the oddity of the necessity

God wills that I be an active secondary instrument in moving myself toward him.
God is always the primary mover, but he so ordains that we be active,
secondary instruments with him in moving oneself towards grace.
And so the necessity of the spiritual life.

FR. Wade Menezes


(the yard pond with crazy duck / Julie Cook / 2018)

So just around the corner from where I grew up, in a then 1950’s newly sprawling
northern Atlanta suburb…a place where the houses were all built by a single builder
and were all made as look-a-like cookie-cutter houses, there did remain one small
glimpse into of what was here long before urban mania hit the scene…
a peaceful meandering creek and a small hidden pond just behind this boomtown of houses.

It was a small remnant of what once was here in what was once considered “the country”
long before the boom of post-war urban sprawl had taken over.

Growing up, the extent of the “wildlife” that we got to see up close and personal consisted
of the random tadpole and crawfish that lived in the creek,
along with the occasional box turtle that I so desperately wanted to catch and put in a
shoe box while feeding it lettuce all in hopes of carrying it to show and tell…
and of course, there was an endless abundance of helter sketler gray squirrels.

In the past 4 months, having spent more time at my childhood home then I have in the
past 35 years since last calling this house home, I have been floored by the amount of
“wildlife” I’ve actually been privy seeing up close and personal.

Now this area where I grew up is a quickly shrinking quiet tiny blip of peacefulness
in the heart of a booming city.
All childhood landmarks have been long since been torn town making way for the
skyrocketing skyscrapers that have created a new type of tree to this
overgrowing modern-day forest.

Plus many of the cookie cutter homes have been bulldozed away making room for the
desired up and comers choice of mini McMansions….all of which actually are simply
giving way to a new cookie-cutter look of the haves and have-nots of money…
or more accurately that of all things debt, just depending on how one looks at it.

There is a deafening din of planes and helicopters all making their way across the sky
which only blends in with the shrieking sirens echoing off the main arteries
and thoroughfares.

And yet this small shrinking peaceful oasis of a neighborhood is nearly lost in a now
ever-expanding city that has an oddly amazing array of “wilderness”.

I have seen more “wildlife” in this city in the past four months than I have here at my
current more rural, out in the country home, in the past 20 years.

One early morning back in February, I watched a group of 5 deer meandering up the street.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I watched one of the largest snapping turtles, that
I’ve seen in quite a while, making a slow and laborious trek up a driveway.

Last week, while taking my son’s dog out to walk in the yard, she and I both spied a
red fox trotting in a neighbors yard…

And now there is this odd group of crazy looking ducks acting equally as crazy.

There is a corner lot on a neighboring street that has a low spot in the yard that
when it rains, fills with water…water that is slow to be absorbed or evaporate…
especially given with the amount of rain Atlanta has been receiving.

So to drive by, in the big city, watching a group of “city” ducks think that this
small spot of water in a yard is some type of pond is…in a word, hysterical.

These ducks make their way up and down the neighboring streets, waddling along the
busy main thoroughfare, digging along the curb turning up the collected leaves and debris,
in search of bugs.

Neighbors have taken to putting up “Duck Crossing” or “Caution, ducks at play” signs
all along the roadways.

And now I’ve actually witnessed these ducks taking to the “yard pond”—
tails up in the air as they dig with breaks down, in the shallows, looking for,
not the typical fish as they would in a real pond,
but rather it is a literally swallow quest for what I’d imagine being worms and grubs.

It’s almost pitiful watching a duck, beak down tail up, in a collected puddle of
rain water in a yard. The scene screams of lunacy, desperation or both.

Much like what it is we are currently witnessing around this country of ours.
Witnessing lunacy accented by a splash of desperation as the noose tightens around
the necks of those in opposition of the others…
others who cry for more and more diversity while at the same time they
cry out for zero tolerance toward anyone who is found to be in disagreement with
their often perverse take on life.

