“I make many covenants with human beings.”

 

 

 

My wife is Jewish and I was afraid all this talk about Jesus would upset her.  But, like someone who talks too much about the very thing he wants to avoid, I asked, “Lord, did the Jews make a mistake in not being open to the new covenant announced by Jesus?”

Yes.

Oh, no, here it goes!

They became wedded to the covenant, the covenant with the people of Israel in their Messianic destiny.  That was, and remains, a valid covenant.

But it is not the only covenant.  I make many covenants with human beings.  They are all valid and have their own destiny, and work together toward a common destiny for mankind. 

The new covenant of Jesus is not as incompatible with the covenant with Israel as Jews tend to suppose.  It is compatible, but does not supersede, does not erase or nullify, the old covenant.  That is all you are prepared to understand at this point.

I wanted to nail this down.  “Does Jesus replace the covenant?”

No, he fulfills it.

That answer was consistent with the New Testament.  In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

Like an attorney driving a point home, I asked again, “Does Jesus fulfill the covenant in a way that replaces it?”

No, it remains fully valid.

But, back to my first question, “Should Jews, in Jesus’ day, have accepted him as Messiah?”

Yes.

Okay, Abigail would just have to live with that answer.  “Lord, why didn’t they accept Jesus?”

Many different reasons.  He was too radical, flouted their traditions, spoke a language they found uncomfortable, alien.  It’s not easy to believe.  It is easier to pray for a distant Messiah than to accept a present one.

I didn’t seem to be able to stop myself.  “Lord, was it a sin for Jews to reject Jesus?”

No, no more or less than all those years you did not believe.  It is a sin in a sense, but it is also much of the human condition not to believe.  People are skeptical for good reasons, having to do with their intelligence, as well as bad.

Finally, I went over the top.  “Did Jews kill Christ?”

That’s a silly question.  Did Americans—or Southerners—kill Lincoln?  Some Jews, some Gentiles were equally implicated.  That is a non-issue.

Good.  At least that issue was taken off the table.

 

“Sparks” from God An Autobiography . . .

Enjoy flash insights from God . . .

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Jerry Martin’s Daybook

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. Abigail is Jewish. When I first fell in love, I didn’t know if a sophisticated girl like her could accept a boy born in the Texas Panhandle. It turns out that, as a kid, she had gone to Quaker work camp in the North Carolina hills, and had come to love country gospel, which she listens to each morning as she does her exercises. When I learned that, I knew she was not an uppity New Yorker. Vacationing in a small town in Maine, we went to her country gospel at a local evangelical church that met in a Quonset hut. Abigail had never been to a Christian church. She kept her head down and, indeed, when the preacher got to the Rapture and how all those who not accept Christ would be left behind, she slumped lower in her seat. We made a quick retreat afterwards, but the minister’s wife did manage to shake our hands. Eating at the local diner afterwards, who came in but the wife and a gaggle of ladies from the church. Seeing us, she came over. Abigail told her she was Jewish and the minister’s wife said, with obvious sincerity, “We love Jews!” Having a Jew visit was almost an occasion for celebration. Maybe the Lord told them, as he did Paul, “stop persecuting my people!”

Read further Daybook entries – Click Here

 

“There are different pieces of the same puzzle.”

If there is one God, why are there so many religions?  Philosophers call this the Problem of the Diversity of Revelations.  But I was told,

(There is) no reason to think (the) diversity of revelations is a problem, any more than for a therapist to say different things to different clients (whose needs and situations differ).

That analogy didn’t take me very far.  The therapist, like a doctor, is giving advice depending on the needs of the client.  But God is giving different people contradictory stories about Himself, and also about how they should live.  Perhaps God’s messages had to start simple, when cultures were primitive, and became more adequate as cultures developed.

“Lord, do Your revelations progress from lower to higher?”

Yes and no.  Much of what I have to say is universal, and good for all times and places.  Some is quite specific to the individual and his or her circumstances, the actions he or she faces.  Some is developmental, on the side of the culture and also on My side.

“Why not just give everyone the whole truth?”

Your question has presuppositions—that I have given different, incompatible stories to different cultures.  This is only apparently true.  If you think them through, they are different pieces of the same puzzle.  Names shift but that is superficial.

“Even though one says ‘God’ and another (thinking of Buddhism) says ‘Nothingness’?”

No religion puts Nothingness in the place of God.  If it appears to, think again.  What is the role of each (name)?  Is one a substitute or replacement for the other?  And (think about) the meaning of each.  Are they really incompatible once you examine their properties?

