Social Media Bullying: Is Saying God and Lord Acceptable?

You’re quite fortunate if you run in social media circles within the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement or other denominations of Christianity and haven’t had a run in with people who are quick to tell you why this or that is pagan, sinful, or just plain wrong. One of the most popular areas in which newcomers are attacked is in the usage of the honorific titles of Lord and God, which are used as English language equivalents to the Hebrew words, Adonai and Elohim. And I am not referring to people who simply prefer to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, I am talking about the people who go out bent on conquering, making it a salvation issue.

Now, it’s one thing when seasoned veterans get bombarded with this stuff – but the folks preaching this, often very unkindly and with threats of damnation, do not pay the slightest bit of attention to whether someone has been a believer one hour, or fifty years, or whether they are thirteen years old, or eighty years old. Truly the great evil of social media religious preaching is that we do not have a relationship with the people we are approaching, and therefore have no idea if we even should approach them. We lack the wisdom to know if we are instructing them or confusing them, or even damaging them. I don’t want this to happen to anyone’s kid and so after years of pondering this, I am finally setting it down in writing.

So, let’s look at the use of honorifics in the Bible – and we will use a specific example from my own social media wall a couple of weeks ago. I was talking about it being the anniversary of coming to an understanding of Torah being for today, and I praised “Adonai.” This was the response I got from someone who I had never heard from before:

“Well, I guess you are still waiting for Him to ask you what His proper name is! His name is not Adonai or Lord or God but…”

FYI, I removed His Name from the quote because the sarcastic and ignorant nature of the comment brought His Name to shame. I literally felt embarrassed for my King. Of course, I know the Name, the four letter Tetragrammaton – it was silly, arrogant, and undiscerning to presume otherwise, just because I chose to use a formal title that means “My Lord” or “My Master.”

Before I start, I want to give a little bit of an example of how the usage of intimate Names compares with the usage of honorifics when addressing someone with whom we are not social equals:

Your Majesty,

I applaud your Highness on your recent speech to parliament. It was a privilege to hear the wisdom of your Grace addressing the legislature. Long live the Queen!

Okay, that letter was respectful, right? Let’s try it again without the honorifics, but still speaking with nothing but kindness:

Elizabeth Windsor,

I applaud you, Elizabeth, on your recent speech to Parliament. Liz, it was a privilege to hear your wisdom as you addressed the Legislature. I hope you live forever.

Notice that I said nothing uncomplimentary in either letter. But the tone was different – in the first, I was speaking to someone socially way above me and in the second I was either speaking as a peer, a buddy, or a cheeky little monkey. Probably her Majesty would see my impertinence as a qualification for the latter lol. The point is, did I dishonor her in any way by referring to her with honorifics instead of her actual name? Certainly not, if anything, I elevated her – and that is exactly what happens when an honorific title is used instead of the Tetragrammaton or its short form Yah.

So, is there cause to rebuke anyone for using a respectful title? What do we see in the Scriptures? In the Hebrew, and the Greek, do we see the use of titles or only the use of the Name? (I will note here that I have no beef with anyone who pronounces the Name – we see it used all throughout Scripture as well – just not exclusively).

Let’s look specifically at Adonai – first used by Abraham in Genesis 15:2 directly to God, and God doesn’t get the slightest big offended and say, “Why aren’t you calling me by my Name? Do you want the pagans to think you are talking about someone else?” Nope – why would God take offense to a man submitting himself as a servant? It was a fitting and appropriate thing to do. The prophets thought so too – as Adonai is used 434 times to describe God as Lord and Master.

How about El/Elohim? El is a word that is the Hebrew equivalent of the English God (which came from the Germanic Gott, and is not to be confused with the pagan deity Gad or the Tribe of Gad in the Bible – there is no link between Semitic and Germanic languages – we can’t rightly say that the languages were divided at Babel and also say that they are still all related) and shows up within the monikers El Elyon (Most High God) nineteen times in the Psalms, El Olam (Everlasting God) and the more commonly known El Shaddai (commonly rendered Almighty God) throughout Genesis.  Elohim is a generic word meaning mighty one or god, and refers to both the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and various false gods, angels, civic leaders, judges, etc.

Elohim itself is used over 2600 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and has a lot of different meanings – one of which is a title of the Supreme God. Although I could go into more detail on this, suffice it to say that it is used exclusively for God in Genesis 1-4.

One of the really interesting aspects of the charge that it is a sin to use titles or that it is somehow disrespectful, besides the fact that just about every Biblical figure of note uses them when speaking of/to God, is that we also have the testimony of Yeshua/Jesus and the Apostles, none of which ever utter the Tetragrammaton – even though there was one in Greek that we have archaeological evidence of. In English, the first-century Greek version of the Tetragrammaton would be rendered Iawe (ee-ah-way), and here is a link to another blog post with the information on that.

So are we to accuse Yeshua of sinning, or of not knowing the Name, or of being disrespectful, or any one of these accusations we see commonly flying around? May it never be! Not only did Yeshua never sin, but He always did the will of His Father. If He said the Name, it would be recorded for us. What we do see is Theos, Kyrios, and Pater – the Greek equivalents of God, Lord/Master, and Father. Abba (Aramaic for Father) is used only once by Yeshua (Mark 14:36) and twice by Paul (Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6).

The case for using only a pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton YHVH, yod-hey-vav-hey, or the short form Yah is therefore without merit and would require one to ignore both the Hebrew and Greek canonical text, as well as the Septuagint (LXX), Dead Sea Scrolls, Pseudepigraphic writings, as well as all other Jewish writings through the Millenia. This is really a non-doctrine if someone is trying to enforce it – it has to be strong-armed because it has no Scriptural merit excepting for an out of context reading of verses which promote the proclaiming of the Name – which is problematic to read exclusively as referring to a personal name because the word shem (name) also means reputation/renown. In the ancient Near Eastern world, everything was about honor/reputation/renown – in fact, we still equate a man’s “good name” as being equal to his reputation, not a collection of expressed syllables.

So should we be concerned about the Name of God? Absolutely – and I am talking about His reputation here. Speaking syllables is easy, anyone can do it according to their theory of how it was pronounced – but if we speak those syllables with our bad character backing it up, we are dragging that name through the manure we are wallowing in. No, we must take care that our character is superlative, that we go from glory to glory, becoming more and more like Yeshua, the express image of God and our example in all things.




Perceiving God as Small: Majoring in the Minors

majoringonminorsWhat does it mean to perceive God as smaller than we are? To see ourselves as huge and Himself as small?

 

Why do kids so often walk away from the faith when they walk out of the house? It’s very simple – we as parents don’t generally understand the purpose of Scripture. We have historically never instilled into them the idea that the Bible is a revelation of the character and nature of God – even though we think that’s exactly what we are doing. We impose rules and regulations, yes, but those were only ever meant to be the basic outer boundaries of decent behavior towards God and one another – the milk we feed the babes on – while we starve for the meat of being conformed to the character of God while we use the Bible for other, more self-serving, purposes.

