Eugene Peterson, tells the story of Charity, a 5 year old, who went to visit her grandmother. The morning after she arrived she said, “Grandmother, let’s not have any god-talk while you are here, OK? Let’s just keep it real.” Wow! Wisdom from the mouths of babes! (The Pastor, a Memoir) Peterson observes, “She was onto the fact that life leaks out of what we say… teach and pray- especially when we are using the sterile life-less language that objectifies words like God, Jesus, prayer, believe – we are left with nothing but god-talk.”
Listen to the conversations that flow around you. Talk is cheap, devalued by inflation of words. Politicians call it ‘spin.’ The less reverent simply call it bovine excrement. (You know what I mean!) We must NEVER allow our conversation about the things of the Lord or even about God Himself to descend to that level. “God-talk” keeps real life at arm’s length. Some insulate themselves from dealing with the issues of life with endless Bible quotations and miracle stories they hear preachers tell. Let’s talk about Jesus, in real terms, as we find His love and life in our daily journey.
Jesus is just as much Lord of our broken, doubtful, insecure, neurotic, temptation-filled days as He is of the days when we are living on the “hallelujah side” of life. He is offended when we speak dishonestly, claiming to know what is yet far beyond our grasp! Why do we fear those words, “I don’t know” or “I’m just not sure” or even “I am afraid”? I feel so sad, sometimes even angry, when I hear somebody who is depressed or anxious desperately trying to out-talk their circumstances with a ceaseless flow of empty speech, repeating words like a mantra: “I just know God has a real purpose in this and I’m so excited to see how it all works out.” The truth will allow them to weep real tears, wrestle with real doubt, and discover real comfort in the Holy Spirit.
Job knew God deeply. The Lord Himself pointed to Job as a man who was “blameless, a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” (Job 1:1, NLT) Then, God allowed Satan to sweep everything the man held dear away! Did Job serenely endure it all while singing a Psalm to hide his grief? No! He wept, he grieved, he prayed… and eventually he came to the point that he cursed the day he was born. All the while his self-righteous ‘comforters’ – men who were great at god-talk that explained it all – kept telling him that it must be his fault, that he should just admit his sinfulness that brought the tragedies into his life. But, Job never stopped praying! His prayer, however, was not pretty, positive, and pulpit ready! He said, “Curse that day for failing to shut my mother’s womb, for letting me be born to see all this trouble. “Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?” (Job 3:10-11, NLT) Can you imagine hearing your Christian friend pray that way? Would such honesty open your heart with love or cause you to recoil in disgust? What I admire is that he did not give up on God, that he knew Him so well that he would be completely authentic. And, he did find comfort.
Jeremiah, God’s spokesman to ancient Judah, had a tough ministry. God told him to go and proclaim His impending judgment. Nobody wanted to hear the truth. “Death, murder, rape are going to befall you who ignore the living God,” he cried in loud voice!” His sermons rubbed sores onto the national conscience. Did he love his ministry? You be the judge after reading this lament. “When I speak, the words burst out. “Violence and destruction!” I shout. So these messages from the Lord have made me a household joke.” (Jeremiah 20:8, NLT) I admire his faithfulness to the truth, don’t you?
Job’s prayers and Jeremiah’s sermons are shocking. Many modern Christians might even reject them as faithless. They are amazing indications of the intimacy these men enjoyed with God. They engaged with Him in authentic conversation, their prayers so much more than mere god-talk. As a result they discovered His Presence in the middle of their desperation.
Faith is not the same as the happy, sappy, pious “everything is wonderful” platitudes that are common among Christian. Faith is not saying words, it is remaining anchored in hope that rests on the Person who loves us all of the time. Real faith quietly holds onto the declaration that God is equally Lord when we are in the valley’s shadowy path or on the high bright peak of glorious triumph. Job recounted his sorrows and then declared: “Still, I know that God lives—the One who gives me back my life— and eventually he’ll take his stand on earth. And I’ll see him—even though I get skinned alive!” (Job 19:25-26, The Message) His declaration does not mask his pain and sorrow; it is wrung from him like sweet juice squeezed from a grape!
Can people have a conversation with you without having to endure god-talk that blocks real communication?
When someone begins to share their pain are you just ready to listen and slide a shoulder under the burden to help carry it;
or are you quick to distance yourself, protecting yourself with a cliché – ‘just trust the Lord’ – as you pray a quick, insincere prayer?
Here’s word from the Word! It’s real. It’s blessed. It’s pregnant with promise. Live it “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14-16, NIV) “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:24-27, NIV)
My hope is built on
Nothing less than Jesus’ blood
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
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