We had the previous post for today ready since early November. But on the night of December 19th I was at home doing what I ought on a Sunday night, God came to me, and I was terrified. I looked into His eyes, they reflected what He wanted me to see, and all I could get out was “Lo-Ammi.” The term echoed in response.
I wondered, “why show me this? It’s nothing new, as old as the golden calf. I already turned from them and deny all their works and minions, like I would the devil himself. I’ve made covenant with my senses to only look to You. There is no wisdom in their wasteland Utopia. I don’t listen either, because they tell nothing but lies… yada, yada, yada…” Then, I simply repeated the question, still no response but “Lo-Ammi.” I thought I might try describing the acts “blasphemy, stealing from You… yada, yada, yada…” Still nothing but “Lo-Ammi” now echoing about me loudly.
So, I spoke of the results of such idolatry, “they now claim that their fetish of You wrote their new version of the Constitution, and insist for some queer stupidity that You select their elected officials (who are not kings or heredity leaders, they’re intended to be the complete opposite). You’ve turned them over to their own hands. So, they are senseless, hostile to their own history, without memory, even without human reason, and refuse Your accountability or any responsibilty for their works. They have defiled Your earth, so even it will vomit them out. These bestials cast lots with Bishop Ludwig Müller and Hanns Kerrl under the feet of Your judgment … yada, yada, yada…” Still no new response, so I began to think “I’ve done everything except scream out in the street.”
During the last litany of “yada, yada, yada” flowing like a pearl-stringing Pentecostal barker in a tent on fire… I thought to myself not about He or they, because their train refuses to turn, and His never turns in the order of things… Then a weird thing happened. I stopped asking the question. I even went quiet in my head, which is no mean feat. The concept or word we glossed last year, “apatheia,” gently came to light in me. I don’t know a better definition now, but I know how it feels: dutiful serenity. It was resolved in me that they won’t change nor could God’s will, but I should and could. The Encounter turned out to be a classic case of “when I think it’s about someone else, it’s about me…” at least in part, my part.
It wasn’t even about what I said or thought for righteousness’ sake and lamenting lost hope for them. It was, apparently, about the way I said it, and more importantly, not letting the bellicosity of tensions that surround righteous offense affect me like it had in the past, or as their festival in the grave perverts them to this day. It wasn’t a Christmas-y feeling as gifts go in the traditional sense. But I look forward to a richer Lent.
Another result and His response is that now the last post of our second course is rescheduled for April 6, and then we make a hard turn. Hopefully there won’t be too many rewrites in adjustment. All that aside, today is still a special day for some folks. So, I’ll share three of my favorite things related to this day, if only to balance out an unwanted review of perversions with a preview of some Holy positivity.
St. Agnes’ Eve
Deep on the convent-roof the snows Are sparkling to the moon: My breath to heaven like vapour goes; May my soul follow soon! The shadows of the convent-towers Slant down the snowy sward, Still creeping with the creeping hours That lead me to my Lord: Make Thou my spirit pure and clear As are the frosty skies, Or this first snowdrop of the year That in my bosom lies.
As these white robes are soil’d and dark, To yonder shining ground; As this pale taper’s earthly spark, To yonder argent round; So shows my soul before the Lamb, My spirit before Thee; So in mine earthly house I am, To that I hope to be. Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far, Thro’ all yon starlight keen, Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star, In raiment white and clean.
He lifts me to the golden doors; The flashes come and go; All heaven bursts her starry floors, And strows her lights below, And deepens on and up! the gates Roll back, and far within For me the Heavenly Bridegroom waits, To make me pure of sin. The sabbaths of Eternity, One sabbath deep and wide— A light upon the shining sea— The Bridegroom with his bride!
Become aware of God, in whose presence you are while you pray . . . Then take a formula of prayer and recite it with perfect attention both to the words you are saying and to the Person to whom you are saying them. — John Climacus
Why do some persons ‘find’ God in a way that others do not? Why does God manifest His Presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience? Of course the will of God is the same for all. He has no favorites within His household. All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us. & Nothing in or of this world measures up to the simple pleasure of experiencing the presence of God. ― Aiden Wilson Tozer
He didn’t know how it was to be done but he felt quite sure now that he would be able to do it. The Lion drew a deep breath, stooped its head even lower and gave him a Lion’s kiss. And at once Digory felt that new strength and courage had gone into him. & We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. ― Clive Staples Lewis
The God of gods—it’s God! —speaks out, shouts, “Earth!” welcomes the sun in the east, farewells the disappearing sun in the west. From the dazzle of Zion, God blazes into view. Our God makes his entrance, he’s not shy in his coming. Starbursts of fireworks precede him.
He summons heaven and earth as a jury, he’s taking his people to court: “Round up my saints who swore on the Bible their loyalty to me.”
The whole cosmos attests to the fairness of this court, that here God is judge.
“Are you listening, dear people? I’m getting ready to speak; Israel, I’m about ready to bring you to trial. This is God, your God, speaking to you. I don’t find fault with your acts of worship, the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer. But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull, or more and more goats from your herds? Every creature in the forest is mine, the wild animals on all the mountains. I know every mountain bird by name; the scampering field mice are my friends. If I get hungry, do you think I’d tell you? All creation and its bounty are mine. Do you think I feast on venison? or drink drafts of goats’ blood? Spread for me a banquet of praise, serve High God a feast of kept promises, And call for help when you’re in trouble— I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.”
Next, God calls up the wicked:
“What are you up to, quoting my laws, talking like we are good friends? You never answer the door when I call; you treat my words like garbage. If you find a thief, you make him your buddy; adulterers are your friends of choice. Your mouth drools filth; lying is a serious art form with you. You stab your own brother in the back, rip off your little sister. I kept a quiet patience while you did these things; you thought I went along with your game. I’m calling you on the carpet, now, laying your wickedness out in plain sight.
“Time’s up for playing fast and loose with me. I’m ready to pass sentence, and there’s no help in sight! It’s the praising life that honors me. As soon as you set your foot on the Way, I’ll show you my salvation.”
Isaiah was that fella… but then… something happened. Sure, he had a righteous uprbringing and Godly education within an honorable and God-fearing family. So too, he had spent his adult life ceremonially interceding for others and occupationally concerned about the well-being of others. If anyone ever should’ve, or could’ve, been all chummy (familiar and unsurprised) by God, then Isaiah would be he. Sure, sure, he had great and meaningful visions at a pivotal time on God’s calendar… He even spoke for God to Their people!… But then… This happened when he went to the temple in the year King Uzziah died:
Isaiah saw the Master sitting on a throne—high, exalted!—and the train of his robes filled the Temple. Angel-seraphs hovered above him, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew. And they called back and forth one to the other,
Holy, Holy, Holy is God-of-the-Angel-Armies. His bright glory fills the whole earth.
The foundations trembled at the sound of the angel voices, and then the whole house filled with smoke. I said,
“Doom! It’s Doomsday! I’m as good as dead! Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted— blasphemous even! And the people I live with talk the same way, using words that corrupt and desecrate. And here I’ve looked God in the face! The King! God-of-the-Angel-Armies!”
Then one of the angel-seraphs flew to me. He held a live coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with the coal and said,
“Look. This coal has touched your lips. Gone your guilt, your sins wiped out.” And then I heard the voice of the Master: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!”
He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Listen hard, but you aren’t going to get it; look hard, but you won’t catch on.’ Make these people blockheads, with fingers in their ears and blindfolds on their eyes, So they won’t see a thing, won’t hear a word, So they won’t have a clue about what’s going on and, yes, so they won’t turn around and be made whole.”