 
What we have actually done with the Bible is abominable – we have used it as a tool of self-justification. Before anyone thinks that this only applies to unbelievers or “other denominations” let me make it clear that it is across the board and coming to Torah doesn’t change it for people – because it is a cultural paradigm. We were raised this way, it is a carefully trained blindness rooted not in religion actually, but a natural dislike and fear for anything that is different – especially anything that is a challenge to self.
 
We memorize verses that fit our doctrines, and those are the verses we teach to our kids – not that they will use them to worship and adore God, but so that they will follow the correct doctrines. We want everyone to do things the way we do them – otherwise, our foundations are challenged. Although we may claim to be zealous for God in defending our doctrines, generally it is about ourselves and wanting to be right.
 
We want to be right when we talk to scientists, so we turn the Bible into a science book when God never revealed Himself to man in order to teach science (I mean, what kind of a waste of time would that be and would we even be able to begin to understand science through His eyes?). The Bible becomes not about preaching the Gospel of God’s deliverance, but about overcoming the Big Bang Theory and Evolution, theories that by their very nature cannot be proven nor disproven (and I am speaking as a degreed chemist here – one who still loves science, in fact, and first saw God in the perfection of the periodic chart). In our hands, the Bible becomes a tool for justifying what we believe because in our heart of hearts we as a whole are embarrassed and seek to justify what we believe on the scientist’s turf. So we take the Bible over to them, we use a revelation of God’s character, written in Ancient Near Eastern and First Century context, and twist it into a scientific manifesto for our own purposes. Of course, science is only one of the areas in which we do this.
 
Now, our kids go off to college or into the world, and they often have only been indoctrinated with memory verses and Torah portions for the express purpose of making sure they believe the right stuff and associate with others who believe the right stuff. Some clever Science or Bible professor who knows more about the Scriptures than the parents brings other verses into the mix, and the now grown-up child who was only trained to justify doctrine now has a terrible quandary. The Bible was misused, it was treated as a tool for self-justification under the auspices of defending God, but it was honestly just being used for defending denominational doctrines.
 
All someone has to do is bring down one questionable doctrine and everything tumbles. They were trained in doctrine and had tied them all together and had mistaken doctrinal knowledge for a knowledge of God Himself. God was made small, and doctrine was made huge.
 
I rewatched a movie this weekend called Temple Grandin – although some parts are largely fictionalized, it teaches a powerful truth about perspective, and how we see things. I have been meditating upon it ever since because we have a very skewed perspective of our lives – we are always very large, and by and large we make God very small (yes, I do it too). We make doctrines big, and God small.
 
We do this through living lives of fear and self-justification – and we mask our self-justification as righteousness in many ways. It is easy to see self-justification when it is used to excuse sin – but it isn’t as easy to see when we have camped around a small doctrinal issue and have made it big.
 
Case in point. Two people are in a room talking about God – they both agree that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the one true God and that Yeshua is the prophesied Messiah. They believe in the validity of Torah. They keep the Sabbaths and the Feasts.
 
Pause for a moment and look at how much they have in common, it is huge in this life to meet someone who has those things in common with someone else. They ought to be worshiping and thanking God to meet such a person, right?
 
They get talking and find they disagree about the way the name is pronounced, or about whether the six days of Creation were or were not literal 24 hour days, or when the day or month begins and ends, or how to keep a certain commandment or whether a certain tradition is pagan, or whether we are all literal priests now. Just choose one of those things and watch what often happens:
 
Believing in the same God becomes small, and the point of disagreement becomes huge.
 
Believing in the same Messiah becomes small, and the point of disagreement becomes huge.
 
Believing in the same Torah becomes small, and the point of disagreement becomes huge.
 
Believing in the same Sabbaths and Feasts becomes small, and the point of disagreement becomes huge.
 

And suddenly, that “other” person is judged not based on these huge pillars – but upon opinions, which sometimes amount to nothing more than matchsticks waiting to kindle an unrighteous fire of division between brothers. And each side in the argument credits their stance and that judgment with zeal and righteousness – and both sides are deceived – because it is almost never a righteous zeal, it is ego and the defense of self and of one’s own way of doing things. It has nothing to do with God and everything to do with self. If the zeal were righteous, there would be respect, kindness, patience and love instead of division, derision, and even hatred.

That right there – that is a picture of the First Century and what was going on with the Jewish factions, and a large part of why they hated each other so desperately and were so divided. That was the context of the coming of Messiah the first time and a big part of the reason why He was murdered. The Jews didn’t kill Messiah – perspective killed Messiah, a perspective that many of us show we still share today. The revelation of God’s character was made small, in a culture that professed to live for Him wholeheartedly. We are as they were. Interestingly, the Jews grew up and figured it out and are now working together to rebuild the Temple. Groups that are radically different are coming together in love and respect to build an earthly throne for the God we all agree is the One True God and Whom we all agree should be worshiped with one voice. But here we are, arguing and divisive – and our kids are walking away from God because we lack perspective and major on the minors. I submit that most of our kids aren’t actually walking away from God because they were never really walking with Him in the first place, not if all they know is doctrine and memory verses. Doctrine and memory verses devoid of inner transformation and the production of mature fruit – they can be cold companions when the times really do get tough.

Make God big and allow everything else to be small. Make His character huge, and let other things be small. If we reflected God’s character, for real, most of our kids wouldn’t be able to bear walking away – because there would be nowhere else worth going. Doctrines are easy to drop, but truly godly character, humility, and a love for others borne out of keeping life in its proper perspective is hard to walk away from.

I want to share the part of the movie that introduced the focus of perspective

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chxCNEsu3YU




Persecution or Judgement? When do we cry foul and when do we take our medicine?

medicineI am getting a lot of this kind of correspondence at the moment so I want to cover it here to save me some time in counseling people. Nice when I can just have someone read a blog post. I get letters like this quite often (this one will be a fictitious amalgam of quite a few situations over the years):

“Dear Tyler.

I have this terrible problem at church/assembly/synagogue/homegroup – the leaders are very controlling and they have suddenly turned on me, shaming me publicly, and even encouraging others to shun me. I don’t even know what I have done wrong – I just disagreed on something that didn’t seem like a big deal. I didn’t deny Messiah or anything, it’s just a doctrinal disagreement for goodness sakes – I never thought they would ever do something like this to me.”

I look at a letter like that and the same thing always goes through my mind, from long experience.

“I need you to be absolutely honest with me, have they ever done this to anyone else?”

“Yes, but…”

“Okay, when they did it to the other people, who did you support?”

“Um… the leadership.”

“Why?”

“Well gosh, I am not really sure – I mean, I guess I thought those other people had it coming and I really didn’t want to rock the boat.”

This is the point where I always /facepalm and /sigh and get very real.

“How is the rest of the congregation treating you?”

“Well, they are supporting the leaders – I have been trying to meet with them and everything, but most don’t want to hear my side of it and I guess they just don’t care – the ones who do listen, they pretend to feel bad about what is happening but they do absolutely nothing about it so they obviously only feel a vague sense of discomfort! I feel like everyone just wishes that I would shut up and go away so that they can continue enjoying their fellowship. I don’t understand why they don’t care that the leadership is treating people this way. Why don’t people care that I am being hurt?”

“When it happened to the other couple, did they try to reason with you about what was happening to them?”

*silence*

“Yes, they did.”

