you can’t love two and still be true, so I’m leaving on a midnight train…

“No one can serve two masters.
Either you will hate the one and love the other,
or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

Matthew 6:24


(the hydrangeas are quite stunning this year, the first time in a couple of years /Julie Cook / 2018)

Years and years ago…in what was once another lifetime…
I was once a young gal in college who worked summers up in the mountains of
North Carolina at a Christian camp for girls.

I loved my summers working at camp.
For all sorts of reasons.

I’ve written about it before…as well as to how that time spent as a camp counselor
answered my prayer about whether I was to remain an Education Major or switch to Journalism.

Those summers were basically my green light from God…
but like I say, I’ve written about that before, a few years back,
writing all about how and why I spent the majority of my adult life in the classroom.

And so if you know anything about camps or have ever attended a summer camp,
church camp, etc—
well, you know that there are always going to be camp songs.

Both silly and fun songs.

One such song has lent itself to the title of today’s post…

“Darling you can’t love one…

Darling, you can’t love one, darling you can’t love one…
you can’t love one and still have fun
I’m leaving on a midnight train la di da, um huh, oh boy…”

On and on goes the counting and the rhymes…

Darling, you can’t love two, darling you can’t love two,
you can’t love two and still be true,
I’m leaving on a midnight train…la di da, um hum, oh boy…

Hence the title for today’s post…you can’t love two.

And there’s a lot of truth in that one line.

As we are reminded we cannot serve two masters.
We cannot love both masters, whomever or whatever, they may be.
We will love one and resent the other.

And so it is with this thought in mind that our favorite rouge Bishop has
offered a lovely homily marking the Frist Sunday following
the blessed Trinity…better known as the feast of the Trinity.
The first Sunday following Pentecost and marking 50 days since Easter Sunday.

According to CatholicCulture.org a nice historical explanation of the
feast day of the Trinity is…

“The fundamental dogma, on which everything in Christianity is based,
is that of the Blessed Trinity in whose name all Christians are baptized.
The feast of the Blessed Trinity needs to be understood and celebrated as a
prolongation of the mysteries of Christ and as the solemn expression of our faith
in this triune life of the Divine Persons,
to which we have been given access by Baptism and by the Redemption won for
us by Christ.
Only in heaven shall we properly understand what it means, in union with Christ,
to share as sons in the very life of God.

The feast of the Blessed Trinity was introduced in the ninth century and
was only inserted in the general calendar of the Church in the fourteenth century by
Pope John XXII. But the cultus of the Trinity is, of course, to be found throughout
the liturgy.
Constantly the Church causes us to praise and adore the thrice-holy
God who has so shown His mercy towards us and has given us to share in His life.”

In his homily (all of 8 minutes of which I’ve provided the clip below) Bishop Ashenden
reads to us from the Book of Samuel…1 Samuel, chapter 3 starting with verse 1.

This is where God basically explains that following a political world,
or any other sort of world for that matter is not better than living one’s life by
following the Spirit.

We see that God offers opportunity after opportunity to those who stubbornly continue
to refuse His offerings…
So naturally, He tires of such folly and foolishness and replaces them with those more willing.

Just as we read later in the book of Samuel about God losing patience with the folly of
King Saul and allows him to be replaced.

This idea comes into play again in the Book of Revelation when God tells the 7 churches
what happens when they opt to live for and with the world and her culture…
rather than the life and world of the Spirit.
All of which boils down to what extent they, the churches,
will be given the Holy Spirit—or more aptly, not be given.

The good Bishop explains that it is “the Spirit versus those who practice merely “religion”
rather than practicing a living relationship with God.”

Woe to those preferring to go their own way…

Enter Jesus—

The sacrificial lamb who came to find us, love us and bring us home.

And yet we still remain fixed to live a life of the cultural…

can you read between the lines or do I need to loan you my glasses?

