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Believers’ Least Favorite Word: Discipline

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
.

Believers don’t like to talk about discpline at all. And in review, they sing about it even less. So please just accept this as prayerful, biblical instruction set to music.

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.

This is an immature form of discipline, which the powers in this world and Vichey Christians in the past age believe to be like God’s discipline. It’s really just how they want to act as a ruler, like power-mad and blood-lusty gentiles always have. That is why this worldly model is passed on down by dark minds and selfish hearts, even in sermons and family homes. Sadly, in reality, they don’t know God because they never accepted His discpline, so they certainly can’t “ape it” in leadership.
Bailian pulled a real David… a mature failure in discipline, despite noble goals and a good heart, that he mangaged to straighten out latter in the story, by ‘deciding for Jesus’ discipline’ instead of the easy, expedient, and profitable way out. However, it did cost him and a lot of other people. But in fairness… Eva Green? That ain’t cricket.

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 nakedI 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 repentBehold, 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.

Inward mature discpline is costly, wrought with soul-crushing and thinky pain, as it evokes an awareness of who we really are and what we’re really doing. But if we hold on, it always awakens a new consciosness of self and others.
Once learned, mature discipline turned outward in simple, daily interactions reforms the consciousness of even an enemy with clarity of thought and a better grasp of reality.

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 holinessFor 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.

“Discipline reveals itself when it’s raining.”

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.”

So many years ago, I found a kindred spirit in Tozer on pilgrimage.

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 is wanting 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.

Life can be traumatic and discpline is harsh on occassion, but hold on (stand fast) in acceptance (at liberty) for the Spirit will transmute all that noise into a beautiful and unique soundtrack called your life.

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
.

(Next post, sundown May 23rd)

Love

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?”

“I AM.”

“I AM.”

“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 area where 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.”

“I thirst.”

“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 always superior and only analogous 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.

Until all is said and done, keep him in your heart while headed north to Pleasant Stream.

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

(Sunrise April 21st)

Willingness

Come now, let us set things right,
says the Lord:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
    they may become white as snow;
Though they be red like crimson,
    they may become white as wool.
If you are willing, and obey,
    you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
    you shall be eaten by the sword:
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken! – Isaiah

And I am giving counsel in this matter, for it is appropriate for you who began not only to act but to act willingly last year: complete it now, so that your eager willingness may be matched by your completion of it out of what you have. For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have… — an apostle born irregularly (talking about more than just money)

Obedience is the burial of the will and the resurrection of humility. — John Climacus

Willingness is the principle that is fixed in the eternal now. It is only good if exercised in this moment. It has no utility for the past nor any use for a promise of tomorrow. Come now, as you are, in every moment.

Holiest Wednesday

Often, in the very stream of being rescued, we feel great and are lulled into a belief that everything is done. We think all our problems are over and our role is finished. Grace misconstrued can have that effect. In this state, at these times, we are tempted to stop and rest on our laurels, dream about a distant future, and construct our own expectations of how God should fulfill his promises. We must avoid this beautiful trap by willingly pressing forward to the real prize no matter what, treating the two imposters of success and failure as one in the same.

I wrote a poem in the dark night of March 23rd of 2005. I’ve shared it before, but never the story about it. Attenuated at the end of a very long tether, I was shocked and shone some of what was to come in the next months and years. I thought my beloved and myself were home free, but things were grim and brilliant all at once. I knew too much and not enough, as if knowing more would’ve helped. I was not resting well, and Jesus asked me if there was anything I wanted. So I asked something I always wanted to know, but never had the opportunity nor taken the face time, as those are the rare occasions I try just to listen.