Astonished, I said, “And Master, how long is this to go on?” He said, “Until the cities are emptied out, not a soul left in the cities— Houses empty of people, countryside empty of people. Until I, God, get rid of everyone, sending them off, the land totally empty. And even if some should survive, say a tenth, the devastation will start up again. The country will look like pine and oak forest with every tree cut down— Every tree a stump, a huge field of stumps. But there’s a holy seed in those stumps.”
Yup, that happened. All deference to Mister Tozer, but I am not sure that Isaiah “took pleasure” in God’s prescence, at least, not in that moment. Maybe later. But that whole nation thought Isaiah was ready or he wouldn’t be going into the Holy Place. I am sure Isaiah thought he was ready. But he wasn’t. To be fair, who could be? And to his credit he nailed the landing: his response was impeccable. ‘I am the absolute worst!’ Or that is to say: ‘Compared to God, I am the worst among the worst sinners.’ I believe that because the book says so (repeatedly) and that’s the reality of the situation when all else fades into nothingness. God consciousness in toto, unmitigated holy situational-awareness, in soul-scorching presence always evokes that exact response. That’s why, thankfully, 99.9999999% of the time, on Earth, God works around us most subtly, but NOT imperceptibly. He’ll circumambulate us just beyond the light-line of our campfire, the event horizon of our awareness. When He does come up close in stealthy ways, otherwise mysterious, all so that the willing and honest can raise their awareness, in exercises, to know Him better, always… most often, if only so that we won’t run around like our hair is on fire.
This is why I will not or cannot suspend my disbelief with with the fictions of ear-tickling preachers, monetized prophets, and shade-tree theologs… especially on social media. I cannot wait for the day that I don’t have to sanitize my scrolls. Oh, brother… how they will tell the world lies, big and small, just for the smiling agreement of child-like believers and a little filthy lucre. They got it, but it is not The Weight. Yet they know exactly what’s what, so everyone should believe, do, or not do such and such. They say they’re all high and lifted up, already, but they are not prepared soon to reap what they’ve sown for so long. It is just as a great poet penned:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Also, in person, I cannot tell you how many “prophets” and “apostles” I’ve met, even a “numinous prince” who tried to “correct and edify” me by subscribing me to his news letter (hello low-rent devil, proclaiming your inventive title up front told me everything that I’ll ever need to know about you). But because they have told me they were I don’t believe them. Worse, I’m dubious of the outcome when they finally have their “Isaiah moment,” in reality. They say they’re on Fire, but it is just their pants. They say they’re close to God, but it is just inflated ego. I don’t want to know them. I won’t ever know them again. You cannot trust their mouths. Conversely, I’ve met some real messengers sent by God with the Gospel fruits self-evident in their work, such astonishing fruits of Love, but none of them ever pronounced it up front… not one, not once, not to me. I good cry just thinking about them. I can’t wait to know them better. I can’t tell how many of them I missed at first, or all together. I had to be in fit Spiritual condition, pay close attention, and interact with them a bit. Mostly, I worked along side and only talked if necessary. You can trust their hands and feet. By their fruits, I want to know a whole and holy people like them. It seems to be something to live and die for…
I won’t labor on too much with “the suffering servant Aye,” “the prince of prophets,” because we’ll be using him much more soon. But I believe there are few relevant points to assist a more informed, contextual reading of the works attributed to him concerning our topic, consciousness of God and his Domain. First, over the centuries Israel had become increasingly idolatrous, despite occasional repentance and periodic, decent leadership. There are hundereds of divine offenses listed across the Oracles. Old and new informed commentaries all stress slightly different issues, but most can be boiled down for ease of understanding.
Isaiah notes that God’s people grew mainly in pious religiosity, wealth, and knowledge. In short, they had imprisoned themselves with delusional promises and fooled only themselves with fallacious motives, which were contrary to the Law and the prophets, God’s desire. That alone is enough to tempt and provoke God. But wait there’s more… they had committed themselves to, and derived their “glory” from worldly systems of domination, which included, but were not limited to: lying and killing to maintain a self-proclaimed status of privilege, blaming the poor, rejecting the immigrant, and colluding with corrupt leaders to put a thumb on the scales of justice in that day. Most, if not all, of that is the work of Satan’s reknowned tri-part temptations taking up residence in their hard hearts, and Wisdom says the last offense alone is enough for God to feel hatred toward the offenders. So dear reader, be thee friend or foe, I will say the same thing to both… that over-truncated list is more than enough to make God white-hot with anger.
So too, even when confronted with their sins, they refused to confess, let alone change. This led to the best of them claiming victimhood or declaring pseudo-righteousness supported by their own speculative ideas grown and tended over centuries of apostasy, and the worst blamed God for their problems and wondered why he didn’t give them everything they wanted. In short, they rejected the way of God-consciousness and instead attempted to impose their own consciousness and desires on others. And they did so with a great deal of success for a relatively long time. So, finally, God allowed them to manifest the captivity that they had been building up for themselves a long time.
For a solution, Isaiah got a divine face-full of Reality and did an awesome “about-face.” His formula for reconciliation with God and others was not a long nor an elaborate list. First, he was resolute that God was not a co-dependent. God would help them, but they needed to do their part as His servant. Second, as scary as it is, God’s reconciliation often comes through material confrontation. Divine wholeness is imparted after actual restitution, never after increasing repression and vengeance. If they wanted to make it worse, then more lip-service and repetitive religio-political practice would certainly do that toot sweet. Third, for any of that to be possible, they had to become accountable and quit blaming others, even delusional foes. They saw their day’s version of Antifa everywhere too, like drunks running from imagined devils. Lastly, after a prescribed duration of time, came the Divine Promise, which is the only source of honest hope, as true today as it was back then. The reality of Truth, never their proclaimed version of truth, would bring God’s whole and real healing: shalom. They need not be perfect. They only needed to take the initial steps, then ultimately walkout an amended lifestyle, as God’s power would deliver them and bring them Home. There are infinite facets to God’s consciousness that all his children should bear. But for Isaiah those were themes that recurred throughout his ministry.
The “only” real problem for Isaiah? He had to watch it all happen, like a lone radar signaling a maelstrom incoming from the sea while the “beloved” made men of straw and a religion of cards on the beach. It’s a suffering service much worse than a daily death, for a long time. Jesus wept and lamented for the same reason. Isaiah knew many of the sufferings of Jesus centuries before our Lord’s earthly arrival. You see, that’s the kind of phenomena, lived and textual, that inspires and encourages me despite the ship wreck of human history. So, put a bookmark in Isaiah’s works as will be back in it next time. And I humbly suggest, in full view of God’s unchanging ways and mercy, perhaps Isaiah’s call and directions might be relevant for some of us today. Not to put too fine an edge on my point, but these motifs were also adopted by my Lord for his own theology, ministry, and practice. May we turn to him now.
The King and His Domain
“The world is crowded with” the King’s Domain:
When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee. He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum, nestled at the base of the Zebulun and Naphtali hills. This move completed Isaiah’s revelation:
Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, road to the sea, over Jordan, Galilee, crossroads for the nations. People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up.
This Isaiah-prophesied revelation came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”
Also, the Prince of Peace’s earliest citation of a prophet in a public act was a very conscious reading form the prince of the prophets:
He came to Nazareth where he had been raised. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s time to shine!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.
Last year we discussed the fact that the first and last public proclamations of our Lord concernced repentance. It seems that both Isaiah and Jesus were more consciously aware of repentence than any other exercise of active belief. I only add now that repentance is the entree to the Light and his Domain of Light… So, have I talked about participatory and real change too much? Maybe, but, no. “May it never be!”
