Some of the most delightful interactions one can read in the Bible are the interactions between Jesus and his disciples or Jesus and the Pharisees. Wittier, more honest, more cutting, and even humorous dialogue you’ll find nowhere. The interactions that occur in John 7 are especially helpful in battling one of today’s popular superstitions: The self-fulfilling prophecy.
While “the fear of the wicked comes upon them” (Proverbs 10:24), and while “the power of life and death” are in our tongues (Proverbs 18:21), there is notable distinction between the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy and good old-fashioned discernment by the Holy Spirit.
Without further ado, let me give you the highlights of John 7 in perfectly humorous and (I assume) chronological order.
JOHN 7:19 — “Why do you seek to kill Me?” (Jesus)
JOHN 7:20 — “You have a demon,” the crowd replied. “Who is trying to kill you?”
JOHN 7:25 — “Now some of them from Jerusalem said, ‘Is this not He whom they seek to kill? But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.'”
JOHN 7:30 — “Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.”
JOHN 7:44 — “Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.”
To recap, Jesus claims that the people (mostly the Pharisees/leaders) are wanting to kill Him; they reply with wide-eyed innocence that they have no idea what He is talking about — to the point of calling him a demon; the crowd confirms that the leaders have been seeking to kill Jesus, despite their leaders’ denial in the previous verse; then, we are told twice more that they wanted to seize Him but, in spiritual terms, were constrained by the hand of God because it wasn’t Jesus’ time to die yet.
There are two things I want to point out here on the topic of self-fulfilling prophecy. First, just because it doesn’t happen right away doesn’t mean that one can’t have legitimate insight about coming events.
A few might recall Christians, slightly panicked at the cultural regressions, over the last few years, claiming that our society’s leaders were seeking to persecute the church and Christians. Many scoffed at this idea. Many likened it to a self-fulfilling prophecy, rebuking other Christians for saying such negative things. But the truth is… the handwriting is on the wall. Just because they can’t touch us today, doesn’t mean that day isn’t coming.
Second, Jesus was not speaking a self-fulfilling prophecy, a notion researched and put en vogue by social psychologists today, but He did have keen insight into the hearts and minds of his enemies. Jesus forecasted the intentions of their hearts accurately. Obviously, to some degree, their intent had already seeped through the cracks of the city streets because even the common crowd knew these officials wanted to kill Jesus. It wasn’t exactly a secret, though they vehemently denied it to Jesus’ face.
Negatives & Positives
Mental ascent in the guise of positive or negative vibes has gained much popularity in recent years, to the point that it permeates Church culture as well. Little of it amounts to more than superstition wrapped up in spiritual language, whereby Eastern Mysticism courts the Church, wooing her with smooth speech dripping like honey off of Delilah’s luscious lips.
Well, it’s probably the slobbery kissing-cousin of living one’s ‘best life now’ by building one’s own kingdom (of followers, esteem, and glory) and sizing-up everyone else as the ‘competition’ (when not the ‘haters’), in Jesus’ name… for someone’s glory… but not God’s.
It’s a simple theory: Speak positively and positive things will come to you, which is complete superstitious nonsense. Or speak negatively and you’ll get what’s coming to you, which can feel as true as the first but is just as equally nonsense. And I quote: “It rains upon the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). End quote.
Rather, obey God... because if the Old Testament prophets had listened to some of us today, the Bible would be much smaller — that is, we would have duck-taped their mouths shut. And if the heroes of faith had attributed their received promises to their winsome speech, rather than to God’s kindness, we, likewise, would have a much smaller cloud of witnesses to admire.
Jesus did not hide, cry, or play the victim; He did not bemoan the coming Cross, though He announced it many times — as any good teacher wanting to prepare his disciples would do.
He did not break into a Gospel rendition of “You can’t touch this” either — Na-na-na-na Na-na Na-na. He trusted His Father and understood the times.
He just asked them a very sensible question: “Why do you seek to kill Me?” In context, He was pointing out that they didn’t even follow their own laws, so why should they be angry at Jesus for upsetting their manmade traditions? (Likely, because He didn’t flatter them, but that’s another lesson.)
Today, Jesus might just as well be chastised for being so negative…
Just cuz they don’t like you doesn’t mean they want to kill you, Jesus.
Just cuz they’re the competition, speaking against you, doesn’t mean they want to kill you, Jesus.
I think you’re paranoid, Jesus….
It is still true that “Some things are certain” (Arwen, LOTR), whether we believe.
That Other Thing
As for legitimate self-fulfilling prophecies, we find this most accurately portrayed in social groups. For instance, when the news begins talking about food shortages in the fall, I assume that they are 1) either conditioning me for what they want to happen (inciting panic) or 2) they have pieced together several factors they legitimately believe will contribute to that very thing.
And what do you think will happen upon such a report?
Proactive people like myself will think to stock up a little before fall, just in case, while panicked people will stock up out of fear… and, thus, the world runs out of toilet paper. It’s a predictable equation; there’s very little mystery in it (though one might think it was a 9th Wonder phenomenon to hear the media gasp).
Self-fulfilling prophecy, while a seemingly real phenomenon, tends to be predicated upon a lot of assumptions, logical predictions, and superstitions. After all, if the media didn’t report food shortages coming this fall, would we all stock up any more than usual?
The world will never know, but the toilet paper companies thank us for our business.
Forty is a magical year for humans. It’s the stereotypical year that many humans experience a sudden flash of enlightenment regarding the previous years and, upon such enlightening, either regress into an embarrassing replay of adolescent fantasies in broad daylight or, magically, feel like an adult, gaining wisdom and understanding about themselves, their limited world, and their own beliefs. Or they might proceed in complete denial that they in some way contributed to the visible wake slicing watery impressions behind them, unchanged.
Well, I can’t recall who said it now, but the debatable fact that no one should publish their writings until after the age of 40, seems less debatable when examining it from the rearview: I would tend to agree now.
Just like the Israelites walking around the same mountain in the wilderness for 40 years, we all prove stubborn in our flesh. There are some things we just won’t believe until we prove them to ourselves… or lightening bolts from heaven prove them for us.
This is where the tender mercies, compassionate touch, and the extravagant patience of our Father in heaven proves His great wisdom and understanding of humanity. Not every disbelief is rebellion-at-heart; sometimes, it’s just great ignorance…
And, as the human race, we all bear our moments of ignorance.
“Belief makes things real,” crooned Gavin DeGraw in his album, Chariot, and there is a great deal of truth in that even when it isn’t true…
Wheatberry. I can still feel its rolled firmness between bites of the perfectly glutenous bread I ate in my twenties, accompanied by large glasses of 2% milk…
Chicken quesadillas, fried and slathered in cheese dip like only the local Mexican restaurant could deliver, accompanied by large glasses of perfectly syrupy-sweet iced tea…
Chinese to-go orders. Generals Fried and Spicy, please… and do you have their sidekick, Sweet Tea?
Spaghetti, Alfredo, and homemade chicken quesadillas on rotation and repeat…
Weekly salads drenched in ranch dressing; hibachi chicken drenched in that pink stuff; and how can you live in South Carolina and be a proper southerner without eating Zaxby’s? Never has any company so nefariously devised the supreme fat-to-salt-to-carb-to-protein mixture as in one of their chicken baskets with genuine Texas toast (a menu item no one in the Midwest seems to understand, le sigh)…
But I would have told you I ate ‘healthy’. I would have told you that because I wholly, however ignorantly, believed it!
It was wheat bread, after all…
And how could so many celebrities be wrong about milk?
Cheese was a great source of protein, and I didn’t eat out every day. Besides, I ordered salads often enough when my friends were ordering steaks and ribs and other things I knew would kill them (eventually).