I asked when he knew exactly, with some detail, how and when his earthly ministry would end. He said he knew as the Sun set on Tuesday of the first Holy Week. Even then, he didn’t know everything. There’s the fact that he is the Son, not the Father who knows all in advance, despite the fact that the Son gets the last say for the willing, humble, and obedient. There’s also the underlying stochastic processes that stand behind the dynamics of life in the flesh. Moreover, let’s not forget, the capricious nature of the crowd’s will that may turn on a mustard seed. His answer un-nerved me, because it was not the omniscient and magisterial revelatory answer that I expected. It was small like me, not great like him. It was completely relatable and comprehensible to me in that moment. I knew it was true because that is the Jesus I’ve known since my soul awoke, and the same one I’ll always know.

We talked about Micah, now called chapter 6 (initially verses 7-8 to be exact), about how he and his would suffer for others. We also discussed how he felt about and thought of the people from there through the subsequent oracle, into the last chapter, the end, then and now, grieving that many would still be devastated no matter what he or anyone else would do. That’s him… always thinking of others, and also, he said he thought about the story of Absalom’s reconciliation to David, Absalom’s rebellion, and David’s escape from Jerusalem. We also spoke of how that projected into things playing out in a then distant future, and we discussed how you can know something well without knowing exactly. That’s him too… dropping something insightful yet hard to square with the fresh understanding I just gained.

I went to sleep afterwards, and awoke sometime in the night and just scribbled this out in one go. I still have that piece of paper, but it’s just proof. Further proof, some of the things we discussed and I wrote that night never made any sense, not a lick, until recently. Now they’re dead-on and all the way live. I had a suspicion that might the case ultimately, so I always kept them near my heart and close at hand. But all that is just doggerel compared to knowing how he feels and what he thinks. That is the prize that brought me peace, then and now… only because he was willing.

His secrets cry aloud,
we have no need of tongues.
His heart keeps open house,
while our doors widely swing.
An epic in His eyes,
His Love wears no disguise.

Our truths are all foreknown,
His anguish we self-reveal.
We are naked to the bone,
His nakedness His only shield.
Overselves is all we wear,
we keep His Spirit spare.

His Love will endure,
the dead will speak the Truth.
In language strict and pure,
we stop our lying mouths.
Desire wraps our clearest cries,
Witnessed agony carries us to the skies.

Humility in doing justice and loving goodness is what God desires of all his children, at all times, even his only unique Son when he was torn upon the lies and hatreds that we construct and lift-up… when those are the very things we should murder. And that type of humility, in this type of world, takes a mountain of willingness, day after day, even unto death.

The Lord Cries Out

Hear, then, what the Lord says:
Arise, plead your case before the mountains,
 and let the hills hear your voice!
Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s case,
    pay attention, O foundations of the earth!
For the Lord has a case against his people;
 he enters into trial with Israel.
My people, what have I done to you?
how have I wearied you? Answer me!
I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
from the place of slavery I ransomed you;
And I sent before you Moses,
    Aaron, and Miriam.
My people, remember what Moab’s King Balak planned,
    and how Balaam, the son of Beor, answered him.
Recall the passage from Shittim to Gilgal,
    that you may know the just deeds of the Lord.
With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow before God most high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
  with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with myriad streams of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my crime,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
    and what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

(Be willing to walk humble loving goodness and do justice tommorrow night at sundown)

Integrity: Clean Inside… then Out

It happens, I do not know how, that most of the proud never really discover their true selves. They think they have conquered their passions and they find out how poor they really are only after they die. — John Climacus

And Christ’s law and His Apostles twelve he taught, but first he followed it himself. ― Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

You can’t pass on what you haven’t got. — Anonymous

The Human Spirit that is a Lamp of the Lord

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
    whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion;
    those who anger him forfeit their lives.

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Sluggards do not plow in season;
    so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
    but one who has insight draws them out.

Many claim to have unfailing love,
    but a faithful person who can find?

The righteous lead blameless lives;
 blessed are their children after them.

When a king sits on his throne to judge,
    he winnows out all evil with his eyes.

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
    I am clean and without sin”?

Differing weights and differing measures—
    the Lord detests them both.