“Hang tight and just believe right! Then one day, after you die, you’ll be in heaven.” This is clearly not what Jesus, the Law, nor the Prophets, nor even the histories teach. The first few generations of Jesus’ followers wouldn’t have understood that abomination, and you really got to consistently over-leverage your reading of Paul or any other New Testament writings to get there. Historically that way of thinking is the amalgam of gentile fairytales, heaven only after you die… doesn’t exist in scripture. Worldly philosophies first infected the church a couple of centuries later and still later it was codified by state-church in order to lead people down the brimstone path to their earthly rule, not service, while they yet breathed. Trust me all those petty tyrants are singing a different tune now, but after seeing Perfect Justice once, you won’t stay angry at them either. People of the Way, Jesus followers worked on heaven from wherever they stood to wherever they went. To believe the later story about heaven is to call Jesus a liar and imply his earthly ministry was a failure. Too much? Don’t worry, that’s a dragon for us to tame or slay later, just next year I believe. Just pray and keep an open mind.
For now, follow God’s Word and do what pleases our Father. If that ain’t heaven I don’t know what is. What pleases a father most?… Don’t see it? I am sorry but that’s a lack of faithfulness is what our sources call blindness, or some of them might say the wrong kind of faith. Follow and more will always be revealed later. The secret? A spoonful of sugar to help that medicine go down? Live and die as King Jesus and then you’re part of the revelation of his Kingdom for others too! But you might be the last to know it; only remember it isn’t about you, not anymore. I mean even devils know God and believe. Their fault? They want what they want, not what God wants. They’re disobedient at root, so they cannot be part of Heaven anymore or the new Earth. It is here now, and after the grave you can rise or keep falling, to wherever you’re assigned. The project is now, always has been, not in a future that we’re clearly told not to take for granted. Jesus is the first-born of the new crewtion expanding in all directions from him through us to others, by the power of the Spirit. It’s divine design that’s too simple for many. But if you’re still a doubting Thomas, I understand why. So, let’s go to a report that every Sunday school kid knows, but in the teaching, they really need to keep reading to hear Jesus’ whole message concerning his conscious, always present, rule and realm:
“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”
Belief and practice are bound by the Word’s divine mandate. To the minds of the biblical authors, from the table of contents to maps, if you separate them, then you are a wicked schizoid: double-minded, a hypocrite, etc. Hint, let the text do the teaching instead of bias confirmation and keep reading… any good scribe knows that. Also, notice how the paraphraser brings in the Isaianic indictments, symptoms of idolatry — refusal to come clean, denial, and delusion. Like I said, I can always tell an idolater, I just can’t tell them much. Also, Isaiah’s complete commitment to pleasing God is also foregrounded by Jesus. Lastly, even the worst idolater who’s always using the Lord’s name vainly should take note, shed a scale or two, when the King says, ‘this is your crisis!’
Speaking of a crisis of consciousness, choosing your own futile dreams about heaven and it’s Sovereign instead of what Jesus says about himself and his coming will always put you in peril. For if you do, then you may just miss a face-full of God, even if he is right in front of you:
Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”
He went on to say to his disciples, “The days are coming when you are going to be desperately homesick for just a glimpse of one of the days of the Son of Man, and you won’t see a thing. And they’ll say to you, ‘Look over there!’ or, ‘Look here!’ Don’t fall for any of that nonsense. The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see. He simply comes.
It has been my experience that the churches who stress the timing and detailed description of Jesus or Heaven in the image of their own vain imagination of Messianic necessities to serve themselves… tend to be closer to indoctrination camps or social clubs. Service oriented churches are angelic habitats. If you really want to find God or live-in heaven now, then pick up your cross and follow Jesus to serve Jesus.
Speaking of lawyerly masters, the same holds true in the academies and seminaries where I’ve been able to have much better conversations with scribes and seminarians. While I’ve never claimed to be a good student, I have spent a minute in those places. And for all that human knowledge I’ve found tons of theories and arguments, many that I adore, but precious little about the reality of God’s coming Kingdom. And, to date, I haven’t found much help with the issue I’ve been trying to get my head around the past year: what does it mean for there to be no blood on the Bema Seat or the Lamb for the first time in 5000 years? I just checked yesterday, so apparently that’s the new “divine state of play.” I am less concerned but it still worries me, despite the reassurance of “all is well, keep it up.” Omit that shortcoming, I have had the repeated pleasure of passing time with some of the finest teachers and most godly folks you could ever shake a pen at, but still, trying to experience the real King and the reality of our Kingdom… well, apart from the personal testimonies of those who’ve gone out and done the work (there are so many!) … I’d compare it to attempting to learn forestry at a lumber yard. Because Jesus himself says:
“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’
“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
“Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”
If the carrot don’t lure you then the stick will move you. It is a fact on every level. It’s the same charge Isaiah repeated time and time again. Does Jesus lay down the Law to talk about doctrines, icons, translations, manners, theories of sin, form of water baptism, using instruments in worship, minding other people’s business for them, or any of the other superfluous skubalon that “real” Christians have killed others over for the better part of two millennia… and still seek to defame and marginalize, in every possible way, today, here? No, he did not, and he will not! Pay heed to the Source of your acquittal. Don’t look at other people, keep your eyes on “the man in the mirror” and cut out the shit, even if it’s your right hand. I have trudged your halls and even I know your vapors. “Doom” says Isaiah, “doom” says Jesus, so says I.
Yikes and egads… can one read the prophets too much? I don’t know, but I do know Jesus and Isaiah offered very simple solutions for even the most complex of people, if they honestly love Jesus. Then c’mon man. Be more conscious of God’s desires, not yours, to become a member of the family? Simple:
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
“But remember the root command: Love one another…”
The parable too dark? The directions not to your taste? You prefer a “newer model” of “old-time” Christian religion? Yes, yes, peace for I too have seen Holy seed even the most wicked generation, so here is one for the road. It cannot get any simpler than the unique child of God bearing witness:
While he was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers showed up. They were outside trying to get a message to him. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are out here, wanting to speak with you.”
Jesus didn’t respond directly, but said, “Who do you think my mother and brothers are?” He then stretched out his hand toward his disciples. “Look closely. These are my mother and brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
If that’s still too scary, then perhaps try resting with a latter day spiritual giant of smallness, Thomas Merton, who said:
“The will of God is not a ‘fate’ to which we must submit, but a creative act in our life that produces something absolutely new, something hitherto unforseen by the laws and established patterns. Our cooperation consists not only in conforming to external laws, but in operating our wills to this mutually creative act.”
Co-creators and kinetic agents, not little gods nor static sponges, is Kingdom living? Sign me up, as long as God does the work that I cannot. He does, and what’s more, he puts up with me. I do not know God’s reward for my puny sacrifices, lived or volitional, but I do know, beyond a shadow of a demon, engaging the will of God’s consciousness with the best, and worse, of my obedience is the greatest liberty I will ever know on either side of the grave. He asks for my best, but even when I gave him my worst, as long as I kept to stepping, the Spirit always meets me there, on the rising road, even when I was serving in a pit, an actual grave too (no allegory for me, that’s how stupid I am). I learned that time and again, hard ways and easy ways. It is our solemn promise.
What is Near but Falls Away
I know that’s a face-full already but we still got a little more to cover today. God wanted me to stress how connected we are, whether we want to be or not. Your spiritual sickness infects others around you and the body of Christ on-the-whole. The sickness is not a desirable condition for his Domain and Rule. This is the Reality, the 411 of “this place,” today and forever more:
And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.
