Friday, December 25, 2009

He Became

"Our beloved Lord Jesus Christ became what we are to bring us to be what he is in himself" (Irenaeus, not an exact quote, but very close). Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 18, 2009


If you haven’t read the comments from the ‘dead fly’ post you are missing something exceptional, especially bdfwinn’s poem, and 2lb2’s off the charts oration—what a stunner. 2lb2, you need to visit more often. Your comments are welcome here.

Now back to the incarnation. I have written of the incarnation as the Lord’s acceptance of us as fallen creatures, and in terms of His determined identification with us in our fallenness. The Father, Son and Spirit are not in denial about the disaster of the fall, nor do they react with neutrality or indifference, and certainly not with rage. The dream of our adoption stands, but now this dream includes dealing with our profound darkness. The one thing that the Father, Son and Spirit counted on from us—the single divine expectation—is that we would reject Jesus and put Him to death. It is here that we see the incarnation as grace.

I have heard grace defined as ‘God’s unmerited favor’ and as ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.’ There is something to be said for both ideas, notwithstanding the latter’s assumed and dreadful split between the Father and the Son. The love of the Father, Son and Spirit is certainly unmerited, and it is costly, but more must be said about the pain of grace. To be gracious is to hurt, for it is not merely to wink at a problem, but to enter into it and bear it personally, to endure it, in love and mercy and patience. The incarnation involved and continues to involve Jesus’ entrance into our fallen world and broken lives, and it involves his personal suffering from our blindness. Grace is the freedom to bear another’s scorn, for their salvation.

Many years ago I read Rudyard Kipling’s great poem, “If,” and was struck by one particular line. “If you can keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you, you will be a man.” It is the blaming part that reveals the deep heart of grace. Keeping your wits about you, maintaining your balance and orientation can be difficult, but how much more so when everyone else is flying off the handle, so to speak, or losing the plot, as the Ozzies say, and in their fear and pain making you the scapegoat for their trauma? ‘That is what you call ironic,’ as the one-eyed pirate said. And the grace of the blessed Trinity involves terrible irony. Either the Father, Son and Spirit were caught by surprise when we humiliated and murdered Jesus, or they saw it coming, and deliberately incorporated it as the way of incarnation and reconciliation.

We killed the solution. The blessed Trinity expected it, and used our rejection of Jesus as the means to establish a real relationship with us as we are in our brokenness. Such is grace. But as shocking and beautiful as this is, more must be said. For the death of Jesus was not an act of detached, clinical justice. We murdered him, and the act was full of contempt, and disdain, bitterness, mocking, and hatred. The Father’s Son himself was patronized by his own creatures as a blaspheming, demon-possessed, cursed of God liar who mislead the people and deserved to be spit upon and crucified. Jesus deliberately and willfully submitted himself to suffer our patronizing contempt, even to the point of death by public humiliation. The whole world sneered. Part of his grace toward us was the fact that he did not vaporize the human race, and part was his astonishing heart of submission to our profoundly bizarre and cruel judgment. But there was no other way for the dream off the Father, Son and Spirit to be fulfilled. Grace is the freedom to bear the scorn of another’s enlightenment, and Jesus did it, thereby proving himself a Kipling man, gracious, and truly divine.

‘No room in the in,’ was the first hint of the human enmity on Jesus’ horizon. He never batted an eye, and “instead of the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Think about this: in Jesus himself, in his own person and experience, the world of our darkness, contempt and disdain met the world of his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the place where these two worlds met and are united. By bearing our bitter, patronizing cruelty, Jesus has united his life with the worst of ours. That is acceptance, and identification, real forgiveness and reconciliation, and that is grace. And it is real. And we are included in Jesus’ relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit, because, as Athanasius said, he is a gracious and merciful Lord who loves the human race.

“What love, what care, what fearless joy
has found us in the night
that we may know as he has known
the everlasting light”

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of his Papa, and the free flowing fellowship of the Holy Spirit overwhelm us all, this season in particular.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Dead Fly

A new post is in the works on the incarnation and grace, but I could not help but relay what just happened. As I was writing I paused to reflect on a point when I noticed a dead fly in the window seal. If a picture paints a thousand words, a dead fly in the window seal speaks volumes. Vintage Holy Spirit.