“So then – what you did to your neighbor is being done to you now. You are not being persecuted by the leadership, you are being judged by God for standing by and allowing the leadership to persecute other people. Goodness, you may have even financially supported them while they did it!”

“But they are wrong…”

“Yes they may very well be wrong and probably are – Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah, because God sent him on that task, but the *way* the Babylonians went about it was wrong because they were a wicked people. God has plenty of wicked people on the payroll (and many others in volunteer positions) that He uses to discipline people, He doesn’t ask righteous people to do underhanded things to people – He simply allows unrighteous people to do what they are already inclined to do. You took part in something wicked against another family, and now their own pleas of protest are coming out of your mouth. Make no mistake, you will be ignored by your former allies because that is what you did to someone else – but be encouraged because you are being disciplined for a purpose. It would be worse for you if you were simply the kind of wicked person that is actively being used to discipline and refine others. Goodness, congregations are full of people like that who are beyond discipline and have become powers unto themselves – get down on your knees and thank God because He is giving you a chance to get out of that side of the equation. You and the other families in your congregation sinned against that family and YOU are being given a chance to get out and stop being a part of that sin in the future. Your eyes are being opened.”

I’ve never explained that to a person who didn’t understand it but some refuse to accept it – they still strive to show everyone how wronged they were, to a bunch of people who just don’t care and may be absolutely incapable of caring at this stage of their walk. It would be nice if people did care when a congregation turns its collective back on someone over something either trivial or questionable, but in general we are a pretty unloving bunch – we generally don’t care unless the person being betrayed is someone who we actually do love in an egotistical way (and by that I mean someone who, if they are shamed, it also touches upon our ego – like a spouse, child, or very close friend). Situations like this show how incredibly dysfunctional the Body of Messiah is in every single denomination I can think of – although certainly not every single congregation!

This goes for a lot of different things (from gossip in the pulpit to full blown sexual abuse silently consented to by the congregation), really, and yes sometimes you will have that rare occasion where a total innocent gets swept up in such a situation – but generally, when it happens to us as adults, we have already watched something similar happen to others and we just didn’t care, or worse, we approved and participated. I used to mock people cruelly, and then I was disciplined and pulled out of that lifestyle. Now when I get mocked, I simply sigh and am not as surprised when people rally around the mocker – I remember how fun it was to watch before I was judged and how quickly my flesh moved me to see it as a good thing, to justify it at any cost so that I wouldn’t have to peer into the darkness of my own heart. Generally anymore, it just makes me sick – not just to see the public shaming of someone and to understand how much and how deeply it hurts them, but when I watch how people justify the behavior – just like I used to. I get sick because I remember, and it grieves me that I was ever so cruel and so eager to believe that I was righteous as I was doing it.

We need to learn a lesson from the Babylonians – God uses the wicked to refine those who should act righteously. Just because we are being used by God – well, it doesn’t mean that we are any better in the inside than Nebuchadnezzar. Coming out of Babylon is much more complex than people give it credit for – in the end, Babylon was judged because of the excessive cruelty with which they treated God’s people, even in the midst of the righteous covenant lawsuit judgement against them.

So embrace the judgement and allow it to teach you compassion – the people who do it may seem to prosper, but goodness, Babylon seemed to prosper for a long time too, until another wicked nation was used to judge it. We must be patient and allow God to work within the hearts of individuals, and sometimes the methods He uses are kinda ugly because… well we are kinda ugly. Until we get to the point where sins against others outrage us more than the sins committed against ourselves, we aren’t there yet, and we need every ounce of discipline we can get.

And yet, woe to those who are being used to deliver it!

 




Are Marriage Laws Pagan? Isaac and Rebekkah in Ancient Near Eastern Context


marriage pagan
Note: I am currently reworking this teaching after doing extensive research into Biblical marriage from extra-biblical sources. My initial findings stand, but I will be making the teaching a lot more thorough by bringing in a lot of first-century Galilean and Judean context. How ketubahs and gets are presented within the Hebrew Roots movement is not an accurate picture of how they really looked and how they were entirely legal court documents, what the requirements were for legal witnesses, and what a ketubah meant for a wife’s financial guarantees in case of divorce.
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If I had a dime for every woman who believed the doctrine that they don’t need a marriage certificate to get married and that they can just hook up with a guy, who then went and did it, and who got used up and abandoned, even though she was in possession of a self-made Ketubah signed by “witnesses” who then didn’t hold the man who she was shacking up with accountable (and indeed, had no legal ability to do so) when he turned out to not really be very Torah observant – and now have NO LEGAL RECOURSE and can’t get out of this marriage that doesn’t exist legally and yet spiritually it does exist because they had sex together…
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Yeah it was a messy run on sentence but this is a messy run on situation. Here’s the story I hear:

(1) Marriage by the State is pagan; (2) all you need to do it go cohabit and have sex and as long as you both love God, you are legally married in His eyes and (3) have all of the protection you need Biblically, oh and (4) God told me this by revelation.

It sounds romantic, spiritual and appealing, right? It sounds like a way to reclaim our heritage as believers – but nothing could be further from the truth.

Whenever I hear a doctrine prefaced or prefixed by “God told me this by revelation” then I am like 100 times MORE likely to assume that it’s just something straight out of their imagination. If they had proof, they would provide it. Those who have no proof, too often credit God with revelation – and crediting God with vain imaginations, make no mistake, is a form of blasphemy. It’s asserting God’s authority to preach something in His Name, taking it in vain.
 
Ladies, in the past (really until just recently historically) a marriage was a covenant made by two fathers, two families. It was a legal act, recognized by the civil authorities because everything about it was done in legal civil fashion. It wasn’t just going to a man’s house and shacking up and now you are safely married after making up a paper and saying what you want on it and having random people sign it. That was, fornication in the ancient world – and still is. All throughout the Bible we have situations presented that were not thoroughly explained to the people of the times – and frankly, why waste the ink to do so? Until just a short while ago historically, all the world operated by ancient mindsets – they were honor/shame focused, dyadic (community) centered and spiritual. Our ancestors walked away from all of that and became concerned with innocence and guilt, individualism, and science – our ancestors changed the culture 180 degrees and then set about twisting the laws of God in order to fit the new paradigms. We cannot ignore the original culture that the Bible Laws were tailor made for. We can’t walk away from that culture and then just drag the Bible along with us as though God’s original intentions are even less sacred than the original intentions of the authors of the United States Constitution.
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Very often, and especially in Paul’s letters, we see that appearances in an alien culture are vitally important – whether it is in the form of an admonishment for married women to obey Greco-Roman legal dress codes or in warnings as to how believers should conduct themselves publicly within the culture in which they have been exiled. We are God’s ambassadors, and when we do things that look shameful within the larger society, we are shaming God. Living with a man without benefit of a legal marriage license in this culture and calling oneself a believer looks excessively shameful to God, and frankly, is not Biblical. This isn’t some noble protest against the Government, it is something that makes God look really casual about His ideas of what constitutes marriage.
 
