Those were the words of Jeremiah, recorded in chapter 20 of his great prophetic text; “…his word was in my heart, like a burning fire,” notes the King James Version. I began this entry yesterday morning early, only to be interrupted by a well meaning friend. Maybe this was not the God moment that I had first thought it to be? “I’ll let this one pass” and I went own about my day.
I take no pleasure in critiquing the church, in fact that has never been my intent. A better description would be warning the church and critiquing the culture. In fact, it would certainly bode better for me as a politician, if I simply complimented her as many more politically astute tend to do. But, maybe yesterday’s was simply an unfinished moment with God, forestalled until delivery of more context? For when I picked up the local paper this morning, the flame re-ignited.
There (see WS Journal, Wednesday, June 23, 2010, Tribune Media Services p. A.17), Cal Thomas announced the release of Eric Metaxas’ book, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” This biography, described as a must read, exposes letters from Bonhoeffer. One such letter to his brother-in-law, Rudiger Schleicher records: “One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to inquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it.”
Once again, both heart and bones seemed to burn with the message laid aside the morning before. You see, each day, I begin my journey by picking up one of my many “leather friends”, not to re-read stories now stale, if that only were the case; but rather, to inquire afresh of the revelation contained between the words on the pages of this living communiqué from the “Father of lights” (James 1:17). Tucked away for centuries are relevant messages for today’s leaders, as neither God nor man seem to change.
Whether in Bonhoeffer’s day, the earlier age of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, or today’s America, culture always reflects the values, or lack there of, in the hearts of well-meaning but innately sinful leaders. It seems most manifested when our moral compass is momentarily silenced, the institutional church being easily seduced by Mammon, quick to align politically with that same failed leadership.
This is not party talk, for it is found on both “sides of the aisle.” It’s about egotistical men and women who desire to impress and even aid others with a “wisdom” void of the true revelation found only in the pages of the Book, and then, only when men come “prepared really to inquire of it.”
Reading from Daniel yesterday morning, I was taken back by all the “god talk” among leaders. Daniel had just revealed the dream of the King after all his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, astrologers, satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all other provincial officials (the King’s “people”) had failed in their attempts.
The King had just acknowledged Daniels’ God as “the God of gods and the Lord of kings” (Dan.2:47 NIV) yet he himself was about to challenge three hand-selected and brilliant young men for their commitment to that same God. It seems they had failed to bow to an image of the King himself. This foolish official was simply reflecting a God-less culture in a god-filled country, not unlike our own.
Yet, always within that culture will be the few who have seen the works of Jehovah, experienced the miracles others scorn, and have enjoyed a true life journey with a being unlike themselves. Their journey, like the two on the road to Emmaus, has caused both their hearts and bones to burn. As they walk out their life, professing an intimate relationship with an unseen stranger, they spurn religion; even when the culture around them demands acceptance of many gods, in fact any god. That same culture ironically, works both to eliminate the need for God, while feverishly protecting the rights of all to their own gods, whether of gold like Nebuchadnezzar’s image or iconic flags, embroidered with swastikas by egomaniacal leaders like Hitler.
Is warning people of inevitable outcomes from a culture such as we are now entering worth dying for? Like Bonhoeffer, hanged from a rope, his body then thrown on a pile of nameless corpses, later to be incinerated; all that sanctioned by a church manipulated for moral covering by a sadistic Hitler?
It was worth it for Bonhoeffer, and as well, the three Hebrew children, Daniel in the Lion’s Den (his lot to be delivered) and John the Baptist, beheaded outside a damp prison cell at the request of a rogue leader possessed by the lewd dance of his niece. Could God have delivered all those who so trusted Him? Yes! Would we then have understood or even sought to understand the precious messages hidden in the pages of the text? I think not!
Revelation is the distillate of pain and suffering. This fire in the bones thing seems most necessary or good men remain silent and tyrants emerge. Some, like Hitler, even employ the church unless she is on her knees!