October 16th 2006
Essay: When Lambs Bite – Consecration, Responsiblity, and Grace; Reflections on Discouragment
10/10/2006 – Original Post
10/14/2006 – Expanded and Edited
10/16/2006 – Minor Edits to ‘Protect the Innocent and the Guilty’
8/13/2012 – uploaded to mblipscomb.wordpress
I know that what I post here tends to be on the long side – but I will try to be a bit shorter today for the benefit of those of us who tend to be focus deficient; among whose number I am myself to be ironically counted.
Several days ago I was surfing around the connected links on two sites that I frequent, thirstytheologian.com, and challies.com. I cannot remember ‘how many clicks deep’ or in what direction that I was going at the time – but I came across a fellow who was saying goodbye to a fellow blogger who was checking himself out of the blogging world, and he was noting his fellow bloggers “departing” with much sadness and regret. So out of curiosity I clicked through to the fellows site and found these words under http://metalutheran.blogspot.com/:
I’ve been blogging for a long time. Since any other detail I could put in my profile would either offend somebody or be used as a launch-pad for personal insults, that’s all you get to know.
Judging from the titles to links that went back to his site, many of them were of great interest to me; I clicked on a couple – and these words popped up on the screen:
It’s been fun, but public blogging has come back to bite a few seminarians. I don’t need that
Blog post after blog post had been deleted and been replaced with a telling message; two years worth; whatever metalutheran had posted – nothing remained of them but these words he had replaced all of them with.
I leaned back in my chair – and stared at the words on the screen. I remembered back to a time not too long ago when I collection of websites, Antithesis, Christian counterculture, & discerning reader, sites that I had thoroughly enjoyed, put together by a fellow by the name of Rob Schlapfer, suddenly went black, with only the words “antithesis is shut down – perhaps for good. I’ve just lost hope.” left on the screen.
At the time, I mourned the loss – as a few others did as well – and I remember looking around and finding an apology offered by Rob to his book selling business’s customers. Apparently there had been some controversy with the online bookstore that he had managed and a great deal of controversy regarding the essays that he had posted on other sites that he had put together. The anger from his customers, his own anger back at them and perhaps his own anger at the way he had responded to his own business difficulties; plus his harassment and subsequent pariah-like status for his changing doctrinal views and subsequent contestations – had pushed him passed a brink that was met with a few mouse clicks, an apology and all his sites suddenly going offline. I read his apology and remembered the times, being in business for 8 years; doing websites for churches and ministries, that we had ourselves been treated horribly by ministries and churches and even the time that one went out of their way with the express purpose of trying to destroy our fledgling web design business by making attempts at dissuading other ministries to not use us. The stand for righteousness and the reason that we separated ourselves from them are too old and complicated and unrelated to this present discussion – but we’d do it that way again each and every time if we had to go through with it again. But the price we paid…the anger we felt when the sun seemingly shone on the reprobates and it just poured like cats and dogs upon us. All the times we had the right attitude – and all the times that we ourselves fell short.
Not all such incidents involved sexual immorality by a minister and an incurred, resultant attack upon the confrontation thereof – sometimes it just involved merely getting paid in one’s business for very hard work rendered. “But we’re a ministry” are words that echo in your head as you look at the lines of red ever growing in your Quick Books ledger.
Being in a business with a partner can be both a challenging and rewarding endeavor; and my experience with Clinton Robertson, who I am privileged to consider a good friend and co-founder, co-principle, and co-conspirator in BT Intermedia inc, has in no small measure lived up to this expectation. It is interesting to think of all the times that things have worked out one way or another – at times seemingly organically, and others, carefully planned out – that our leadership roles have woven a legacy of tales that may or may not ever be told beyond our own ruminations. Sometimes he’s the dad, and I’m the mom – and sometimes it’s the reversal of that: “I wanna talk to Clinton about this…” – and then there is the good cop/bad cop routine that plays itself out, sometimes almost always never planned or anticipated, and at times reversed, but always with interesting results: the time that a certain Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel oriented ministry client met with Clinton – I was late from coming from another meeting, and they met with him instead of me – and Clinton told them “we are going to need you to pay this for this and that for that; please understand that we have done this and this and this and that and that and that, already, and at no charge.”
