When Someone is in Error: Our Example in Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos

I had a dream last night about the most precious saint, one trying to teach something on the internet, about the Bible, that she just didn’t understand. Her heart, however, was so right on and her fruit very good. Let me start from the beginning:

I was on social media going over my newsfeed when this sweet little mini-teaching came to my attention:

“Shrimp isn’t food! We can’t eat shrimp! But don’t worry, there is plenty of crab to go around and it’s even better.”

Somehow, in the dream, her tone and heart came across crystal clear in the presentation. Her name was foreign, I am betting African, very exotic and beautiful to my mind, but I couldn’t have reproduced it on paper if my life depended on it. I was about to click on her name so I could gently correct her in private before the internet vultures descended to call her names and humiliate her publicly when I clicked the wrong thing, or the screen refreshed all on its own, and *poof* her post was gone and I couldn’t find her. I sat there, just sick at heart about what was about to happen to this woman with the beautiful spirit. I woke up and went to prayer about it.

I knew this woman had received an incomplete teaching herself, obviously. She certainly wasn’t wrong on purpose. I wasn’t sure if she had just seen a meme with shrimp on it, saying it wasn’t food, and took it at face value as being the only outlawed crustacean now, or if someone had seen a pic of her on social media eating it and had laid into her and really didn’t teach her, or what. What I knew was that she didn’t have all of the information she needed for understanding, and certainly not the understanding to teach. We see it all the time on social media, right? Folks lambasting people about what they are doing wrong, but not really providing a complete teaching, or even trying to impart understanding. And we certainly don’t see the social media critics sticking around to make sure people are equipped to go on with life after they receive a disembodied tidbit of information about this or that Torah Law. They are critics who go around looking to correct, not teachers looking to impart understanding. She knew that shrimp was not food. She believed it with her whole heart. She obviously didn’t even know exactly why it isn’t something that the Bible would call food. Perhaps she didn’t even understand that when the NT says the word food, that it is in an OT context, that the Bible painstakingly defines the word food, that all food has always been clean (despite the belief of the Pharisees that one could defile perfectly good food with unwashed hands), and that no additions or subtractions were made by Yeshua/Jesus in what qualifies as food, once the context of the first-century controversies is taken into account. This delightful lady wanted to obey God, n’est-ce pas? Of course! Someone convicted her of eating shrimp and she went up to the mountaintop to lovingly inform others – and make no mistake, her delivery was loving. God can do much with such a lovely heart as hers. I honestly felt very maternal feelings for her, she was so genuine.

But I lost track of her! She was about to reap a potential harvest of public correction, humiliation, name-calling, and – worst of all – she didn’t know enough to answer questions she would get from people who did not agree. Of all the things I ever learned in Church that offends me the most, it was the idea that new believers should be out preaching before they have been properly equipped. It has resulted in many precious babes landing right in the mouths of wolves who destroyed them before they even had a chance to mature. Eagerness without the knowledge to back it up isn’t so much zeal as a recipe for disaster. We have a responsibility to instruct new saints to hang back in humility while they become strong enough to be suitable guides for others.

And what about the person who “taught” her or those who were undoubtedly about to hunt her down over the coming catastrophic crab crisis? What is the responsibility now that she has it wrong? What model is provided by the Scriptures? We find it in Acts 18:

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (ESV)

(Just FYI, the image I used for the thumbnail is actually a marble floor from ancient Ephesus – perhaps our intrepid Bible heroes and heroine set foot upon those stones.)

“He knew only the baptism of John” – so his understanding, if anything, was merely incomplete. Like the lovely young lady in my dream. She obviously had the good fruit down, which requires the kind of knowledge that scholars cannot impart to anyone and has to instead be grown by the Holy Spirit, but her knowledge was incomplete. What did Priscilla and Aquila do? Did they interrupt the teaching, call him names, label him as a false teacher? After all, as Roman Jews, they had been recently expelled by Claudius from their home in the early 50’s and were probably in a bad mood. They knew the Scriptures and here was this young upstart with a pagan name, despite all his eloquence. He had something wrong, which obviously made him a heretic according to the by-laws of the First National Church of Facebook and its sister denomination, First Assemblies of Twitter. By those unwritten rules of conduct, they had every right to make a series of internet videos denouncing him as a moron and an idiot, calling his motivations and integrity into question, and telling everyone to listen to them instead. But what did they actually do?

“They took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Wow, so little drama. Taking him aside meant two things – they recognized the need not only to instruct, but also to protect his honor among those whom he had been teaching. Also, they saw that his lack of knowledge was not a character flaw – someone had relayed to him an incomplete picture, and probably because they themselves had been given an incomplete understanding. It happens. At its core, this story is about treating each other like brothers and sisters, about those who actually have a MORE COMPLETE understanding stepping in to gently instruct those whose understanding is LESS COMPLETE. This is not what happens on social media, where most correction is public, brutal, and given by those who actually know very little yet look for every opportunity to look like experts by being the sheriff of that one bit of information. On social media, people treat an incomplete understanding as though it is a character flaw! As though knowledge is what we worship, instead of a relational God who is teaching and enabling us to be His image-bearers, and was even willing to send His one unique Son to die on the Cross to make it happen.

Priscilla and Aquila were Jewish believers – they grew up with the milk of Torah and evidently had the maturity to stomach the meat of the weightier matters as well. They were mature believers, eminently qualified to teach both from the standpoint of knowledge and maturity of fruit. They modeled for us the proper way to correct – not tearing one another down publicly over genuine lapses in understanding, but guarding the reputation of the one being corrected, instructing in such a way as to not become stumbling blocks to a brother whom God has called, and with the goal of having their brother be able to be more, and not less, able to minister afterward. If they had handled the situation in our modern social media way, the incident would have resulted in an angry schism within the crowd, some following after Apollos and some going after Priscilla and Aquila. Apollos, by the ancient ways of honor and shame culture, would have had to fire back insults in order to undermine their character, in an attempt to get his standing before the crowd back. Instead of building God’s Kingdom together, they would have divided it into two separate camps. We see people trying to do this very thing in I Cor 1 – but Apollos, Peter, and Paul were having none of it!

So, when we see someone in error, we have to make sure that we (1) have enough knowledge to correct, and that means we have done the hard study ourselves and haven’t just watched youtube videos or consulted Rabbi Google or Pastor Yahoo, (2) take the person aside privately and gently to better instruct them, and (3) make sure that we guard their honor jealously so that we do not create schizms or make it so that no one will want to listen to them in the areas where they are right. Doing this wrong, and unbiblically according to the New Creation model, results in damage to the Kingdom, not a strengthening of it. In the beatitudes, Yeshua preached a radical new option to the old honor/shame paradigm – one that made gentleness, mercy, peacefulness, and meekness the traits worthy of honor, as opposed to the ruthlessness required by the public battles for honor practiced by the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, and the rest of the ancient world.

I am reminded that Yeshua/Jesus preached that a good shepherd will leave the ninety-nine in order to go after the one and bring it home. I find it very telling that the good shepherd does not bring the ninety-nine along as an audience in order to correct that lost one publicly. If the good shepherd is that solicitous of the needs and dignity of one lost one, how much more so should we respect a brother or sister who is simply wrong about something?


Guest Blog: Linguistic Superstition & The Sacred Name Movement by Daniel Botkin

Any questions about this article can be directed to Daniel Botkin at his ministry webpage. Daniel has a bi-monthly newsletter and speaks at events around the country if you would like to hear him live.

Linguistic superstition is the belief that saying certain “negative” words will produce negative results, and saying certain “positive” words in just the right way will produce positive results. This sort of belief system is most apparent in occult magic. Practitioners of occult magic believe that certain words have an inherent power of force within them which can be harnessed and utilized when the words are pronounced in a precise, prescribed manner. The seven sons of Sceva believed this. When they saw Paul doing miracles in the name of Yeshua, they tried to cast out a demon by saying, “We adjure you by Yeshua whom Paul preacheth.” The demon in the man replied, “Yeshua I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the man leaped on them and gave them a good beating. (See Acts 19:13-16.)

You would think that Bible believers would know better than to get entangled in linguistic superstition. Sadly, that is not the case. We have seen linguistic superstition manifested by some Christians in the “Word of faith”/”positive confession” movement. Now we are seeing linguistic superstition of another sort being manifested in the Sacred Name (SN) movement. The SN movement is a movement that began in the late 1930s as an offshoot of the Church of God, Seventh Day denomination. The main focus of this movement (as the phrase “Sacred Name” suggests) is the use of God’s Hebrew name. In most SN literature God’s Hebrew name is transliterated as “Yahweh” (though at least 38 other variant spellings exist among SN believers). Jesus’ Hebrew name is usually mis-transliterated as “Yahshua” (though at least 55 other variant spellings exist among SN believers).
Hard-core SN believers are afraid to utter the words “God” or “Lord” when referring to the Creator. They insist that He must be addressed by His Hebrew name. Most SN literature gives a reader the impression that knowing the correct pronunciation of God’s Hebrew name is more important than knowing God Himself.
Much of what I have read in SN literature is dangerously close to the occultic thinking that existed in first-century Gnosticism. The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity (pg. 27) says this: “Heretical Gnostic systems combined magic and astrology with the Bible. The Hebrew name of God, IAO [the Greek transliteration of YHWH -DB], fascinated sorcerers by its vowels, always crucial in ancient magic.”
Like first-century Gnostic sorcerers, many SN believers seem equally fascinated by the Hebrew name of God, and have made a fetish out of the Sacred Name. This in itself is not sorcery, of course, but it is a step in that direction. Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, a translation that has greatly influenced the SN movement, says in its introduction that “the name Yahweh has some inherent meaning of great force” and speaks of “some self-evident force” contained in the Sacred Name (pg. 26, 28). This sort of thinking can lead to linguistic superstition and worse. Noted Hebrew scholar David Bivin, in an article called “The Fallacy of Sacred Name Bibles,” writes: “The use of correct formulas and correct pronunciations is very important in magic rites, but not in one’s relationship with the God of Israel” (Jerusalem Perspective, Nov. -Dec. 1991, pg. 12).
The SN movement has produced a mixture of good and bad fruit. On the positive side, the SN movement has done a lot to help people see that the Sabbath, the Feasts, and the dietary laws are still valid for New Covenant believers. On the negative side, this movement has spawned a lot of rotten fruit. I am not in a position to say whether the good fruit outweighs the rotten fruit or vice versa. I will let God be the Judge of that. I do not wish to judge, but I do need to warn people not to swallow rotten fruit, because it will poison you.
The purpose of this article is not to attack people, but to expose errors. I do not wish to embarrass or publicly humiliate anyone. This is why I will not be citing the sources when I quote from SN writers. If readers wish to know my sources, I will share that information privately.
Some minor errors in a person’s thinking can be relatively harmless. Unfortunately, some of the errors in the SN movement are not harmless. The proof of this statement is in the rotten fruit the movement has borne. The rotten fruit to which I refer is primarily a glaring lack of love for brethren. We all know the importance of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self; we know that the fruit of the Spirit is love; we know about 1 Corinthians 13. We all know the importance of loving the brethren. Yet if it were not for a few loving SN friends whom I know personally, I would have to conclude from SN literature that SN believers hate the brethren. And I have been reading SN literature regularly since the mid-1980s.
Indeed, many SN believers do not even consider the brethren their brethren. Christians who do not use the Hebrew name are often regarded as lost at best and as devil worshippers at worst. One large SN organization printed these words in a newsletter some years ago: “Christianity calls ‘God’s’ Son by the name ‘Jesus.’ Thus, those worshipping ‘this son’ are committing spiritual adultery!!” This is from one of the more tolerant SN organizations. Other SN writers have flatly stated that Christians who use the words “God,” “Lord,” and “Jesus Christ” are actually worshipping Satan.
SN believers do not fare much better when it comes to loving their own. One well-known SN leader who has been around for decades admits this. He writes: “The Sacred Name movement has been characterized by knowledgeable observers as ‘a bunch of splintered, divided sects’; and this is EXACTLY what I found.” (Emphasis his)
If you are a Christian reader who is hearing about this for the first time, you might be asking some questions: “These people think that I’m actually giving homage to the devil when I pray to ‘God’ or ‘the Lord’? All the worship I’ve given to God all these years has really gone to Satan, simply because I didn’t address God by His Hebrew name? Where in hell did that idea come from?”
The answer to your last question is in your last question. However, for the benefit of those who want an explanation of how this convoluted idea developed, let me explain.
SN believers reject the English words God and Lord because these are words which, when not capitalized, can refer to pagan gods and to human lords. SN believers think it is disrespectful at best or Satan worship at worst to refer to the Creator by these generic titles. However, the Hebrew equivalents of these two words, elohim and adonai, are also generic words that often refer to false pagan gods and human lords. Yet the Creator refers to Himself as elohim and adonai hundreds of times in the Hebrew Scriptures. If He is not offended by the generic titles in Hebrew, why should He be offended by the equivalent generic titles in English? English even has the added advantage of capitalizing the G- or the L- to distinguish the true Creator from the false pagan gods and the human lords. If the Creator is offended by generic titles, He would be more offended by the uncapitalizable elohim and adonai than He would be by God and Lord.
SN believers imagine a linguistic connection between the English God and Hebrew Gad (“luck, fortune”). Because the pronunciations of these two words are very similar, SN believers claim that “God” is the god of good luck. However, the fact that two words in two different languages sound the same is not proof that the two words are cognates. On the contrary, such is usually not the case. For example, Spanish con (“with”) has no connection to English cone; German nein (“no”) has no connection to English nine; Hebrew ki (“because”) has no connection to English key; Yiddish teler (“plate”) has no connection to English teller; Russian tut (“here”) has no connection to English toot, etc., etc.
Concerning the SN believers’ ban on God because of its similarity to Gad, noted linguist and Hebraist Isaac Mozeson, author of THE WORD: The Dictionary That Reveals the Hebrew Source of English, wrote this in a personal letter to me: “If the word Gad were so terrible per se, there would be no tribe of Israel or prophet of King David by that glorious name. It seems I agree with you on these issues.”
SN believers avoid using even the Hebrew Adonai because of its similarity to the Greek god Adonis. Some refuse to transliterate Adonai, even though Scripture uses this word over 200 times to refer to the Creator. I have even seen one SN Bible that translated Adonai as “Yahweh.” This is not honest translation; it is deliberately misrepresenting what the Hebrew Scripture really says. Isaac Mozeson wrote (in the letter previously mentioned): “I don’t shun the Hebrew ADoNe (master, lord) + suffix AI simply because Adonis is a pagan god or because the Brits have a House of Lords.”
The Hebrew Bible refers to the Creator as Adonai over 200 times. It is linguistic superstition to avoid a word that the Hebrew Bible freely uses. Yes, it is possible that the Greeks borrowed the Hebrew Adonai and used it to refer to their god Adonis. So what? We know that Yahweh is the true Adonai/Elohim/Lord/God. The fact that pagans use some of the same nouns for their idols is no reason for us to stop using the words. If the pagans were to say that their gods are “good” and “strong,” would SN believers feel a need to avoid these two adjectives and use different synonymous adjectives such as “beneficent” and “powerful”?
Most SN literature substitutes Mighty One and Master for God and Lord. However, the terms mighty one and master are every bit as generic as god and lord. This is evident even in SN literature, which refers to false gods as “mighty ones,” the only difference being capital letters. This is not spiritual progress; it is simply reinventing the wheel.
The New Testament, by its glaring silence on the “Name” issue, also refutes SN teaching. If avoiding generic titles and using the Hebrew names is so vital to one’s salvation and spirituality, why do the New Testament writers consistently refer to God by the generic Greek titles Theos and Kurios (words which can also refer to pagan gods and to human lords)? And why do they consistently refer to the Messiah by the Greek form of His name, lesous Xristos? The New Testament writers could have written the Hebrew characters into the Greek script, but there is no solid evidence that they did any such thing. They used Theos and Kurios, just as the Hebrew Scriptures use Elohim and Adonai.
It is very important to note this: Even when they were directly quoting Old Testament Scripturethe New Testament writers used the generic Greek titles as substitutes for the Sacred Name. Many Old Testament verses which contain the Sacred Name are quoted in the New Testament, yet the Sacred Name itself never once appears in the New Testament. A generic title is substituted every single time. If the New Testament is to have any bearing whatsoever on our theology, we cannot ignore the fact that New Testament writers used generic titles as substitutes for the Sacred Name.
The only argument SN proponents can use to try to refute these facts is to accuse “wicked scribes” of changing the New Testament manuscripts. Some go so far as to claim that the entire New Testament was originally written in Hebrew, complete with the Sacred Name, of course. History tells us that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Hebrew, but there is no reason to suppose that the rest of the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew. On the contrary, when one considers the fact that the epistles were addressed to congregations composed primarily of Greek-speaking believers who knew little if any Hebrew, the idea seems ludicrous. To accuse wicked scribes of tampering with the text is circular reasoning, and has no basis in historical or linguistic fact.
Theories have been put forth to try to debunk the Greek New Testament. Some SN proponents have claimed that Paul could not have known Greek well enough to write his epistles in that language. Jews did not learn Greek, we are told by SN writers. We know from Acts 21:37 that Paul knew Greek well enough to converse in it. I also found this information in a pamphlet: “The Oxyrinchus Papyri shows that even Jewish children could read and write Greek. The Greek language was common in Palestine, even though the vernacular was Aramaic and the Sacred tongue was Hebrew.” It is very ironic that this information appears in a pamphlet written by the late A.B. Traina, the man who is regarded by some as the “granddaddy” of the SN movement.
Some SN believers argue against a Greek New Testament by stating that the Greek text is awkward and clumsy, “poor Greek”; therefore the New Testament must be a translation of a Hebrew original–which, it is assumed, contained the Hebrew names, of course. Do these SN believers know Greek well enough to tell that the New Testament is a poor translation of a Hebrew original? Is the Greek of the New Testament so poor that a Hebrew original must be assumed? I do not know Greek well enough to answer that question, so I will let two scholars who know Greek better than I do answer the question. Dr. Brad Young, a present-day scholar of great repute, states that Paul, in his epistles, “gives evidence of his bilingual abilities by writing in Greek like a native” (“Paul the Pharisee,” Yavo Digest 19:4, Sept. 1997, pg. 15). Robin Griffith-Jones, master of London’s Temple Church and formerly a New Testament teacher at Oxford University, says that Luke used “very sophisticated Greek. He would have been asked to write New York Times op-ed pieces” (“Gospels according to new book,” Peoria Journal Star, 5/28/00).
In 1978 George Howard wrote an article in Biblical Archaeology Review. Howard did not argue for an original Hebrew New Testament in this article, but he did theorize that the writers of the Greek New Testament might have written God’s name in the Hebrew characters when they wrote their original manuscripts. A SN believer sent me a copy of this article, complete with his complimentary underlining, arrows, brackets, and exclamation marks in the margins. I marked a few more things in the article myself. In Howard’s short essay, I circled the following words: “…suggested that… suggested… argued that… it seems to me… is hardly likely that… In all likelihood… very probably… suggests that… no doubt… Perhaps… may have… Assuming this to be generally correct… In all probability… probably… no doubt… must have… impossible to know with certainty… must have been… must have taken… must have meant… must have meant… was probably… probably… suggest that… it may be that… probably… may be known…”
The appearance of all these words and phrases of ambiguity on just one and one-half pages of text tells me that Howard himself is not very certain of his theory. Yet SN people will swallow an unproven theory simply because it agrees with their doctrine.
One major reason SN believers misunderstand the “Name” issue is because they do not realize the broader meaning of the Hebrew word shem (usually translated “name”). When SN believers read a verse that says something about “the name of Yahweh,” they think mainly in terms of nomenclature, the word that is used to address someone. Shem means much more than just “name” in this narrow sense of nomenclature, however. Shem also means the reputation, honor, or character of the person. Any good lexicon will confirm this. Isaac Mozeson also confirms this in his letter to me: “Also SHeM means ‘repute’ more than merely ‘name.’ The problems of the ‘sacred name believers’ will lessen when they consider this.”
Even in English we use the word name in its broader sense: “You’ve ruined the family name!” Such a statement does not mean that the person has altered the pronunciation of his surname or changed it to a common name like “Jones.” It simply means that he has brought shame and reproach on the family by his behavior.
The Scriptures say many things about the name of Yahweh. There are verses that speak of misusing, blaspheming, or shaming His name. There are verses about knowing, glorifying, praising, trusting in, and speaking of the name of Yahweh. These verses are not referring to the correct pronunciation of the four-lettered Tetragrammaton; they are speaking about the character and reputation of Yahweh. Thus, trusting in “the name” of Yahweh means that we trust in His character and His reputation, not in the correct pronunciation of His nomenclature. A person who trusts only in the correct pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is reducing the name of Yahweh to nothing more than a magical incantation.
Some readers may think that I am opposed to using the name of Yahweh, but this is not the case. In our congregation, we utter the name every Sabbath when we face Jerusalem and say the Shema: “Here, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is One.” Every day throughout the week, I utter the Name in private prayer more times than I can count. However, I do avoid using the Name in casual conversation, because I truly do regard it as a Sacred Name which should be used only in a sacred context. I have witnessed some SN believers using the Name in a light-hearted manner in casual conversation, even while joking around.
My main complaint against the SN movement is not the use or non-use of the Name per se, but the fact that the linguistic superstition about “God” and “Lord” unnecessarily alienates and separates brethren from one another. The linguistic superstition discredits SN believers and gives Christians an excuse to reject everything else that is being restored through the Messianic movement — the Sabbath, the Feasts, the dietary laws, etc. Paul warned Timothy about teachers who are continually “doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings [suspicions]” (1 Tim. 6:4). I cannot think of a more accurate description of the SN movement.
SN writers also discredit themselves in the eyes of intelligent, thinking people by their sloppy scholarship. Some of it is so pathetic that calling it “sloppy scholarship” is actually a great overstatement and a compliment. SN writers often try to prove a point by making long, detailed linguistic arguments based on the details of a Hebrew word. They end up proving nothing to people who know Hebrew. All they end up doing is advertising in the most embarrassing manner their ignorance of linguistics and the Hebrew language — and in some cases, their ignorance of the English language, too.
I know a brother who leads a large Messianic organization based in Jerusalem. I once asked this brother what he thought about the SN movement. “We have scholars in Jerusalem who have done nothing but study the Hebrew texts for their entire lives, and even they are not 100% certain how God’s name is pronounced,” he said. “And yet we get letters from people in places like Arkansas telling us that they know exactly how the Name is pronounced, even though they have never studied Hebrew.” (No offense to people in Arkansas. He could have named any other state.)
One thing that has been cropping up in SN literature in recent years is the alteration of certain Hebrew words. The Hebrew word for Judah is no longer transliterated as Yehuda; now it is YAHudah. Jacob is now written YAHakob instead of Ya’akov. Jerusalem is no longer Yerushalayim; now it is YAHrushalayim (or, according to one writer, YAHUWSHELEM). Even Messiah is changed from Mashiach to Messi-YAH. It seems that whenever SN people see the letter “Y” in a Hebrew word, they think that there should be an “H” after it, so they remedy the problem by restoring the missing “H” that the wicked scribes allegedly removed in their attempt to suppress the Name. Anyone who knows Hebrew can see the foolishness of this. One SN writer (who since has declared that Yeshua of Nazareth was a false messiah), when trying to explain why Joseph’s name was really YAH-sef instead of Yosef, stated that “it doesn’t take much imagination” to see that wicked scribes, intent on hiding the Sacred Name, removed the “H” from the original name of YAH-sef and turned it into Yosef. Maybe it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see this, but it certainly takes some imagination to see it. It also takes complete ignorance of the fact that the yo- prefix is the common, standard prefix that is used to conjugate third-person, masculine singular, future tense verbs in this category.
One of the most bizarre allegations I have seen in SN literature is the claim that the word Hallelujah is “a hybrid with one word of Hebrew and one word of Greek.” The SN writer who made this amazing discovery has “unleavened the hybrid” and restored the “correct” pronunciation for us. According to this SN writer, we should be saying “Halle-atah-YaHWaH” instead of “Hallelujah.” This erroneous conclusion would never have occurred if the writer had known that the plural imperative is formed by adding a vav suffix to the verb. This is something that a beginning Hebrew student learns in ulpan within the first couple weeks of study.
In another article, a SN brother writes about the different names people use to refer to the Messiah. This writer tells his readers that the Yeshu form used by unbelieving Jews is made up of three Hebrew letters which can form an acronym for “may his name and memory be blotted out.” This information is true. The three Hebrew words are “yimach sh’mo v’zikhro.” (See Stern’s Jewish NT Commentary, pg. 5.) However, this SN writer tells us that the three Hebrew words are “yiddish sh’mo w’zither.” This gross mis-information does not appear in some self-published rag that is obscure and unknown to SN people. It appears in a glossy SN periodical that has been around since 1937. If SN believers want to be taken seriously, they have to do better than that. And they have to do better than the SN believer who ended his letter of rebuke to me with these words: “I am shure you mean will, but lets speek the truth in love.”