People will tell you, on this particular issue, that they received a “revelation” from God but what they did was simply read the plain text out of the Bible WITHOUT knowing anything about the underlying culture. They aren’t aware, for instance, that Abraham’s servant went with absolute legal authority and, as an ambassador in the name of Abraham to whom he had sworn an oath with hand on (well, you know), made a covenant in his master’s name, with Rebekkah’s father and brother. Isaac and Rebekkah were legally married before she ever left Haran. The Brideprice was paid. The dowry was already given for her protection should Isaac divorce her for childlessness. The entire legal structure  of the Ancient Near East would have recognized the contract.
 
This is all a matter of established ancient law and you can see it in the text IF you know that context. Rebekkah had a legal contract, a legal marriage – she had legal protections should Isaac toss her onto the street – and if Isaac wronged her he would have her entire family to deal with, because they would all be wronged and would seek out satisfaction.
 
The ancient world was an honor/shame society and Isaac and Rebekkah were practicing an “endogamous” marriage within the clan. Nothing could have possibly been more legal than that – not only did she had civil covenant legalities in place to protect her, but she was also protected by an honor/shame culture THAT DOESN’T EXIST IN THE WEST. This was as safe as marriage got in ancient times and it was exactly why people did it – because in honor/shame cultures you were required to be absolutely honest with family (making Laban’s behavior all the more shocking when read from an honor/shame standpoint). Rebekkah’s father would never have sent his daughter with Abraham’s servant unless said servant was carrying assurances – it would not be unlikely that he was in possession of Abraham’s seal, cord and staff – in fact, I believe that he was.
 
Out here, even in “Torah Observant” communities – men are not required to deal honorably with their wives because no one understands that kind of culture anymore – we don’t even know what honor is. There is also no Covenant court set up, no legitimate Bet Din to protect a woman from being abandoned. Women cannot bring a Covenant lawsuit against a husband who has wronged them – nor can they go to a secular court because they didn’t do things civilly either. We are living in exile, and exile means that we do not have the benefit of pretending like women have the legal protections they would have had in the ancient world.
 
So #1 – Rebekkah was legally married by the laws of the land, through a sacred Ancient Near Eastern covenant system between two fathers and two families. This was not something done simply between man and woman. Brideprice and dowry were legally paid and recorded. #2 – Rebekkah had societal protections because of honor/shame culture that do not exist within the United States and Europe and certainly not within the religious communities that are not truly operating under ancient principles for faithfulness, but are based instead on a strange amalgam of what we *think* was going on based upon what is written in the Bible to an audience who didn’t need to be told these things – it would have been a waste of ink. Modern day “neo-pagan” communities operate according to how they *think* ancient pagans would live, and modern day “Torah-Observant” communities do exactly the same thing, but without studying the culture or actually living as ancient people did.  We are not honor/shame centered and we are not dyadic/community based. We are innocence guilt/individualistic/scientific people – we are the OPPOSITE of the types of people the Law was designed to work well with. Our ancestors left the culture of the Bible and now we are trying to keep our culture and twist the Torah around our modern mindsets like a pretzel.
 
I have messages and messages from women who believed this doctrine, and who were left “married” and yet unmarried while their “Torah observant” husband moved on to the next woman he met online. And no one can force their “not even common law” husband to do right by them. All he has to say is “she abandoned me” and it becomes a he said/she said. I’ve seen it so many times in the last year that you might be shocked. Women come to me and I can’t do anything to help them. No one can help them – not until they have been with their “husband” for seven years – providing common law recognition by the State.
 
A legal marriage contract isn’t pagan – they have always existed. There is a big difference between civil laws and idolatry – laws are not inherently idolatrous or pagan – making an idol, placing  it in a shrine, trying to imbue it with the essence of a god, bathing it, feeding and clothing it and bowing down to it – that’s pagan and idolatrous.  Laws are simply laws, they are generally the opposite of pagan, they are simply secular – they are either good laws or bad laws. And they have existed for one reason above all other reasons – to protect women and children from men. Hey, look at the Torah laws, how many of them tell women who not to have sex with and how many are telling men who they had better not have sex with? How many protect men from being raped and how many protect women from being raped? Is it the man who has protections from being falsely accused of adultery or women?
 
Men have had to be historically commanded not to follow their baser instincts and to not rape, to not seduce, to not have sex with family members, to not engage in homosexual relationships, to not touch a woman when she is having her period, to not dishonor a woman without proof. Women don’t naturally do those things (or at least they didn’t before women’s lib decided we should act more like men – somehow acting like men made us more sexually promiscuous, go figure!).
 
In the Kingdom of Israel, the Covenant, the constitution of the Kingdom of God, protected women from men from beginning to end. Unfortunately, in exile and without Sanhedrin courts in place, we women are left without protection unless we take advantage of the laws of the land concerning marital legality.
 
Like polygamy and polygyny, this is one of those areas that people feel very strongly about and preach completely out of the societal context – and amazingly, to the detriment of women and children in both cases and to the benefit of men. Go figure.



The Easiest “Job” on Earth: Critic

criticThe movie Ratatouille came out when my twins were six and so it’s fair to say that I have seen it many times. It is not my favorite, but one of my favorite movie moments of all time comes at the end when the food critic Anton Ego faces the truth about what it is that he really does for a living. In his final review, the review in which he actually places himself instead of someone else on the chopping block, he begins with:

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so….”

That was a humbling thing for me to hear way back when, and I’ve never forgotten it. Those who put themselves out there, are forever at the mercy of those who don’t but still feel free to criticize – which is the prime reason why I leave people alone if I am not actively doing what they are doing or truly studying in depth what they are studying in depth. There are a great many things that I do not have the standing to critique in this world. Social media has made it all too easy for people to behave badly, to foist their critical spirits, lack of self-control and/or humility upon the world in general, as though disagreement is a capital crime worth being gunned down over. Whether we are talking about the drive by corrector who simply comes by and makes a disparaging comment and then never comes back to defend it or back it up when challenged, or the professional flame artist, who delights in argument – such people thrive not on relationship, but on the undermining of many. Indeed there are people out there who never seem to say a word unless it can contain a critique somewhere. Some have very little to offer and so they make their way through social media by seeming to have the knowledge required to school the teacher on some minor point – sometimes a point so minor that the teacher wouldn’t waste anyone’s time by mentioning it. I call it the ‘ministry of refutation’ and it’s scandalously easy to do – you don’t even have to actually know anything; all you have to do is inject doubt and undermine the other person. Most people who read and listen don’t even ask or care about your qualifications, they are just looking for someone entertaining to believe and mistake passion and charisma for credibility.

I have a policy – if I have never praised or encouraged you (especially recently) or if we have no real relationship, then I will pretty much leave you alone. Call it a heads up that I once got about my lack of importance in the whole scheme of things. If you are not important enough for me to spend time with and actively cheer on, then you are not important enough for me to correct either. Of course, I say that tongue in cheek because everyone is important, but I simply don’t have enough time or energy to be there for everyone or really even for many people. If I don’t spend my time getting to know you, how can I discern what you do and do not know, where you are at and what your character is well enough to judge your tone of voice? That many people have found the time to cheer me on and encourage me is humbling indeed – more than I deserve for the lack of personal effort I put into the lives of others as individuals. I’m just a teacher, and teaching is often a rather detached profession. I bear in mind that there are billions of wrong people out there, and I am one of them. I choose to treat people as I would have them treat me – not as those who are in great need of my correction but never my encouragement, or throwing them an ounce of encouragement so that my criticism can look less critical even to myself. I know that I am still uninformed about so very much and I am grateful for the people who do give me credit for what I have learned and the space and dignity to learn more – and so I extend that to others. If someone values or desires my input, then they will ask – and a lot of people ask, even though oftentimes I have to honestly say, “I don’t know, I haven’t looked into that yet, all I could give you is an opinion and I’m sure you have your own opinions already without me adding mine.” Who knows, maybe that’s why they ask – after all, who really needs my opinions anyway?

