The offspring of virtue is perseverance. The fruit and offspring of perseverance is habit and child of habit is character.- John Climacus
It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. . . If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.- A W Tozer
If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we’d live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all . . . why then perhaps we must stand fast a little-even at the risk of being heroes.- the character of Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons.
They Have Afflicted Me from My Youth
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—
let Israel now say—
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.”
The Lord is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward!
Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up,
with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
nor do those who pass by say,
“The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the Lord!”
It is one thing to have the discipline to hold on when its hard, but it is quite another thing to keep on holding on when things stay hard. A friend of mine put it well: “Life is difficult.” Perseverance is simply discipline maintained over a duration. The great duration we’re in now is a threshold place and period marked by swordplay set East of Eden:
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
Sword play continues to mark humanity deeply throughout the biblical histories. Swords are mentioned over 400 times in the writings while angels are only mentioned about 280 times. There’s a bigger something to that, but today we’re trudging to a person. And we should be “under the knife” of a certain person if we are to stand the risk of being heroes in Jesus’ eyes:
(Heroes) who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
And this person is in complete accord with the one who will mark the end of everyone’s experience within assigned limns of this present world, by the sword:
In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength… And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
So, unless you want to become bird food as I once feared, it is best for all involved to willingly accept a little edginess, to be shaped, even afflicted, by God in a kinder and softer way, as a child of His habits, over a long period of time to manifest the fruits of a holy character.
If I had just one word to sum up Balian’s character in The Kingdom of Heaven, it would be perseverance. He certainly didn’t want for sword play either. More importantly, the would be royal only took up the sword as a last resort against flesh. Imposters do the opposite, they use the great Sword to destroy entire peoples as a first move. Really it’s their only move and ultimately they’ll be cut down by it. So, they’re the real eternal losers. In victorious character, Balian’s perseverance led him to a thirst for God’s will not personal glory, wealth, or status. He could’ve “had it all.” But instead, with Christ-like habits (save one, to prove his humanity), our could be royal didn’t grasp at “all that” in order to help guide a people to salvation. They were a motely crew who had been led to the edge of slaughter by corrupt and foul leadership, all in God’s name. Again, those leaders are the real enemy. They’re simply petty tyrants, bitter manifestations of fear and hate, despite all that God gave them. But don’t fear those who’ll burn for their own designs with their gods. Fear God.
Oh wait you say? “Balian was just a coward!” Well, okay smoke show… Fortunately, we have the whole movie, not just act III. From the beginning, act I, he was betrayed by the brokenness of his family, a situation most never chose to recover from with earnestness. The religious elites lied to him, lied about him, and murdered his bride in worldly pursuits for their own glory… [Do you smell charred, eternal bar-b-q too?]. Certainly, in act II he discovered the lies of “the powers that be” over him were not just local but global, not just temporal but eternal, and not only unworthy but damnable.
So many battles and offences that anyone would understand if he had quit in the act I, like Hamlet, who is the quintessential gentile ruler. Balian was gloomy like that Dane, at times. But cheese and crackers people, who among us can claim anything like that kind of experience? If you’re meant to help save that many people (and you might be), then Jesus is all right with you being a sour-puss at times… it proves commitment and circumspection. The Christ Jesus himself became glum on occasion. God uses feelings to temper us, as we learn to temper them. The deepest cut to overcome was, like Jesus, Balian found more nobility in his “enemies” than he could in most of his “friends.” And that alone is enough to make any one weep all day over the people who were called to be different.
Even at that point, don’t stay in despair too long, because God doesn’t waste a single crisis. He’s always there in the fire. He’s using it, if we keep holding on and letting go. And the harder and longer we stay at it, then He uses it in ever mightier ways. We just have to find him and stay close. Instead, imposters and gravy-trainers turn, and return, to worldly powers like dogs to vomit. Let them go, and strive to honor your real Father, the King, and the One who created you. Balian struggled to do that in act II, and look how he finished in act III by honoring and obeying, albeit imperfectly, his father’s code.