Social Media Musings Vol 4: Praying for Modern Untouchables Part 2

Continuing on from last week

Day 9 – January 10, 2018

What Kind of Repentance am I Praying for?

I guess this requires a teaching about what repentance is and is not.

Repentance isn’t merely feeling bad and deciding not to do something ever again. True repentance has to be restorative in nature.

In the specific case of what I have been praying for, when I ask that a child molester be brought to repentance and salvation (so that they would stop offending), I am actually praying for that man or woman to not spend their time in a perpetual pity-party guilt trip, or to just wipe their slate clean and walk away happy. Forgiveness and repentance don’t work that way. Yes, there must be remorse – how could there not be considering the horrific and lifelong impact of this specific crime on their small victims? However, there also must be an accompanying yearning for justice. In order to love one’s neighbor, one has to be prepared to see restitution for that neighbor when they have been harmed, and not only that, to come to understand that their victims deserve some form of justice. There needs to be an acknowledgment of the damage, and the need for consequences.

If a murderer came to salvation and had gone unpunished, it would be wrong of them to keep hiding from the law, leaving the loved ones of their victim without the peace of closure and justice.

No, my prayers include justice – which will probably include jail time – if their victims decide to press charges (which is their absolute right). Salvation frees us of eternal condemnation, but not of our temporal consequences or our obligation to do what is right. Molestation hangs over the life of the victim, usually permanently in one form or another, and so the perpetrator cannot develop the attitude that they can just walk away. So they get saved, great! But a salvation that sees no problem in turning aside justice for the oppressed is a sham and self-serving.

Victims tend to live in the fear and dread that their molesters are out there harming other children, and it is very difficult to emerge from that little child mentality that marked the moment of their attack when certain portions of their psyche were stunted. In order to heal and grow, people often need vindication – even though true vindication cannot be had in this world because nothing can return them to who they would have been if the violation had never happened in the first place.

Also, former molesters have to realize that they knowingly committed a crime that would make them a pariah in this world, and so their ongoing lives are going to have to reflect the humility of the Cross. That is their cross to bear. They have to make peace with it – as I have said before, no one on this earth is entitled to restoration on their own terms, but we as Christians are obligated to forgive.Forgiveness and restoration are entirely different animals.

Day 10 
I was furious all night (story linked in the text)
I saw the headline and it gave me so much hope – a pastor got in front of his congregation this last weekend and admitted a “sexual incident” with a teen, apologizing. I admit I didn’t notice that the word “incident” was there, at first. I was too excited at the prospect of a man coming forward and repenting.
I found out quickly that I was wrong. It was 20 years ago, when he was 22 and she was 17 and they attended the same church.where he was the youth minister. Instead of driving her home, he drove her to a dirt road where he used his influence to convince her to perform oral sex on him. He’s a good-looking man, and at that age, it is easy to mistake something like that for an opportunity to have a man love you forever. I can attest to that personally. Only, after she finished, he begged her never to tell anyone, to take it to her grave, complete with tears.
She wasn’t able to keep her shameful secret for long and she told the elders, who asked her to keep quiet and her molester was celebrated at a huge goodbye reception before being sent away for an unnamed mistake. No one gave her the dignity of having sin labeled as sin, she became a non-entity who was part of a “mistake.”
So she kept quiet for 20 years – can you blame her now? This is why women don’t come forward. Children don’t come forward because we were trained to believe that adults’ word will be taken over ours.
So, she wrote him an email on December 1, confronting him about what he had done. Good for her. He never even had the decency to respond to her.
When it became evident after a month, that he would not respond, she posted the story on a blog for abuse survivors. ONLY THEN was he forced to act, and instead of contacting her, he delivered an apology to his congregation this last weekend, who gave him a standing ovation.
But he didn’t tell them the whole story – he didn’t bother to tell them that he had failed to give his victim the dignity of an answer to her painful email, and Jules flatly denies that there was any apology to her and her parents. I wonder how the women in the congregation would have responded if he would have said, “The woman emailed me five weeks ago but I just let the email sit there, bygones be bygones, not sure why she is still so hung up on this but she is making a big deal of this by going public, so now you have to know.”
He used her, he abandoned her without a word, and then he deprived her of her dignity once more by completely ignoring her – not even an emailed apology. I think he feels badly about what HE has done, but I don’t think he feels badly about what he did to HER, as his pattern of behavior suggests. The idea that he and the church are willing to work with her NOW, five weeks after her initial email, when they categorically ignored her before that, rings hollow. It would appear that they were hoping she would just vent steam and go away.
I share this because of a common feature among pedophiles, narcissists, and critical people, is a focus on self. One of the things I have been praying for is that child molesters would develop a love for others, one that outweighs their childish need for gratification at any cost.
Yes, he was young – but he isn’t young anymore. He should have grown a deep sense of compassion for her by now, and when her message showed up, revealing how deeply in pain she still is, his heart should have gone out to her. After all, his wife already knew. The church board already knew as well. But again, sometimes our confessions are only to relieve our sense of guilt without really caring a whit about the people we hurt.


Day 11

When God Saves

The famous John 3:16 just exploded in my head last night. For God so loved the world…

It became clear to me that when God saved me from my sins, He saved the world at the same time – from my sins. My salvation wasn’t just about me, about me getting a personal relationship with God, about me having eternal life, about me, me, me. My salvation was about transforming me into the type of person who no longer thought it was okay to be critical, cruel, hostile, insulting, impatient, and prone to fits of anger anymore. That saved the world from who I was, so the world would no longer be under the constant onslaught of my unsaved self. Not that the world doesn’t suffer sometimes still, as I a not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but my sin footprint is much smaller.

Hence, the commandment to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us, so that God can save them, and us, from their sins as well. That should pretty much motivate us to pray for anyone and everyone. Unless, of course, we like the consequences of their sins.

Shabbat Shalom all.

January 13, 2018

I think of the Sabbath as a sort of hospice for the weak and weary, those who are in need of God’s rest, a taste of the world to come (which is, you know, everyone), and as such we can behave in one of a few ways:

(1) we can choose to act the way we act every day, just without working.

(2) we can act like mental ward patients, stirring up dissension over our agendas, and actually impede the healing of others through treating them badly in the Name of God (or whatever our version of it is).

(3) We can cooperate with, and assist our creator in this process through acts of radical kindness, peacefulness, and gentleness.

Which do we think will be counted as Sabbath-keeping?

Day 13 

Finding the balance between hope for redemption and the need for justice

On Friday I had become certain that I had allowed the Andy Savage incident to steer me off course and distract me. However, I was missing an important piece of the puzzle. Before praying for the repentance and salvation of sexual predators (so they will stop claiming new victims), I was a little ball of pure hatred with fantasies of vengeance. I wanted them to all die in their sins, and never considered the very real victim toll that would result because of that – not a toll in terms of predators being victims, but new children being victimized. Of course, God showed me that price tag was not acceptable to Him and now it is no longer acceptable to me either – I would see them all saved and redeemed before I would consent to the violation of even one more child. I imagine that if you could look at the child, and if you had the power of that choice, you would come to the same conclusion – we cannot sacrifice even one on the altar of wanting retaliation at any price – not if there is another possibility in some cases. So I pray. It is for God and the offenders to determine who will come to life and who will die in their sins.

And so I have been praying, and somewhat softening. I was concerned that I would soften too much, and lose my sense of outrage and my desire for justice (salvation does not erase the effects of sin on the victim nor the earthly consequences earned by the offender). Fortunately, this violation of a 17-year-old youth group student by her youth group minister, 20 years ago, and his narcissistic response to the situation – well, it allayed my fears. If anything, I am far more concerned with actual justice than I ever was. Before this, my mind was set on revenge and not justice, I was angry and was displaying bad, yet understandable, fruit. Justice requires wisdom, discernment, and peace, while I was blinded by fantasies of revenge. Woe to the person falsely accused if they were placed under my care…

But I lacked balance. I didn’t want it. I wanted it easy. Nothing is easy. If we do not pray for our enemies, they will keep sinning against people. Bottom line. The only cure for sin is Yeshua/Jesus and the Cross. The salvation of our enemies is the price we must all be willing to pay in order to put an end to their sinning against ourselves and others – and that goes for any type of sin.

The world is taking care of the revenge bit – the guy lost his publishing contract, and the respect – maybe not of his church, but of the world. I would be shocked if there were not picketers outside of his mega-church this morning. Most Christians worldwide are standing on the side of his victim. Sadly, what he did in Texas was immoral and unbefitting anyone in a pastoral position, but not illegal, although in 17 other states it is illegal for any clergy to have intimate relations, consensual or forced, with any parishioner under their care. I am praying that all 50 states will soon have that law on the books. Perhaps they could call it Jules’ Law. I encourage you strongly to contact your state legislature and apply pressure to get such a law on the books. I will definitely be adding this to my prayers, and actually, I would love to see this become a national law. It is horrifying to think that the Body needs secular guardrails in order to prevent activities that are already outlined as sinful in the world – but it is what it is.

Tomorrow I want to talk about how sin compromises the lives of everyone, on both sides of the equation – and sometimes most especially those close to the sinner.

Day 14

How Sin Compromises Everyone

You’ve heard the platitude/slogan – “Love the sinner/hate the sin” and you all know how I feel about platitudes – if a platitude or slogan is all you have to offer, then best say nothing at all.