They promptly left the office in a considerable huff; not the first – and neither the last to do so. And these people teach a prosperity gospel; though they were seemingly insulted at paying a servant for reasonable work performed. It is regrettably possible that such a person, potentially blinded by pride, could come to potentially live under a curse; never seeing that they may in fact never experience the fullness of what they preach because they themselves behave in ways that give them the appearance of being first-rate hypocrites in the manner of their own message. God bless and keep them everyone, though – may the ministry of their tight-fisted little hands never cease to prosper; after all, there is no law against being frugal in business; and it is generally smart to look for the lowest bidder in a business transaction; but when we pray for God to manage our blessing, do we make the same request for such? There is something to be said about the reciprocity of blessings given and received – and it is my opinion that that effect takes place just as much in the tip you leave your waitress Friday afternoon as it does with that which you place in the Sunday morning offering plate. Spiritual dynamics have earthly implications; the divorce between the spiritual and physical may be recognized in the minds of gnostic dualists; but that does not mean that it is so in God’s absolute reality….but I digress.
A friend once sat in the waiting room of our offices, waiting for the conclusion of a meeting so we could go and catch lunch, and they, unexpected to us, overheard the profanity-laden conversation of a certain client as we wrapped up the details of a new project with them, shook hands and then signed the contract. They laughed, we talked – and every other word they expressed themselves with was “f-“this and “gd-“that; to where my friend emerged from the room upon the clients departure almost ashen-faced from the one-way barrage of obscenities that we had inadvertently subjected them to. “Why in the world work with that person?” they asked wide-eyed and visibly bewildered; looking at the walls as though in expectancy of seeing peeling paint. “‘Cause the money’s green, the business is clean, and they aint mean.” I think I remember laughing when I said that – they may have just thought I was being silly. They may have thought I was seriously transgressing the very foundations of my faith to interact with such a profound heathen. I don’t remember if we talked that much about that given incident. What I do remember, in the eight years that we have worked with ‘both that sacred and the secular,’ is that we have been treated like angels by the secular – and profanely by the “sacred.” This is no lie. Rob, my friend, I feel your pain. These Lambs – they bite. Sometimes – they bit very hard.
It’s a dirty, little secret; one that resides beneath the wonderful, gold veneer of Christianity – that a given number of God’s people are chronically pietistically-overblown, overly-judgmental, hateful, bitter, vengeful, graceless people. And there are more words that I could add in there – but I think that you get the gist. So many people are born into the kingdom of God and are both brought in through the efforts of fellow saints (yes, through the work of the Holy Spirit <— gratuitous statement for confirmatory clarification of Orthodoxy) and then they are pushed out through the actions and behaviors of the same. As someone who has a deep and ever growing love for theology and biblical learning, I have a growing concern of those who think doctrine is not really that important – but for as much as I am concerned with systematic theology – I am also concerned not just with Orthodoxy – but also Orthopraxy; Orthodoxy meaning ‘right belief’ and Orthopraxy ‘right action.’ So much of what we see in the church today is a reaction to what I consider an abruption of Orthodoxy/Orthopraxis – there is a gross separation that ought not be; we preach Christ and Christ crucified and yet we live and act and treat others like the devil. But if we also take that long reluctant look in the mirror; can we not see that what bothers us about other people, in our own eyes, in ourselves, with our own – if we give our eyes honest enough vision to see it? I know that I sure can…perhaps it is why I am so keen to see it around me and in my business interactions; this sin you see – it is my own…
I feel that if I took an unvarnished look at my own life and my behavioral tendencies – I have a very theologically-scrappy kind of personality. I am both theologically promiscuous and contentious. And I always love a good fight – seemingly about things that people don’t always want to fight about. I have been terrible in the way I have treated people. I have had to repent and apologize many times. And I hope that through the matchless grace of Christ and the daily renewing of my mind that my taunting ways have been tempered; but I know that at the core of my spiritual personality there is still a theological rottweiler pulling at it’s chains; angry, scarred from past fights, thick-skinned, and spoiling for a fight. I’m different in this way – and I think it’s a part of what I am in the body of Christ. In the business of the world there are diplomats and then there are Marines; and you would not send a Harvard educated diplomat to take out a ‘hard target’ just like you would not send the Marines to the embassy of a rouge state when still perusing honest diplomatic channels.