Then there was Paul. Did he persevere? Yes. Did he gripe and moan? Like nobody’s business. In aside just between us, several learned rabbis I studied with commented directly to me that if ever there was a proto-type for the unfair and hateful “Jewish mother” stereotype, it would be Saul. So I honor him in mention, but land upon a quieter co-worker, who actually became great by staying small and holding the rope when Paul dropped it like a drama-king. It was in and by, not despite, the challenge of failed leadership that God used a renowned apostle’s short-comings to draw out, shape, and harden a hero like Balian or Jesus.
Our hero by, not in spite of, Paul’s weaknesses is Barnabas. If you read the Second Witness superficially, then he’s a background figure at best. But if we look at the character of the man, in the rare textual glimpses, then his shyness, short-screen time, or lack of prominence in the writings actually amplify his honor in God’s eyes. Remember the greatest saints are those whose names are only known above, not ever down here. Jesus articulates that principle with vehemence, repeatedly to his disciples. Barnabas was most effective in relative obscurity, his contentedness playing second fiddle delighted God, in the quiet place that matters most to God and ought be likewise for us.
The “son of encouragement” only appears briefly at spots, but when he does, he’s depicted in ways we’d all hope to be illustrated. He hadn’t met Jesus in the flesh, still, in his emergence, he sells land and gives the money to the apostles to hand over to those in need. When’s the last time you saw a “great man of God” sell just one of their estates and give the proceeds it to the poor? Next, he’s promoting Paul, despite his murderous history with the People of The Way. As a good and faithful man in the Spirit, Barnabas spends a long time taking a backseat to “the star of Acts,” and he shines a greater light with other-centeredness through his caring for fledgling assemblies.
Then they hit the road. And the road is where you really get to know people. I imagine whichever flaws in Paul God used to shape Barnabas, they really came in handy when he first encountered persecution. That social molestation, in turn, prepared him to confront a great strain in the early days of the Messiah’s people, the issue of circumcision both in Antioch and Jerusalem. No doubt, the wear and tear of the internecine fracas, softened, not hardened, because next Barnabas takes up the slack when the apostle to the gentiles bounced John Mark for his refusal to hold on, once in the past. So too, we known he didn’t encourage others, even superiors, in their wrongness, but instead he redirected them with the silent and right witness of action. Paul quit a few times, but we never hear of Barnabas quitting on him or anyone. We’re told the opposite.
I cannot wait to get the time and occasion to hear what all happened with he and the probable writer of my favorite Gospel, as Silas and Paul hogged the rest of Luke’s print. Who else was solely a human mentor to a gospel author? What an amazing honor! Barnabas held the line while others faltered; he supported those who no one else would. He was a Jew among gentiles, but always he’s presented with arms open to all. He made all the hard choices, putting God’s call before security, relative wealth, and friendships. I want to know the rest of that story, from the greatest apostle presented by Luke. I have a deposit of his spirit and I’m willing to sacrifice for the rest. I hold this opinion to be true because the Master himself says to be great you must serve.
My Help and My Deliverer
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!
The Person for Holding on… and Letting Go
He is real and it is all true, just not the way we want it to be… thank God. Tozer’s resolution for the liminal space in which we find God and still pursue Him, in a paradoxical existence, comes in the anonymous person mentioned above. To say that Western Christians have a complicated relationship with our Paraclete is an understatement, and for some of the worst it is an overstatement. Understatement because it was those doctors who threw off the necessary trials of sanctification and focused on more earthly delights, even in the most hypocritically austere ways. At day’s end they ignored, actually turned from the Holy Spirit. And the worst of them, they simply banished Him. They said He was no longer at work, because they replaced Him! Oh yeah, the stacks are littered with their self-centered words and vain babelings. So to say they have any type of relationship with Him is an overstatement.
Reverend Tozer has an excellent series of sermons concerning the third person of the Trinity. We toyed with the idea of presenting all of them weekly, but it wouldn’t be fair to do demand that kind of effort at the end of just the first year. Again, I wouldn’t say we’d argee on everything, the times have changed substantially. However, I would point you at least to the first wherein he makes my address of the issue pale by comparison. In a nutshell, the best of the known Evangelicals blames the death of the Holy Spirit on Evangelicals at the beginning of the 20th century in the U.S. of A. I never heard that issue addressed by another, save one, who shared a great message at the close of the 20th century (1998) on “Cousin Itt.” It rocked.
