Two ways, one choice

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death,
and there is a great difference between these two ways”

The Two Ways


(bookcover)

The kind folks at Plough Publishing have once again shared a few new books with me for my review.
Sometimes I have time to read them, sometimes, I don’t.
Sometimes I have to settle for a bit of berry picking…pursing for those tastiest little
nuggets…nuggets that not only need to be shared but such nuggets are necessary when it comes to sharing.

I received a couple of books with today’s offering bieng from one of those books.

The Two Ways
The Early Christian Vision of Discipleship from
The Didache and The Shepherd of Hermas

With an introduction by Rowan Williams

The Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, an anonymous work composed in the late
first century AD, was lost for centuries before being rediscovered in 1873.
The Shepherd of Hermas was written by a Roman Christian named Hermas in the second century AD
or possibly even earlier.
A tale in which the “angel of repentance” appears to Hermas, a Christian living in Rome in the form of a shepherd.
Both works were included in early lists of canonical books.

There was, in the eyes of Rome, a deadly difficulty in the claim made by the early Christians
and that of their loyalty, or lack thereof, to the state.
As it appeared that their loyalty was no longer found in the authority of Rome and of the state
but rather in a man who Rome considered dead and gone.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in his introduction to the book
examines the life of Christians during the infancy time-period of the new ‘religion’
as seen from the eyes of the political and governing body of Rome.

Williams notes that “any Chrisitan in this period knew that, even if things were relatively peaceful,
it was always possible that a suspicious government would crackdown.
(Sound familiar 21st century Christians?)

The suspicions were well-founded in one sense.
If you look at the eyewitness accounts of martyrdom in these early centuries—
documents like the wonderful record of the martyrs of Scilli in North Africa in AD 180–
you can see what the real issue was.
These Christians, most of them probably domestic slaves, had to explain to the magistrate that they
were quite happy to pray for the imperial state,
and even to pay taxes, but that they could not grant the state their absolute allegiance.
They had another loyalty—which did not mean that they wished to overthrow the administration,
but that they would not comply with the states’ demands in certain respects.
They would not worship the emperor, and, as we know from some texts, refused to serve
in the Roman army.

They asked from the state what had been very reluctantly conceded to the Jews as an ethnic group—
exemption from the religious requirements of the empire.
What made their demand new and shocking was that it was not made on the basis of ethnic identity,
but on the bare fact of conviction and conscience.
For the first time in human history, individuals claimed the liberty to define the
limits of their political loyalty,
and to test that loyalty by spiritual and ethical standards.

That is why the early Christian movement was so threatening–and so simply baffling—
to the Roman authorities.
It was not revolutionary in the sense that it was trying to change the government.
Its challenge was more serious:
it was the claim to hold any and every government to account,
to test its integrity, and to give and withhold compliance accordingly.

The Early Christians believed that if Jesus of Nazareth was “Lord,”
no one else could be lord over him, and therefore no one could overrule his authority.

We use the word “Lord” these days mostly in a rather unthinking religious context,
as a sort of devotional flourish: for a Roman, it meant the person who made the decisions you had to abide by,
from the master of a slave in the household to the emperor himself.

To speak of Jesus as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” was to say that his decisions
could not be overridden by anyone.
You might have to disobey a “lord” in our society in order to obey the one true Master of all—
the one who used no violence in enforcing his decisions but was all the more unanswerable
an authority because of that.
He alone needed no reinforcement, no temporal power,
to overcome external threats of rivals.

The theology of the early centuries thus comes very directly out of this one great central
conviction about political authority: if Jesus is Lord, no one else ultimately is,
and so those who belong with Jesus, who shares his life through the common life of the worshiping community,
have a solidarity and a loyalty that goes beyond the chance identity of national or political life.

The first claim on their loyalty is to live out the life of Jesus which is also the life of God–
a life that needs no defense and so has no place for violence and coercion,

God, says Clement of Alexandria in the late second century, shows his love supremely in the fact that
he loves people who have no “natural” claim on him,
‘Humans love largely because of fellow-feeling, but God’s love is such that it never depends
on having something in common.
The creator has in one sense nothing in common with his creation—how could he?
But he is completely free to exercise his essential being, which is love, wherever he wills,
And this teaches us that we too must learn to love beyond the boundaries of common interest and
natural sympathy and, like God, love those who don’t see to have anything in common with us.

So many good nuggets here to taste, savor and finally digest…
And that’s just from the introduction!!!

From the notion of how we currently use the word “Lord” when referring to Jesus…
With it being more of a case of mere verbiage rather than a true sense of one who actually is in sole
authority over us.
As in one of true Lordship.

For in the word “Lord” one finds deep humility, yielding to and the deferring of self to that of another…
all of which is actually found in the use of what most consider to be a simple single word.
All of which are concepts so foreign to the 21st-century self-sufficient mind.

And so here’s the thing…
we have a new year.

The gift of a new year.

Yet for so many reasons, we needed to throw out this past year a long time ago.
It was caustic, volatile, vitriolic, hate-filled and divisive.

We have watched a nation, and an entire civilization, turn her back on her
Omnipotent Creator.

We have seen sinfulness legalized and legitimized while those who cry foul are victimized, scorned
and are actually now deemed criminal.
Criminal for holding, claiming, speaking and standing firm in the Faith of the One True God.
While sadly the majority who claim that belief stand idly by saying nothing.

Our friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Robertson, has been offering his own review of a book with
a somewhat familiar title.
That Hideous Strength: How the West Was Lost
The Cancer of Cultural Marxism in the Chruch,
The World And The Gospel Of Change

by Melvin Tinker

The book’s title is a nod to a novel of the same title by C.S Lewis
(That Hideous Strength–the last in a space trilogy from 1945),
Tinker takes Lewis’ work and runs with it…making a novel applicable to our current times
as we watch a Post Christian world teetering on the brink of irreversible destructive harm.

Our dear friend, the rouge Anglican cleric Bishop Gavin Ashenden, states that “if this book manages to wake
the Chruch to the danger it faces it will have done a great service to the Kingdom of heaven today”.

In his reflection of Mr. Tinker’s work, John Steven, FIEC, contends that
“The last sixty years have witnessed the death in the West of the Judeo-Christian worldview and its
replacement by an increasingly totalitarian secularism. Melvin Tinker deftly explains how this
revolution happened, and exposed the tactics that enabled Cultural Marxism to triumph
amongst our institutions and elites. We are deceiving ourselves if we think that this new ideology
is simply about achieving equality.
Rather it seeks the abolition of the family as the basis for society.
Having identified the challenge he helpfully shows how Christians should respond.
Following in the footsteps of William Wilberforce we must proclaim the gospel of God and
vigorously refute the ideas and values of the present day.
He calls for bold and courageous evangelical leadership, which is often sadly lacking
in the contemporary church.
Although a challenging read, this book provides invaluable help in understanding our
contemporary context.
It will make you grieve, pray, and deepen your confidence in the gospel fo the Lord Jesus,
which is alone able to free lost men and women from their bondage to sin and Satan.”

And we have grieved have we not?

I have felt much palpable grief this past year, living in the obvious descent into this
post-Christian world.
It has been a slow yet painful, none the less, descent.

But this year, this new year there are faithful voices crying out into the wilderness for us all to
take heart, to repent, to put on our armor and to be bold.

Be silent no more we are told.
But rather proclaim…and do so vigorously.

Be bold and courageous…for it will take boldness and courage to take on the cultural ideology
while showing our loyalty…loyalty not to the current state but rather to the one true Lord.

Get ready…the clarion call has sounded.

“Let the nations be roused;
let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat,
for there I will sit
to judge all the nations on every side.
13 Swing the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Come, trample the grapes,
for the winepress is full
and the vats overflow—
so great is their wickedness!”
14 Multitudes, multitudes
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and moon will be darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.
16 The Lord will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem;
the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel.
Joel 3:12-16

Decadance

“The Devil pulls the strings which make us dance;
We find delight in the most loathsome things;
Some furtherance of Hell each new day brings,
And yet we feel no horror in that rank advance.”

Charles Baudelaire


(the offerings of a small restaurant / Julie Cook / 2017)

Humanity has entered a new epoch, that of decline and decadence.
And although various movements of social and religious life loudly
proclaim their striving for truth and the universal good,
in actuality none of this is to be seen.
The concerns of people are directed to the earth and to success
in everything earthly.
But the higher truth ordained by God has been almost abandoned.

Archimandrite Dimitri

“This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel.
It is the time to preach it from the rooftops.
Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living
in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in
the modern metropolis.”

John Paul II

won’t back down

“You can stand me up at the gates of Hell,
but I won’t back down!”

Tom Petty


(rod iron fence to Colonial Cemetery / Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

The first official Christian martyr, or protomartyr,
was Stephen, who was killed in 36 AD.

What we know about Stephen comes to us from the Book of Acts.

A Greek speaking foreign born Jew, Stephen was elected to serve as a deacon to his community. Stephen, along with others, had appealed to the apostles that the
elderly widows within their community were being passed over and forgotten.
So Stephen, along with 6 others, were elected as official deacons who would in turn
attend to these elderly widows.

Yet Stephen was also known for being quite the evangelist.
He was an ardent speaker and witness of a new faith based on the teachings
of Jesus of Nazareth.
Stephen was known to lead many Jews to conversion.

Now we must remember that Stephen was both a Jew, born and raised,
as well as a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
A conundrum in dry and dusty Palestine.
As a Jew, he was still expected to answer to the Jewish governing body.

It was however his gift of speech and witness, along with the numerous conversions
of Jews, that would lead to Stephen’s swift demise.

Stephen was brought before the ruling Sanhedrin on charges of blaspheming.
The council believed Stephen to be nothing more than a heretic.

Eloquently, standing before the tribunal, Stephen presented his case as he spoke
of a natural and holy thread of events spiraling down through the ages as he linked
Abraham, Moses, Solomon, the Temple, David and finally culminating with Jesus Christ–
the inevitable final link in the chain.

Stephen continued explaining that the true Son of God who will come again to
judge both the living and the dead….
As he told those gathered that God’s kingdom was not to be found here on earth and
was not to be found in manmade buildings such as the Temple or in earthly accumulated treasures but rather was to be found only in the the risen Son.

Stephen closed his testimony by turning his gaze upward while announcing to those
gathered that
“I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
(Acts 7:58)
At which point the members of the council descended into chaos as they shouted and
covered their ears against hearing such seditious and heretical talk.

Shadows of Caiaphas tearing his clothes over the words of Jesus…
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you:
From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the
Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:64

Stephen was immediately sentenced death…being stoned to death.

Remember this was the time of pre Christian Paul–rather this was the dangerous
time of Saul, Paul’s ‘old man’ of persecution and hate…
For it was Saul who was the agent who took keen personal interest in crushing
any and all ‘heretics’ who were promoting the teaching of the crucified Nazarene.

It was Saul who paved the way for Stephen’s death and it was Saul who approved it.

Now imagine if you will what would have happened if Stephen had recanted
his teachings?
What would have happened had Stephen been frightened by the knowledge that he would
be sentenced to death.
What if the thought of having people throwing rocks at him until he died…
a death brought about slowly and painfully from rocks beating against his body,
what if the thought of such a horrific death made him change his mind?
What would have happened had he thought it would best, be easier, if he just opted
to cooperate and renounce his preachings?

What example would be set?
What presedent would then be set as a witness to other followers.
What if other followers had been too afraid?
Afraid for their own physical wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families?
How would those decisions of so long impact today?

But Stephen had seen Christ in all His glory—
there was no backing down.
There was no turning back.
He would stand against the gates of Hell and he would not back down.

…..and it was this tale of Stephen and the sacrifice of faith that came
flooding front and center to my thoughts when I read the follwing
words offered by the Scottish Pastor David Robertson regarding the latest
news coming out of both England and Scotland regarding the Anglican Church.

“The Anglican Church is officially distancing itself from biblical and historic Christianity.”
David Robertson

Whoa!

The Church, the very bride of the Christ the groom, is actually distancing herself
from Jesus Christ???!!
As she is currently turning away from the Word of the God and the tenants of Biblical teaching… choosing rather instead to go the way of the current culture gods….

We are at present witnessing the Church of Western Civilization turning herself
away from her very foundation and yet thankfully, at the same time, we are witnessing
the Church of Africa rising powerfully to the defense and forefront of that same faith…
steeped in the Truth of God’s word….

The Bishop of Uganda has addressed this very issue….

“Archbishop “The British sent missionaries to Africa in the 19th Century telling us to trust the Bible as the Word of God, now they are telling us not to”
Archbishop of Uganda

“It is one way, Henry Orombi says,
of keeping faith with those long-ago Englishmen in muttonchop whiskers who brought
the church to Africa.
“A hundred or so years ago, the fire was in the Western world,” Orombi says.
“And many of their great people went over to the countries in the Southern Hemisphere,
and reached out there, and planted seeds there.
And then things changed in the Northern Hemisphere. . . .
It now looks like the Western world is tired and old.
But, praise God, the Southern Hemisphere,
which is a product of the missionary outreach,
is young and vital and exuberant.
So, in a way, I think that what God has done is he took seeds and he planted them
in the Southern Hemisphere, and now they’re going to come back,
right to the Northern Hemisphere.
It is happening.
It is happening.”
(excerpt from an article in The New Yorker / A Church Asunder April 2017)

As I pray that Bishop Orombi is correct…

May those of us of the Faith, as we find ourselves now standing against the
very gates of Hell, may we hold fast to God’s word, being not afraid of what the world
may do to us as we continue to proclaim His Glory…

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,
and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

News

“I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged
to read the newspapers.
Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be known
before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation,
if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance.
Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn;
and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism
and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn
how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France,
and quadruplets born in New Zealand.”