Once, I was told by a friend that a friend in my posse had been attending a church that has serious aberrations in its orthodoxy – so many that it is not considered Christian by the vast majority of bible-believing organizations; and they further informed me that this had been going on for a while – and now they were thinking of joining the other church. I felt my blood boiling; this precious friend was being drawn away from our church into a place that I consider to not be a Christian church; one that has a very long chapter dedicated to it in my well-worn copy of Dr. Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults. “What have you been doing about this!?” Does the pastor know about this? Have you told him?” I stood up – and remember putting my hands in the air and shaking my fists and saying “I can’t believe I’m hearing this…” I left in great anger and frustration – and after making a few calls and making sure that those in the leadership positions of the church did in fact know what was going on in it’s entirety – I subsequently went on several long drives in my car, most of which ended with me parked somewhere, near tears or crying openly, fuming at the seeming wasted efforts of “diplomats,” in moments, convinced to rebel against the advice of close friends involved to not go in “guns a’ blazing,” and to unload any theological howitzers upon my friend. If there ever was such a time for drastic intervention beyond the careful and concerted prayers that had already been lifted up by of those “diplomacy-oriented” friends of mine – then it was long passed by the time I had found out about it. I still pray for my friend – and I hope that they grow in the knowledge that they have of Christ and the Scripture and that they continue to have an authentic & vibrant relationship with Him and that they eventually come to know that there are so many soteriological travesties in the church that they attend that it’s not a christian church at all: that truth will win out and that regardless of how wonderful the people are there – that they will realize the ‘church’ they are in is a cult and it’s members are frightfully and demonically deceived by a man who, essentially, fabricated an entire belief structure out of thin air. Possibly there will be a time and a place that someone else will, in God’s timing, place a surgical air strike at just the right place and just the right time – strategic enough to wake my friend up in the right way, with the right grace and the right force to open their eyes. But that is for the Holy Ghost to do – even if someone plays a part as an intercessor or interlocutor. And if you really understand that Kingdom -then you know that it is the intercessor that really does the hard and dirty work – the work that comes long before, and will have been potentially going on for a long time. I pray for that to happen – either by the hands of another “Marine” or another “diplomat” but regardless of how it happens – or by what means of exercise – I have faith that it will. I, nor any of my friends have failed in the eyes of God. I have to believe this, though it is hard to. I trust that this is part of the process for my friend – and in God’s time, truth will prevail within my friend’s heart, spirit and mind. But I came to see that through prayer, and a lot of friends holding me back – begging me not to go on the attack. I did not think nor desire to think any such thing when they first told me.
But I am not always good at keeping myself reserved.
Once, upon hearing that a very old friend of mine was starting the proceedings necessary for a divorce from his wife – in what had become an unhappy marriage, for reasons that I will not go into or elaborate upon here – I mercilessly tore into him for an hour; and pummeled him with reasons that he had absolutely no authority to do such a thing, that it was wrong, that is was a sin, that he was giving into a generational curse, and that I absolutely refused to acknowledge that it could in any way be the right thing to do in the present circumstance. I repetitively demanded that he tell me that he was going to cease and desist from ending his marriage. I was furious and unloaded salvo after salvo; I endlessly and angrily berated him, I could not believe he was doing what he was doing and that he was going to go through with it. I wanted to grab him by the ears and shake him until he rattled.
I later apologized and had to ask for forgiveness from him. He had been my friend for 28 years – and I did not want the way I had reacted to the disappointment in his divorce to drive a wedge between us. I was wrong; I had manhandled my best friend, when he needed my support – the most I offered only anger, frustration and condemnation. I was wrong in the way I had treated him; and he never once raised his voice or argued with me. In the days before my repentance, I was reminded how I had been treated badly by others in things both my fault and not. I considered that I too – probably had much more had the tendency to be this same way to others, probably much more often then those who had wronged me and treated me badly. I was myself the frustrated, angry condemning christian I was so ironically frustrated and angry with. I took a long hard look in the mirror before I called my friend and asked to meet with him; realizing that perhaps he had sinned, but perhaps I had sinned greater. I took the dog back to it’s cage and tried to once again chain it back up; wondering to myself why I can be so bullheaded and combative at times. Repentance – once again – seemed to have to start with me in my own life before I had any right to speak of such to anyone else.