By that character in the Adams Family we mean the Holy Spirit. Ignored, unknown, and often left out by many of “the best” assemblies, it is questionable as to whether they can find him now or ever. It would probably cost them too much by their estimation, since they got things so well in hand. Oh, ‘they know that they know that they know.’ In truth, when it comes to matters of the misunderstood Person in our Trinity, they don’t know the Spirit from skubalon. Jesus says that’s a terminal issue. Even at the first Pentecost, untrained observers reckoned the Spirit quickly made the people drunk and disorderly. And if God completely took over those same leaders would be out of work. Can you imagine what God’s Power would do to their order of all things, which is their treasured social agendas for their desired political economy and news-entertainment industries? “Perish the thought, and proclaim the Holy Spirit has ceased to work because we have our church now!” Those folks make judgment very simple, in a bad way.
“That’s it this author has lost his mind, I am tired of being offended by this ridiculous nothing of a blogger. No more!” Well sir, good and thank you, buh-bye now. I haven’t lost my mind but it certainly ain’t what it used to be, and it ain’t close to what it will ultimately be. I handed it over to God for exhaustive and extensive renovations, and like Barnabas we prefer working in relative anonymity. As for being hateful, My Lord declared it much more angrily and indefatigable finality:
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Oh I know, all kinds of folks manipulate that declaration for all kinds of things and reasons, and honestly that’s much better than pretending it is no longer in effect. Simply put, no matter what, if you do not accept the Holy Spirit transforming you, then at day’s end Jesus won’t see himself in you. Tozer speaks of it in terms of Godly grace, ‘a grace that doesn’t change you will not save you.’
Let’s leave all that scary doom and gloom behind, and I’ll try not to repeat most of the few things that we hear about the Spirit almost exclusively in this season. In that spirit of newness, please allow me to introduce the concept of enjambment:
Something unexpected? Some *new ground*? Yes, please and thank you! What’s more, you need to get used to the idea of being poetry, or you’ll have problems with the writer of Ephesians… not to mention the rest of the Bible at depth. You don’t want a full stop in your story. From the beginning I encouraged you to embrace the reality that death, the ultimate end stop for too many, is no longer our master. So, please start living eternity today. That’s how the Kingdom comes, literally. If you’re living by Kingdom rules and guided by the Holy Spirit here, then dropping your corruptible threads for Jesus’ heavy suit will hardly be noticeable. In fact, you’re going to love it!
“East of Eden,” or within the liminal bounds of we spirits who are incarcerated, for the most part on the world’s plain, there is always rumor and incompleteness that creates anxiety in our consciousness. I mean for heaven’s sake, we mostly communicate by babbeling… Its a miracle anyone ever makes any actual progress through the fog of misunderstood menaings. Faith enables us to focus on the unseen and unspoken, not the seen and said. Think about it: at root, we are spirits with our souls bound to flesh nodes for a few minutes. In that time our flesh demands our soul’s attention on the visible and materially static, yet spirit is screaming out for our soul to look above and beyond. Our flesh demands comfort and sameness, yet our spirit yearns to change and rise in a Dynamic way. That’s the etiology of tensions within our threshold stage: it’s ‘being in the world but not of it.’
The world offers many pleasurable ways to resolve that stretchy soul ache. And they work for a time, but ultimately they all turn on us and start destroying us. If we aren’t rising to God we’re falling, still falling. Some use substances like drugs or money, others use people themselves even seeking fame in politics and elsewhere, while still others enlighten themselves with philosophies or even theologies… egad! Some of these help or even heal us, at times, but if we turn to any of them in dependency (read idolatry), then they lead us to an end stop. That’s why Jesus tells and calls us to accept his Spirit and be created a second time, in His image. It is necessary during our life because as the poet cried, we are born in sin and conceived in inequity. So at some point in our life we must, at least, start to repent from sin and live a life of ever-increasing equity, even with our enemies.