From the recent story of a restaurant kicking out a patron over the fact that the
owner and staff all happen not to like this particular patron’s boss to now a member
of the US House of Representatives crying for more of the same…as in threatening
the lives and safety of those who dare to think and or vote in what is perceived as
opposition…as in no longer a two party system…
but rather the system of one and one only…
as the shadows of both lunacy and desperation creep in from the past.

There is a madness now taking place in this country as those who are considered
conservative, or a supporter of the president or simply a Republican…
folks that are now each viewed as one who is to be publicly shunned, shamed,
removed, not served, harassed and now… whose very lives are to be threatened.

There is a sinisterness afoot in all of this that is so utterly un-American that it is
frightening.

We the people have always possessed the right to disagree with one another…
since way back in 1776…

And yet we are oddly and sadly finding ourselves living in an Orwellian trend…
a time of calling for a type of “open season” as the cry is sounding
“they’re all fair game” rings across this land which was once yours and mine…
meaning that half of this Nation of ours is fair game to be harangued, abused
as well as publicly lambasted for simply taking the other political path…
a time that is in a word, ludicrous.

Are those who beat their chests as drums for all things uber tolerance and
diversity actually so intolerable and divisive that they dare deem all other
belief systems to be a pariah but that of their own?

We the people know better than this.

Yet in the grand scheme of all that is…Father Menezes reminds us in our
day’s quote of that which is our true aim.

The necessity of a spiritual life as we actively work at seeking His Grace…

A grace that does not harass, harangue, threaten, abuse, hate, demean, ostracize…
but rather sees the necessity in seeking that which is beyond self, beyond man’s
small mindedness.
Putting away all malice, anger, and hate…setting oneself on the Spiritual path
of Truth and not the earthly lies of he who walks in the shadows pitting
mankind against itself…

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”

Second Timothy 2:15-16

There is but one Gospel

After finishing every piece of his glorious music, Bach would sign it SDG.
To the glory of God alone. If we recovered more of that zeal,
humility and love – what a transformation would be seen in our self-obsessed,
faction ridden, hypocritical churches.

David Robertson


(a lone Lilly / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

I am no theologian nor biblical scholar.
I am no mystic who has a special connection to God via the Holy Spirit.
I am just a simple believer, follower of Christ, member of the Christian fold.

I am also a person who greatly enjoys history…

So I am well aware that this is the 500th year marking the Reformation.
Otherwise known as the day a disenchanted German Catholic monk nailed 95 points of contention to the doors of his hometown church, the Wittenberg Cathedral.

And life, as the faithful had known it, has never been the same since….
for good and bad.

For some of us, that was a grand and glorious day…
for others, it was the opening of Pandora’s box in a Christian nutshell.

Meaning all hell had broken loose.
And of course we know who really enjoys that notion….

I happen to know that there are some Catholics out there who, to this day, will
not even allow themselves to say the name Martin Luther as it is
linked to heresy, schism and blasphemy.
Just as I know that there are some Protestants out there who relish calling all
Catholics “the Devil’s own children.”

Gotta love the squabbling of family
As in one big happy Christian family don’t you know….

And of course those squabbling family members don’t think either’s side is
actually truly Christian… but that is a tale for another day….

Personally I hate that it ever had to come down to such.
Because I’m just not a fan of schism or divide…
or of the ensuing wars and disputes and inquisitions that followed suit.

But what exactly does one have to do to get the ‘powers that be’
to step up to the plate and fly right!!!?

As obviously that very notion seems to have plagued our friend
Martin the monk.

I for one just see a now long sad line of spiraling ever outward.

First the West and East spilt.

Then the reformers spilt from the west.

Then the English followed a king and his kin who got mad at the West.

As the spiraling and spiraling and spawning and spawning has given birth to
denominations begetting more denominations.

Even today local churches are getting in on the act when one group in the church gets
mad at another group and breaks away starting their own new little church….