I hate this one, not because it isn’t true, because it is, but because we don’t know how to do it – so saying it is practically meaningless. Overwhelmingly, our tendency is to be partial, and not impartial, in justice: we can’t hand the same sentence out to our sons, daughters, mother, father, spouse, friend, etc. as we could to a stranger. This happens because the sins of strangers can be met with a certain level of cold objectivity, whereas our love for certain people tends to lessen the severity of their crimes in our minds. When it comes to family members or, as we have seen lately in the case of Highpoint Church in Memphis, OUR pastor, we are biased, and often to the point of blindness. Instead of loving the sinner and hating the sinner, we adopt a different mantra of unequal weights:

Love the sinner, enable the sin.
Love the sinner, ignore the sin.
Love the sinner, say the sin isn’t really so bad.
Love the sinner, cover up their sin.
Love the sinner, blame the victim.
Love the sinner, wait – is he really even a sinner here?

Whereas those who love the victim have a less complicated mantra:

Hate the sin, hate the sinner.

See Tom. See Tom Sin. Tom needs to burn in hell. Does anyone have a match?

You see what happens? Tom sinned against an undeserving victim, and then the effect of his sin made transgressors out of many. Tom’s sin compromised everyone.

Ever wonder why certain sins in the Bible carried the death penalty? Because they were the kinds of sins that set loose this terrible kind of transgression within the community – they destroyed the unity of God’s people. We can hardly help ourselves but to fall onto one or the other side of any crime where we know the participants. Sin poisons everyone. We want, in our flesh, to condemn or to excuse that which touches us, and not in a reasonable way, but in as extreme a way as the feelings the crime engenders.

This is why crime is so horrible – it taints the lives of everyone. There is never just one victim. Everyone is a victim – the only question is, to what extent?

Early Sacred Name Movement by Sis. A.L. Schulze

This is a wonderful old article by Sister A.L. Schulze sent to me by Daniel Botkin of Gates of Eden, who has guest blogged here previously, about the early origins and fruit of the Sacred Name movement. Now, modern “sacred namers” are not people who like to pronounce the Name of God, but those who militantly insist that those who do not do so are not saved, their prayers are not heard, etc. I have seen this doctrine, in it’s current incarnation, tear apart congregations, families, and friendships. This was written by a first-hand witness to it’s more benign beginnings. I personally have no problems with the usage of Jesus, God, Lord, etc. just to be clear, nor do I have a beef with anyone who uses the sacred names. I do not agree with every view expressed in this article, but thought it was interesting how the joy of learning something so wonderful can later be used to divide people who agree on almost everything else.

Part 1


Part 2

Part 2a

Part 3

Part 3b

Part 3c

Part 4

Part 4b

I wish I had a way of knowing who this wonderful sister is, but I pray that posting this will honor her testimony in a small way.

Social Media Musings Vol 3: Praying for Modern Untouchables

This is crazy, if you had told me a few weeks ago I was doing this I would have growled at you and called you insane, a liar, or worse. I might have spit at you (okay not really, but I would have been grossly offended). But then God shared something with me that I, as a teacher of children, could not ignore. It is almost futile to just sit around hating child molesters while knowing that they aren’t going away, that it is a generational sin, and if I am not part of the solution then I am part of the problem. Most will never be caught. If they were, the prisons aren’t big enough. God isn’t going to just kill them all en masse – even if I wish sometimes that He would. Since the Cross, God has dealt with evil primarily one way – by transforming it through the power of the Cross. The exile from the garden didn’t wipe it out, even the flood just limited it for a while. So, what did He ask me to do that was so unthinkable? That I need to explain step by step. If you would like, you can start out by listening to this interview on the power of radical forgiveness that unexpectedly segued into this unexpected topic – but if you don’t want to spend the time (hour and a half), you can read the daily journal below. And by the way, I am moderating ALL comments now. So if your comment is incendiary or insulting, it won’t see the light of day – and I won’t read very much of it.

January 1, 2018

This is a risky thing to say because people might not read the whole thing and get offended – but when has that ever stopped me before? This year I am going to spend a lot of time praying for the repentance and salvation of child molesters. Yes, I know, you want them dead and in my heart of hearts, I sympathize. I have prayed for God to kill them all at once, only to retract it, thinking of how many car accidents, plane crashes, whatever – would happen all at once. It’s the old “you have three wishes” scenario where people end up destroying the world based on good intentions.

We all know that God is not going to kill every child molester any more than He is going to strike down every malicious gossip, or any other kind of murderer. So what’s the alternative? Do we want their eternal condemnation so badly that we want them to die in their sins? Do we really understand the consequences of that? Their eventual eternal condemnation means only one thing – more victims. More children molested, bottom line. More child sex slaves. More child porn. That’s the price of their not repenting and coming to salvation.

About 17 years ago, as a new Christian, God challenged me on this and it has taken all this time to even begin to get my head screwed on straight about it. I pray for their repentance and salvation because I love children more than I hate them. I would have every single one on earth saved before I would have even one more child violated.

A lot of times, we don’t understand the justice of God. He is more concerned with eradicating evil than He is in condemning sinners. Evil is only eradicated one way in the post-cross world, and that is through repentance. Repentance leads to salvation. Salvation leads to transformation and reconciliation. And that is a tough pill to swallow – it is why radical forgiveness is so offensive to our flesh. We want people like this to burn forever, right? I am on record as wishing the US Government would have the death penalty for child molestation and rape, just as it is in the Bible, but that’s not our reality.

We have to deal with reality. Reality is: no repentance leads to more victims. Eternal vengeance vs salvation is really going to be measured in a higher victim count.

Will any repent? I don’t know. But if I am not praying for that, and none repent, what will be my culpability in the victim count? I believe that prayers work – and even if only one, only one repents, there will be untold children saved.

So, that’s my big goal for 2018 – to strive to protect children by focusing my prayers on the salvation of their greatest enemies. Truly, if we want child molesters to suffer – I imagine that the suffering they would endure as believers, having to face their sins and hopefully, make restitution and confession, would be pretty terrible.


After a long, agonizing, and prayerful day today spent searching my heart, I have decided to fast and pray for 40 days. It won’t be my first time, and I fast relatively often for various amounts of time without ever saying anything about it. But some things I have been reading about in “A Chance to Die” have me thinking a lot about my calling to teach children, and although I have prayed often that God would allow me to impact every child on earth for His Messiah – it occurs to me that I would like to pull back for a while and pray for the spiritual bondage to be broken in the lives of those who victimize them. Some demons can only go out with prayer and fasting, and I imagine that anything that could override a human’s natural protectiveness over children for the sake of a moment’s pleasure has to be something akin to that. I posted about why I have been praying for these people this morning and did a radio interview where I talked about it last week (I will post it in the comments) but I feel a seriousness about this. I plan to ask God for a soul on the first day, two on the second, four on the third, and so on. As things stand now, I am not able to ask for the sake of the molesters, but for the sake of the present and future victims they will continue to harm if they are not delivered. If we, as a people, do not protect our children then our love has grown colder than cold.

I am letting you know this because I am planning on journaling through this process on my wall, day by day. Also, if you all know about it, I won’t succumb to the day 20+ boredom and decide to start eating again. Yes, I know when my weak spot is – when I am no longer hungry but bored to death. Eating is more entertaining than you might imagine – even to someone who fasts quite often and even for extended periods. The only reason I will seriously consider stopping is if I start having TIA’s or strokes again, and I have been okay since December 7, so I ask prayer support on that so I will be able to do it.

I just feel so strongly like I need to do this. I don’t even begin to understand this.

January 2, 2018

Day 1 – The Reluctant Missionary – 128.2 lbs

Although it is hard to believe now – the great missionary to India’s children, Amy Carmichael, did not enjoy wide support back home for her efforts. Can you believe there were actually people who were angry with her? She should have stayed home with the D.O.M (Dear Old Man) who had effectively adopted her to come and live with his family. He would die of a broken heart without her, after all (he did not). She should have stayed closer to home. She should have continued working with the poor back home. She should have…and the should have’s tragically kept people from praying for her efforts.

The call of God rarely sounds sane to those who have not heard the precise instructions. We are quick to judge, and even quicker to condemn and dismiss – but only time will tell what God has and has not instructed.

Sometime between 17 and 19 years ago, as a new Christian, God issued a challenge that provoked me to lash out at Him in anger:

I was listening to a local radio show in a small, southern Idaho town, and the hosts were talking about homosexuals. I remember the one host said that he would like it is God would put “them” all on a boat in the middle of an ocean and then put a hole in it so they would all drown. I was outraged – where was his decency, any sense of mercy? I quickly shot off an email to him and went back to my work in the lab. As I was muttering to myself, I heard God respond in what I call His “loud inside voice.”

“I can’t believe anyone would have that kind of hatred in their heart!” I muttered.

“You mean like your hatred for child molesters?”

The message was in so quickly– my defenses had been down because my offense was up. I heard what I heard clear as a bell, and I was angry about it for a long time. As with every incidence in my life of hearing this particular voice, it has always left me without argument. I also can’t just dismiss it or ignore it, The voice has always been right, painfully right, even if I didn’t understand why. I disagreed with and resented the unspoken message, and I still do, but I knew then it was right as I know it now.

Yes, I hated child molesters, and much of me still does. I am not going to detail my own story here, or the things in my life that have happened since that day in the lab. Some of the story is mine to tell, and other parts belong to others – I cannot tell their story and to tell mine would be counterproductive.

If God was merely pointing out and congratulating my hatred for child molesters with a divine “high five”, I wouldn’t have been the slightest bit offended. But there is always a message within the message – and, in this case, the message was terrible:

“You hate them with such an intensity that you want them all dead and condemned, AT ANY PRICE.”

Right after the Biblical Feast of Sukkot, I began studying the reality of evil and radical forgiveness. Nothing I have ever studied has been more excruciating. I have been shaken to the core – and yet, my mind has also been eased by learning about what forgiveness is and is not.

Two weeks ago, God showed me the reality behind my fantasies of revenge and retaliation – they weren’t going to ever happen. I may be a murderer in my heart and mind, but my hands are not willing, despite my verbal bravado. God also showed me that He has no intention of killing every single child molester on the planet. And we know that the justice system will not be incarcerating them all, and even if they did – they would not remain safely locked up. There are not enough jails in the world to hold them, and the Biblical penalty of death in such cases is not being implemented. That is our reality.

So what power do we have? Prayer.

So, do I simply pray for an ever-growing number of victims? Will that do anything to stop the abuse, to stop there from being more and more victims every single day? No, the victim count will rise and I will simply have more victims to pray for, every day more and more. That isn’t acceptable to me – I don’t want my prayers to simply be a trauma ward after the fact. It seems like admitting defeat, “We can’t stop them all so let’s just pray for their victims.”

We have to remember that, in much of the world, this behavior isn’t even illegal. Do we just write off those kids? Pray for them after the damage is done and irrevocable? That isn’t acceptable to me either. I can no longer justify ONLY praying for the victims.

As I see it now, the only recourse is to pray for those who are victimizing the children in the first place. Worldy methods just don’t work – people just go back and offend and offend again and again. I believe the only hope for the children of the world is for their abusers to come to Yeshua/Jesus, and for that to happen I believe the demonic stranglehold of this unfathomable evil has to be broken in their lives. Yes, I want them to suffer, and I want to sit back and comfortably hate them and abandon them to the devil – but that comes with too great a price tag–more and more victims.

How many more children should be sacrificed on the altar of my revenge, just because the thought of them being forgiven is too terrible for me to bear?

And so today I begin 40 days of fasting and praying for the salvation of the people who, if they do not repent and come to salvation, will victimize more and more and more. I am so conflicted. I want to do this for the sake of future victims. I want to do this for the sake of the children whose molestation would stop now, today even, if salvation comes to their attackers. I want revenge – but more than revenge I want to evil to end.

I suppose that if such a person comes to Messiah, that they will suffer as they contemplate their sins – as I suffer when I contemplate the times I have hurt people. But salvation has always been about this – about someone not getting the punishment they deserve, right? Faith is about trusting that although there will never be true justice in this world, that we will know it in the world to come. And so I am called to this bizarre mission field – but unlike other missionaries, I am reluctant. Today I will ask the Lord for the salvation and deliverance of one child molester – something that up until now has been unthinkable to me. I even do it knowing that this might make me the most hated woman on earth. But what if? What if a father, one who was molested himself, stopped before he even began? What if even one child trafficker had a salvation experience and turned him/herself in. What if someone else refused to kidnap or purchase a child today? What if?

I have seen amazing things come from prayer – I believe that God works miracles through prayer. Yeshua/Jesus told His disciples that they would do greater things than He did while on earth – what could be greater than to save children? Are we willing to pay the price? It is high.

A word of caution on the comments – this is a sensitive and emotional subject, for all of us. I have friends who have been molested, whose children have been molested, some people’s children have committed suicide after molestation, others go on to commit these terrible crimes themselves. No matter what has happened, there are victims on every side, hurting in different, and violently painful ways. I ask that everyone just extend grace to one another. I won’t allow any victim bashing – assume that if someone is lashing out, that they are frustrated and hurting. It will be hard for me to endure because I am hurting too, but if I can endure it, then I ask everyone else to be patient and loving as well. Our personal situation is not the same as everyone else’s – but we tend to only see our own side of it and want everyone else to as well. That’s natural. What I will not allow, and have never allowed on this page, is personal attacks, cheap shots, any demeaning of anyone else on this wall – no naming of names – this has always been a rule here. I don’t even allow my enemies to be slandered here. We can’t fight evil by doing evil.

January 3, 2018

Day 2 – The Man Who Stood in my Grey Zone. –

If you haven’t read the last few posts, you might want to before reading this. The stuff I am writing about right now is going to be disturbing to folks – especially without the context of the posts that have come before.


He wasn’t totally in my gray zone, mind you. A lot of him stood in the zone I reserve for the blackest of the black – at least I presume he did. I really don’t know.

In the early 1990’s, NAMBLA (the North American Man-Boy Love Association) got outed for holding their monthly meetings in the San Francisco public library, one floor above their children’s section, so the news reports went. No one was happy – not parents, not non-parents, not the well established gay community of the city. My gay friends at work and in the neighborhood (I was working at an Aerospace company in Berkeley, right across the bay) were outraged. Christian/non-Christian – you name it, people had their torches and pitchforks out and frankly, that was good and right. NAMBLA is set on the legalization of pedophilia and is probably the most hated group in the US.

While watching the news one night, brows furrowed and mouth pursed angrily, muttering obscenities (hey, I was NOT saved at that point, okay? Honesty time here), they interviewed a guy that made everyone watching catch their breath in horror.

“I am just grateful that my grandfather loved me enough to allow me to play Doctor with him when I was a little boy.”

The kid looked like he was in his 20’s, my age at the time, or that’s how I remember him. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I don’t know if this young man ever had, or ever did, molest anyone – but he equated the act itself with love. His grandfather had twisted his little boy trust into believing that violation was some form of familial nurturing. I have always imagined that was the only way his mind could deal with the molestation – to turn it into something special instead of acknowledging the horrific nature of it. I wonder if he was even interested in molesting anyone himself, or if he just joined the group as some unconscious attempt to normalize what had happened to him – to make it okay.

Do I believe that God can heal that kind of twisting? I have to. Does that twisting excuse abuse? No. It better explains it but doesn’t justify it, doesn’t make it any less wrong, doesn’t make it an inevitable outcome, and certainly doesn’t give anyone a free pass on consequences.

All day yesterday, praying for people I don’t want to pray for – I spent a lot of time walking because only while walking would my mind quiet down, only then could I just pray. Sometimes I just loudly groaned because praying was hurting me in areas that I hadn’t felt in a long time. My flesh, in this, is hostile towards God. I obey, but with no joy, with no sense of holiness or righteousness. I pray because I have been given that burden. My flesh is screaming, “foul.”

I am not a great prayer warrior, and never have been, so this is difficult on a number of levels. My prayers are not from the heart, each syllable forced from my lips. I make a rather pathetic spectacle as I retreat to the treadmill (I don’t want to wear out my carpets), groaning and protesting from a place deep inside me.

It is what it is, and that is why I don’t ask anyone to join me, or expect anyone to understand, or approve of, what I am doing. I don’t quite approve of it, not yet. I am not asking anyone not to hate, not to want these people dead. I am not telling anyone what to do or judging anyone. All I am doing is sharing this insane thing I know God has asked me to do, for whatever reason. Maybe not one will come to faith – maybe this is about breaking me completely by having me do the unthinkable for 40 days. Reluctant is my new middle name, and I just hope that my grudging prayers count for something. Maybe salvation for someone who is tormented by demonic thoughts but has never offended yet, maybe my prayers are strong enough for that, but it will be many days, I think, before I can do this without feeling like this.

But the children. Each offender (or potential offender) who turns towards God and is delivered – I think I once saw a statistic that the average molester will hurt 100 children. I have trouble, still, wanting to pray for people who have crossed that line, but right now I can, absolutely, focus my prayers on the people who have not yet. I just think of that NAMBLA kid, and it does make it easier. I pray he got help, and I pray he is okay now.

Yes, if we were under Torah they would be killed – the ones who got caught, anyway. But we are in exile. Exile means we do not live under Torah. Exile means no easy answers. For years I have said, “Well, if we only lived by Torah…” but we don’t. So it’s either (1) continue to lament about what should be, (2) become a politician and change the laws, (3) become a vigilante, (4) or pray in the only way I can think of to keep this from happening in the first place. The cycle has to be broken – this is the only path I see available to me. I wish we lived in the fantasy land where the laws were correct on this, but instead, we live in a real world that we need to face and deal with according to the weapons of God and not the weapons of this world.