In a process of enjambment our beloved cousin Itt, transmutes our pain into Spiritual growth. The only one who can stunt that growth is ourselves or other entities that we willingly rent space to in our heads. Parents or a lack of parenting are usually the first renters, for better or worse. Some of the buttons and issues they bequeath us may take more than a lifetime to let go and fully exorcise in sustained adjuration. Conversely, if we hang on to their healthy lessons and virtues that shaped us, then we live a much richer life. The same goes for a plethora of folks, who in one way or another impress us. Remember, we aren’t responsible for what they did or do. We are responsible to hand whatever we’re given in the world to the Holy Spirit and let him return it to us, as the Son and Father hand their basilica of all things back and forth. This is God’s way to restore all things. I don’t know why theosis seems to be such a mystery to so many people who talk about God so often. I do know you cannot crucify a spirit, but oh how many do try.
Sometimes the process takes great strides and at other times the Spirit just whispers in our ear. There is only one criteria for judgment: don’t quit, don’t reject what the Spirit is doing, no matter what your opinion of Jesus is… those are his words, not mine, as cited above. Now don’t get me wrong, no one is perfect or fully mature Spiritually. In fact among my own people, I have seen two folks with decades of Spiritual growth and emotional sobriety have a literal fist-fight about who had more serenity. My friend told them that if that is what they have, then they should take their asses to church and stay there. It was funny, really, really funny, for several reasons but not for either of the participants.
So it is the Holy Spirit, not our friends, our fists, or even our asses who we should trust in this threshold process because only He was here before all things came into being and will be forever with us, for God’s restoration of His order in everything. He encourages us, strides with us with greater speed and energy, to act in sometimes tense or curious ways to draw ourselves and others out of a static world with all its confusion and anxiety to a place of greater peace and a life that neither all the money in the world nor any legislation could ever build. Avoid those dark towers, because your eternal life depends on it. Moreover, we are called to follow Jesus, the Spirit ain’t changing God’s prime directive no matter who says what in any place or by any number. Following Jesus means we sacrifice for others to fulfill our Father’s commands. Remember, the Spirit is with us in all that faith-stretching and bodily suffering, so that we might come to maturity by those pangs, not in spite of them. In the end, Jesus deserves to delight in a full-grown bride.
Call me mister revision. I more than anyone I’ve met has lived either enamored to God’s call or made every effort to blind and deafen myself to it. Mother Theresa lamented in the final years she spent in her mortal coil that she no longer heard from God. For much of my life that sounded like a vacation, so I never considered myself holy. No matter what I said or believed about Jesus, I was nothing like her. It even looks hateful on the page, but let me put it to you this way. If God showed you things while you had been sober for years that made an acid trip feel like a sugar cookie only to make you stare at the true wickedness of things, while “holy people” cheered… Then you might have a glimmer of insight as to why I desired what an almost perfect human feared.
It’s all so messed up for so many reasons. 2011-2018 was the most time I was given by God to accept Him at my own pace. Since then, at His pleasure, in a Spiritual Détente of sorts, for the umpteenth time, He’s handed me an entirely new peace that I am still learning. Point is this Enjambment never seems to end, so perseverance simply comes by way of my acceptance. The only pretense I might have for knowing any quality like perseverance is a simple desire to see the great things that He’s disclosed to me come to pass in the land of the living…. That and an occasional animal desire to survive on some odd occasions. I can see the virtue in others but not myself. On the rare occasions when others attributed that quality to my face, I was often feeling like God was revising me. It isn’t comfortable. I’m naturally averse to personal revision but it is a Spiritual requirement for every one. I am a natural born rebel, so steadfastness came hard to me.
As a teen, I had the mental chops and emotional desire to attend the Air Force Academy to become an aerospace engineer and fighter pilot. I made two visits and passed the cognitive military tests with flying colors. By age 16 I had secured the necessary references and my childish vision for my life seemed to be well on its way to being realized. Next, I would become a test pilot, and finally, with strings in place, I’d get a shot at becoming an astronaut.