Others have commented that it was such a powerful message and it should
get people to reading the bible.
Still others that even if it wasn’t spot on we should take the Philippians 1:18
attitude “But what does it matter?
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true,
Christ is preached.” –
But that is the key question – was Christ preached?
Was the love of Christ preached?

It wasn’t.
David Robertson


(what will be/ Julie Cook/ 2018)

I suppose I should clarify a few things.

I do not describe myself as an evangelical, a charismatic, a reformist, a progressive,
a liberal, a right winger, a holy roller, a Calvinist, a Wesleyan, a Lutheran,
or even a Henry the VIII follower for that matter…although I was raised in his brand of
the church…

Rather simply put, I claim that of being orthodox—-
Meaning that which is “sound or correct in opinion or doctrine,
especially theological or religious doctrine.
Conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early church.”

As in God said it…therefore it is.

It’s quite simple really as there are no mincing of words.
As the mincing of words, God’s word to be exact, is a practice that so many Believers,
as well as nonbelievers alike, deeply enjoy engaging in these days.

It’s a cut and paste sort of mindset.

Meaning we cut out that which we don’t like while pasting in the parts we do like.

We embrace words such as love, inclusive, wide, happy, feel-good, acceptance, united,
renewal and even embrace itself…
all the while rejecting words such as truth, covenant, tenant, consequence, choose,
narrow, difficult, hard, fact…

My orthodoxy is a very far cry from today’s post-Christian, post-modern, anything goes,
feel good ideology that’s currently spreading like wildfire throughout Western Civilization.

And you should know that I’ve tried it my way, the world’s way, other’s way, no way…
but the only way, of which I’ve always learned the hard way, is that in the end,…
it can only be God’s way.

And so when I hear, see and read so much heightened excitement over a sermon delivered
during a wedding that has been passed off as some sort of faith grounded Christian
new age theology, I am perplexed.

In oh so many weeks I have uttered the same words over and over again…words steeped all
within the same and similar vein…
that of false prophets, false doctrine, cultural shifts, culture gods…
as I remind all of us that the Devil’s minions can recite Scripture with the most
sound theologian.

I have long stated that we are at war…

A deep and divisive Spiritual war.

I know that the battles will rage on but the actual war has already been long won…
I know this good news.
This while many of us are left here to continue the good fight.
As well as left to sound the clarion call into battle.

The sheep and goats are being separated.
There is no getting around that fact.

And that is not a gloom and doom prophesy but sound Scriptural fact.
One of those facts our post-Christian society hates to acknowledge.

So when an animated prelate delivers cut and paste words of which our culture
longs to hear is it a wonder we embrace them??
We say “see, he get’s it…”
He uses the right words…words of love, inclusiveness, union, Jesus, acceptance…

But what our itchy ears fail to hear is that the words don’t fit in sequence with one another.

Chunks of mandates are left out.
Entire tenants are ignored.
A whitewashing has taken place of the original facts.
All being passed off as an old Gospel that is actually quite new.

I could hear all of that in his sermon.
Why do so many others not hear?

Gavin Ashenden heard what I heard.
David Robertson heard what I heard.

“I don’t believe that 2 billion people heard the Gospel in this sermon.
The only people who heard the Gospel in it were Christians who already know Gospel.
Instead of rejoicing in the crumbs we get from heretics,
we should be seeking to learn more of Christ ourselves and get out there and tell the world
about the real Jesus – one person at a time!

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
David Robertson.

David has offered a reflection for Christian Today, here is a link to his thoughts with only
more to follow…

Bishop Michael Curry’s Sermon – A Distorted Gospel Divides the Church

be not conformed…Christian max vs Christian lite

“A God without wrath who brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Richard Niebuhr


(Bonaventure Cemetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

Hoopla versus stable
Facade versus reality.
Fanfare versus forthright
Worldly versus Godly…

The window is narrowing as two views are set on collision course of utter devastation…
and I am on the side of the narrowing window.

