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.

 




The Galatians 5:19-21 “Sandwich” – The Works of OUR Flesh

I hope you weren’t expecting to feel good about yourself and your “whole Bible” “Torah observant” lifestyle today – but as I didn’t spare myself, you can’t complain much. I call this section of Scripture the sandwich where we focus on the bread while ignoring the meat, despite the fact that, in practice, we reject the bread and gobble down the meat – from Galations 5:19-21

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, (yeah. that’s right – death to the perverts, idolaters and drug addicts, ha! those rebellious losers!)

enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy (um… my spidey senses are tingling, must be the enemy trying to steal my peace, time to move on)

drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. (yeah, drunken orgy-goers!)

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (that’s right – those sex-crazed crazed, drunken idol worshipers aren’t inheriting the Kingdom!)

So we have here what I call the Galatians 5 sandwich, or “the other guy” sandwich. We sure do enjoy calling out the first five and the last two of these – and why? Well, because they are grotesquely obvious sins that only blatant sinners commit, at least in the open, right? No challenge there – and no one feels bad about themselves (not unless they start looking at other, more socially acceptable addictions or questioning themselves about whether watching sex scenes in movies counts as sexual immorality). But we aren’t here to talk about those. We’re here to talk about the works of the flesh that people pass off as righteous zeal or don’t give much thought to at all. Zeal – remember that word, as it will be important later.

Enmity – the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. For example: “enmity between Protestants and Catholics”

Whoa there Nelly! If there is one thing I see in too many of the people around me, it is open hostility to people and/or things. I see people who hate Catholics so much that they would rather die horrible deaths than give Catholics credit for the good works they do – and those poor fools who do dare to give Catholics credit get called papists or worse. I actually did get called a Jesuit spy last week for something silly. I see people hostile beyond logic towards Jews and Protestants as well – to the point where everything and anything about them has to be mindlessly attacked and discredited – even if good, or at worst, harmless. That’s enmity, living your life in hostility – it is not a Kingdom principle, and more than that, it compromises our ability to love and grow good fruit. And yes, I am sure that, despite the Scriptural warning, the reason why you are personally doing it is entirely justified. (That, boys and girls, was sarcasm. In fact, my eyes rolled so far out of my head when I said it that I had to call my kids to go look for them)

Strife – angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues; conflict. For example: “strife within the community”

Disagreement over fundamental issues is not the problem here, you see, but when it becomes angry and bitter – oh yes, big problem. This is when we see the insults and cheap shots brought to the table instead of just sticking respectfully and honorably to the facts at hand. Of course, we don’t limit our anger and bitterness to the fundamental issues, we get angry over the tiny ones as well, our pet doctrines. Of course, our pet doctrines are never small – in fact, there are no small issues in Scripture, and failure to recognize that means that someone isn’t really believing the entire Bible. Right? Right? Maybe not. Strife is founded on and rooted in control issues and fear, which are both contrary to the fruit of peace and self-control. There are things to stand our ground on, but not with bitterness; stands to take in passion, but hateful anger? Very few issues actually warrant anger, and when that anger morphs into hatred among believers? Except for our issues, because they are the most important, and we always have the discernment and maturity to hate wisely, don’t we? After all, our track record has been spotless so far.

Jealousy – I am going to risk making you really irritated and point out that the word translated as jealousy is zelos – yeah, it looks exactly like the word zealous for a reason. In fact, half the time this is translated, it is rendered “zealous.” Zeal is probably one of the most self-deceiving forces on earth and there is a big difference between the Jews coming to Yeshua/Jesus in Acts 21:20, who were zealous for the law that they had grown up with and knew inside and out, and when James and Paul combined that same exact word with selfish ambition (James 3.14) and strife (I Col 3:3). Problem with zeal is that I never met a single person who didn’t think their brand of zeal was the righteous kind – you know, like Paul when he was arresting and persecuting believers.

Jealousy, the other way to translate this word, is an ugly thing, it is a blinding thing. Twice in my time as a believer, I have had jealous wives after me – the first time because a choir director became strangely fascinated with me (I know, I mean like look at me – lol, what gives? Who knew that albino oompa loompas were so alluring?) and the second because – honestly, that was nuts because, to me, the guy was just needy and constantly whining and I don’t think that any woman (other than herself) would be attracted to that. I certainly never saw him as anything other than annoying. But jealousy is not a logical thing, it doesn’t look at the evidence, it is suspicion and paranoia driven. It happens in personal relationships, yes, and also in any situation where people feel threatened.

Fits of anger – this is the one that applies to me more than any other on the list, boy howdy. Just ask my kids. I am one of those people who just BAM! EXPLOSION. As much as I would like to wage a sarcastic defense of this one, it strikes WAY to close to home for me to even joke about. It isn’t funny because I hurt people with it. None of the works of the flesh are funny, and this one gets unleashed against kids, and innocent bystanders on social media way too often, when we launch into knee-jerk accusations and insults over very little, when even a lot should never move us into this area.

Rivalries – competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field. For example: “commercial rivalry”

This should never even begin to happen in the faith world, but it sure does. I have seen people in ministry go to great lengths to halt the popularity of others, sometimes over disagreements in doctrine but sometimes simply over audience share. Problem with rivalry in religion is that it is never above board – we shouldn’t be competing against each other, but cooperating. Rivalry in ministry leads to one thing and one thing only – the creation of personal Kingdoms and Empires. We can’t build the Kingdom of Heaven by destroying its Living Stones.

Dissensions – disagreement that leads to discord. This goes beyond just being disagreeable in your disagreement (which is shameful enough); it morphs ruthlessly into a form of disagreement that ruptures relationships. Honestly, when I look at the relationships being torn apart by flat earth/spherical earth, it definitely qualifies. And for that matter, by archaeologically unsupported stories about Nimrod being responsible for Christmas, leading us to accuse our loved ones of gross idolatry based on theories and “just so” stories (and no, I am not going to publish any Nimrod comments, if that is what you take away from this then – dang.). People who actually agree that the Word became flesh, worked miracles, was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father – the very idea that they are going to be driven apart by a piddly little nothing of a debate about what shape the earth is, it boggles the mind. Shame on us if we can agree on the craziest (and truest) story ever told, without a doubt in our minds, and we are daring to call such brain candy salvational. There is a reason that Paul said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor 2:2).

Divisions – this is what happens when dissensions go too far, and generally is coupled with strife and rivalries. We divide up into little groups that are now created in our own image, which each side firmly believes to actually be God’s image. Got idolatry? Yes, most divisions are entirely pride-based, although we tell ourselves differently. We can’t bear to sit and listen to something we disagree with, not even when we are wrong (not that WE are the wrong ones, oh no, they are wrong, and probably because of rebellion and on purpose, to boot; we are just defending orthodoxy). Oh man, the stupid things that divide us when we agree about so much.

Envy – a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck (no, I will not publish any comments about luck being related to Loki, because you know what I mean). Since coming into the ministry four years ago, I see this a lot more than I used to. People in the body unashamedly announcing their envy of other believer’s money, following, children, health, etc. I admit that I myself, being barren, am prone to ugly fits of envy when X is pregnant AGAIN, and when people with healthy, physically sound kids are complaining about things that seem stupid to me as a special needs mom, or when such and such is complaining about the burdens of being pregnant when I got my kids the hard way, through an adoption contested by a rapist that cost us just about everything. Did you see what I did there? I vocalized what is usually only in my thoughts, and I did it to show what envy looks like. Should I be mad that some people don’t know the heartache of being barren? Do I want them to be barren? Of course not! Do I want other people’s kids to be disabled so they can get a taste of my life? Heavens no! And the last one, good grief, no one should have to endure that. I wish I was the only member of that club. You see, envy isn’t just about what they have, it’s about unconsciously wishing that someone else was privy to our pain. Envy is entirely selfish and often rooted in ingratitude and pain, and yes, it is a work of the flesh because our pain is no excuse.

These aren’t on a different list from “the biggies” – they are included as equals on the same exact list. And the people who do them will not inherit the Kingdom of God – you see why I push character over knowledge?

Each of these despicable heart conditions are sandwiched in between the outward, obvious works of the flesh – the sins everyone can see. Coincidence? No way. This is the sandwich Paul described when he talked about how flawless he was in his Torah observance, while inside being a murderer. Paul kept the Feasts, he kept the Sabbath, he tithed, he ate clean, he threw coins at beggars in his gate – and he was a murderous wretch on the inside. No one cared because he was keeping the letter of the Law in the strictest sense on the outside. Paul knew what he was talking about, and what he was doing when he wrote this. At least Paul wasn’t making excuses for himself anymore, so when are we going to stop rewriting the works of our flesh as somehow being virtuous and justified acts of righteousness? I tell you the truth, we have to want to see ourselves as villains before the Spirit can even begin to get a word in edgewise. Until then, we are just fakers keeping a set of rules and patting ourselves on the back for being so obedient – but image bearers? No, that requires integrity inside and out, that requires picking up our Cross and carrying it. It requires pain, and suffering, to be like the very image of the unseen God.