Well, a funny thing happened on my way to the Academy. At 17 my GP informed me that I had an irreparable, congenital heart murmur. I’d be fine and could live normally, but it would keep me out of jets. The military still wanted me. Within a week of withdrawing my application all three other service branches had contacted me. The Marines even bought me a really nice dinner. I love the marines, “Semper Fidelis!” To their credit, they stayed at it until I accepted a scholarship elsewhere. But I got angry, back then, because every time those good folks tried to make me a wonderful offer I had to re-suffer the loss of a dream I had since I was three.
Revision made, I went to a state school closer to home. I was gifted and paid to be involved with the development of something that would change life on the planet for the better and greatly increase our knowledge of the cosmos. Here’s a public facing, watered-down necropsy of the project: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-supercollider-that-never-was/. Following retooling, I became very enthusiastic about the theoretical study of light and time. I was then told, after only one semester, that my section had been canceled. I was “invited” to convert to applied sciences where the money had been reallocated. They wanted me to build rail-beam guns. The useful and important work was abandoned for imperial military pipe dreams. Any first year student could’ve explained why it was never going to happen, not in that century nor probably the next.
Next revision, I returned home and went to work in the family business. My grandfather was thrilled and my father was happy we could fish together more, but he knew that my heart was re-broken, so he loved me through it. The work was easy and paid well; I was never going to miss a meal. But my brain needed exercise so I went to a local community college. From the lawns of Fermi Labs to the commissary at Alvin Community College… at first I was understandably down cast. But over the next 18 months God did an amazing thing, he showed me that the best teachers aren’t indecipherable know-it-alls, but instead they were kind, humble, and patient. Also, not becoming a theoretical physicist at that time saved me from the heartache of a collapsing field, as within a few years the fall of the wall flooded the world market with more acomplished scholars.
That simple revelation led me to completely recast my vision for my future. It wasn’t going to happen where I had been headed… not ever. And I had no idea of the academic and career trials ahead. Also, perhaps more importantly, it revealed my mother’s long-suffering for my childhood dreams. It was the beginning of the end of the last great imperial oil wars, 1991. I came home from Alvin and I heard my mother wailing, not crying but shaking the house audibly. I ran in there for a hug or a fight. On the TV were images of the first pilots shot down and tortured by the Iraqi Army. I screamed it’s okay, we’ll get them back home (and we did). But she couldn’t stop wailing. Finally, when she could begin to talk, she barely got it out: “I am just so grateful! That could have been you!” Well, heck, talk about unwelcome, next-level insight. I was still so selfish all I could think was, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to love anyone like that.”
Famous last words again, because over the decade that followed I travelled all over the world to learn how to help the most vulnerable and forgotten, not oppressed necessarily but just flat-out ignored and left to die peoples. I cannot tell you how many graves I dug or how many wailing sessions I had. Is it wrong to grieve people you barely knew more than those you do? It must be at some level, but God got what He wanted in me. In that period of stretching, God made my diagnostically broken heart more pliable in so many ways. And plans? I never knew from one year to the next where I’d be flying back home from come September. I wound up at UTMB to do a PhD in international family health to serve those who most just call collateral damage in the wars men make and the plagues that Satan’s servants bring into the world while blaspheming the name of the Most High. I was set, locked and loaded. I knew where I would be and what I would do the rest of my silly life.
Not… Yup, you guessed it. Light to dark, over the next few years through personal losses beyond my control, a cascade of noble causes, and following Jesus ever-more closely I wound up in a place few know. Everyone knows about pits, burning trash valleys, and hell. But did you know there’s a place that’s worse? There is, but that’s another whole year of posts. So, let’s just metaphor-ize it the way the sage does in the story of Job. I was under a dung heap with open wounds hoping to die. In short, I was done with all personal, social, and cultural expectations. And that dear reader is exactly where God wanted me again. I strongly suggest seeking an easier path by way of Godly obedience.
