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GEOFFSHATTOCKweekly

The Ultimate Preparer

Feb
14
2010

Issue 375

Lessons From A Man Whose Whole Life Was About Preparation

This piece is written based on an assumption that you would like to experience the restorative, reconstructing, rescuing activity of God expressed in your life and work, so that you can see it, as can others. To put it more simply, you would like to look like a Christian, and you would like your work to look Christian, not just externally but when you observe the inside of yourself as well.

Of course this is dangerous ground; what does a Christian look like? Over the centuries there have been endless controversies and there still are: does a Christian look clean shaven or bearded, wealthy or poor, black or white, male or female, foreign or local? does a Christian drink, smoke, vote this way or that?

Even more puzzling is what you should see when you look inside; do you see joy or struggle, certainty or doubt, consistency or hypocrisy? does a Christian eat meat or become a vegetarian?

Let me invite you to consider someone who ate locusts and wild honey, dressed in camel’s hair and a leather belt, and whose post code (or zip code) was in a desert.

John the Baptist is the archetypal preparer; if you want to know about preparation, this was his entire life’s calling. Luke, the doctor, gives you a job description or mission statement for John which forms a blueprint for preparation. Here it is:

3b “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.'”
Luke 3:3b-6

The specific goal, as described, is seeing the rescuing work of God, while  the top level vision or mission is to prepare the way and make straight paths. Let us focus this week on the tactics, of which there seem to be four: filling in valleys; flattening mountains; straightening crooked roads and smoothing out the rough.

Now I am assuming that John was not in the business of construction or road building, so here we have a symbolic description of preparing your life for the Lord to walk in. The genius of symbolism is that it gives you freedom to explore multiple meanings and discover rich varieties of truth. I would suggest that one way to look at this preparation is to focus on the preparation of the heart; what kind of heart facilitates the arrival and expression of God’s rescue? Four aspects may help:

‘Valley’ speaks of depth and of the shadow (the ‘valley of shadow’, for example); it suggests aspects of ourselves of which we are not fully aware; these will include good and bad, beautiful and ugly parts of your deep soul. The image here seems to imply that the valley should be filled in – but with what? I would suggest filled in with an awareness of its depth. It is those who pretend that they have no sin who are self-deceived, and those who pretend that they have no genius who are self-deprecating. Go to work pretending you are perfect and you will fail; go to work pretending you are useless and you will lose. The self-aware heart prepares the way for the rescuer to deal with sin and release the genius.

‘Mountain’ speaks of obstacles, objections, barriers, resistance; it symbolises the proud heart that is too high and mighty to be open to the admission of need; the flattening of such attitudes creates the path of humility. The proud heart at
work is over-inflated, arrogant, and unable to seek help; it carries objections to the spiritual, refuses to worship, and will fall.

‘Crooked roads’ speak of immorality and deviousness; the devious heart is dishonest and manipulative; the imagery is of the corrupt dealer in lies and half truths; take that heart to work and it creates an Enron, Ponzi or expenses scandal. Going straight is not about becoming pure but seeking a better way and welcoming the integrity that the Lord infuses.

‘Rough’ speaks of insensitivity, bullying, abrasive tactics and not seeing the value of others, their rights or their individuality; riding rough shod over the lives of others blinds the rider to his or her own needs. Suffering often knocks the rough edges off such a person and accidentally lays a path for the Saviour to tread.

Notice that it is God whot brings the salvation. It is the Lord who walks in and, in one sense, you can have no control over that. What you can control is the preparation process; otherwise you would not be invited to do it.

It wasn’t easy for John the Baptist; he had to decrease to the point of laying down his life, but he prepared a way which stretches all the way to this generation. Good preparers always influence way beyond their life spans.

I will now attempt to prepare for next week’s WORKTALKweekly amongst other things.

BIBLE SECTION

Luke 3:4-6

4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.'”
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

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Geoff Shattock

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