Rob – I know what it means to be wrong in something and have to repent for it; but that does not make what God has created in me to be wrong or unusable in the Body of Christ. I seek to walk in humility, yet strength: I seek consecration, wisdom and resolute persistence in what God calls me to do. I know I will fail – perhaps catastrophically – but it is the job of the Holy Spirit to use whatever gifts reside in this broken vessel. God created me this way. I should never be ashamed of who and what I am in Christ; even if it is ugly and perhaps disagreeable and unwelcomed at times to other people. It just means that I have to practice extra diligence and extra care and know that in doing what God has called me to do; to speak His truth; I will make people mad and it will be an unpopular action at times. But I should not offend without purpose – if I can help it; though my personality both spiritually and emotionally may at times get the best of me. So for as much as I am eager to fight – I must temper it with peace, grace, understanding, and, quite simply, sometimes just walking away when I could really unload on somebody.
But that does not mean that I don’t spend time fingering the trigger on my howitzer, or polishing “the big red button;” or toying with the notion of untethering the rottweiler within (there are times for everything; even a time to open the cage and unlock it’s chains) – I just know that just like I’m a fighter, there are others of different yet ultimately congruent and likewise, if not more necessary-to-the-function-of-the-body personalities within the church – there are times for me to do what I do best; to fight, argue and contest; and there are times for other to do what they do best, as well, and most of the time – I play nice, because most of the time – that is what the situation calls for.
The truth is that I am rarely, if even ever, really called “to fight” or to use weapons-grade ideological ordinance, though I might even fancy myself at times capable of such – other times not so much. In my own walk with Christ – I have seen that such militancy was in fact placed within my heart and my personality not as much to be “a theological marine” but for a larger purpose in my life; to push me into a passion for God and His truth – and to fuel me into a place where all of me might be consumed and He remains alone my soul’s desire. I now know more then I have ever known before about the calling upon my life that I have always known was there – but knew so little about. In some day to soon come I will go back to college and begin the long haul to seminary and beyond. I feel that I am not supposed to pastor; but I have – though it still seems strangely manic-like to say it – a desire to become a bible teacher in a seminary and by the sheer grace of God – a theologian. I cannot think of any pursuit within this world more desirable then to spend ones life and pursuit mediating upon, exploring the depths, and speaking and writing of the majesty of God, Christ and scripture.
But this brings me back around to the stories of people that I have seen on the internet – seemingly beaten out of visibility by the actions of the church and/or fellow believers. If I am called to be a leader in the church, and to stake out, defend – and call into question the theology of the church, not forever as a Socratic layman but eventually from and with the authority of a trained and comprehensively educated theologian; I am well aware that what I am in fact doing – going, by the grace, purpose, and instruction of God – is walking into an ever expanding and rambunctious herd of sheep that will seldom, if ever, really listen to anything I try to tell them, but will rather spend the majority of their time biting the living daylights out of my ever loving hide. The militancy and strength that God has placed within me – the desire to praise truth and refute lies – may find the form of complicated theological arguments vociferously articulated with great passion in an Orthodoxy sense – but in the Orthopraxy sense it will have less to do using my spiritual personality to eagerly and with glee hurl ordinance against the enemy in and against his offenses against the church, but rather to rely upon that other nature that a marine must also possess; to not just fight but also survive the firefight therein. And – most of that fire will never come from the enemy; it will come from fellow believers. It will come from lambs biting me in the most unthinkable places at the most unexpected of times; constantly and for as long as I may walk amidst the flock. Maybe – I will be a pastor someday. When you study theological figures throughout history you find that many of them would much rather have been studying and writing when they reluctantly took a pulpit somewhere they were practically begged into. Perhaps that is why we even know of them – because they were so emptied out of themselves that all they wanted to do was meditate and write of the Word; that to them the foolishness of preaching was just that. If I am called to ever preach for a given time; may my desires be focused on the Word and God and not on delivering some foolish, probably impalatable-coming-from-me sermon. If I get my priorities right – it would seem natural that if I am in God’s will – I am consecrated – and that if I take that responsibility and give it as much grace as I can, then all the proceeding complications will have no choice but to be both tempered in their pain and short-lived in their duration. If I can get those simple things right – the more complex things that are really merely logical outworkings of the same may be less daunting then I would think them to be.