Here are a few of the thoughts that filled my mind as I stared at the dead fly.

• He left it all on his field of dreams.
• Effort exhausts without truth.
• A false savior will kill you every time.
• We can’t invent freedom.
• It’s not up to us to make it.
• Things are not always what they seem.
• It’s okay to stop and rest.
• Listen
• Universalism?

I made a little banner with a post-it note and a tooth pick. On the banner I wrote “I did it my way.” Then I took some small rocks and hoisted the banner above the fly in honor of his Herculean effort.

Post your own comments and I will place them in the main text after a few days.

Thank you Lord Jesus that you found a way to meet us in our darkness.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


The incarnation is about the Lord’s acceptance of us as we are as fallen creatures, and about the stunning move to so identify with us as to see things the way we do. A third lesson on the incarnation has to with divine expectation. Read the Prologue of John with the following questions in mind. What does God expect from us in the incarnation? What is He counting on us to do to make the incarnation a success? Most of us, I suspect, would say that the Lord is expecting us, or counting on us to believe. But think of this statement: “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him (John 1:10).

If the Lord was counting on us to believe in order for the incarnation to happen, then bitter divine disappointment lay on the horizon. For our response was to crucify the Father’s Son.

Let me share a lesson from the deer stand, a book I have been reading, and a story from a friend, all of which may help us understand that the only expectation that the blessed Trinity had of the human race is that we would murder the Father’s Son.

Sitting on my deer stand, reading James Hollis’ The Middle Passage, I heard the fabled snap of a stick. It sounded like it came from straight in front of me, maybe at 11:30, if you imagine 12:00 being directly in front of me. I began to stare at every tree, branch and twig. The more I stared, the more I was convinced that I could see a deer, a buck, large and in charge. It took me a full minute to grab my gun and get it pointed in the right direction. As I looked through the scope I could not see the buck at all. So I moved my eyes away from the scope and scanned the area. Nothing. But as I stared I began to see the buck again. Shouldering my rifle, I looked through my scope but there was no buck. This back and forth went on for over ten minutes before I finally accepted, as all deer hunters know, that in the woods our minds can play tricks on us.

On the way home I phoned my friend Ken Courtney and he relayed a lesson that he had learned many years ago in his training in the National Guard. His team was being taught how to spot things in the woods in the dead of night. Never, he said, stare at the object. When you hear or see something, look at it, then turn away and focus on something else, then come back and look again, then look away. When you stare or focus on something for very long your mind’s eye will create something that is not there.

I was amazed at the apparent coincidence of Ken’s lesson and my experience with ‘seeing’ the buck, with what I was reading in The Middle Passage. One of Hollis’ main points is what he calls “the Magical Other.” It seems that in our dating days we so stare or focus upon our new found beloved that we create an image of them that is not actually there. Our minds (or hearts, or brokenness) play a trick on us. We create the Magical Other who will be our life, our security, our completion, our salvation, our wholeness, and they do the same with us. Unearthly expectations run high, hope abounds, and all is well in never never land.

It is disappointing enough when the buck turns out to be a figment of our own imaginations, but it is an altogether different matter when cracks appear in our Magical Other. It is inevitable. Think about it, two broken people make gods and goddesses out of each other. How long can that last? At some point the incongruence between the real person and the image we have plastered over their faces—an image conceived in the dungeons of our own brokenness—becomes very apparent. Given the intensity of our investment in our Magical Other, and given how deep and dear the dream is to us, its shattering is catastrophic. A new world of bitter disappointment and venomous blame, of frustration and anger, of withdrawal and manipulation, among other things, burst into being. The relationship dies. Couples split up, and each one goes out and does the same thing all over again, plastering his or her dreams of life onto the face of a new, true love. ‘This one is different, special. I just know it.’

Was it ever a real relationship to begin with? And has it really died? After I realized that there was no buck, I had the opportunity to go back to real hunting. When the dream of the Magical Other is shattered, the simple truth is that we then have an opportunity to get to know the real person, and to accept them as they are, to identify with them, and have real relationship, and who knows, maybe even find the companionship and communion we have longed for all along.