You need to know that, if after reading all that, your response isn’t introspective but a “yeah but what about…” then you have completely missed the point that we are all included in this list, and that this sort of list is meant to offend our flesh. It’s our choice, however, whether we give voice to that flesh or simply tell it to shut up for once and stop making excuses.




The Dangers of Dualism: Fearing the World Instead of Trusting in God

Dualism is a metaphysical belief that looks at life in terms of extremes – physical vs spiritual, good vs evil, us vs them, etc. Sounds reasonable ay first glance, and yet this kind of thinking has led to a terrible kind of bondage, not only in the world but also within the Body of Messiah – bondage that we see in politics, congregations, and all over social media. It is an extreme point of view that has led to paranoia, persecution and unnecessary division throughout the ages.
 
Dualism is about separation, and most often comes up in terms of “we are good, they are bad,” or “physical = bad, spiritual = good.” It’s the mindset behind the idea that this world can be written off, that it exists simply to be escaped from – where we become “more heavenly focused than earthly good.” Because of this, there has grown up a mistrust in and fear of the physical world as well as a fear of and contempt for anyone who is not in lockstep with ourselves – there are no shades of grey in dualistic religious or political thinking. For example, Catholicism (Judaism, Liberalism, Conservatism, whatever) can’t just be partially wrong, in the mind of a true dualist, it has to be entirely evil. It has to be discredit, destroyed, at any cost, through whatever worldly and even sinful means at our disposal. When we are scared, we are more than willing to allow our morals to slip “for a good cause.” Everything done under that banner has to be suspect, and no one can give them credit for any good works for fear of being labeled as a papist, or at least very dangerous. People from other countries can’t just be “backward,” they have to be subhuman – they have to be, because we, ourselves, are supposedly good. Or at least I am, in this train of thought. (Hence the American form of slavery as identified and justified by color). This is also the line of thinking responsible for political rancor, racism, and class warfare – people like me are good and anyone else is suspect and most probably inferior (at the very least)
 
The Bible even seems to support this kind of thinking, because it was written in a dyadic society – hence they had no problem with celebrating the “dashing of enemy babies against the rocks.” They were too extreme for the tastes of people growing up in a post-Cross world which has been largely transformed by the fruit of the Spirit. We take for granted that no decent person would want such a thing to happen, but again, Yeshua/Jesus died in order to bring God’s heart values (and not just outward observances, which are also vitally important) into the world in a massive and unprecedented way.
 
But, with the advent of social media, we have once again become very much like the paranoid and conspiratorial people who lived before the Cross. Nowhere is it better seen than in politics and the fake news stories spreading all over the internet – reporting conspiracies as though they were fact, citing non-existent news stories and fabricating quotes, data and statistics. Of course, these sites have a LOT of advertisements, and they get money when you visit, a lot of money. Because of this unBiblical dualism, which paints everything in terms of black and white, these stories feed the notion that, for example, government is entirely evil, and anyone who questions it is immediately granted an aura of integrity. That’s dangerous. We can’t attribute virtue to those people who feed our pre-perceived notions and call it something like, “taking the red pill” – instead, it is simply believing, without a thorough investigation, a separate storyline. Believe me, if you take too many red pills, you will overdose.
If you are obsessed with finding all the hidden evil in the world, then your focus is desperately off.
 
I have seen it used in politics, racism, anti-semitism, intercountry squabbling, religion, you name it. It is rooted in an absolute paranoia of the different. We want “us” to be good and right, and so we need “them” to be evil and wrong. It’s completely about us, and because it is about us, our moral compass goes off-kilter. We will believe everything good about us and everything evil, no matter how absurd, about them. It goes so far that we read a story and don’t even do a basic fact check – we don’t bother to find out if this celebrity actually even made the interview being quoted, or if CNN is actually the source behind a story, or if there truly is a speech on file that says what the story claims, in context. We are driven by fear and surface-appearances by people who, frankly, would appear to be training us to react and divide without even thinking about why we are doing it, and without asking questions. Who exactly is yanking our strings so effectively, while warning us that others are yanking our strings? Seems to be the perfect disguise for a deceiver, eh?
 
Think, for a moment, about the paranoia that has to exist within us, in order to believe and propagate anything bad we see reported about our “enemy” when the Ten Commandments specifically tell us not to bear false witness against our neighbors. Think about how compromised we have to be, to forward every bad thing we see about the suspected folks of our choice. That isn’t a godly virtue, or truth-seeking, being informed, smarter, a remnant, or a watchman.  In the real ancient world – a watchman who reported false information regularly would die. He was not at liberty to blow the shofar every time he saw a tumbleweed on the horizon. What we are dealing with is a lack of self-control –  fear gone wild, manifesting itself in sin through false witness. It’s a blindness brought on by a need to be good and right – but we aren’t entirely good and right – are we?
 
No. We aren’t. And it is our pride and self-deception that drives this madness of external dualism. But let’s look at a healthier dualism-ish sort of situation.
 
Within each individual (let’s not bring extremes like psychopaths into the mix), there is a battle of good vs evil. I am certainly no exception – I am trying to be more good all the time and less evil – but the Bible clearly lays out this struggle in every human being, beginning with Adam and Eve. All of the patriarchs, the kings, everyone fought this battle within themselves. We are not entirely good – only one Man could ever boast of that on His resume. The rest of us are various degrees of what I call a hot mess. It is an unending battle that we have to fight every day, for the rest of our lives. As we begin to see how suspect we are, as we stop seeing ourselves and those who side with us as inherently good, we will begin to see the world and the people in it as more multi-faceted. Honestly, that is the kind of mindset that can take the gospel to the ends of the earth – as opposed to Peter’s belief that he couldn’t even enter the home of a Gentile, even a decade after the Cross. We can’t effectively serve God when our judgment and perception is clouded by extreme dualism.
 
You know what? The best way to start is to take a break and stop questioning everyone else all the time – the government, religions, races, ethnicities, etc.; we need to question ourselves and what the things we need to/choose to believe – specifically, we need to understand what they tell us about ourselves and our need to believe that we 9and those who agree with us) are truly on the unquestionably trustworthy end of our dualistic paranoia.
 
“Wow, look at that headline, it’s outrageous, and it is about X so it must be true.”
 

Whether it was happening in Nazi Germany or today, it’s the same dualistic pride and fear behind the sin – and it is behind our inability to do anything but sit in paralyzed fear of the world around us. One thing is for certain – we can’t make any kind of headway in the Kingdom if our constant focus is the world and all the terrible things they must be constantly doing behind the scenes – especially if a lot, or even just a little, of it is just the product of our imagination spurred on by those who are out to make a quick buck, create outrage, and further their own agendas – which we actually should be questioning. After all, if we are so suspicious of X that we will believe anything that Y says, it doesn’t make us particularly well-informed, it just makes us useful to God only knows who, hidden safely and anonymously behind the scenes and hidden behind some computer screen. People we don’t know, but whom we place our blind trust in – simply because they appear to be the enemy of those whom we believe are our enemies.

We are the Body of Messiah: worshippers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Who exactly have we been trusting blindly?




Q: How Many Pagan Gods Were Born of Virgins (or even born) on December 25th? A: Zero

Of the charges leveled in order to undermine Christianity and the historical Yeshua ben Yosef aka Jesus Christ, one of the easiest to debunk is the idea that heathen religions are full of examples of this or that false god being born of a virgin on December 25th. Widespread among atheist detractors, these charges have spawned endless memes over the years – especially since 2007 when the first Zeitgeist documentary was released. Sadly, the claims are so flimsy that even a basic Wikipedia search can tear them to shreds (and you know how I feel about doing research with Wikipedia…) – and yet, they largely go unchallenged. So here is my challenge to those claims, as they are being used to create a false impression that the Jewish Messiah is a myth – and create unfounded arguments among believers. Links to other related articles are in bold blue.

Disclaimer: I do not celebrate Christmas, nor do I approve of it. Because of some unfortunate circumstances in the first few centuries of Christianity, Christmas came to replace the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles aka “Sukkot” which occurs during modern September/October sometime prior to 200CE. It is my firm belief that Sukkot was the day referred to be John as when “the Word became flesh and Tabernacled among us.” (John 1.14) My family celebrates the birth of Messiah then, and not in December, which was chosen because of an interesting theory among the Church Fathers about the conception and death of Messiah occurring on the exact same day – Passover – hence, forty weeks later giving rise to a date of birth of either December 25th or January 6th (both of which are still observed) depending on when they decided to place Passover.

So this post is not in any way in defense of Christmas, which I never defend, but instead a plea to clean up our online witness by not sharing memes and teachings based on atheist propaganda (although I do firmly stand against the charge that Jeremiah was speaking against Christmas trees in Jer 10). Promotion of the Feasts should be just that – we should teach the Feasts! I am currently writing two curriculum books within the Context for Kids series designed to teach what the Feasts looked like for an 11-year-old Yeshua/Jesus and 12-year-old John the Baptist in first-century Galilee and Judea.