I know that I can cry in frustration, and can fight when I should not and can’t when I really should. I know that I constantly have to guard against being inappropriately offensive to someone, and have to look and think twice at almost all I say and do because I can be painfully oblivious to saying or doing something hurtful to some precious saint, because, though I am often unexpectedly wounded – I do have – by nature of my spiritual personality – thick skin. This is why – amongst many things – that I think, as I have said before, that I believe that God has called me into teaching, and into what may at times be a confrontational ministry. But I do not think that being appropriately thick-skinned is a detriment to any ministry – especially pastors – rather, I think that it is an absolute necessity. I would go as far to say that each and everyone planning to pastor, teach, do whatever – you have to prepare yourself for that absolute onslaught of tooth, nail and fist that will sucker punch you at every opportunity, and at every step of the way – and not a bit from anything that could be called itself inherently demonic, rather all from those same gathered around you that you have, in effect – by the nature of your very calling – been called to bleed for – and this, you must know and be retold until you grasp it and gain skin thick enough to withstand it and press on in the Grace and provision of Christ – you shall – at these same hands.
I have read where Rob Schlapfer posted what appeared to be a heartfelt and sincere public apology for the things he apparently said. And I wondered about all the times I had been treated awfully by Christians in business and wondered if it was not by the sheer grace of God that I had never totally ‘gone off’ on somebody, including those times that I had in personal relations. I felt like the reviews that Rob had posted and the essays that he and others had put together were some of the best stuff on the Internet. It is my prayer for Rob – that where ever he is – that he finds the healing that he needs and that as part of that healing, that he be given tough skin; so that he may hope, may further fight and not lose hope again. I hope someday to find him once again out here.
Rob – is there anyone else putting together the community of writings on alcohol, prayer, sexuality and other things like you were once doing; the graceful presentations of which were done through at least halfway decent graphic design? Rob – where is all that stuff? Will you ever put it back up? I’ve been writing a book for the past two years on prohibition and alcohol in the church – and I was in part encouraged to begin writing it when I read your stuff online. Rob – where are “The Assertions” that anyone may ever find them?
assertion six – http://www.antithesis.com
today’s christian culture
denies the inherent
goodness of creation
Christians no longer affirm the basic goodness of God’s Creation. We are often discouraged or forbidden, particularly if we are in “leadership,” from enjoying things God has placed in this world for our pleasure
things that satisfy our tastes (like wine, foods)
our bodies (like marital intimacy and sexuality)
our eyes (the visual arts, fashion design)
our minds (the study of philosophy, history, literature)
using them appropriately, as the Bible instructs us.
Having embraced a kind of “Gnostic-dualism,” Christians today have forgotten that the Holy Spirit comes, in sanctifying power, to war against what we are as sinners —the bad fruit of our moral rebellion against God. He does not come to war against what we are as human beings, created in the image of God.
Today’s Christian Culture, in forbidding or discouraging the appropriate use of things God has given us to enjoy freely, is guilty of legislating a morality that is largely rooted in cultural taboos.
This type of legalism is not Christian —
to forbid eating certain foods, drinking alcoholic beverages, enjoying marital sexuality, listening to “secular” music, reading literature and philosophy, engaging in other supposedly unspiritual activities —
although it claims to be so.
The Bible alone must rule the conscience of any Christian.
To legislate where God has granted freedom is damnable.
(Matt. 23:1ff., v. 33; Gal 1:6ff.; 1 Tim 4:1ff.)
Rob, I copied this and pasted it into a section entitled “Voices” that I created in my book on Alcohol because I wanted people who might ever read what I had written to hear your ‘voice’ as well. If my book ever got published – would this link work again by then? Would others be able to read the rest of what you wrote or will they only hear parts of you through others? I go back and read this when I get discouraged in writing because it speaks truth and gives me hope. Rob – I pray for a restoration of your own, that you may pour out and make available to others more of the same.