It is a glorious truth that the blessed Trinity is not into projection. There is no dungeon of brokenness in the basement of the Trinitarian life of God out of which dreams for us are born. The dream of the Father, Son, and Spirit for our adoption, for our inclusion in their shared life, love and fellowship carries no expectations for our contribution. We are not the Magical Other of the Trinity, upon whom the Father, Son and Spirit project their hope of one day becoming whole.

In shocking grace and humility, the one expectation of the Triune God, the one thing that the Father, Son and Spirit counted on from us in order to make the incarnation a reality is that we would pour our scorn, our anger, our wrath, our judgment onto Jesus, humiliating him publicly by cruel crucifixion. And Jesus deliberately and wonderfully endured it all. In bearing our scorn, and submitting himself to our bitter anger, Jesus met us where we are in the dungeon of our brokenness. He accepted us. He identified with us, and through having no expectations from us other than that we would reject him, he has established a personal relationship with us at our very worst. Now, Jesus lives in our dungeons, and he brought his Papa and the Holy Spirit with him. In the very place where our disastrous dream of the Magical Other (and its poisonous demands) is born now dwells the life and fellowship and love of the blessed Trinity.

Discovering Jesus in the dungeons of our brokenness means that we do not have to dream of a Magical Other or plaster our dream upon their face and demand that they live up to our unearthly expectations. And it means that we do not have to impose our agendas upon the lives of our friends, or of creation. Discovering Jesus in the dungeon means we are free to live in and out of the real dream of the Father, Son and Spirit, for now our adoption is no dream at all, but the simple truth. We are included in their shared life. The Father, Son and Spirit have pitched their tent inside our dungeon. Such a discovery is the beginning of faith and repentance (a radical change in the way we see), and it is the beginning of the freedom to accept others and to be accepted, to know and to be known, to love and to be loved, to delight and being delighted in.

Lord Jesus forgive us for what we have done to you and to one another in our pain. Holy Spirit help us meet Jesus in our dungeons.

James Hollis, The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Middle Life
James Hollis, The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

From Dirk Vanderleest

Dear Friends of Perichoresis,

Now that we finally figured out how to send emails through our web site, let me introduce myself. My name is Dirk Vanderleest. I am the CEO of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. I have been a part of the ministry of Perichoresis since its beginning back in the early 90’s, and now serve as the Chairman of its Board. It is one of the highlights of my life to be involved in such a ministry.

Yesterday I Googled “Baxter Kruger” and discovered over 6 million results. I was shocked and thrilled. Then I checked the numbers on Baxter’s blog. To date his blog has been accessed over 44,000 times from over 70 countries. Again, I was shocked and thrilled, and then perplexed. As a businessmen I could not help but wonder, how can a ministry with this kind of impact be financially strapped every month? As you know, Baxter is a theologian for the masses and a great communicator of the real gospel, but he is not good about communicating how our ministry survives, or about asking for money to support it.

Here are the business facts. Book and lecture sales make up about one tenth of our annual budget of one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars. The rest comes from private donation, people like you and me, who have been blessed by this ministry and want to see it touch the whole world. There is some contribution from churches, but not much. As one of our Board members put it, ‘there are a lot of folks feeding from our trough and not even leaving a tip.’ I think the problem is that many people who of have been blessed by our ministry simply don’t know that their help is sorely needed. So I am asking you to help support this ministry. A contribution of $20.00 or more a month would go along way. If you can do more we would be thrilled. I realize that we are all struggling these days, but I also realize that Perichoresis has helped millions of people around the world. A small contribution from a large number of people will help stabilize the financial part of our ministry, and it would help us expand our outreach so that many more folks can find real healing and hope.

• You can contribute by making a tax-deductible check payable to Perichoresis and by sending it to:
P. O. Box 98157
Jackson, MS 39298

• You can contribute anywhere in the world through our web site ( If, like me, that word is to hard too remember, visit and it will guide you to our main web site. Once there look for the word “Donate” between “Free Resources” and “Subscription,” just under the black Perichoresis banner at the top of the page. Click on “Donate.”

• In Canada send tax-deductible check payable Incarnation Ministries to:
Incarnation Ministries
P. O. Box 11168
2620-1055 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6E 3R5
(Be sure to write Perichoresis on the check memo line)

Thank you for your help and contribution.


Dirk Vanderleest