(NOTE: I will not publish comments unrelated to the topic at hand, which is specifically December 25th being the birthdate of a plethora of pagan gods. I understand this is a very emotional and agenda-driven topic for a lot of folks, and many ministries have staked their reputation on this information but this isn’t about anything except what can be proven historically. There is nothing personal about this. Of course, I never publish comments from people who come to the table with cheap shots, emotional arguments, and wild accusations about uninformed opinions about my “true intentions” instead of factual data delivered respectfully.)

This blogpost is going to be a classic example of how lies on colorful memes generally go unchallenged (because people have to pass an honesty test before Adobe will allow them to use Photoshop, right?) – even when it is incredibly easy to do so. This one clearly states “if he actually lived” and so I would hope that no believer would ever pass this particular one along, but I have seen these same charges passed around by believers on too many occasions to ignore it. I hate to say this, but some believers and ministries regurgitate such claims without investigation if it suits their agendas, and others outright make up lies – like Reverend Alexander Hislop in the 1850’s during the Protestant/Catholic PR wars where no expense was spared in undermining the warring Christian factions (Hislop’s book, The Two Babylons, in particular, was racially based in order to offend white British Protestants, attributing the origins of Catholicism to a deformed black man who dared to marry a beautiful white woman). I myself propagated some of these lies in the past – consider this part of my ongoing mea culpa. I want my witness to be worth something – God doesn’t need me to pass on revoltingly racist urban legends in order to promote His Word. The truth is all He has ever needed to propagate His Kingdom.

Now, first of all, I want to talk about the Roman Calendar. Every single ancient culture had their own separate Calendar – Egypt’s year began and ended with the inundation of the Nile in the summer, Babylonian years ended and began in the Spring in the months of Adar/Nisan during their bizarre twelve day Akitu festival in honor of Marduk, the Athenian calendar (Greek, but there were a lot of different Greek calendars) began and ended in the late summer, the classical Hindu calendar begins in the Spring, and beginning in 45 BCE, the Julian calendar began in January – a gross departure from how things had been handled previously. Before 45 BCE, the Roman calendar was historically a mess, with months from March to December (304 day year)  separated by a long random winter made longer or shorter at the whim of legislators who might like to extend or prematurely cut off the administration of a certain ruler. I say this to illustrate that the specific dating of anything to the Julian (and by obvious extension, the modern Gregorian) calendar before 45BCE is purely wishful thinking. Equating dates between one culture and another until just before the time of Messiah is nigh impossible, except in the cases of recorded astrological phenomena. Hence, in historical volumes of this era, we see things narrowed down to a few years or, if we are fortunate, a couple of months within a given year.

Our second problem: Until the deification of Julius Caesar in 42 BCE, almost no one cared about when anyone was born ( the notable exception being Egypt). People cared about knowing when great deeds happened, and when great men died; they didn’t give a fig for anyone’s birthday unless it was associated with some great astronomical or historical event – otherwise, it didn’t warrant a mention. With the advent of the Imperial Cult, the birthdays of the Ceasars became public celebrations – but this was very new in the time of Messiah. It was so new, in fact, that scholars are fairly certain that Herod Antipas was not celebrating his birthday in Matt 14, but instead his regnal anniversary (after all, the day he came to the throne was more important than being born – no honor in being born, but becoming King? Oh yeah.) Besides Horus and Osiris – in the link provided above – not a single one of the birthdates claimed in memes like the one above, are actually recorded – and for the overwhelming majority, aren’t even commemorated.

Horus and Osiris – now this meme claims they were born on the same day – but, in fact, they were born on the first and third epagomenal days of the Egyptian Calendar as I explained in the previous link (not considered part of the year, but extra days outside of time). In the version of mythology where they were brothers, their mother had been cursed with an inability to have children on any day of the year but, through some fancy finagling, managed to get five extra days inserted at the time of the inundation of the Nile, during the summer. So not only weren’t they born on the same day, they were both born in the summer. As for the 3000 BC date – that is pure fiction. Egyptian records claim that the Pharaohs themselves went back much farther than that. As for the charge that either one of them were born of a virgin – that strikes out as well. In the most well known of Horus/Osiris mythology (the myths with no birthday mentioned at all), Horus’s parents were married, which generally discourages virginity and Isis was never portrayed as a virgin.

Attis of Phrygia – no birthday found anywhere. He castrated himself and wore a funny hat, and his priests castrated themselves as well. I think the only reason he was chosen for this list is because his mother was impregnated by an almond – which I suppose could be equated with a virgin birth.  He was also one of the “dying gods” whose departure from the world marked the death of vegetation over the winter months.

Krishna – this one is popularly on such lists because somehow Krishna sounds enough like Christ that they want him included. However, the non-pagan origins of Christos in Greek Jewish writings, including the Septuagint version of the Scriptures (3rd century BCE), is well established. Krishna’s birthday is actually celebrated on Janamashtami, in the Hindu month of Shraavana (August/September on our calendar). So this one is just flat out manufactured when there is perfectly good information already out there, as was the case with Horus and Osiris. Like Horus, Krishna’s parents were also married – no virgins here. The date of 1400 BCE is problematic as I am unaware of any mentions of this god before the first millennium BCE.

Zoroaster – now this guy, Zarathustra, was actually a real historical figure – a Persian prophet. No one knows when the heck this guy was actually born – sometime between the mid-second and mid-first millennium BCE. His parents were, again, married, sexually active – and both human. He was never worshiped (Ahura Mazda was the diety he preached) but founded the religion of Zoroastrianism. His birthday is now commemorated on the sixth day after the Persian New Year, and falls on March 26th or 28th each year on a holiday known as Khordad Sal. He is venerated as a prophet.

Mithra of Persia – (as opposed to Roman Mithras) – I am just going to link this article by the undisputed Mithra/Mithras expert Roger Beck – but no birthday, and he sprang to life fully adult from a rock (although I have no reason the doubt the rock’s virginity). I also wrote about Mithras and the problems with Mithras speculation here. Another related scholarly article is here about the related Sol Invictus.

Heracles – (original name of Hercules) – this dude’s mom was definitely not a virgin – she unknowingly had relations with Zeus, who was disguised as her husband. The Greeks celebrated the date of his death as Heracleia, in late July/early August, but not his birth. Remember that, until Ceasar, birthdates were largely irrelevant and would only be mentioned with respect to signs in the sky or other great events, but not referenced with dates. The 800 BCE date on this one is bizarre – Herodotus claimed that Heracles lived 900 years before his own era, so roughly 1300 BCE.

Dionysus – worshipped beginning in the second millennium BCE by the Mycenians and better known by his later Roman name of Bacchus. Herodotus dates his mortal mother Semele’s life at around 2000 BCE.  She had an affair with Zeus, knowing he was Zeus – so not a virgin either. But this is only one of the legends, in others the mother of Dionysus was Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. Like the Egyptians, the Greeks sometimes had regional origin stories. The weird thing about the date on this meme is that it is 186 BCE – the year that the Roman Senate prohibited the festival of Bacchanalia. So they used a legitimate date tied to Dionysus, but utterly misrepresented it.

Tammuz – I wrote an extensive blog on the very misrepresented Tammuz here, so I won’t go into great detail on this one. But 400 BCE? Ezekiel 8 has Tammuz being worshiped in the Temple, which was destroyed in 586 BCE – how on earth could he be born two hundred years later? And how could a Babylonian god who had a summer month named after him have his birthday celebrated on a calendar date that didn’t exist yet, by a still backward nation? Rome wasn’t even founded until 753 BCE, and at this point, Babylon and Rome were, for all intents and purposes, as far away as two countries could get while still being considered part of the known world. Yes, even mighty Rome was once a pathetic little backwater nation.

Adonis – born 200 BCE? I have seen an aryballos from the fifth century BCE with Adonis pictured on it, so again, I have no idea where this date comes from or why there would be a claim that the Greeks would be celebrating one of their gods’ birthdays according to the Roman calendar. There are many Adonis origin stories, most notably that which involved the incestuous union between his mother and grandfather, but none of them list a birth date. The only festival in his honor was Adonia, celebrated by women in the spring or summer (greatly disputed), commemorating his death. Again, they focused on how great men/demigods died.

Hermes – again – 400 BCE. How can we take seriously the claim that an ancient Greek god was only 400 years older than Messiah? In the 8th century BCE, Homer included Hermes in the Iliad. No birthdate is ever associated with him – but the Hermea festival was celebrated in his honor during the month of Hermaios (in poleis that had that month, not all did) – the timing of which varies according to the ancient regional calendars (as I mentioned previously, each region had its own separate calendar until the creation of the Thessalian calendar during the Roman era).

Prometheus – “born at the beginning of mankind” – in Greek legend he was the Titan who actually made mankind out of clay. That this birth supposedly happened on December 25th is undocumented and unsubstantiated historically. His parents were married and he was only one of their four children so, again, not a virgin birth either even though some memes make that claim. Not only wasn’t his mom a virgin, but she was also seeing Helios on the side.

Finally – I don’t know of a single scholar who thinks Yeshua was born in June, and especially not sure why the 16th – now, in 2008 some astronomers made that claim, but it is hardly worthy of claims to scholarly consensus. And the last line equates BCE with CE – I just can’t even believe that someone would equate “Before Common Era” with “Common Era.” It’s like equating yesterday and tomorrow.