And I took very high doses of vitamin C and E, and I took my colloidal silver for a time…
How could my diet not be healthy? McDonald’s was considered a treacherous splurge I only indulged once a year (and eventually weaned myself from completely), and my friends sure didn’t seem to mind eating fake chicken nuggets and pink-slime-meat far more frequently.
I was doing better than them, right?
We do not have the audacity to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with some who [supply testimonials to] commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom and behave like fools.
2 Corinthians 10:12 [AMP]
(Ah, nothing like the Amplified Bible to make things clear… and painful. No, the context of this scripture is not McDonald’s, but it’s still apt commentary in general.)
I know what some of you are thinking: You’re thinking I just lacked the proper nutritional education, but not so. I was well-read, in college, and my mother had gone through a very stringent health food phase when I was a kid; I knew what was what, for my part. So, what on earth was going on in my brain?
Denial. Plain and simple. It’s easy enough to read now.
(40-year-old magic: Ta-da.)
Curious about this or that food, vitamin, or health issue, I would pull up Livestrong.com articles and absorb all I could. These articles, along with others, always pictured the most picturesque of healthy diets: A piece of toast with an avocado spread topped with a slice of fruit, grapefruit and cottage cheese, or a handful of nuts —
Who eats just a handful of nuts? And blanched almonds at that!
Ew. I’ll say it again: EW.
No salt? No sugar? How do people live like that?
I even once ranted about how a 2-TBSP serving size for syrup was absurd… bless my little naive, diabetes-free heart.
Clearly, my mind reasoned, these articles and health gurus are showing me the ideal but not the reality. I didn’t know anyone that ate like that… or I wasn’t sure that I did anyway. It certainly wasn’t ‘normal’.
Did you catch my environmental situation?
—–> I didn’t know anyone who ate like that. <—–
So, rather than taking the truth of what was being told and shown me in these articles, I based ‘reality’ on what I saw in the people from my general social group. If I perceived everyone in that group as eating far less healthy than I, then it would stand to reason that I would perceive myself as eating far healthier — whether that was objective truth.
I literally could not accept that these mythical people who only ate avocado toast really existed (that was a later Millennial phenomenon I wouldn’t see in prevalent existence, and on many menus, until my 30s…lol). My own thought and feeling at the time on this subject would have been, Impossible —
That’s not reality.
That’s not possible.
And yet… I have known many since who indeed eat this way, far healthier than I.
You know what this reminds me of? — This reminds me of the response I used to get from peers in my youth about cussing. I didn’t cuss. They didn’t believe me because they didn’t believe that was possible. Their belief was as alien to me as mine was to them. I didn’t cuss, and they couldn’t understand that any more than I could understand their incessant seeming need to hurl those needless projectiles from their mouths.
As I was in denial about what went into my mouth, they were in denial about what came out of their mouths.
What an impasse!
Perimeters of Possibilities
Since then, I’ve noted this same phenomenon between some who are Christians and some who are unbelieving. Some who are shown pictures or articles concerning Christian belief, lifestyle, and practice, no doubt think to themselves: That’s not possible; that’s not reality.
And how can the compassions of God not be stirred up when meeting such disbelief?
For what it’s worth, sociology studies did help put into perspective one thing for me: The environments, the ‘norms’, with which we are raised greatly effect what we believe to be possible or impossible in life, real or imagined, whether based on truth or rooted in superstition. In terms of environment (our surroundings) and nurturing (how we were raised relationally), we do not all begin at the same starting line… and many of our hard-nosed judgements against others (both from the believing and the disbelieving) stem from ignorance of this fact. We assume everyone understands what we didn’t say when we say what we say.
Here are a few non-religious examples of what I mean:
Some believe you cannot be a hard-working American with a job AND on welfare; I would tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about and should get to know people from other social classes living in other regions of the U.S. than themselves before engaging the infamous rudder (James 3). Our society (intentionally or unintentionally) punishes stay-at-home moms and one-person incomes, but should we reinforce that punishment with our poor opinions of the families who opt for that hard way too?
There are some black youth who believe that white women aren’t only the standard of beauty but that white women must also believe this about themselves (that they are indeed the standard). This was a heartbreaking (false) belief that appeared as a wall between me and some of the children in my care at a residential facility.
It took time and care to dissolve such things, to prove beyond words the truth: “No, sweet girl; that’s what the world told you to believe in a thousand advertisements and product-sales, but it is not what I believe.” (I am thankful to see at least this illusion being laid to rest, though I am disheartened by the lies some have chosen to replace it. Why does one have to be superior to the other? God made the human race like the colors of earth; they each have their benefits.)
Now, let’s return to Christianity:
How many times has belief in God been suspended on the face of the accusation, “Christians sin too!” This great farce of equalization means to say, “It’s impossible for you to be all the things you claim I have to be, so I don’t believe you, hypocrite.”
But let’s step back for a moment and think of the examples potentially absent from their lives and all-too-present Christians (true or false) in the headlines. If your only experience with Christianity is what the media or textbooks portray, that will paint a very different ‘reality’ than if you grew up with Christian parents in a reasonably peaceful home without abuses under good teaching. If your only example of a Christian was an adolescent girl who slammed a door in your face for cussing, well, that’s going to leave a mark. Likewise, if your only example was an angry, abusive ‘Christian’ home, that too will distort the truth.
For some of us, consideration of such things is rare and hard to imagine at times. Some of us grew up in church and have never had any meaningful relationships outside of that blessed body. Our best and worst times are there; our firsts and lasts are there; our hearts and desires are there. Learning about God was not a hardship but a joy. Getting to know God through the book He left for us was not a heavy task but an adventurous and exciting journey. Sure, there were rules we didn’t always understand and imperfect guardians of the Gospel attending our souls; nevertheless, some of us still have a more favorable impression of these things than what we imagine a life outside of them could have been… as some people have favorable impressions of bar-hopping (though that sounds perfectly miserable to me).
We all go through hard times. We are all mistreated by someone — within or outside of ‘organized religion’ or institutions. Well, as someone I once knew often said, “You’re pained if you do and you’re pained if you don’t.” We all experience a mortal existence here, rife with challenge… only some of us can’t imagine facing those challenges without Christ. Despite the popular tune’s proud boast, there are some things a beer cannot fix. (Many things, actually.)
Anyhow, in light of such disparities, how can impatient arguments in quippy meme form win over the soul who only reads the scandalous headlines, attends church on Easter, but otherwise believes that fanatics like myself are simply brainwashed, ignorant, or lying to themselves? As I tried to imagine the ideal, clean diet and couldn’t reconcile it with my ‘reality’ — I couldn’t even accept such a lifestyle as believable — so too the world read our words but cannot understand our lives as a Christian.
Sometimes, we don’t help ourselves. We say to the world, as to an addict, “You must give that up” — everything you think makes life manageable, pleasurable, and fun. What aid have we given them to do so — a form of religion without power, perhaps (2 Tim. 3:5)? The broken man can’t even make it to work on time, won’t quit his vices even for the sake of his children, or speak honestly; he feels the weight of his own self-destruction pushing him down, nearer the ground, and we might as well have said, “You should grow wings and fly.” For that is the interpretation he hears through the filter of his own environment and experiences:
I speak less of the rebellious here and more of the despairing ignorance of souls. I just want that to be clear. (I realize this is a limited scope, though I am not remaking the wheel here: Paul would have simply said that the god of this world has blinded their eyes…)
So too, we must alway permit the sovereignty of God’s discernment concerning all souls. We are not capable judges of mankind’s deceptive hearts, but He is.
We all have blindspots. Perhaps, that is to keep us humble.
Debtors to God
“And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Salvation did not originate with us, we were not healed by our own stripes and blood, and we have not gained anything from Christianity that the Good Lord didn’t give to us.