The work of creation is a risk. It requires pouring yourself out for all to see – the educated and uneducated alike, the graceful and the graceless, the humble and the arrogant, those who are teachable and those who only want to pick at the teaching like a food critic picks at food he never even paid for. In my case, sometimes a blog comes at the end of years of study, decades of experience, or sometimes it comes down to something I have only recently learned – but I put it into words for the sake of edifying the Body. I mean, I could keep the information to myself – after all, I learned it for myself and not for anyone else – but where’s the fun in that? Whether it comes in the form of my children’s videos on youtube, my books or my blog, I have invested time and yes even love into each creation – whether it be hundreds of hours or just a few. The critic on the other hand, as Anton Ego wrote, risks absolutely nothing. One can work their way from one end of social media to the other, critiquing the work of others like a food taster and without ever having to produce anything themselves. Like the food critic, the internet critic needs nothing other than their mouth, tongue and fingers because everyone else does all the work for them – providing the feast for their critical spirits to descend upon like a vulture.  The critic strides in like an authority, not because they produce but because they consume – greedily gobbling up the blood, sweat and tears of others, reaping the benefits of the work of others while often giving absolutely nothing in return but their disdain. But is the critic really an expert, or does the critic simply know what they do and do not like and how to express it? That’s what Anton Ego learned – that he was merely a walking, talking opinion and not really an expert on actually doing anything. Food critics, like social media critics, often devour in order to find the fault instead of the good. No chef, and no teacher can defend themselves against that sort of person.

That’s the food world, but the Body of Messiah is supposed to be about relationship. People should know who we are by how we love each other, not by how we publicly criticize each other or ignore the good in search of the fault. Anton Ego had it right in the end – the junk that someone labors to put out is often more meaningful than the negative criticisms piled up against it. There are people out there who need correction, who need teaching – but is a sometimes nameless, faceless stranger the person to do it? Someone who is nothing but a drive-by corrector of unknown qualifications, who may or may not study, may or may not have good character, and may or may not even know what they are talking about? There are people out there who are posing as teachers who are unbalanced, others who won’t admit that they really haven’t studied much or have studied so narrowly that their critiques on certain areas are empty and meaningless no matter how much they know about other areas. There are others who have terrible character, who probably wouldn’t be allowed to teach in person in the first century assemblies at all but out on social media all one needs to do is sound interesting. There are some who are bent on conquering, who want to be deferred to, called by whatever title they have laid claim to, who want the air of respectability without having to earn respect through relationship. There are many who are fear driven and for whom the ends justify the means, even if it involves deception in order to keep others “in line.”

Ever wonder what would happen online if we all held ourselves to only critiquing those whom we had actively cultivated a relationship with over time? Or maybe, if instead of rushing to critique, we asked questions? Or maybe most importantly – what if when we are offended we take a good hard look at why we are offended? I would say that probably 95% of the critiques I get are not from people who can argue facts with me, but by those whose agendas, pet doctrines or behavior are being called into question – even though the blog was never aimed at them personally. Critical people leave me alone when they agree, or if they figure someone else’s agenda is being crushed, or someone else’s behavior is being called into question – they enjoy those things, but not enough to encourage me and that is very telling (only to comment on how awful ‘those’ people are, when what I post is meant to make each of us look within – not at others). That they only respond when they can disagree or disapprove of others or exalt themselves is more revealing than their silence when they do agree – and interestingly, I know exactly who will respond if I put out certain kinds of posts. I could make a list and unless someone is on vacation, I will always strike gold – if criticism can be equated with gold. Many folks don’t care to engage unless it is in negative terms.

Disagreement and correction, within the bounds of a good relationship, are healthy and edifying for both parties. I cherish my accountability partners (I have six very knowledgeable people who actively hold me accountable for what I teach, about four others who weigh in from time to time whose opinions I respect, and about ten people who hold my behavior accountable and warn me when I need to shut up), but that accountability is always in terms of established relationships. When they talk, I listen because I know that they love me and because the success of what I do it important to them – not to the point that they are going to agree with everything I write, in fact, sometimes we argue behind the scenes – and that’s okay. They want me to succeed because it is about building the Kingdom of Heaven and not about building my own illegitimate kingdom. None of them are doing the easy work of the drive-by shooter looking to gun down whatever offends them, they are doing the hard work of being the Body of Messiah. I love them not because they are “yes” men and women, but because they are invested in me and so I cherish every word they speak to me. They have earned the right to speak whatever they need to speak into my life, and they aren’t afraid to let me have it when I have it coming.

Let us all endeavor to make our words count for something other than making ourselves look good and someone else look small. Anyone can be a critic – but not everyone can edify.




“When Eve saw that the fruit was good for eating and desirous to make one wise…”

appleFriend of mine sent me a blogpost this morning wanting me to check it out – by the third line my eyes were just about rolling out of my head. So this post bears the subtitle “teachers behaving badly”- why? Oh because the art of political deception is alive and well in the religious blogsphere – you no longer have to prove your case, you need only make yourself look more desirable than your opponent – generally by calling your opponent’s competency into question needlessly.

The problem wasn’t his theology – really he never said much about it. What he did do was criticize a specific doctrine of others without really teaching why his was right. Oh sure, he gave a few verses outside of both their Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern context, but what he was perpetrating is an old political trick of saying nothing while seeming to say an awful lot. He crafted a tale that made people desirous to believe him and take his word for what he was saying, without having to actually prove himself. He told people exactly what they should think of other people and their arguments without telling them anything about the other people or what their arguments were. Reminded me of the serpent in the garden, promising wisdom if Eve would just take his word for what he was saying and yet delivering only death.

He criticized a big name ministry, and some teachers within the movement (which I will not reveal so as to not color the argument) who are deservedly well-respected by comparing them unfavorably in comparison with some names that are quickly losing respect for employing some of the same attack dog tactics I saw in this blog post. You see, and here is where the deception comes in – he gave the reader every reason to discount the teachings of others without ever laying down enough reason to believe what he is pushing. He carefully crafted an argument based not on making a rock-solid and well documented case (as every true teacher will do), but upon calling into question the integrity and competence of others to such an extent that in the end, the uninitiated will wholeheartedly agree with the author because they wouldn’t want to be like those “inferior” and “deceived” teachers that were named. The entire blogpost was one big manipulation tactic geared towards making the reader feel badly for even thinking about agreeing with those other ministries and teachers. Sadly, I see it all the time. In truth, he did nothing except prime the audience so that they would see himself (and not those other teachers) as the authority and then refused to back up his arguments – simply citing that the scriptures themselves proved him right (a cheap and sadly all too common claim out there – it’s the pseudo-intellectual equivalent of “the Holy Spirit told me”). This is the sort of behavior that is all too common among the online Body of Messiah – we look like the world and with good reason because we play their games better than they do – but unlike politicians, we play the game with God’s reputation and so our judgment will be heavier.  There is little respect out there for the hardworking, spiritually mature, non-sensationalized teachers and too many people enjoy being critics while offering nothing except their criticism – in this day and age all are free to argue their case, even if they haven’t seriously studied the matter in question. Imagine trying to get away with that in any classroom! It is the critic, and not the scholar, who gains the broadest audience – so make sure of who it is you are listening to as it would be tragic to learn from a critic. The most obnoxious teacher is generally the one who has the least of substance to say.