Even small children are known by their actions,
    so is their conduct really pure and upright?

Ears that hear and eyes that see—
    the Lord has made them both.

Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
    stay awake and you will have food to spare.

“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer—
    then goes off and boasts about the purchase.

Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
    but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
    hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.

Food gained by fraud tastes sweet,
    but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

Plans are established by seeking advice;
    so if you wage war, obtain guidance.

A gossip betrays a confidence;
    so avoid anyone who talks too much.

If someone curses their father or mother,
    their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

An inheritance claimed too soon
 will not be blessed at the end.

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
    Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

The Lord detests differing weights,
    and dishonest scales do not please him.

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?

It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
    and only later to consider one’s vows.

A wise king winnows out the wicked;
    he drives the threshing wheel over them.

The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord
 that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
 through love his throne is made secure.

The glory of young men is their strength,
 gray hair the splendor of the old.

Blows and wounds scrub away evil,
 and beatings purge the inmost being.

One of the oldest songs continually sung on Palm Sunday, in its original language. That’s integrity .
Integrity, as war, has a beginning but only proceeds after proof among friends, but more importantly, among enemies.

Protestation of Integrity

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity,
And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.
I do not sit with deceitful men,
Nor will I go with pretenders.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
And I will not sit with the wicked.
I shall wash my hands in innocence,
And I will go about Your altar, O Lord,
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving
And declare all Your wonders.

O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house
And the place where Your glory dwells.
Do not take my soul away along with sinners,
Nor my life with men of bloodshed,
In whose hands is a wicked scheme,
And whose right hand is full of bribes.
But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on a level place;
In the congregations I shall bless the Lord.

Jesus Christ is the wise King, so he sends Light to his people so they can know him and themselves. Unfortunately, “his people” routinely forget him and cannot even recognize themselves, even if they looked in a mirror. At the root of this failure is an issue of integrity. James is a floodlight on that issue. But, before James and his brother, Jesus, humbled himself and came in the flesh, there were many other lights. One brilliant example is man named Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was a great lamp of integrity sent to “God’s people” as they came to a fork in the road. Instead of embracing and sharing the light, they tried to snuff out the Light and fell even farther. They called the prophet all kinds of bad names and punished him repeatedly as much as they could. Of course, they failed and God snuffed them out instead. They were blind and couldn’t see reality clearly, but instead of checking themselves they said Jeremiah was just a hateful liar and nothing he said could be true because they didn’t see it happening. Amazing how idolaters, who cannot even tell the truth about themselves, the weather, or world events, fraudulently claim to speak of Spiritual realities. A blind doubling down is the mark of a devil. However, despite all the devils and liars, Jeremiah never changed the message and he did it over decades— I believe only Hosea witnessed longer in that mode but he had an easier time of it. Jeremiah didn’t double down. He keep coming at them in different ways (from laments to exhortations, searing prose to gut-wrenching poetry, lofty oracles to straight up telling off the wicked) for Righteousness’ sake, until God said “release.” I don’t think the Deuteronomic Reformation that occurred under his ministry is a mere coincidence… You must see that God is the only One who can double-down righteously. That is integrity. And what is a fall in the Spirit other than God’s release?

Jeremiah walked about like Diogenes for more than 40 years. An unremarkable man with a pure heart as God’s lamp looking for honest people, who was mocked, ridiculed, and punished for his efforts. I believe he’d rather have died and the people be saved than been right and watch them fall into captivity and desolation… the source of his life-long laments and sufferings was righteous integrity. While religious elites got fat and false prophets who tickled the people’s ears got rich, he kept grinding out the truth in pits and the dark streets. Born into a profoundly spiritual clan, he was properly prepared, even as a youth. Extra-biblical tradition reports he was stoned, a forerunner to Stephen. Even if that isn’t true, Stephen and Jeremiah knew all along that it is better to be stoned by the disobedient elect than blow smoke up their vanities and be released by God.  Job taught us all that we should always praise God no matter our present circumstances, and weep for the horrors coming to the unrepentant before we ever take time to weep for our own difficulties. Our horrors will pass while their horror, occulted and spread by their pride and filthy lucre, once come will never end. So we cry for them even as we are called away, even after they are gone we grieve. For what is grief if not love’s integrity surviving the trauma of an end?

