Good Words From a Big-Spirited Man

The Fallen: What Do We Owe Them?
by Jon Greene
What if I told you that failure looks like a 3,000 square foot house beneath the North Florida pines, two new cars, healthy children, and a loving wife?  You’d probably judge me to be insane, overly self-critical, or just vain beyond reason. You’d say how wonderful my life is, and you’d talk about ‘first-world problems’ and about how my salary puts me in the top 10% of everyone on the planet, and you’d be right, at least in a sense. But you couldn’t tell me why I can’t sleep at night. You couldn’t touch the emotion dwelling deep inside me at the idea that I’m less than what I should be.
What you don’t understand…what you could never understand…is that my drive to excel, to experience, to impact, and to grow is not governed by my position relative to the other human beings on the planet, or the mean national income, or the list of accolades that adorns my LinkedIn profile.  No. You couldn’t know if you haven’t experienced it, but I’m being chased by the ghosts of men who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.  I’m hounded to the point of exhaustion by the thought that, having survived them, I now carry the burden of leaving a legacy big enough for them to share in.
The problem, of course, is that these men are heroes in my mind.  Travis Griffin was my friend.  He was also a better man than me.  My memories of him play like an incessant loop of greatness, over and over again in my mind.  He shot better than me.  He ran better than me.  He had more friends.  He did the job at a higher level.  And he still got taken from us.  It’s one of the great conundrums of modern warfare.  On some days you can do everything right and still get killed. The natural conclusion of those thoughts about the greatness of my fallen friend are dire; if he had lived he would have done great, great things. Greater than the things I’ve done.
And that’s the rub.  He didn’t live, but I did. He bled out beneath the hot April sun in Baghdad doing a tour that he didn’t have to do in order to help a people that he didn’t have to love.  I was home safely with my small children. The randomness of it is infuriating and frightening all at once. And the implications are frightening, also. What does it mean that I’m left wandering the Earth when men such as these have perished?  What do I owe them?
That question has driven me to the point of brokenness on more than one occasion. I feel compelled to leave a legacy of impact upon the world around me, not because I desire to be impactful, but because Travis would have damn sure made an impact if he had lived. I feel driven to do something that matters in life beyond marketing and sales and peddling more socks and toothpaste to people who don’t really have any needs in life. I can’t get free of it.  The paradigm colors every day of my life with the eery shade of a mission left unaccomplished.
And the great irony is, I know very well, that Travis would have wanted me to simply live life.  Enjoy my children.  Grow old.  Eat good food.  Drink good Scotch. Be content. That was the kind of guy he was. And yet his ghost greets me in the mirror every morning with the same questioning stare. Will today be the day that you do something that matters?  Will you impact the planet with some brilliant bit of endeavor?  Will you change the equation in some meaningful way?  Will the world remember you, and in so doing, will they remember that I was the one that motivated you? Will you secure our legacies, make an impact big enough for both of us?  And, at the end of each day, having returned again to that ghost in the mirror, I have sadly shaken my head, no. Not today.  But I’ve not forgotten you.  Maybe tomorrow.
And that is why I feel that I’m a failure.
But that ghost in the mirror is a figment of my own imagination.  It’s self-imposed torture.  In all fairness, I’m not the first person to come up with the concept.  Look at the Asian concepts of ancestral honor.  The European concept of chivalry.  Are these not merely the attempts of men to live up to an ideal; to appease a set of watching eyes? In the case of Bushido, one lives in a way that would please one’s ancestors.  In the case of chivalry, one lives in a manner designed to please one’s lord, or one’s god. And here I am, trying desperately to live in a way that would be pleasing to the particular sets of eyes that, if heaven is a real place, watch over me and judge my efforts.
And yet, and this is the key to understanding this bit of emotional rabble I’ve written here, the Asians and the Europeans managed to temper the requirements in such a way as to not go insane.  Actual achievement gives way to best intentions and honorable efforts.  And, as I think they have rightly concluded, this is what those who have gone before us would most want of us.  Not to be burdened down with the weight of greatness that could have been and self-imposed expectations, but rather to live rightly and honorably before the shrine of their memory.  We need not build monuments to their memory in the form of the great works of our own hands.  We need only remember them. We don’t owe them great accomplishments in their honor at the expense of our own happiness and livelihood.  We owe them honor, and to be honorable on their behalf.
This is easier said than done.  I’m trying.
Well-said, Jon.