But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
I wanted to delay this point, because today, I know that some among you will twist out part of this as a perverse banner to gossip about others, blame them, and try to control their business. My desire was declined. Even if it is too early in your rescue, God is most compassionate about others. So pay heed with pains. God cares. At best that twist is an immature reading and at worst it’s an eternally fatal act for you and those you infect likewise. God says, “do that and you will die.” So let’s read it and live it as the author intended it. It is a command for ongoing honest and thorough accountability for the body as a whole, and yourself, first and foremost, not other people. Let God’s conscious in you attract others when they are ready. DO NOT drive others farther into darkness or you will be judged to have no light in you. You’ll receive a judgment worse than unrepentant sinners get. Not even you can be acquitted or walk in the Light if you live an unprincipled life, even Calvin calls such people reprobates. Nuff said…
Now, let’s do what I like and expand our view a bit to know the actual reality of God and his Realm as present here and now, always has been, always will be.
Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.
I beg of you. Keep the Lord’s last admonishment at hand here too, and his desire to work through us to love and heal the vicitims and the sin-bruised foremost in your minds, hearts, and hands. God loves being with us, please don’t stay at tempting Him that other way.
Now something I really, really, really love! Heaven is NOT only about now or its natives… It is an actual place, in actual space, that science is just now discovering!
I started peering into that lakeside decades ago and “I” really wanted to be among the first to prove it… but God formed me with different designs. When the vision first landed on me, I felt like Digory being kissed by Aslan! You talk about inspiration to commitment, “that me” made “this me” look like Eeyore the Donkey.
I’d love to spend a few years sharing with you about stochastically nested realities, non-linear tensor math, and supra mechanics to better explain… but I was admonished. And we don’t want any of the egotism of flat-earthers or regressive geo-centrists (they are all-the-rage again for people who cannot handle reality honestly or responsibly), that’s less God-conscious, not more.
So I won’t overelaborate here… just humbly submit: if it’s the height of human ignorance and arrogance to put God in a box, as most do, then it is much more ridiculous to put bounds on His Domain. And why has it always been done most often by those who proclaim to be closest to Him? That experience has been indelibly impressed on me by Him time and again, be it seminary, church, or academy. Heaven is not just a Who but it’s an immediate where, both here and there, it’s all one, all connected, Jesus says so. My experience in Christ is that the 11 “stable dimensions” plus time (differentially dilated across episodic durations) gets one to the Middle-ground. Above that our learn-ed follow is correct, above that “things” do become exponentially unstable, consciousness and souls and the native creatures shimmy with increasing ferocity… You think it will end you, until you reach the 30th-32nd where all things are safe as houses. If the only One in the 33rd calls you up, the One who designed and holds all creation together, then it’s not that bad… To me it was somewhat like I imagine breaking the sound barrier is… really shaky, boom, and then smooth sailing. But to prove it…the math isn’t there yet, but one day it will. So perhaps, in the meantime, it may be best to instruct: “Hey, Digory let the Lion draw breath and give you a kiss!”
I think I did well there, it’s a paragraph that would make Hemmingway blush but Faulkner would scoff at its brevity. Now to close out with the ditty I put off for too long, the most painful part.
“They call me Ishmael,” “but that ain’t no matter.” 1.0
I was homesick the day I was born. So, God came to me early in the springtime of my youth. It was much later that authorities appointed over me, by God, tried their damnedest to make me ashamed of my relationship to Him. My earliest memories of His consciousness were instructive conversations about the way water flowed and how creatures live in it, and how all things have hidden within themselves orders and a name signed by Him before the half-light of our sins occulted His divine purpose in all things. This story, vignette really, was reaffirmed by mother in some of her last words to me, before she died suddenly of a broken heart. This is not easy to write out, but you know why I am.
My consciousness with God has not always been like it is today, but it did begin very early on. It grew within me despite all my kicking and screaming following behind for pity’s sake. I confess, in part, it was because I wanted to be like what other people wanted me to be. But God wouldn’t abide their causes… He never will. So, the process has often been uneasy but it has always been simple, and at this point I am resigned to the fact it will never end, not even after death. For, now, death’s only real pain comes to me in watching those that I love die, as now, I am advanced in years to an age I never thought I’d reach, for a varied assortment of reasons. Comparing me only to myself in the past, I can confirm that our relationship has never been better or closer, and so too I’ve never been happier with my life in this world than I am today, despite the increasing darkness adored and promoted by so many who claim to love the Light. I fear for them, but I am finally free from their service. So I hope, and I treasure each day because I know it can all end in a flash. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen too much.
What we talk about, how we communicate, and the topics of the discussions have all changed dramatically. But it all began, as it should, where De Leon ends at a waterway, Sims Bayou to be precise. It was a much wilder spot back then; it used to twist and turn at various depths and bends, with trees and thick underbrushed growing out over the water in places. It was the first home my father built for us… we had many later. My mother must’ve had a great deal of trust to allow me to play all day at the edge and in the water. Although I clearly remember seeing her face appear from time to time over the crest of the riverbank, at a distance that seemed to me to be miles above at the time.
His was and is the kindest and calmest voice I’ll ever know. He would talk to me about things that I later learned were foundational concepts in math, physics, and even biology. So too they are many fundamental skills that I rely on to this day when sight casting for redfish in Espiritu Santo. That’s why I go there, for a short reset, not necessarily catch fish. But at the time I just looked forward to taking to Him every day. At the end of the day, I would tell my father what God showed me. Sometimes he smiled and at other times he seemed a bit bothered by what I passed on to him. Mom asked me once, only once, who I was talking to, and she said I reported like a flash, “God, just God.”
She never asked again. But it may have concerned my parents a bit because soon after, they wanted to put me in preschool, perhaps in a hope to have my “imaginary friend” disappear. I think that’s where my core fear, sometimes hate, of a faceless crowd came from. No worries, I am mostly over that now, mostly. But at the time, within the first couple of weeks, my stress and anxiety got so bad that as soon as I was dropped off, I would demand to go into the nap room by myself and cry myself to sleep. I believe that’s where and how I learned to pray and seek his Voice. I told anyone who would listen that I didn’t want to know those people, that wanted to go back and play on the bayou with God.
The accurate reports of my behavior must’ve heightened my parents concern a bit more, because a few weeks later they took me to hospital to get my hearing checked. I picked up everyone’s concern so much that I sweat like nobody’s business and couldn’t operate the adult size stick and button indicator in the sound booth. So, we went to hand signals. I liked that. And physically, my hearing was normal, very good in point of fact. I just didn’t care what most people had to say.
Next came what I believe was my first psychiatric evaluation (taken or given). It was the first time I ever had anyone besides my parents ask me about “the voice in my head.” I remember very little but I do remember him asking me who’s voice it was. I said “God,” with some frustration as if my mother would have lied to him… as if! The next part is all that I remember clearly because God told me exactly what to do next. The doctor asked what God told me to do and what he was like. So, God told me to shut up (still the hardest thing for me to do), walk around the desk and give the doctor a hug. I know I did because I remember how he stank of cigarettes. We talked on for a bit and I feel like I enjoyed the discussion. But it must of not been too important because I don’t remember any of the words.
This is the part my mother repeated back to me just before she went to hospital and died in the terrible spring of 2003. Before work I sat on the edge of the bed beside her, she laid beside my father, who was in the last stages of early onset Alzheimer’s. We spoke of the events above, and she said “don’t ever let go of God’s voice, no matter what happens.” I reminded her of something horrifying that I experienced a few years earlier in a dry and hopeless place. My point to her is the point God made to all the witnesses at hand, if I could have, then I would have then. It was the last time I ever saw her smile.