So what are the warning signs that you are being grossly manipulated?

(1) The teacher is “priming your pump” – in other words, the person starts out with their very long, very agonizing struggle with the question in hand. Yes, their opinion wasn’t reached overnight (unspoken implication – “unlike others”) and they spent many tearful nights and many years searching the scriptures before learning the truth but in the end they realized that their position is the only valid position there is (insinuating that if everyone was as diligent they would agree as well – or perhaps “as anointed” if they received it instead by revelation). The teacher has just “primed the pump” by making you want to be the beneficiary of this hard-won revelation, by causing you to desire to become wise or at least embarrassed to admit disagreement. Remember how Eve was deceived? She wanted to be wise and have her eyes opened. (Social media is proof positive that this sort of thing works very well on men as well as women) But hey – if he or she spent all those years studying there should be quite the paper trail, right? Why not simply present it?

(2) The teacher makes sure to denounce, in various ways, any teacher of a differing opinion – even if they do so under the auspices of being concerned for their deceived brethren. The other teachers are purposefully vague, or their arguments make them sound lacking next to their peers who agree with the opinion of the author. The teacher names big names who disagree, making sure to elevate him or herself above well-respected Bible scholars and ministries because it wouldn’t do to simply make his case – he must make you see how much more competent he is than the big names who earned their place as teachers over the course of many decades. The serpent did this in the Garden as well, but the Teacher he called into question was God Himself. A teacher with the goods needs to present the goods, not just point out who doesn’t have the goods.

(3) The teacher states his case in a few lines, but doesn’t bother to prove it – “Scripture proves it for me.” I like to call it “all claim, very little (if any) substance.” And you are primed to think he has indeed proved it because by this point the manipulation has been pretty heavy. It might not even occur to you to look into his arguments, because he has carefully crafted his words to give the illusion of his argument being so self-evident that he in fact has no need to prove what he is saying. To Eve, it was self-evident that the Serpent was telling the truth and that God was lying. That’s how manipulation works. Again, if a teacher has the proof, why waste 1,000 words without proving it? What exactly was the point of those thousand words if not to make a case for the truth of your doctrine?

In the end we, like Eve, often want such a person to see that we are wise and discerning so we will often take a bite without demanding proof – not even thinking for a moment how much it should bother us that this person named names and insulted people who we should respect, or at least love and honor as people who have devoted their lives to Scriptural study. Nor do we pause and ask ourselves why the teacher couldn’t just make their case without bringing into question the competency and even honesty of those who disagree. And oftentimes, we don’t even demand that they make a case at all – if they made us feel like we are wise for coming into agreement with them, well that appeals to our desire to please those whom we place into authority and we get to feel the vicarious pride of being “in the know.”

I’ve seen what happens when people follow after teachers who do this – they change and not for the better. I know because I used to be one of those people. I would get a secret thrill if someone was being slandered – it was as if I were doing it myself but I didn’t have to say the actual words myself, at least not in public. But anyone who has known me long enough knows that I used to be a first class jerk, and my behavior during those years was a source of shame to my King. I listened to jerks and then I modeled that behavior towards others. Praise Yah that, one by one, the jerks I was listening to betrayed me because third time was a charm – I found a teacher who was incredibly gracious and kind and started behaving that way instead. I am glad that facebook timehop only goes back two years or people would see some shocking stuff out of me. It wasn’t until my eyes were opened to this kind of manipulation that it stopped working on me (well, usually, I am still flesh) and I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t listen to or learn from anyone who does this to people. It’s unnecessary. We don’t have to exalt ourselves by degrading others. If we do the work that God has called us to do, then He will exalt us – or not, His choice.

When I look at the teachers that I really respect, I see them doing one thing – teaching. I don’t see them ever trying to name names of the ministries that teach anything else, I don’t see them slandering others or try to tear them down – they just teach. When was the last time you saw Brad Scott, Rico Cortes, Bill Cloud, Dinah Dye, Holissa Alewine, Joseph Good, Ed Harris, or Valerie Moody (I probably forgot some folks) going around slandering other ministries or even exalting their own? They teach and teach and teach and stay focused on Kingdom growth and not on their own ministry growth. Even when other ministries come out against them, naming names – they remain silent publicly. It isn’t about them, and they know it. I am grateful that a few people like them got hold of someone like me and are teaching me how a real teacher, a real servant acts. Following their example is a tough road – they set the bar really high. But that’s the point, right? There are some really fabulous teachers out there, people of integrity who hold each other accountable and help the people coming up – with people like them, we don’t need to listen to the self-exalters, or the manipulators, or the haters. Life is too short, we have too much to learn, and too much work to do on our characters to waste time on those who sound way too much like they are trying to sell us a poisonous piece of fruit.

 




Building His Kingdom or Simply Kingdom-Building?

kingdomSo yesterday, I went on my facebook newsfeed – which I rarely do. It was uplifting as well as disheartening. If you know me on social media, I am sure you’ve noticed that I am incredibly grumpy this week – I have never been good at hiding my emotions.

There are people I see out there rising up as leaders by putting aside this or that difference, doing away with the labeling, and the finger pointing. There are people who are starting to shine like stars in the firmament because they want to come together as a Body for the good of the Kingdom of Heaven, not sweating the small stuff but proclaiming His majesty, His honor and His character. I see people beginning to put aside the building of their own kingdoms – ceasing the worldy push to crush other ministries, to destroy all other opinions through shame and by force if necessary, in an attempt to be the one on the top of the pile determining what everyone else has to believe. I see people leaving race and country at the door. To the people who are doing that, you are like light in this dark world. It’s refreshing to see people who do not mistake their own views as some sort of doctrinal litmus test of personal worth.
 
But the other half is growing darker. People who seek out supremacy not through true virtue or excellence or by doing simply what they were called to do, but instead through crushing those who disagree under their feet. People who make hateful disciples who go here and there stirring up dissension and division. People who are so busy building up their own kingdoms that they tear down God’s people and don’t even look back to see if they are mortally wounded. People for whom doctrine is more important than the person they are shouting it at. I see people in love with their own race. I see people of the covenant hating each other based on genetics, and using race in order to sort out who should be on top – who should and should not be teaching, listened to, and even loved.
 
I don’t degrade other people’s ministries by name, but there are two types.
 
