“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.”—Timothy Keller (via jeff-s-robert)
“I believe it the call of my generation of men to refuse safety. No longer can we sit in the comfort of familiar walls nodding our heads and moaning upon hearing things we already know. No longer can inaction and indifference mark us. Yes, we must see and learn, but we must also act. We must also move. We must also serve.”—Christian Tenbrook
I’m quite schizo- phrenic, but only when provoked by the wandering page, sprawled out before me in endless purity, waiting to be tainted or scuffed or soiled by my yellow ghost. Perhaps highway lanes turned burnt, by rocket ship tires, may one day be my salvation, but not tonight. For, the hillside symphony is far too lost in the decrescendo of its starlight dance, far too happy in the ecstasy of oil rigs, far too blackened by the night, for me to sings its praise. So let me mutter my pleas for fruit, as I jam my green thumbs into the dirt of soiled souls, hoping with skin turned sharp, this is the beginning of a forrest fire.
“Keep pursuing the faith, my brother. Your worship means everything. Surely, God is. Remember your scars, the blanketed ones underneath the shadow-blinds, do they still haunt you or have you given them to Him? Are you still getting drunk? Are you still getting high? Are you a good friend? Are you teaching, preaching, or witnessing? Are you caring for the poor? Are you loving? Are you forgiving? Are you slow to anger? Are your words pure? If you’re reading this, you’re still breathing. At some time, that was enough, but it no longer is. Run the race. Run the damn race.”—The January 3, 2011 New Year’s Resolution Letter from Justin Potesta to Christian Tenbrook.
I’m not smart enough to reconcile the problem of Evil, but I offer this to you as some form of exhortation, my brothers and sisters in the Struggle. No olivides, somos en la guerra.
Perhaps we have forgotten half of the equation as we ask “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Somehow, we’ve begun to say “What is God doing to us?” I think we need to look a little further into it to understand why bad things really do happen to good people. I think struggles are a clear sign of something quite encouraging. The classic example which everyone turns to on the problem of evil is Job (side note, read Job, it’s chock full of deep, deep stuff). It’ll probably help if you have the book of Job open while you read this. We will mainly stick around the first Chapter. - CT
The Bible makes it clear that Job was a “good person” in Job 1:1. In fact, he is considered a great man. He was a man of substantial power and wealth.
God boasts about Job to Satan (that alone is pretty interesting to think about).
It’s important to note the exchange between God and Satan which precedes any of the “bad things” that happen to Job. God gives Satan permission to act as he choses, BUT He is clear that Job is not to be touched.
So Satan goes out and does his dirty work. One by one the cards begin to fall. The world around Job is essentially burned to the ground, metaphorically and literally. Bad things happen to a good man.
Now, let’s pause and think about what it means to be a “good man.” In my personal understanding of the Bible, I believe that a “good man” is one who is moving for the Kingdom. A “good man” is someone who is going to seek after the heart of God and who is going to make every effort to reflect that heart to a broken world. A good man is someone who scares Satan out of his mind.
I think that’s it. I think that’s exactly what we need to know about suffering and pain.
Satan does “bad things” to Job in hopes that Job will stop pursuing the Truth. The afflictions which are poured over Job’s head have a specific aim: for Job to “curse God and die” (2:9). We know this, because the end of Chapter 1 says, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
Bad things happen to good people because Satan knows that good people have the power to bring about the Kingdom of God.
Our initial response to this is often, “Well, why does God even allow Satan to cause such destruction? Why does God allow me to feel pain? Doesn’t He LOVE me!?”
But the Holy Spirit has a different message for us that starts with this blatant Truth: we don’t really understand pain very well.
Maybe, in a weird way, pain is a good thing.
Don’t take that as a call to masochism. I don’t think I’m supposed to go about my day thinking “How can I hurt myself today?”
But what about the New Testament? What about James 1:2? Why should we “consider it pure joy” whenever we face “trials and sufferings of many kinds?”
I might be just talking crazy, but here’s what I think.
Trials and sufferings should be the most encouraging thing you ever face in your entire life. The reason you should feel joy of an unparalleled purity in times of immense struggle is because these moments should let you know that Satan is absolutely terrified of what you might do for the Kingdom of Heaven. Ironically, the times in which you feel the weakest should actually be the times that you are reminded of the utter power and authority you have been given in the Holy Spirit. I think Satan roams the earth and looks at people. Take that literally or metaphorically, I’m not sure it really matters. He sees people pursuing God. He sees people with the potential to reconcile the world back to the Truth. As he sees these good people working for the Kingdom, he wants to do everything in his power to stop them. He wants to lie to them and tell them “You are so weak. You are so worthless. You are so unloved. Curse God and die.” He will throw every trick out of hell in your direction, because he knows that if you realize your true power, heritage, and dignity the mind of God will advance in sweeping fashion.