I asked when was the last time she worried about me hearing his voice. She said that she stopped the day we left that doctor’s office. She said that when she asked the doctor what it was wrong with me or if she should worry. He replied to her, “no-thing, not a single thing, and he thought they might need to worry… but not about that boy.” That was the last time she saw me smile and she grabbed my arm and almost wept. I hope with some pride, because that the good doctor also told her that he left our meeting wanting to know my God more than he wanted to know his own. Mom and I kissed and said goodbye then, I was late for “an important meeting.” As I walked out, that Voice said, “It is time to start letting go of them,” as I walked out the front door wearing the heaviest suit I’ll ever own. I never saw her conscious again, except when they briefly surfaced her from an induced coma to look into my father’s eyes one last time. It was the only time that I ever felt like I felt like an intruder in their lives.
To this day I really hope it was the same God, mine and the good doc’s. I’ve always had good luck with doctors. Maybe he might have thought our “Gods” were different because I didn’t use the name Jesus or articulate a doctrine of some sort. But that’s on him, because even at the age of 4 I knew that if Jesus didn’t create and sustain creation, then no one did…. If for no other reason than Jesus is the only person that I’ll ever know without a seeming beginning or end, no matter who comes or goes, no matter who lives or dies, or no matter who is acquitted or who ain’t.
It seems now, as it might have then, that all I need do is learn to accept things otherwise unconscionable to me, to let the river flow where it might, especially when it goes where I know not. I learned not to want the things conscionable to me, my futile dreams of God I let go. I want God’s consciousness to ever expand in me. Because that is how I grow in him and his new creation fills me. I then go forth with increasing awe in spite of all the novel, daily terrors. Despite his great gift, I too must confess my sin of occasionally wanting to hold on to people and things that God now holds alone, just over the boarder line and above the water. Today, if I focus in good Spiritual fitness, at times it seems I can make out some of their shapes and forms, even hear there voices again. I want to rise to meet them so, so badly. Most of my life, just for once, I wanted to go home… and stay home. Come to find out, as God revealed more of His and Himself to me, I already am and home comes to me.
Invitaion to Blessing
A last little exercise for better Spiritual fitness. Try praying for the person you hate most, that is to say the person or people you might abuse otherwise, until you don’t hate them anymore. Pray for them to receive everything God wants for them and everything they ever wanted and everything you ever wanted. Do it for weeks and months, if you can, it is a game-changer and soul-saver. If that’s too hard, then try number two on your list, and so on.
Or if that’s too advanced, then try wearing out this prayer instead of people you love with your same old skubalon. It is traditionally attributed to Mister Reinhold Niebuhr and it is a tonic for the conscious:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.
How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, God; train me in your ways of wise living. I’ll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from your mouth; I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you’ve done it. I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.
Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life; not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road. Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. I’m a stranger in these parts; give me clear directions. My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!— insatiable for your nourishing commands. And those who think they know so much, ignoring everything you tell them—let them have it! Don’t let them mock and humiliate me; I’ve been careful to do just what you said. While bad neighbors maliciously gossip about me, I’m absorbed in pondering your wise counsel. Yes, your sayings on life are what give me delight; I listen to them as to good neighbors!
I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse! Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember? When I told my story, you responded; train me well in your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle-wonders. My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your Word. Barricade the road that goes Nowhere; grace me with your clear revelation. I choose the true road to Somewhere, I post your road signs at every curve and corner. I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me; God, don’t let me down! I’ll run the course you lay out for me if you’ll just show me how.
God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me— my whole life one long, obedient response. Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway! Give me an appetite for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way. Affirm your promises to me— promises made to all who fear you. Deflect the harsh words of my critics— but what you say is always so good. See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways!
Let your love, God, shape my life with salvation, exactly as you promised; Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery because I trusted your Word. Don’t ever deprive me of truth, not ever— your commandments are what I depend on. Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom; Then I’ll tell the world what I find, speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed. I cherish your commandments—oh, how I love them!— relishing every fragment of your counsel.
Remember what you said to me, your servant— I hang on to these words for dear life! These words hold me up in bad times; yes, your promises rejuvenate me. The haters hate me without mercy, but I don’t budge from your revelation. I watch for your ancient landmark words, and know I’m on the right track. But when I see the wicked ignore your directions, I’m beside myself with anger. I set your instructions to music and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way. I meditate on your name all night, God, treasuring your revelation, O God. Still, I walk through a rain of derision because I live by your Word and counsel.
Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise to do everything you say. I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile, be gracious to me just as you promised. When I took a long, careful look at your ways, I got my feet back on the trail you blazed. I was up at once, didn’t drag my feet, was quick to follow your orders. The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out— but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me. I get up in the middle of the night to thank you; your decisions are so right, so true—I can’t wait till morning! I’m a friend and companion of all who fear you, of those committed to living by your rules. Your love, God, fills the earth! Train me to live by your counsel.
Be good to your servant, God; be as good as your Word. Train me in good common sense; I’m thoroughly committed to living your way. Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place, but now I’m in step with your Word. You are good, and the source of good; train me in your goodness. The godless spread lies about me, but I focus my attention on what you are saying; They’re bland as a bucket of lard, while I dance to the tune of your revelation. My troubles turned out all for the best— they forced me to learn from your textbook. Truth from your mouth means more to me than striking it rich in a gold mine.
With your very own hands you formed me; now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you. When they see me waiting, expecting your Word, those who fear you will take heart and be glad. I can see now, God, that your decisions are right; your testing has taught me what’s true and right. Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight! just the way you promised. Now comfort me so I can live, really live; your revelation is the tune I dance to. Let the fast-talking tricksters be exposed as frauds; they tried to sell me a bill of goods, but I kept my mind fixed on your counsel. Let those who fear you turn to me for evidence of your wise guidance. And let me live whole and holy, soul and body, so I can always walk with my head held high.
I’m homesick—longing for your salvation; I’m waiting for your word of hope. My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort? There’s smoke in my eyes—they burn and water, but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post. How long do I have to put up with all this? How long till you haul my tormentors into court? The arrogant godless try to throw me off track, ignorant as they are of God and his ways. Everything you command is a sure thing, but they harass me with lies. Help! They’ve pushed and pushed—they never let up— but I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel. In your great love revive me so I can alertly obey your every word.
What you say goes, God, and stays, as permanent as the heavens. Your truth never goes out of fashion; it’s as relevant as the earth when the sun comes up. Your Word and truth are dependable as ever; that’s what you ordered—you set the earth going. If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came. But I’ll never forget the advice you gave me; you saved my life with those wise words. Save me! I’m all yours. I look high and low for your words of wisdom. The wicked lie in ambush to destroy me, but I’m only concerned with your plans for me. I see the limits to everything human, but the horizons can’t contain your commands!
Oh, how I love all you’ve revealed; I reverently ponder it all the day long. Your commands give me an edge on my enemies; they never become obsolete. I’ve even become smarter than my teachers since I’ve pondered and absorbed your counsel. I’ve become wiser than the wise old sages simply by doing what you tell me. I watch my step, avoiding the ditches and ruts of evil so I can spend all my time keeping your Word. I never make detours from the route you laid out; you gave me such good directions. Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking. With your instruction, I understand life; that’s why I hate false propaganda.