I like the florid, big issues present in the greatest stories ever told, but I live on what little I learn to apply. So based on my poor and limited understanding of Jeremiah’s day and personal grief, I only have a few take-a-ways which resonate with other great stories, so I strongly believe they are truths. The true weight of a person’s soul, in the Light they reflect and refract, is directly proportional to their faithfulness to God’s will for their life. Many times God does not spare us from consequences of our sins (communal nor personal), but if we are willing, He uses our trials and losses to purify us and others… always because He loves us and others, even in release, even when He knows the war He’s sending us into, even before we were born in the sin and inequity of the womb.      

The word of the Lord came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I dedicated you,
    a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
“Ah, Lord God!” I said,
    “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”

But the Lord answered me,
Do not say, “I am too young.”
    To whomever I send you, you shall go;
    whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
    for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the Lord.

Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me,

See, I place my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you
    over nations and over kingdoms,
To uproot and to tear down,
 to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant.

As a general rule I don’t make elaborate educational constructs out of oracluar poetry, all kinds of clap-trap sins and false doctrines are floating about in churches today because of that fundamental error. However, I know that “lose speech” in song, parable, or verse is vital to the functions of narrative to create unity and inform right vision. So I am sure there are a few things that I can know form the seed of Jeremiah’s call that reflect true light on God’s will. He, as we, can be fearless if we are telling the truth with integrity, even if it might cost us our life. The Spirit isn’t dull (in any sense) but those teaching or preaching without integrity are simply flailing about with a rubber hose not the sharp rigidity of God’s Word. They will not receive God’s authority… Not ever, but they might be very popular or rich by earthly standards. But if we know God, in reality, and are honest about ourselves we can be faithful, especially in sufferings, poverty, and exclusion, indeed we ought count them as gain. We also come to see that despite unrepentance, God is still kind to sinners and the self-righteous for a time, often for a very long time time. But we know that deferment ends, so we should not get angry at God about it nor should we gloat beneath our breath in the waiting. Like Jeremiah, we should never cease in doing good even though the face of love changes to fit the situation rightly (ie great mercy towards the penitent while also heated ferocity in the face of injustice).

For me personally from, “The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests from Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin,” to “Bring us back to you, Lord, that we may return: renew our days as of old. For now you have indeed rejected us and utterly turned your wrath against us…” I draw the lesson that I must always strive towards intimacy with my God and Lord… I must always strive towards intimacy with my God and my Lord… I must always strive towards intimacy with my God and my Lord. We don’t read laments enough, and if we had preached Jeremiah (besides the most cited rosy couple of passages ripped from context) enough I doubt our impending consequences and repercussions would be so dire today. So now we really need to understand the right role of Jeremiah, because the lack of integrity is just a wound that can be healed, while suffering trials due to a lack of integrity repeatedly is just plain wasteful. If you do the latter, then you’ll just keep to doing stupid crap over and over just to play the victim. The former is just a fallen nature crying out for rectitude beneath peeling skin. Don’t be wasteful, accept purification toward holiness. It may “feel” bad or embarassing for a momnet but it is Spiritually empowering forever.