Jan 4, 2018

Day 3 – Do I Love a God Who Can Forgive and Restore Nazis? – 124.0

Today I have the privilege of telling you about two heroes of mine.

I once listened to a popular radio talk show host, a conservative Jew, whose mother was Catholic and whose father was Jewish and she stated quite frankly that she couldn’t accept Christianity because of the forgiveness factor. She simply couldn’t accept a Jesus who would forgive the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Eva Mozes Kor, on the other hand, was a “Mengele twin” from Auschwitz, who did forgive, and found great freedom – without ever condoning the Holocaust, she forgave. Her video is viral out there on youtube, and I recommend everyone watch it.

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were imprisoned for hiding Jews during the Holocaust and then sent to the Herzogenbusch and Ravensbruck concentration camps. It was the dead of winter and frail Betsie was generally sick, yet unfailingly taught from the Bible she had smuggled into the camp. Betsie’s eventual death was tragic and made it all the harder after the war for Corrie to forgive the perpetrators of the Nazi madness. At a speaking engagement years after the war, she was greeting people afterward, when, standing a few people before her, she caught sight of an SS guard that she recognized from the camp. How could she shake his hand, how could she keep from lashing out and scratching his eyes out? She was in a torment – until he came forward in repentance, freely confessing his past sins, and told her he was now a Christian. He asked if she could accept him as a brother in Christ, and the love of God swept through her and allowed her to take his hand – with great joy.

Just want to be clear here that Joseph Mengele died, as far as we know, never repenting. Eva Mendez Kor’s decision to forgive was a personal one, which didn’t involve any sort of reconciliation – it was a true, free gift. One she has been widely criticized and hated for within the Jewish community – BUT, she had the absolute right to do it or not do it. I am posting a few videos and articles about her in the comments – I hope you will watch this incredible woman and hear her story.

Anyway, last night I wrestled all night. I didn’t sleep much, and what dreams I had were scattered and unhappy. I felt very lost and stuck. How can He forgive and restore people who came to their senses after the Holocaust? According to the words of our Messiah in John 6:44, the Father had to actually draw them first. Nazis. I knew one, in my youth. By the time I met him, Jerry was older than I am now. I only learned years later that he had been a Nazi – he seemed like the most normal person on earth, really nice. I don’t know what he did in the war, where he was stationed, any of that. Gosh, he was so normal. A couple of years ago, while I was still homeschooling, we read a book called The Wave – and since then I have never questioned how “nice people” can descend into depravity and violence so quickly. It was remarkable how quickly and easily people’s minds can be warped to the point where right seems wrong, and wrong seems justified. We see it in the aftermath of revolutions all the time.

I want to agree with the Jewish radio talk show host – I really do. I want to believe that there are crimes, ones that fall short of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (slandering/lying about the witness of the Spirit in any way – whether it be to attribute divine miracles to Beelzebub (Matt 12:27) or for a believer to call the inner witness that Yeshua is Messiah a lie (John 15:26, Hebrews 6)) that are just beyond God’s ability to forgive. I want to think that an evil person is evil forever – it makes me feel better about hating them. I want them in that big evil box I keep stored safely away where no one can jostle it.

I want for so much more to be unforgiveable. So much more. The agony of thinking that so many other things are forgivable is just constant. I feel it like a great, heavy, ache in my chest.

Yesterday was not a fruitful day in prayer, though I did pray. I was reading Romans, Amy Carmichael’s biography (we have come to the point where she has rescued a young temple prostitute – praise God!), and a book that a couple of friends just read that would probably start a riot if I admitted it. The guy has a lot of wrong to say, but when he says something right – it is right at a very disturbingly deep level. Ah well, we all have a piece of the puzzle, right?

My prayers – begging God to break the cycle of child sexual abuse. I can still do little more than pray for those who are offenders in their minds but who have not yet harmed a child. When I think of praying for anyone who has actually transgressed in the flesh, and when sometimes I am able to reach beyond myself and do it, I want nothing more than to pound my fists on the floor and throw things. In the night, I want to scream for not understanding. How can He ask this of me? How can I refuse? I used to write internet porn stories on the old boards – a child could have found them, and read them. Maybe I am a molester too because of that. Maybe everyone who has ever left a magazine laying around for their kids or babysitter to find, or took their kids to the store only to have them walk by explicit women’s magazine covers, maybe we are all guilty in one way or another. I don’t know. Where does God draw the line on what it is to violate a child? I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.

I know what God has asked me to do. I guess I would rather be Jonah and wait on the hillside, under a green plant, for their destruction. But I know that God, from beginning to end, deals with sin not generally by massive destruction (which doesn’t work in eliminating sin), but through redeeming and transforming sinners – like me.

Jan 5, 2018

Day 4 – God is so totally not interested in my suggestion box comments

I am such an idolater. I constantly judge Him for not being more like me. I resent His independence from my feelings about how I think things should be.

My ideas about justice and what is right and wrong are so incredibly temporal and tied up with my emotions. I want Him to make sense to me. I want Him to agree with me, hate what I hate, be as unforgiving and unbending as I am, and yet love what I love and be as flexible as I can be when it suits me.

So I rail at Him when He asks me to do something that I find offensive, mostly because I can’t find a single Scripture backing me up and I resent that, a lot. I want to at least have a horse in this race, a non-flesh argument on my side – even one. That’s the worst part. Understanding that He is right and yet still not agreeing with Him. It’s just messed up.

As soon as I came to peace with that – my being messed up and needing to be dealt with – I got this burst of energy yesterday. I can pray now. I still disagree with Him, but am at peace with the fact that – well, that it’s my problem and He doesn’t need to hear about it 24/7. I cannot, however, promise that He has heard the last of it.

We really, rarely believe that He is God and we are just the created, the servants, the slaves, the children – whatever. However we put it, we are still unwise, subordinate, fleshy, and totally committed to seeing things from our own point of view. We don’t take the long view because, in some ways, it is unfathomable to us. We cannot imagine a future where just will look like no more tears, no more desire for revenge, no more betrayals, where we won’t care about what was done to us anymore.

Did you know that love and hate in the bible are not emotional words, but instead covenant terms? Emotions are kinda wild, and they lead us astray way too often. But chesed translated instead as Covenant loyalty – that will get us through the long, dark night of our doubts and times when we wonder about the legitimacy of all this. When hatred becomes a lack of preference, a non-Covenant status, the unchosen, and not necessarily the hatred that drives our flesh to murder, gossip, and every other evil work – we are called suddenly to a much higher level of our following of Yeshua/Jesus. It isn’t about what we feel, understand, or agree with – it is what the Master calls us to do in response to what He has done.

So I am done fighting, maybe. Maybe. For now. Asked God for four sexual predators converted and transformed yesterday. I prayed that God would violently break into their consciousness and show them His heart and His truth. I asked that they won’t even be able to enjoy thoughts of violating any child. More than anything, I plead for the cycle to stop, because we will never catch them all, not even most of them. God most effectively deals with evil by changing people. In a world where they can manipulate and hide for a lifetime, and even go to other countries legally to violate, when it is so hard to prove charges – oh God, please. Stop them. Stop them because kids don’t usually tell what happened. Stop them because I can’t. And then, let them be moved to face their consequences and do right by their victims, who deserve to be acknowledged as having been desperately wronged.

No update tomorrow, want to focus on worship and this is not Sabbathy material.

Jan 7, 2018


Day 6 – The God who has mercy on whom He will have mercy

First of all, answering a concern. If you have no concerns, then skip ahead. Why am I fasting publicly? Am I looking for attention? Well, honestly, I fast like very often and I have never mentioned it in the past 7 years I have been on facebook. I have fasted 40 days in the past without a peep out of me. I routinely fast from between 3-5 days, again, no one ever knows. I am fasting for my own spiritual growth so why would I say anything? But, like Esther, who fasted publicly and told people about it – sometimes there are situations so serious that we need folks to come alongside us. Unlike Esther, I can’t and won’t command anyone to join me. But I do appreciate the prayer support. As for journalling it – you guys know I journal through everything I am going through. Same old same old. What I am praying for is just too big for me, like it was too big for Esther – I can’t do this without support. This isn’t about me this time, it is about other people. Though God is strong enough, I am not.

Am I going to keep oiling my head and appearing happy – well, yeah – the only pains I have talked about have been my wrestlings with God, and those hurt just as bad whether I am eating or not, and you are all used to me doing it. What fasting does is really make me more pliable, and my defenses against what He wants a lot weaker – and so this is good.

My health: is awesome, actually. Haven’t had one of my warning headaches, but if I do, I will re-evaluate. My option on the table is a vegetable and water fast, but I hate those with the intensity of a thousand red hot suns, so I prefer to just water fast. You need to understand, when God has me fasting, I literally cannot swallow what I put in my mouth. It’s abhorrent to me. I would have to do it willfully. I wouldn’t be able to eat a pizza right now, gross, and you guys know how much I love pizza. Extra cheese, turkey pepperoni, maybe some mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives – but as long as there is extra cheese, I am not picky. And the crust brushed with butter and rubbed with garlic.

So, back to what I wanted to write about:

Romans 9:18

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Got told last week that what I am doing (praying for the salvation of sexual predators in order to save future victims from being violated) was dangerous and leading people astray. I accept that it is distasteful, and it certainly was to me at first. Hardest thing I have ever prayed for. But we are wrong if we look at God as though He can be manipulated into an injustice. Truly, only God really knows what true justice and injustice looks like, and so He has undoubtedly hardened some offenders – of that I have no doubt. Just as Eichmann and Mengele went to their graves without regret, there are pedophiles out there who are hardened beyond salvation. I don’t ask God for those, although I do wish for their speedy deaths or at least permanent incarceration.

I can’t ask for and receive, anything in prayer that God does not desire – that’s a fact. He isn’t a pagan god who can be manipulated by my using the correct pronunciation of his one true name (like Isis did to Ra), and forced into doing what I want. No, He can only comply with His own nature.

The more I do this, the more hope I have for the cycle to be broken among the young – especially those who have not offended yet. God doesn’t want a single child molested, not even one. He also doesn’t want them to become pedophiles themselves. God hates injustice.

Interesting side effect of all this, it has put all other small slights (and compared to this, they are pretty much all small) into a radically realistic perspective. We really want everything done to us to be a damning offense, right? But the big stuff is coming into perspective as well. Not only am I coming to forgive the evil that was done to me, but also, the evil done to someone else whom I love more than my own life. It is their violation that torments me, not my own. I realize that in praying this, I am praying for them as well – that they will not offend. My love for them alone, will not keep them from doing this to someone else. I am praying not only for their life, but the lives of what children they might have or come in contact with. I hadn’t really thought of it before because I was too consumed with agony. I don’t share their story because it is not mine to tell, and no one should be exposed and violated simply for being a victim. Their story isn’t inspiration or outrage fodder for others – not unless they choose that.

God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and He will render without hope, those whom he chooses. Or else we wouldn’t be here, right? No one deserves what He did for us, How He redeemed us at the Cross and then began the New Creation in each of us, transforming us – making us into His image-bearers. We don’t deserve any of that – no one does. So we pray for everyone, and He will decide which prayers to honor and which to ignore – but there is no danger in praying, in blessing those who persecute us, just as long as we hold to what is good and reject what is evil (Ro 12:14)

Jan 8, 2018

Day 7 – The Mormon technicality (I have since been informed by different ex-Mormons in my sphere that the view of Mary’s actual impregnation that I was exposed to was regional, but that the rest remains uncontested)

I have lived in predominantly Mormon communities for 11 of my last 23 years. The town I live in now has 120 Mormon churches in it for a town of 56,000. That’s one Mormon church for roughly every 450 people – plus we have a Temple here. The first Mormon town I lived in, for ten of those years, was a small town of 10,000 in southern Idaho and, if anything, it was a lot more Mormon than this one. You were either a Mormon, or a jack-Mormon (unobservant yet loyal). If you were a Christian running for office, it had to be as a Democrat because you would not be allowed to run as a Republican – the church had that tied up. They also had the police force firmly under wraps.

The one thing I learned early on, after coming to Christ, was that molestation of girls by their fathers and stepfathers was epidemic and protected by the church. Why? Because of their belief that Heavenly Father, Elohim, physically came to earth and impregnated his literal daughter, Mary. Their god is in heaven making babies like gangbusters and, as a 12-year-old Mormon girl once told me, so this is not second-hand gossip, “Heavenly Father saw that Mary was the most beautiful girl who had ever lived and couldn’t help himself.” Honestly, I wanted to go home and bathe in bleach after she told me that. I mean, someone actually told that to a 12-year-old girl, or maybe she was a lot younger when she heard it. I really don’t want to think about it.

So, in this we have a conundrum. A god with no self-control who had sex with his own daughter to make Jesus, who would someday become a god by living according to the tenants of Mormonism.

My neighbor came to me, upset about a write up of Mormonism in like Time magazine or something, right before the 2002 Olympics in SLC. “Why don’t they think we are Christians?” I laid out before her that Christians, besides believing that becoming gods ourselves was Lucifer’s sin, don’t believe in a carnal god who impregnated his own daughter. She quickly and nervously jumped in, “Well, no one knows for sure what happened.” But she didn’t deny it.

Although these beliefs are not well known in the larger Mormon empire, they are very common in Utah and Idaho, which are more traditional than the moderate Mormonism elsewhere. And don’t get me going on their views of evil angels and people being reincarnated black.

So, we have a belief that their god is carnal and had sexual relations with his daughter. Although most Mormon men would never consider the ramifications of that, much less ever do such a thing, too many men in these more rural Mormon–dominated communities do – they hold more to the old ways of Mormonism that are more deeply tied to the doctrines of their prophet Joseph Smith than their modern-day politically-minded prophets. I know a lot of women who escaped Mormonism out of such communities, and they tell tales of their own molestation at the hand of fathers and stepfathers while their mothers stood by – not knowing what to do because they won’t get called into heaven if their husbands are displeased with them. I have been told of meetings with a Bishop (or something, can’t remember) where his advice to distraught mothers was, “Get a deadbolt for the inside of her door.” In Mormon homes, “Temple worthy” homes, as long as a man is observing the laws externally, and tithing according to the dictates of the church accountants, he will not be acted against. The Mormon father is, in some ways, a god in his own home and not just a man. As I said, you find this in the more ancient and traditional communities that stretch back to the 1800’s.

So, today, I didn’t know exactly what to pray for – but I wanted to put the plight of these precious girls in your hearts. It is one thing to pray for the salvation of someone who believes that he/she is still just a mere man, but someone who believes that they practically already are, and will, in fact, be a god? I pray that God will rid them of this arrogant notion and convict them of their abominations. I pray for the strength of these girls, as they grow up, that they will not be intimidated by religion and promises of glory, but instead ruled by love and compassion when it comes to dealing with their own daughters and husband. Their minds are being twisted, and it isn’t their fault. My heart is sick with grief for them.


Context for Kids Volume 4 Now Available!

Context for Kids Volume 4 is now available at Amazon.com so I am giving you a sneak peak at the first two chapters. This book is, from start to finish, one big lesson on how we are to be true image-bearers of God through following His Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus. The first half of the book talks about our original function, how that was corrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve, and how God directed the rest of the history towards the New Creation on the Cross and what that means in our lives. The last half of the book is an exploration of what the Fruit of the Spirit should look like in our lives based on the life of our Master.

From the back cover: Do you know why Jesus had to come in human form and die a terrible death at the hands of the Roman Empire? We all know the easy answers, but are they too easy? What do the life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God have to do with humankind’s original mission in the Garden? Was Jesus plan B, or was He always the only plan? What does the Law given at Sinai have to do with the ongoing story of redemption? What happened to mankind when idolatry entered the picture, and how did Jesus reverse that damage? Finally, what exactly is this New Creation referred to by Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians, and why is it one of the central, while least understood, themes of Scripture? New Creation studies is one of the hottest topics among scholars today—one that is radically transforming our concept of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Arming kids with this knowledge will equip them to live out their faith as adults. Join me as we discover exactly why Jesus had to die by crucifixion—and why that death and resurrection took the polytheistic world by storm. Learn God’s plan for humanity as it existed from the beginning, how humankind corrupted their status as image-bearers, and how the New Creation – inaugurated on the Cross – literally changed everything.

Order here <————


God Is Not Like Us

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9, ESV)

What was God telling the prophet Isaiah when He inspired him to write this Scripture? The children of Israel were in terrible trouble; they were divided into two different countries: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. These were the descendants of those who, seven hundred years earlier, were united around the base of Mt Sinai, received the commandments and heard the voice of God speaking from the Mountain, and were sprinkled with the blood of the Covenant. Their children had gone their own ways, and, under bad leadership, were falling into more and more idol worship and cruelty. Isaiah, and all the Bible prophets, called out to Israel and Judah to persuade them to return to God with all their heart, mind, and strength. Sometimes a good king would rise up and lead the kingdom of Judah into more righteous living for a while; but all too often, as soon as he died, a wicked king would take his place and make things even worse.

So, what happened? Well, what always happens — people decide for themselves what God wants and believes instead of listening to what He says He wants and believes. When we do that, we are treating our own thoughts and ways with more respect than His. We are saying that our thoughts are actually the same as, or better than, His thoughts; we are insisting that our ways are the same as, or better than, His ways.

