“A beautiful mind is like a fine rose; the product of many hours of careful cultivation.”
I heard Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor & CEO/ John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary say:
“The average student pursuing a MS(degree) in ministry gets a semester of Church History. That usually breaks down to half of that devoted to the reformation (15-16th century) to now and half on everything before.”
Think about that.
Is that adequate saturation, contemplation and preparation from the smelter of the past? We all are called to wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and its sharper than any two-edged sword (Eph 6:17, Heb. 4:12). If this is so, why would we not seek training from the masters before us? Who would enter spiritual challenges, opposition, arguments and resistance and not find how to be adequately trained with the skill and wisdom of the great pugilists of the past?
“Please inquire of past generations and consider the things searched out by their fathers. For we are only yesterday and know nothing because our days on earth are as a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and bring forth words from their minds?”-Job 8:8-9
“How different it is with the man who devotes himself to studying the law of the Most High, who investigates all the wisdom of the past and spends his time studying the prophecies! He preserves the sayings of famous men and penetrates the intricacies of parables. He investigates the hidden meaning of proverbs and knows his way among riddles.” –Ecclesiasticus 39:1-3
The past is one of the God ordained anvils upon which we are called to hammer out the truth. To strike the heated metal, mined from text and tradition, glowing red hot from the furnace of prayer. Our studies should be hissing with plumes of steam, bellowing out from the quenching of steel in our weeping.
The echoes of blows, reverberate from our forges, as straining and draining labor strikes ignorance with wisdom, over and over and over again. The prophet and teacher should come to the pulpit with singed hair from being so close to the flame. Soot covered faced with red eyes, sore muscles and broken and smoldering hearts, all fully alive, aching from use and abuse, but tense to the ready. The oracles proclaimed should cut deep, laying open the thoughts and intents of the heart, like a skilled blade-master.
If people leave us unscathed, unwounded, unfazed and untroubled then we have not prepared well, or fought fearlessly. Timid teachers having conversations from behind the archers and calvary isn’t ministry, it’s cowardliness. God hasn’t called us to twiddle and twaddle in the pulpit but to call down fire that melts stone and licks up drenching worldliness, compromise and rebellion.
“Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” -1 Kings 19:38-39
Rehashed talks, regurgitated mash messages are prepackaged and microwaved meals that are producing sickly saints and depleting spiritual immune systems that lead to fleshy diseases and cancerous thinking. Out of fear of losing people, offending friends, fitting in, looking successful, finding satisfaction and making a good living, too many leaders are forgetting they are called to be prophets as well a pastors. A good surgeon knowns that pain is part of bringing someone to health. Just medicating people every week with high doses of happy juice is actually a very unloving way to treat serious conditions. Hugs and giggles won’t cure or conquer.
“The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep. But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.”
Yes, it’s hard work and unless it leaves you exhausted at times, than maybe you have not fully grasped the desperation of the hour or hewn past the cool crust of the word and unleashed the molten magma of truth? These times demand more than good thoughts, spoken eloquently, those are for the golf course…not the sinking Titanic.
“Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”
I pray that God will raise up radical men and women that will descend into the depths of the mines of the past and discover the “The dead still speak” (Hebrews 11:4) and what they are saying, is something that the generations to come especially need to hear.
“O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past— stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders.”