Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Most Important Meal of the Day

George Müller, quite possibly reading a Bible
Photo courtesy of georgemuller.org
One of my biggest heroes in the Christian movement is George Müller, the German emigrant minister of the 1800s who built orphan homes in Bristol, England. He rescued thousands of children from a homeless life on the streets, feeding them, clothing them, and providing them an education. All this he did without asking for a single farthing from anyone -- except for God, in prayer. In fact he made it clear that he was explicitly depending on God alone to fund his orphanages as an in-your-face 62+ year-long demonstration to the 19th century world that God still answers prayers.

Interestingly though, despite his reputation as a man of prayer, when George Müller got up in the morning the first thing he did was not to pray. It was to read the Bible. This, he said, was one of the secrets to a prayer life that moves mountains and rescues orphans from the street:  before we go before God in prayer, we must feed our souls. And one did this by "dining" on the words of God, (Gospel of Matthew 4.4).

Müller said that he meditated on scripture until he reached a state that he described as "being happy in the Lord." Once the action of scripture upon a person's heart had made them "happy in the Lord," then they were ready to go before the Lord in prayer. Then they were ready to move mountains.

[For much more information on George Müller, go here and here.]

Just a book?

The Bible does not purport to be just a wise and wonderful book; it purports to be revelation, a living, active entity through which the Holy Spirit of God speaks -- in the present tense. Just as Jesus of Nazareth was not only a wise and wonderful teacher but the unique revelation of the Living God.

The early Christian movement believed "[Moses] received life-giving words (literally, "living words") from God to give to us", (Acts of the Apostles 7.38 ERV). Jesus taught that King David wrote Psalms "by the Holy Spirit" (Gospel of Mark 12.35 - 37).

As the scholar J. N. D. Kelly wrote, "Whenever our Lord and His apostles quoted the Old Testament, it is plain that they regarded it as the word of God," (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p. 60). It was the same with the Apostle's writings, because Jesus' followers recognized that they carried the revelation that the Messiah had entrusted them with (p. 56). "The words that I have spoken to you," John records Jesus as saying,  "are spirit and are life," (Gospel of John 6.63).

For them -- and for any who allow themselves to be nourished by the Bible -- "God’s word is alive and working. It is sharper than the sharpest sword and cuts all the way into us. It cuts deep to the place where the soul and the spirit are joined. God’s word cuts to the center of our joints and our bones. It judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts," (Letter to the Hebrews 4.12 ERV).

The word we must not speak

What I'm suggesting is that nice leather-bound book you have on your desk or the paperback version in your car is not just a book: It is something that intelligent 21st century people get vaguely uncomfortable with, something that some scholars devote their lives to showing it is not.

It's supernatural.

When George Müller cracked his Bible open in the morning, he was exposing himself to the creative power of God's own being, as God wants us to experience it. And so are we. Reading the Scriptures, as John Wesley used to say, is a "means of grace," a physical object (like the bread and wine of the Lord's supper) that God has chosen to use to connect you to him. And then anything can happen.

Modern people aren't supposed to think that way. We can explain all that miraculous stuff away with our current understandings, can't we? There's no need to go there, surely.

But as C. S. Lewis wrote, if you are a member of the Christian movement, "Like it or not, you belong to a supernatural religion."

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