The first type is working for the Kingdom – they recognize that the Bride is not their Bride but the King’s. All they want to do is prepare the Body to be that perfect Bride, because they love the King. They treat her as a Bride should be treated, with respect. They love the Body, caring for it as their own Body – recognizing that a Body can’t remain broken into pieces or it will die. Realizing that parts must work together as a whole with one head, who is Messiah – everyone else is just “parts.” These are people who rebuke sparingly but love boldly, who aren’t in it for their own honor but for the honor of their King.
 
The second type is building their own Kingdom. These types of believers have decided what their ideal bride looks like and are trying to make her into that image. She cares about what they want her to care about, and she talks the way they think she should talk, believes the things they think she should believe, does things exactly the way they think she should do things, and bows down at the altar of their pet doctrines. She loves who they love and hates who they hate. If she does not, then they guilt her and shame her and then label her as rejected. They use her (and her wallet) to do their bidding, to spread their message, and build their own kingdoms – and they won’t rest until she is fit to satisfy their needs. They make sure that she is loyal to their ministry, and zealously and jealousy do all in their power to keep her from even looking elsewhere. They have her fooled into believing that she really can serve two masters.
 
Are we tired yet of this? And it isn’t even just ministries – it’s also rogue people on social media doing all they can to get followers. Are we tired of events devoted to tearing other people down? Lists comparing different denominations and beliefs to one another so that they can be boiled down to stereotypes and generalizations whose only purpose is to divide and promote contempt? Are we sick and tired yet of people who put up barriers and ignore what others are doing right in the pursuit of proclaiming what they are doing wrong?
 
I’m not willing to follow or promote any ministry who can’t play nice with others, who create needless separations between the citizens of the Kingdom based on anything. Yeshua brought the sword, but He never handed it over to me. In these days we are called to come together as one Body, but there are many who want to make sure that never happens, or if it does, only in the way that THEY think it should happen. We have one King, one Head, one Master – anyone you can physically see on this earth right now does not qualify. Let us all pursue the Unseen One.
I mean – I can’t be the only one who has noticed how many ministries out there are trying to make us into their own ideal girlfriends when we are supposed to be in preparation to be the Bride. We need elders in this Body, yes, but they have to stop being the “yes men” – and instead become the “yes, Lords.” We need leaders, but they have to be leading us in the right direction, and not simply towards themselves.
So yes, I’ve been grumpy. Seeing too much of this lately – but everyone has to choose which Kingdom they are going to serve for themselves. The thing is, they have to have the freedom to make that choice – and not everyone trusts them to make that choice without a nice unhealthy dose of manipulation. And manipulation – it produces girlfriends and monsters, not a Bride.



The Fruit of the Spirit Pt 6 – Faithfulness – what does it look like in the Ministry?

fruitfaithfulnessFaithfulness – I guess I have to record a video on this, it’s the next fruit in the series I have been working on. Been very much tested on this over the last week or so, but I didn’t realize what was happening. I wasn’t tested the way I expected to be tested, and it pretty much smacked me out of nowhere. I really should be used to not being able to predict my tests by now.

I was going to do a video on whether or not we should flee to the woods or stay where God wants us to minister, but then Daniel McGirr did a teaching on that yesterday and I did not want to encroach upon his important message. Even though he covered it slightly differently, it just didn’t seem appropriate for me to cover that angle.

Faithfulness, when I looked it up contextually in logos – well, it came down in a great many cases to being trustworthy to do the job you are called to do and I had to take a good hard look at that yesterday. I find that when we are doing our jobs, things flow fairly well because we are equipped, like Bezalel, who was endowed with all the wisdom, understanding and knowledge required to build everything in the Tabernacle. When we are not doing our jobs, we are generally not going to have the right skillset and gifts. Interestingly enough, I find that in doing my own job, I am at peace and generally only get a strong emotional rush from doing something outside my giftings.

I can teach, and I can answer questions about and challenges to what I am teaching – but what I am not equipped to do is host forums where people discuss various issues. Not my job, not my skill set, not at all. I sit here, stressed out, wondering when someone is going to pop in and promote their ministry that I may know nothing about and therefore don’t want to be associated with (especially if I don’t know a person’s character or calling), post a video that I won’t have time to watch, or be a total jerk to the other people. Even when people are being cordial and civil, like yesterday, the whole thing just drains away all my energy.

I am a teacher, and specifically a writer, that is where the wisdom, understanding and knowledge of the Spirit have been granted into my life. I have not noticed those three spiritual gifts to be present in any other area of my life. Certainly not in leadership – I could never be an elder! Nor would I make a good evangelist, shepherd or really anything else. The question is – do I continue to follow the modern church model of ministry or do I specialize and realize that I have no obligation or even the right to try and do more than what I am called to do – which is to teach people new to either the faith or to specific contextual concept blocks.

We are still used to pastors who are required to teach, lead, equip, counsel, manage, and everything – and we still tend to hold people, who can do one thing well, responsible for doing all the other things as well. But I am here to tell you that I don’t have the equipping to do anything but teach. Sometimes that teaching comes in the form of instruction in context, other times in the development of character and sometimes in encouragement and rebuke – but it is always under the auspices of being a teacher. I do what I do within the boundaries of my gift. When I leave those boundaries, I suffer – I get overwhelmed and exhausted. But people want me to host discussions, they want me to provide a forum so that they can be heard because I have a reputation for providing a safe place to do so. People want to redirect a teaching thread sometimes to talk about the government, or to promote their own ministries. People want me to minister to them and solve their problems – and it is draining the life out of me. I have not been given those gifts and I have only helped people out of a sense of obligation – because people who do one thing are, as I mentioned before, expected to do it all. There are forum managers/administrators out there, but who are they? There are good counselors, but where are they? (I actually do know a great administrator and a great counselor – and they stick within their giftings, which is why they are so successful)

You want to know why we see so much abuse from the pulpit? Because those in the pulpit are being used and abused by people who demand that they have an impossible number of skillsets and a system that trained them to accept that as all “part of the calling” – so they do what they do well, and in the areas where they are not gifted, but operating in the flesh, that’s where they resort to worldly tactics.

I can’t host off-topic discussions. I can’t be a ministry billboard. I can’t do personal counseling – not if I am going to faithfully excel at the job that I am called to do. Right now, I am not faithfully doing that job because people are wanting me to do other jobs and I haven’t been saying no. I have fallen into the modern ministry trap of performing functions that I have no business performing. And part of me is scared to stop doing what I have been doing – for fear of losing “my audience” – my audience – more like, NOT my audience.

Perhaps we should all look at what we are demanding of people in the ministry, and back off. Is the person we are going to for help someone we simply admire or someone who we recognize has a definite skill set from God? And more than that, most people who I see preaching and teaching and prophesying and whatever else – well they obviously are not called to it. They are called to something else, something that they probably either aren’t doing, or aren’t focusing on because they are also too focused on trying to do something they wrongly esteem as being more important. We need to get focused, so that ALL of the jobs in the Kingdom start getting done and not just the flashy ones. Especially in the HR movement, we are suffering because a multitude are trying to be preachers, teachers, or at the very least, critics. We have fear-mongers and the pagan police causing confusion. We are a mess because we are not doing our jobs, and every job is important – not just the ones that get you public accolades (and a lot more hassle than you can probably imagine).

