“I screamed at God while I was driving home tonight. I mean absolutely belted every part of me at Him. It’s strange, because I’ve done this hundreds of times before, but this time was different. This time I was thanking Him.”—Christian Tenbrook
“Beauty is radioactive. In your unprotected exposure to it, it will inevitably radiate into the smallest capillaries of your body silently and unseen. More and more and more and more and by and by and by and by. Until that fateful evening when you wake up in the black of night and realize that you too now glow.”—Christian Tenbrook
I came home to find you wrapped up in bed sheets, swearing off every single drink you ever took, I looked up and saw angel wings of every single memory, we kept on telling ourselves didn’t look like they should.
You seem to be saying you’re at the bottom of the pit, with you’re guns aimed up at the ceiling. Well, Brother, let me tell you I’m right there in it, and I won’t come up for air until we’re both out clean.
Every day with live with our heads just below the trench-line. Every day we smash oceans and sunsets together, telling us tomorrow might look alright, but if it doesn’t you and me will keep on breathing.
You’re at the edge of the cliff, and you might just jump to test your wings, and if they don’t spread out this time to carry you into flight, and you’re falling, I’m coming down after you, because that’s what brothers do.
No matter how hot the Arizona sun gets, no matter how many black skirts turn God’s blood into Oxycontin, no matter how many prayers you forget, I’m coming down after you, because that’s what brothers do.
We’ve been here at least one-hundred and eighty times, but I’ve got guns enough to kill off every single demon, to come pick you up and carry you out of hell, because someone did that for me once.
I can hear the echoes of you clawing, and scratching, and biting. I can hear the breaths of the words you decide not to say. If God put me on this earth just to tell you never to stop fighting well that’s okay. I’m coming down after you, that’s what brothers do. That’s what brothers do.
“I hit 100 followers today. That doesn’t say as much about me as it does about you all. I truly appreciate every single one of you who looks at what I post. The encouragement, conversation, and education which I have received as a product of my interactions with you in this arena I hold in the highest regard. I love the hell out of every single one of you. I may not know much about many of you, but if you ever need anything at all and you think I might be able to help you out in some way don’t hesitate to drop me a line. Grace and Peace.”—Justin Potesta
The Great Retreat (Understanding Death and Why You Really Want to Die)
Generally speaking, when I commit something to paper and submit it to the public arena, I am quite certain of my words. This is not to say that I am so arrogant to believe that the whole of my public body of work has obtained some perfection, but there comes a point which I feel comfortable to surrender a piece to the eyes of another. This is not one of those works. This is surrendered far too early; yet, I fear any further participation I may have with it would destroy it all together.
Sin is a baffling thing. I’ve been spending recent months in riddled thought on the matter. In short, this is the conclusion I have come to: Sin is death.
Profound, I know. Very creative and not cliche at all. You’ve never heard that before, huh?
Inevitably, you have, but I hope to work out this idea further with those of you brave enough to continue with me the length of this overly wordy rambling. I hope you will not regret it.
I love boxing. I mean I absolutely love the sport. I used to watch it with my grandfather when I was little when my mother wasn’t looking (she wasn’t a big fan of her kids watching boxing). Those are some of my most cherished memories as a kid. My grandfather taught me how to make a fist. He always told me, “Kids these days don’t get in fights because they’re too afraid they’ll kill the other guy. I’ve got news for you, you ain’t going to kill anybody, Buddy. If you’re gonna swing, you better swing hard.” I never forgot that.
I’ve been in a handful of fights, and I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with many of you. I grew up in the mid-west, and that sort of thing just happened. I can’t really explain it to you, but I’d bet that if any of you (especially men) spent your middle and high-school years in the that part of the country you get what I’m saying.
I got into a fight one time at a party I was at a couple of years ago. In all honesty, I wasn’t afraid I was going to kill the other guy. I wanted to kill the other guy. Long story short, I ended on top of a dude I had never met before raining punch after punch into him. He had hit the girl he was with; smacked her right across the mouth. A bunch of people got in his face and started pushing and shoving and yelling. Before I really thought about it, I grabbed him and took him down in the front yard and kept swinging until they dragged me off of him. I got thrown in the backseat of my friends car and never saw that guy again. My fatal flaw is that I don’t think very well in emotional situations. I just act.
For thirty seconds, I literally wanted to kill the kid. I’m not saying I wished he was dead. I’m not saying I just wanted to hurt him. I’m saying every time my knuckles struck him, I hoped that they had broken something in his head and he would take his last breath then and there on that lawn. I figured he deserved to die. I figured he deserved to suffer and die.