Throughout our lives, people will tell us that the Bible was written by men who were just giving us their opinions; they might even say that those men made up God entirely! Why do they say such things? Well, the Bible presents an incredibly challenging way of life; it tells us to love God first and to love our neighbors in some very self-sacrificing ways. The Scriptures command us to care for the widowed, poor, orphaned, hungry and oppressed. That deprives us of our time and money. We are commanded to kindness and compassion — to honor others more highly than ourselves. God’s Word teaches us which things are abominable — completely unacceptable — to Him. But if those things appeal to us, personally, we might convince ourselves that they really are acceptable to God. In some cases, we may not want to do forbidden things, but because other people do, we might feel so guilty or embarrassed about what the Bible says that we ignore or discount it.

He says, “For I the Lord, do not change.” (Malachi 3:6a, ESV)

Unfortunately, we try to change Him whenever He tells us something that we don’t want to hear. We also try to change Him when we claim that He is like us. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Jesus was a Conservative”? A Republican? A Liberal? How about a Democrat? There are even books on the market claiming such things, but that is a big mistake. What Jesus was, and is, is the very image of the Living God. We will discuss what that means in later lessons. In a nutshell, it is saying that the only entity Jesus is like is God the Father. Sometimes Conservatives and Liberals, Republicans and Democrats, get something right, but it isn’t because Jesus is like them; it’s because they decided to act like Jesus. That’s a HUGE difference. Our job is to become like Jesus because He is like God; He is the only flesh and blood perfect example that we have. Jesus’s example, referred to throughout this book, is going to teach us the differences between true worship and idolatry, true images and false images, and good fruit and bad fruit. Jesus is going to teach us about why He died — and that is to make each of us into a New Creation.


This is a really short lesson because I have given you a lot to think about in one day. Did you know that many people, especially adults, go through their entire lives without it ever occurring to them that God disagrees with them on anything? Can you think of an instance where the Bible says one thing but people claim that the opposite is true? Do God’s churches always agree with Him and His Word? Read Isaiah 55:8–9 again, and then read what King Solomon wrote:
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9, ESV)

Do you think we are any different than the people in the Bible, or do we need to be careful not to fall into the same exact traps?


Made in His Image

There is a weird and mysterious verse in the first chapter of Genesis that tells us God’s intentions in making humans: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1.26–27 ESV)

People often ask, “What does that mean? Does it mean that God has a body as we do? Is God a human that looks like us, or is He male and female at the same time?” Well, to answer those questions we need to look at what the word “image” means throughout the Bible.

There are two main kinds of images in the Scriptures — true images and false images. Let’s talk about false images first so we can get a better idea what a true image might be.

We don’t really see it in our modern world, but in Bible days the world was full of false images or idols. Idols were carved or molded figurines of imaginary gods; people would set small ones up in their homes, and priests would set large ones up in temples. Now, contrary to what a lot of people believe, no one thought that these were the gods themselves. They believed that an idol served as an intermediary.

Intermediary — a person or thing that acts as a link between a person and their God/god; a type of mediator.

In the case of idolatry, the idols themselves were just regular clay, wood, or metal — although sometimes they would make them from special “sacred” wood or of metal that “fell from heaven” (a meteorite). What made every idol special in the eyes of the worshiper was the mouth opening ceremony. To make an idol functional, the idol maker or the priest would chant a special incantation and touch a sacred dagger (or some other item) to the mouth of the idol. This was done to fill the idol with the life essence of the god — temporarily or permanently.

Now, why would they do that? Were they trying to trap the god in that idol? Nope.

You see, their gods were nothing like the One True God of the Bible. Their gods needed to eat, sleep, and take baths! It may seem funny, but they really believed that — and still do in some religions even today. They didn’t have one God who created and ran the entire universe single-handedly; they had a whole bunch of gods in charge of specific things. They had a god in charge of the sun and another in charge of the moon, and it was obvious to them that the same god couldn’t do both of those things! They had a god of storms, a god of agriculture, a god of fertility, and…well, they had gods for everything! Their gods weren’t good at multitasking; they could only handle one job!

So what does that mean? Well, it means that each god had a vitally important cosmic function.

Cosmic Function: a heathen god’s area of responsibility, e.g. the sun, agriculture, fertility, etc.

Now here is where this became stressful for ancient idol worshipers: they believed their gods had very important jobs but that they also had to eat, sleep and bathe. If the gods were expected to find food for themselves or take care of their own needs, they might get distracted. Distracted gods weren’t going to do their jobs well: the sun might not come up, the rain might not fall, and the crops might die. Not only that, but the people believed that distracted gods got angry and sometimes meddled with humans just for fun. That was almost never a good thing. People wanted their gods to stay as far away from them as possible — doing their jobs and not making trouble!

So, what to do? Well, they made an idol to represent the god, performed a ceremony to put the life spirit of that god into the idol, and then cared for it. They “fed” the idol, clothed the idol, bathed it, oiled and perfumed it, and put it to bed at night (or during the day). What does that sound like to you? To me, it sounds an awful lot like they were treating the idol as a king or queen, and that is exactly what they were doing. Heathen priests were very much like a palace staff, and ancient temples were palaces for gods. As the palace staff cares for the king or queen so that they can do the hard work of running the kingdom and protecting the people, idols were similarly cared for in order to keep the world functioning properly.

You might be wondering how they fed the idol when an idol obviously cannot eat. Well, they would prepare the best food they could find and set it before the idol. The god would then “spiritually” eat the food while leaving the food itself behind. The priests got to eat the leftovers, of course, but feeding the god through an idol was the only way the people believed the god would not starve to death. They really didn’t think very highly of their gods in a lot of ways.


This week, I want you to think about false images. We are going to spend the entire curriculum talking about the second commandment and what it means in our everyday lives. In fact, I would like for you to make a poster of Exodus 20:4–6, and throughout the lessons I am going to encourage you to memorize it. It is a verse that a lot of people misunderstand (or don’t fully understand), but by the end of these lessons, you won’t be one of those people!

Social Media Bullying: Is “Christ” a pagan word?

While finding old articles to transfer from social media to my blog, I happened upon this one from two years ago. I am finally starting to really get feeling better and was able to read an actual scholarly article this morning without any confusion, so this is great progress and I have a lot of hope that I will soon be operating at pre-stroke mental capabilities soon! God is so good!

December 31, 2015

We need to stop being afraid of words and we need to stop being intimidated by those who label everything as pagan but without anything but wild stories backing it up – there are people out there who want to outlaw just about every word that has been associated with Christianity, sometimes making up preposterous stories about pagan origins – I covered “Amen” in my blog a couple of weeks back – how about “Christ.” I was looking at the Septuagint earlier in the week and found this in Habakkuk.


Habakkuk 3:13 in the Septuagint – referring to the Messiah as the ‘anointed’ – the word is christos. The Septuagint (translation began during 3rd century BCE and was completed roughly 132 BCE) was translated by a group of 70 (or 72) great Torah scholars who were fluent in Greek, and is an incredibly useful tool for the understanding of what words meant in context at the time. Many quotes from of the Tanack (OT) by the NT authors were actually taken from the Septuagint version, which is why they do not match up perfectly with the Hebrew. Evidently, the scholars saw no problem with using the word christos in Messianic verses so it cannot possibly be an inherently ‘pagan’ word. Just ask any Jewish friend of yours and they will readily admit that getting 70 Jewish scholars to agree on something is a miracle!

ἐξῆλθες εἰς σωτηρίαν λαοῦ σου τοῦ σῶσαι τοὺς **χριστούς** σου ἔβαλες εἰς κεφαλὰς ἀνόμων θάνατον ἐξήγειρας δεσμοὺς ἕως τραχήλου διάψαλμα

Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine **Christos (anointed);** thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah.

Psalm of Solomon 17:32 (Jewish Wisdom Literature – first or second century BCE)

καὶ αὐτὸς βασιλεὺς δίκαιος διδακτὸς ὑπὸ θεοῦ ἐπ᾽ αὐτούς καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἀδικία ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτοῦ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν ὅτι πάντες ἅγιοι καὶ βασιλεὺς αὐτῶν **χριστὸς** κυρίου

And he will be a righteous king over them, taught of God. And there shall be no unrighteousness in his days in their midst, for all shall be holy and their king the Lord **Christos (Messiah).**

Apart from the word woundedst, which is an offensive attack on the English language, there is nothing terrible going on here. Christos is obviously a completely legitimate non-pagan word.

Demonizing words is a form of online terrorism, guys. Let it go. We have to stop policing each other and looking for things to hate, because it compromises our integrity.


To Love Kindness (Micah 6:8) – 2016 Social Media Series

I wrote this back in August 2016 – it’s a many part series when God challenged me about the requirement of loving kindness. It was a lesson that I had to learn because of a very grueling ordeal at the hands of people whom I had mistakenly thought were friends, who I had ministered to, and even spent money helping. It was a deeply personal and humiliating violation of my dignity, but God did use it in my life – although, all told, it took Him 9 whole months to get through to me. I am still in recovery from my November and December strokes and not really able to do new teachings but it has been a good opportunity to transfer some old social media teachings to the blog.

August 16, 2016

Sabbath/Feast Culture Experiment Week #32

A Love of Kindness

I am not there yet, not by a long shot.

Near the end of the Shemoneh Esrei, the “eight plus ten” prayers that were composed by the men of the Great Assembly, headed by Ezra at the time of the building of the Second Temple, there is a section entitled “Peace” where the Spirit has apprehended me for two days in a row by drawing my attention to the following statement:

“…Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the light of your countenance, for with the light of your countenance you gave us, HaShem our God, the Torah of life and a love of kindness…” – The Complete Artscroll Siddur

The “love of kindness” stopped me dead in my tracks two days in a row, so here on the third day I want to address it.

Michah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Pro 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Zech 7:8-10 And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

Ro 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Col 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

I find it a fascinating phenomenon that when we, as Gentiles, came to Torah, we by and large did not do so with the proper attitude of believing that kindness is a virtue – in fact, we seemed to hate all displays of kindness and labelled it instead as enabling, a hatred for the truth, weakness, etc. Yet, the Shemoneh Esrei specifically draws our attention to Micah 6:8 where we are not only to act kind, that isn’t enough and it isn’t always genuine, but to love kindness – to love it. This love we are called to have for kindness is “ahavah” love – the kind of love we first see mentioned as referring to Jacob’s love for Rachel, the kind of love that was willing to labor for 14 years. It is a love tied to faithfulness, meekness, humility and patience, an enduring and delivering love.

What would happen if we dropped everything, all of our impatient posturing, and pursued kindness the way Jacob labored for Rachel?

I am going to leave it there.

Moving forward from yesterday’s Sabbath/Feast Culture post on what it means to love kindness.

Can you imagine having such a love and reverence for kindness that it created a barrier against cruelty? What if I loved kindness so dearly that it would actually cause me to loathe “snapping” or overreacting when I am frustrated? What if the fruit of self-control is actually tied to each of the other fruit? What if I need kindness in order to control the innate human desire to lash out at times? What if each measure of fruit actually manifests in its own unique area of restraint? Maybe that is why self-control is listed last and love is listed first. A desire to love others is the prerequisite for all, and total self-control would be the ultimate fruit of maturity in each and every one of these virtues.


To Love Kindness Micah 6:8 Pt 3

In learning to love kindness, we have to be careful about our hatred for unkindness because it can manifest itself as – well… more unkindness!

There is a big difference between hating unkindness and simply being hurt by someone else’s unkindness. We all hate it and get outraged when someone is unkind, because unkindness does damage – sometimes it does really deep damage that takes a long time to heal. How we respond to that damage tells us whether we truly hate unkindness or whether we just hate being hurt. We often hate the unkindness of others and make excuses for our own unkindness – especially retaliation-related unkindness.

I was recently wounded very deeply, twice on the same day from two unexpected sources and I struggled for about a week. At first, of course, I was just in shock – trying to get my bearings. I didn’t want to harm anyone at that point – I was just struggling to understand what had happened and why. As the shock wore off, about a day later, I slipped into a numbness and then into a real struggle – I wasn’t hating unkindness, I was like a wounded animal, longing to hurt someone but not having the heart to do it (having a conscience, however, is still not the same thing as hating unkindness!). A part of me wanted someone to hurt the way I was hurting, because I was howling with pain inside – really, it took every ounce of strength not to lash out. I am grateful that the I spent so much time in shock – actually I am really grateful this didn’t happen a few years ago because it would have been incredibly ugly.

I recognize now that I was being tested – sifted like the flour for the grain offering. I marginally passed not because I hated unkindness so much that it was unthinkable for me to lash out, but simply because the Spirit was communicating to me that this lashing out would be wrong.

I call this phenomenon “Tyler, shut up and trust me because you just don’t get it yet. Trust me, I am protecting you from yourself here.”

It didn’t matter that I was provoked, it didn’t matter the unkindness I was faced with – it didn’t matter. A response to something wrong can still be fatally wrong. We don’t get to exercise our flesh when wronged, and that chaps my hide something fierce, but we just don’t get to do it. If we are innocent of a charge, we have to remain innocent, but how many of us become guilty because of the way that we defend ourselves?

The fruit, the kindness and self-control, that we are called to is radical fruit. It looks wrong and feels wrong to our flesh – my flesh knows that what happened was wrong, and my flesh says, “That gives us carte blanche to go lopping off some heads!”

That’s a problem – people already came through and did damage. Do they also get to influence my behavior? Because that’s what we would have been talking about here – had I responded how I wanted to after the shock wore off, humans would have had more influence over me than the Spirit. When the Spirit curbs my behavior, my most common response it, “But that’s unfair!” Yeah, it’s unfair – everything that happened to my Master was grotesquely unfair, not just slightly unfair. Do I want to be like Him or not?

I tell you that not retaliating hurts more, and not less, than retaliating because not only does the original unkindness hurt like crazy, but the flesh screaming for vengeance night and day can hurt even worse. Flesh demands satisfaction, and being wedged between pain and the desire for vengeance – well, that’s the place where we either decide that we do or do not love kindness.

August 22, 2016

To Love Kindness (Micah 6:8) Part 4

I drank caffeine yesterday afternoon, which gave me a whole lot of time to think about things in the middle of the night. I started thinking – what does it mean to be kind to God?

There is the easy answer of simply submitting out wills to His individual plan for our lives, but what about making His job easier?

I started frowning, thinking of the different times when I created a stumbling block for this or that person – especially when I was new to the faith and then new to Torah. The guilt trips laid on me as a new believer, “If your loved ones died tonight, would they go to hell?” and the embarrassment I felt over being understandably ignorant, both in the beginning of my faith walk and again when I had my eyes opened to His Torah – they really twisted my perceptions of “my obligations” and I hit the ground running – well actually chasing people away. Not only wasn’t it kind to encourage and manipulate me into thinking I had to be an evangelist before I even knew what I myself believed, but I myself wasn’t being kind. I was in the “in crowd” now – going to Heaven as part of the remnant while Jews and non-believers were going to hell. (don’t get me started about the world to come… I know, I know)

Looking back, I made His job a lot harder for Him wherever I intervened.

The former Gentiles in Rome did the same thing for both God and Paul. They weren’t keeping to the same standards of kosher as the Jews of Rome with whom they were worshiping – it was, well, scandalizing the congregation, and destroying the witness of Yeshua and making the job Paul wanted to do there much more difficult. It’s a complex story (I wrote about it in King, Kingdom, Citizen) but in the end it came down to the former Gentiles needlessly creating a stumbling block for their brothers and sisters in their synagogues who did not yet know Messiah and sadly, might not ever want to because of the unkind behavior of the newcomers.

In Galatia, we had the flip side of the coin. Despite the Holy Spirit over-ruling the 18 edicts of Shammai at the house of Cornelius the Centurion by falling upon the entire family when they had not formally converted to Judaism, the Jews who did believe that Yeshua is Messiah refused to share table fellowship with them – simply because they had not formally converted through adult circumcision (I wrote about this in KKC as well, at length). Another stumbling block of unkindness.

I am certain that in both situations, the unkind meant well – heck, I meant well when I was young and ignorant, too. But meaning well is not the same as kindness – sometimes meaning well is just wanting to do good but refusing to take the time to find out what “good” actually means. Actually doing good means showing kindness to God and others, doing good in our own eyes usually means we are pursuing our agenda at all costs – agendas being whatever it is that we convince ourselves is good.

But if we pursue a love of kindness, maybe those agendas will fall away one by one – after all, even if our agenda is good, such things are only good for certain people in season, and out of season they are inappropriate and can even be detrimental. Until we can see that people are in different seasons of maturity and in need of different treatment accordingly, we don’t stand a ghost of a chance to know how to be kind and helpful towards God – we’ll just keep doing what we think is best, and when we do that, the words will come back void, because they are only His words when they are in season. The Word of God can’t be reduced to some kind of magic spell – where we speak the phrases in English (or even in Hebrew), however we want wherever and whenever we want, expecting them to do our will. We have to be kind, and true kindness requires patient discernment – something I rarely ever actually see.

August 23, 2016

To Love Kindness (Micah 6:8) Part 5

Been an insane week, well, insane two weeks really. Ever wake up in the middle of the night knowing something has changed but you have no idea what it is? Like something just snapped, and a season has changed? Felt it last night. Has me a bit worried because I am being forced to learn about kindness lol and worried about how I will be required to use it.