It is my prayer for “Josh S.” – aka Metalutheran of http://metalutheran.blogspot.com fame – that if he is currently residing under a cloud of frustration and anger at ongoing diatribes against him, and/or he is living in fear of some seminary professor of his going through his writings to find something by which he may browbeat him, that he would be delivered also of this, and would be set free of these things, and delivered from such abominable mental chains; that he too might have thick skin. God chastise and rebuke any Seminary Professor hell-bent on beating up students for fun and sport; if you are of such – repent! – you are a reproach upon the Kingdom! I now feel deprived that I have never read anything that he has written; though I gather from what others have posted they were almost always greatly insightful and beneficial. Josh – is the Kingdom diminished without your work? Who are these seminary professors that you now fear? Are they in your denomination or the seminary you attend? Are these the men/organizations/entities that you desire yourself to be molded in the same form of and fashion as – by same hands? Who are these people that have harassed and taunted you to withdraw your writings? Has the Lord given you the gift of the scribe to only have two years of your work and life’s blood poured out – only to be wiped up and discarded? Perhaps you sense this is for but a time – I pray you also sense when it is time to once again – fight. Are there people out there who have been touched by your writings – perhaps even writing books that quote you as well? Do you think that unlikely or impossible? Have you too lost hope? Be Restored, brother!
Interacting with Christians in the business world can be very painful – interacting with the same, theologically, can be even more so; and whereas business is usually conducted at least with some resemblance of gentlemen-like conduct; the work and practice of theology is much more a blood sport at times.
I believe that anyone who is called of Christ to stand and speak truth to the church will be hated, despised, and ridiculed just as they ridiculed Christ. I pray that Rob and Josh and any others out there would be strong, would walk outside of fear, and pursue the enemy relentlessly and never count the cost to academia, profession, or denominational nomenclatures. Without fear or favor – may those of us who are called, never look back once we place our hands to the plow; and those who have been broken by the beatings of fellow brothers – I pray that you too are restored, and that you would find your rightful place back on the battlefield; your hand back upon the plow.
I believe that one of the essential parts of leadership in the body of Christ is be able to know when we should be militant and fight, and when to be graceful and pacifist as it were. When we should fight on – and when we should accept defeat; knowing that even in our defeats, if we are trusting in God and not our own capabilities – that even our mortally perceived failures are in reality spiritual victories. It is important to note that being thick skinned or militant – brave and enduring or whatever – means nothing outside of wisdom; and that wisdom in Christ is the real source for all hope, bravery and strength. These things we must always seek from the foot of the Cross – to seek them anywhere else, even for a moment, is to set ourselves up for spectacular failures and disappointments – or worse yet, successes in things that we were never called to succeed at: and this brings us to another important point that I wish to make in regards to wisdom and how it is manifest: responsibility. So you have the ability to write, and you have a thorough working knowledge of the internet or other means of communication, and you have unlimited time, and/or money, and/or energy to go do something. This is not a license to succeed nor to fail; it is not a license to do anything. Anything and everything that you do must be done with the greatest of care to do so through the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Doing anything on your own and outside of God’s calling and purpose – especially if it turns into something painful because God’s lambs are suddenly biting you, will become completely unendurable. If you are somehow able to endure it – it will only be because you will have gone insane. The key to effective ministry in challenging situations is to first know that you are doing what God has called you to do, and then to do that first with Responsibility, second with Grace and lastly and hopefully, naturally resultant, in Persistence and Endurance. If you do something outside of God’s will you could be destroyed; or survive and succeed – and worse yet – if you are a gifted writer you could write irresponsibly and start aberrant new theological groups that could take off and run to your eventual horror. Miller – who founded much of Seventh-Day Adventism – later recanted his Sabbath teachings, stating that he was biblically uneducated at the time; but it was too late. Thousands then, and millions now walk in an error that he gave birth to; first with great passion, later with great regret. Augustine did not believe in miracles in the early part of his ministry; but in his later years he witnessed them and tried to persuade his follows of the reality of such; to which they responded that they liked his previous theological stance and would stick with it regardless of his current one, and to this day if – for example – you told a friend of The Church of Christ denominational persuasion that you had witnessed a miracle, if gracious, they’d tell you you were mistaken; if rude – they’d just tell you that you were crazy. Pastors and writers – guard every word that you speak and every word that you write. Soren Kierkegaard died thinking that people would remember him more for his trousers then his works, after he was mercilessly belittled and ridiculed by the Danish weekly tabloid The Corsair. He died in 1855 feeling largely inaffective and was unknown for generations outside of Denmark – and then in the 1930’s, Walter Lowrie discovered Kierkegaard and both he and David Swenson presented his thought to the English speaking world and – some odd 80 years after his death – the old melancholy dane has had ramifications throughout almost every aspect and practice of modern western thought; though in his own short lifetime his most often celebrated work , Concluding Unscientific Postscript, only sold 50 copies, in his own language, to his own fellow Danes. Never underestimate what God can do with what you have done when you practice consecration, responsibility and grace. He died thinking he was a failure. You may die the same. But it is ultimately up to God’s sovereignty to determine how you life and your legacy is fitted in both your present time and the proceeding generations that may yet still unfold, long after you are gone on to your reward.