“Perhaps each religion is like a single eye-witness report of some strange event such as a Martian landing.  The reports might be wildly different from one another.  The challenge would be to sort them out and put them into a single coherent account.”

Not exactly.  It’s not to blend the religions into a single synthesis or theology.  It’s to put them into one story.  (To take your analogy,) imagine a reporter who interviewed everyone who had an encounter with the Martians, starting at the first encounter, and wrote it up as a narrative.  Certain consistent themes might emerge, but this would be different from a scientist trying to adjudicate and synthesize the reports.  In your version (of the religions), there will be an additional unifying factor—Me.

“It is good, just let it happen.”

One experience, late at night, went even further.  I felt the distance or boundary between me and the world becoming narrower and narrower, and less and less distinct.  Slowly, subject and object were blending, becoming intimately bound, not standing apart from one another.  I was noting this intellectually, but it was not an intellectual experience.  It was, you might say, an ontological experience, an experience of my whole being.  Finally, for a few moments, it approached total one-ness, the complete loss of awareness of self.  At that point, I pulled back.

“Lord, what is the meaning of this kind of experience?”

There are many levels and kinds of experience with Me (including music).  Do not make too much of it.  It is good, just let it happen.  It does not mean that you are about to become a mystic or anything unworldly.  It is not unlike—it is on a continuum with—a wide range of spiritual experiences, in and out of religious practice and sensibility, that people have all the time.  But it is definitely good.  It will give you energy and peace and insight, so let it in.

Many times one “loses oneself” in an experience, but those moments are less threatening than merging with God.  I pulled back, but felt a nagging sense that I was not supposed to.

 

 

“I want you to enter My heart”

It all seemed intolerably bizarre. I thought I should talk it over with the wisest people I knew. One, a distinguished medical ethicist, responded, “First of all, this is not weird.” Nothing he could have said would have been a greater relief to me! Another, a well-known author, said, first, “That’s great—now you know there is a God,” and then added, “You have had a Kierkegaard moment,” recalling that philosopher’s question, “If you encountered Jesus on the streets of Copenhagen, would you follow him?” A prominent lay theologian said he was “touched” by my story and suggested some reading while I waited for my “big” assignment.

While there were also cautionary responses, no one seemed to think I was crazy or a fool to take the voice seriously.

Still, I was not prepared for the next experience.

I want you to enter My heart.

Enter God’s heart? This is weird, Lord, and scary, like out-of-body travel.”

I will protect you.

For moral support I asked, “Lord, first give me Your love.”

Let Abigail love you. You will feel My love through her.

“Then strengthen me, be with me, for this.”

I will.

He took my hand, as it were, and led me into the “heart of God.” I had expected it to be an overpowering, perhaps terrifying experience. But it was more like the eye of a hurricane. I was at the center of something vast and powerful, but here it was quiet, calm, and peaceful. I surveyed the things I feared—the end of my career, loss of reputation, financial insecurity, and a book that went nowhere. In that calm that is God, each concern disappeared.

“That is how revelation works.”

I was trying to be flexible, but my mind was being stretched out of shape.  Some days I would doubt the voice.  It was, after all, in my head and talked a lot like me.  But I was told,

My words are coming to you for a reason.  Do not worry that it (My voice) sounds like you.  It is bound to sound like you (and to use) your vocabulary, your concepts.  That is how revelation works.  But notice that what you are now writing is completely different from what you believed prior to prayer—so different, much of it is profoundly uncomfortable and disturbing to you.

“Well, then, it is not just my own thoughts projected through Your voice.”

As you press ahead and pray more, and read reverentially and in conversation with Me, more revelations will come to you, and you will doubt less.  Just relax, and put yourself in My hands.

But being reassured by the very voice I was doubting seemed circular.  How can you tell whether a message is really from God?  Without mentioning my personal story, I sought advice from a philosopher I knew at Calvin College.  Did he know of any writings about how to tell if an answer received in prayer is really from God.  I learned that my question had an official name, the Problem of Spiritual Discernment, and that indeed it had been addressed.  Now I would get to the bottom of it.

 

 

Illuminations

 

 

 

 

Ask yourself what I am looking for.

One day I learned more about God’s story when I asked simply, “Where should I begin today, Lord?”

Ask yourself what I am looking for.

“Love?”

Well, yes, but what is that love?

“Interaction, communication, understanding?”

YesI long to be recognized, to be understood, and then to be taken in.

I wondered why a great being like God would need to be loved by mere mortals.  “Why does that matter to You, Lord?  You’ve got it all, just being God.”

That is silly.  This is what I am.  I am like a function looking for a variable.  I am only half the equation.

