Speaking Without Seeing

27 02 2014

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. Jeremiah 1:11

“Learn that simple lesson well, O you who try to speak for God! You must be seers before you can be speakers.” Charles Spurgeon

It’s the first rule of communication: know what you want to say before you start saying it.  Few things are more frustrating than trying to listen to someone who is trampling on this rule…their mouth is moving and the words are flowing and they have no idea where they are trying to go.  That, I believe, is where the prophets of the ancient days set themselves apart.  They were called “seers”…because they could see what was unseen by all the rest of us.  It was not so much a gift of SPEAKING, as much as it was a gift of SEEING and then simply speaking the truth about what they saw.  That calling was made so very clear in Jeremiah’s case.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I do not study scripture in the original Hebrew. But Charles Spurgeon did. And he notes that the Hebrew word for “almond” actually comes from a root word that means “awake” or, more specifically, “wakeful”.  That is because the almond tree started to blossom very early in the Spring (even late Winter), while all the other trees were still sleeping.  So, in the Hebrew language, this tree was known as the “wakeful tree”.

The imagery would have been clear to Jeremiah.  His assignment was to see, first and foremost. If Jeremiah will remain wakeful to see, God will remain wakeful to perform His word just as Jeremiah sees it. God’s assignment came with a promise. It always does, doesn’t it?

And isn’t that the church’s assignment as well? Are we not called by God (even set apart) to see the world through the lens of His Word, and then to speak in love about what we see?  Doesn’t the church have that responsibility to see and understand God’s Word and God’s ways and then to speak those truths as a God-honoring interpretation of what is going on in the world around us?

Our ability to speak the truth…our credibility as stewards of that truth…all depends upon our wakeful watching and seeing.  It means seeing God’s Word, seeing what God is doing in the world in which we live, and understanding the unseen world around us as well. It means being genuinely guided by the Spirit of God to see what we otherwise would not have seen and to understand otherwise incomprehensible truths.

Pondering this responsibility, I suppose I am feeling a little panicked.  It just seems to me that, over the centuries and perhaps much more so in my lifetime, the church has been caught a little too often speaking without seeing…sometimes it is not all that clear just how “wakeful” we are being.  Just spend a little time perusing your social media streams today and ask yourself whether “the church” is really seeing or not.  And then join me in praying for forgiveness for when we speak before we see.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




“Look at us!”

24 09 2013

Tuesday Re-mix –

Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Acts 3:4-5

The short, two-block walk in downtown San Antonio from my parking garage to my office usually crosses paths with at least a dozen or so people who are either homeless or at least very “down on their luck”.  There was a time a few years ago when God brought me under conviction for my then-habit of crossing the street before I had to face them and their requests for money.  I am pleased to say I do not do that anymore.  I actually know several of the regulars by name now: Sal, Jorge, little Joseph, Becky, and one who just calls himself “Soldier”.  While I am pleased to know these few names, God is not finished with me yet.  The next lesson is about the eye contact…or lack thereof.  I know God is leaning on me to be a better friend to these often-troubled souls, and in order to do that, I really am going to have to be better about making eye contact with them!

That is the real issue, isn’t it?  We don’t want to see them, and we don’t want them to see us.  And it is not just the homeless…it is anyone whose needs just seem overwhelming to us.  We do not want them to see us as a possible source of help, because we do not believe we really have something that will help them.  If you walked into a hospital ward full of sick people and you were carrying the one vaccine which you knew would cure them, you would look them all right in the eyes and tell them to line up and get ready to be healed!  But when the needs seem to us to be more than we are capable of meeting, our eyes immediately turn away and we walk on, hoping they will not look at us.  We don our imaginary cloak of invisibility and pretend not to notice them.

You know what that means, don’t you?  It means our faith is small…too small!  It means we do not believe the God we serve is big enough to be of any value to them.  Moreover, even if I do have a strong faith in God, I would much rather just introduce them to God, leave them with Him and walk away, so I do not have to actually be a friend…that, after all, would be asking too much.

When I read Acts 3:1-10, I am struck by Peter’s boldly dispelling this notion of invisibility.  He not only makes himself visible, he refuses to be ignored!  “Look at us!” he says.  See us, and we will see you.  That, it seems to me, is the first act of love toward a person in pain…really seeing them and letting them really see you.

In terms of becoming a missional church, maybe that is a starting point for a lot of us.  Maybe when we each start making this decision in our own lives (to really see the hurting people around us and invite them to see us), the church at large will follow suit.  Then, we will do a better job of saying to the hurting people in our community, “look at us…and we will see you too.”  Maybe that is what love looks like.

I have so much to learn!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com