WHEN GOD SPEAKS
BY: JAN ANTONSSON
FEBRUARY 10, 2013
“And God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’” (Gen. 1:2)
I thought about calling this essay “The Word of God,” but too many images of well meaning evangelists, pastors, and preachers came to mind, who with great zeal, bombarded us with what they (or their denomination) think the meaning of a passage really is. This title given me by the Spirit is much better, I think. Before we go further, let me say up front, that I have no secret knowledge that supersedes the Bible, no line of communication with God that each and everyone of you don’t have as well. No one died and made me “popess.” These writings are based on what God gives me personally, which I share, when led. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
Some say they never hear from God, but perhaps that stems from some deep seated insecurity or lack of self confidence in the person’s relationship to the Father. He speaks to us in ways that we personally understand, ways which don’t make sense sometimes to our conscious mind, or to others, but the the mind of Christ within, hears and obeys. With some, He uses feelings to direct our path. Those folks say, “I felt to do this or that.” To others, He uses words to get His message across.
While in Thousand Oaks, CA, I attended a fellowship of Charismatic believers. We had great worship, wonderful uplifting choruses, and of course, the powerful words delivered to us by John Gavazzoni, one of the pastors there. There were a number of women who would get up during the praise service and share with us. They would say, “God told me this.” Or, “the Lord said thus and so.” These gals were emotional and hysteric, rather than cognitive and logical.
I jogged in those days, and one day, as I was running down Erbes Road, which ran behind my house, I said passionately, “Lord, You talk to all these twits at church and I’m as able to hear from You as they are. I want You to direct my steps, all of them. From now on, I’m going to ask You what I should do about EVERY situation, and I’m going to do the first thing that comes into my mind.” Being aware that most in that church feared the devil, I added, “And You are able to block out the devil so that I’m only hearing from YOU! If You can’t do that, then maybe I don’t want to hear from You.”
Yes, that was a bratty, impertinent thing to say, but I KNEW God loved me and had no more fear that He was going to fry me into a cinder for what I said to Him. I grew up under teachings that emphasized, “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (KJV), but He had loved me out of that fear. There followed a period of time when I really did ask Him about every single thing in my day. It established in me the sure knowing that God does answer us and I still ask Him to guide my decisions. We obey His voice because He helps us to do so.
Many of you have read Richard Rohr’s writings. He is now putting out a daily meditation on-line, which has sparked fruitful discussion among a few of us who share via e-mail. A recurring theme of our discourse is how the Bible has been misinterpreted due to faulty translations over the centuries. We appreciate so much Jonathan Mitchell’s faithful scholarship and his thoughtful translation of the New Testament, as well as his commentaries which shed new light on old texts.
Most of us began our Christian journey under zealous teaching, preaching, and interpreting, and demand for daily Bible reading, with the sword of the Spirit being more of a threat hanging over our heads than a blessing.
Soon enough, we discovered that there could be another meaning to the proof text we had been taught and some of us found that what we were taught was downright wrong. The church I grew up in taught at that time, that the Holy Spirit had gone back to heaven when the last Apostle died. Being a good disciple, I believed it until I was about 28 years old. God burst into my well ordered theological thoughts and turned them upside down by baptizing me into the Holy Spirit, who, as I discovered to my delight, is alive and well on planet Earth.
This brings me to Richard Rohr’s meditation for Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, entitled “Experiential Knowing.” He observes, “Most of us believe things because our churches tell us to believe them and we don’t want to be disobedient members of the church so we say “I believe,” as we do in the Nicene or Apostle’s creed.” He contrasts that with mysticism in which the mystic knows, rather than believes. I have lived with a mystic now for 32 years, and it is amazing to me that Lenny never seems to struggle with believing anything about God. He just knows, or as I say, he has his hands on the divine hot-wire.
Rohr concludes: “The only things we know at any deep and real level are the things we have personally experienced. Creedal belief, however, holds onto us until we have that experience! This is an important distinction, and why we need creeds as well. Each generation and person cannot start at zero.”
Now for those of us who have wondered why God has allowed the very flawed extant church to survive over the centuries, and in days of yore, to commit heinous acts of vengeance on those who rocked the boat, this is a perfect answer. Paul said the Law is the “child leader” until we come into the fullness of Christ, and since most church doctrine is built more on Law than on the grace of God, the things we learned at church were a first step in our growth. At some point, however, we had to graduate into the knowing that “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” (Gal. 2:21)
Rohr has expressed so well why I no longer get my knickers in a twist over poor translations, or flawed doctrine. God has allowed all the error to continue because He knows what He is going to do about it. He who knows the end from the beginning declared, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11) That, by the way, does not mean as some faith ministries proclaim, that I can simply speak a verse of scripture over a person or situation and God is obligated to comply. Been there, done that, failed miserably.
I can bear witness to what most of you know, which is that when God speaks something into my heart, it flows and has power. What I believe and $4.75 will buy a latte at Starbucks. I’d rather have a latte (with whipped cream on top), thank you! What I KNOW comes directly from Him!
As a mystic, Lenny never says “I believe.” He simply operates out of, “It is,” with no proof texts yet. Sometimes that used to make me squirm, being the Bible banger that I’ve always been, but over time, I realized that he was receiving from the “Spiritual hot wire,” and was expressing what he saw and heard and felt. That, of course, does not mean he is ready for canonization, because what he receives is mostly for him or us, but really, all we have to give anyone is our testimony, which the Apostle John said overcame “that ancient serpent, the devil….by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev. 12:8, 10-11)
Our fall back position for every dilemma of scriptural interpretation, every nuance of meaning is not fear, but the knowledge that God loves us unconditionally. I hear from people who are trying so hard to be what God wants them to be. When we are “in Christ,” which we ALL are now, we are WHERE God wants us to be, WHERE He placed us. It is Christ’s job to present His body, which we are, “to HIMSELF as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph. 5:15-26) What great good news that is!
Father we thank You eternally for loving us, for delivering us from ourselves, and for making us transmitters of Your Word which changes lives and which You use to go upon the mountain dark and bring Your sheep back home. To You be glory and honor and power and blessing now and forever. Amen.