Converse with God like the prophet, don’t drone-on in monologues like the religous folks who ignored both God and Jeremiah, just to follow theirown noses. Speak with frank honesty to God and all people in all things; it’s not easy but simple once we’ve dropped your idols to do it in love. Jeremiah’s “meanest” polemics were acts of Love, which cost him personally. Keep hope alive by living in truth and Spirit, that’s right worship and our eyes are on the Prize. Let that active, dynamic vision inform our faith, so even if we don’t see the next right move we’re probably already doing it. Be courageous and fail sincerely cleaving to Jesus, unless we’re failing we really aren’t trying. God wants to hear it all from us, pain to praise, from the gut up to open our mind and heart. Pour it all out to Him and He’ll over-fill us. Do this all a long time and we’ll have the kind of integrity that the Spirit can dress with authority… and then hang on, like Jeremiah did, because then things transform and change even if others, who claim to have sight, call us blind. Don’t be a yahoo or gongoozler, be a plumb line that the Spirit can work from. He’s always on the level but our foundations are naturally inclined to shifting, braking bad. 

Fear not when we fail! I cannot overemphasize that enough. If God can use a man like David to reset the foundations of his House, then He can and will use anyone who’s got the integrity to lavishly repent like David. Oh David, David, David… thank God for him too, but we’ve got that story for another day. He does deserve a shout out, in a memorial song, a forerunner to Palm Sunday in the return of the Ark, because he wore integrity and ephods more immodestly than Jeremiah. Whereas the prophet maintained unflinching situational awareness, something few others could, David ran and fell blindly and repeatedly, but he proved integrity’s great utility in return, like any of us might.  

David, a man of integrity, certainly a type of king before the King of kings.
I will sing to the Lord all my life. I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Defilement of Integrity Comes from Self not Enemies

The Tradition of the Elders: Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me;
In vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines human precepts.’

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’(meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.” He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

It is easy to stare at enemies too hard to examine one’s self frankly. What is clear to Jesus’ Spirit is somehow always out of sight for most religious leaders and professional spiritualists. Human teachings and traditions tend to occult God’s Word overtime, in practice they gloss and refract the Truth. It is actually their intent and nature. It was true then, and it is still true today:

In all honesty, I adore, almost worship, many things a few of the names the “Reformed Thug Life” pilloried in love above, and I’ve studied most of them. I am simply using relatable, real humor to illustrate a greater truth. If we were a crowd of physicists, we might simply discuss layered lens effects, measure them, and purpose refraction and focus adjustments. But if we don’t even know the true nature of the simple mystery of light, then how is it that so many have murdered and condemned, in thought and deed (against God’s commands), for the utterances contrived in their own mouths concerning the unfathomable Mystery, which they will never fully understand? One could make a similar point of any sect or teaching tree within any religious system. It is good that so many historically situated models and culturally contested metaphors have been used. They’ve been necessary failures to reach every people group, but insufficient for the cause they claim to own with their violence. Their own methods betray them, as all their human constructs will dissolve in their trembling flesh the closer they themselves are born to the Truth, each in their final moments. They’ve helped fulfill a promise, but no one of them is the promised One. None of our own ideas and words should be stumbling blocks, not ever. Each of them have been servants, of various worth, but we do not worship servants, let alone the limited ideas of compromised slaves. We worship only the One worthy of worship, in Spirit and truth, not in human apprehension and language. We worship in reality, not vanity!

Fallen people have a tendency to supersede God’s risen Word and co-opt his people. We live in a rough neighborhood even if our own house is in perfect order. We’re going to fail and be hurt, perspectives will bend and brake, there will be loses by Design. Our loves take a beating. We change and God does not. Our project is to reconcile a creation in relapse Jesus’ Way, and that means we have to go outside and get a little dirty in outreach. But don’t over-extend, set a pace, and take it easy. Take care, so that ritual in practices or doctrines about a faith never occult a Jeremiah-like relationship with God, others, perceived enemies or those who call themselves righteous friends. We fall a little more every time reputation becomes more important than godliness, or as I say personalities are put before principles. Jesus straight up condemns it like Jeremiah did, and calls those involved in such spiritual lewdness hypocrites. It is the “hardness of heart” (and some hard-headness too) issue that seemingly binds the Book more often than not. Doctrine is a wonderful servant and a horrible master, all at the same time. It is like money that way, any human creation has the prospect of becoming an idol. Don’t do it! It happens most often when we’re in denial. When we hide our pains and mistakes to impress “friends” more often than we make painful mistakes seeking to reconcile “enemies,” all hell ensues and we lose ourselves. Integrity that we want, the kind God desires, heals us as well as our “enemies.”

The principles that Jesus knew about Spiritual warfare are the same as the ones “the oldschool master,” Omar Bradley, knew in the rebellions of flesh:

Westmoreland recalled summer maneuvers in 1936, when he commanded a cadet battalion assigned to defend a hill. When the troops opposing him succeeded in taking the hill, Bradley, who was umpiring the maneuvers, summoned Westmoreland to his side:

“Mr. Westmoreland,” he said, “look back at that hill. Look at it now from the standpoint of the enemy.”

Turning, I became aware for the first time of a concealed route of approach that it was logical for an attacker to use. Because I had failed to cover it with my defense, he as umpire had ruled for the attacking force.

It is fundamental,” Major Bradley said calmly but firmly, “to put yourself always in the position of the enemy.”

Bradley was not interested in scolding Westmoreland, but in ensuring that he took away from the experience of defeat an element that would be key to victory [in the future]: the principle of putting yourself in the place of the enemy. It is common to speak of great commanders—men like Napoleon, Lee, and Rommel—as having possessed a genius for getting inside the mind of their opponent. When Bradley counseled Cadet Westmoreland to put himself in the position of the enemy, he meant nothing so mystical. Instead, he brought Westmoreland literally to his opponent’s position and invited him—again, literally—to see what the enemy saw and, from that perspective, to ponder the available options. As Bradley understood tactics, putting yourself in the enemy’s position was a practical means of getting inside his head. The exchange with Westmoreland was vintage Bradley, eliciting a principle of war fighting that is profound yet founded on the commonest of common sense. – Historynet

Me? Me talking about integrity is just as bad, if not worse, than Moses talking about humility. So I try and keep the poverty John Climacus calls out in my head (above) and the repentance the Psalmist glorifies in my heart (below). If I do that, then on occasion, I know God found me integrated enough to do good things and a few incredible things. I want to know how poor I am today so I am not so shocked when I die. To that end I have seldom presumed an enemy, like many do daily as if it were an affirmation of faith… Actually, the constant renaming of enemies might be an affirmation for the real enemy. But Satan ain’t a proud sinner nor an apostate. He just holds them captive, while they do their dirty deeds on their own. His knowledge of God is formidable, beyond any of those “reformed thugs” pictured above. His belief could be perfect, if not for his proud disobedience to God’s commands, which is his greatest weakness.

So I have found, like Jeremiah and Jesus, that God may overcome our enemy through me if I remain obedient, however imperfectly, over the long haul. This is true no matter which way they come at me. In fact, Satan himself hasn’t pursued a frontal assault on me since ’89. Since then he’s used everything form penthouse centerfolds to deacons’ committees. It has been a hoot! And I’ve often failed because I am stupid and proud, but so far, like David, when God thumps me, I rip my clothes and my life and cry like I need to drink snot. I can still put a three-year old to shame. Beyond that, I keep it simple. I call no flesh an enemy, while I keep watch for vile spirits to come at me from any direction, especially in my heart-life. And my mind? Man, I try to avoid that place by serving others, asking only for God’s will for my life today and his Power to carry it out. My results vary, but he hasn’t once ignored my request.