Saw a meme once, and at one point I would have agreed with it but it is one of those memes that means entirely different things to different people, it’s what I call a “behavior justification meme.”

It said something like, “Love means telling the truth, even when that truth hurts.”

Such memes are simply a carte blanche to be unkind, sort of a “get out of the guilt-jail free card.” As long as one believes they are telling the truth, they can just say they were “speaking the truth in love” when their conscience comes knocking at the door.

Of course, that meme was nonsense because we always think we know the truth, right? But how much “truth” boils down to plain old ignorant guesses and assumptions and even projection? How much truth is actually just opinions itching to be spoken?… or flesh screaming to be unleashed on the world?

It is often the height of self-deception and definitely the fruit of pride to convince oneself that personal opinion is not only truth, but also one’s obligation and loving duty to inflict on others.

Sitting here this moment thinking back and cringing, how many false “truths” do we remember feeling an uncontrollable urge to force on others as though they couldn’t live without them? How many of those do we regret now, with all our being? Are we somehow immune to our judgment being wrong now? How many people have we led astray with what we genuinely thought was true, and how many people have we wounded with opinions that served no purpose but to blow off steam?

It is incredibly unkind to tell the “truth” if all it does is make us feel better somehow – if it serves as a steam vent for frustration, ego, misplaced guilt, or sometimes genuinely well-deserved guilt. Why are we telling this “truth” and what purpose does it serve? Is this the right place, and the right time and am I the right person to tell it? Why do I want to tell this “truth” right now? Does this person even have the ability to receive what I am saying at this moment or am I going to create a stumbling block so that they will never receive it?

Telling people what we truly *think* is not the same thing as telling the truth, but it takes a sizable measure of humility to even consider that as true.

Kindness really does matter, and we owe it to others to learn how to be kind – in fact, it is better to err on the side of too much good fruit than not enough. I don’t think that we should simply write off having hurt people under the excuse of having told the truth – truth is, if we were truly mature in the fruit of kindness and the level of self-control that goes along with it, I bet we could, most of the time, tell the truth with a minimum of pain. Right now, it seems like we don’t think about the amount of pain we are causing, or questioning if we are causing enough pain in telling the “truth” that our truth-telling in fact has become sin.

August 24, 2016 

Part 6 – “What happens, in truth, when we return unkindness for unkindness? I mean really, what is the result?There is only one result – the person who was initially unkind to us hears our unkindness and feels justified, making it harder for them to repent.
In addition, their buddies standing by do not question their unkindness, figuring you are just a jerk who had it coming.Returning kindness for cruelty is the only hope that unkind people have of questioning their own actions because, as Robert Heinlein once wrote: “Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes.””

August 25, 2016

Part 7 – Showing kindness to our Spouse and kids
There are three types of people in this world when it comes to showing kindness:

The people who are only kind to their own loved ones, the people who are kind to everyone except their family, and the people who are somewhere in between.

I have no use for people in the first two groups – I am definitely one of the people who struggles in between.I struggle in between because I am rather too easily irritated and irritation tends to flow out of me as unkindness. Fear, also, shows itself through unkindness. Frustration. Anger – beneath my unkindness lurks quite a few emotions. I am at the point where I have mostly managed to contain it with outsiders over the past few years, and have been reigning it in with my family as well – but they still endure too much of it.
Strange, isn’t it? The people who need our love and kindness the most, because it means more to them than to anyone else in the world, are so often the recipients of unkindness.
We have to come to the point where we love kindness so much that our own unkindness brings us to tears, our unkindness needs to hurt us more than it hurts the people we unleash it on.
August 27, 2016

To Love Kindness (Micah 6:8) Part 8

Guarding the Peace of Others, and especially on the Sabbath

The Sabbath is a day to weigh every word and every action. It occurs to me that Friday should naturally be not only be a day of preparation but a day of repentance. Have we wronged anyone, have we crushed their dignity, have we done anything that might cause them to carry a lack of shalom into the Sabbath and into their own homes?

It seems to me as though we are too quick to damage others and far too slow to try and restore them. We steal peace but do not think to give it back. We feel a bit guilty maybe, but not enough to think about easing the burden we placed on another.

Our words are never spoken in a vacuum, despite the fact that we would love to believe that they are. We will be judged by every hasty word, every careless accusation, every insult, and every unjust judgment.

It is common in this culture to rashly speak our mind, and even more common to give no thought to it afterwards, thinking that our words produce no lasting effects – like ripples on a pond that go far but quickly dissipate, leaving no discernible difference in the pond.

But people are not ponds – they have lives, and struggles, fears and heartaches that they do not share with the world. No matter how well we may think we know someone, we never know how close to suicide someone might be, how little dignity they have remaining, how close they are to being literally humiliated to death. We just don’t know.

And so if we are going to engage with people whom we do not intimately know, we must always make allowances for the fact that we might have in front of us someone who just can’t take it anymore, someone who needs their dignity guarded and not degraded. No matter how it looks on the outside, many people who look like they have it together on the outside are dying from grief.

Yeshua knew every person’s heart – we don’t. He could speak what was on His mind to speak and have it always be appropriate – we can’t. Too many people blaspheme the Spirit by crediting the Spirit with inspiring their every word – and then come up with noble sounding names for their cruelty. I have heard more than one club-wielding person call themselves a “scalpel in the Lord’s hand.” Blasphemy – we dare not credit the Spirit as responsible for the actions of the flesh. We dare not accuse the Spirit of our callous words in order to endorse our own behavior.

Until we learn to guard the dignity of others, and not simply of those we are fond of – preferentially protecting those we love while running roughshod over those whom we don’t love, or love less – we are not the types of people who can be trustworthy ambassadors of the Name of our King. The more I read biographies of the great men and women of the faith, the more I see people who were not careless with their words, or quick to attribute their prejudices and harsh moments to the leading of the Spirit. Even a plot to murder Hitler was agonized over by Dietrich Bonhoeffer before he agreed to be a part of it – he was that cautious even with a monster.

How many of us would even think twice, so assured are we of the rightness of our impulses? How many of us think twice about hurting those around us who are not monsters at all or even dangerous – but simply irritating?

I guess what I mean to say is that people are drowning, and we have a choice to throw them a life-preserver, or a weigh them down with something heavy enough to drown them. We ought to think carefully about every word – and not just about the words we speak to those whom we admire, love, or feel protective of.

Extend dignity – love kindness. No more excuses.

August 28, 2016

To Love Kindness (Micah 6:8) Part 9

Kindly equipping others in season vs Unkindly vomiting information

There is a certain behavior that is common in social media religious circles that I absolutely detest – and that is when people who are not teachers will drop into a thread and make a comment that is either controversial, or way above the heads of many people – and then they just walk away, having no decency to stay and clean up the mess they just made in the lives of others.

(You might ask, “Why are you saying the people who do this aren’t teachers?” and I would respond, “Just because someone is spouting information doesn’t make them a teacher, but yes, some people who “teach” are not mature and some do this sort of thing – although most genuine teachers walking in maturity would see this type of behavior as not only futile, but as completely undermining the learning process)

Being a teacher requires kindness, a whole lot of it. I teach kids and beginners – which means that I don’t teach at my own level of knowledge. I don’t drop big complicated bombs on people and leave them desperately searching for a handhold. I don’t put things in front of people without first laying a foundation or without being there to answer questions if someone missed a step.

Teaching has to be about love, or it’s just a way of showing off. Giving someone something they don’t have, when they are ready for it and in a way that they can easily grasp, that’s kindness. Forcing on them something they are not ready for, in a way that makes them feel stupid – isn’t teaching.

There are people out there who are extraordinarily puffed up with this or that understanding – and they seem to believe that merely mentioning something is tantamount to planting a seed. Nothing could be further from the truth – it is incredibly unkind to drop a knowledge bomb in the midst of a conversation. It isn’t teaching, and it isn’t preaching – it’s generally just an extension of ego.

“(Insert controversy here). You don’t understand now, but you will – just pray about it.”

PLEASE! ^^That right there is not how we should treat people. There is no point to it other than to elevate oneself or lord one’s own level of esoteric knowledge over others or your supposed superiority in relationship with God that you have “deeper understandings.” It’s a pet peeve of mine. It’s also incredibly transparent – and sadly, almost irresistible to those who play the knowledge game. For me, knowledge isn’t a game, it is a tool that helps me not to misinterpret Scripture. Knowledge hems in my imagination and keeps it from masquerading as the Holy Spirit! But knowledge is nothing if there is no mature character beneath it as a foundation – when I go to prayer, it is not knowledge that I am lamenting not having enough of (because that can be remedied through study) but because I am still incredibly flawed.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Mt 23:12) – ESV

Self-exaltation is, by nature, never kind to others. We have to diminish others in order to do it, we have to be showing off.

The proper way of introducing information to people is through sustained relationship. If one is truly a teacher, they understand it intrinsically – we know how vital it is to know where our students are at, and to give them what they need, and not what we know. Imagine how little respect we would have for a person to barge into a Kindergarten classroom and start spouting multiplication tables, and then just walk away, leaving a classroom full of confused youngsters whose education has now been undermined by being given food out of season by someone who obviously had no love or respect for them, and their level of understanding.

We don’t give them what we know, we have an obligation to give them what they need and what they are actually ready for – otherwise, we aren’t teachers at all, we’re just people who unkindly vomit information to show how “awesome” we supposedly are.

August 30, 2016

To Love Kindness (Micah 6:8) Part 10

We are often… whatever we go to the trouble of saying we aren’t.

Kind people rarely brand their own actions as loving, but unkind people seem to announce it in front of themselves like a trumpet. It’s a sort of a disclaimer before or after doing something horrifically cruel. “You aren’t about to see what you think you see!”

“I am not usually a critical person, but in love I really must tell you that… ” (oh great, they just told me they aren’t critical, which means – oh yes they are)

“You are a son of the devil, and it took me a lot of love to say that to your face” ( – well, I mean, on facebook where I don’t actually have to look in your face or anything…)

“I hope that you aren’t going to overreact but…” (invariably followed by something offensive that they don’t want to have to deal with the consequences of saying, so not only were they jerks, but they put you on a pre-emptive guilt trip for any response that falls short of kissing their feet in gratitude).

We definitely, subconsciously at least, know when we are doing evil through an unkindness, IF we preface it with a disclaimer. Years ago, I asked God to judge me during this life while I still had time to change and the time He slammed me to the mat the hardest was when He showed me all the times I lied – not to others but to myself:

“I was just speaking the truth in love..”

“Of course they are offended, the truth always offends the rebellious and sinful…”

“I am not racist, I have a darned good reason to hate…”

After that day it became:

“I was fooling only myself, I couldn’t bear to hear the Spirit poking at my conscience as I was saying that… so I told myself I was speaking the truth in love so I wouldn’t have to hear the truth about my unkindness.”

“Of course they are offended, I acted like a jerk and worse – I did it in the Name of God. It made it a whole lot easier when I blamed their reaction on them instead of on my behavior.”

“I am a racist, and I have no reason to hate.”

We can learn a lot about ourselves by learning to listen to our disclaimers….

Sept 1, 2016

A Love of Kindness (Micah 6:8) Part 11

Rebuke without Relationship Part 1 (or conversely, a relationship based solely upon rebuke)

We are called to love one another. We are called to peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control – but those tend to go out the window when we see something that we disapprove of.

There are times, of course, when someone will get publicly in our face and start something up – it happens. It happened to Yeshua (Jesus) quite a lot; He didn’t pick fights with the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees (some of which were the chief priests) – they came gunning for him. Not all of them did, but some did. When they attacked – well, He didn’t start the fight but He sure finished it. He rebuked because they came at Him first, repeatedly throughout the Scriptures, as part of the honor/shame culture of the day. I teach honor/shame culture but Yeshua was very clear in His sermon on the mount that the system of gaining honor at the expense of others in this manner was not acceptable as part of the Jewish lifestyle. We are to give and preserve honor preferentially as opposed to publicly taking honor and degrading others.

Sadly, there are many people out there who wield unkindness as a substitute for righteousness – really as self-righteousness.

I once met a couple who were just frankly bonkers. He was a wannabe cult leader with no charisma (I thank God for that) but his wife was completely in his thrall. She once told me that his spiritual gift was “bringing correctness to the body.” He did this through correcting everyone, on everything, in a very controlling manner. Had facebook existed, he would have been the type of person to never engage unless he was scrolling through his newsfeed and saw some behavior to disapprove of and correct.

Apart from being dreadfully boorish, this doesn’t work except on people who have been weakened and beaten down by abuse and know no other kind of relationship. The majority of people are repulsed by such behavior, and actually come to associate the correction with the bad behavior.

“You shouldn’t be dressing like that unless you want to look like a whore!” becomes, “This self-righteous jerk has a problem with the way I dress, therefore he only disapproves because he is a self-righteous jerk, therefore I am justified in dressing this way because it is HIS (or her) problem!”

A comment like that is usually given outside of a relationship, I would hope, but when a comment like that is given inside a relationship, there are big problems in the relationship! (You think?)

That was just an example of the sort of thing that goes on on social media everyday among believers, and sometimes perpetrated by believers against non-believers (which we are NEVER supposed to do). That’s an “in your face” type rebuke, but there are more subtle and manipulative sorts of unkindnesses as well – guilt trips, control through promises of approval IF.., only showing up in conversations when you can take the moral high ground, etc.

It comes down to this, and parents, this goes for us doubly – if the only time we open our mouths in a relationship is to correct, rebuke, embarrass, discipline, manipulate, scold, lecture, etc., then we need to keep our mouths shut. And hey, I know it is hard – but relationships are built on the same elements that we see listed as the fruit of the Spirit. If a person does not have a portion of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control from us and with us – then we are not in the position relationally to come along and offer correction.

I think we need to ask ourselves a hard question – “why am I seeking to rebuke here, now and in this way?” How about, “Do I feel an uncontrollable compulsion to do this?” <— a lot of times the answer to that is yes and we were taught that uncontrollable compulsions come from the Spirit.

But there’s a problem because self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. We have free-will, and not only that but we start out with very strong-will, an uncontrollable will. That uncontrollable impulse is our flesh, not the Spirit. We like to say it is the Spirit, especially when we have left a trail of wounded in our wake. Our flesh desires enmity, strife, resentment, fear, impatience, cruelty, sin, frivolousness and most of all, a free reign to do as it wills and something else to blame it all on.

Relationship, real relationship, teaches us restraint with a small group of beloved people. Hopefully it is a healthy relationship and hopefully there is indeed a measure of restraint and kindness. That should lead to us seeing others as extensions of that. If you would scream if someone treated your spouse the way you are treating someone, then you are a hypocrite to treat anyone in that manner. The same goes for your child, your relatives and your friends. We have to be equitable – kindness cannot simply be reserved for the people we like the most or divvied up according to our hierarchy of fondness.

Sept 3, 2016

A Love of Kindness (Micah 6:8) Part 12

Speaking the Truth in Love?

I think this is the last entry in the series – it occurred to me last night that any modern conversation about kindness, and by extension unkindness, has to end with this oft heard expression. It comes from Scripture, Ephesians 4:15-16 – but the context is almost always ignored. In fact, the verse has been used as a justification for ignoring the context of this verse.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”

So what is the context? What does speaking the truth in love require?

Eph 4:1b-3 “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…”

The prerequisites for speaking the truth in love are:

(1) humility – I can assure you that if your first action upon being rebuffed was to insult the person or go on social media decrying their not accepting the truth you spoke, your words did not qualify as humble.

(2) gentleness – gentleness requires speaking the words in such a way that they CAN be accepted in the first place, which requires knowing a person and approaching them with wisdom. Everyone has different ways of needing to be approached – and that takes relationship. Paul was talking to a congregation who had relationship with one another, they were intimates in a hostile world.

(3) patience – the truth is not enough. Does it matter what I think you need to know if you are not able to understand it or receive it yet? And the converse is also true – does it matter what you think I need to hear if the timing is bad right now? More stumbling blocks are placed through impatient vomiting of opinions than possibly through anything else.

(4) bearing with one another in love – as I explain in my new book, love isn’t what we feel on the inside for a person, love in the ancient world was expressed in terms of loyalty – something we moderns know very little about. Do we seek to guard the dignity of each other, or are we interested in saying whatever is on our mind whenever it occurs to us, and wherever we want to say it? Notice that the people who respected and loved Yeshua always confronted him in private, and those who hated him confronted Him in front of an audience.

(5) eager to maintain the unity – our individualistic society sees no virtue in unity at the expense of having everything our own way, having everything “right” according to our current standards and level of knowledge. In fact, we are quick to disparage unity as compromise and weakness. During the days of Yeshua, the High Priesthood was corrupt – and yet, unlike the Qumran sectarians, Yeshua was still in Jerusalem at every Feast. Circumstances were not optimal, far from it, and yet He who knew perfection better than anyone, was in the synagogues every Sabbath, at the Temple every Feast in unity with everyone else.