Jonah was angry with God for sparing the people of Nineveh because they repented after hearing Jonah’s words. Think of that! Too many in Christian circles are of this same spirit today — a little too delighted at the prospect of some peoples, nations, religious sects, or lost sheep’s destruction.
Where are the weeping saints? Where are the people of the Savior’s heart — our Savior who said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”? Where are the prophets who rend their garments in agony (rather than parading themselves like lords) and plead with fasting and prayer on behalf of the lost sheet, the lost house, the wayward sons? Where are the daughters of God, who while serving a godless master, seek to do him good by saying, Master, there is a prophet in the house of Israel, a God who can heal – (2 Kings 5)? Where is the patience of the fruit of the Spirit?
We all have ‘skin in the game’, so to speak.
Our beliefs are on trial in this world. Our reasons and reasoning challenged. Our pride, perhaps a reputation, is at stake. Some of us have years, decades, invested. And we all share space. Online or offline, in the marketplace, in the laws of the land, we are all constrained or liberated, punished or rewarded, upheld as the ideal or silenced as the rebellious, judged as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ — sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly.
But all of us, every last one, are debtors to God. When we lose sight of that, we lose sight of God’s desire for mercy.
The Parched Environment
This is not an argument for tolerating blatant sin in the Church, any more than it is an argument for telling lost sheep that ‘it’s all good’ because following the Shepherd is an unrealistic expectation for sheep; neither would be Biblically supported. This is merely a reminder, for the saints, and an argument for patience, compassion, and, when possible, for discernment between what is rebellion and what is ignorance.
Today, many grow up in a parched environment, never hearing the Word of God in purity (even some in church), ever-doubtful of people’s motives, knowing only the abuses or judgements or equalizing compromises, and without personal likenesses of modern day Paul’s and Timothy’s to draw from. Like none. 0.
As with all spiritual battles, these won’t be won over by physical means. (And just like a virus, all of our battles are the product of a spiritual unseen war.)
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:5
Some don’t know, have never known, and will not know such examples of faith unless we, the faithful, remain among them and go to them, enduring in patience…
Have you ever read one of those rare news clips or heard personal testimony of that rare bird who shares the Gospel with their tormentor, kidnapper, or mugger on the spot? Or the legends of young lambs who forgive their murderers before they are killed (the murderer, later repentant, recounting it)?
These are hard things, saints. They are hard to hear and hard to imagine and hard to bear. But they are the ways of a compassionate, patient God — a God who has not asked you to call fire down from heaven upon the heathens, as the disciples once wished to do, but who has given you instead the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn in your hearts, provide comfort, and grant discernment (to know what to do or say) in times of great chaos, confusion, and difficulty.
When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.
…and in every situation, for every person, if we ask Him.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
Perhaps, like me, you’ve been too eager to call down fire from heaven to consume your enemies. With me, then, let’s repent… and remember the great compassion our Father in heaven has shown to us (on multiple occasions!). He has shown great patience with His creation since the flood, and He still hangs rainbows in the sky. So let’s be like our Father in heaven and ask God for this dear gift — the fruit of His Spirit to endure a little while longer with the heartaches and failures of mankind in compassion.
The day of the Lord will come… and we want all who will repent on the winning side. Don’t we?
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished.
We must give up this notion of ticking off time, of waiting for ‘our time’ to come, this vain-glorious idea that we will crest and eclipse those around us if we simply bide our time. Or, perhaps, that we will eclipse ourselves when the stars align…
Lift your eyes to the heavens! What solace! What comfort! What glory! As with all on the earth, the strong grow weaker by the day, the humblest outlasts the odds, names perish and are exchanged as often as humanity reorders its public motives and dealings, yet the heavens remain! The fire of sun lights our day, and the shadowy moon watches over the paths of night. Yes, these remain faithful, and we rejoice to see them —
And yet, He says to come closer, to hear wisdom from His mouth: these too will perish.
What will outlast the heavenly bodies? When heaven disintegrates and earth gasps its last breath? What hope do we have in lifting our eyes? Is it not the hope of remembrance of His salvation? Is it not the hope of His imputed righteousness and His word alone which can call us ‘righteous’ also? Is it not the delight of watching salvation and righteousness, like children, holding hands as they pass through the gates of forever?
Will our own remembrance support us so long? Will our own ‘time’ truly satisfy? What will it prove to ‘make your mark’, to ‘be somebody’? — Who will you be that you are not now already being? Are you waiting for humanity to acknowledge who you are?
Who are you?
Dear soul, have you been faithful? Have you exchanged your heart for His? Are you clothed in His righteousness — your fadeless and eternal garment? Or have you taken up some other cloak by which you strive to enter the eternal gates with some worldly entourage of highly visible and glamorous and important moments? Who are you now that you will not be in ‘your time’, if you are already in the good company of our Lord’s salvation?
Lift up your eyes. There are far more dire things in the world than your name on that important list of speakers, your name on the back of an album, your name upheld by subscription counts, your name in humanity’s mouths and theirword that you are ‘good’. All these things are fading away; truthfully, they are already gone.
If you bear His name, your name is already golden, child.
There are many similarities pictured in national myths, legends, and books. Often, in secular circles the argument is made that all religions are the same because how could they not be? — They all employ the same basic stories, the same basic problems, the same basic need for a savior, in one form or another. The deeper we dive, the more we begin to see humanity’s basic desires and needs have not changed.
As a young adult, some of the similarities in histories and myths are striking, when not disturbing. Popular teachings will tell you that the Hebrew myth was also derived from the myths that supposedly came before it; again, they seek to level the playing field, to tell us it is all the same — stories recycled, up-cycled, and reborn.
Greek mythology fights the snake, Typhon, as Hittite mythology defeats the snake/dragon Illuyanka, as the Scots have their Loch Ness monster and the Irish have Beithir, and Jews and Christians have their wretched snake, Satan, in the garden of Eden.
What is it with us and snakes and dragons, eh?
Nevertheless, and having read many of these stories, there remains an intangible quality to the Biblical account of creation and the fall of mankind that no other myth aptly accounts for in any intelligible way — fantastical, abstract, and creative as they may be. While some find the Biblical account a hard stretch of faith, when posed against the historical and scientific communities of the day and their word (against the Bible) concerning timelines, I have found no other word capable of answering life’s toughest questions… though a few have been good for a laugh.
For example, this dilemma of stories and snakes…
Science has freely admitted in the past that we all came from one set of DNA — that is, one set of parents. (Hola, brother! Cheers, sister!) Think about it this way. If we all came from one set of parents, if our origins truly begin in the same place, and if the Biblical account is true, then doesn’t it make logical sense that the original, true story would get distorted (intentionally or unintentionally) over time as people spread out around the globe, lost touch with their nearest relatives, and began infighting?
I mean really. Let’s talk about the simple differences between Mormonism, for example, and Christianity. Heralded as kissing cousins, when not propagated as being the same thing, they both hold a lot of similar truths, similar versions of the same stories, but differ on just enough to draw lines of heresy in the sand. And Mormonism has only been around since 1830! — That’s not a long time on the world stage, friend; but it was long enough to distort the picture.
Think about those who lived after the flood, in the days of the Tower of Babel, who thought they could beat God at his own game. Even if they knew the truth about Adam and Eve (or had heard it anyway), even if they knew of the Nephilim (Giants are popular in mythology too…), and even if they were free-born post-flood and God’s judgement against the whole world at the time, do you think these people who clearly hated the God of Noah would put down THE truth for their children and their children’s children or make up their own stories and legends and myths to appease themselves?
Well, I’ve lived long enough to see what arrogance can do to a man or woman and the desperate lengths to which they’ll descend to save face. Haven’t you?