By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back from living by your righteous order. Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your Word. Adorn me with your finest sayings, God; teach me your holy rules. My life is as close as my own hands, but I don’t forget what you have revealed. The wicked do their best to throw me off track, but I don’t swerve an inch from your course. I inherited your book on living; it’s mine forever— what a gift! And how happy it makes me! I concentrate on doing exactly what you say— I always have and always will.
I hate the two-faced, but I love your clear-cut revelation. You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me. Get out of my life, evildoers, so I can keep my God’s commands. Take my side as you promised; I’ll live then for sure. Don’t disappoint all my grand hopes. Stick with me and I’ll be all right; I’ll give total allegiance to your definitions of life. Expose all who drift away from your sayings; their casual idolatry is lethal. You reject earth’s wicked as so much rubbish; therefore I lovingly embrace everything you say. I shiver in awe before you; your decisions leave me speechless with reverence.
I stood up for justice and the right; don’t leave me to the mercy of my oppressors. Take the side of your servant, good God; don’t let the godless take advantage of me. I can’t keep my eyes open any longer, waiting for you to keep your promise to set everything right. Let your love dictate how you deal with me; teach me from your textbook on life. I’m your servant—help me understand what that means, the inner meaning of your instructions. It’s time to act, God; they’ve made a shambles of your revelation! Yea-Saying God, I love what you command, I love it better than gold and gemstones; Yea-Saying God, I honor everything you tell me, I despise every deceitful detour.
Every word you give me is a miracle word— how could I help but obey? Break open your words, let the light shine out, let ordinary people see the meaning. Mouth open and panting, I wanted your commands more than anything. Turn my way, look kindly on me, as you always do to those who personally love you. Steady my steps with your Word of promise so nothing malign gets the better of me. Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women so I can live life your way. Smile on me, your servant; teach me the right way to live. I cry rivers of tears because nobody’s living by your book!
You are right and you do right, God; your decisions are right on target. You rightly instruct us in how to live ever faithful to you. My rivals nearly did me in, they persistently ignored your commandments. Your promise has been tested through and through, and I, your servant, love it dearly. I’m too young to be important, but I don’t forget what you tell me. Your righteousness is eternally right, your revelation is the only truth. Even though troubles came down on me hard, your commands always gave me delight. The way you tell me to live is always right; help me understand it so I can live to the fullest.
I call out at the top of my lungs, “God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.” I called to you, “Save me so I can carry out all your instructions.” I was up before sunrise, crying for help, hoping for a word from you. I stayed awake all night, prayerfully pondering your promise. In your love, listen to me; in your justice, God, keep me alive. As those out to get me come closer and closer, they go farther and farther from the truth you reveal; But you’re the closest of all to me, God, and all your judgments true. I’ve known all along from the evidence of your words that you meant them to last forever.
Take a good look at my trouble, and help me— I haven’t forgotten your revelation. Take my side and get me out of this; give me back my life, just as you promised. “Salvation” is only gibberish to the wicked because they’ve never looked it up in your dictionary. Your mercies, God, run into the billions; following your guidelines, revive me. My antagonists are too many to count, but I don’t swerve from the directions you gave. I took one look at the quitters and was filled with loathing; they walked away from your promises so casually! Take note of how I love what you tell me; out of your life of love, prolong my life. Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth. Your righteous decisions are eternal.
I’ve been slandered unmercifully by the politicians, but my awe at your words keeps me stable. I’m ecstatic over what you say, like one who strikes it rich. I hate lies—can’t stand them!— but I love what you have revealed. Seven times each day I stop and shout praises for the way you keep everything running right. For those who love what you reveal, everything fits— no stumbling around in the dark for them. I wait expectantly for your salvation; God, I do what you tell me. My soul guards and keeps all your instructions— oh, how much I love them! I follow your directions, abide by your counsel; my life’s an open book before you.
Let my cry come right into your presence, God; provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word. Give my request your personal attention, rescue me on the terms of your promise. Let praise cascade off my lips; after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life! And let your promises ring from my tongue; every order you’ve given is right. Put your hand out and steady me since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel. I’m homesick, God, for your salvation; I love it when you show yourself! Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well, use your decrees to put iron in my soul. And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me! I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.
The journey is long and his way is narrow. If that were not true of his Domain, then he wouldn’t have told us so, nor would his Word repeat it so often. So, a lifelong, growing, and ongoing awareness in comprehension and a recreative cooperation of God’s will is what we want. What God wants is in the next post. Also, finally, prepare your thinking cap for next time. In the meantime, make some effort, however small you might think it is, to practice what God has taught us. And for those trying too hard, easy does it. Gaining the mind of Christ takes time, and He wants us to finish well.
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 helpguide 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 beyond number; 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 onand 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.
Mark how to know yourself. To know himself a man must ever be on the watch over himself, holding his outer faculties. This discipline must be continued until he reaches a state of consciousness. The object is to reach a state of consciousness — a new state of oneself. It is to reach now, where one is present to oneself. What I say unto you I say unto all: Be awake. – Meister Eckhart
The Christian gospel is a message of freedom through grace and we must stand fast in the liberty where Christ has made us free. But what shall we do with our freedom? The Apostle Paul grieved that some of the believers of his day took advantage of their freedom and indulged the flesh in the name of Christian liberty. They threw off discipline, scorned obedience and made gods of their own bellies. & We should discipline ourselves to read the Word until it comes alive…until we can almost feel the breath of God. – A W Tozer
Discipline is doing what you really don’t want to do so you can do what you really want to do.- Jeff Fisher
Discipline for a Right Life
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. A good man obtains favor from the Lord, but a man of evil devices he condemns. No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them. The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand. A man is commended according to his good sense, but one of twisted mind is despised. Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread. Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers, but the root of the righteous bears fruit. An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult. Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy. No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly. The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth. In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.
We’re trying to show a little discipline and keep the post manageable, so I won’t clip in James’ letter. But when I think of discipline, I think of “the wisdom letter of the second witness.” For me, discipline has become the pursuit of wisdom, and justice is the result (or wake) of exercising discipline. For James, it was simply public reflections on growing up with Jesus. It makes perfect sense that the person who had the most day-to-day experience with Jesus wrote to all those called to follow him about “how to live” our daily lives as Jesus lived his own trials, great and small, with discipline.
Odds are James didn’t know, in full, his brother was the Messiah until after the resurrection. To be sure nobody down here knew exactly how Jesus would live out his messianic role until after the resurrection. So today we’re spared the shock and awe of watching the glorification of Jesus and the transformation of his followers. Most of us have been handed a version of Jesus fully-formed, with all the glory “baked-in” when we first encountered his story. We gained it without any nagging personal knowledge that would make us say, “hey now, wait a minute.” In fact, often if you raise an exception “good people” are there to correct or scold you in many contexts. I think that’s sad. The way God made us and the way we messed ourselves up means that it takes a while for us to awaken to a new reality, and it takes even longer to walk in it. Many never do, and that, without question, is the saddest thing of all.
I’ve literally heard ordained ministers say, “after you’re ‘saved,’ Jesus has no expectations of you.” Yes they did, and there are entire trees of doctrine that imply worse by their teaching. It’s horseshit. And far worse, that “way of living” perverts souls and undermines the cause of Christ in the world much worse than any type of pornography or moral sin ever could. In reality, Satan is most pleased by undiscplined Christians. They don’t just stay “neutral;” in effect, they’re fighting for Satan as they’re stumbling blocks to other people seeking God. And I am being kind, because James straight up tells the same people they’re dead.