(6) the bond of peace – we have to cherish peace, like kindness, we have to love it and hate that which is contrary to it. Robert E Lee said, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” It is true, but sadly, the internet social media and our egos have removed the terrible nature of war – as well as our conscience over fighting. It is thrilling to battle an enemy whose face we are not required to look into, while the bodies of our friends are not decimated to our left and right. In truth we enjoy social media war because it is a war of cowards, with none of the immediate horrors because we cannot see the true effect of the carnage we deliver into the lives of others – after all, they are no more real to us than video game characters. Social media warfare is much like drone warfare – we kill and destroy people we do not know and can not see, and over what? Doctrines that we may not even still believe tomorrow?

In truth, the “truths” I all too often see spoken “in love” do not qualify as either truth, or love, and they certainly are not serving the purpose of equipping one another and helping one another to grow up. On the contrary…

… instead of building up the Body of Messiah we are often, instead, tearing it down one soul at a time… while using Scripture to excuse our lack of mature fruit.

Social Media Musings Vol 2 Dec 7-13, 2017

This entry is going to be much shorter than last week’s because I had another minor stroke over this last week and I am taking a break from writing. I am on a “no teaching allowed” vacation to give my brain cells a chance to get re-oxygenated and recover. But just yesterday I was able to get some double checking done on the next book in the Context for Kids series, which I completed at the beginning of the fall, before all this happened. My designer David Farley from dco branding is doing an amazing job on it, as always – and like a true brother, he has taken on some of the work that is usually mine in order to take pressure off of me.

December 7

Forgiveness isn’t a wiping of the slate clean, or a forgetting of sin – in fact, there can be no forgiveness without an identification of the offense. Forgiveness is instead a personal down payment on the promise of future reconciliation. Forgiveness says, “I just made your path to restoration possible, but only your regret, repentance, and commitment to rehabilitation can make it a reality.”

When have you truly forgiven from the depths of your heart? (And it IS a process, make no mistake) When the day comes when, like the father of the prodigal son, you excitedly start hoping that they will regret, repent, and return, so that they can once again be embraced (even if that embrace cannot be physical, but instead an acceptance into the Body of Messiah).

Note that forgiveness is not the same thing as refusing to press charges in case of a serious crime – we are still a people of justice and not injustice, we can forgive in our hearts and still know that God is not honored when oppressors are not held accountable.

December 8

The Peacefulness Project Week #3

Addiction, Peace, and Forgiveness: Are Addicts Entitled to Forgiveness?

Ever see those three words together in a sentence without a bunch of disclaimers? Me neither.

Speaking from experience as someone who grew up with an addict, and who was an addict, I can tell you quite plainly that addicts are not peaceful people – not on the inside or on the outside. Our existence is largely centered around the gratification of desires, a character flaw which drives us to seek out comfort, pleasure, distraction, stimulation, whatever. It can manifest itself through drugs (any drug), sex (including porn), food, violence (common with people addicted to control), obsessive video game playing, etc.

It can also manifest itself in demands for immediate forgiveness and reconciliation, which is what I want to discuss today.

Above all, addicts resent discomfort – it is offensive and must be remedied, immediately. What’s more, addicts feel entitled to comfort – even at the expense of the comfort of everyone around them. This is what makes them patently NOT peaceful people, not really. I was divested of the illusion that the problem was the drug of choice when the addict in my life gave up his drug yet retained the exact same character. Nothing changed. He came home, dying, had to give up his drug of choice, quit cold turkey and just found another. Every dream I had that the person himself would change were dashed, and every behavior I had blamed on the drugs turned out to just be him. Addicts are at war with discomfort, boredom, and anyone who stands in their way of relieving it.

This leaves the people in their lives with a concrete problem – addicts generally destroy relationships in one way or another. They do so over a long period of time: eroding trust, bank accounts, and their health – as well as the health (mental and physical) of those around them. One day, they may decide to give it all up, and when they do it without the benefit of a twelve-step program or other support group, they often become tyrants.

“I am trying, you need to forgive me!”

That is the cry of an addict who is still seeking comfort above everyone else’s needs.

It is true that, as believers, we are obligated to forgive (see yesterday’s post for an explanation of what that does and does not entail) – but that doesn’t mean we will be able to at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t mean that the addict’s victims are going to stop hurting, and begin trusting, or want to be close. That means this – although believers are obligated to forgive, the addict is not entitled to forgiveness, especially not on their own terms. When they expect a clean slate time and time again, they are treating their victims like robots who are expected to simply respond to each new attempt with as much hope as the first, second, third… and are not permitted to be hurt when the drug is chosen once more.

Addicts are used to setting the terms by which everyone else has to live. That doesn’t change when they give up their drug, it generally intensifies. Addicts, being self-focused and enabled (just try not enabling an addict when you are a child and he or she is your parent!), will leave the drug without really dealing with the self-centered attitude that rooted the addiction in the first place. They did the drug of choice because they wanted comfort, not the comfort of others, and the last thing they want when they give it up is to consider the needs of others over their own immediate desire for gratification.

Here’s the deal with sin – and I am not talking about a perceived slight or an accident, I am talking about genuine transgressions against other people. When we seriously transgress against another person, when we make the choice to do that, we need to go in with the knowledge that they may never forgive us, and that is their choice, a choice we have no control over. We don’t have a right to demand forgiveness, no one is entitled to it. When we damage lives, those lives don’t go back to normal just because we feel badly about it. If I beat you up ten times, and say I am sorry, that expression of remorse is not going to heal you or cause you to trust me, or give you a reason to reconcile whatever relationship we had before the first beating. I made an irrevocable choice, one that has long-lasting consequences, one of which might be that I don’t get you back. Even if you do forgive me, my choice to beat on you has consequences that forgiveness won’t erase. The sin happened, it is a matter of history that is unchangeable. I have no right to expect you to live as though it never happened.

Forgiveness, as I alluded to yesterday, is a refusal to have a two-sided sin war. It is a downpayment on future reconciliation IF certain conditions of righteousness are met. It doesn’t mean that you don’t call the police when I beat you up – I committed a crime and, for the safety of the community, I need consequences. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t defend yourself – but you don’t go any further than is required to do so. Forgiveness should be enacted, if we have been saved by the blood of the Lamb and have been forgiven our sins, because it is our obligation – a recognition of the debt we owe to our King. But forgiveness is not deserved, it is a free gift. It is always a free gift, whether divine or given by ourselves, but restoration and reconciliation must be earned. Forgiveness clears the path for the sinner so that nothing except themselves stand in the way of repentance. Forgiveness means that we refuse to retaliate sinfully in return for their sins. Forgiveness is the gift we give back to God, and we can do it because we know that the resurrection is real, and that justice will be performed, if not in this life, then in the world to come. Without that assurance, who could truly forgive without sinking into silent resentment?

Victims have rights, and yet believing victims also have obligations to be radically forgiving. It’s the high price tag for being conformed to the image of our King, it’s the small yet very costly price we pay to be like Yeshua/Jesus. It would be grossly unfair if it were not for the Resurrection. It would be horrifically unjust if we had not ourselves been forgiven. It is actually one of the reasons people decide to walk away from Christianity altogether. We want that radical forgiveness, but giving it causes us to balk.

The story of the Cross is that sinners get a gift that they don’t deserve. The story of the Cross is that each one of us got a gift that we didn’t deserve, and our part of that story is how we respond to it – no one, except ourselves, can decide how we will respond or will be held responsible for our response. The question is: How badly do we want to be like our Savior? Is it enough to learn how to carry the cross of radical forgiveness? To pick it up every single day and carry it? To learn and relearn to forgive with each new betrayal?

I tell you the truth, it is the only path to true peace with God, and if it were easy then everyone would do it.

December 10

Been thinking the last few nights about Saul, David, and Absalom. Author Gene Edwards wrote about them in a book entitled The Three Kings and I read it about fourteen years ago. It had some really profound truths in it about character that I have found to be quite the revelation in my own life. Saul, David, and Absalom provide us with brilliant Scriptural/historical examples of what happens when cowards, even anointed ones, come to power (they often become bullies), when anointed men, brave ones, are hunted (they will often run away, refuse to engage, and won’t retaliate in kind), when good men, anointed leaders, become intoxicated with power (others are violated), and when non-anointed, charismatic, appealing, self-appointed, angry men try to seize the Kingdom through violence (they become worse villains than the ones they ousted). I have dealt with all of these kinds of people over the last nineteen years, and especially over the past seven.

The internet has made the Sauls and Absaloms far bolder than they ever could be in real life where there are consequences and face to face meetings, and you actually have to live in the community you are impacting with your words and actions. An Absalom, who dazzled others with his beauty, his way with words, and his emotional displays, can gather quite the crowd around himself just by being angry and promising the world; he can quite make one forget that he hasn’t been anointed king! Then there are the Sauls – he seemed humble at first, right? He later became vengeful, paranoid and prone to fits of anger. So blinded by paranoia and anger, he hunted a man who kept avoiding him and who tirelessly worked for the good of the Kingdom that Saul had turned against him. And we can’t forget about David, who started and ended well, but in the middle became a typical ancient Near Eastern king capable of the worst of crimes.

We all want to see ourselves, and our favorite leaders, as David at the beginning. But we need to take a closer look, always. Are we (or our leaders) the hunters or the hunted. Are we prone to fits of anger, lashing out (even in private or behind the scenes), and destroying those we feel intimidated by, or are we the ones quietly working for the Kingdom while hunted, daring not to speak against those who hunt us because we fear and trust God? When we have a measure of authority, do we lord it over others as the Gentiles do – with oppression and vindictiveness? And when we have no authority, but only the feeling that we should have it because we are angry and because we can see what is wrong, do we try to seize the Kingdom by force and become guilty of worse than those whom we supplanted?

No tyrant ever felt as though he/she wasn’t perfectly justified. Therefore, we are just as capable of self-deception. When Saul and David were anointed, they received the Holy Spirit – therefore we can’t presume that we won’t fall to the same temptations when we want to badly enough.


Social Media Musings Dec 1-6, 2017 – Forgiveness and the Fruit of Peace

People have been asking me for a weekly digest of my social media writings – for like a few years now – not everyone wants to be on Facebook, understandably. If you subscribe to the blog, you can get these in your email. I never send out anything except blogs, so don’t worry about being spammed incessantly. These writings will be largely about my studies into being an image-bearer and the growing of radical fruit. I will occasionally still post my ancient Near Eastern and First Century studies, but I am still recovering from my November 10 stroke and that’s harder to remember and organize than writing about our character as image-bearers, which is easier for me.

Dec 1 – The Peacefulness Project Week #2 – Commitment to Community.

I am a big offender here, just FYI, although I have been committed to the idea of community, am I as committed to the reality? – Not so much. People scare the pee out of me, and throughout the overwhelming majority of my life, I have easily been overtaken by fight/flight responses when a more mature/healthy person would step back and take stock of the situation. It’s something I am working on right now – and of course, the way I started was by changing the language I use to talk about others, especially anonymous, hypothetical others who just represent ideas and not actual people.

Like how I would talk about people who do certain things that I don’t like, while maybe not even having anyone in particular in mind, but mocking the idea of them. Right there, when I do that, I destroy the potential for future community for all who see it, to whom it applies, and encourage others in their use of the language as well. I have to learn to talk about certain issues without the scorn, mocking and cheap shots. I have to remember that you can be a worthwhile, valued member of the Body, and disagree, or even be misinformed, without being deficient or unfit to be my brother or sister. I don’t have to call a meeting with my snide comments so that we can all point and laugh, instead of trying to build, encourage, and understand. People are never wrong on purpose – sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong, sometimes they believed the wrong people who seemed to be right, etc. Didn’t we all?

We dehumanize because we do not want community with anyone who makes us feel uncomfortable – that’s why a lot of us are out here on social media, screaming and wanting to be heard, but only by people who already agree with us. Our words are meant to recruit likeminded folks. The rest we push away with angry-sounding and judgment-laden rhetoric. We welcome those who are like us, while pretending to teach those who aren’t, yet actually doing our best to inform them that they are not welcome until they are already like us. We don’t watch our words, or the way we say them – we want to think of ourselves as the welcome wagon, when we really look a lot more like the glue wagon waiting to take poor Boxer out of the way. People don’t want to get in if they can smell death on our breath.

We don’t preach to include but to exclude – to make sure that the only people who will come near us are the people who prop us up, who give us the illusion that “we” are right and “they” are wrong. This is a recipe for contempt, dehumanization, and war – not for peace. Like it or not, we are called to be peacemakers. We are called to be a light for the lost, not an interrogation lamp in the eyes of those who dare diverge from the path we are on now – who actually may be ahead of us in many ways but we can’t see anything but what we are proud of believing. Our pride of observance in this blinds us to their observance in that.

Yes, pride. We are very proud of those issues that are important to us, the things that we do – it is a common trick of the heart and mind, to elevate our level of observance to become the plumb line for everyone else, while calling anything less “backsliding disobedience” and anything more “legalism.” We don’t seek to include, but to exclude. Less observance offends us and more observance is an uncomfortable challenge. We seek to maintain our status quo.

If that exclusion was only based upon matters of willful sin, I could see the point of it, but we are rarely talking about that. No, this is flat out about excluding differences, and the reason is because we are not committed to community, but diametrically opposed to it. If we were committed to community, we would talk with, and not at, each other. We would seek out radical repentance, radical forgiveness, and the reconciliation that our Messiah spoke of. These things cost, they require little deaths. Looking at situations from the perspective of another requires a death. learning about where a person is at in their walk instead of assuming requires a death. Relationship requires a death – we have to give up a bit of ourselves and accept a bit of someone else. To do that, we have to love them and be committed to peacefulness – especially over the small stuff that too often rattles us, and certainly myself. We need to learn why we over-react, but first we have to accept that we do, in fact, often react in inappropriate ways.

In order to have community, we have to abandon the thought of always being correct, the illusion that we are always reasonable, that we aren’t deceived; we have to understand that people who are immature in one area can be lightyears ahead of ourselves in another. I am and you are not individually the bright center of God’s universe, but all of us together are.

We have to want to accept true repentance. We have to want to forgo our desire for revenge. We have to see things from someone else’s point of view. We have to learn to let the side issues be side issues. We have to be willing to accept that things which are very important to us will not be of tantamount importance to others. We have to want reconciliation and relationship when safe to have it.

We have to want, as a brother or sister, everyone whom our Messiah wants us to have as a brother or sister. That’s a big part of carrying our crosses – that’s dying to self and what we want. All of the fruit of the Spirit leads to community, and all the works of the flesh lead to lonely individuality. The social media age has made lonely individuality into a virtue – and we have very much gone along for the ride, like the citizens of Hell in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.

Dec 1 – Forgiveness Costs Everything

Reading the third book on forgiveness (NT Wright recommended three as being fairly earthshattering from different vantage points) – L. Gregory Jones’s Embodying Forgiveness. When it started off, right out of the gate, with Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s struggle for forgiveness and repentance in the midst of Nazi Germany, I knew it would pull no punches.

Anyway, the second section of the book is about the evils of “therapeutic” forgiveness – where the hard work of forgiveness and repentance and reconciliation have been replaced by a process through which we slowly work ourselves into feeling good about ourselves, about others, and about being together. Instead of dying to self and doing what Christ did, we want to feel comfortable with the idea of doing what He did, and only then do we do it. But forgiveness is rarely something we are going to feel good about doing, especially when repentance is lacking and justice is absent or far off. Withholding forgiveness might be the closest we are ever going to get to any sort of condemnation of the person who hurt us, and we don’t want to let that power go.

The Cross is a challenge, a painful challenge, to that way of thinking – the way that comes most naturally to us. Yeshua/Jesus suffered the death of a rebel, a traitor, a criminal – a death that has been sanitized in art and movies and books and, most notably, in our minds. His vindication in that will not occur at the end of the age when He judges the “quick and the dead” – His vindication took place when He was resurrected. As He was innocent, it was not right that He should wait any longer than three days. None of us are truly innocent and so we wait until the end of the age and will rise again, and every tear will be wiped away and we will no longer care about the crimes and slights against us in this world. The new world will be more real than this one – I imagine this one will seem to be less than a memory, yet more than a fiction.

Anyway, we tend to not want to forgive, because our hurts are so close to the surface, and we have made them an integral part of our identity, more so than who we are in Messiah. In CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce, time and time again we come across people who shun eternity with God because they can’t bear the thought of a life without their right to hurt, bear grudges, and seek out revenge. I see it all the time in the here and now, and I have certainly been guilty myself.

Anyway, all that is to say – the Sabbath is a taste of the world to come – and dare I add that until we learn to forgive truly, for the right reasons, and not as an act that will simply serve our own needs to feel good – well, there is no Sabbath rest. We don’t forgive so that we will feel good – we forgive because we were forgiven. It is the service we owe to our Master. It is not, no matter our suspicions, a service that will go unrewarded. Releasing bitterness, grudges, and a desire for harm and revenge against those who have wronged us – they are the price we pay for developing better fruit, and good fruit, although painfully produced, is a very great reward indeed. There is nothing more satisfying than better representing our Master, leaving our own flawed, self-righteous character behind and becoming conformed to His. Only when we truly walk in His loving, kind, gentle, merciful and compassionate ways, will we know Sabbath peace. Until then, we are just taking a day off from work.

