DEEPER HOPE

Deeper Hope:

An Abiding Virtue

This book explores the meaning -- and application -- of Christian Hope. It takes the fuzzy concept of Hope and reveals it in everyday settings

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Entries in Inspiration (3)

The Hard Work of Inspiration

Storytellers, poets, songwriters, historians, correspondents, legal scholars, apocalyptic dreamers. Perhaps it’s blindingly obvious: the books of the Bible were written by . . . writers. The Holy Spirit breathed upon each one, opened their hearts and ears and eyes to the spiritual realities around them. But they were still writers. They struggled to capture the inspired moment of clarity and present a finished work capable of blessing generations to come.

Peter described it this way: “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.” (1 Peter 1:10-11) Even though the Spirit was their guide, they searched intently. It was an inspired collaboration.

The prophet Habakkuk (that discontent whining wondering man who in turn inspired the Apostle Paul) recorded the process of capturing a flash of divine inspiration. Although the scripture is complete, inspiration still flashes today. Since we carry the inspired good news, Habakkuk’s words are a lesson for us as well:

"I will stand at my watch 
and station myself on the ramparts; 
I will look to see what he will say to me,
 and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied: 
 Write down the revelation
 and make it plain on tablets
 so that a herald may run with it. 
 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; 
it speaks of the end 
and will not prove false. 
Though it linger, wait for it; 
 it will certainly come
 and will not delay." (Habakkuk 2:1-3)

Here are four observations capable of making us partners with the Spirit’s inspiration:

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts . . .” We ourselves create the space to receive revelation. Habakkuk purposefully took up the position of watchman: he was alone and vigilant, eager and confident that the Lord would speak to him. He was not disappointed; he had prepared himself for when the moment came. When we create space for the Spirit to come, he willingly accepts the invitation.

Make it plain . . . “ God favors clarity. Beauty and art flow from inspiration, but we must make it plain. Our part is the clear expression of what he illuminates. There is a time to scatter rose petals among our words, but first comes content. Our words should carry a meaning clear enough that others may run with the message.

The revelation awaits an appointed time . . .” Even revelation requires timing. Strangely, the appointed time is seldom in the heat of battle. When social debate rages back and forth in public media we are exposed to the heat of passion, but not much light. The prophets spoke to their day, but the prophetic message carried eternal weight. Neither human emotion nor intellect equal divine revelation; it comes only from God, and it requires his timing.

Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come . . .” That's right: wait for it. Habakkuk stationed himself. He also waited. In the rush to say something important we often miss the opportunity to hear something eternal. Waiting is the discipline of writers who speak to generations. You can speak to the moment or you can speak to the ages; you can rarely do both.

I believe in the inspiration of the scripture, but I don’t believe the Holy Spirit used robots to mouth his words. We have a role to play, a role that compliments the word of the Spirit. Habakkuk shows us how it’s done.

Meditation: Writing Tips from the Holy Spirit

Perhaps it’s blindingly obvious: the books of the Bible were written by writers. Storytellers, poets, songwriters, historians, correspondents, legal scholars and apocalyptic dreamers. The Holy Spirit breathed upon each one, opened their hearts and ears and eyes to the spiritual realities around them. But they were still writers. They struggled to capture the inspired moment of clarity and present a finished work capable of blessing generations to come.

Peter described it this way: “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.” (1 Peter 1: 10-11)

The writers searched intently, but the Spirit did not leave them alone. It was an inspired collaboration. The prophet Habakkuk--that discontent, whining, and wondering man who inspired the Apostle Paul--recorded the process of capturing God’s flash of inspiration. It’s a lesson to us today as well:

"I will stand at my watch 
and station myself on the ramparts; 
I will look to see what he will say to me,
 and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

Then the Lord replied:
Write down the revelation
 and make it plain on tablets
 so that a herald may run with it.
 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; 
it speaks of the end 
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
 it will certainly come
 and will not delay." (Habakkuk 2: 1-3)

Here are four observations capable of making us partners with the Spirit’s inspiration:

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts . . .” We ourselves create the space to receive revelation. Habakuk purposefully took up the position of watchman, alone and vigilant, eager and confident that the Lord would speak to him. He was not disappointed; he had prepared himself for when the moment came.

Make it plain . . . “ God favors clarity. Beauty and art flow from inspiration--and the clear expression of what he illuminates. There is a time to scatter rose petals among our words, but first comes content. Our words should carry a meaning so clear that even people in a hurry can get the idea.

The revelation awaits an appointed time . . .” Strangely, the appointed time is seldom in the heat of battle. When social debate rages back and forth in public media we are exposed to the heat of passion, but there’s not much light. The prophets spoke to their day, but the prophetic message carried eternal weight. Neither human emotion nor intellect equal divine revelation--it comes only from God, and it comes only in his timing.

Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come . . .” That's right: wait for it. Habakkuk stationed himself. He also waited. In the rush to say something important we often miss the opportunity to hear something eternal. Waiting is the discipline of writers who speak to generations. You can speak to the moment or you can speak to the ages--you can rarely do both.

I believe in the inspiration of the scripture, but I don’t believe the Holy Spirit used us as robots, forcing us to mindlessly scribble words we didn’t understand. We have a role to play, a role that compliments the word of the Spirit. Habakkuk shows us how it’s done.

Monday's Meditation: Encountering His Spirit in His Book

How do we approach the Bible? Are we looking for information about God, or an encounter with God? When we say the book is inspired, do we mean that the Holy Spirit breathed upon those who wrote it, or do we mean that the Holy Spirit wants to breathe on those who read it now? I believe the correct answer is “both.”

Our experience with God’s word should not be simply an intellectual exercise. It should be a conversation. The Holy Spirit hasn’t gotten any older or further away during the passage of 21 centuries. He longs to engage us when we come to the scripture. He invites us to use our time in the Bible as an opportunity to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength.

I’d like to suggest a few questions about our time with God as we come to the scripture:

  • When is the last time I experienced an emotional response to the scripture--sadness? anger? awe? joy? fear? doubt? confidence? grief? regret? remorse? hope? laughter? love? relief? gratitude?
  • When is the last time I experienced a physical sensation during my Bible reading? Has my body ever responded to God’s word?
  • When is the last time I was moved to action because of the words on the page before me? Have I ever been moved to call someone, go to someone, or help someone?
  • Have I ever come to the scripture asking the Holy Spirit what he hopes to accomplish while I read?

I believe the North American church has come to value intellect over spirit and soul. The result for many believers is a dry and lifeless experience of his great gift--the very words of God spoken, captured, preserved and delivered to us today.

Sweet Holy Spirit, I invite you sit beside me, breathe on me, and guide me through your collected wisdom I hold in my hand. Come, Holy Spirit.