Perhaps, the stories are so similar because the original story is the same story, the truth, told or untold, shrouded in fantasy or set out in plain text. Perhaps, Moses, who is generally accredited with writing the book of Genesis, saw the myths circulating in his day and thought, Someone better write down what really happened before the original story is completely lost. I mean, that is how a lot of truths get written down, after all — as a rebuttal and correction in the face of known lies.
It would only take a handful of people with such an intent (against God, against the truth of mankind’s history) to corrupt an entire nation’s destiny. It’s not hard. It happens all the time… It’s happening in our nation today.
Did you know that there’s a king named “Tidal king of nations” in Genesis 14? There is some dispute as to who exactly he was, aside from the general term goyim (Gentile), but what a title.
I’ve been reading the Bible since I was 9, and I still sometimes come across something I don’t remember from prior readings. If you think you know the Bible because you memorized John 3:16 in Sunday school, you better go start at Genesis and try again.
Because Tidal is still the king of nations and he keeps making waves.
National Forecast: Waves and Wind, Coming Soon To You
Speaking of nations, let’s talk about America.
Today’s forecast is partly cloudy with strong thunderstorms on the horizon…
There has been a lot of talk of the end of time, the last days, going around again, and it is warranted. Nonetheless, even with the alarms we hear ringing, we must remember that the persecuted, the poor, the uprooted, the betrayed, the imprisoned, the impoverished, the abused, the starving, and the dislocated have been among us always on the earth:
Just because hard times may be coming for the church in America, does not signal the absolute end of days… though, as always, it may.
Many Christians living in hostile nations today must live as if any day could be their last day, their end of days, so to speak. And, I believe, the American church will too suffer this same fate, sooner or later.
Two dreams have disturbed me of late concerning the church. In both dreams the church, that is the people, were forced outside of the church building.
In one dream, we were forced out into flood lands surrounding the building, onto small boats, rafts, even inside of a bus — whatever we could find to keep from drowning.
In the other dream, after an alarm was sounded by an elder in the church, we fled the building into drenching, cold rain. The sound of the alarm was deafening — I thought my ears were bleeding — and disorienting. There was much confusion about where to go and what to do from there.
In both dreams, we knew we had to exit the building, but no one seemed to know what to do after that. We were adrift, literally, waiting out the —
[There was more to one of the dreams, and a third dream came to my mother. If you want to know the details of the dreams, I am happy to reply by email, though I feel it’s best not to get into that here.]
In the future, dear saints and pastors, buildings, campuses, these external places that we gather will be meaningless, useless to us, if not destroyed. (Canadian churches are already burning, and though one may say that is circumstantial based on recent news, one cannot deny that once that bell is rung, once the sacred places are no longer sacred to society, it is a short leap to copycat activities and mass purges.) And that train has been very visibly chugging down the track for a decade now; it should surprise no one.
I do not think we will continue to sit rather comfortably in our churches until we are conveniently raptured before hardship begins. Well, that’s a long shot at best and not a chance I’d be betting on as an American Christian today. But then, it’s not a doctrine I hold to either; it seems rather skimpy.
In any case, this is just a watchman’s word: If things continue in the present direction, we will learn what it means to be an underground church. Where some weathered the last storm by standing by their buildings and meetings, I would caution you not to think that will always be the best course of action. If every true shepherd in China tried that, who would be there to lead them, pray with them, and encourage the saints in secret?
My warning and advice is this: Don’t perish with your building, pastor. Feed your sheep.
There is a time and place for all things, saints. (Ecclesiastes. Read it.)
But, hey, go enjoy some sunshine, ride your bike, go for a hike, play with your kids. Before you’re done, you’ll feel ‘right as rain’ and forget most of what I just said…
Because, as in Noah’s day, some things can’t be dealt with until they’re dealt out…
There is something you can do now:
As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Seek the LORD while He may be found;
call on Him while He is near.
Let the wicked man forsake his own way
and the unrighteous man his own thoughts;
let him return to the LORD,
that He may have compassion,
and to our God,
for He will freely pardon.
— Isaiah 55:6-7
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
For those subscribed, I apologize for a flurry of posts recently. Some things can’t be scheduled; some things cannot be held back… I am considering how to schedule posts, if possible, but like to let things fall where they may. Forgive me for feast or famine modes. Thanks for eating bread with me.
My husband recently shared with me some online squabbles concerning faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. It was clear, by the end of his depiction of the arguments, that the primary issue at-hand was a clearly defined deification of human intellect, plain and simple. And, as great as our brains are, there are some issues of faith against which that intellect will always prove hostile.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. – Jesus
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
The academic arguments of man aren’t always worth entertaining. Some are useful, some are 100% garbage, but always God’s words have a better lasting effect — so why bother with the worldly arguments?
Simply put, because these things cause people to stumble — even people who otherwise might believe and be saved. Just like preaching the Gospel, if we are to leave it all to pre-determined fates, then why do we bother speaking at all? And so, I must take what little I know and, like Paul beseeching those in the city of Athens on terms they could understand, I try to unravel the sociological arguments in a way a student of such can understand from a Christian perspective.
It won’t change most people’s minds, but if it helps even one to keep from tripping, then I have made use of an otherwise useless degree.
You Can’t Learn It All
Schooling (along with every family life system) lends itself to narrow views. Time-periods, block scheduling, daylight, snow days, mental exhaustion, imperfect teachers, parents, and friends; environment, nature / nurture, and the overwhelming amount of information available on any subject today means that we all get a biased education in one form or another.
If I learn only African history, I won’t likely learn all of European history; if I choose carpentry, I’m not likely to also take up cosmetology; if I major in trigonometry, I probably won’t be wholly versed in prose or informed in every nano-particle of chemistry; if I pursue a monk’s life, I won’t likely also be an amazing mechanic or cocktail aficionado (though I might make Chartreuse from ancient recipes); if I was raised by European parents, I probably won’t know much about Chinese culture. You can’t know or learn it all; and no one should expect that of anyone either. (Do we really expect that of one another? That is awful!)
Interestingly, besides the arithmetic, history, and grammar I was required to learn, I took up a personal interest in the plight of the Native Americans, especially the Iroquois and Sioux (Dakota and Lakota). Later, in my twenties, a book on the Cherokee nation graced my coffee table with a brooding and sorrowful mood. At one point, I even came up with a campaign for these nations in which I imagined billboards along the roadsides with such ancient and glorious faces beside the slogan: It’s Still Not Right.
Well, I was a sociologist before I ever sought a sociology degree. That billboard would likely be emphatically embraced on the ‘social justice’ warpath today — an idea now twenty years aged.
Why I didn’t take up that cause on the warpath of life is what today’s Christian Orientation topic is all about…
Because the belief that righting the wrongs of yesterday by means of tables-turned scenarios will not prove any less abusive, skewed, or broken than the systemic hardships we face today.
Because many who claim to want to overturn the table of the moneychangers, in actuality, simply want to turn the table, put themselves on the ‘winning’ side, and enact their own personal vengeance.
Because some who complain about systemic problems don’t actually want to be part of a change; they just want someone to listen. (Some who are abused don’t actually want to leave their abusers, even if they seek comfort.)
And because, yes, in all of these things, if we are believing Christians, we will find God at work in both places — in the systems and hearts of mankind.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Systemic To What?
Decrying systemic abuses and injustices leaves us with a few questions to answer. To say that something is ‘systemic’ means that it has worked its way through the whole lump like yeast. There are laws, but they are unjust laws; there is order, but it is an unfair order; there are systems in place to protect, but those same systems just as often cause harm — or so go the arguments. But what now?
Any time a problem in society is proposed, one should also examine the proposed solutions. The offered solutions will often betray what is really being sought. Systemic problems in general have been a big talking point for a while now, but systemic as compared to what?
For the organized, institutional, lawful, and justice systems, have been proposed the autonomous (zones), mob-rule, vigilante justice, reparations, and lawlessness (defunding police). Are these good solutions? And what ‘problem’ do they really highlight?