There are other accusations floated around with this December 25th myth that are just as baseless- Nimrod, Buddha, etc. – but I didn’t want to post memes from actual ministries so as to not humiliate them – I wanted to go to the source, and the source of all this is atheism. Sadly, believers have been spreading atheist propaganda in order to undermine Christmas at any cost, and so are unknowingly spreading what amounts to anti-missionary literature, undermining faith in the Jewish Messiah, instead of simply teaching the Biblical Feasts of the Lord. As a result, knowledge of the Feasts, even among those who try to keep them, is abysmal. Hey, I used to do this too – but then I started legitimately studying ancient Near Eastern and first-century world history, religion and culture. The stuff I was repeating had no correlations with the copious amounts of archaeological evidence at our disposal. In fact, over the past 150 years, our knowledge of the ancient world has exploded. It is our responsibility to study before we teach, and especially when those teachings include accusations of idolatry – a death penalty offense in the Bible. In the Bible, anyone who falsely witnessed against their neighbor with regards to a death penalty offense would themselves face the death penalty. We cannot accuse people of idolatry when we have no solid proof, or even remotely plausible theories. I trust God, His Messiah, His Word, and the integrity of His Feasts – I don’t need to lift propaganda from discredited sources. I take God’s laws very seriously.

Deuteronomy 19 15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days.18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

 

 

 




¿Está ordenado el Lavado de Manos? Sí … y No.   Mateo 15 y Marcos 7 en Contexto

 

Gracias Lisa Velazques! My grateful thanks to my dear sister Lisa Velazquez for translating this post. She is a marvel! Her teachings can be heard regularly on teshuva.tv

Hay mucha información errónea circulando sobre el debatido ritual del lavado de manos en el tiempo en que fueron escritos los Evangelios, así que aclaremos más las aguas. Por ahora sólo cubriremos las oraciones del lavado de manos porque a veces las personas se molestan por ellas. En el futuro, cubriremos la creencia general del primer siglo de que no lavarse ritualmente las manos contaminaría los alimentos. Tengo que sentar una base en la pureza del Templo antes de que yo vaya allí o no será comprensible. Hay una gran diferencia entre lo santo y lo común, lo limpio y lo inmundo. Tenemos que entenderlos todos para comprender lo que estaba pasando aquí – ¡de lo contrario terminamos pensando que el Mesías violó las Leyes de Moisés y se rebeló contra Dios! Hay mucho más en estos pasajes de lo que parece.

Estoy segura de que han oído hablar de los fariseos, ¿verdad? Pero lo que probablemente no saben es su historia y los pocos que había en realidad en el primer siglo – en algún lugar entre cinco y seis mil. Los fariseos, o P’rushim (del hebreo que significa “separarse”) llegaron a la prominencia, y con frecuencia a la ruina, durante los tiempos de los Hasmoneos después de la muerte del último de los líderes de la Rebelión Macabea, Simón. Durante el reinado de su nieto Aristóbulo I (el primer Hasmoneo que se describe como un verdadero rey), surgieron entre los fariseos algunas disputas muy amargas y mortales, creían en usar todas las Escrituras hebreas (como todos los judíos de hoy) y los Saduceos, que creían sólo en el mínimo necesario de la Torá (los primeros cinco libros de Moisés), y lo que creían estaba muy retorcido por su creencia de que no había resurrección ni juicio final, por lo que había que tomar bendiciones en esta vida. Tenga en cuenta que cuando las Escrituras dicen que “los principales sacerdotes” o el “Sumo Sacerdote” están hablando de los saduceos, que habían comprando el sacerdocio anual de Roma. Aunque los saduceos constituían los principales sacerdotes y el sumo sacerdocio, no eran los sacerdotes de rango y posición, como Zacarías, el padre de Juan el Bautista. Como los saduceos sólo aceptaban los primeros cinco libros de Moisés y tenían cero temor de juicio, los hacía muy peligrosos y en realidad fueron el partido responsable de entregar a Yeshúa/Jesús a Roma para ser ejecutado como un rebelde político contra el Imperio. Los Fariseos, por el contrario, en una ocasión le advirtieron de un complot de Herodes Antipas para matarlo (Lucas 13:31).

Los fariseos, al igual que la mayoría de la gente, eran un saco mezclado que eran realmente desjarretados, vivieron en una hiper cultura de honor y vergüenza. Se criaron en una sociedad donde tenían que competir por una cantidad percibida de honor (reputación) en nombre de sus familias. A medida que la fama de Yeshua aumentaba, la suya decayó y algunos respondieron atacándolo, mientras que otros respondieron siguiéndolo (Nicodemo, José de Arimatea y más tarde, en el libro de Hechos, muchos otros como vemos en Hechos 15). Pablo y Gamaliel, que escatimaron a los apóstoles, eran ambos fariseos (Pablo nunca renunció a su estatus de fariseo según Hechos 23:6).

Así que, aparte de la resurrección, ¿en qué otras cosas creían los fariseos? Bueno, como con la mayoría de los grupos judíos durante este período de tiempo, ellos creían que eran un Templo vivo. Sí, ese no es un concepto cristiano. El Segundo Templo se levantó y los judíos creyeron que eran las piedras vivas que constituían un Templo espiritual – abarcaban tanto las realidades físicas como espirituales. Debido a que creían que el pueblo de Dios era colectivamente Su Templo, tenían algunas opiniones interesantes sobre tener una relación con Dios fuera del Templo de Jerusalén – de nuevo, no es realmente diferente de los cristianos. En particular, porque se veían a sí mismos como un reino de sacerdotes (otra vez, no un concepto cristiano), creían en traer algunos estándares de pureza del Templo al hogar y lo más importante, a la mesa de la cena. La mesa era vista como el altar de la casa, donde comidas de convenio podían ser compartidas entre ellos y Dios.

Entonces, ¿qué tiene que ver esto con las oraciones que los judíos oran hoy?

“Bendito eres Tú, Señor, Dios nuestro, Rey del Universo, que nos ha santificado por tus mandamientos y nos ha ordenado acerca del lavamiento de manos” (y hay una expresión similar en el encendido de las velas del Shabbat)

Espera, no hay mandamiento para eso, ¿verdad? Si y no. Los fariseos, y en gran parte otros judíos de la época, se consideraban parte del Templo vivo, su mesa un altar, y cada israelita un sacerdote del Reino de Dios. ¿Estás empezando a ver hacia donde me dirijo? Aunque sabían que no eran y no podían ser sacerdotes del Templo, se veían como mediadores y siervos de Dios en el mundo, que son funciones sacerdotales. Comenzaron a mirar los mandamientos del Templo para los sacerdotes y llevarlos a su vida cotidiana. ¿Había un mandamiento con respecto al lavado de las manos e iluminación de las lámparas en el Templo? Absolutamente. Donde los modernos se cuelgan es en la palabra “nosotros” en esas oraciones. Como parte de un grupo social diádico, no eran individualistas. Cuando los sacerdotes en el Templo guardaban un mandamiento, todos lo guardaban por extensión. Si un sacerdote rompía un mandamiento, todos lo rompían: la nación no era tanto una colección de individuos, sino un solo pueblo. Aquí es donde los judíos y los antiguos cristianos difieren fundamentalmente de nosotros. Un mandamiento para uno se consideraba que se aplicaba a todos, incluso si una persona en particular no podía realizarlo físicamente ellos mismos. ¿Guardó el Mesías toda ley? Sólo si lo consideramos como uno con la nación. Evidentemente no podía mantener físicamente las leyes de las mujeres, ni de los reyes, ni de los sacerdotes. Pero como cada miembro de la nación guardaba las leyes, se les consideraba colectivamente como estando de pie con Dios.

Éxodo 30:17-21: 17 Y el SEÑOR dijo a Moisés: 18 Harás también un lavabo de bronce con su soporte de bronce para lavar. La pondrás entre la Tienda de Reunión y el altar, y pondrás agua en ella, 19 con la cual Aarón y sus hijos lavarán sus manos y sus pies. 20 Cuando entran en el Tabernáculo de Reunión, o cuando se acercan al altar para ministrar, para quemar una ofrenda al Señor, se lavarán con agua, para que no mueran. 21 Y lavarán sus manos y sus pies, para que no mueran. Será por estatuto perpetuo para ellos, a él y a su descendencia por sus generaciones”.

Como el altar era un lugar de ofrenda de alimentos para el Señor, los sacerdotes debían lavarse las manos y los pies antes de acercarse a Él. Por lo tanto, los fariseos honraban a Dios en sus hogares al volver a hacer esto – ¿estaban equivocados al llamarle un mandamiento? No. Sin embargo, vemos que Yeshua no lo hizo, pero Él no los criticó por hacerlo. En lugar de eso, Él cambió hábilmente el tema de cómo deben estar limpiándose en el interior, como se ordenó en el Sinaí, en la circuncisión de sus corazones. La pureza ritual no era nada a menos que estuviese acompañada por la transformación interna que deberíamos experimentar como pueblo de Dios.