You can count me and James among the doctrinal transgressors and find us among the theological sinners, because we’d both rather be working out our shared salvation in daily fear and trembling, penitently in humility, than laid out, cozy and feasting, in an open grave waiting for the dirt to rain down with only a tombstone above that a self-named church wrote on: “they’re saved.” Too harsh? For me and James, the resurrection of Jesus changed everything. So if we ever thought, even for a moment, that we’d have to die in order to see real and substantial, demonstrable and empirical, changes in our lives and consciousness’, then in truth, death is still our real master. That is unacceptable, even for a moment, no matter how long you’ve been following Jesus.
James knew, perhaps better than any other living soul, what it took for Jesus to handle his trials, from the family of origin to the public crucifixion. It took discipline. Therefore to follow Jesus, we need discipline. It is not an option that we may or may not chose for our personal form of salvation, nor is it a punishment for novices, nor is it something to look back on nostalgically as a long-timer who “arrived” years ago. Discipline is a requirement, every day for everyone, if one wants to marry into God’s family. Here’s the rub, I have confessed to you all before that I don’t see enough name-brand communities presenting the of the reality of Christ in the world, but I see even less of James’ wisdom at work in many assemblies. I confess further, I am not “good with it” my own self, but I have learned to accept God’s discipline. Thankfully, acceptance is often the hardest part most of the time.
There are a lot of good folks out there who do the opposite, they refuse to accept anything “of God” if it does not meet their requirements, as if they’ll discpline God. Heck, they can’t even judge angels if they don’t know them. They mistake belief for certainty, and they confuse what they think they know with the trust it takes to please God. Sadly, I cannot be sure that they’ll be at The Lamb’s Wedding Breakfast, even though they put the RSVP on their refrigerator, took/posted a selfie with it on social media, and told all their neighbors about it face to face.
Eschatological blow-outs and no-shows aside, this is one of the few truths I know about discipline, God, and his people: God ALWAYS sends his people what they need, not what they want. Only sometimes does he send what they want, but even then most are slow on the uptake (i.e. Jesus himself). That story repeats countless times in the Book, and the only thing that ever changes are the names and faces of folks who refuse to accept the reality of their situation simply because they don’t want to. They are spoiled children at best. I know because I was an expert at being a spoiled child, until I learned to desire what God wanted to teach me.
God’s Discipline is Unbelievable Love (Please believe it now)
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Legitimate Children of the Unshakable Kingdom
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons(and daughters).For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
The quote from below sister Rosetta came from perhaps the most disciplined person I ever knew. He was a mentor of sorts, who I watched closely as he taught heroes how to do the impossible on a daily basis, often before sunrise in some of the worst conditions a person could imagine. I mean the worst conditions, the Darién Gap during the rainy season or the Sahara desert in the summer. By the time artic conditions were offered, I was in my late twenties and took a hard pass. I’ve got some stories about all that, but the point for today is that I arrived at those experiences, which set me up for even greater experiences later, not by some ingenious plan or by any kind of visual, miraculous intervention. It was really simple and mundane, God led and I followed. Only now, under orders am I mentioning it. I didn’t ever need to talk about it before I did it or while I did it. The undisciplined talk and never do it. When was the last time you met a generous woman, who talked all the time about how generous she was? Same goes for an honest man…
…More than 99% of the time, mine was a Forest Gump experience, rather than Ezekiel’s encounter with interlaced and invisible realities. I stumbled onto that path by allowing God to turn my desires, which some thought noble enough, slowly but yet methodically into a desire He had for his Son, a Nobility that no one has fully encountered yet. There were so many places it could have ended suddenly and terribly with awful people, and there were alot of charming places I could have settled and quit, among lovely people. But I kept allowing God to draw me on. It started out selfishly enough about a year after my baptism. I was on a long break from studies in a scenic part of Mexico, where many gringos retire. It was a convenient and affordable way to work on my Spanish and run around in an exotic and romantic world. Afterwards, I just kept running. Sorry to mix in another movie reference, but it’s so apt that I don’t have the discipline to pass it up.
I met a fellow who had been in special service to Westmoreland in Vietnam. I used to read military history all the time, especially on his theater, so I had a lot of questions. Over the weeks he had a lot of answers, and I got to meet his family, who he called his “reward” after decades at war in Asia. I wanted to know those worlds, their secrets, and how they affected others. He wanted a confessor, it seemed at times. It put me aback at first, but I just kept on running with uncomfortable acceptance and service. A couple of months later, without preparation on my behalf only openness on my part, I had a focus for my graduate work in Anthropology and a ready-made global network of informants (one was the disciplined fellow I cited above). I was set to study how the world’s last great empire treated its’ subalterns and how it told a very different story to folks in the homeland. Without exception all empires do it. Despite all my Gumpish innocence and ignorance, it was a world of darkness and terror covering the globe that I ran through for at least 15 years.
In the end, upon my exit, an authority marveled at my discipline in debrief. His remark bemused me. Usually authorities have called me undisciplined simply because they didn’t think I was doing what they told me to do, like that was what God wanted me to do. But this one accused me of having great discipline. If I do have any discipline, then I’d be the last to know, because God has kept giving me more to learn every day, more than “the powers that be” ever could, more than I ever asked for. So I’ve never once had a long time off to feel like “Ah ha, I’ve arrived. That’s nice.” It’s always felt like more running, after a cool-down, and thinking “What the heck is all that about now? What more could possibly happen?!” The point is, for me, discipline seems to look much different on the outside than it feels on the inside.
When I asked the authority to explicate, he responded, “Son, in all my years (about 45 in the field I presumed of him) I have never seen anyone pass through a world of shit like that and come out the other side smelling like a rose.” All I thought to myself was, “Well, I best not tell him the bigger half of the story if I want to get home quickly.” So I bought him off by saying, “I had a couple of good teachers and the only God that matters. So there might be some discipline in it.” He laughed and confessed he was an atheist. So I looked him in the eye, shook his hand real hard, and said, “Sir, if your testimony about me is true, then you must know that God is as real as our handshake. And if you ever want to know him all you have to do is ask.” When I saw that all too familiar expression on his face, I could tell the message had reached him, so I practiced some discipline by leaving well-enough alone and ran back to what was left of my home.
I almost forgot the important part! The fella who gave me the quote for the clip above, also gave me some of his secrets about personal discipline. One of the more practical ones I’ll pass on to you now. He said whenever he was under fire or feeling edgy for a long haul, he’d repeat a single couplet of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) chapter 2 every day… just a single couplet throughout the day, day after day. It worked for him, and it’s worked for me so far. If you try it, we hope it works for you too.
Discipline in the Time of Trial
My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing. Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity. Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous. Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation. Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him.
You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not stray, or else you may fall. You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost. You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy. Consider the generations of old and see: has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed? Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord and been forsaken? Or has anyone called upon him and been neglected? For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in time of distress.
Woe to timid hearts and to slack hands, and to the sinner who walks a double path! Woe to the faint-hearted who have no trust! Therefore they will have no shelter. Woe to you who have lost your nerve! What will you do when the Lord’s reckoning comes?
Those who fear the Lord do not disobey his words, and those who love him keep his ways. Those who fear the Lord seek to please him, and those who love him fulfill his law. Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts, and humble themselves before him. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, but not into the hands of mortals; for equal to his majesty is his mercy, and equal to his name are his works.