What is the ultimate justification for someone’s actions?
In human terms, the answer is simple: their life; thus, capital punishment.
I think life is a spectrum. I think that there are actions which pursue Life, and there are actions which move us closer to death.
The actions that lead us closer to death we’ve labeled as “sin.” That’s the great Cosmic Joke. That’s the irony of the whole damn cosmos. Our punishment for the stupid things we do is really just the full weight of those things carried out to the extreme degree.
Let’s think about this practically.
Let’s say there’s a person who does drugs. No Christian with decent theology would look at someone doing drugs and say that it isn’t sinful. The action of doing drugs is clearly a sin. If carried to the extreme degree, drugs will kill you. In essence, that sin will literally take your life. So, logically, sin pulls you closer to the end of the “life-spectrum” labelled death.
"But, Jay," you might inquire, "what about petty sins? What about thievery? What about pride? Surely these sins do not literally kill you!” I would argue that, if taken to the full degree, these things very well may kill you, but there is also a more practical assessment of them. The motivation of theft and pride is the “self.” The reason you steal something is because you want it. The reason you’re prideful is because you like you a whole lot. Unfortunately, you are human, and the great bond that connects all humans is the inevitability of physical death. So, by deduction, if you live in such a way which pursues the desires of your physical body (the one that is going to die) you are pursuing death (the irony in that literally just made me laugh out loud). So we can assume that theft, pride, and other such petty sins whose aim is the appeasement of your self also pull you closer to the deadly end of the spectrum.
I think all sin is really just a retreat into ourselves. We crash wildly into the determinations of our own skin. I think we chose to do terrible things because we want to. Maybe this is what the Bible is talking about when it says you’re a slave to death. You’re a slave to your flesh which is going to die. You can’t deny that.
That’s why I wanted to kill that guy. That’s why we believe bad people deserve to die. Their sins sit on the “death” end of the spectrum, if you will, so why don’t we just do the deed for them.
How, then, may we live?
Ah, this is the Truth my friends. I’m literally shaking as I begin this section. This is where the power of the Gospel resides.
Death is inescapable for all of us; however, there is One who has escaped death. There is one who has run the full length of the spectrum. There is One who has truly Lived.
By definition I, a human, cannot sustain life. If you have followed my logic this far, you have seen that we will do everything in our power to pursue death. We will do everything we can to appease our bodies, the ones that are going to die. This is human nature. The mark of your humanity is that you’ve been branded by the burden of this slavery.
Then surely Life cannot be achieved within the bonds of our personage. I am literally incapable of life. That end of the spectrum is a completely foreign idea to me. I don’t even want that end of the spectrum because I am still so consumed within myself. Regardless of my “fears” of death, I’m doing everything in my power to die as quickly as I can.
Here it is:
Someone must set us free of our wretched condition so that we might truly Live, as He did. Someone must free us from the bonds of death. You see, the pursuit of Life is not in anything you do. There is no “what should I and shouldn’t I be doing to live” question; rather, Life is given freely to you by the only Being who was able to completely serve a Master other than the flesh.
In order to Live, we must pursue that which is unscathed by the unavoidable clutches of death.
We must pursue Christ.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I’m not sure I would recommend committing that crime. If a situation like this comes up…you know…where anonymous murder is a necessary requirement for me to take up a hand in courtship…you’re my first call. For real though, appreciate the love.
May I just say that it was refreshing to read your blog and I'm so thankful to have writers out there like you to read. You have no idea who I am and I happened upon your 'Salt' piece through one of my sisters' friends who reblogged you. All that to say I believe you have a gift. Your writing has a raw sincerity that few have and I hope you never give it up.
I truly appreciate this act. That you would take the time to send me these kind words, it means a lot to me. To God alone be the Glory.
I was consumed with fear as I began to write this, but I assume that means I should do just that. I’ve been having conversations with my mentor about the Church, and I can’t shake this idea. As I offer my humble criticism of the Church, I submit to the idea that it is the very Bride of Christ. As a romantic, this carries more weight in my heart than I assume many of you may understand; however, I would consider myself a coward if I did not express to you these convictions in their barest form. Should my words fill you with righteous anger, rebuke me without hesitation; yet, should they convict you, let us take up arms together. I stand next to you in this pursuit. I have made this grave error which I hope to address countless times. Sumus in fossa.