¿Qué hay de la iluminación de las velas del Shabbat? No haré un corte extenso aquí, pero a los sacerdotes se les ordenó cuidar y encender la Menorá en el Templo, así como el fuego en el Altar. So ¿fue el encendido de la llama del Shabbat (en aquellos días una lámpara de aceite) un mandamiento? Sí, de alguna manera. Recuerden, están trayendo el Templo a la casa, como piedras vivas.

Veamos otra vez la oración:

“Bendito seas tú, Señor, nuestro Dios, Rey del Universo, que nos ha santificado por tus mandamientos y nos ha mandado acerca del lavamiento de manos”.

En ninguna parte dice que Dios nos ordenó acerca del lavado de manos en el hogar – y por lo tanto esta oración no es una mentira. ¡Dios realmente nos mandó, como Su Nación, acerca del lavado de manos!

Mi razón para abordar esto no es promover ni criticar las oraciones o las tradiciones, simplemente para explicar el pensamiento subyacente. Honestamente no apruebo o desapruebo, soy ambivalente. Si lo haces, no me importa. Si usted se abstiene – no me importa, vea la imagen. Mucho se oscurece cuando la gente tiene una postura definitiva sobre el tema – a veces sienten la necesidad de hacer las intenciones siniestras o excusar excesivamente lo que estaba pasando. Yo no participo en el lavado de manos o en muchas otras halakah, pero es muy importante para mí abordar la desinformación y las reacciones negativas sobre esta tradición. A veces nos empujan a juzgar algo antes de que realmente entendamos por qué se hacía, y cuando estamos juzgando los escritos bíblicos del primer siglo, es increíblemente importante que hagamos las cosas bien. Yeshúa no lo hizo, pero tampoco condenó a nadie por hacerlo. Hay guerras que hay que combatir, y posturas que tomar, pero sólo un tonto lucha contra cada hojarasca que cruza su camino sólo porque parece un poco extraño y esquemático. Seamos sabios y discernidores antes de caer en la batalla unos con otros sobre cosas que el Mesías mismo dejó ir sin desafío.

Ahora, en cuanto a la creencia del hecho de comer con las manos sin lavar hacia que la comida se contaminara, eso es otra cosa completamente. Vamos a cubrir eso en el futuro.

EDITADO: Me han preguntado sobre esto varias veces y por lo que voy a añadir un poco más. “Sólo sabemos que los discípulos de Yeshúa no lavaron sus manos, no que Él no lo hiciera.” Así que para aclarar esto, tenemos que mirar la relación del Sabio/discípulo (en realidad es anacrónico llamar a los maestros religiosos del día – Rabinos – que surgieron más tarde). Los maestros tomaban principalmente a jóvenes adolescentes como discípulos, e imagino que todos estos jóvenes eran realmente muy jóvenes, a excepción de Pedro (aunque ahora tengo 48 años, Pedro probablemente también cuenta como “muy joven”). El objetivo de un discípulo era aprender todo lo que su maestro sabía, y emularlo todos los días. Así que, cuando fue desafiado en cuanto al comportamiento de los discípulos, la acusación era más probable, “¿Por qué están corrompiendo a la juventud?” – una carga mucho peor que simplemente personalmente transgredir su tradición. Dicho esto, los Judíos Galileos eran muy observantes de las Tradiciones de los Ancianos, mucho más que en Judea – así que imagino que creció haciendo esto en casa. Creo que se detuvo como un adulto debido a la necesidad de abordar la suposición defectuosa de que la comida limpia podría contaminarse fuera del Templo simplemente por tener manos sucias – cuando llegamos a la siguiente parte, vamos a abordar eso porque Yeshúa específicamente habla de la incapacidad de contaminar comidas limpias con manos sucias.




Is Hand Washing Commanded? Yes… and No. Matthew 15 and Mark 7 In Context.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the ritual handwashing debated in the time the Gospels were written, and so let’s make the waters a bit clearer. For now we will just cover the actual hand-washing prayers because sometimes people get upset about them. In the future, we will cover the general first-century belief that not ritually washing the hands would defile food. I have to lay a groundwork in Temple purity before I even go there or it will not be understandable. There is a big difference between holy and common, and clean and unclean. We have to understand them all to understand what was going on here – otherwise we end up thinking that Messiah overturned the Laws of Moses and rebelled against God! There is so much more to these passages than meets the eye.

(EDIT #2 – this is a many part teaching designed for beginners. I have to teach things layer by layer. I am getting a lot of comments about “what I don’t seem to understand” that are going unpublished because a lot of those comments don’t reflect accurate information and sometimes steer people towards teachers who are a big part of the misunderstandings over this issue. In this teaching I ONLY covered the charge that the prayer itself is somehow sinful or adding to the Torah. I still need to talk about clean/unclean, holy/common before even get to first century ideas about ritual purity. I am not willing to publish comments that want to jump the gun without providing foundational background. I realize that this is unusual, but it is how I teach beginners – I am not teaching to impress people or to just spew information for people to accept. A lot of the comments I am getting would take another five blogs to deal with some of the problems. So, realize this is a place for beginners to learn, and I am starting off small and working my way to larger issues – but I am not going to just regurgitate information and expect people to accept it without actually teaching them why certain things are and are not true.)

I am sure you’ve all heard of the Pharisees, right? But what you probably don’t know is their history and how few there actually were in the first century – somewhere between five and six thousand. The Pharisees, or P’rushim (from the Hebrew meaning “to separate”) came to prominence, and often ruin, during the times of the Hasmoneans after the death of the last of the leaders of the Maccabean Revolt, Simon. During the reign of his grandson Aristobulus I (the first Hasmonean to describe himself as an actual king), some very bitter and deadly disputes rose up between the Pharisees, who believed in using the entire Hebrew Scriptures (like all Jews today), and the Sadducees, who believed in only the bare minimum of Torah (the first five books of Moses) – and what they did believe was very much twisted by their belief that there was no resurrection, nor final judgement, and so blessings had to be taken in this life. Note that when the Scriptures say “chief priests” or “High Priest” they are talking about the Sadducees, who were then buying the High Priesthood yearly from Rome. Although the Sadducees made up the chief priests and high priesthood, they were not the rank and file priests – like Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. As the Sadducees only accepted the first five books of Moses and had zero fear of judgment, it made them very dangerous and they were actually the party responsible for turning Yeshua/Jesus over to Rome to be executed as a political rebel against the Empire. The Pharisees, on the other hand, actually once warned Him away from a plot by Herod Antipas to kill Him (Luke 13.31).

The Pharisees, like most folks, were a mixed bag who were really hamstrung by living in a hyper-honor/shame culture. They were raised in a society where they had to compete for a perceived limited amount of honor (reputation) on behalf of their families. As Yeshua’s star rose, theirs fell and some responded by attacking Him, while others responded by following Him (Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and later, in the book of Acts, many others as we see in Acts 15). Paul and Gamaliel, who spared the apostles, were both Pharisees (Paul never renounced his Pharisee status as per Acts 23.6).

So besides the resurrection, what else did the Pharisees believe? Well, as with most Jewish groups during this time period, they believed that they were a living Temple. Yes, that isn’t a Christian concept. The Second Temple stood and the Jews believed that they were the living stones that made up a spiritual Temple – they embraced both the physical and spiritual realities. BECAUSE they believed that the people of God were collectively His Temple, they had some interesting views on having a relationship with God outside of the Jerusalem Temple – again, not really different than Christians. Most notably, because they saw themselves as a kingdom of priests (again, not a Christian concept), they believed in bringing some Temple purity standards into the home and most importantly, to the dinner table. The table was seen as the altar of the home, where covenant meals could be shared between themselves and God.

So what does this have to do with the prayers that Jews pray even today?

“Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us through your commandments and has commanded us concerning the washing of hands.” (and there is a similar one spoken at the lighting of the Sabbath candles)

Wait, there is no commandment for that, is there? Yes… and no. The Pharisees, and to a large extent, other Jews of the time, considered themselves part of the living Temple, their table an altar, and each Israelite a priest of God’s Kingdom. Are you beginning to see where I am headed? Although they knew they were not and could not be Temple priests, they saw themselves as mediators and servants of God in the world, which are priestly functions. They began looking at the Temple commands for priests and bringing them into their daily lives. Was there a commandment regarding the washing of the hands and lighting of the lamps in the Temple? Absolutely. What we moderns get hung up on is the word “us” in those prayers. As part of a dyadic social group, they were not individualistic. When the priests in the Temple kept a commandment, they were all keeping it by extension. If a priest broke a commandment, they were all breaking it – the Nation was not so much a collection of individuals, but a single people. This is where the Jews and ancient Christians fundamentally differ from us. A commandment for one was considered to apply to all, even if a particular person could not physically perform it themselves. Did Messiah keep every single law? Only if we consider Him to be as one with the nation. He obviously could not physically keep the laws for women, or kings, or those for priests. But as each member of the nation kept the laws, they were collectively considered to be in good standing with God.