So far as sociological theories go, I’ve always thought the conflict theory seems to fit humanity as a one-size fits all kind of general rule. The conflict theory states that there are limited resources and, thus, there will always be fighting and infighting over these resources. Well, so far as I can tell, that is mostly true. Isn’t it?
The problem is that the pie doesn’t get bigger. Think fractions in math. You can divide that pie into two or twenty pieces, but it will still only be one pie — the same size. Pieces may be larger or smaller, but they can only be large or small in proportion to the size of the pie.
Because of this, the theory goes, someone will always have a bigger slice and someone will always have a smaller slice. No matter how lovely socialism sounds with its all-the-same-sized pieces, organized life rarely works out that way — and when it does, it’s like a regular pie being divided amongst billions: we all end up with crumbs (except the dictator who talked us into this other system, reigns supreme, and takes the lion’s share).
Even at its best in Biblical times, things didn’t work that way. Except for maybe Adam and Eve, but, hey, that was before the fall of mankind; everything was gravy before that, I hear. But who was poor and starving in the world while Solomon was building temples of gold? I don’t know, but I’d bet a good pair of shoes poor and unjustly treated people existed in Solomon’s day, as well as in Jesus’ day… Why couldn’t someone so wise as Solomon fix everything? Why didn’t Jesus?
So, everyone today wants to live like a king; we will all soon be paupers.
So everyone today wants to be coach; there will soon be no game, no one willing to follow or train or actually play what the coach is trying to teach.
So everyone today wants to dethrone the billionaires; there will soon be no jobs and no products to buy — not of the quality and quantity we are accustomed to anyhow.
As nation replaces nation, as king replaces king, so one flawed system of man replaces another flawed system of man. There is no systemic salvation.
Some crying ‘systemic racism’ today share hypothetical photos of white men wearing chains around their necks, as black slaves once did, and call it ‘woke’. Strangely, the delusion proposed is that somehow picturing that — the true desires of a tables-turned heart — ‘opens eyes’ to how horrible conditions were (?), or how the history could have been different (?), or what certain social groups are now owed based on the other group’s latent and imposed guilt for crimes their ancestors may (or may not have personally) committed (?) – ?
I would not even bother with such things if I had not seen them on supposed blood-bought and redeemed saints’ social media pages. And for what purpose I wonder?
Enlightenment? Awareness? ‘Wokeness’?
Surely, that is not the case. We may not have been schooled in every shock-and-awe detail of that grizzly part of our American history, but most of us were taught about the atrocities and injustices of slavery past, along with our very imperfect steps at amending it. I would not argue that we have fully redeemed the past, any more than I would say that we have done justice to the Native Americans — I would not. I may not be erecting billboards, but I have eyes too.
Such atrocities do not leave us untouched in their wake. There is nothing, dear friend, that can make that past history right. Not reparations. Not violent retribution. Not tables-turned. If all white Americans were put in chains today to serve out some past penitence for their dead ancestors, the enslavers would very soon find themselves committing horrors on par with the very ones from which they claim to seek ‘justice’.
Shall we also kill all the Germans, all of German descent, to eradicate ourselves of the Nazi blood? This is the same logic. Why hasn’t anyone suggested that yet?
The Chinese should be next to go; their sins surely reach to the heavens.
Ah, and what of Russia? The atrocities committed against Ukraine, I hear, are worthy enough of wiping the entire country off the map.
Which tribes should be next to go in Africa? Perhaps those with ties to the “middle passage”?
Let’s see, which genocide shall we commit next to purify the human race?
The fallenness of mankind (that is the human race) is systemic: we all bear it (we are all guilty as sin before God – every one).
Many who are personally abused in life (physically, sexually, verbally, emotionally, spiritually, etc…) are never again the same. And, yes, it is horrific. It is awful. It demands justice. But can you give them that justice, friend?
No… you can’t. Only God can save and redeem such an abused soul. And we would do far better to remember that all vengeances belong to God alone.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Is He not God also over the systems of mankind? — His own creation?
If you claim to be a Christian, you must grapple with such questions and lay your own vengeance to rest… as I lay mine to rest against the elite and upper-classes.
We all have someone to begrudge for our social circumstances.
So, where did the rise in these blood-ablutionary social sentiments come from anyway? The truth is, they’ve been festering between the covers of sociology textbooks and in pulpits for decades.
Frantz Fanon, considered the ‘father of postcolonial studies’, argued that:
The only sure way to exterminate this oppressive relationship is “absolute violence,” a total revolution that destroys colonial rule and, with it, the categories or identities of black and white. This alone will achieve the necessary “collective catharsis” that will allow subjugated populations to purge themselves of the dehumanizing colonial culture that reduces them to the status of animals.
Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory, Appelrouth & Edles, 2012
While he worked in Algeria and Africa back in the 1950s and 60s, one can easily see how his sentiments relate and translate to today’s social vibes concerning racism. I cannot speak to what colonial rule was like in Algeria or Africa; it may well have been far worse than 1950s America. (I was reading about Native American history and living in a mostly white trailer park and being made fun of for not watching MTV some thirty years after Fanon lived, remember; we can’t know it all.) In either case, however, the grievance stated seems to be the way the white person is accused of viewing every other color of skin: inferiority is the assumed view.
Historically, that is well-warranted. Many slave-owners held such a mindset, perhaps all. But I cannot say that is true of a majority in America today. In general, I don’t believe that the majority of the last three generations or so think of someone with a differing skin color as inferior; that is a sentiment long past for most people in America. At any rate, it has not been a part of my social context or upbringing. (My bias in the Harvard bias test was against lighter skin; I used to feel more comfortable around dark skin than light — though that is a sentiment that has been well tried over the last five years.)
So, why is this past sentiment only now being reflected back, hurled back into every white-skinned person’s lap? Maybe we’re not accused of slavery, but something like it under the guise of terms like “white-savior”, “toxic”, “white fragility”, “privileged”, and “racist” (just for being born white in a system crafted by mostly white people).
Because hurt people, hurt people — I believe, and it is a reality I have lived.
Some wounds go beyond and behind the reach of the present; they cannot be accounted for by mere human means.
Hypothetically, if my grandmother and grandfather and an aunt or uncle were all killed by runaway slaves back in the day, that would leave an impression of opinion on my life, wouldn’t it?
If all of my brothers and sisters had died in the Holocaust as Jews, I would probably see the world differently than I do as an American with Danish ancestors. I can sympathize and empathize, but I cannot fully understand what was not my burden to bear in life.
If my father died when I was young, I lived with various guardians, never felt in control of my own life, married young, divorced, lost twelve years worth of relationships and roots, moved a lot, and couldn’t afford to buy a (fixer-upper) house until I was 40 years old — all true — well, it would give me a different view of life than you. (And it has.)
For every man shall bear his own burden.
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Every soul, every nation, every church will have to give an account to God. Does He not know your burdens? Will these burdens, hardships, or circumstances justify us before God? Can your abuser’s sins, group or individual, excuse your own sins?
Not according to God.
Jesus overturned tables because people with some cunning or authority were turning the house of God into a means for profit and extortion. Jesus didn’t protest not being in charge of the table; he didn’t set his disciples behind that table to take over affairs. Jesus protested the presence of the table itself — the exchanging of God’s will for His people, for the will of those who wanted to get something out of it, to benefit in the process of redemption.
Have we now turned the house of prayer into a house of vengeance?
A house of white or black superiority?
A house of indebtedness rather than a house of freedom?
A house of self-pity or self-glory?
Those using the church to promote the ‘woke’ gospel will also give an account to God.