The irony of suffering is that we too often succumb to the Devil’s lies that we are powerless and unloved when in fact the Liar comes to us because he is absolutely terrified of our power and love.
We bet the farm on this Jesus thing. If the barn burns down, that’s a sure sign that our bet was a smart one.
If you feel broken hearted. If you feel like you’re just not good enough. If you feel like God has forsaken you. If you feel like you are unworthy of love. If you feel like you’ve messed up just too many times. If you feel weak. If you feel stupid. If you feel ugly. If you feel purposeless.
If you feel like the Kingdom of Heaven is a long way off.
Remember the Deceiver and take up arms against him.
You are the agent of reconciliation, you are the bringer of the Kingdom of Heaven. You are loved beyond all understanding.
This is the Truth; let no Liar tell you otherwise.
Where do you get the name Christian Tenbrook from? Why did you decided to have one?
Ah yes, Sir Christian Tenbrook the manic voice of my head. The inspiration for the name has become two-fold. Really, it started with the thought “Hmm, I think I want a pen name,” because of a Shakespearean influence that doesn’t really make sense. A few Google searches later, and I settled on the name. It’s a Dutch surname mixed with a common first name. The literal meaning of the entire name is something to the effect of, “Follower of Christ at the place of a stream or flowing body of water,” which I suppose is the aim of my identity.
As I mentioned, there are two main reasons as to why I wanted a pen name. It is both for myself and for you.
For myself, Christian Tenbrook represents the ambassador of my identity. I think of him as a sort of “speaker of the house.” I think that our sense of self is a sort of general statement which blankets over a lot of different aspects. The question “Who are you?” is most often answered with a name. The whole of my being is an incredibly diverse and complex hodge-podge of smaller identities that a “name” probably doesn’t cover too well. If anything, I’m TOTALLY that insane guy with too many voices in his head, and this was my way of overcoming that in a sense.
For me, Christian Tenbrook represents the part of my being that chooses to speak. He’s the lone bird I set free from my rib-cage in the most often and consisten manner. He’s the curator of my soul as it exits my “self” and enters the world. I guess I felt he needed a name of his own.
That’s all quite strange, but I hope you understand.
The more important reason my penname exists is that I wanted it to serve as a sort of veil of anonymity (similar to the one you have chosen, faceless questioner!). Perhaps it is just me who does this, but every time I read something from someone I have interacted with,their voice inevitably arises in my mind. I read their work and attach it to their name, their voice, their body, their flaws, their prestige. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not the aim of this forum for me. I don’t want anyone to read what is written here and think, “Justin Potesta is saying this.” I don’t want them to add anything that I post on here to my actual identity; not because I fear what it might do to their idea of me, but because I want my audience to confront what I write within themselves without my voice cluttering the process up. I want them to read this and think “This is being said, and I don’t even know who is saying it, but I know it’s True or I know it’s a lie.” I want people to consider the Truth in the context of their life, not mine. I understand that people will obviously construct some sort of image of “Christian Tenbrook”, whether they know me or not, but I think that the anonymous nature of these ramblings might give them an easier pathway to true, thoughtful, personal encounters with Life.
Thanks for the question, it was a good one!
Grace and Peace, CT
P.S. your Dad is going to be okay, you need to know that.
i think God is doing big things through you, brother. a lot you write in here is a more eloquently formed thought of something that He has told/taught me and I wanted to thank you for using your gift of writing to further the Kingdom. cause that's what it's all about and don't let the enemy or anyone tell you that you posting on here is doing anything but that. I think that you are an edifier of the church and was wondering if you know what your spiritual gift is? i pray for you.