Ex 30 17 The Lord said to Moses, 18 “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, 19 with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. 20 When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. 21 They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”

As the altar was a place of food offering for the Lord, the priests were required to wash hands and feet before even approaching it. So, the Pharisees honored God in their homes by reenacting this – were they wrong to call it a commandment? Nope. However, we see that Yeshua did not do this Himself – but He doesn’t criticise them for doing it either. Instead, He deftly changes the subject to how they ought to be cleansing themselves on the inside, as was commanded at Sinai, in the circumcision of their hearts. Ritual purity was nothing unless it was accompanied by the inner transformation that we should experience as God’s people.

What about the lighting of the Sabbath candles? I won’t do an extensive cut and paste here, but the priests were commanded to care for and light the Menorah in the Temple, as well as the fire on the altar. So was the lighting of the Sabbath flame (in those days an oil lamp) commanded? Yes, in a way. Remember, they are bringing the Temple into the home, as living stones.

Let’s look at the prayer again:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us through your commandments and has commanded us concerning the washing of hands.”

Nowhere does it say that God commanded us regarding the washing of hands in the home – and so this prayer is not a lie. God really did command us, as His Nation, concerning the washing of hands!

My reason for addressing this is neither to promote nor decry the prayers or the traditions, merely to explain the underlying thought. I honestly don’t approve or disapprove, I am ambivalent.  If you do it, I don’t care. If you refrain – you get the picture, I don’t care. Much gets obscured when folks have a definite stand on the issue – sometimes they feel the need to make intentions sinister or to overly excuse what was going on. I don’t participate in the hand washing or much other halakah, but it is very important to me to address the misinformation and knee-jerk negative reactions regarding this tradition. Sometimes we get pushed into judging something before we really understand why it was done, and when we are judging first-century biblical writings, it is incredibly important that we get things right. Yeshua didn’t do it, but He didn’t condemn anyone for doing it either. There are wars to be fought, and stands to be taken, but only a fool fights every tumbleweed that crosses his path just because it seems a bit foreign and sketchy. Let’s be wise and discerning before we plunge into battle with one another over things that Messiah Himself let go unchallenged.

Now, as for the belief that the actual eating with unwashed hands caused the food to become defiled – that’s another matter entirely. We will cover that in the future.

EDIT: I have been asked about this several times and so I will add a bit more. “We only know that Yeshua’s disciples didn’t wash their hands, not that He didn’t.” So to clarify this, we have to look at the Sage/disciple relationship (it is actually anachronistic to call the religious teachers of the day Rabbis – that will come later). Teachers took mainly young teenage boys as their disciples, and I imagine that all these young men were actually quite young, except for Peter (although I am 48 now so in my estimation, Peter probably counts as “very young” as well). The goal of a disciple was to learn everything their teacher knew, and to emulate him in every day. So really, when he was challenged as to the behavior of the disciples, the charge was more likely, “Why are you corrupting the youth?” – a far worse charge than simply personally transgressing their tradition. That being said, the Galillean Jews were very observant of the Traditions of the Elders, far more so than in Judea – and so I imagine he grew up doing this at home. I believe he stopped as an adult because of the need to address the faulty assumption that clean food could become defiled outside the Temple simply because of having unwashed hands – when we get to the next part, we will address that because Yeshua specifically talks about the inability to defile clean foods with unwashed hands.

 

 




FREE e-book 9/18 thru 9/22 – King, Kingdom, Citizen: His Reign and Our Identity

So, the Fall Feasts are upon us and particularly, the Coronation Festival of Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah. What better time to give this book away again? I only do this once a year, so act now! And if you read the whole thing, please review it.

No Kindle required – all you need is any online device – PC, Mac or android!! Read all the instructions, the links are in blue. PLEASE read all the directions as I will not be able to help you beyond that. Absolutely everything you need is here.

If the country you live in has an amazon platform, this will still be free for you, but my links will only work in America. Just do a search for my name – Tyler Dawn Rosenquist and you will hopefully see the book listed.

From the description:  “How well do you know the Bible? For too long we have read through the Scriptures as though they were composed in a timeless vacuum – but the peoples of the Ancient Near East and the First-Century knew things that we are no longer aware of, and saw the world in ways that are foreign to modern readers. The last 100 years of archaeology have upended much of what we thought we knew about the most important Book ever composed – the Bible.

Archaeology, far from detracting from Biblical credibility – has solidified it. The sixty-six witnesses to the ministry of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were written to specific people and were composed in specific languages in the recognized literary styles of the time. That we have strayed from those ways of thinking and writing in no way invalidate the legitimacy of Scripture, but it does provide us with the unique challenge of needing to go back in order to see the Scriptural accounts from the eyes of the ancients.

What did Covenant mean in the ancient world? What were the Kingly mandates of Justice and Righteousness? How do we know that the Land of Israel belongs to the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob forever and that the Levitical Priesthood will and must be reinstated in the future? How do we know that the Messiah of Israel has already come and will return? What was the real debate raging in the First-Century Assemblies – was it about Grace versus Law or the Identity of the incoming Gentiles? King, Kingdom, Citizen is a book written to reintroduce God as our King, the Kingdom of Heaven as a real-world entity, and who we are in Messiah – through the eyes of those to whom this information was originally presented. Let me show you what Moses, the Prophets, and the Apostles knew about the Kingdom of Heaven.”

If you want the book for free:

1. If you don’t already have it, and you already have a kindle or the free app, just get it free here or do a search if you are from another country on your respective amazon platform. Hibuy-nowt the “Buy it now with 1-click” before Friday at midnight PST.

2.  If you don’t have a kindle, download this app first on PC, Mac, or android.  When that is done, download the book, but make sure you do it before midnight PST on Friday, September 22, 2017.

 

You can also buy it in paperback here if you are like me and hate reading things on Kindle.

You can help me by getting the word out about the free offer, and once you have read it, I would appreciate reviews. If you like it, then check out the apologetic I wrote as a prequel, The Bridge: Crossing Over Into the Fulness of Covenant Life. You can also check out the first book in my family curriculum series Context for Kids, Vol I: Honor and Shame in the Bible  and Volume II, The Ten Commandments and the Covenants of Promise – I believe in teaching children the same things I teach adults, within reason, I don’t dumb it down, I just teach it more slowly. I’ve had kids from 7 to 62 go through Volume I with no problems, and a University professor as well (Volume II is better suited for 10 and up). Volume III is just out, Context for Adults: Sexuality, Social Identity, and Kinship Relations in the Bible. If you haven’t caught my weekly youtube teachings for kids, check out my Context for Kids youtube channel linked on the sidebar. Coming Soon! Context for Kids Volume 4: Image-Bearing, Idolatry, and the New Creation in the Bible.




“The Tombs Also Were Opened…” Matthew 27 in its Jewish Context

First of all, this is a risky sort of blog to write and I have been debating it for almost a year now, ever since I discovered an aggadic text about the Messiah dating from the 9th century of the common era – well, not so much discovered as read it in a book! Now, what is Aggadah and why is it important? Aggadah is legendary material, and full of myths that elaborate on Jewish beliefs on various subjects. The text I will be referring to in this article is Pesikta Rabatti, a collection of legends dealing with the Feasts. They do not detail actual events, and no one would confuse them with historical accounts, but relate concepts, beliefs, and/or larger truths that the authors wanted to convey. If you want to compare Jewish Aggadah with something Christian, we might choose Pilgrim’s Progress or the Screwtape Letters. It isn’t a perfect comparison, but we can all see how those writings convey truth through fanciful situations. The reason I want to introduce Aggadah to you is because this was a very common, popular, and completely accepted literary form that we even see in the Hebrew Scriptures. In our modern world, we have decided that accuracy is king – and further, that to be true something must be accurate, but this is a very modern mindset, one spawned during the Age of Reason in response to a growing scientific mindset. In order to compete with hard facts and figures, believers exalted accurate facts and figures over true concepts, and often over truth itself – as though truth can be confined by our limited understanding and rules, reduced to letters and numbers that we can comfortably grasp. Sadly, this creates problems when reading the Bible, which was written about truth, not in order to measure up to our almost idolatrous fascination with scientific modes of thought (and I am speaking as a Chemist married to a Chemical Engineer, so don’t think you can accuse me of being anti-science!). Scientific level accuracy is important, in science, but when it comes to larger truths, science falls short because we are very limited in both understanding and knowledge as compared to God.

I have always struggled with Matthew 27: 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

This is probably the most stunning claim in all of Scripture (short of the Resurrection itself), not because it is somehow unbelievable in a book filled with miracles, but because it is spoken of nowhere else – not in history, nor in any of the other accounts.  This would have happened during Passover week, and this was no small event. Did it really happen, or was this something that could only be understood within the context of Messianic expectations? Was it code for a certain concept floating around in the Messianic beliefs of the time? I will tell you right now that I do not have the answers and won’t argue this, at all. I put this out there only for educational purposes. I believe the Bible 100%, but in some cases, I believe we don’t always know how the author of a certain Gospel intended it to be read (this is more true for John than any other book). I believe the Bible is 100% truth. Just so we’re clear on that. I just believe that our ancestors have wandered far from the context of the people it was written by and to – whereas it was only written for us. Does that make sense? The Bible is for us, but we were not the original audience, nor did the authors write from our cultural mindset and point of view.