The penultimate thought that I have to share about disciplined growth with God is scary, but I know so many others quit too soon because of it. Besides keeping an open mind and willing heart even when your world collapses, prepare yourself for long periods of bone-chilling loneliness… even if you’re in fellowship. But please remember that you are never really alone. The reality is God wants you to Himself for a time. It is often dreadful, but if you stay with Him, stay awake because you won’t hardly recognize yourself, or Him, on the other side. Honestly, now that I am married and boring, now that He’s given me better than what I thought I wanted, way too much honestly, I look back to all the rain storms and desert winds with some fondness and a lot of nostalgia. And I think, “Huh, what a small price to pay for such a great gift.”
Lastly, imagine you were assigned night-watch over a ward of diabetic children. How would you respond if you were confronted by such a task? Would you do your best to get them to daylight safely? Or would you spoil them with sugar, giving them only more of what they craved? Would you do the easy thing, to make yourself their hero in the dark as you lead them from illness unto death? Or could you do the disciplined thing to heal them for when the doctor returned in the morning? Would you be willing to be lonely and falsely accussed, even cursed, all night by morbidly spoiled children in order to deliver them at daybreak?
Now, imagine what would become of a “mature” people who only ate what they wanted for decades. What if a people only indulged news that agreed with their appetites for years? What if they lived for themselves at the expense of others for a generation? What if they only believed what they wanted to believe? Can you imagine that level of spiritual sickness? Remember, it has happened to “God’s people” often. God’s response has always been the same. Now, try and imagine why anyone would lie in that situation. It’s beyond me.
Leaders REALLY need to think about these thought experiments closely because they will be held to a standard commensurate with their prestige, not their followers’. Before accepting any leadership role, even more so when I know it’s God’s call, I take a long time wondering, “Can I honestly fulfill my obligations?” The only righteous “yes” requires God’s discipline… for more than a minute. In the Book, successful responses to God’s calls to leadership took a long time in R&D. For the undisciplined any time is too long; they want what they want, when they want it, and they want someone else to pay for it. Conversely, after due consideration and apropos of the experiment at hand, the wise response would be, “Can I do anything besides eating sugar to feel good?” Next I think, “How shall I pass on my experience with not eating sugar and still feeling good only some of the time?” I don’t worry any more about what the “diabetics” will say or do about me. But also, I know that’s the first and only thing that many leaders consider. I understand the impulse, but it is increasingly destructive for themselves and others to go on that way.
Honestly, I already know all their protests by rote. Their predictable counter-tactics and lack of original thought astonishes me. It all could be comic if not for their impenitence and what it entails. Afterall, I was born into a basket of bourgeois platitudes set upon a river of affluence. Whatever insult they think scathing, sister I teethed on it. It was only God’s discipline that saved me from dying their regrettable yet well carpeted way. So I am only beholding to Him in the end for all the “whys” and “hows” and “where/when fors.” To keep my head straight, I recollect first myself as one of the diabetic children. Then I think mostly of the only One we all must answer last. From that position, if I honestly desire to live in God’s reality and no other’s, then discipline iswanting what God says I need, not what I feel that I want. And, as a gracious bonus, whatever comes next is right, and I am awake to accept all things, all people, and God’s further instruction.
Discipline: Instruction with Warnings
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth. By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down. A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet. An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices. A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge. Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath. If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright. A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked. The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord gives light to the eyes of both. If a king faithfully judges the poor, his throne will be established forever. The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond. Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Whoever pampers his servant from childhood will in the end find him his heir. A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing. The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.
Love, which is the complete dwelling of God in those who by means of dispassion are pure in heart, for they will see God. To Him be the glory forever. ― John Climacus,The Ladder
On a day set apart to listen in silence, the last day, I serve only to ensure that his words live.
Two angels facedown, wing tips to wing tips over the body laid upon a slab of stone, which is now the foundation stone of the City of Life and Garden of Peace. The custodians of the Word whispered in responsive repetition to unify their intelligences and wills. United, they avowed the last embodied words of his earthly ministry in aboriginal flesh. They enunciated until the tomb’s stone walls whispered in responsive testimony to a stony world and unborn assemblies of those yet to come to hear. In reflection, those called out embody his words in their flesh as living stones… who are sculpted, inscribed, and mediated by angels. In fulfillment, in further ways and greater things, reborn through infinite ages, we are heard to the end.
“Whom are you looking for?”
“Whom are you looking for?”
“I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
“Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”
“I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple areawhere all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.”
“If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
“Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”
“My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
“You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
“You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”
“Woman, behold, your son.”
“Behold, your mother.”
“It is finished.”
Echo of whispers even from the past…
“Not a bone of it will be broken.”
“They will look upon him whom they have pierced.”
Hear the angelic testimony, come to his words thirsty, as he was… echo them into the future, into your flesh and your world, until he answers you, in person, risen from your tomb…
“Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.”
Reflecting on just these words we can know important things, in a simple way, about his earthly ministry that we will follow, if we speak his name on earth. He is, and he is the One who is. He is always liberating captives and healing God’s creations. His way is never violent, yet his way embraces the violence of embodied suffering for our Father’s will. He’s looking for witnesses, true witnessses. Where people follow his kingly rules, where people are truth-filled, there is his Kingdom; it’ll never be where people judge falsely. There is ultimate and unavoidable accountability for all powers and authorities, in every dimension of Creation. There is a Glorious weight that assays the sin within a soul and deflates vainities within an ego. This answerability is perfect love that never puffs up. He is always creating a salvific, Spiritual community that is alwayssuperior and onlyanalogous to a family in the flesh. He is unbrokenly human yet thirsty and pierced.
The crux of the matter today is that he completed his assignment through great suffering, which we will follow… or die trying. His role in love is fulfilled, the model of love that God desires was finally established perfectly on earth, long before any of us were born to accept our imperfect roles. Only devils try to change this plan of love, because angels never will forget what they witnessed and guarded, even when human desire and pride within “his people” abandon love. Finally, let’s not forget the future among the ashes, the enjambment of last things… there is what happened next, on the first day, and will happen soon for all those who come and receive.
For all the vain, earthly fireworks about death and destruction, for all the lofty notions in low theology or selfish teachings, and for all the religous folks forever running amok… it is real easy to lose the plot. Afterall the sound and fury of men, God’s Story is just a love story for God’s glory in all Creation. Sometimes it is Days of Wine and Roses or Failure to Launch, maybe Casablanca or An Affair to Remember, while for other times it is Mr. and Mrs. Smith or When Harry met Sally, it could be anyone or all. The important thing to remember that love is and love is happening, because He is love.
In that spirit, I asked Jesus for a word that I could relay to his beloved in meantime, past all the smoke and mirrors, all of the common guns and butter “Christ-haunted” agendas, safe and separate from today’s holy terror and ungodly glories. I asked ‘if he had one chance to tell you something intimately‘ above all the other voices… for this night and at this particular time… no matter what comes or what other tidings anyone may try to sell you. I was dumbfounded at how quickly and clearly I got an answer, and kept getting it back in January. It seemed a bit silly, yet it’s profound beyond compare. I was gobsmacked because it’s by one of my favorite song writers and a favorite singer of mine; they combined in a song that I never heard till we had this dicussion January 3rd.
Ascend, children of God, ascend eagerly. Let your hearts’ resolve be to climb. Listen to the voice of the one who says: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of our God,” Who makes our feet to be like deer, “Who sets us on high places, that we may be triumphant on his road.”
Run, I beg you, run with him who said, “Let us hurry until we all arrive at the unity of faith and of the knowledge of God, at mature adulthood, at the measure of the stature of Christ’s fullness”. . . . for God indeed is love, and to Him be all praise, dominion, and power, forever and ever. In Him is the cause past, present, and future of all goodness throughout infinite ages. Amen. ― John Climacus,The Ladder of Divine Ascent