The Tortured Ones

Down into the murky depth

Raw, unfiltered, unfettered filth

Oozing wounds, broken glory

Souls broken, twisted, gory

Seeking the lost and tortured we
Goes the Triune One but Three

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The Ocean and the Holy Spirit -musings on Pentecost Sunday 

I was born and raised in California. Unfortunately, I was raised in the desert. But I did make it to the beach every now and then. California is rather famous for its beaches, sun lovers and of course, surfers. Every single serious surfer I know was disciplined. Except they would never use that word. It would be “dedicated” or “practicing my art” or “riding the waves”. The discipline they practiced didn’t seem difficult because they loved what they were doing. They derived satisfaction from the results of the disciplining of their bodies and minds to ride the waves. Of the surfers I know, most simply love the water and the waves. The sound of the pounding surf, the salty spray of the ocean, the ebb and flow of the water, and the sun beating down from above.

Any of you who have spent enough time in the ocean also know that it leaves you feeling its presence after you get out. One’s body retains a sense of the water pushing and pulling on you.  The really great surfers eventually gain a natural sense of the water, a feeling for how it will be moving.

For those of you who didn’t grow up near the ocean, there’s something important to understand about the ocean. It’s predictably unpredictable. I love to swim in the ocean. Number one rule in the ocean however is this: never turn your back on the ocean. It can be hard to handle even when you know what you’re about to do, like body surf a wave. I once got rolled riding a wave and then the churning water held me under. I could see nothing but sandy water and quickly lost my sense of up and down. But I was comfortable in the water, I was experienced with it. I held my breath and waited for the churning to stop. Once it slowed enough, I waited to feel which way natural buoyancy was moving my body and then turned to go to the surface. The surprising thing was my feet immediately hit the sandy bottom and I was able to stand. I was actually in barely four feet of water. And all this was the result of my consciously choosing to ride the wave, never mind getting hit by one when you aren’t expecting it. Another rule in the water: don’t panic, it will only make things worse.

I was stationed on a submarine as a young man and we once did a short swim call in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Nothing but our little sub and the vast slowly rolling ocean. There is no escaping one’s smallness in the midst of the ocean. There are thousands of feet of water under you and vast miles to the horizon. The sea was calm, just a slightly visible rising and falling of the water. However, its presence and force were inescapable.

In the Gospel of John Chapter 3 verse 5-8 (ESV) it reads:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Air and water are both fluids, water is just a lot denser than air obviously. If you’ve ever been outside in the wind for a while, you will also know that wind can leave a mark very similar to the ocean. You can feel it on your face for a while after the experience. But it doesn’t have the same lasting intensity as spending time in the ocean.

A couple of years ago I wrote about discipline in general. You will also find the dictionary definition at the bottom of this blog post. That blog really was the beginning point for me, in terms of learning spiritual discipline. Learning to pray regularly. Learning to fast. Learning to be in community with fellow believers.

As I sat down to write this piece, I had in my head the idea to write about spiritual disciplines in general. But as I reflected, I realized something about this whole process. One does not learn the ocean in a day, or even a week. It takes years of time in the water. And more than a few bumps and bruises. I will warn you now, Satan is not interested in you really praying.

So, now here I am two years down the line following spiritual disciplines. Of practicing tuning out the distractions of this world and turning away from the pleasures of this world. Of learning to do it out of love. Out of love for my Lord, the redeemer of my soul.

And I am just getting the sense of something, that still small voice Elijah spoke of hearing. I am getting the impression that learning to sense the Holy Spirit is immensely similar to learning waves and ocean, but way more elusive. I don’t claim to have heard the whisper. But I’ve felt the breath. I’ve sensed the Spirit move in my own life and of those close to me. A couple of times now it has rolled me. But I decided to not panic. The Lord commanded us to not be afraid.  Don’t panic in the water, it will not improve things. Fear will not improve the situation around you. Oh, trust me I’ve been afraid several times. But I didn’t act on it, I think I can say that honestly. And the Lord pulled us through. Because He is the God who saves.

How else does a mere mortal chase the immortal wind?

How else does a mere man follow the whispers of The Infinite Divine?

