priest's intercessory mind and heart. Time must be found, made, ruthlessly contended for in the daily urgent seeking of the Lord. Unabashed and unashamed witness, our responsibility in the world, be expressed in the very places from which we have shrunk - and this now in the more hostile prevailing atmosphere that abhors 'fundamentalist fanaticism'!

Backlash, opposition, eventual persecution are prospects now as real for us as the experience of distant, remote Christians, provoking in us a cry for new infillings of the Holy Spirit too long unsounded (and unneeded!). Inhibiting timidity, self-conscious and repressive fear of man [even of Christians!] be crucified with Christ! Buoyant, joyous faith, unfeigned choruses of praise, the inclusion of our committed children, be the staple of the Church is our best wish and prayer for us all in the new year that has come.

'For that has the Lord enjoined us to this end 'that men ought always to pray and not to lose heart' (Luke 18:1). So is prayer, heartfelt, vibrant and alive, the very provision of God for the terrors and uncertainties of the future that would otherwise depress and overcome us - even to the possibility of the very forfeiture of faith. So does the parable of the importunate widow end with the question, 'Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?' That is, will he find prayer in the earth? For the issue of prayer is the issue of faith for 'no man comes to God but that He believes that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him' (Hebrews 11:6).

Many Christians would be wise to take note of the feeble and infrequent condition of their prayer as a serious index of a declining faith - for the two are inextricably joined.

'In all this, don't confuse faith with correctly held doctrine about the faith. The issue of faith is the issue of relationship - not credal correctness.

- From 'End-of-the-Year (2001) Meditation' - Laporte, Minnesota;
above photo from the Kathryn Kuhlman program in 1970.

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