Atonement

God may not accept a person to forgive him his sins, without an atonement,
else he must give free license to sin both in angels and men,
and then sin were no sin, and our God were no God.

John Wycliffe

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(Agnus Dei by Francisco de Zurbaran 1635 / Sand Deigo Museum of Art)

“To be a Christian is…to be a man”;
But what makes a Christian a Christian and a man a man is
“participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.”

In Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Cosmos, all created things have their origin, goal, and essence;
through the command of the cosmic Christ all creation is set free to fulfill its own laws:
that is, to be genuinely worldly.

However, it is the cross of atonement that sets men free for life before God
in the midst of the godless world:
[The cross] sets men free for life in genuine worldliness.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Reality and Resistance
Larry L. Rasmussen

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Revelation 5:9

let’s make it a true daily double Alex…

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The other evening, while I was at the sink doing the dishes, following the National News,
Jeopardy was next up on TV.

Halfway listening, as the water ran and the dishes clanged in the sink,
I heard one of the contestants asking for a question in one of day’s categories…
It was the hidden daily double.

You know, those hidden opportunites where the contestant is offered the choice of
wagering their entire accrued winning total…
all in hopes of answering the question correctly…
with the chance of either doubling their winnings,
or, should they choose to play conservative, at least adding slightly…

“Let’s make it a true daily double Alex”….

This is where the audience will often gasp while Alex is heard to sardonically quip “helllloooo”

I don’t remember the particular question, nor the amount for which the contestant was now playing…
but I remember hearing the contestant stating what I thought to be the correct answer.

Alex however, the ever audacious, all knowing host, quickly corrected her pronunciation
informing her that her answer was incorrect due to the fact that
she did not correctly pronounce the word—-

But the thing is Alex knew,
as I knew,
that she knew…
the answer…

She just pronounced it incorrectly.
And in Jeopardy, pronunciation is key… down to each vowel, consonant and syllable.

And as a native southerner….accents can play the devil in pronunciation….just saying…

So the contestant lost it all…
her entire show’s winnings….
and was now forced to play catch up…
working her way from behind back into the running….

Odds were not in her favor…

So the question for us all is….

Are we gamblers in life or are we the play it safe kind of person?

Would we be feeling confident, perhaps even daring, by making things a true daily double…

or…

would we play it safe, holding onto what we had by wagering only a nominal amount,
if we even wagered at all…??

You may claim to be the latter of the two—always playing it safe…
But do you really?
And to what extent….?

We’ve all read the stories…
the one about Peter…
that lovable yet often mindless disciple who took to the notion of speaking first
and thinking later…
The one who lead more with his heart and often less with his head…
Impulsive perhaps
Full of emotion
and most likely a true daily double kind of guy…

Remember it was Peter who was charged with the keys to Heaven…

However when the going got rough and things went bad,
really bad for the Carpenter and then his followers,
Peter, when confronted with his association and knowledge of the rebel rousing Carpenter…
as he was no doubt regretting that whole daily double attitude…
Peter pled the 5th.

He knew him not…

Three times he took the 5th…
He knew him not….

And like Peter, we are currently finding ourselves, this very day and time,
faced with the same sort of accusations…

Aren’t you one of them?

Don’t you know Him?

Are you not one of His followers?

They ask this when prayer is no longer allowed in public and you keep silent.

They ask this when the faithful are told that they can’t use or display a cross,
have a public Christmas tree or manager on display, use the word Christmas or even
read a bible publicly…while you remain silent.

They ask this when your fellow brothers and sisters, around the world,
are tortured and murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ,
the very Carpenter Peter once tried to deny…
and you choose to remain silent…because that is over there…
and you are over here…
In the home of the free and brave….

You play it safe, you play it conservative…
You dare not play the daily double because then they will know that you are “one of them”
and there will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…like Peter…

So maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about…
those missed pronunciations,
those missed spellings,
those overt politically correct stances,
the overt politeness
the falsehoods that we are continually fed
the denials we face daily over our belief…

It was later, when it truly mattered, when Peter,
who when faced with his own martyrdom opted for the true daily double…
by announcing to Nero and the crowd…

“Yes, I knew Him”

“Yes I know Him”

“And yes, I am one of them…one of His…”

…”And I have made this life a true daily double for His sake,
your sake and the sake of the salvation for the world to come….

Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the
Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Acts 28:31

Lost to the lies

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to your Cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Augustus Toplay
Rock of Ages

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(snapdragon / Julie Cook / 2016)

“We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy
and allowing somebody else to pay for us.
The notion that this somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take.
We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.”

John Stott

My dad is an exasperating man.
If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while,
you already know this.
I’ve gotten where I don’t write about it or him as much as it
is mostly overwhelming.

He holds two college degrees.
He is a retired civil engineer.
He sent two kids to college.
He lives in the same house he bought in 1961.
He has been retired for nearly 30 years…
and he has lived a comfortable life.
But at 88, he is now exasperating.
Very very exasperating…

For my dad lives in a constant state of denial…

He refuses to acknowledge the truth.

A hard truth that it is, but he will deny it all day long.
He will vehemently fight it—
me, you, whomever…tooth and nail,
as if demanding the truth to be something other than what it is,
willing the facts to be false.

Yet his willfulness will not, cannot, change the facts.

I can see, hear and be very well aware of this particular truth,
with him knowing that I am only too aware, but he will argue with me,
or anyone holding to that truth,
working himself into a tizzy of epic denial.

When his colitis rears its ugly head, as it has today,
it is the signal to all of us that he does indeed know the truth…
but he is fighting deep within himself, willfully lying to even himself.
And so his body reacts.
His body negatively reacts to his hostile denial of the truth.

For my dad lives in a state of constant fear, denial and conflict.
All three going hand in hand.

It frustrates me to absolutely no end.

The constant fighting and denial is not good.
It is not healthy.
And it is a lie to not only us and the reality of it all, but it is a lie to himself.
It is utterly counter productive to the care that both he and my
stepmother are being provided…
Yet he thinks that if he can deny it long enough,
fight it long enough, he thinks he can change it.
Making it work out in his twisted childish favor.

It leaves those who are tasked with his care utterly frustrated.
And it makes me nuts.
Yet there is nothing any of us can say or do to turn him around to the truth.

For in his mind, the truth is worse than the lie…

And that, to me, is the saddest thing…

He will have temper tantrums, shouting and pouting.
He will “sull up” as a small child…
Wearing a deep frown, refusing to talk.
Any sort of possible verbal or physical demonstration,
in order to change the truth to his yearned for lie…

This is not a case of just letting him be…
living happily with his half truths and lies of his aged demented unreality.
Leaving him alone to his skewed view of reality these final years…
It’s not that easy.
It’s much more serious and much more complex than that…

It is a battle really.
With serious repercussions.

One that I must continue fighting…until, as one insightful care provider noted, something
catastrophic will have to take place in order to finally shake some light on the reality…
And unfortunately it is believed that that will happen most likely sooner than later…
as my dad has painted himself into a corner, and I’m stuck in that corner with him.

My dad will fight God on this one.
Refusing to let go.

Up his meds they suggest.
Maybe….

But until he can stand before God, offering this mess of his up,
up to the one true God who in turn is the only real Truth,
this mess will stay a mess, taking all of us charged with his care, with it…

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

New found freedom

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
Romans 8:2

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(Tiger swallowtail butterfly visits the blueberries / Julie Cook / 2016)

Anyone who has ever felt the full weight, the abject heaviness of the shackled chains
of all that they have ever done that was…
bad,
wrong,
deceitful,
selfish,
sick,
illegal,
lewd,
hurtful,
hateful,
evil,
vile…

Sinful…

Whoever has carried, lived with, bore up under…
all that was less than…
Less than that which has ever been known to have been better not to have been…
done,
said,
acted upon,
thought,
harbored,
carried out…

An empty tomb
A new day
A new life
A promise fulfilled…

Has finally set you free…

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Rejoice

“That like as Christ was raised from the dead…
so we also might walk in newness of life”

Watchman Nee as taken from Romans 6:4

I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done

Psalm 118:17

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(cloudless sulphur butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

Rejoice this day…again, I say Rejoice
For you who were captive of both sin and death, have been set free….
forevermore…..

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Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
Acts 13:38-39

Threads

“If everyone gives one thread, the poor person will have a shirt”
Russian Proverb

“The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.”
St. John of the Cross

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(just a few of my friend Charlotte’s tools of her trade / Julie Cook / 2015)

IMG_1519(just a few of my friend

The question we each eventually find ourselves asking,
at some point or other during our lifetime is. . .