I looked for a humbler analogy.  “Like cement looking for bricks to hold together?”

Okay.

“Is that connection only what You need or is it also what the world needs?”

Both, obviously.  In your analogy, the world is like the bricks that need to be held together.

“But, Lord, I sense that Your yearning is not just a factual incompleteness, like needing a pair of gloves.”

Yes, it is a deep internal dynamic that drives Me forward to do the things I do.  I unfurl the world and call forth life and send signals to people.  Listen, and feel.

“The feeling that comes to me is Your desire to call into being a corresponding being.  It seems a lot like the dialectic of self and other in Hegel.  Subjectivity desires to objectify itself, as it does in artifacts, and to subjectivize the surrounding world, as it does in interpretation, and, even higher, to encounter another subjectivity.”

I am a Person, searching for …

“That’s what I wonder, Lord.  I can’t quite imagine what You are searching for.  Just interaction?  That seems too limited and, in a sense, too easy.”

It is not just looking for company.  Perhaps speaking of loneliness is misleading.  Why does a human being look for love?  It is not just for company.  That is companionship, not love.  You want to pour yourself, your concern, your destiny into another person.  And you want them to respond in kind, to understand and recognize and sympathize with and care about you, (and) to share your life story, so that I becomes we.  And the result is not just good feelings or good times; it is ontological, it is virtually molecular.  You know that, because you have experienced it.  Imagine how puny your love is (not to belittle it, but just for comparison) compared to Mine.  What is barely ontological or molecular in your case is fully so in Mine.  The constitution of the universe is altered by My love and My being loved.  You can’t just say “God so loved the world …”  Love is a two-way street.  Anything unilateral is merely an effort at love, not its fulfillment, not its achievement.

You could tell My story, one version of it at least, through the history of love.  What has love meant and been over time?  From Abraham’s love for his wife and his son and his God, through the Ramayana and the compassionate Buddha and Jesus and Plato’s philosophy as eros toward wisdom, to Christian chivalry and Buber’s I-Thou—these are stages that reflect My development and My interaction with human beings. 

“Is This Just Entertainment?”

The historian Paul Johnson writes in his spiritual memoir about having once called the prime minister’s office and, instead of getting the secretary’s secretary, the prime minister herself answered.  “It happened to me once with a prime minister,” Johnson writes.  “But with God it happens all the time.”

I don’t know if Johnson’s experience is like mine, but from that day on, when I prayed, I almost always received a verbal response, often with quite specific guidance.  At first, it just seemed an oddity that went too much against my agnostic worldview to be taken seriously.  Once my son had classical music playing in his ear all the time.  It turned out to be an ear infection, causing buzzing signals that the brain very skillfully translated into Mozart.  Maybe my prayers were like that.

I would tell Abigail about these odd experiences.  While I am cautious in my beliefs and skeptical by temperament, she is more spiritual and less distrustful.  I had always been skeptical of paranormal reports, near death experiences, and the like, but she was not.  I assumed she put the voice I heard in that category.  I didn’t really know because, usually, she just took in what I told her and didn’t say much.  She explained to me later that she thought I was engaged in a sensitive, fragile communication and did not want to create static.  But, one day, she did speak up.  “Are you going to take the voice seriously, or is this just entertainment?”

She had put her finger on the contradiction I was living.  The voice was too real and spoke with too much authority to ignore.  Yet I could not imagine actually acting on it.  Well, actually I could and did act on it, but without quite taking it seriously.  I would be told to do this or that.  Sometimes the guidance was about some matter facing me that day, and following the guidance usually worked out well; other times I received directives that seemed quite arbitrary but, since they did no harm, I would follow them.  For example, one morning, Abigail and I had just sat down to breakfast when I was told,

Don’t eat.

So I just sat there for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, until I was told I could eat now.  I always did as I was told, but it was still more like a game of Captain-may-I than a life imperative.  I was not ready to answer Abigail’s question.

 

“It will be My voice.”

 

So that is what the new Elijah, the new messenger, is about.  But telling the world that I am the new Elijah?  “Lord, I am back to the laughing stock problem.”

As I tell it to you, it will become clearer what you should write publicly.  There is no point in writing something that will be dismissed.  You will need to continue reading and studying—otherwise, you will not have adequate words and concepts.  There is a reason I chose an educated man for this task.

My message is evolving over time.  You will carry it forward.  Do not credit this to your ego—it will be My voice.  (Just) focus on the task.  The world’s religions have spent themselves.  They need renewal.  There will be many voices for renewal.  Yours will be one of the most important.

“I would feel more comfortable being one of the less important.”