——————————————————————————————————————————–

dis·ci·pline
ˈdisəplən/
noun
noun: discipline
  1. 1.
    the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
    “a lack of proper parental and school discipline”
    synonyms: control, training, teaching, instruction, regulation, direction, order, authority, rule, strictness, a firm hand; More

    routine, regimen, drill, drilling
    “a lack of proper parental discipline
  2. 2.
    a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.
    “sociology is a fairly new discipline”
    synonyms: field (of study), branch of knowledge, subject, area;

    “sociology is a fairly new discipline”
verb
verb: discipline; 3rd person present: disciplines; past tense: disciplined; past participle: disciplined; gerund or present participle: disciplining
  1. 1.
    train (someone) to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
    “many parents have been afraid to discipline their children”
    synonyms: train, drill, teach, school, coach;

    “she had disciplined herself to ignore the pain”

 

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Misunderstanding Greatness 

I’m assuming most of my readers live here in the USA. So, when I head into this discussion about God, religion and American politics, you will have a fairly good understanding of certain assumptions.

In the mid1800’s a Frenchman by the name Alexis de Tocqueville travelled the young United States. He was trying to understand it. One of the enduring observations was this: “America is Great because America is good. If it ceases to be good, it will no longer be great.”

As I look at my country of birth, I no longer see  a good people. And that, unfortunately, starts with me. I ignored the truths given to me by my parents. I rebelled against my father. I argued nonstop with him. I rejected the authority that God had placed in him. I walked away from church and went my own way. My own morality.

My own morality turned out to be an unbearable burden. A dear brother in Christ preached Grace to me. I still remember uttering the sentence “But, I’m not good enough for God.” I was projecting my own inability to forgive on the Lord of forgiveness.

It has taken years of relearning to get me to where I am. Not that that place is a place of perfection or excellence but able to look back and see the pitiable creature I had become. It was an extremely painful journey, to have layer after layer of sin uncovered in my life. Christ Jesus keeps gently, but firmly moving through my heart. He finds the locked doors, places I try to “hide” from Him. About two years ago he broke down my “workplace” door. He has been busy turning my theology of work on its head.

So, you may be asking yourself, is the discussion of God and politics? Well, I’m terrified of writing on this topic. I was raised in a house of politics. My parents met because of their political activity. And supremely contrarian. They were Barry Goldwater supporters during the 60’s when everybody else was going democrat. So, I can usually get into a good political debate when the other person wasn’t really that interested in a big debate.

So, I’m not going to hit any specific policy issues here. What I’m going to hit is, what is greatness and how that intersects with American politics?

God is infinitely great. He is all powerful, all knowing and all present. He is also perfect goodness. Justice and Mercy. Truth and Grace. Perfect balance.

So, what made young America good? I humbly submit that it was self control. We are an experiment in self government. How can we govern ourselves (plural) if we are unable to govern ourselves (singular)?

Now, I know that many will immediately bring up slavery here. And, I understand. But consider the abolishinist movement. Consider also the prevalence of slavery throughout human history and into today. Chattel slavery was a great evil, and we are better for ending it here in the United States. But I submit to you abortion. We allow the wholesale slaughter of innocent babies. The rational for Southerners was that blacks were not humans equal with whites. Abortionists argue that the unborn child is not really a child, a human with rights equal to those already born.

In my position as a citizen of heaven as a Child of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, I’m commanded to “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18). The entirety of Romans 13 is appropriate here:

Translation’s title for this chapter: Obey Those in Authority

“13 All of you must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God. 2 So whoever opposes the authorities opposes leaders whom God has appointed. Those who do that will be judged. 3 If you do what is right, you won’t need to be afraid of your rulers. But watch out if you do what is wrong! You don’t want to be afraid of those in authority, do you? Then do what is right, and you will be praised. 4 The one in authority serves God for your good. But if you do wrong, watch out! Rulers don’t carry a sword for no reason at all. They serve God. And God is carrying out his anger through them. The ruler punishes anyone who does wrong. 5 You must obey the authorities. Then you will not be punished. You must also obey them because you know it is right.

6 That’s also why you pay taxes. The authorities serve God. Ruling takes up all their time. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them. Do you owe taxes? Then pay them. Do you owe anything else to the government? Then pay it. Do you owe respect? Then give it. Do you owe honor? Then show it.

Love Fulfills the Law
8 Pay everything you owe. But you can never pay back all the love you owe one another. Whoever loves other people has done everything the law requires. 9 Here are some commandments to think about. “Do not commit adultery.” “Do not commit murder.” “Do not steal.” “Do not want what belongs to others.” (Exodus 20:13 15,17; Deuteronomy 5:17 19,21) These and all other commands are included in one command. Here’s what it is. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) 10 Love does not harm its neighbor. So love does everything the law requires.