“To what and or to whom am I bound?”

What is it that ties us, binds us, secures us to this thing we call life?

Is it family?
Is it work?
Is it that cadre of friends?
Is it the joy of hobbies?
Is it wealth?
Is it the pursuit of wealth?
Is it what we amass. . . our things, our toys, our possessions?
Is it a belief, a faith, a thought, a lifestyle, a life choice. . .?
Perhaps a combination of all of the above. . .?

The threads, those intricate strings, ropes, chains, cords, wires that tie us and bind us to this world, those that help to keep us grounded. . .but at the same time limited and tightly bound. . .
We must wonder. . . do they bind us, tether us just like the dog who is tethered to a chain run in the yard—affording a measured amount of space and length to run about, jump, sit, sleep. . .that is until we reach the end of the line– only to be rudely and abruptly yanked back into place. . .into our safety zone.

Are we tethered to these items and people just like the chained dog living in a limited world?
Do we look at these threads, these ropes, these chains as various life lines which offer security or rather do we need to be tied down and constantly connected, growing more and more tangled up the more we run about?

If we allow ourselves to be tied to this and that, to be bound to all the earthly goods in our lives, clinging to those things and people we allow to consume us, then what room do we allow for God and for what all God wants to be and to give within our lives–the offerings, the compassion, the Grace?
We can never soar upward, freely, toward the Creator if we are as a puppet—full of strings that bind and eventually knotting up and holding us to everything but Him.

The more we amass in this world, the heavier we become with more and more threads—hindered by the things that tie us up ever tighter to the world and to its life sucking needs. We become ensnared and entangled in each thread that leashes us to each and every thing and person–being unable to even lift a hand, reaching outward toward a God who wants so desperately to take our hand.

Maybe it’s time to untie, even cut, a few strings. . .to be willing to let go of a few things that we foolishly have thought to be too important. With our focus being so overtly grounded, we are unable to begin to look up and away to that sacred place where God longs for us to be.

Oddly we may believe that the threads that tie us to even our churches, to even certain relationships, too important to loosen—but we must realize, before we are so terribly knotted and tangled that when the threads are too many and too tight to the church or to anything or anyone other than the Omnipotent God of Creation, not allowing us to tie and tether ourselves to HIm and what He alone has to offer, then we are surely lost as we drown in a sea of colored threads.

God wants His thread to be the only thread we ever need or use.

It’s what St John of the Cross so eloquently surmises in today’s quote—it matters not what we are “tied to. . .for until the cord is broken [cut, severed], the bird cannot [be free] to fly [or soar]

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You;
You are my God, I extol You.

Psalm 118:26-27

What is Grace

I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”
― Hermann Hesse

“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.”
― Matthew Henry

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(a tiny bloom of a strawberry to be / Julie Cook / 2105)

Do you know Grace?
Have you seen it out and about?
During your comings and your goings?
Have you ever been properly or formerly introduced?

I truly much doubt so. . .
As Grace is often quiet and demure.
It prefers to go rather unnoticed until it is called upon. . .
More shy than bold.
It is not garish or loud.
Nor is it bold or showy.

What exactly is Grace you ask. . .

Grace is the second chance when all other chances had been used up.
Grace is the peace in the midst of the fierce raging storm.
Grace is acceptance when the world screams rejection.
Grace is forgiveness when the act has been intolerable.
Grace is hope when none had been previously offered.
Grace is mercy when judgement should be called for.
Grace is life when one actually deserves death. . .

It should be noted that Grace is not cheap.
For it cannot be bought nor sold
It can not be bartered over or traded.
It cannot be taken or stolen. . .
For it is actually free, to both you and me.

Yet this free Grace was once actually rather costly
For that which is free today to both you and me, once cost God a great deal.

Think of this question. . .
Would you ever hand over your child,
Your only child, to be brutally tortured and murdered before your very eyes. . .
Just to be able to offer someone else their freedom?
I would think not.
Yet that is exactly what happened.

A price paid for the healing power of Grace.
A tremendous price that cost God so very much,
Yet it was a price He willingly paid out of a tremendous love for both you and me. . .
and it is because of that very Grace that I am here, writing to you. . .


“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship