Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Prayers

                                                Lord Jesus Christ

Lord Jesus Christ, beloved and eternal and faithful Son of the Father, Homoousios to Patri, Anointed of the Holy Spirit, incarnate, crucified, resurrected and ascended Lord of all creation, I believe in you.  With great joy, with the praise of my whole heart I acknowledge and agree that you have found me in my darkness and sin, laid hold of me and taken me down in your death, freed me from sin and evil, quickened me with new life in your resurrection, and lifted me up into your Father’s arms in your ascension, and into the communion of the Holy Spirit.  All of me, and mine, every war-torn fragment, every fearful, unbelieving, shame-riddled, broken part is in you, in your Father, in the Holy Spirit.  I rest in you, Jesus, lover of my soul, my Savior, my Salvation, my Saving Act, my King, my Liberator, healer of my broken heart, the author and finisher of faith. You have included me in all that you are and have in your union and face-to-face communion with your Father, and you have included me in your own anointing in the Holy Spirit.  You have included me in your victory over evil and wickedness, and in your session at the Father’s right hand, above all rule and authority in heaven and on earth.  Nothing can separate me from you, your Father, and the Holy Spirit, and the life you share together.  Blessed be your great name.

Thank you, blessed brother, Lord Jesus.  You became what I am to bring me to be what you are in your life with your Father in the Holy Spirit.  I hear you speak my name, and with the freedom of your heart, and mind, I turn toward your Father to see him with your eyes.  I receive the witness of the Spirit of Adoption.  I hear you Lord Jesus, and your “Abba! Father!” inside my own soul.  I receive your Father’s everlasting love, and give myself, all of me, to your Father’s embrace, and to the healing and restoration of the Holy Spirit’s communion.

Lord Jesus, in your courage, in the comfort of the personal presence of the Holy Spirit, and in the unearthly assurance of your Father’s arms, I pledge all of me to your service, to participate in your ministry of liberation of our brothers and sisters.  Reveal to me how and where you, your Father and the Holy Spirit are already present in my ordinary life, work and play.  Reveal to me the agreements that I have made with evil and darkness, that have given evil access to my life in you, that I may break these agreements in your name, and that I may walk in every way in the glorious freedom of the children of God, in full agreement with the Holy Spirit, and in all the Holy Spirit’s gifts.  Holy Spirit do for me, and mine, what only you can do.

I take my stand in you, Lord Jesus, and in your name and authority I bind and banish from my life, my body, my mind, heart and will, my family, my sphere of influence, and my belongings every foul thing, every spirit and form of darkness and religion and wickedness, every power and art, every curse and covering and accusation that are directed towards me and mine.  In your name, and by your authority, Lord Jesus, I summon the holy and faithful angels and command them to destroy the kingdom of darkness throughout my kingdom, and to establish the kingdom of the blessed Trinity throughout my domain and ministry.

Worthy are you blessed Lord Jesus Christ, Father’s Son, Homoousios to Patri, Anointed One, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit, Victorious Warrior, worthy are you of all praise and adoration and worship, now and forever.  Thank you for being my Savior, my Good Shepherd, my High Priest, my True and Faithful witness, my Alpha and Omega, the Captain of my salvation, and the Healer of my soul.  I rest in you, and await your Word to me today. Amen

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. October, 2013

                                   Holy Spirit

Blessed Holy Spirit, forgive me for running from you.  My heart grieves as I confess to you that for many seasons in my life, even for years, I have been afraid of you.  I thought you were a ghost to be avoided.  In the insanity of darkness I have ignored you, and your heart, and your guidance and promptings. In the fear of the shadows I have resisted you, Holy Spirit, even grieved you—the Lord and giver of life, the communion of the Father and Son, the joy of the cosmos.  Holy Spirit I ask you now to forgive me.  You know my true heart.  You know who I am.  I want no darkness in me at all, only light, only you, in Jesus, in the Father. I acknowledge that I am made for you Holy Spirit, created and recreated in Jesus himself to be the temple of your joy, the fountain of your communion, the living expression of your cascading life. I honor you as the secret of my very being and life in Christ.  For you my soul cries.  Thank you for your humility, for your irrepressible love, for your merciful and tender care.

Blessed Holy Spirit, in hope and wonder I acknowledge that in your great love you have made your way in Jesus and in his suffering at human hands into the catacombs of my soul.  In unspeakable love you endured my rejection of the Lord Jesus to find me in the broken places where I have allowed darkness to gain a foothold in me and wound my eyes.  In your presence, Holy Spirit, I acknowledge that I have been deceived.  I have unwittingly, though willfully, allowed darkness access to my mind and heart and will, to my life in Jesus in you.  I have opened my soul to the father of lies.  Forgive me Holy Spirit.  Heal my soul.  Restore my heart.  I confess to you that in the darkness I have lived from pain.  Again and again I have reached for and embraced false comforts.  In my confusion I have lived for myself, sacrificed my heart and relationships for the approval of others and their schemes of salvation.  I have hurt those you love.  Heal the wounds that I have caused in others.  Restore the hearts of those that I have broken in my grand quest for life that only you can awaken.  I acknowledge to you Holy Spirit that I have participated in the lies and half-truths of darkness, in the pretense and crafty shifting and hiding of the evil one.  Thank you for giving me Jesus’ eyes so that I can see what I have done, see how I have been deceived, see the darkness in me as darkness.  Continue to enlighten me Holy Spirit; take my heart and guide me, free me to break every association and agreement with evil, and banish all forms of darkness from my being forever in Jesus’ name.

Blessed Holy Spirit, I rejoice in seeing your redeeming genius in all of my life.  In profound gratitude, I marvel at your persistent care.  You have taken my weakness and shame and blindness and transformed them into life for me, and for others.  I give myself to you Holy Spirit—all that I know how to give, and all that I don’t, all of me and mine, all of my doubts and fears and unbelief, my broken eyes, my hurt, my failure, all of my shame and the accusations that I have accepted as truth, all of the damaged emotions trapped in me and in my body, all of the ‘I am nots’ whispered to me by evil to which I have agreed, all of me as I have given myself to participate in darkness—I give to you, Holy Spirit.  I am all yours, Holy Spirit; do for me what you alone can do.  Unravel the twisted kudzu of evil that I have allowed to entangle my soul. I have no desire to be alive without knowing you, Holy Spirit, without knowing your presence, your care, and your encouragement, without your deep and abiding comfort and inspiration.  For you my heart longs. I turn away from all things to you Holy Spirit. I want to be the man of your dreams.  I turn to you, Holy Spirit; lead me, comfort me.  Sing your song in my heart, dance with me; make me alive with your affirmation.  Restore me, Holy Spirit, to your sanity that I might live in you and in your communion, in the glorious liberation of our adoption in Christ, in the simple joy of your presence.  I ask you, Holy Spirit, to fashion me into a living sacrament of Jesus’ grace, a human embodiment of the Father’s love, and into a personal incarnation of your abounding life and care and mercy, and of all of your gifts.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D., 2014

                                                       Abba, Father

Father, with all that is in me I bless you, and I bless your Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Thank you for giving Jesus to us, to me.  He is the humble brother of the human race, the truest friend in all of creation.  I love his prayer to you:  “Father, I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, that the love with which you love Me may be in them, and I in them.”   Father, my soul shakes with hope as I read Jesus’ words.  I see his burden for us so lost in the lie.  I sense his excitement in finding us, in finding me in the gnarled darkness of evil that has broken our minds.  Father, I am astounded.  Your beloved Son, who lives face to face with you in the unspeakable fellowship of the Holy Spirit submitted himself to us to be cursed by us, beaten, mocked, and crucified.  I see you, Father, there in him, and the Holy Spirit.  How can this be, Father?  I have so missed your heart.  I see  Jesus’ heart beating with a love that could not bear for us to live without knowing you.  I see the whole of his being running to become what we are, one of us.  I see him bow before our insanity.  We cursed Jesus, Father, your eternal and beloved and faithful Son, we damned and rejected.  Yet, in the horror of our rejection of Jesus I see joy in his heart.  What humility, what determined, passionate love I see in his soul as he submitted to us.  O Father, he found us.  O blessed Lord Jesus, in submitting to us you made your way inside the great darkness that has broken our very beings.  Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, let all the earth be filled with silent joy.  I stand in awe Father.  Your Son accepted our brutal rejection, and used our betrayal as his way to get inside our abyss of hopeless hell.  And he brought you Father, and the Holy Spirit with him.  O Lord Jesus may your name be praised forever.  You have pitched your tent, your own being inside our hell that we may know your Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit—and live.

Father, I am beginning to see you with Jesus’ eyes.  I am learning to take sides with Jesus against the way I see you Father.  I am coming to know your heart and feel your affection.  It is scary to risk believing what Jesus shares with me about your goodness and love and mercy, but I have had enough with the way I see things and the mess I have made of myself.  I welcome Jesus' fellowship with you, and bow before his knowledge of you, and of me, and of others.

Father, MacDonald was right: “Good souls many will one day be horrified at the things they now believe of God.”  I am one of those good souls, Father.  Forgive me for what I have believed about you, for the way I have tarred your face with the brush of evil’s madness.  I have been blindsided by the foul whisperer and his dastardly lies.  You are love, Father, irrepressibly good.  You have no darkness in you at all.  Your oneness with Jesus in the Holy Spirit is too beautiful for words.  Thank you for dreaming of me, for never once abandoning me to my folly.  Thank you for your beloved Son. I am embarrassed at how much of my life I have spent hiding from you, Father.  I cry out to Jesus to expand my thoughts until they are worthy of the theme of your heart.

Father, I see now how you have cared for me all of my life, how you have protected me, nurtured me, created opportunities for me.  Forgive me for how I have mishandled so much of my life, and the hearts of those we both love.  It gives me courage to see how you have always had my back.  Father, I receive your overflowing blessings upon me and mine.  Blessed be your great name. 

Father, you have given me a heart for your Son’s glory.  I am honored, humbled, and thrilled.  I ask you to send the Spirit in and through Jesus to me in ever new ways that I might proclaim the unsearchable riches of your beloved Son to the world in darkness.

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D., 2014 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fishing Glory

A little break in the south Louisiana marsh Jack Cravelle fishing with my son Baxter (sporting a beard) and John Wauchope (Batman), son of Bruce Wauchope from Adelaide, Australia with Captain Jason Shilling of  Kowalick, note the monster taken on one of my lures.  Just like when I fish with you.  We were fishing for speckled trout, which are great to eat, when Captain Shilling noticed a massive school of fish blowing up on some pogies.  It looked like a whale to me.  As it turned out it was a school of 20+ pound Jacks.  Needless to say we spent the afternoon chasing the school and had the time of our lives.  John, the rookie, allegedly caught the slightly largest fish at over 22 pounds, but he lost points because it took him an hour to land the fish.  He takes after his dad.  Thank you Jason for a great day, and thank you Holy Spirit; we will have more please.  That was a large time.  Next up for me is speaking at Caleb Miller's place in Fort Collins, Colorado ( Saturday and Sunday (26-27th) then to Denver with Wes Roberts on Monday and Tuesday (28-29th).  Blessings to all.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Artist

 At the last Open Table Conference in Portland, Paul Young read a letter from one of his friends from  Germany.  All of us were stunned silent as we listened.  We all asked Paul to post the letter on his web  site and for permission to share it with others.  Below is the Paul's introduction and the letter, which is  part of a book.  Here your heart will shout, "Yes!"  

 From Paul...

 For my birthday this year, on Mother’s Day, my friend K sent me a few pages of a book, translated  from the German, written by Martin Schleske, a master violin builder/craftsman. She translated this piece because of conversation we recently had sitting in a hotel lobby in Orlando, Florida.

A world-class young athlete friend had been paralyzed as a result of an on-camera stunt that went badly, and K was distraught. But it wasn’t her friend she wanted to talk about; it was God and ‘…His wonderful Plan for our life.’ How do we begin to talk about a ‘loving and powerful God’ then move to tragedy, sickness, accident, and calamity and finally make it worse by actually believing that we are honoring God in making God author of all this mess in the name of Sovereignty and Control. Some religious people, and Christians would be often among their ranks, believe in grim determinism. It is fatalism with personality.

There is an impassable chasm (except perhaps in our darkened imaginations) between a God who takes ownership for the Creation, along with the havoc it has produced, and One who authors the evil within it. The first you might learn to trust, the latter…twisted lip service at best.

How often we have heard well meaning and intentioned words such as, “It must be part of God’s Plan.” Really? Might it be that many things are simply WRONG! There is no justification for much of what we have brought to the table; what has been done to us, and what we then participate in ourselves. It is WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG!

Even if God has the creative audacity to build purpose out of the evil we create, it will never justify what is wrong. Nothing, not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a ‘cross’. That God would submit to our darkness and transform this dark machine into an icon and monument of grace, says more about the nature of God than it does about any blinded attempt to justify evil.

Does God have a wonderful Plan for my (your) life? Does God sit and draw up a perfect will for you and me on some cosmic disconnected drafting table, a perfect plan that requires a perfect response? Is God then left to react to our stupidity or deafness or blindness or inability, as we constantly violate perfection with our own indelible ink? What if this is about a God who has greater respect for you than for ‘the plan’? What if there is no ‘plan’ for your life but rather a relationship in which God constantly invites us to co-create, respectfully submits to the choices we bring to the table and because this God ‘is’ Love, will never be satisfied until only that which is of Love’s kind remains in us?

What follows is the article translated by K as a gift for my birthday. The first three paragraphs are her commentary on Martin’s book.

Martin Schleske on Artist/Creator vs Construction Designer

((At first Martin writes a lot of fascinating things about the wood he uses for the violin’s body. Only one sort of trees from a certain area in the mountains are formed by rough weather and winds and meager ground, which produces resilient wood that is elastic at the same time. He sometimes spends months seeking the right tree by tapping on them with a tuning fork and that in old times violin builders found their ‘singer trunks’ at the rivers where all the harvested wood was floated down to the cities. Some trunks made melodic sounds when bouncing into others; these revealed themselves as the ‘singers’.

Every hardship the tree experienced made the roots go deeper and the structural fibers stronger, but all crooked it a little this or that way. If a tree close to the chosen one, the ‘singer,’ fell, the different angle of light and wind made the whole trunk twist a little, which also shows up in every fiber. Other characteristics emerge in every millimeter or wood and each is absolutely unique.

The wood is then stored for years in the workshop under certain heat and humidity conditions until it is ready for its purpose to become a violin body. Now the violin builder starts cutting the body’s bulge/curvature out of it that is uniquely crucial for giving the violin its unique voice.))

It would be cheap to force one’s perception on the wood. The art is in seeing what the fiber requires. Someone fixated on the ‘ideal’ or ‘right’ shape only follows his laws. The artist, who also knows about the laws of acoustics, see something else: he honors what is crooked and what has become in the fibers and knows that these must not be cut in the wrong places. Only then is the evolution a spiritual one where inner wisdom and knowledge of the wood and its needs are uppermost, and not blind perception to a ‘form’.

The perfectionist is content with fulfilling the law; the artist fulfills the sound.

Romans 8:28-30 describes a similar process: “And those who love God know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to purpose. Those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Those he predestined, he called, those he called he also justified, and those he justified he also glorified.”

“It’s really quite similar to working on the Violin’s bulge/curvature. The wood is carefully chosen (called). A good violin builder respects the texture of the wood and under his fingers he feels the character, the solidity and density. This shows him both the possibilities and the limits of the wood. Each of this wood’s quirks and characteristics has an influence on the sound it will bring forth.

Some trees, like people, have suffered staggering hardships and overwhelming winds in their life. The course of our fibers becomes difficult, one-sided, crooked and scarred. But like the wood, we reveal our true selves during the small and great ordeals of our lives – these knock on our life and thus make our fibers (our inner structure) audible.

If I as a violin builder, am willing to work with the kind of fiber I get, ad start creating with what has already become, and what is difficult and crooked…how much more God will do so! God’s Wisdom knows what is necessary to build a unique sound with our texture, our fiber and our sometimes difficult history. That is what is meant by ‘called, justified and glorified’ in the above text.

I will only become a master artist/creator if I am willing to work with a ‘despite’...despite this particular flaw, this odd structure, this damage…I will give this wood its voice! I will make it sing!

While I am working on a curvature/bulge, I sometimes feel the planer take a different approach. This shows me, “Here I have to leave the idea of the curve I had in mind. It may not be pretty, but necessary.” Everything that has happened to the wood requires asymmetry.

If the fibers were lines definable by Math, one could construct an ideal curve, an ideal form already defined before the work begins. But the fiber course is not perfect, not ideal, and thus the making of a Violin body is no construction site, it is an act of creation.

It’s an act of creation because it is not the wood that yields to the Maker, but the Maker yielding to the wood.

The artist has to ask himself what he has on hand: “How did this wood grow? What can it become?” The intent of the process of creation allows for promised possibilities to unfold. This cannot happen through a rigid plan. Everything depends on the esteem and wisdom the Master has for his creation.

For our view of life, it is a great difference if we see the world a creation or a construction. It is not the idea of ‘Evolution’ that robs faith of his breath, but thinking that the world is a divine construction site. This is the difference between a Plan and a Promise, between Subordination and Dialogue, between Religion and Faith.

An Almighty Engineer subdues the material. ‘Faith in God’ then means to submit to God. Building violins has taught me otherwise. Creating relates to both ‘what is given’ and to ‘what has already become’. Faith means to trust in the indwelling wisdom of the creator and the promised possibilities. This is proven in the process itself. The wood finds its own voice in being born again.

When I feel the fibers through the roughness of my planer it is like a dialogue with the wood. Only while I’m working on it do I get clarity on how the curve should be. The wood has its say in this joint creation.

A construction is a forcing of a predetermined ideal on the material. Everything has to yield to that idea. Now we are at the heart of legalism where life is coated in and subdued by unrelenting ideal conceptions. We have arrived at the curse of religion.

The ‘justification’ of man in the Romans verse above, first and foremost means that there is a Wisdom at work that does justice to life. The real fibers of our life are respected and given a voice. It is an act of love that embraces the imperfect and sees its worth. Love sees all the beauty, joy, desire and hope (the possibilities of the soul), but it also sees all the weaknesses, disappointments, sadness and pain (the crooked fibers). God’s Wisdom gets involved in a dialogue in which we have a natural say. Our life is not a construction; it is not done on a drawing board.

Creation means that everything that is in the making is becoming in regard to what has already grown. This is brilliant! In a construction, everything that is in the making is under the constraint of what is wanted. That is insufficient! That is pathetic!

Scriptures show me that God has the heart of an artist, not a grim construction planner. If the world were the work of a cosmic engineer, he would be in a constant state of discontentedness. We would all suffer from the constant nagging of a dogged designer whose plans just never work out like he intended or expected. Reality could never live up to his spotless (wonderful) construction plans. But a true Creator knows he not only has to shape, but also endorse and allow. Wisdom allows things to grow and unfold.

It is fascinating to view the whole world as a composition, a painting or a sculpture or scenes from a great work of art. Works of art can be beautiful and sometimes odd.

I am certain that God, having the heart of an artist, has no intention to force reality to obey Him at all costs. Wisdom does not know grim determination.

The thought of seeing every person as a work of art in progress, an ever-changing and unique expression of God, changes our whole view of others and ourselves. Suddenly you can see the odd, authentic, fascination, enjoyable, staggering interplay of what is created and what has become of it. What was put into this person and what has grown out of it? What is in the making?

We could see people as forms of expression of a great Artist, expressions that yearn to be seen, read and heard.”

For more about Martin Schleske go to:

A friend, Rob Parsons, is about to publish (Hodder) a book called Wisdom House. Here is an excerpt that bears on this conversation:

It isn’t just seeming physical disadvantages that can turn into a strength, but life experiences too – even ones that others would naturally run from. Some years ago, a friend of mine attended a lecture on stem cell research in Oxford given by a world famous geneticist. During the question time, the scientist was asked whether, in the future, it would be possible to clone Beethoven. His answer was a brilliant ‘yes’ and ‘no’. ‘Yes’ if you could extract the DNA from the bones in his coffin –you could create a human being who would be an identical twin of Beethoven. ‘Yes,’ you could probably teach the ‘twin’ to play the piano to a reasonably high level.  But ‘no’, because Beethoven’s father, who was also his music tutor, was a violent alcoholic. The young Beethoven was very close to his mother who died when he was a teenager, and he became responsible for raising his two brothers as his father lapsed deeper into his alcoholism. He lost his first and only true love, he lived in poverty weighed down with debts, he suffered from manic-depression and, like his father, turned to alcohol. Then, just as Beethoven began to have some interest in his compositions, he began to lose his hearing.

The culmination of all these experiences – the tumultuous feelings of rage, love, despair, passion - were poured into his most famously pounding six symphonies (Numbers Three to Eight) which are what we now revere as ‘classic’ Beethoven. More accomplished musicians may now play or conduct his works, but they can never capture his greatness because that quality was born out of his expression of his own life experience, of being true to himself. 

And finally, from George MacDonald, writing in 1868:

The Scene: Robert Falconer’s “righteous” grandmother had burned his fiddle, the one that had been his father’s and grandfather’s, lest it also lead Robert astray….. 

“But though the loss of Miss St. John and the piano was the last blow, his sorrow did not rest there, but returned to brood over his bonny lady. She was scattered to the winds. Would any of her ashes ever rise in the corn, and moan in the ripening wind of autumn? Might not some atoms of the bonny leddy creep into the pines on the hill, whose ’soft and soul-like sounds’ had taught him to play the Flowers of the Forest on those strings which, like the nerves of an amputated limb, yet thrilled through his being? Or might not some particle find its way by winds and waters to sycamore forest of Italy, there creep up through the channels of its life to some finely-rounded curve of noble tree, on the side that ever looks sunwards, and be chosen once again by the violin-hunter, to be wrought into a new and fame-gathering-instrument?
“Could it be that his bonny leddy had learned her wondrous music in those forests, from the shine of the sun, and the sighing of the winds through the sycamores and pines? For Robert knew that the broad-leaved sycamore, and the sharp, needle-leaved pine, had each its share in the violin. Only as the wild innocence of human nature, uncorrupted by wrong, untaught by suffering, is to that nature struggling out of darkness into light, such and so different is the living wood, with its sweetest tones of obedient impulse, answering only to the wind which bloweth where it listeth, to that wood, chosen, separated, individualized, tortured into strange, almost vital shape, after a law to us nearly unknown, strung with the strings from animal organizations, and put into the hands of man to utter the feelings of a soul that has passed through a like history. This Robert could not yet think, and had to grow able to think it by being himself made an instrument of God’s music.”

I am today a unique sound that I will not be tomorrow and tomorrow could not be but for today. What if…what if there is a God who could gather up all the broken bits of the two fish and five loaves of my life, create purpose out of what was stolen from me and what I then broke, and make certain that nothing is lost? That would change everything!

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Walking on the white sand beach near Destin, Florida this morning, I noticed some seaweed about ten yards from the shoreline.  At first I thought it was just a small clump about 20 yards long.  But as I looked I realized that it stretched for 500 yards along the beach.  The scene took me back many years to a similar day on the beach with my wife and children.  My son, who was about 6 at the time, and I had decided that we were going out to the sand bar when we noticed a stretch of dark seaweed between us and the sand bar.  We walked the beach trying to find a gap, but there was none.  I finally grabbed his hand and said, ‘son, sometimes you have to step right into the dark stuff to get to the other side.’ 

This morning as I reflected on the memory it hit me that my son, at 6 years old, could not have seen the clear water on the other side of the seaweed.  I was taller and had a different perspective.  I could see that the seaweed was only three or four yards wide.  He could not have seen what I was seeing.  I knew that we would make it.  He didn’t.  He trusted me.  But the message to me this morning was not simply about a son’s trust.  The message was about the perspective of a father, of our Father. 

I have no doubt that our Father feels the fear and pain, and perhaps the guilt of our hearts as we find ourselves in the midst of various forms of seaweed, some of which we have created ourselves, and some of which is real only in our broken imaginations.  In Jesus, our Father, and the Holy Spirit have identified themselves with us as we are in our darkness.  Yet our darkness is not darkness to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They know us in the light of life, from a higher vantage point.  Our Father does not see us as we see ourselves in our seaweed. He sees us from a different perspective.  He sees us from the perspective of the gift that he gave to us “in Christ Jesus, before the time of the ages” (2TIM 1:9), and from the perspective of who he has made us in his incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and ascended Son.  He knows who we are. 

This morning, our Father asked me to rest in his vision of me, to take sides with him against the way I see myself, and against the way that I feel about myself as I do so.  I think I heard him say that I was free to live in the seaweed if that is what I wanted.  But in that comment I also heard the question, ‘why?’  And somewhere in that moment Jesus reminded me of my favorite verse, “In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).     

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Prayer

This weekend over 50 men will be gathering from around our country for our annual men’s gathering.  This year the gathering will be at Julian Fagan's farm.  Paul Lavelle of Operation Restored Warrior and I have written a prayer for this weekend that I wanted to share with you.

Every blessing to you all.

Lord Jesus, I take refuge in you, in your heart, in your life, in your death, and resurrection and ascension.  I take refuge in the fullness of your work on my behalf, and in your enthronement above all names and powers in this age and in all ages to come.  Speak to me, Lord Jesus, in this moment.  Say to me, “I am your salvation.”

Lord Jesus, I give to you my body, my soul, my heart, my mind and thoughts, my spirit and will, my masculinity and sexuality.  I give to you my fears and brokenness, my shame and guilt and doubts.  I relinquish all forms of control and call upon you as my Savior.  Thank you for sharing yourself with me.  I want to see with your eyes, hear with your ears, know with your mind, will with your will.   I acknowledge you Jesus, with gratefulness, as my covering.  In the safety of your embrace, I ask you to cleanse my wounds inflicted by the enemy.  Cleanse me of every form of darkness, sin, and evil; cleanse me Jesus, my conscience, my despair, my unbelief.  Restore me again today with your life.  
I invite the Holy Spirit, sent in your name, to renew me today, to restore me.  Blessed Holy Spirit, I claim you as my inheritance in Jesus.  Heal my soul.  Do for me, and my brothers, what only you can do.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit come now again especially into the places that have been deadened by the battle, and re-breathe life into me.  Breathe hope, breathe faith, breathe joy, freedom and love.  Come Lord Jesus, come again with your Father and the Holy Spirit.  I ask for a deeper intimacy with you, Jesus, in the pain of my wounds. 

As a band of brothers, as warriors in the Kingdom of God wounded in the battle, we step back from the front line, and we give this weekend to you Jesus.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we consecrate this weekend to you.  Together, we give to you our homes, our jobs and families, and all that we left behind.  Together, we ask that you bless our loved ones, and release your faithful angels to protect them.

Jesus, into your hands we give you our cares, our burdens, our worries.  We release to you the world, and all things and pressures and concerns that dominate us.  We center ourselves in you, and we make ourselves utterly available to you.  Together, we consecrate this space, and we give to you our time together, our waking, our sleeping, our conversation, our cooking and laughing and drinking, our crawfish boil, and our time alone.  We give this entire weekend to you, and rest in your blessing.  In this world of darkness, we claim the Kingdom of the blessed Trinity here.  We claim the authority of Jesus here. 

We take our stand in the full work of Jesus Christ, in and through and over and with each one of us.  Lord Jesus Christ, Father’s Son, anointed of the Holy Spirit, Lord of all creation, in your name we silence every voice in all creation this weekend, and as brothers in the war, we ask that only the voice of our Father, his faithful Son, and the Holy Spirit would be allowed to address and be heard by us.  We give you permission, blessed Trinity, to work behind our watchful dragons, and as deeply as you want to work.  We invite you into our private and secret places, into our wounds and pain, and we welcome your intimate, healing presence.

Refresh us, blessed Trinity.  Renew us.  Help us use Jesus’ ears and eyes.  In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top 10 Books

I just spent a few days with Dr. Ken Blue, and part of the conversation included us trying to narrow down our top ten favorite books. It wasn't easy, but here they are:
 C. Baxter Kruger

  1. The Trinitarian Faith (and The Mediation of Christ)— T.F. Torrance
  2. Unspoken Sermons— George MacDonald
  3. On the Incarnation of the Word of God (and Against the Arians)— Athanasius
  4. Church Dogmatics IV.1 (and IV.2)— Karl Barth
  5. The Unconditional Freeness of the Gospel— Thomas Erskine
  6. The Weight of Glory (and The Great Divorce)— C.S. Lewis
  7. Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace— James Torrance
  8. The Shack— Wm. Paul Young
  9. On the Trinity— St. Hilary
  10. The Trinity and the Kingdom— Jurgen Moltmann
  11. The Forgotten Father— Thomas Smail (this is a little lagniappe, or if you are from the Big 10 it’s just adding!)

Ken Blue

  1. The Mediation of Christ— T.F. Torrance
  2. Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace— James Torrance
  3. The Denial of Death— Ernest Becker (or preface of book)
  4. Church Dogmatics IV.2— Karl Barth
  5. The Forgotten Father, the Giving Gift, Life Father, Like Son— Thomas Smail
  6. The Divine Conspiracy— Dallas Willard
  7. Ministry On the Fireline— Ray Anderson
  8. Freedom for Ministry— Richard John Neuhaus
  9. Subversion of Christianity and The Presence of the Kingdom— Jacques Elull
  10. The Presence of the Future— George Eldon Ladd 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good Friday

I have been reading Hilary of Poitiers and Gregory Nazianzen, both early church greats (Hilary in the West, and Gregory in the East).  What strikes me is the way each of these brothers are so completely consumed with the incarnation of the Father’s Son, and the anointed One.  Any, and every, hint of insult to the shocking union of Jesus with us in our fallen existence catches their quick scrutiny.  They never pretend to explain how this most beautiful union came to be; they simply defend it with a vengeance.  For both of these men, and for other great leaders of the early church—Irenaeus, Athanasius, Cyril, Basil, and Gregory of Nyssa, to name a few—the whole work of Christ is bound up with his union with us.  For me, this is the fundamental difference between the early church and us today in the ‘modern’ West.  Within the legal framework, which is normal to us, the incarnation gets a mere nod, as it is perceived as essential to having a pure sacrifice for the cross.  The incarnation, like the ascension of Jesus, is orthodox as we all know, but when is the last time you heard a sermon on the ascension, or on the incarnation for that matter?  For these men, however, the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus are all of a piece, all part of the same stunning act of the Father, Son and Spirit working to unite us as we are in our brokenness and sin with the trinitarian life.  What could be more beautiful?

It is here that my understanding of the crucifixion of Jesus has changed over the years.  As a young boy I was taught that Jesus suffered the wrath of his Father on the cross, the wrath that was intended for us—and I was to be grateful.  Such an interpretation made sense to my Western mind, but it never made sense to my heart.  When I read Athanasius over 35 years ago my heart heard another message, with a different God, and a different issue.  Some years later I heard the same message in T. F. Torrance, James Torrance, John McLeod Campbell, Thomas Erskine, George MacDonald, and C. S. Lewis, and not least Karl Barth.  Without being too complicated let me say that how we frame the problem that Jesus came to ‘fix,’ or what we assume about the problem, determines the way we interpret what happened on the cross. 

In the modern West, generally speaking, at least on the right, the problem is that God is holy and we have sinned.  Since God is holy; he cannot simply forgive us.  Thus, there must be some kind of satisfaction (Anselm) or punishment (penal substitution).  Hence, Jesus steps onto the scene of history as the pure, spotless lamb who gives himself to suffer the punishment due to fall on us as guilty sinners.  In this framework, and its extreme versions of a fiery, angry, furious God, Jesus suffers from his Father.  His sufferings are on our behalf and for our salvation, but the suffering is afflicted from his Father.  The cross, on this reading, is about satisfying the Father’s (rather different from the Son’s) holiness.

When I read the brothers mentioned earlier, the frame is different.  For them the fundamental issue is not ‘how can a just God forgive sinners’ or be legally satisfied to forgive (not to concede that penal substitution is forgiveness, for there is no forgiveness in this theory at all, only justice, and a non-relational, abstract justice at that).  For these brothers the question is ‘how can God unite himself with us in our fallen humanity.’
Anything less than this union—real, personal union between the Father’s Son and the anointed One with us as broken, sinful, shame-riddled sinners—is for these men unworthy of the word ‘salvation.’ For it leaves us outside of the divine life.  So the question is not so much as to the satisfaction of divine law as it is the uniting of the divine life with us in our death.  This distinction, to me, constitutes two different pair of glasses through which to read the story of Jesus’ death.  It may well be that both pair need to be honored, in some way, but at the moment I am simply contending that the ‘union’ pair be brought back into the conversation.  This perspective has been disastrously lost in the modern West.

The discussion comes to this: Is the cross about Jesus’ suffering wrath from his Father or about his suffering wrath from us?  If the goal is to satisfy his Father’s justice (leaving aside how this could possibly be different from his own) then the death of Jesus will be interpreted as his suffering the righteous wrath of his Father against sinners in our place.  If the goal is to unite himself with us as fallen sinners (and with his Father and the Holy Spirit in shared life) then the goal is to reach the real, sinful us.  And how does the Father’s Son, and the anointed One unite himself with us in our iniquity?  How does Jesus connect with us in our estrangement and alienation?  All four Gospels shout a straightforward, simple message.  He willfully submitted to our rejection.  We crucified Jesus.  Nothing could be more clear.  The wrath poured out on Calvary’s hill did not originate in the Father’s heart, or in the Holy Spirit’s, but in ours. It was the Jews and the Gentiles (us), not his Father or the Holy Spirit who mocked Jesus, ridiculed him, unjustly condemned him, beat him, and tortured him to death.  (See Matthew1:21, 23; 16:21; 17:12, 22, 23; 20:18-19, 28; 26:2-4, 45, (53) 59, 66; 27:1, 25-26, 31, 35, 46; Mark 8:31; 9:12, 31; 10:33-34, 45; 14:1, 11 (27) 41; 15:24-25; Luke 9:22, 44; 17:25; 18:31-33; 19:47; 20:13-17; 22:2, 53; 23:18-23, 33; John 16:32; 17:26; 18:35; 19:15-16, 18; Acts 7:52; Heb 12:3; 9:28; IPet 2:24; 3:18; Gal 3:13, not to mention the rest of Paul).

How does the blessed Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit find a way to unite themselves in their unutterable oneness and love and life with us in our iniquity, and sad, broken, hellish destitution (and what is ‘salvation’ without this union)?  This is the question, to me.  Anything less than this union (with the sinful us) may get us forensically ‘declared’ legally clean, perhaps, but the broken us is still outside of the abounding life of God.  What exactly is ‘salvation’ if it does not include our real place in the trinitarian life? 

The shocker, as Scripture is at pains to shout, is submission, divine submission—to us in our sin.  Far from being the place where he poured out his wrath on his beloved Son, the cross is about the human race pouring out our wrath on the beloved and anointed one.  And the cross is about the Father using our treachery as his way of finding us in our iniquity—in his union with Jesus—and accepting us as we are, embracing us, including us in his own relationship with his beloved.  Who saw this coming?  Yet what could be more obvious?  On this day millennia ago Jesus submitted himself to us in our loathsome pain, in our collusion with the dastardly one’s vile hatred of the blessed Trinity and of all things living and beautiful. We were trapped in the darkness of the evil one, lost to life in the Father’s arms, without light, life, and hope.  Jesus submitted his life to us, and we—in the madness of evil’s spin—crucified him.  He died in the arms of our disgust.  He bowed before humanity in our great darkness.  In his submission he made contact with Adam hiding in the bushes.  Therein he reached us, the real us.  Submitting to our diabolically schemed, murderous betrayal he found his way inside our iniquity—and he brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him—uniting all that he is as the Father’s beloved and faithful Son, and all that he is as the One anointed in the Holy Spirit with us in our sin.  This is the at-onement.  Jesus is the mercy seat, the place where heaven and all it contains meets all that we are as sinners in divine, inconceivable mercy.  This Jesus is real hope.  He is Good Friday.