The Day Is Near
11 When you do these things, keep in mind the times we are living in. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your sleep. The full effects of our salvation are closer now than when we first believed in Christ. 12 The dark night of evil is nearly over. The day of Christ’s return is almost here. So let us get rid of the works of darkness that harm us. Let us do the works of light that protect us. 13 Let us act as we should, like people living in the daytime. Have nothing to do with wild parties, and don’t get drunk. Don’t take part in sexual sins or evil conduct. Don’t fight with each other or be jealous of anyone. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ as if he were your clothing. Don’t think about how to satisfy sinful desires.”

———-

As Americans were are the rulers. We are the government. We wrote the constitution, we write the laws, we enforce the laws. If we are good, then the laws and the enforcement of those laws are good. We as Americans are no longer good, therefore America is no longer great. True goodness exists only in The Living GOD. Our goodness is but a reflection of His goodness.

Many of you are now wondering if I’m taking a swipe at Trump here. As the Carly Simon song goes “You probably think this song is about you.”

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Get Busy Living, between the Already and the Not Yet

The last year has been a tremendous journey spiritually. It started last Lent, when I sensed a need to pray. But, like really pray. Intensely. So I did for all of Lent and for a bit after. Long prayers in the morning, using the Anglican lexicon for morning prayer. I think I was hoping for some serious mind blowing GOD showing up and lighting some roman candles. But, the immediate aftermath was more hushed tones than fireworks.

My sense of being “right with GOD” got just a wee bit off balance. My overconfidence led to a rather embarrassing moment at work where I metaphorically stepped on my new boss’s feet by losing my cool with an employee during a staff meeting. That’s the short and sanitized version. Suffice it to say, my boss was none too happy.

It caused a real reflection on the emotional and existential emphasis I placed on my job. Being an American, my identity can be mixed up in my level of education, earnings, job title and type of job. Reflecting on the tensions that built up within me prior to the melt down showed I had way too much of my identity wrapped up in my job. The importance of this has only really recently become clear to me.

We joined a small group at church, my wife and I. There was some trepidation, would this not be a good fit? Would we stick out in the wrong way? None of this has been true, but instead has been a place of much joy and weeping to the LORD. Beyond that, not gonna break the confidence of the group.

Then I started listening to church history lectures found of Covenant Theological Seminary’s website. I finished Ancient Church to right before the Reformation and am almost done with the next semester of Modern Church History, Reformation through now. It has been humbling. The Council of Chalcedon and Christology nearly broke my brain contemplating how the church got to “Fully GOD and yet Fully Man”. So very much has happened to get to where we are now. Which is both part of the journey from the past and yet the current state of things while looking to the future return of our Lord and Savior.

In the process, something inside me broke. But in a good way. My attachment to my country. Don’t get me wrong. I still honor the country of my birth. I will continue to show it devotion. But only that devotion it deserves and is appropriate and no more. Same with my employment, a certain distance emotionally.

I’ve invested more time in the relationships around me. With my wife. With my children. With my small group. With my church. I got busy living.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Thinking clearly as Christians on Government 

Mereorthodoxy

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Loretta…

Video post by @drejwest.

Source: Loretta…

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Godly Women…

They make the world what it is my friends….

Source: Godly Women…

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Between Two Criminals 

Last Sunday our church had a dramatic reading of Luke’s account of the trial and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ (see scripture below). 

Maybe I’m a bit dull, but I never saw the simple choice that is presented in that recounting of the death of our Lord. Jesus, the God-man without stain or blemish, is raised on a cross between two criminals meeting their just end. 

One hurls insults and derision on Yeshua, (Jesus’s name in Hebrew.) He mocks him, in the same manner that the religious elite do, “save yourself”. Jesus is essentially mocked for claiming to be the person that He is. The Truth is mocked for claiming to be Truth. 

The other sees his own sin. He makes no excuses, no rationalizing of his actions. He sees his own inability to save himself. He sees the stark Truth, that Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, is being killed unjustly. And he asks Jesus to remember him, to look with pity upon him. 

So the choice stands before us all. Will we acknowledge our sin, our crimes against a Holy and Righteous GOD or hurl insults at the Chosen One of God? There is none righteous, no not one. 

God have mercy on us. 

________________________

Luke 23: 32-43 (ESV) 
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.  And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.  And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine  and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over him,“This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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Subversive Faith

I love the imagery used here. Gave me a fresh perspective that I’m including in my next piece. This is from Eugene Peterson in an article for CT in 1989. 

The Subversive Pastor

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Are You Ready?

We must all be ready. Is your lamp lit?

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/princetons-robert-george-are-you-ready-to-pay-the-price-the-days-of-sociall​

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