Dec 2 – The Violence We Do in the Name of Being Right

Just woke up from the strangest dream. In it, I walked up to a young man, covered in blood from some kind of violence, he was sitting down, his body leaning against a wall – he was sobbing, inconsolable. I held him and comforted him a long time, despite the blood, before he finally was able to tell me what was wrong and why he was grieving. His father (or some other male relative) was dead, and in hell, because they had done such and such a terrible sin. I was appalled – because the young man had been burdened with a false belief that such and such was a terrible sin that would bring damnation. I was so happy to be able to relieve him of his burden by explaining the truth to him – his response was to turn on me violently, flip me off, and leave me.

(and no, the damning sin wasn’t keeping more of Torah, FYI, in the dream, the man covered in blood would be more likely one who felt he was keeping Torah)

I woke up just kinda shaking my head, it was all part of a very intense dream. I know what it was about, considering the season we are in. This young person was broken hearted for his loved ones, but he was covered in blood – and not his own. He believed that a certain thing was so sinful that his loved one/ones were damned – but the crazy thing was that he loved his belief so thoroughly that he was so cruel to the one person who was spending the time to love him and he refused to be comforted as soon as that comfort threatened a belief. He wanted to be right so badly, even though his belief was based on lies, that he would rather think his loved one/ones damned than reconsider it, or to look at the way the person who told him the truth, treated him.

We would often rather be angry, and do violence, and be “right” than to be at peace, and respond to kindness, and find out we were wrong – especially when we have been wrong before and would rather die with the illusion of being a martyr in the right than another flawed human, doomed to being wrong in both small and large ways, for the rest of our lives.

If the cost of being right is to do violence to others, verbally or physically, – we need to seriously re-evaluate whether or not we are just wrong in a different way than we used to be. Verbal blood on our hands is only moderately less offensive than physical blood on our hands – and if Yeshua/Jesus says the lust of the eyes is adultery the same as physical, which He does, then we cannot afford to be a verbally violent people on social media any more than we would consent to be physically violent people in person.

Dec 2 – “Invisible Cats” and C. S. Lewis

CS Lewis, in writing back in 1960 about The Four Loves – one of which is friendship – he was talking about the assault on male friendship at the time, when it was becoming more and more uncommon for two men to be friends in the mad rush of society and the inherent distrust of two men being “that close” without it really being homosexual in nature.

The argument was that, even the complete lack of proof of homosexual interest was, in fact, proof of homosexual interest. Lewis speaks of the infuriating nature of trying to prove that something that isn’t true, actually isn’t true. In other words, disproving a negative. It is easy to prove a positive. Here is the proof, here is the paper trail, voila! It is proved. But what about things with no proof, and which only appear to be true, yet lack any concrete evidence? Here is Lewis’s description of the problem:

“This very lack of evidence is thus treated as evidence; the absence of smoke proves that fire is very carefully hidden. Yes – if it exists at all. But we must first prove its existence. Otherwise, we are arguing like a man who should say, “If there was an invisible cat in that chair, the chair would look empty; but the chair does look empty; therefore there is an invisible cat in it.” … A belief in invisible cats cannot perhaps be logically disproved, but it tells us a good deal about those who hold it.”

We need to search our own beliefs for signs of invisible cats, and ask ourselves whether we have the right to judge others simply because they have an empty chair in their possession.

In other words, just because something seems obvious to us, does not make it true. We’re really not that smart or discerning.

Dec 3 – Frustration and the Sin of Mocking

So, been having insomnia ever since the day God told me to give up mocking people. I mean, I had probably already eliminated 95% of it from my life, but for the last 12 days, the mocking has been desperately seeking out new ways to happen. Weird stuff, I tell ya, things no one would consider to be mocking, but are. It’s been case after case of, “No, we aren’t going to do that!”

CS Lewis, in The Four Loves, which I talked about yesterday – he was being brutally honest about how much pleasure it brings people – me, him, everyone, to retaliate and be nasty, to be filled with resentment, to be the long-suffering and sainted martyr – and I was thinking about how sneaky our (my) brains are. So, I stopped the mocking on paper in public, but then in private it is harder, and then you give it up in private but then the mind is like a playground – and so self-righteously well hidden. You have to keep learning its tricks and adapting. And then you force yourself to stop thinking mocking thoughts and they come up with other creative ways of emerging – hence my insomnia.

So, last night I was thinking about a situation that should have been over years ago, but rears its head every once in a while – nope, not even going to say more than that – okay anyway. So I was thinking, and my thoughts would go along this path, leading me to a snarky comment and had to cut it off, and then along they come from another angle, had to cut them off that way too. After about five long go-arounds with this, I just stopped and had it out with myself. “Oh my gosh, will you just stop?” And it was like, “I can’t, I am SO frustrated!” Bingo.

I can’t think of a single time where I have ever mocked anyone where it wasn’t actually grounded in frustration. Frustration, of course, easily morphs into the works of the flesh of Galatians 5, and can only be overcome by the Fruit of the Spirit – especially my weakest one – patience. Joy used to be my weakest, but miraculously is now one of the stronger ones. PATIENCE, Ugh.

But I want them to agree with me and if they don’t… MOCK.

But I am right and I need them to know it… MOCK.

But other people might listen to them and not me… MOCK.

I have to discredit them… MOCK.

They aren’t listening to/believing me… MOCK.

They aren’t taking my word for this… MOCK.

WHOA they are on my territory and I feel threatened… MOCK.

My personal favorite:

They are mocking me and so they have it coming.. MOCKx10.

Basic self-control means I don’t do it on the outside, but if I don’t stop doing it on the inside as well – I am just like one of those blind Pharisees that Yeshua/Jesus and the Talmud speaks of, who would cover their eyes and run into a wall or fall into a ditch to avoid lusting over a beautiful woman. Well, self-control also means I don’t do it on the inside – but for that to happen, it has to be paired with a love, kindness, and gentleness that are genuine enough that I don’t want to do it either. Loving our neighbor as ourselves – are many things more hateful to us than being mocked publicly, or privately, or even in someone else’s thoughts, being made a public spectacle of, a figure of contempt and ridicule? Has anyone ever won you over to their side by mocking you, even subtly? Or if you saw it in their eyes or body language? Or even suspected it over the internet? No, as I realized last week – we only mock the people we have written off for exclusion, the ones we are so frustrated with that we don’t want them unless they come groveling on bloodstained hands and knees in worshipful adoration that we were, after all, correct. Mocking is a violent thing, really, we just don’t have to carry around any weapon but the tongue.

Giving up mocking has revealed deep recesses of contempt and hatred in me – I was venting off steam by letting off a little here and there, especially when no one could hear. Now that the vent has been plugged up, it’s a choice between facing the bad fruit or exploding and doing great damage to the Kingdom.

It isn’t about me. On the Cross, I was forgiven so much more than mocking, by the One who was mocked, beaten, falsely accused, and executed in perfect innocence. Do I have frustrations? Yeah, more than some but not as much as a multitude. What I don’t have, is a greater cause for offense against anyone than my King has – and He has been patient with me. After 19 years as a believer, He should not still be dealing with these things in me so graciously, but he does. I guess I can pull up my big girl panties and follow His example of patient, kind, forgiveness, and non-retaliation. And if I can’t, then I need to be willing to be able to.

Oh yeah – anyone ever notice the one thing Yeshua didn’t do after the resurrection? He didn’t go around Jerusalem killing and mocking the people who did Him wrong. Just wow. You don’t want to know what shameful things I would have done in His place…

December 4 – Musing on L. Gregory Jones’s Embodying Forgiveness

Until we recognize that sin is enmeshed in the very fabric of our lives, that it is not only external but internal, not simply what is done but what is imagined, we will forever be caught up in the illusion that sin is simply something that is done to us, and not an active force in the world that we all, as a community, have to learn to deal with. Only when that is accomplished, will we be able to forgive for the witness of the Cross, repent for the furtherance of the Kingdom, and reconcile with our neighbors for the sake of healing a sadly neglected Body – one suffering from all too many self-inflicted wounds.

If, however, our end goal is not a reconciled Body, but instead justice for ourselves, and healing for only ourselves, then we will forever be at odds with a Kingdom inaugurated at the foot of the Cross. The One who died on it did not do so in order to nurse His own wounds, get Himself justice, or to be healed – He did it for us, not one or a few, but all of us together.

December 5 – Hostage Takers – Those Who Rule Through Unforgiveness

Hostage Takers

Far too often, what stands in the way of forgiveness is the unreasonable demand that the sin should never have happened in the first place (as if to say – unless you go back in time and keep it from happening, there can be no forgiveness!). Even in the case of misunderstandings and perceived slights, or accidents, a person becomes so incensed that they were put upon (even if only in their minds) that they gleefully hold the other person hostage for life. They set unreasonable standards, and force everyone to live in perpetual slavery to their unforgiveness – but after every reasonable attempt has been made to communicate and mediate, and, in the case of real guilt, when true regret, repentance, and restitution are in effect, a person must come to realize that they are forgiven by God, that undoing their sin (or misunderstanding, perceived slight or accident) is impossible, and that they can and must move on and continue to grow in grace – regardless of whether their victim (real or imagined) desires to set them free or not. There has to be life after sin (and so there definitely must be life after misunderstandings and accidents) whether all parties involved like it or not. If not, then we proclaim ourselves dead in our own sins and the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah – well, we proclaim it to be of no real effect.

So there’s the intro.

I think everyone has one or more hostage-takers in their life – I will discuss three kinds. I have a few of them and ran into two of them again this week. One has imagined slights against me that he has been nursing for years on other people’s social media walls. Despite engaging with him in conversation on a few cases to try and resolve it, he is ear-deep in bitterness because – well, because I refused to do what he told me to. A complete stranger told me to do something that was unreasonable, and I ignored the advice. For the past couple of years he has held me hostage – kinda, I mean, he goes around accusing me and I, having done everything I can to resolve the issue, just ignore him. The point is that he thinks I sinned against him, and he can’t/won’t let it go and spends his time telling everyone who will listen and allow it, that he has the goods on me, that I am an unrepentant sinner! It is sad, but people do this and others enable it by listening, What it is, is outside of my control – I can either engage him and agree to negotiate endlessly with a hostage-taker, or just let him be – I choose the latter as I cannot control him, cannot reason with him, and even mediation proved meaningless. The mediator, a mutual friend, rebuked him very hard and that quieted him for a while but he is at it again – attempting to hold me hostage but, in truth, he is the hostage. His accusations are without merit, and so I am only his hostage if I chose to live in the shadow of those accusations, which I don’t. I imagine he spends a lot of time thinking about me, whereas – well, unless he has just pulled one of his stunts again – I don’t think of him at all, and when I do, my only recourse is to pray for him. This kind of hostage taker can influence others with their accusations, but they can only influence us if we allow it. We cannot take on the burden of feeling like we can alter people who don’t want to be altered. Period.

The other kind of hostage taker is an oddball – not the person, I don’t know them personally, but the way they seek to hold hostage is rather odd. You see, this is someone who accuses me of anonymous crimes, but when approached will give me no details of who I have committed said crimes against, or when, or exactly what happened. They just make accusations to those who will listen. I knew someone like this in High School – best friend one day and then hating me enough to wage a four-year bullying war the next – literally overnight. I still, to this day, have no idea what happened. But she held me hostage to her suspicions, whatever they were. She was able to make my life very miserable, she was holding me hostage for sins that I may or may not have committed – but she held the power to keep me from clearing up any misunderstanding, or from repenting, by not telling me what I had done. This is very much a power-play. This sort of hostage taker wants to hate forever and wants there to be no resolution, so they arrest without charges. This is actually the sort of situation that the Magna Carta was written to avoid – a person must be told why they have been arrested and what they are under suspicion for. A person cannot be imprisoned without knowing why. But keeping someone imprisoned without having to charge them is a very useful thing – no one can prove they are innocent or prove that the accuser is mistaken. Again, once all efforts to communicate have been exhausted, we have to wash our hands of the affair. We cannot control people like this, and cannot burden ourselves with thoughts like, “If only I had done something different.” We can’t play their game by spending fruitless hours wondering what we have done – if it were really that bad, we would have figured it out already. If folks want to be wronged and the object of persecution, there is nothing we can do to change that desire.

The third kind. Oh boy, I am going to tell you a heartbreaking story. I was at a wedding once, by accident. I used to go around ministering with a team of people, about 15 years ago. We showed up at a home church group to find a wedding happening, and one of the people with me was expected to officiate because he was legally able to. After the wedding, we had Bible study. It couldn’t have been more awkward. The maid of honor was the most beaten down woman you could imagine, but she had found God and was desperately trying to change her life – imagine the shock of everyone when the Bride talked about her hopes for her new marriage, only to call her maid of honor a “four-time loser.” Yes, she had been divorced four times – it obviously was nothing she was proud of, but this dear saint was trying. She was trying with all her heart to turn her life around – only to have a best friend who was a hostage taker. The bride was keeping her maid of honor captive to past sins – always reminding, dragging her back to the scene of the crime, showing her the evidence, and never letting her forget about it. The bride wasn’t even the victim of the sins of her friend, she was just disgusted by them and elevating herself above such things. The maid of honor had repented of her past life, was struggling to find a new one, but she was not able to move forward because she allowed people to drag her back.

Anyway, hostage takers make me ill. Hostage takers are about one thing – the power over life and death of those around them. Hostage takers are accusers of the brethren. Hostage takers can’t stand repentance, restoration, or reconciliation. Hostage takers love the thought (even secretly) that those who offend them will burn in hell. No amount of change is enough, no amount of repentance, no reconciliation possible. It becomes such an addictive thrill, the ability to ruthlessly condemn, that they themselves become prisoners to it. They, who hold everyone else captive to their bitterness and offense, become powerless against it. They are offended because they live in a prison of offense, they are bitter because that is the existence they fashioned for others. They poison everything, and they are anti-Kingdom. They want the anti-fruits of enmity, dissensions, divisions, strife, outbursts of anger, jealousy, envy – they want to ruin all who offend them. They become blinded by the works of the flesh – they may not be out doing drugs and going to orgies, but they are murders in their hearts, and carry those murders out with their tongues slowly, over time, like a cat toying with a half-dead mouse. They desire the condemnation of those around them – they won’t believe that the person who has offended them (whether real or imagined offenses) can suffer enough.

It is a horrible prison that they dwell in, with the torturer, and that they keep (or attempt to keep) others in. If you are at the mercy of a hostage taker in your everyday life, there is a book I want to recommend, because living with a hostage taker actually warps our ability to see clearly. Henry S Cloud’s Changes that Heal – I read it years ago and it is a wonderful book. Just remember that abusers, like hostage-takers, abuse by setting the rules for everyone else to live by – but it is a violation of their role as image-bearer because they do not rule and reign mercifully and forgivingly as Messiah shows us, but according to the works of the evil one that we see in Galatians 5:19-21.

Dec 6 – A Dream about those Drive-by Critics

That pernicious Iv

I thought I would be writing about the opposite of what I wrote about yesterday – those people in our lives who continually transgress and feel as though forgiveness and automatic reconciliation is something they are entitled to – but that will have to wait as I had an interesting dream about someone called Iv. No, I don’t know anyone by that name lol.

It’s the only dream I have ever had about a social media thread. Someone, no idea who – could have been me for all I know, posted something and then people commented. I remember my friend Ken was one of them. After a bunch of comments, I was getting ready to respond when Iv’s comment comes up. It has nothing to do with the original post, at all, it is actually a point by point critique of all the comments that came before it! Her critique of me was actually something about my being barren, hardly pertinent to the discussion. I think it might have been some sort of totally inappropriate and ridiculous medical advice or some condescending reason for my barrenness that had no footing in reality. Unlike Lady Gaga, I actually was born this way lol.

Anyway, whatever comment was forthcoming, I was about to let Iv have it. Her response to the post was completely inappropriate – she was only there as a drive-by corrector, to show off her superior knowledge, to be everyone’s teacher, everyone’s personal unholy spirit. I would formulate comment after comment, only to erase them. There was no right way to respond to her, only more and less bad ones. People like this tend to think that the world NEEDS their input, that their cleverness and knowledge (which are generally pretty shallow) are a gift to the world that MUST be shared.They see everything that needs to be corrected, and they must correct. They may not know much, but what they know (or think they know), they seek out ways to disseminate as widely as possible. Problem is, these people are often martyrs in their own minds – they fervently believe that their going around correcting everyone and sticking their nose into everything is an act of love when really, it’s just an act of needing to insert oneself into the lives of others.

I used to do it, take my word for it. If something was “wrong” it was my duty as a superior being to deal with it. The more I grew, however, and the more knowledge I gained – well, in the first case I came to understand how badly I was damaging people with my constant nitpicking over things they were not yet able to change or overcome; the log in my own eye was so bad that I couldn’t see that truth clearly. In the second case, I was really only interested in correcting everyone when I knew very little – as long as I only knew topics A, B, and C at a shallow level, I could zoom in on those and look for people to correct. Once I knew things at a level that couldn’t be corrected in a comment, I increasingly had to give it up; good thing too – I didn’t really know enough to correct people correctly anyway on my pet issues.

So – weird dream – no resolution. There was no good response that I ever came up with. No matter my response, the critic would have finagled a way to win, even if it was just through their illusion of martyrdom. Some people we just can’t win with, there are only varying degrees of losing – unless we take advantage of the unfriend option and limit comments to friends. If you have one of these in your family, I recommend the same author as yesterday – Henry S Cloud, who has awesome books on setting boundaries and getting free of toxic influences in our lives.