Some Thoughts On Romans 1:10-11

…always in my prayers, asking that somehow by G-d’s will I may come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
-Romans 1:10-11-
It seems it was within (the preposition “by” is the Greek preposition “en”, which usually refers to being in, with, or among something or some entity, be it a person, group, or object) the will of G-d for Paul to go anywhere the Gentiles and barbarians might be found (Romans 1:14).  Some areas of the world notwithstanding, because of G-d’s explicit instructions, Paul was to go anywhere that non-Jews might be found.
G-d, Paul knew, wanted the Gospel presented in Rome. Well, “presented” may not be the best word.  Sounds like a proposal being presented with arguments and talking points.  The gospel, when presented, rather ought to be done in such a way that we get ourselves out of the way and let the Holy Spirit manifest in a demonstration of power (1 Corinthians 12:7), given the gospel is not a matter of word or talk, but one of power (1 Corinthians 4:20).
Ministers of the gospel, we are not expositors of cleverly devised fables, but rather, we are followers of an Entity who loves deeply, relates intensely, dies passionately, and redeems completely  It is not our job to have a clever presentation with deft handling of words and turns of phrase (though some of us, teachers, are given to those details).  Rather, we are designed to plug relationally into a connection with others, and to connect them with a G-d who really does want a relationship with all of humanity.
Thinking I have to follow one preacher’s formula for making disciples, when G-d has made me redemptively with a big spirit for big-spirited connections with big-spirited humanity that has no interest in religion, sells G-d and the gospel far short of G-d’s design for the gospel.
We are redeemed, but to what?
To relate, with our whole being, spirit, soul (mind; will; and, yes, emotions), and body to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We have an innumerablly relational, big-spirited inheritance and birthright.  Let us seize that, rather than a list of do’s, don’t’s, and motions through which we think we must go in order to placate what we think is G-d, but really is not. 
G-d’s purpose in Paul’s coming was not so the Romans could have merely a soulish, cerebral connection, with perfectly buttoned-down apologetics right down to their feet.  Rather, His purpose was a deep, spiritual, intimate, and messy intimate knowledge (as John Mark McMillian writes, such that “heaven meets earth like a sloppy, wet kiss”) of the living G-d and a connection of believers with each other and the lost: a connection defined not by apologetic and argumentation, but by real relationship. Relationship has always been the cornerstone and bridge for redemption. 
That kind of connection brings with it some risk. But in the kingdom, our very living, moving, and having our being are defined in the context of risk (Revelation 12:11-NIV).
What are you risking, believer?

Without Excuse

Paul writes:
For what can be known about G-d is plain to them, because G-d has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Romans 1:19-20
I am without excuse. You are without excuse.
None of us gets the chance to live this life, and pretend we cannot see G-d at work in all of creation and then use ignorance as a defense when the day of judgement comes.
Each of us will stand and give account for our lives.
Recently, I have been dealing with some personal struggles (yes, I have them as you do) and, as a result, I have watched as some of my relationships have deteriorated.
It is in the times of testing, when you determine who you will reach out to, and when you see who reaches out to you to point you to the Father, that you learn who those close friends are. I have four friends, who each have a normal running dialogue with the Holy Spirit, that I know I can talk to. I know that they have my eternal good first in their minds when I call, and every shred of counsel they give is given in light of eternity.
One of these is my wife, who prays constantly for me, for all the trouble I get into, because of my cluelessness or tunnel vision (the Achilles’ heels of the redemptive gift of Prophet). She has the redemptive gift of Servant, and she flows in making an environment suitable and cleansed for the King to take up residence. And she is capable of getting her hands dirty and still remaining undefiled. And she helps clean up messes that come as a result of tunnel vision.
Thankfully, I think my tunnel vision has begun to get rarer and rarer.
However, my tunnel vision is no excuse. And in light of the matchless life and inheritance G-d has for us, why would we want to hide behind excuses for not listening and obeying?
One day I will stand before his throne. And He is completely just and will handle me rightly.
G-d, help us to examine ourselves in the light of your truth, remembering your kindness, that leads us to repentance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Be blessed

A Deeper Calling…

“For G-d is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit…”
-From Romans 1:9-
“…whom I serve with my…spirit…”
I had never seen it in the same way before. This phrase spoke deeply to me this afternoon.  
Don’t pass through Paul’s letter on the way to 3:10, 3-23, 6:23, and 10:9-10 and seek out the Romans Road, without taking some time to examine this little gem.  Paul served the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit with his spirit, with his breath.  This was not a soul service, but a spiritual service.
We have an opportunity.  When we are born again, G-d breathed the breath of life, HIS breath, into us and we become living souls (from Genesis 2:7).  And we can live from our souls, and that is a good thing, we can walk with spiritually-influenced minds, wills, and emotional reserves, and we can serve others on the horizontal plane, from our minds, wills, and emotions, which have been touch by G-d, and that is good.