Some seek to right the abuses of the institutionalized church by leaving church, as some seek to exit the social systems to enact their own version of godliness. Who can deny the abuses that have been found out within its sanctimonious walls? No one can dare; too many have fallen, too much has been witnessed and true. But is all order, all buildings, all authority structures to be blamed for the (typically) individual actions of the abusers?
I believe it is only when we stop idolizing these institutions and positions of power as our end-all means of social salvation, that we can find true rest and peace and justice. When we stop idolizing the approval of church leaders as the key to our salvation, we remember that the Lord alone is our salvation; when we stop with the illusion that politics, government, social systems, and positions of power will fix all of our problems, then we can turn our eyes to heaven, for from there comes our help. Only then will we find the power to recognize our own sins, forgive our abusers (past, present, future), and see the Church as God sees her.
When I stopped acting as if all of my value in life came by what society had to say about me and remembered my identity in Christ, it is then I found contentment.
Why do we idolize our abusers? Why do we give them so much power? Why do we believe our expectations for life and healing can be met only when our abusers recognize and own up to the damages they’ve caused us (and grovel at our feet)? That too is a delusion, friend; I know. I’ve lived it.
When I remembered God as the Head of all things — me, my family, my marriage, church, circumstance, my life story, the nations — then the brokenness of systems and the brokenness of the individuals within those systems that hurt me no longer had power over my mind and heart. And only then.
IsGod, God or is He not?
If He is not, then you will continue to believe that you can seek recompense for all of your pain elsewhere and by other means.
But if He is God of your heart and mind, then you can pray and seek healing from His hands.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. — Isaiah 53:5
Our heartaches are spiritual; our physical ailments and abuses are spiritual; our emotional and mental anguishes are spiritual; is not the blood of Christ enough for all of these things? Does He not know, see, and understand His own creation? Will the God of the whole earth not do justly?
“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
Will he judge our skin color or our hearts at the final judgement?
Saints, are these not the elementary teachings of grace, faith, and salvation? If we cannot accept these as our milk to grow, then we will never taste the meat of peace with God.
Is peace with God or peace with mankind sweeter?
I know which I prefer!
Even so… Jesus prays for both.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?”
— Matthew 5:43-47
I pray that your reward is rich at heaven’s gates. Store your treasures and worth there, friend, along with your heart.
Never forget that God put His own people in captivity when He so desired, and God delivered them when it was time as well. He rules in the affairs of humanity — yes, even in its perceived injustices, whether we would hear it or not, even as He was not dethroned during Job’s trial.
Why should you contend with man, who is your equal and also subject before God, when you have the ear of the Creator of the Universe?
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
And David said to Abishai and all his servants, “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him. It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.”
And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him, and kicked up dust.
2 Samuel 16:11-13
Sometimes, God sends haters to test our hearts.
In this text, we find that the king-David remains the shepherd-David at heart — and what a delight to behold! As his own son, Absalom, amasses an army to overthrow King David, a relative of the former King Saul takes up a vendetta against King David and accuses him of usurping the throne and of wrongdoing against Saul’s household. (All Biblical evidence, as I recall, proves contrary.)
King David’s men are ready to take off this man’s head. Shimei has picked one of David’s worst days, one of his lowest moments, to enact some sort of eager revenge. And King David, with his shepherd’s heart, leaves it in God’s hands. He doesn’t instruct, correct, or threaten the accuser; rather, he submits the moment to God’s will.
This is not David’s first battle scene or his first flight against evil: He knows his Defender.
He also knows that if His Defender has played a move against him, then it is useless to fight against God.
O how far David has come since killing the lion and the bear! Since slaying Goliathwith a stone! The shepherd boy who sang songs upon his harp to God now weeps; for his enemies are now the members of his own household, and the family of the prior king — whose throne David did not usurp but was given to him by God — is now treated and accused as the usurper! Our hearts may weep with the shepherd boy, David, but our hearts must also rest all kingships beneath David’s Shepherd’s gaze.
There are many who play this game today, many who believe that battles rely upon the cunning of slight or violence, brands or memes, wit and strength, the riot or protest of one king against another, rather than that every battle belongs to the Lord (1 Sam. 17:47; 2 Chron. 20:15).
Humble yourself, dear soul, when you find yourself in David’s camp: It may be that the Lord will look upon your affliction and repay you with good…
It may be that the Lord is seeking whether a shepherd’s heart remains beneath your kingly garments.
To desire a change in circumstance without requirement or condition upon our hearts, lifestyles, or behaviors is common to all people. From our beds of comfort, we cry out: Lord, save us from unrest! Save us from discomfort! Save our luxuries, our health, our personal freedoms! — Or we die!
Our Father reaches down from heaven’s heights to save our very hearts and souls from the flames desiring to devour us all around, to pluck us up from our beds and save us from the house burning down our circular path, and we wail: No, Father! My bed is best! Save my bed! Save my toys! Make sure none of my softest clothes are singed! — I cannot let You take me unless You also deliver my bed!
But the bed is already burning. For years it has clouded your vision, ruined all sense of taste and smell, though you refuse to be parted from it. It is ruined and melting into the flames and you will soon be consumed with it! He cannot deliver the bed; the bed is worthless.
It is the child in the burning house that the Father seeks to save, the child our Father’s love, devotion, and strength is spent upon! — God knows! — He can afford many more beds! Better beds! Beds that rest in mansions unspoiled far from this world’s trouble!
Child! — Do you hear the whipping of the flames all around you now? It is your heart, body, and soul, dear child, the Father desires to deliver. What is your bed of circumstance to Him?
If your bed is too soft, does He not see how your bones will be set awry?
If your bed is too hard, does He not know how to ease the aches of your muscles?
If your bed is too short, what is a little patience for your Master Carpenter who goes to prepare a perfect bed for you?
But if you find your bed so perfect here, your toys so wonderfully plentiful, your own strength so delightfully lithe — as His child — shall He not address the imperfections and transgressions of your tears?
Our hearts know only one Master: We will wash our own feet with our tears or we will wash the Master’s, but we cannot love ourselves and love God. When we try that we indeed wail to Him with many tears… but none of which contain our heart.
“For the heart is deceitfully wicked…” (Jeremiah 17:9)
And only our Father knows the depths of it.
Father, let us not wail as those who desire to escape punishment but do not desire Your refinements at heart and soul. Forgive us when this has been the case. Purify our hearts, know us inside and out. Let us not, after preaching to others, be led astray in our own ways, by our own eyes, by our own crafty hearts. May we hunger and thirst for righteousness. Amen.
Toy makers, music artists, cereal companies, retail establishments, medical institutions, cartoon networks, sitcom and movie distributors: These are those Christian culture, lately, rallies against, petitions reforms from, and boycotts — understandably so. After all, we live here too in the US of A…
These are toys not made for us but for the world; these are the songs of the notorious Pied Piper, leading little ones astray; these are giants of retail and corporation who bow to the social currency of whatever will keep them in business, keep them popular, or keep to their own worldly codes; these are institutions, networks, and distributors who are not trying to reach a solely Christian audience — if they imagine they are luring Christians at all (and, just as likely, couldn’t care less). It is highly unlikely, after all, that a Christian crafted the concept of such a sacrilege of perversion as the Amazon show Upload (2020) in which immortality is reduced to a trifling fantasy of the overly-sensual.
What is it we expected from the worldly? Decency? Morals? A Christ-centered view of the world? Respect for the Creator’s design? Holiness?Partiality to a Christian’s Holy Spirit-given new-creation sensitivities?
Or is it that we want our whole worldly cake and a clean bill of spiritual health simultaneously? Do we desire to eat at the world’s table while demanding that they whitewash it for us? Take off their shoes? Treat us as the spiritually-astute and physically-restrained patrons we claim to be?