Rob & Josh – who are you to assume that you know more about the appraised value of what you have done out here in cyberspace? Is it rude of me to remind you that you are merely a vessel through which God’s sovereign purpose is accomplished? It is wrong of you to relinquish hope or to respond with a fear-based despondency when the affectivity of what you have done is called into question by those who themselves perhaps forget about the sovereignty of God? As writers we write what we can, we pray to be submitted to God’s will, and we practice responsibility and grace and whether or not we are successes or failures is not dependent upon our own capacity for accomplishment. We merely practice faithfulness and surrender the work of our hands to the work of the Holy Spirit and entrust that He alone is capable of rendering any fruition from our endeavors. What a peace to surrender the liability of our own success or security to a sovereign God. What a sustenance to know that He can use our own brokenness and trivial abilities to do His own greatest work. What a refuge it is to be in the grip of a God who was himself ridiculed, rejected and marginalized when He took on our form and walked amongst us. The Buddhist does not have these things – nor the Muslim, nor an agnostic/atheist nor whatever. You have something more then anyone else has in the smorgasbord of spirituality the world has to offer. You have an incarnate, crucified, risen, sovereign Christ.
I have a dear and precious friend, who tells me that he feels like he is called to exclusively speak and to write and probably not to pastor anymore. I respect what he says; and hope that the pain of ministry has not darkened his own vision for preaching to a congregation, because I have many friends who often speak of how much they miss and what his time as their pastor meant to them; sometimes in tears. I hope my friend someday pastors again. I hope that he starts writing his own books and not just ones for others. I hope that he too someday is begged back into a pulpit, somewhere, and once again engages himself in the foolishness of extemporaneous & exegetical preaching. Perhaps then others too will hear what he has said – and generations future will then also read what he has written. So many who have so much purpose in the body are beaten down and discouraged by the enemy through the hands of those in the church. They need to be told that that what they did added to the lives of those around them, even amidst the greatest of difficulties and sacrifice, lest they only see the difficulties and the hardships they have endured. They need to be told – lest they retract themselves from view.
Penultimately allow me to add this; as it would seem amiss for me to not include it amongst the things that I have said here. Writing is where it is at. It was a moment of great spiritual clarity when I was given a rebuke by a friend, when – in the presence of a group of my friends – she, in loving but firm words, spoke to me and said that my writings where not “idle scribblings” as I had made mention of them as being, in a preceding statement, just prior to her stern interjection. “They are not idle scribblings; you have a gift – don’t trivialize what God is doing through you.” I always considered my verbosity and long essays to friends as just a personality defect and something to be tolerated by my friends; a ‘benefit’ of being my friend. The idea that I simply love to write and at times feel driven to put my thoughts on to paper is not just a silliness – it is something that God has placed sovereignty within me; and in a gracious but open rebuke, coming from an advanced seminarian, against my self-depreciating comment – I was jolted into a realization that maybe – just maybe – by the grace of God – this nuisance really could be a gift of God – my writing might just be the elusive ministry that I know I have been called to but was heretofore never able to find. I have mediated on this and prayed about it, and it is my heartfelt desire to write and write what I feel God is saying as though no one in the world is reading what I am writing; but to also fully entrust the worth, and the accomplishment of any success to the sovereign Holy Spirit, and to do all of thus with the quiet suspicion, ever more confirmed as I watch and see all the nuances of our modern popular culture, that I know these following things to be true: That, as I have said, I have always felt a calling to service but have never felt a call to preach. I have done missions but do not feel called to be a missionary. I have absorbed myself in theological studies in an anticipation of a still-planned going-back-to-college endeavor to seminary and maybe even theological writing/teaching as a last career in life goal; if by the grace and continued calling of God it happens. But I feel like I will never be a pastor or sit behind a podium – though most if not all pursue such paths to such same ends. Over the last few years I have fallen back in love with writing and have come strangely to feel that I can respectably have the notion to genuinely change the world and whereas I once thought that possible by starting a web design firm – I now am moreso convinced that the wherewithal to much more likely accomplish such a monumental task is not with computer code writing, but in story