I caught a portion of the rousing speech, aka sermon, offered by the American cleric,
Bishop Michael Curry, during the ‘Royal Wedding’ extravaganza.
I was saddened as well as disheartened by the fact that a wedding ceremony,
which is an outward symbol of a Sacred Union—a reflection
of the marriage between Christ the Bridegroom with his bride The Church,
was joyously transformed into a puppet show of a cultural shift of thought.

Not that any such public spectacle would or could dare retain the level
of reverence that should be afforded to such a ceremony…
as many of you would berate me over what would I have expected…
and no, I did not expect anything more, but one can only hope…

Gone from the Anglican Chruch is the reverent full bow to the Sacred as all
has been long replaced by the cultural genuflect toward the embrace of all things secular.

Rather than holding a young couple accountable for the seriousness of their union set before
the eyes of God, as they each snickered at the citing of their vows,
this wedding was a mere media spectacle conducted by a long since lost crown and
an equally lost church.

Yet our good friend and former Chaplin to the Queen, Bishop Gavin Ashenden, has offered us his
keen reflection on what was once a sacred ceremony of a Christian religious observance
which has now sunk into the abysmal decay of cultural hedonism.

May we, the faithful be mindful that we have been instructed not to conform to
the world but that we must be set apart…

Michael Curry & the Royal Wedding. A star-turn offers the world ‘Christianity-lite’.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good,
pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

Crystal ball gazing

“If it is hard to make predictions about what the year ahead holds for society,
it is doubly difficult to predict what will happen to the Church.
It’s not just that we suffer the vagaries of all human sinners and societies,
but the Holy Spirit will not be restricted to our timetables and limited visions.
Imagine being a disciple of Jesus after the crucifixion and before the
day of Pentecost – who could have foreseen what would happen?”

David Robertson


(Wizard of Oz / 1939)

Oh hear the wistful sighs…..

Ode that we could somehow take a peak, a gander or even predict….the future…
Ours, others, the world’s….
All whilst gazing into our very own all seeing and all knowing crystal balls.

We humans, particularly as we have advanced in areas of all things scientific,
communication and technological, have grown, over the past couple of centuries,
increasingly frustrated when we can’t see how it’s all going to go, going to be,
or going to end…

And despite saying we aren’t ones to sneak a peak at how the book or the
story will end, deep down, we all really want to know…

Perhaps it is the odd peace in knowing… or perhaps more aptly,
it is a peace in accepting, that which is to be….
For the lack of not knowing eats away at us more than the actual knowing.

We want that total knowledge and peace that everyone is going to
live happily ever after…
And if that’s not to be the case..then by George, we will do something about it…
because that who we are and how we operate, we do something about it, or we
get those who can do, to do…..

We prefer to leave nothing to chance because if we ‘know’ we can therefore control;
and if we can control, we can therefore orchestrate; if we can orchestrate,
we can therefore be in charge…

Becoming the masters of our own ships, our own destinies and our own souls!
In essence becoming our our demigod.

In the mid 19th century in Victorian England there was a huge rise in public
interest in occultism and spiritualism…
but not exactly for that of Christian spiritualism.

In his article The Victorian Supernatural, Roger Luckhurst notes that
the 19th century is routinely thought about as the era of secularisation,
a period when the disciplines and institutions of modern science were founded
and cultural authority shifted from traditional authority of religion to
explanation through the scientific exposition of natural laws.
The sociologist Max Weber spoke about this process as the disenchantment
of the world.

Yet he goes on to note that “while we might still accept the broad brush strokes of this story, the Victorian period is also of course a period of deep
and sustained religious revival.
There was an evangelical revival in the Christian church but also a host
of dissenting, heterodox and millenarian cults.
It was a golden age of belief in supernatural forces and energies,
ghost stories, weird transmissions and spooky phenomena.
For a long time historians ignored these beliefs as embarrassing errors or
eccentricities, signs of the perturbations produced by the speed of cultural change.