“The good can become the eternal enemy of the best.” -Arthur Burk-
Many believers already serve others–the L-rd and humanity–with their souls, but comparatively few of us, myself included, serve out of the rich deposit that is our spirit.  The spirit that He has put into us is a life-giving wind and a river of artesian-clear water.  It is a river that no force on earth or hell can stop or stifle, if we will properly fight and overcome the enemy who wishes to stop up that well with earthly pursuits at the expense of the Kingdom.

We frequently meet the physical needs, the felt needs, the practical needs, and even what we think is sometimes the greatest need, their salvation in that moment.  Many times, evangelism carries, in the background of its outworking, a sense of guilt laid upon us by a visiting minister.  “Prophesy or else you will have their blood on your hands”, the visiting minister sometimes tells us.  And so we attempt to microwave redemption and force a decision for Jesus that is soulishly timed with little regard for Father’s timing.  And after this activity, when we burn out and decide that evangelism is not for us, we wonder why few respond.
The above is but a small way to attempt to work the 2nd Commandment (love your neighbor-Matthew 22:39).
However, little gets done when only our souls are involved and we neglect the vastness and richness of our very breath given by Almighty G-d. This is small thinking that was antithetical to the very heart of the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:9).
Many of us never go beyond that realm of the soul and drive with the deeper tools that we have in our possession for the deeper reality in others:  an affect on someone’s spirit, out of the flow of our spirit.
The Father has placed a rich deposit in each person, and He has sent His grace ahead of time and ahead of us, so that we may speak to that deposit and that deepest yearning in each man, woman, and child.  And we may do so without regard for a hurried agenda.
The effects of our soulish working with others, while good, may preoccupy us away from the best.
We may get so caught up in our agenda of what a gospel presentation looks like in our agenda, that we neglect the Father’s agenda. 
His agenda is to awaken in humanity something so deep and transformative that it shakes us with a revelation of His love and tenderness that no enemy can put to sleep.  And that revelation of His tenderness, love, and kindness, is what leads us toward repentance.
Consider the following as evidence of that:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of G-d.”
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen”
Ephesians 3:14-21


I work a graveyard shift job. It entails changing pallet jack batteries for a large wholesale grocery distributer, in whose warehouse I used to select frozen product that went onto pallets.
Whereas my original post was very frustratingly physical, my current job is frustratingly tedious.
In a portion of my mental downtime, I have been considering Romans 1.
I am currently engaged in a close reading of Proverbs and Romans during my times with the Father. This is before I engage reading on the New Perspective, and free from a lot of the methods that have been handed me in interpreting that book.
One of those phrases that stood out to me was the phrase from 1:14.
“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians.”
Paul was not under obligation, in this context, to Jews. He was writing to a mostly non-Jewish audience, which gave Peter the willies (Arthur Burk paraphrase of Galatians 2:11-14), and to whom he was obligated because the Jews had rejected him (Acts 13:46).
Obligations and vows are something I have been studying a lot recently, and vows, covenants, and obligations are not inherently bad things for New Testament believers (Number 6:1-23, Deuteronomy 23:21, Psalm 76:11, Acts 18:18).
Next time someone questions those things as legalistic and attempts to throw Matthew 5:34 at you as a prooftext, talk to them about the vows we make when we marry, among other things.
A vow as an insurance against lying and in a court of law is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 5, which is vastly different to a vow before G-d and covenant spouse. Questionability of integrity or truth-telling is what Matthew 5 is about.
And Job’s covenant with his eyes was, I dare say, anything but legalistic (Job 31:1).
An obligation that is Spirit-driven is an excellent thing, and indeed, we are called to walk in the whole counsel of G-d, and part of that counsel is to know the obligations G-d has assigned us and to take those obligations seriously.
Be blessed, church, and fulfill your obligations and vows.
The Paraclete’s Hammer