So, what if Matthew was using a well-known legend/belief in order to communicate a concept that would have been readily understood by his Jewish audience? In a way that they would completely understand, and have an “aha!” moment? Let’s look at that 9th century collection of Feast-related legends:

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Pesiqta Rabatti 36 (parenthetical additions in red are mine)

“The Fathers of the World [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] will in the future rise up in the month of Nissan (the month of the Passover) and will speak to him(the Messiah): “Ephraim, our true Messiah! Even though we are your fathers, you are greater than we, for you suffered because of the sins of our children, and cruel punishments have come upon you the like of which have not come upon the early and the later generations, and you were put to ridicule and held in contempt by the nations of the world because of Israel, and you sat in darkness and blackness and your eyes saw no light, and your skin cleft to the bones, and your body dried up and was like wood, and your eyes grew dim from fasting, and your strength became like a potsherd. All this because of the sins of our children. Do you want that our children should enjoy the happiness that the Holy One, blessed be He, allotted to Israel, or perhaps, because of the great sufferings that have come upon you on their account, and because they imprisoned you in the jailhouse, your mind is not reconciled with them?”

And the Messiah answers them: “Fathers of the world! Everything I did, I did only for you and for your children, and for your honor and the honor of your children, so that they should enjoy this happiness the Holy One, blessed be He, has allotted to Israel.” (Reconciliation)

Then the fathers of the World say to him: “Ephraim, our True Messiah, let your mind be at ease, for you put at ease our minds and the mind of your Creator!”

R. Shimon ben Pazi said: “In the hour the Holy One, blessed be He, raises up the Messiah until the heaven of heavens and spreads over him the splendor of His Glory [to protect him] from the nations of the world, from the wicked Persians. And He says to him: ‘Ephraim, Our True Messiah, be you the judge over these peoples, and do to them whatever your soul wishes’. For had it not been for my compassion for you which became strong, they would have caused you to perish from the world in one moment…” [God] has mercy on him while he is imprisoned in the jailhouse, for every day the nations of the world gnash their teeth and blink their eyes and shake their heads and shoot out their lips… and roar against him like lions and want to swallow him… [And God says:] “I shall have mercy on him when he comes out of the house of prisoners, for not only one kingdom, or two kingdoms, or three kingdoms will come against him, but one hundred and forty kingdoms will surround him.” And the Holy One, blessed be He, says to him: “Ephraim, My True Messiah, fear them not, because all of them will die from the breath of your lips.

Instantly, the Holy One, blessed be He, makes seven canopies of precious stones and pearls for the Messiah, and from each canopy four rivers issue forth (in the ancient world, it was customary for four waterways to come out from a Temple/Ziggurat), of wine, milk and honey and pure balsam. And the Holy One, blessed be He, embraces him in front of the pious, and leads him under the canopy, and all the pious and the saintly and the heroes of the Tora (sic.) in every generation see him. And the Holy One, blessed be He, says to the pious: “Pious of the world! So far Ephraim, My True Messiah, has not taken [compensation for as much as] one half of his sufferings, I still have one measure that I shall give him, which no eye has ever seen…” In the hour the Holy One, blessed be He, calls the North Wind and the South Wind and says to them: “Come, honor Ephraim, My True Messiah, and spread before him all kinds of spices from the Garden of Eden..” (taken from Patai, Raphael The Messiah Texts, 1998 edition, pp 113-4)

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I highlighted some interesting features in blue, but I am going to focus on very little of the text. It is certainly worthy of being thoroughly investigated and compared to Scripture, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

For now, I want to focus on a few things (1) the expectation of a hierarchy of resurrection, with the Patriarchs rising first from the dead in some traditions; (2) the suffering Messiah motif, on behalf of/because of the children of the Patriarchs; (3) the exaltation of Messiah to the heaven of heavens; (4) the installment of Messiah in a temple/temples.

The Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are buried in Hebron, south of the city of Jerusalem. According to the pseudepigraphic (false name) writings of the few hundred years before the coming of Yeshua, there was a belief that there would be a definite order to the resurrection. In the second century BCE, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs – specifically the Testament of Benjamin 10.6-8 – states that the order of Resurrection would be first Enoch, then Seth, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve Patriarchs and that they would be “changed” (what we would call glorified bodies). So when we see, in Pesiqta Rabatti, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “rising up in the month of Nissan” during the very month of the year that Yeshua died and resurrected – this is definitely spoken in terms of the resurrection of the dead, a basic first-century belief for all Jews except the Sadducees. The implication is that they have risen up first and pay tribute to the Messiah, calling him “greater than we” during the Passover week.

The next motif we see is the Suffering Servant, which we are all familiar with having its source not only in Isaiah 53, but also in the story of Joseph. The idea of a messiah figure who suffers for the sake of all Israel (as Joseph did on behalf of his family, and because of their sins), saving them from death as a result of that suffering and being exalted to the right hand of God (or Pharaoh, in Joseph’s case) predated Yeshua by a long shot. In Pesikta Rabatti, we see all the classic themes from the Messiah ben Yosef (Messiah “son of” Joseph, coming in the style of Joseph). Here he is called Ephraim because Ephraim was the literal son of Joseph in Scripture, and his name is often used interchangeably with David in terms of representing the Messiah.  Again, we see Messiah exalted during the Passover week.             

The exaltation of Messiah to the heaven of heavens should have caught your eye immediately – as we see this in Mark 16.19,  Luke 24.51, and Acts 1.9. No surprises there, this was in no way controversial within Judaism.             

The installment of Messiah into a Temple (seven Temples in this case), hearkens back to Revelation and the description of the Holy Jerusalem where Messiah sits as King for a thousand years, as well as that found in Ezekiel 40-44.  These are all well-established Scriptural themes.           

So, all this being said, I need to summarize. The idea of the dead rising from the grave to testify of Messiah was not limited to the Gospel account in Matthew 27, but was an existing motif within the Messianic expectations of Judaism. Was this an Aggadic motif in Matthew meant to serve the purpose of driving home the truth that Messiah ben Yosef had indeed come in the person of Yeshua according to some Rabbinic expectations? Was it meant to be taken literally, or as Aggadah? As historical truth, or as an allegory? Did the tombs of Macpelah open and did the Patriarchs come to Jerusalem during Passover to testify about Messiah, or would this have been considered a first-century figure of speech? Either way, the message is the same and very, very Jewish – Ephraim, the One True Messiah, has come.    

 

 

 

 




Praising Yeshua: Why We Need the Heir to the Kingdom

There is a disturbing tendency that has come out of some facets of Messianic Judaism and the Hebrew Roots Movement to label any praise of Yeshua/Jesus as a sin – and yet few people know that has its source, not in the Bible, which clearly presents two divine figures in Daniel 7 to sit on the two thrones mentioned in verse 9 (the great Rabbi Akiva, post Yeshua, even mentioned it). But this devastating doctrine is a trap laid by the Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages, not to convert gentiles, but to prevent Jews from believing in Yeshua as Messiah – as though Judaism had always agreed uniformly on these principles. In the 12th century, Maimonides (RAMBAM) wrote the famous 13 articles of faith that modern Judaism is founded on, and it is easy to see that they were written as a response to a Christianity that was increasingly hostile towards Judaism, shamefully so. The way these were written up makes charges of idolatry inevitable (yet without merit) when we praise and even worship Yeshua – but, the idea that we are bound by the writings of RAMBAM, regardless of his brilliance (I greatly value his insights into the Mishnah), is misguided. RAMBAM was reacting to a clear and present danger, and we cannot blame him for it – what was being done to Jews in the Name of their Messiah was clearly not of the character of God and it is no wonder they could not see their King. In this chapter from my book King, Kingdom, Citizen: His Reign and Our Identity, I tackle the faulty doctrine of not being permitted to praise Yeshua head on, of it being enough to simply acknowledge the Father. For a while, I followed that doctrine, and the anti-missionaries (people who used to believe in Yeshua and who have denied him or Jews who actively try and keep other Jews from coming to their Messiah) almost nabbed me four years ago by approaching me through the underhanded schemes of someone who presented himself as a friend. Refusing to acknowledge Messiah as my Lord and Master was an unwittingly treacherous step towards denying Him altogether – quite ungracious when I consider His sacrifice on our behalf.

Bottom line: Yeshua is the absolute image of God on earth. When we look at Him we see the Father, and I for one am not capable of looking at the image of the Father and not falling to my knees in devotion. If a human saved my life, I would certainly praise him (I just wouldn’t worship him), but when the divine son of God saves the lives of all the world who look to Him – I have to do more than praise Him. Literally no amount of praise is enough. Yeshua only did whatever He saw the Father doing, and so I have to respond to that with worship – because in so doing, I also heap even more worship and honor on His Father. Make no mistake, how we treat someone’s son is how we are treating them, and we cannot fool ourselves into thinking we can all but ignore Messiah, withhold the honors due to Him, and be pleasing to God.

Why Do We Need the Heir?