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
- Matthew 5:13
I don’t think Jesus made mistakes. I don’t think He was careless with the words He chose. As a writer, I’ve spent hours upon days upon weeks choosing words. I’ve laid in my bed unable to sleep being driven to the brink of insanity simply trying to map out a single phrase. The idea that one man spoke every word in his entire lexicon in perfect harmony with the Truth utterly baffles me. This is how I approach this passage.
Salt is a specific metaphor. Jesus doesn’t say “you’re kind of like salt” or “you have similar properties to salt.” He says “you are salt.” I would guess this means I need to think about what salt is like to understand what the hell He was saying.
Salt isn’t a real nice thing. If you don’t believe me, get up right now and go dip your finger in a pile of salt and put it in your mouth. Better yet, cut yourself somewhere and dab a little salt on the wound (oh, sorry…don’t do that). My initial question to Jesus was, “Why did you compare me to something that sucks so bad for people to interact with?”
Then He slapped me across the face and said, “You just don’t get it. That’s the point.”
You see, the Gospel is an offensive thing. It basically tells people, “You need something.” That’s not a fun message to hear. I spent twenty-one years knowing that to the point that it literally almost killed me more times than I can remember. Having someone reiterate that point to me that sucks to hear. It’s kind of like…well…salt on an open wound.
I go to a Christian University, and that’s a topic that has enough pros and cons to kill someone. Everyone says “I love the community at Biola.” To an extent, I love it to. I really appreciate that I go to a place where people deeply care about one another. I think it’s awesome that I have been given the privilege of living in fellowship with believers.
But here’s where I think I’ve been missing the mark.
I’ve made the Church to be a body of people that ask me “How is your life going?” and I can tell them what’s going on, good and bad, and expect encouragement.
But that’s only half the puzzle.
My generation of believers has fallen into the snare of fear. We are scared out of our minds of offending people. Somewhere along the course of my life, being a Christian has been turned into the age old catch phrase “People will notice that something is different about me.” While this idea may be rooted in good intentions, let us not forget what the full depth of this idea entails.
I’m so tired of Christianity being about being nice. The idea that a follower of Christ is simply just a well-mannered man with a smile and a “thank you” makes me want to vomit.
You are the SALT of the EARTH.
I would argue that this doesn’t just mean I’m “different” than the world. I would argue that this doesn’t just mean I tip well and hold doors open for strangers. The Bible uses battle language. The Scriptures tell me I have a war to wage against the King of Lies.
Look at the life of Jesus. How many people absolutely hated Jesus? How many people wanted to kill Jesus? How many of Jesus’s actions made people feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Maybe I’m out of line here, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t many of them. Basically everyone thought He was utterly insane. The very names He called Himself by made people want to slit his throat.
So, you’re not Jesus. I get that. Maybe He had a different role to play. Then let’s look at the disciples. The ones who were beaten. The ones who were thrown into prison. The ones who were chased out of town because of the message they were preaching. The ones who died brutal deaths. Did they live in a different culture? Kind of. They lived in a culture that wasn’t so open to Christianity. They lived in a culture that had other gods and didn’t want a bunch of fishermen coming in and telling them they were wrong.
Sounds a lot like the world I live in.
Jesus tells us we’re going to be persecuted and hated (John 15:18-21). That convicts me more than anything in my life. As I sit here I wonder, “When was the last time someone hated me because I was a Christian?” I feel like this is a typical Sunday school question. I feel like this question is answered in Biola classrooms like this: “Well, I have a lot of friends who aren’t saved, and they drink and smoke, and they don’t understand why I’m a Christian. Sometimes they make fun of me.” I’ve answered that question that way.
Are you kidding me, Tenbrook?
The persecution of your faith is contained in a few backhanded remarks by a bunch of drunk people?
I’m doing something wrong, and I think I know what it is. I made Christianity about me (thus be it with the ego of the human). Plain and simple, I kept asking myself, “How can I be better? How can I stop sinning? What shouldn’t I be doing?” You see, that’s how Satan gets us. He centers the conversations between two Christians around what’s going on in those two people’s lives.
I’m going to say something right now that is going to piss you off.
Who the hell cares?
Friends, stop talking about your problems so damn much. Stop living your life to be a better person. I have some painful news for you: you suck. Hate me or love me that’s the bare truth. I suck. I’m going to suck for a very long, sucky time. The Gospel tells us, flat out that we are unrighteous. Every, single one of us. But righteousness has been given to us freely. It was given to us based on absolutely nothing we did. Come at me with, “Then you’re just giving yourself an excuse to sin” and I will kick your teeth in.
I’m going to say something right now that is really going to piss you off even more than that did.