telling & verse. I have ideas for stories to write that burn inside to find themselves onto paper, eagerly awaiting the completion of present writing projects and while listing to Pastor John Piper’s biographical study entitled Men of Whom the World was not Worthy I was refreshed in my remembrance of the men who moved to obscenely remote parts of the world, lost child after child and wife after wife, and then died of unspeakable diseases – to leave everlasting marks in the Kingdom that persist and endure to this very day, ever expanding from their sacrificial starts. I was meditating on them and thinking of my own miniscule missionary exploits and God told me like a thunderbolt that the way to reach this world was not by dying for a tribe on a remote island but by answering to the call to create artistry -and if you are to die – die pouring out your lifesource into your craft – it is the way that this last generation shall be reached – not by paddle boat, but by song, by story – by the Word; the Word from whence all came and all shall be returned unto the same by same means. And if you be a writer – you are therefore a modern missionary of the Kingdom; a prophet of old and a pastor in like kind of that of your own youth, now in this modern age, in your own right in the same position, now with verse as your podium from which to preach – and by the grace of God be encouraged to pour your self out into your craft, for it is the only way to change the world today. Not by missional endeavors, not by shepherding a flock – but creating the message that will speak life and beauty to that- that which will be reconciled to the same.
suma sumarium – one who is called and anointed by the grace of God to speak artistry and writing to this modern generation holds more power, in our modern culture, then prophets, pastors, and missionaries to effect radical present and future: an artist in the employ of Christ is all these things to the world today. In this generation, an artist is the greatest of and most powerful of callings…
regardless of the power and nature of your calling; be you an artist or an administrator, be you a marine or a diplomat, be you loved or be you a pariah – you have to practice responsibility and grace and above all consecration; and when you are hurt – as you always will be – if you return to these foundations, you will find healing for you pain, so that you can be restored and not live in despair; avoiding the trap of worshiping and wallowing in your own pain, embarrassment and wounding – but rather walking in humility and brokenness that – through Christ – equals a strength that the strongest best-trained marine could never assault. If you hide yourself, you will miss the touch of a reciprocal blessing; you will not pour yourself out and not ask for anything in return without asking for a return full measure returned upfront. You are called to pour out and give out generously and freely. He who knows what you give in secret will reward you in full openly.
God may use you to speak to the last people you’d ever expect to speak to – perhaps those heathens that nobody else would ever want to interact with – those that everybody else consider to be intractably unreachable. You never know the fruit of your endeavors when the Holy Spirit is allowed to be both sovereign and responsible in your life and with your abilities. Don’t hide yourself any longer then God hides you Himself!
This I do believe.
The business of ministry has been painful and often devoid of hope for those I have both known and those I have only read of on my screen in blogs and online essays. I speak words of encouragement to all who would read this, especially those who have been beat up and disaffected; and I speak especially to those to whom I believe your gift: writing, composition and artistry, is the most crucial to winning this present world to Christ; to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, you shall endure more attack from both the enemy of the church and from the church itself. But it is you, my brothers and sisters in Christ – in which Christ, I believe, has placed within you the greatest potential for anointing and effective ministry in this present. Do not be faint of heart. Persist, Endure: be restored, be strong, be full of hope. It is said that you either have tough skin and a soft heart in ministry or you will wind up with soft skin and a tough heart. My prayer – for all my brothers in Christ; those that I both know and those whom I have never met – is that you would have the courage to consecrate yourself in all the manners of you ministry – be that writing, preaching, missional-related or serving the body in any capacity; practice responsibility in these gifts; for they are given to you without repentance: you have the power to both create and destroy with them – whatever those things might be – and to temper all with the grace that we see modeled in Christ. And I believe and hope that you shall in this Orthodoxy see achieved an Orthopraxy by which – when those same lambs, that you love and have greatly sacrificed for, bite you – it will be a little less painful and all the more joyful then you ever thought possible.
Be Restored – Be Strong – Be Full of Hope.
(Much love to those both spoken and unspoken here – )
Grace to you,
8,003 words – oh, well, at least I tried