C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

63905_n_21-11-13-22-50-48
(C.S.Lewis busy at his desk / The New York C.S.Lewis Society)

Had I not known that Mr. Lewis had penned these observational words in 1955,
I would have thought they were but a mere reflection of our own current times and condition.

However Mr Lewis may actually have been more soothsayer than mere observer,
as it seems as if our current crisis of all things “news”…fake or real,
is actually what Mr Lewis opines..albeit these 50 years later…
that we have succumbed to believing that our news must smell of the vulgar
and the sensational…
while being heavily accented with that of the unreal, surreal and the fake.

Yet man is so caught up with himself,
spinning about in his tiny world of chaos,
that he has failed to see the real breaking news of the day…
A story that in all truth has the makings of sheer sensationalism, sans the vulgarity.
A story offering both life and death with high stakes drama involved.
A story that is so far beyond us that it seems to be more fiction than fact…

But…that is where the glory is to be found…
in the mere fact that it is a story that seems more impossible then possible…

In 1945, a young Jesuit priest sat in a foreboding jail cell, condemned to death.

Enduring beatings and torture, as he awaited execution, this young priest,
whose hands were shackled both day and night,
began writing profusely about a news story of which he was all too familiar…

One might only imagine that the small dank cell and the overwhelming isolation of
solitary confinement, along with the added weight of certain death hanging over
his head, would diminish any sense or need, let alone excitement or utter joy,
that actually engulfed this young priest who felt compelled to relay this particular news story…
Yet it was to be to the contrary, for the darkness of his current situation only heightened his
sense of wonderment and the urgent burning desire that he share this story at any and all costs.

So each day, with shackled hands, this young priest would write and each day his writings,
one by one,
were secretly smuggled out of the prison.

The news that this young priest felt so compelled to share,
the news which was not of death and passing
but was rather a story of hope and salvation…
is still as relevant and news worthy today as it was during those dark days of 1945…

“The horror of these times would be unendurable unless we kept being
cheered and set upright again by the promises that are spoken.
The angels of annunciation, speaking their message of blessing into the midst of anguish,
scattering their seed of blessing that will one day spring up amid the night,
call us to hope.”

“Let us ask for clear eyes that are able to see God’s messengers of annunciation;
for awakened hearts with the wisdom to hear the words of promise.
Let us ask for faith in the motherly consecration of life as shown in the figure of
the blessed woman of Nazareth.
Let us be patient and wait, wait with Advent readiness for the omen when
it pleases God to appear in our night too, as the fruit and mystery of this time.
And let us ask for the openness and willingness to hear God’s warning messengers
and to conquer life’s wilderness through repentant hearts.”

“Let us then live in today’s Advent, for it is the time of promise.”

web-alfred-delp-ullstein-bild-gettyimages-544308673
(Father Alfred Delp)

Alfred Delp
excerpt:
The Shaking Reality of Advent / 1945
Watch For the Light
Readings for Advent and Christmas
Plough Publishing House.

Go boldly where many dare not tread

The scripture is filled with examples of genuine masculinity;
you could mine David’s story for probably a year by itself.
And we have to get the masculinity of Jesus back.
Not the pale-faced altar boy, but the man that made a weapon and cleared the temple,
who boldly cast out demons and calmed the raging sea.

John Eldredge

dscn4349
(Blue Herron and sandpiper / Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

I often feel as if I am that lone voice, crying in the wilderness.
As I climb ever higher on this bully pulpit of mine.

I want to shout…

“HEY FELLOW CHRISTIANS….”
CAN YOU HEAR ME???

Or maybe I should clarify…

“HEY FELLOW AMERICAN CHRISTIANS…”

Sigh….

We have all been complicit and silent far too long..
As we look at the current state of this country…
It makes one just want to scream…

Have we all just simply lost our minds???

From the election madness
to racial division…

From immigration run amuck
to a rapid escalation in crime…

From our inner cities doubling as war zones
to our obsession with anything but our current mess…
think the whole Brad and Angelina crap….

From non citizens having more rights than citizens
to those who think only one color of life matters

I mean come on…

It is time for the average, decent Christian citizen to say NO MORE!!!!!

And why do I say Christian???
Because Christians know better.
Dosen’t mean they / we always do what they / we know is the right thing to do,
but deep down, they / we know better….

Who cares if John Lewis sits on the floor of the House in protest…
He can sit all day long.

