Thursday, June 06, 2013

Valedictorian tears up speech, recites Lord's Prayer instead

Roy Costner IV wrote a speech for his graduation, submitted it to the school for approval and was prepared to read it to the crowd at this week's Commencement ceremony.  But the South Carolina valedictorian stunned everyone when he tore up his prepared words and recited the Lord's Prayer instead.  "I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age," he said before starting the prayer, his words quickly drowned out by the crowd's cheers.  Costner was reportedly protesting the of the Pickens County School District’s decision not to include prayers at this year's graduation ceremonies, after they had received complaints from several atheist groups.  A district spokesman said Costner wouldn't face disciplinary action.  "We’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faith," he said.

Several YouTube videos of the event have gone viral:

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Release of the Spirit

I was led recently to rediscover a book I last read when I was in college:  Watchman Nee’s The Release of the Spirit.  Nee wrote this book after a long period of silence that followed a time when he had been terriblly mistreated by fellow Christians.  Nee was someone who never defended himself against false accusations and attacks.  Like Jesus, he was silent at such times, entrusting himself to God, as 1 Peter 2:4-12 teaches.  When Nee resumed his ministry, however, he delivered a series of powerful messages on brokenness, which provided the content for the book, The Release of the Spirit.  I’m re-reading this book, almost 40 years after I first read it as a young man.

(You can order the book or read it online.)

If you want to know about God, get a PhD in systematic theology.  If you want to know God and the deep things that pertain to walking with him, then, after meditating on Scripture, I can recommend no better place to start than with Watchman Nee.  His orientation to the inner life is reminiscent of Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, or Teresa of Avila; but he seems to speak even more directly to Christians in our time.

When I first read the book, it was obviously a work of great piety; but at 18 years of age, I had less experience to which the truths in this book could pertain.  It remained somewhat theoretical to me.  Today, I am reading it with different eyes.  I am reading it as one who has tasted the message in my own experience, and its words have a whole new meaning to me.

Here’s an excerpt:
So the Treasure is in the earthen vessel, but if the earthen vessel is not broken, who can see the Treasure within?  What is the final objective of the Lord’s working in our lives?  It is to break this earthen vessel, to break our alabaster box, to crack open our shell.  The Lord longs to find a way to bless the world through those who belong to Him.
Brokenness is the way of blessing, the way of fragrance, the way of fruitfulness, but it is also a path sprinkled with blood.  Yes, there is blood from many wounds.  When we offer ourselves to the Lord to be at His service, we cannot afford to be lenient, to spare ourselves.  We must allow the Lord utterly to crack our outward man, so that He may find a way for His out working.
Each of us must find out for himself what is the mind of the Lord in his life.  It is a most lamentable fact that many do not know what is the mind or intention of the Lord for their lives.  How much they need for Him to open their eyes, to see that everything which comes into their lives can be meaningful.  The Lord has not wasted even one thing.
To understand the Lord’s purpose, is to see very clearly that He is aiming at a single objective: the breaking of the outward man.
However, too many, even before the Lord raises a hand, are already upset.  Oh, we must realize that all the experiences, troubles and trials which the Lord sends us are for our highest good.
A word about Watchman Nee, for those who may not know the name: Nee-To-Sheng of Fuzhou, China was a church leader and Christian teacher who worked in China, beginning in the 1920's.  Nee published many books expounding the Bible, including The Normal Christian Life and Sit, Walk, Stand, traveled throughout China establishing churches, and held many conferences and trainings for Bible students and his fellow workers.  Following the Communist Revolution, Nee was severely persecuted for his faith and spent the last 20 years of his life in prison.  Nee was honored by Christianity Today magazine as one of "The 100 Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century."