On and on ad nauseum it goes…

So I was quite interested when I read that our friend the Scottish Reformed
Presbyterian Pastor David Robertson added his 2 cents on this momentous
marking of these 500 years on out…

“I was once asked to take part in a joint mission in a Scottish town that included
one of the local Church of Scotland’s.
I did not see that as a problem because there were (and still are)
a good number of C of S congregations and ministers that remained faithful
to the Gospel and whom we could work with.
During a preliminary meeting I began to be concerned about the basis on which
we were going to do this mission.
“Are you a Gospel Church?” was the subtle question.
“Oh, yes” came the certain reply.
‘What do you mean by the Gospel?’
“Telling people that they are saved!”.

That was the end of the mission.

These were two different gospels –-
telling people that they are saved is vastly different from telling people they
are lost but they can be saved!

More recently I have come across this strange phenomena.
Mainstream churches that use all the Gospel language but mean something
very different.
They would deny the atonement, the virgin birth, heaven and hell,
and the necessity of the New Birth,
but they still get mortally offended and ‘hurt’;
if you dare to say they are not a Gospel church.
“Of course we are a Gospel church–look at all the work we do.
We are faithful people seeking to bring the Good news of Jesus into our communities”.
The combination of the hurt card and nice sounding language often means that
those who are genuine evangelicals back off and buy into what is in fact nonsense–
indeed, worse than that.
It is poison.

Those who are genuine bible believing Christians need to stand together, even if they differ on secondary issues, for the basic and most fundamental truths of the Gospel.

Instead of showing denominational loyalty to dead churches and false,
lazy or ignorant shepherds (the real wolves in sheeps clothing),
we need to get back to the basics of the Reformation and make sure these glorious
truths are heralded clearly throughout our land.”

And so as a “reformed” Presbyterian, I see that the good Pastor is right on point…
but he is also on point as a member of the greater Christian fold….
in that, despite these secondary issues that we divided and often divisive Christian
family members tend to bicker over and make greater than they actually are,
it is to the fundamental Biblical principles in which we truly must attend…
That being the Gospel of Jesus Christ—
And not our own proclamations and decimating of the twists and spins we feel
necessary to offer according to the times…

God’s word is God’s word.
It has stood the test of man’s time on this planet…just as it will remain long
after we are all gone and this planet is no more…

His sacred and holy Word is not in need of being reinvented for each new generation.
It does not need to be amended to fit this ridiculous new mindset of
all things inclusive.
It is not simply a signpost for peace and love…

It and He are each much much more…

Man was given tenants and rules in which God decreed.
He also decreed that should said rules, laws, tenants be broken, there will be consequence…
Simply rewriting them or ignoring them does not make them go away.

Then Jesus, who was immaculately conceived, was born of a Virgin.
He was the bridge to reunite fallen man with God…
who is not of sin, space nor time.

Jesus freely offered himself as payment for our sins.

He was crucified, died and buried.

He descended into Hell.

After 3 days, He rose from the dead.

It sounds all so unbelievable and yet so simple all at the same time.

As C.S Lewis reminds us…
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that
people often say about Him:
I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher,
but I don’t accept his claim to be God.
That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a
great moral teacher.
He would either be a lunatic—-on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—-
or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice.
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you
can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God,
but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher.
He has not left that open to us.
He did not intend to. . . .
Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend:
and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem,
I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

(Mere Christianity, 55-56)

And yet it was even far earlier that a man proposed this very notion of
lord or lunatic…

In the mid-nineteenth century the Scottish Christian preacher “Rabbi” John Duncan
(1796-1870) formulated what he called a “trilemma.”
In Colloquia Peripatetica (p. 109) we see Duncan’s argument from 1859-1860,
with my numbering added:

Christ either [1] deceived mankind by conscious fraud,
or [2] He was Himself deluded and self-deceived,
or [3] He was Divine.
There is no getting out of this trilemma.
It is inexorable.

Justin Taylor

And so…Reformation or not—be it good or be it bad…it is.

No ignoring it or being mad at it or simply embracing it…
the bottom line is that we must be a people of the Gospel…
not dogma, not demigod, not ourselves and our culture but of the Gospel–
because when it’s all said and done and and nothing else is
left standing…the Word of God remains…

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 3:16