Who cares if Colin Kaepernick sits, or raises his fist or kneels
during the National anthem…
He can be defiant and rude and disrespectful all day long…

All of those actions are easy…
But they don’t do anything except sew more discord, more alienation, more resentment
and more division…

The harder thing is to get up off the floor and up off the playing field by going into
those communities, those inner cities…
and actually talk face to face with those young black Americans…
who are angry…
and to those who continually commit crimes,
telling them that violence cannot continue begetting violence.

Because that is all that is happening.
And might it be added that no black life is any less nor anymore important
than any other color of life…
As those hard conversations have to happen “at home” before they can be carried forward.

Who cares if Hillary is a woman…
I am a woman…
and there are those who say that’s enough reason fro me to vote for her.
That is no reason.

Who cares if Madonna or Katy Perry take their clothes off publicly
as some sort of reason to get the vote for Hillary—
at last check, nakedness was never a reason to vote.

Hillary lies and that’s that.

Michele Obama can laud over her and sing her praises all day long
but Hillary has lied, continues to lie as she has allowed people to
be brutally tortured and murdered under her watch…
All the while as she continues claiming “no recollection” over email servers.

And why is all of that so quickly forgotten by both you and I?

Hillary supports abortion.

At last check, abortion and Christianity were at odds.

Lying and Christianity are at odds.
Murder and Christianity are at odds.

We should be sick of hearing “it’s my body, my choice”

At last check God gave me / you our bodies and said they were to be treated as a temple…
with respect and dignity…not willy nilly, however we felt…

Sleeping around, being irresponsible, putting wants and desires before sense and practicality
comes with repercussions…but we don’t like repercussions, or responsibility….
So we’ll be selfish in that regard and claim it’s our choice….

Who recalls God’s commandments coming with options?

Donald Trump is brash and arrogant, yet hasn’t spent life being groomed politically.
so when he shoots off at the mouth, well, he’s not use to having handlers prep him…

But he’s no prize either….

Conceit and arrogance, and cut throat business has never been in agreement with God’s word.

All of which has us in a mess!

I read somewhere this morning that someone was asked who they were going to vote for
and their response was very sobering….

“God.”
“I’m going to vote for God.”
“I’m going to write in His name…because He hasn’t lied and won’t lie”
“He actually loves America and all of her people and has been with us since the very beginning..
and His word is never ending….”

Made perfect sense.

Yet all of the Civil Liberty folks out there cringe at that notion.
All the atheists cringe at that notion
All the satanists cringe at that notion.
All the liberal folks cringe at that notion.

Because God’s word is pretty much the last and final word and we are living in a world that
doen’t want to buy into any other words but our own…

The BBC ran the following story today about one of the survivors in the deadly July attack on the Rouen priest by the two Islamic jihadists.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37505350

It’s just one more reminder, in a very visceral fashion, that we, who call ourselves Christians,
are perhaps not doing enough in this world of ours…that we have not, are not,
and for some reason, will not take a stand for God and our Christian faith…

It is time for us who claim Jesus Christ as our Savior to go forward…
forward to where most dare not tread.

Yet most folks now stand in fear….
fear of insulting others, as in fear of being not correct enough,
in fear of rocking the boat, as in fear of being ostracized
in fear of alienating ourselves, as in fear of being cut off.
in fear of drawing attention, as in fear of drawing the ire of the Muslim world.
as the fears continue on and on….

Be not afraid
Boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ…
Time is of the essence.

The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Proverbs 28:1

Proclaim

“Our concern is not to explain but to proclaim”
A.W. Tozer

DSCN1753
(the cliffs of Slieve League, Co Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

How much energy is lost in the never ending battle of explaining, defending, defining?
As most words of defense and explanations fall upon deaf ears and closed hearts.
Make a point today to proclaim, leaving the explaining to another day…

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“who is, and who was, and who is to come,
the Almighty.”

Revelation 1:7-8

Are you listening

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning,
that without listening speaking no longer heals,
that without distance closeness cannot cure.

Henri Nouwen

DSCN1694
(sheep sit along a hill near Teileann as two look away, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The precursor
The forerunner
The messenger
The prophet
The announcer

The mission always the same…
To proclaim
To pave the path
To announce
To herald

The message…
The story
the prophecy
The declaration
The Word

The coming of…
Hope
Redemption
Salvation
Life…

All for you…

As in…
Your Hope
Your redemption
Your Salvation
Your life…

So are you listening?
Or have you turned your back, your head, your heart…closing your ears…
like so many who have gone before you…
refusing to listen and refusing to claim what is rightfully yours…

“They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.
Nehemiah 9:17