Most of my learning curve has been busted on my “friends,” folks who were supposed to help but weren’t in right position when I was, like shaman in a plague ridden town. At the time I was miffed for a beat, but now I have a way to respond that God painfully cured in me and my miffed-ness. When they demand that I wait… I out wait them. If they said something ridiculous like “be Moses”… I’d do what Moses did but not strike the Rock even when the people struck me. If they instructed me “do as I do”… I learn their rules better than they know them and keep serving them long after they broke their own rules and betrayed me. There’s got to be an easier way, but this one is simple enough for me. And today, I am most grateful to God that He not only delivered me from all those [explicative] duties, but also, despite my worst efforts, He glorified Himself in my flesh and in broken worlds. Like I said, it’s been a real hoot! Moreover, because of all that, I’ve learned not to be in a hurry, no matter how bad I think it is, because once I get through that test, there’s another coming, again. Service in his Kingdom never ends, but the sooner we leave our kingdoms to enter into His, the sooner everything gets healed and glorious… that’s the restoration God’s logos in the cosmos, from our hearts literally to the heights of the sky to the depths of the oceans. There’s a lot to restore, so get to step’n.  

The Miserere: Prayer of Repentance
For the leader. A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
I
Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love;
    in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.
Thoroughly wash away my guilt;
    and from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my transgressions;
    my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your eyes
So that you are just in your word,
    and without reproach in your judgment.
Behold, I was born in guilt,
    in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, you desire true sincerity;
    and secretly you teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
You will let me hear gladness and joy;
    the bones you have crushed will rejoice.
II
Turn away your face from my sins;
    blot out all my iniquities.
A clean heart create for me, God;
    renew within me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from before your face,
    nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore to me the gladness of your salvation;
    uphold me with a willing spirit.
I will teach the wicked your ways,
    that sinners may return to you.
Rescue me from violent bloodshed, God, my saving God,
    and my tongue will sing joyfully of your justice.
Lord, you will open my lips;
    and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it;
    a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
    a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.
III
Treat Zion kindly according to your good will;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will desire the sacrifices of the just,
    burnt offering and whole offerings;
    then they will offer up young bulls on your altar.
Integrity, takes a long time to play out.

Lived Intergration is the Devout Comsumation of Love in Action

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on their behalf is for salvation. I testify with regard to them that they have zeal for God, but it is not discerning. For, in their unawareness of the righteousness that comes from God and their attempt to establish their own [righteousness], they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith.

Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from [the] law, “The one who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will go up into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will go down into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart…”

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

Every time I look at the blank screen slowly filled with perfect quotes, scriptures, songs, and stories over the months prior, or years, or even decades, and then sit down to fill in the blanks I am terrified and feel foolish in the process. Every time, but God always says the same thing, “don’t worry we’ll fill in the blanks.” I still feel like the tail wagging the dog with common sense and broken syntax, so let’s take our exit today with a shred of integrity by sharing a humorous story oft told, but I was reminded of last by the greatest Baptist I’ve ever known, about a decade ago.

An Amish farmer was driving his plain horse-drawn buggy down a back road, when out of the distance flew up a classic Cadillac convertible so huge it took up most the little farm to market road, and passing by so fast it spooked the noble steed, jerking the buggy so abruptly it broke a spoke. All the farmer could make out between the whale-tails and below the dropped top was the personalized license plate that read “I TITHE.”  So the farmer, rig-hobbled, nursed the buggy and the horse to the store, where the Cadillac was still chugging down gasoline, the devils’ own brew, into its cavernous tank.  

In humble silence the farmer descended to light on the dirt and to meekly proceed inside, while his horse took a breather in the shade. The noble gaul whinnied in alarm as the Cadillac owner came upon the buggy mann and grabbed his shoulder too quickly. The ferhoodeled fella was a sight dressed to the nines. Slicked back, oiled hair too, shaved and shorn close, perfect teeth, shark-skinned suit, a tie so long you knew he was compensating for a short-coming, with a fine gold chain carrying a demure but gilded cross over the tie, and of course shoes that cost more than the farmer made in a year. Shoes the farmer didn’t even know existed, let alone how much they cost or what shoes like that “meant.”

The snazzy guy spoke first… of course, “Tell me sir, I’ve heard about folks like you but never had the pleasure to make your acquaintance.”  The farmer squinted to find the man’s soul, so the evangelist continued, believing he had taken his audience captive, “I’ve looked at how you folks stay simple and don’t act like you’re part of the world at all. But I don’t need to understand your religion, I just want to know one thing: Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”

Sensing the  Englischer’s earnestness and what might be a soul, the polite farmer quietly answered as doctrinally as he might in evangelisse formulae, “We tend our gaarde, love our wife, as we serve our Gotte in Gelassenheit.” Then the fancy Dan squinted to retort like a lawyer, “No sir, all I want to know is are you saved?! Yes or no?!” The farmer nodded in silent acknowledgment, smiled, and conspicuously scribbled quickly onto an old piece of paper that he silently pulled from his pocket. He then neatly folded it with the quiet of a tomb and handed it to the brash hand of creature with a lot of prefabricated questions from a loud world without answers.

The inquisitor opened the note and scanned it quickly to ask another question, again too quickly but slightly more informed, just slightly, “What is this? Why are you evading the only question that could save your soul?!”  Sensing the bellicosity rising in the man’s voice and some confusion crying to the Light betrayed behind his scaly eyes, the farmer again spoke quietly but more directly to the man’s spirit, “Those are the names of three of my enemies, please, ask them if I know with the only One that saves.”  

All godly folks like Mary or Jeremiah know the blank, almost jaw agape, stare that people (who think they know better) fall into when God’s integrity overflows their cups and washes over another’s spirit. It ain’t even a fight. They ain’t no enemy at all. It becomes a fairly frequent yet uncommon occurance, as we fight the real fight everyday to keep the inside of our cups clean, first and foremost. After a beat, the owner and grocer walked out and said, “Guder mariye, mein faehicher schreiner. Why are we here?” The farmer removed his hat to say, “We redd up to exchange gifts, but now I willkumme Gotte… He brought me here today to cobble a broken wheel, for difficulty is a miracle in its first stage.” The inquisitor couldn’t find right words… as gasoline spewed out on his Cadillac and hissed on the searing limestone below.  

A Lament over Widespread Corruption
For the leader; according to Mahalath. A maskil of David.
I
The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They act corruptly and practice injustice;
    there is none that does good.
God looks out from the heavens
    upon the children of Adam,
To see if there is a discerning person
   who is seeking God.
All have gone astray;
    each one is altogether perverse.
    There is not one who does what is good, not even one.
II
Do they not know better, those who do evil,
    who feed upon my people as they feed upon bread?
    Have they not called upon God?
They are going to fear his name with great fear,
    though they had not feared it before.
For God will scatter the bones
of those encamped against you.
They will surely be put to shame,
    for God has rejected them.
III
Who will bring forth from Zion
    the salvation of Israel?
When God reverses the captivity of his people
    Jacob will rejoice and Israel will be glad.

Household Code for God’s Lamp

Integrity takes a long, long time to play out against oppositions, but its dividends never end because integrity is forever the home of God’s love. Your enemies might see it, even when friends, the wicked, and self-righteous see something else… despite the fact that they cannot discern their own ends.

A Psalm of David

I

I sing of mercy and justice;
    to you, Lord, I sing praise.
I study the way of integrity;
    when will you come to me?
I act with integrity of heart
    within my household.
I do not allow into my presence anything base.
    I hate wrongdoing;
    I will have no part of it.
May the devious heart keep far from me;
    the wicked I will not acknowledge.
Whoever slanders a neighbor in secret
    I will reduce to silence.
Haughty eyes and arrogant hearts
    I cannot endure.

II

I look to the faithful of the land
to sit at my side.
Whoever follows the way of integrity
    is the one to enter my service.
No one who practices deceit
    can remain within my house.
No one who speaks falsely
    can last in my presence.
Morning after morning I clear all the wicked from the land,
    to rid the city of the Lord* of all doers of evil.

Please remember the King and God this week with integrity, the Way Jesus said… starting inside working it to the outside.

(sundown March 31st)