These words caught me on the chin harder than you might imagine. They were delivered at precisely the right time. The holiday season is a strange one for me. Somehow the “meaning of Christmas” has been dismissed as a cliche ill-repeated and lost somewhere between death and garland…and I think I would have to tell you too many personal stories for that metaphor to make actual sense. I often thank people for their words of praise they extend me, but for you I will not do so. I hope that you will pardon my rudeness on that matter, but will participate with me in a far greater act of decorum. Tonight, I thanked God Himself for these words, as I truly believe them to be a small manifestation of a Man who once laid in a manger long ago. They surely are a manifestation of the very mind of our common Creator. With that, your question of Spiritual gifts must be addressed. I have considered long and hard how to word this next phrase, and I believe the plainest form of it to be necessary: I am a prophet who speaks in tongues. Now, I’m sure that some will read this phrase and think me to be deceived in some form or another (I would bet many people shot a quick glance up to the “unfollow this maniac” button), because I have said this statement with such certainty. They will point and say, “This man thinks far too highly of himself. This man is a liar.” I would humbly offer that I am utterly convinced of the opposite state of my being. I am a stupid, stupid man. I am a base villan. Alas, I have tasted the rotting fruits of debauchery in deadly amounts, and I believe there is no earthly power, conversation, or teaching which could reconcile me from my treacherous state. What’s more! How incredibly profound is this! For certainly in my state of wretchedness I deserve not the slightest glimpse of the majesty of the Kingdom; yet, without reservation I say to you I have stood at the very gates of Heaven and seen the Lord’s hands commission the reconciliation of this place. I have seen the on-coming redemption of the world. That fact alone will surely inspire awe within me for eternity-full. Beyond the privilege of being able to see, I have been given the responsibility to say. Perhaps that is the best way to describe this gift which far surpasses my own flesh. For me, the gift of tongues is a topic I’d normally rather steer clear of. I have never been quite charismatic in my beliefs, though I have come to recognize the fact that the Spirit works in mysterious ways that are far beyond the grasp of my withering consciousness. The idea that one might speak in a heavenly tongue seems too brilliant; but let me say this: I have said things, though only in English or occasionally in my father’s tongue of Spanish, which have carried the weight of a language which transcends the syllables recognized in the ear or the eye. By the sheer Grace of the Most High, I have been allowed to communicate the Truth. I would offer that this Truth is a language of its own. I would submit that this Truth is the honest aim of our lesser languages. Perhaps there are those who may flow forth with unrecognizable syllables of an unknown tongue that are interpreted into our known languages so that we might comprehend the Truth. I am certainly not that man. I speak Spanish, English, and I’m learning Latin. That’s it. That’s all I’ve ever spoken. However, I am one who has been struck by the undeniable existence of God and His Kingdom as described in the Scriptures. Though I am completely unqualified to even possess these things, I have been given the means to communicate it to whomever the Spirit chooses. I am merely a mouthpiece. I am merely a poorly polished trumpet who has been taken up by the Creator. That sound which you hear in these pages, in these words, in this written language, that sound of perfection, is merely his breath flowing through me. That note is the Truth, and I assure you I do not have the means to make it. With that in mind, I would say that I speak a language which is not my own, and the Spirit interprets it to whomever should hear it. Acts 2 is one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture. I’m sure I don’t understand most of it, but when I read it, I see this: the Truth of the Holy Spirit transcends human language. In my life, that happens here. That happens between my bone and the page. English is the means by which I am able to speak in a language which is well beyond the grasps of my comprehension. This practice is my embodiment of the incarnation of Christ. To steal a line from Anis Mojgani’s “Shake the Dust,” it is my total desire to speak “half English and half God” but fully Truth. I’m a prophet who speaks in tongues in that I have been charged with the means to express that which God cares deeply about, which is a language of its own. Your prayers…they are powerful. Never forget that. Never. Grace and Peace to you, my friend. - CT
Dear Christian, who are you? Who is the man behind these posts of encouragement, scripture, reblogging of art, and wise words?
Well, my given name is Justin Potesta. I feel like I’m much more boring in real-life than I am here, though just as insane (so I’m told). I’d try to explain to you something more specific about me, but I feel that might ruin this place. Essentially, I’m nobody, and I hope dearly that makes me everybody. Thanks for the kind words. Let’s be friends. Facebook/coffee shop/phone-call/pen pals. Let’s make it happen. -CT
I wrote a new one-act. It’s quite strange, and might not make a lot of sense, and it ends paced like a train-wreck, but I assume that’s what I was going for. It’s a pretty profane piece, so if that will offend you, I would encourage you not to read it (no hard feelings). The actual script is about 12 pages long, but it’s a really quick read. As always, my deepest thanks if you choose to check it out. Much love. - CT
“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.