I think this is why, when it all comes down to our works passing through the fire – that most of them will burn like wood, hay and stubble – it won’t be the works that were actual transgressions, although some will fall into that category, I think it’s going to be the jobs we did that were not faithful to our own calling. I have a lot of wood, hay and stubble to answer for. It’s time to produce more gold and less tinder. In His mercy, maybe God will consent to lighting that wood, hay and stubble right now, so the impure gold I am producing might undergo some refinement.




The Fruit of the Spirit Pt 4 – Gentleness

gentlenessYes indeed, it does count gentleness as among the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 – but nowhere does it cite abrasiveness or boldness. Let’s face it, a lot of us come into all this bold and abrasive, those are easy and require no maturity at all. Yes, I said it – boldness and abrasiveness, and speaking whatever is on our minds in whatever way we want to say it is not associated with maturity – but gentleness is.

Don’t shoot the messenger guys, but maturity is marked by all of the things that many attribute wrongly to lukewarmness – patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. They only look like weakness and lukewarmness to those people who do nothing to reign in their desire to beat on people who they don’t think are getting with the program quick enough.

But in the Sermon on the Mount, our Messiah praised those who are meek, mourning, merciful and peaceable – He said that the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to them, and not to the brash, uncompassionate, merciless and combative. We’ve been taught to read the prophets in a loud and angry voice and many have made the mistake that everyone is to be talked to in that tone of voice and indeed, that the prophets only used one tone of voice. That, I believe, is wishful thinking on the parts of those who enjoy using that tone of voice and are looking for an excuse. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who preferentially used that tone who really, and I mean really, knew their scriptures. The people who are quick to bark are generally knowledgeable about verses and sometimes sections, but not the Scriptures. It’s different. The Word changes us, it humbles us as we come to know it. The more I read, the less I see of the faults of others and the more I see my own growth potential – not how far I have come but how far I still have to go. Far from leaving me hopeless, I take a sort of pleasure in seeing how much more maturity is waiting for me if I just keep pressing in. I am heartened that I can be better than I am, because who I am right now is not nearly good enough. I am still not a safe enough person to be around all the time.

I want to be gentle, but cruelty and harshness is just so easy. It takes every ounce of my self-control sometimes to be gentle and patient – one cannot truly exist without the other. I want to create a whip and clear out the people who annoy me, but I remember all the times that people attacked Yeshua (Jesus) and the only two times he did such a thing was when the holiness of the actual Temple Mount was encroached on by Sadducees (who were robbing pilgrims looking to pay their Temple Tax) jacking up the exchange rates. Those were the only two times we see Him not being gentle – and yet we desire to whip everyone we disagree with. And sometimes, sometimes He said, “Woe..” but not normally, normally he sat and taught those who came to Him – not those who weren’t interested. And yet some judge everyone who doesn’t come and listen, and they go actively forcing themselves on people. That is not godly behavior, it is not good fruit – it’s just giving free reign to flesh and misrepresenting it as zeal. I, fact, I find that the word zeal is often used to camouflage immaturity.

Oh we can’t get around gentleness and it’s hard to fake – hard, but not impossible. There are those who are gentle in person and yet start railing about the situation behind closed doors – oh yes, I’ve done that! It’s not optimal, but better than doing it in person and a bit more mature. It’s part of the process.

We can be firm and gentle, but it’s difficult, whereas unyielding and brutal are easier and far more satisfying in the moment (often called “uncompromising”) – and more admired in certain circles. Firm and gentle is never about self, about the expression of flesh, and it doesn’t look zealous – but believe me it is generally far more passionate than doing what seems like zeal before the world. It takes passion to approach people in kindness instead of harshness, to care instead of discount, to be clear instead of cryptic, to teach instead of just preach, to serve instead of lording over each other. Gentleness is mentioned nine times in the KJV – it is an attribute of God, of His Messiah and of legitimate leadership. If someone is going around acting like a brawler – offensive, defensive and saying they are doing it because they are acting like Messiah – then they aren’t displaying leadership qualities. The episodes of wrath in scriptures are few and far between, generally years and years between incidents – what we mostly see is the patience and gentleness of a Father towards His children. If He treats us like that, saving wrath as a last resort, then shouldn’t we emulate that in our own behavior – if we truly want to be like Him? Wrath is coming, yes indeed, but we must strive to have mature fruit before we dare preach it. If someone enjoys preaching wrath, if it gives them a thrill – then probably they aren’t there yet and it isn’t their message to preach. Fruit takes time and maturity to grow into a useful form.

Fruit is about doing what doesn’t come naturally, about what doesn’t look strong, or zealous, or effective. Fruit looks like a burden to the tree, but truly – it’s the purpose of the tree.




Unscriptural Rebukes Pt 3: “YOU ARE UNCLEAN!”

Synagogueof satanFor this gem of an attitude that was commonplace during the time of Messiah, we have to talk about the members of the “synagogue of Satan” – the Pharisees of the House of Shammai.

I talk about this in great detail in my newest book King, Kingdom, Citizen: His Reign & Our Identity, but I will only briefly touch upon it here.

In the decade before the birth of Messiah, the Pharisees of the House of Shammai came to be in control of the Sanhedrin Council (the Jewish Supreme Court of ancient times). These snakes and vipers, as John the Baptist referred to them, had enacted the Eighteen Edicts of Shammai – civil laws that practically forbade relations between the Jews and Gentiles, effectively keeping Gentiles from being able to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Pharisees of the House of Hillel, who were pro-Gentile conversion, called the enactment of these laws as egregious as the building of the golden calf at Sinai! The Shammai Pharisees were shutting up the Kingdom of Heaven to seekers and not even going in themselves!

This is a woefully inadequate rendering of the backstory to Acts 10, but will give you a window of understanding into why Peter thought it was illegal to go into the home of a Gentile or eat with them in verse 28:

“And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”

In fact, the entire vision the Peter had in the early verses of Acts 10 had nothing at all to do with food, but with the Shammai ruling that any clean animal that is touched by an unclean animal is rendered common, and no longer fit for eating. This extended to people as well, and any Jew who came in contact with a Gentile would supposedly become common and ritually unclean. Of course, this is not Biblical in the slightest – it is in fact patently anti-Biblical. The Israelites were commanded to be a light to the Nations so that all the world would worship God, YHVH! Without contact between Jew and Gentile, however, the gospel was stopped dead in its tracks (okay, when I spelled that the first time I said tracts instead of tracks and that is funny because, you know, people hand out gospel tracts… never mind).

Not only are we not to call people unclean, but to be unclean is in no way an insult when seen in context! It is simply a temporary disqualification from going to the Temple. Ritual uncleanliness is the natural consequence of sexual relations, the female menstrual cycle, childbirth, and skin diseases. Although the last of the four is lamentable, the first two are actually generally required for the third, which is pronounced to be a blessing.

And so, the next time you see someone call another person unclean – why not go ahead and ask them if they are card-carrying members of the House of Shammai, or maybe just aspirants for membership in the synagogue of Satan – or maybe just avoid them altogether, because if they don’t know that very basic scriptural prohibition, then they really have no business rebuking anyone at all. The Holy Spirit weighed in on this subject almost 2000 years ago. This insult is off-limits.

I mean really, if generally over-talkative me can debunk an insult this briefly, you know it’s ridiculous.