That time, without any of my own ideas in the way, God did what He’s predictably famous for: He lifted me up, showed me great and terrible things, all just to send me on His merry way. His way, because it wasn’t merry for me, but it was better than where I had just been. It was really weird, so I turned pro, leaned into Him, and didn’t look back. I wondered as a child what it was like for Mr. Yeager to kick down the door of the sound barrier. Penny-ante childish dreams sister, the Spirit blew out the wall to the cosmos for me. But who was I? I had always tried to want the right things, set personal healthy goals, which were beneficial and needed by others. I did my best to conform and exercised conventional desires. But in the Kingdom, I do not get to decide what I need in “my world,” once God has literally pulled me out of it. I cannot go back, once we’re a pickle we can’t be a cucumber ever again… c’est la vie to the yellow brick road paved and maintained by the servants of alien gods. I was terminally God’s, and I had been given eternal vision, which only recently began to come into focus. I was patient about it only because I was the happiest I’d ever been in my life so I didn’t want to change much again, not because I am some spiritual giant.
As my last romatic vision of things dissolved, there were many strange and curious events, and more than a few witnesses at different points. I never made much of them because, by then, I feared if I did, then something far more weird or terrifying would happen. And I wasn’t in a rush. In fact, I became so mundane as to doubt any of it had ever occurred. Then I went to get a clinical stress test as part of my bodily recovery, and God proved His work in me to a couple of kind agnostic doctors. How can I doubt if God used the “miraculous” condition of my flesh to inspire a pair of professional doubters?
So, this is where we land today. To hear tell by monks and prophets, perseverance sounds like a learned and enjoyed virtue. For me it is not. It is like a coronary stress test. Ever had one? Avoid it if you can. They put me on a tread mill and said “run.” So, I did my best Gump impression, again, for the latent observation of specialists. There were many machines hooked-up to me with multiple displays. So I looked at the displays, thinking once I hit a magic number, then they’d say stop. Nope. I learned at a full sprint that they were just waiting for me to drop. The bastards! They hadn’t told me because that might impair my effort. I was supposed to try and run myself to death and they’d be there to catch me. That’s my illustration for God “gifting” me with perseverance. He cheers me on to complete exhaustion.
I don’t remember the finally tally, and I did quit before I passed out, so no effort was required by my spotters. The point is they claimed my heart was in perfect condition. I had told them I had a heart murmur from birth. They said, “No, you didn’t.” I had such a pecker-pulling with them that they immediately gave me an echo-cardiogram. No, I didn’t! You talk about pissed, I called my childhood GP and gave him what for. He immediately sent tests, records, and notes to my cardiologist. Their tune changed, “Well, you did… (Enjambment)… now you don’t.” My former GP invited me in for a free checkup just so he hear and see for himself. Both doctors agreed that I had had an irreversible heart condition, which, apparently reversed. And believe you me I did everything humanly possible the previous few years to die as pleasurably as possible. I did my body no favors. But despite the world’s and my own worst efforts, God literally revised my heart, and bragged about it to skeptics, straight in their faces. More importantly, He had revised all my good hopes and dreams. Apparently, all I needed do was survive and accept His changes.
Now, there are many lessons one might draw from this vignette, God’s architecture of that whole scene. Please feel free, mine aren’t written in stone. And until I meet someone who can poop marble, I ain’t trusting anyone else’s take too much. I only ask that no one believe that I am suggesting the way to fix an inoperable heart condition is through wretched physical self-abuse. So much for authorial attempts to shape reader-response. All I know is that there are facts, and the strongest facts will change the minds of honest doubters, even if it never changes their feelings. Further, I know that most often the most effective witness I can give is simply being present and willing to work with others in any salutary effort, then great and wonderful things come to pass. The trick is to learn and remember what God thinks is great and wonderful.
I can’t say that I am as saintly as Barnabas, because it took much longer for me to accept the dissolution of my desires and promptly accept God’s changing desires for my life. I lamented in ways that would have made Paul blush. I believe God did that because He involved me in things that are difficult to locate in the previous patterns of His works. But I like to think that’s the way Barnabas felt meeting and leaving Paul: it was all new to him too. For me, I like to see a precedent, in God’s Word, for whatever it is that God is asking me to do, because I think of myself as a ‘transient shadow cast upon a brief morrow.’ I used to think I should just imitate, not innovate, because if it doesn’t make money most people will tell you to take a hike, or I might just be wrong. I was wrong, God wants to do new things in real ways. The few people who’ve known me for a long time say I’ve changed… I think I really haven’t, but I am certain that God has changed me in real and demonstrable ways. I’ve just shared one today.