Roger Luckhurst who is Professor of Modern Literature at Birkbeck College,
University of London goes on to note, that in the turbulent,
revolutionary year of 1848, a new religious movement emerged from the melting pot
of upstate New York.
The young Fox sisters had claimed to have come into contact with the
unquiet spirit of a murdered man in their house,
who communicated with them by loud knocks on wood.
This very local sensation (later shown to be a fraud)
was the origin point for the Spiritualist movement,
which elaborated a method of communicating with the dead in séances through mediums. Mediums were often women because they were deemed to have more delicate,
sensitive nervous systems than men.

Men who were mediums – such as the famous D D Home who so enraged Robert Browning
that he was the source for his poem ‘Mr Sludge’ –
were often abjected and despised.

Although communication with spirits was strictly forbidden in the Bible,
this became a popular form of dissenting belief, a ‘proof’ of the survival
of bodily death in an era that demanded empirical testing and experiment.
The spirits would exchange banal but comforting messages with loved ones;
some would elaborate extensively on the social and political institutions
of the afterlife, called Summerland by some.

So as we consider the thoughts of one historian’s observation,
or better yet his little explanation into this lasting fascination of humankind
with its endless quest of being able to reach the other side, see beyond today,
desiring to know how the ending will be…there remains that single notion—
the “demanded of empirical testing and experiment….
i.e.the knowledge of the truth.

But what truth is that?

As we are reminded of a similar resigned and rhetorical
question, uttered nearly two millennium ago by a weary Pontius Pilate
“What is truth”
….as man is still hounded by that very query, despite having been offered
the most sound statement of Truth itself that very day….

And so our friend the Scottish Pastor and Wee Flea blogger gives his own
take of what 2018 might just be holding in store for those who are curious
or perhaps even worried about such.

Yet we must note that Pastor Robertson’s “predictions” are not those based on
Mediums and Occultism nor of séances, Ouija boards or even crystal balls….
but rather his thinking is based of keen observation, historical observations,
insight into the human psyche as well as a heavy dose of Biblical study
and of course always prayer…..

For an article in Christian Today, the good Pastor offered his
“10 prophesies for the Church in 2018

(see link: https://theweeflea.com/2018/01/02/10-prophecies-for-the-church-in-2018/)

And it is with keen interest that I pay particular attention to number three
as it addresses life on this side of the pond….

3.The American church will continue to fracture and decline as the word
‘evangelical’ becomes even more meaningless.

The American church is rich and powerful and has need of everything.
Whilst J I Packers’ quip that the US church is
‘3,000 miles wide and one inch deep’ may have been unfair,
it is nonetheless the case that whilst there are vast resources in the US church
(people, money, gifts) there is a danger it could implode.

This is especially true in the evangelical church where the word
evangelical has become increasingly meaningless.

‘White evangelicals’ who don’t go to church and don’t believe
(according to one survey) 60% of the basic Christian doctrines can hardly be called evangelical. And yet everyone wants to be called an evangelical
(or ‘post evangelical’ if you want to be cool).

On the other hand the heirs of 19th Century Protestant liberalism are 21st
Century liberals like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Steve Chalke,
who use the language of evangelicalism but give it a completely different meaning.
Such a church cannot survive. And does not deserve to survive.

As this thought reminds me of the words by Bishop Gavin Ashenden,
“our secular culture is attracting many believers…..”

And whereas none of us actually have a true working crystal ball,
allowing us to see into let alone accurately predict what may come…
And whether we agree or not or even like to consider such ominous words
of a murky future…there does remain,
as the good Wee Flea reminds the Faithful, always hope.

Because that is but one thing that remains forever unchanged…..
the Truth of God and His Word.

He was, He is and He will always be—

And it is in that simple fact, that we may rest—

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God,
mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

Deuteronomy 10:17

what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record