You’re going to get to Heaven one day, and God isn’t going to care how much porn you looked at. He isn’t going to care how many times you got drunk. He isn’t going to care how much gossip you spread. Quite frankly, He isn’t going to care about your sin. He sent His Son to take care of that, and He will take care of those things in your life if You would only let Him. He has already taken care of those things, so stop trying to do that on your own.
You’re going to get to Heaven one day, and God’s going to ask you what you did to this world. He’s going to look at your sword and see how much blood you got on it. He’s going to ask you how many times you turned over temple tables in His name. He’s going to ask you how many times you were shot at for the sake of His Kingdom. He’s going to let you tell the stories about the times you waged war for His Glory. This is what He cares about. God cares about His Kingdom. God cares that the world is broken, and He’s given you the power to reconcile it. God wants to know what you care about.
Here’s my point: we care too much about what the world thinks of us. Hell, we just care too much about ourselves.
You are the SALT of the EARTH.
That’s not an easy task. Quite frankly, it’s humanly impossible; however, a Spirit has been given to us to wage this war. We have been given the authority to grab the world by the shirt collar and say “What the hell are you doing?” Do not forget the power of the Truth! I have friends who are literally killing themselves in slow, painful deaths. I’m going to get to Heaven and God’s going to look at me and ask, “Did you let them die because you wanted to be nice? Did you let them die because you were afraid to tell them the Truth, My Truth? Did you let them die because you were so concerned with your own righteousness?”
Is the gift of Life in another not worth the embarrassment you might feel?
There’s a freedom in the Gospel that transcends fear. There’s a freedom in the Gospel that transcends the “I need to be better” mindset. If you want to take this freedom as license to live a shitty lifestyle, go to hell.
Let us take this freedom and care about what God cares about. Let us acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit and wage war.
Let us love enough to speak the words of Life regardless of the damage to our ego.
Salt makes your mouth dry, and makes you desperate for a drink of Water. Salt makes you thirsty. Jesus chose His words deliberately. He said he is the source of the living water (John 4:13-14).
We are salt, and He is Water. Let us make the world thirsty.
If you hate me after this, if you think I’m just a sad, little man who swears too much, if this post pisses you off: come at me.
“I’m currently in an argument, so I need you lovely people to help me settle it (because my followers kick ass). Someone told me good writers write what they know, I think that’s stupid. So if you would be so kind, pick a place or a person. Describe it/them as specifically or as generally as you would like, with as many or few details you please. Put that in my ask box and I’ll write you a short story and publish it here. I won’t pass up any description I’m given so do your worst! Let’s call this the “I Know Something You Don’t Know” project.”—Christian Tenbrook
“Tonight shakes exhaustion through forearmed ribs. That tired pain that makes its way through spine curls with dumbfounding pace rains vertical through me. I think, I think, I think, I think to expect a damn big-big for the abandoned things. I expect two gold coins in life exchanged. Bios. She gave her scarcity in a bare clink. So as too with does mine. Goodbye. Adios. Farewell. Amen. Selah. Morning, I dare you.”—Christian Deadbrook
“I find any man who takes full credit for the scramblings he commits to a page to be a fool. This book is the product of Grace. Should any words which lie within these pages strike you in a favorable manner, I pray that your praise would land upon the proper Being, for it is solely by the working of His Spirit that you might be able to see the Truth. I have no considerable accomplishment to speak of. I am a twenty-one year old college student. I am not a scholar. I am not a philosopher. I am hardly a writer at all. I am merely a blind thief who has been graciously infected with a minute vision of a Kingdom unseen. Consider this work a poor plagiarism of Heaven’s manifesto. These pages are a result of my confrontation with death and sin in full amounts; beyond this, they are my humble scrapings of a Grace which I may never hope to comprehend in full. I lay them before you, my fellow travelers upon this road of humanity, so that together we might taste the drink of Truth out of which Life flows freely. Should you find points in this work which oppose your soul, dissect them with the sword of this Truth. After this, if the faults still remain, condemn them with attribution to my sinful name alone. Should you find points in this work worthy of glorification, then allow your tongue to sing its praise to the King; it is the power contained in His wrists alone which saves our beggars’ souls. Grace and Peace to you my dear friends.”—This is the Preface of a new project I just started called The 50 Manifesto. It will be 50 writings on 50 different Scriptures. Due to contractual obligations which I’ve begun the process of entering into, I will not be able to publish this book in a formal manner. It is my goal to personally release this work at the start of the new year. I share this Preface with you because I hope it to be the foundation of this site.