Is it so much to ask for a Christian to turn off the T.V. altogether? To realize that the world’s tasty treats were never necessity, wholesome, or an appropriate guardian for our souls, even at their best when we thought so?
When did we forget, children, that the wicked will continue to do wickedly? When did we forget that, in contrast, we are often called to refuse or neglect Babylon’s kingly spread and eat our humble vegetables? All of the petitions for revision from the world will not save one soul from hell — though it may make him twice a hell-child in disingenuous behavior modifications (Matt. 23:15).
These petitions and boycotts will fail. It is clear enough that we are entering a new age in American history. Angels and demons war overhead, as we begrudge and protest the loss of a binge-worthy show, a favorite toy-maker, a compromised artist or chicken sandwich…
Can we admit yet, dear Church, that trying to forge common ground through ‘relating’ with the world was a terrible, no-good, very bad, idea?
When you try to relate with worldly culture, you unwittingly reinforce it. This is why no culturally-relatable ‘gospel’ of Christ can long remain in Christ: a double-minded Jekyll and Hyde reside within the fabric of the being who claims to be a ‘new creation’ in Christ, yet still identifies as much or more with their own ‘human nature’. You cannot serve two masters: you will love one and hate the other (Matt. 6:24).
If you get down on one knee to court the world, you will be telling yourself that you are one with them in no time — that you are just like the world. No set-apart holiness. No real transformative difference. Just another sinner —
But one who believes in God! (One might protest.)
Ah, yes. As do the demons (James 2:19). (At least they have sense enough to tremble in their belief…)
The world, then, is more than happy to entertain you in this notion. They will then tell you (that they are just like you and) to get down on all fours and act like the animal you really are…
Church, you are not called to identify with or as the world. You are saved and set-apart by your identity in Christ. Your new-creation mindset now relates more with your Betrothed’s desires and heart than with the world’s futile passions —
But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.
You can no longer make the world a sizable profit, Church. The world has well-nurtured and matured other means…
The American Dream
What are our political ideologies if not little idols?
But I like the way Bruce Riley Ashford sums these things up in his book, Letters To An American Christian (2018):
“…Progressive liberalism, which bears little resemblance to liberalism in its initial and non ideological form, functions as a false system of salvation. It craves absolute independence from social norms, identifies social norms and authorities as the ‘root evil’ of society, and places its trust in ideologically liberal political parties that promise to maximize free choice.”
“…Pure ideological ‘conservatism’ tends to deify a certain era in national life… elevates cultural heritage to a level of ultimacy reserved for God alone, and for that reason it has a twisting and distorting effect socially and culturally.”
“Nationalism becomes idolatrous when people begin to worship the nation, in effect viewing it as the savior that will protect them from being corrupted or influenced by people who are different from them.”
“…Socialism makes a god out of material equality and considers economic inequality the greatest evil. It then points to ‘wealth redistribution by taxation’ or ‘communal ownership’ as the saviors who can rescue society from its ills… Although socialism increased ‘equality’ in those nations, it was the type of equality that ships experience when they all sink…”
Some would argue that they are idols at their worst; I would contend that they are idols even at their best.
“We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”
1 Samuel 8:20
No Christian concerned with following worldly kings, nor the ideologies of kings today, can rightly give the people of Israel a hard time for this past error.
So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and youshall be his slaves.
And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
— 1 Samuel 10:8-18
A Peculiar People
When you see the Church is God’s Embassy and yourself as His ambassador to the world, then it becomes easier to realize the truer state-of-affairs contending against you in this foreign land.
All of earth is foreign soil to the saint of God. Have you not felt it? — The ache, the groan of creation, the Man of Sorrows bearing His cross to do His Father’s will, to prepare a place for you with Him (Is. 53:3)? To seek and save the lost? To reconcile the prodigal to His heart?
To be Creator-King alone of our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.
How often we exchange the King of Kings for some mortal hallucination of something we thought we wanted. I dare say, if we still imagine our king to be ‘America First’ or made in the image of some 1950s nostalgic episode OR if we think He is impressed with our newfound and fluid individuality, ‘relevance’ to culture, or voice, then we have not yet humbled ourselves in the sight of the Lord:
If My people will humble themselves and…
Get better intellectual talking points?
Rage against the machine?
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chron. 7:14
He lists 4 things there that His people are to do… Have we done those?
Dear saints, America did not get here overnight. We now have a very long-standing history of pride, ranting, chanting, and seeking lots of things other (power, fame, status — need I go on?) than His face, alongside our wicked ways (abortion ad nauseam, adultery on app, hate, race-baiting, jealousy, covetousness, false accusation, porn, sex-trafficking, every kind of abuse, singing idols, cartoon idols, cosplay idols, false religions, lying, all kinds of sexual perversion, deceit, violence — shall I go on?). Though many of us would never dream of doing such things in daylight, many who claim to identify as a ‘new creation’ yet consume such worldly feasts with their eyes or hearts.
Is God deaf or dumb? Is He blind?
And I said to them, ‘Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.’
America will not be sainted in the Hall of Faith, dear one…
But I pray that you will hold a strong standing there.
Eyes up. Did you forget your true identity, Church? Do not be afraid. It will one day be noted again that God’s people aren’t from around here…
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
“Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” – Romans 11:5-6
Many times I’ve heard the story of the ungrateful child suddenly displaced by an unwanted little brother or sister, but the story of little David and his adopted sister, Joanna, has always stuck with me best…
David was the firstborn, of course, beloved in every way. His parents had chosen the season of his birth carefully and given his name even greater consideration prior to conception. He was adored, nurtured, and cared for beneath a cathedral of stars, between strong cedar walls, under the spoken banner of his parent’s love.
Even so, little David had a mind of his own, and he did not care to surrender it to his parents’ will yet. He grew entitled, a little warped beneath firstborn pressures, and, by age seven, dove headlong into rebellion against his parents. He had a few fistfights with dad; he tied his mother up and shoved her in a closet – more than once. Little David would disappear for a day or two, always returned with big promises, but, ultimately, resorted to the same old tricks and deceptive behaviors.
Bereaved by their only son’s sudden and selfish behavior, the parents decided to adopt a little girl, a foreigner. Her name was Joanna.
The parents lavished Joanna, as they had lavished David. Little David accused them of being unfair. The generous parents also put before her a whole sky-scape of stars, raised her between thick walls of good-smelling cedar, and called her by their own last name – called her their own. Little David protested.
He claimed she did not have to keep the same rules he had to keep; she did not have to eat all of her vegetables, as he recalled doing (even if he hadn’t); and, eventually, he claimed that she did not really exist at all, except in her own mind.
His parents were his own.
His house was his own.
His name was his own.
He denied that she had any rightful claim to the stars or the cedars or their love. He denied it by trying to be extra good sometimes and by pretending his own parents didn’t exist at other times.
The problem was that as little David tried harder to be better than little Joanna, he fell further from his parents’ graces. He did not understand that his parents’ love and devotion had never been his to earn or to keep – at least, not in the ways he thought. Like wise King Solomon, who prayed for God to keep his heart, while he went his own way against God’s wiser advices, little David prayed for his parents to love him more than Joanna, while he simultaneously hated them in his actions and in his own heart.
Still, Joanna loved her older brother because he was born of that which she loved even more: their parents’ love.
That story was my version of Romans 11, the lost passage of today’s cultural Bible…
Growing up in the church, I never heard one ill word spoken against Israel or the Jews, ever. It seemed to be understood, back in that not-so-distant day, that to speak such was to speak against God Himself – or, rather, one of His beloved children.
The name David means ‘beloved’. The name Joanna means ‘God is gracious’. And are not both (names I chose on purpose) true? From the ‘stem of Jesse’ (King David’s father) came the Messiah, Jesus: the hope of the Jews and the grace of the Gentiles.