One truth about Barnabas that God did realize in me, by making me realize it finally, is that I have grown Spiritually because of the failures of people that I should’ve been able to trust, not despite them. This point is numinously central, as it frees us from grievance and resentment, so we can grow and change… sometimes change everything. It liberates us from a victim mentality. Please hear me on this: It is one case for the oppressed to cry out, that is just to God, and He will receive them because they, like prophets, cry out for God’s will to be done. It is an entirely different case for the wealthy and empowered to lie about justice and pervert God’s will to keep harming others, so He will never accept them or their father, the Liar. There is nothing more disgusting before the eyes of a righteous God than some of history’s most privileged humans in world playing “the victims” and attempting to justify their vile works by hammering the scales and blaspheming His name. The kindest thing I can say about them is I might have become one of them if God had not allowed wicked and greedy “friends” to destroy my hopes and dreams, repeatedly. By keeping on and letting go in the Spirit, following Jesus, our Father took the world’s worst historic curse and turned it into my greatest blessing… and then some. What’s more? They’ve already lost. I was told “the living will turn,” and I can prove it by simply breathing.
I do not curse them in response, as I’ve learned a great pneumatological reality by coming out of them and looking back. If a person’s words and actions do not match, then their words are meaningless, just more toxic fumes. Action is far more indicative of who people are than any words ever could be. I am sorry this Truth was lost in poorly framed, speculative, and self-centered doctrines and institutes. If you’ve honestly accepted the reality of Jesus in your heart, then he will manifest in your life, his image will bare changes in your day to day, everything, from your clothes to your heart, overtime if you stay willing. So too, you will change the lives of others just by being, not really trying at all. Ultimately, you’ll love others sacrifically, never curse their existence like a devil.
Lastly, I’ve discovered that riches in the Spirit aren’t measured by what one has, but by what one gives. Certainly, you’ve noticed that the people with the most material wealth and power want it the most. People often say, “You’ve got to want it more than the other guy!” There’s a vaporous wisdom to that rusty logic. But my picker was broke, so first I had to learn to want what God wanted for me (remember discipline), then follow the Wind over time, then I could work at His choices harder than the other guy. It’s often tedious, but on occasion it’s been the greatest rush I ever had. Believing anyone else, for any length of time, to doubt God was my greatest mistake. In fairness, I was “supposed to trust” most of them.
Afterwards, even when I withdrew, God did not. He ain’t fragile or needy like some folks imagine or argue, so they can cultivate worldly controls. They’re dead. If we keep choosing Life, then He can take our doubt and use it to make us stronger. He can take our rebellion and bring His peace to the world. You won’t find a better deal. You’ll certainly find much easier terms from all the other gods, but every one of them ends in death, the end stop. For Enjambment, the only requirement is to humble ourselves and stay at our Father’s agenda. Then the Holy Spirit will invest in us eternally. That’s exactly what Jesus did, no matter what, and I am following hot after him. In final return, it is the oddest thing that He, not I, calls all that mess His glory… every… dang… day.
Your Throne, O God, Is Forever
My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and majesty!
In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp
in the heart of the king’s enemies;
the peoples fall under you.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house,
and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
the richest of the people.
All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
with her virgin companions following behind her.
With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king.
In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
you will make them princes in all the earth.
I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.
No matter what comes, let us endevour to persevere over this time. Heck, let’s use the Spirit’s word: overcome. If we have a bad day in the meantime just reflect on most any quote from the close of any of Paul’s letters. We need the time because there is a lot of work to do on all sides. Perhaps, “we must stand fast a little-even at the risk of being heroes.” I am sorry that so, so many were not prepared properly. That miseducation is not the fault of followers, but how they respond now is their resposibilty. So, let’s get through August and then see what is what in God’s New Year. Get low and love hard.
(next post, sunrise September 17th)