The Father is Spirit, unseen,[1] and does not directly interact with humanity in human form. He is the great Suzerain in the Heavens and He has always interacted with His people through the Word. Through Scripture, we see the Word made manifest as the Angel of the LORD or YHVH who spoke with Moses face to face; but most recently and profoundly, we see the Word made flesh as Yeshua ben Joseph. We need Him. The Kingdom of Heaven needs a flesh and blood monarch, an heir to the Kingdom of God; we have already proven that in the absence of physical, godly leadership we are easily corrupted.

That’s fine, you may say – but why do we need to acknowledge Him now? Isn’t it enough to just worship God the Father? Why is it important to understand the concepts of King and Kingdom and to recognize the legitimate Heir? In summary of the first three sections and giving a short introduction for the fourth:

Messiah was born into a pre-existing Kingdom; He did not have to die and resurrect to create a new one. This Kingdom was not the Kingdom of the Jews but the Kingdom of God and it had been closed off – made exclusive. Contrary to Torah law, the House of Shammai Pharisees made it virtually impossible not only for the lost tribes of Israel to return from exile and divorce, but also for the Gentile Nations to enter in.

Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees (of the House of Shammai), hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”

That’s why it was so important for the Heir to the Kingdom to show up and “lay down the law,” so to speak. Preaching on behalf of the Father, and using only His Father’s words, Yeshua deflated the importance of the traditions of the elders (now found recorded in the Talmud) and elevated the original laws of the Kingdom. He promoted His Father as the great King who alone had the right to determine the rules and regulations, the legal Constitutional requirements placed upon the citizens of His own Kingdom. By upholding His Father’s ways, by showing Himself to be righteous and just towards the poor, sick, widows, orphans and oppressed, through signs and wonders, and through a renewal of the original Kingdom Covenant by His own blood ratification, He proved that He was indeed the Son of the Father. Yeshua, through His words and actions, showed us the character of His Father, the Great King. When we look at His character and say, “I do not recognize YHVH in the works of Yeshua,” we are refusing to acknowledge the most excellent character of our King.

Yeshua was more than a prophet, He was a living, breathing, dare – “Tell me that you know My Father and do not see Him in my every righteous action! If you don’t recognize Him when you see Me, then you do not know Him – we are One.”

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Why can’t we have the Father without the Son?

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Why can’t we be in good standing in the Kingdom of God without recognizing the Son? When we refuse to acknowledge the Son, not only are we failing to recognize the righteousness and justice of our King, but we are refusing to recognize His Heir to the kingdoms of the world. If I were a righteous Queen, and I sent my son out among my own people to represent me – and if he was a good and righteous man, if no fault could be found with him, if there was no sin (violation of my kingdom laws) to be found in him, if he not only upheld my every law but also taught others to follow them, if he restored the original intentions of my laws, if he railed against those who set up their own laws and illegitimate kingdoms within my kingdom, if he showed my character by having mercy upon the “least of these” … and if you turned around and said that you “didn’t see the resemblance” then it would not matter what you did – there would be no intimacy between us. You would be insulting me. If you claimed to know me, and to represent me, but you didn’t know me well enough to see me in my own son – then although you might live without going to jail because you kept my laws and were otherwise a good citizen, you would have no part in his coming reign.

Yeshua’s coming reign is a big deal; His reign is about eternal life here on earth.

When someone rejects Messiah, even if they keep the laws and live a blessed life because of it (because obedience to the laws of a kingdom will always result in blessing, it’s just simple logic), they will have no part in the Kingdom when it passes into His hands.

Rev 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Messiah, coming in the mercy of the Father, reopened the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven to all those from around the world who would recognize the heir and desire to live as good citizens in His Kingdom. This was the original intent at Sinai, “one law for all, the native and the foreigner.”

Ex 12:49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (see also Lev 24:22 You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.”)

The world was meant to see the righteousness and justice of God, His mercy and kindness, through those laws that were so different from the laws of men – the world was meant to desire to live under those laws, to recognize the wisdom of the citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Deut 4:6-8 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

The pagan nations were supposed to look at their own laws and see how burdensome they were, how unrighteous and unjust – and by extension how lacking their own gods were. Israel was meant to be a light – attracting the world to the King of kings. But they hid that light under a bushel basket, and they greedily kept it for themselves. Messiah came to change that. He is the light; He is the perfect representation of the perfection of the Father and of His goodness and justice and righteousness.

Matt 5:15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

We were created to desire that righteousness, but we were trained by the world to resent it. We were meant to desire His rule, but we were taught to fear it. We have been conditioned to want a King who has no ability to rule us – but a King without laws is a King without dominion, authority, or power. From the beginning, God has been looking for good citizens for His Kingdom so that it can shine like a gleaming city on a hill. We owe it to Him to draw people to His righteousness by exemplifying who He is, by following the example of the Son.

We owe it to Him to become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven – not in the future, but now – establishing His dominion across the face of the earth. This was the original plan in the Garden, renewed again at Mt Sinai with the blood of animals, and then finalized with the righteous blood of Yeshua.

We all owe Him everything, but in the first century, something very serious was happening that kept some from giving Him anything at all. We see glimpses of this problem in the gospels, and we see Paul fighting it tooth and nail in the epistles. Between the return of the Jews from exile and the ministry of Yeshua, something had gone terribly wrong. That something was preventing people from entering into the Kingdom of Heaven, and if we don’t understand what that was, we will never fully understand what Yeshua came to fulfill or what Paul was writing to the assemblies about.

[1] John 1:18; Col 1:15; I John 4:12, etc.




Now Available! Context for Adults: Sexuality, Social Identity and Kinship Relations in the Bible

Although it still falls under the umbrella of the “Context for Kids” curriculum series, this book ain’t for kids. I recommend it for older teens and up, but only with parental guidance. The first ten and last five chapters are G-rated and very valuable for any age group, and probably the most important material that I teach – on the ancient group social identity that, in and of itself, unravels many mysteries in the behavior of Bible people. The chapters on the inside, however, are a real mixed bag – not much different than the Bible itself. Like all my books, this is for families to go through together, as appropriate, and never to be simply handed to kids.

What is this book about? Well, this is the book I wish I had available for me – the book that explains, from the ancient Near Eastern perspective, the sections of Scripture that make the Bible so hard to defend and support – not only to our kids, but also to our unbelieving friends and relatives. Marrying a rapist? Marrying female POW’s? Why are terrible subjects like bestiality, and incest even mentioned? Why did Peter refer to Lot as righteous?

ORDER HERE <——————

Although these subjects seem strange to us, they were not strange in the ancient world that served as the context of the everyday lives of the Exodus generation. Some questions, like the marrying of a “rapist”, boil down to bad translations – but others are related to the ancient notion of what righteousness means, what behaviors were the norm in the outside world, and what it meant to be part of a group, instead of an individualistic, social dynamic. God was creating a new paradigm in a world driven mad with sin. Living in the aftermath of the Resurrection, we really have no appreciation for how bad things truly were before Messiah changed everything.

I am going to take you into the world of group-centered dynamics where you will learn a form of kinship relations that is foreign to the western world. I will introduce you to the horrifying realities of the laws of the ancient Near East. Life for the Patriarchs was akin to walking through a minefield of depravity and injustice, the likes of which we can barely imagine – but in order to understand and defend God’s laws, and answer the tough questions, the really good questions, we really need to know what the Biblical authors knew. It isn’t enough to shrug and say, “Well, I just know that God is good” when our lack of context makes Him look bad to the very people we were commanded to reach with His love. Remember – without a concrete salvation experience, we cannot simply expect people to ignore the stuff about the Bible that sometimes seems insanely disturbing. Compassion should compel us to seek out better answers – for unbelievers, our kids, and ourselves.

So, if you are tired of shrugging and saying, “Well, I just know that God is good,” I hope you will allow me to illuminate many of the Bible’s most uncomfortable subjects.

From the back cover:

Are you tired of being asked tough questions, both by kids and skeptics, about some of the terrible things in the Bible? Are you tired of not having real answers? Don’t you wish you understood why Bible people sometimes did terrible things?

No one is satisfied with pat answers like, “Well, I know God is good,” or “Jesus came to change all that.” If we truly believe that God is good and that Jesus is the exact image of the Father, then those answers won’t satisfy us – much less anyone else.

What if I told you that we can learn the answers to the hard questions by studying ancient Near Eastern law codes and sociology?

What if I told you that Western Christianity fundamentally misunderstands the meaning of words like righteous and has misconstrued concepts like kinship? What would you say if I told you that the ancients’ concept of family, loyalty, honor, shame, and community was completely different than ours is today?
What if, by understanding these ancient beliefs, you could provide concrete answers instead of platitudes to people’s questions? And what if by doing so you could offer hope and the reassurance that God is loving and good?

When people ask what kind of God would allow slavery, require women to marry their “rapists,” or tell parents to stone their children, wouldn’t you like to clear up their misconceptions instead of sidestepping the issues? Good questions deserve real answers, and that’s why I am here.

As I have explored Honor and Shame culture and ancient covenants in previous volumes, this curriculum will be dedicated to the subjects of ancient law, social identity, and kinship relations. This information is going to change forever the way you read your Bible. What you learn here will equip you to answer those “skeptics” whose only real crime is that they are honest about some of the situations in the Bible that are, or seem to be, very disturbing.

ORDER HERE <————–