Recently, while reading about the burning of the Catholic Churches in Canada, I came across one news article (if one can rightly call it that) filled with venomous speech towards the Jews concerning the matter. The claim was that Jewish media had incited the violence, directly or indirectly.
I cannot speak to the claim or whether it is true, but I was grieved by the carelessness of the words in that article… Indeed, I have been alarmed by many interesting, truthful or untruthful, words against Israel lately. It seems, everywhere I look, everyone needs to hear again the words of the lost passage, Romans 11 – but especially the saints!
“…There is a remnant according to the election of grace…”
And, yes, that remnant remains even now…
Can you name them?
Have you nursed them from birth, taught them to walk or talk?
Did you show Abraham the stars of the sky and, in them, his descendants?
Did you deliver Daniel from the lion’s den of his false accusers?
Can you alone see into a man’s heart by the mere color of his skin or birthright?
Did you go to the cross to deliver Paul from Saul, knowing that he would first stone Stephan?
We are not so ignorant, saints! We do not have to offer lost words on this heated topic. While, I understand, ‘anti-semitism’ means different things to different people, I here take only the meaning of a generalized hatred against Jewish people, ‘the Jews’, or Israel – as if they were the only sinners on the chopping block awaiting judgment. I fully protest such short-sighted sentiment.
We are fully made aware of the fact that they (Jews) have been ‘broken off’ that others (we, Gentiles) might be ‘grafted in’ (into ‘the Vine’, into fellowship with God).
“Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either” (v20).
Do you think that God is impressed with how you’ve pointed out their blindness? – Blindness He subjected them to on your behalf? Careful, lest you fall, brethren, into their same sin.
“Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable… For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (v28-29, 32).
Little Joanna, you should weep for your elder brother; you might pray for him; but never, ever should you assume the seat of honor before him. Little David remains our Father’s child – whether in part or in whole; that is God’s business, not yours.
Grace is, was, and will be a gift…
Do not begrudge those to whom it is given.
“Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” – Matthew 5:7
Looking back at this last year is like tumbling down the rabbit hole, waking up from the Matrix, or walking through Mordor with Gollum; interpret that however you like, but it’s been rough — no matter which side of the ring one finds themselves.
If one is among the overly cautious and fearful about a virus, one is probably annoyed by the push back of the social ‘control group’; if one is of the ‘control group’, then one is supremely disappointed in the “I love Big Brother” mentality of those doing as they’re told without asking reasonable questions or (more likely) the felt-infringement upon their rights because of the endless mandates.
Despite my own beliefs, it would be insensitive to deny the quandaries and difficulties of the present moment. Someone I cherished died, and it was listed as a Covid-19 death (whether I fully believe it); I have a friend who has lost two coworkers to Covid-19 now; and I have multiples of friends who got the virus, likened it to the flu, shrugged it off, and went on with their lives (many of them taking the heralded ivermectin and/or hydroxychloroquine to better themselves). In fact, the only people I know who have been seriously ill are the ones who’ve been forced to wear a mask for employment or the ones who chose to do that and more out of an abundance of caution. It’s difficult not to have a certain perspective when one considers such things.
I spent three days in a hospital with my child who broke a bone while bike riding last spring (as did many kids I hear!), in a supposed Covid-19 “hotspot”, never wear a mask unless forced, and, recently (but more than 2 weeks ago now), spent a week in and out of another ER and hospital facility when my husband suddenly needed surgery.
I’ve gone to church with and eaten dinner with friends who “just got over Covid”. And I’ve been detained by a store manager who couldn’t wait to tell me that face shields were no longer permitted (after an entire year of wearing one there because I had to wear something to enter) and informed me that I had to wear one of their paper masks (because this makes logical sense — paper beats plastic in the spit/virus world, thought-no-kid-ever…). All this, plus every public restroom I could find in the nearly 4hr roundtrip to follow-up appointments for my husband this year, and… no virus, not even a cold.
This leads to an opinion of side-eyes and raised eyebrows for me; it’s difficult not to think the world has lost its mind. The mainstream narratives are suspect, at best; dismal, at worst. And, if not for friends who seem to be experiencing otherwise (in one way or another), I’d be confined to thinking that I alone had emerged from this wonky Matrix, alive but perplexed by the invisible tyrant of fear stampeding the whole world over.
IF garlic oil pills, oil of oregano pills, and vitamin D supplements have kept me from contracting the virus, then the ‘pandemic’ has been grossly overstated and abused by a general misunderstanding about health. It’s been a ‘pandemic’ of a lack of preventative care more than anything under such a premise.
IF the grace of God has kept me and my family from it, then there is another kind of misunderstanding taking place; for we fully accept that our lives and deaths are in His hands and not in the hands of science. Perhaps, those who live are meant to live and those who die are meant to die… (You might notice that no one who believes in evolution mentions Darwin’s theory of ‘natural selection’ when viruses rampage the land…)
IF it’s a fluke, well, it becomes pretty hard to consider it a genuine ‘pandemic’. If anyone should have had it by now — with my lack of precautions — it’s me. Even still, I do consider it the graces of God on my behalf. (Don’t forget that I have been to the ER twice — but NOT for Covid — in the last year! Ha)
Let’s not even talk about vaxxing. That’s even more depressing, dividing, alarming, and perplexing. Much as those who didn’t believe in masks were forced to wear them to shop, so now some are feeling pressured to vax by employers who tell them they have to continue wearing the mask if they don’t get the ‘jab’. Where does the bullying stop?
And upon such subjects, it is plain to see that awareness is not knowledge and knowledge is not understanding and understanding does not always equate with wisdom. We all know a lot and knowledge might be power… or it could just be another way to start WWIII.
Because of these things, I gave up social media more than a year ago now. Because of these things, I gave up the daily news about six months ago. Because of these things, I find the pressing necessity to meditate on the Words of God. Because, let’s be real, if there is a Creator for mankind, then He is aware of, knows more, understands more, and is far wiser than we could ever boast; and His opinion of life is what I want between my ears, before my eyes, and in my heart. Because no one else’s ‘truth’ trumps His Truth.
So, alongside Christian Orientation, you will now find a Christian Devotion category on this blog. One is for dealing with life, the other for dealing in Life.
Join me, if you like, as I remember Jesus’ caution:
And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you–and more [besides] will be given to you who hear. Mark 4:24 [AMP]
What we choose to think about matters. In that spirit, we shall move on.
Daniel 12:4 | Devotion #1
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
While I believe we should never discredit the former generations’ intelligence for their day, it is undeniable that alongside the advent of radio, T.V., the internet, and a host of other technologies, knowledge (the general and specific kind) has greatly increased.
Note that the text speaks here of ‘knowledge’ and not wisdom. In our own day knowledge abounds alongside wickedness, but wisdom is scarce, though many do run ‘to and fro’ mistaking one for the other. The accumulation of knowledge cannot make one wise, and ‘awareness’ is the sycophant-cousin of a ‘know-it-all’, who teaches others ideologies with lip-service because he can’t do the job himself. Knowing is not understanding and understanding is not doing and, while Wisdom holds all of these keys, she also sometimes withholds them: That is wisdom too.
“Daniel, shut up the words… and seal the book…”
Wisdom doesn’t say all she knows. Wisdom doesn’t share all it understands. Wisdom doesn’t even act upon all awarenesses. (Well, the new ASANA commercial might even mistake her for an annoying “silo”…but I digress.) For the Christian, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord and His (general and specific) commands:
Shut up the words, Daniel…
Seal the book, Daniel…
“Until the time of the end…”
What marvelous faith Daniel had to have to obey this command. The supposed King’s advisors I know of today would print that thing so fast, put it on Audible, YouTube, and Patreon, and try to make their two-minute fortune. Daniel surrendered his knowledge and understanding, his awareness of future events, the secrets he’d been handed for some other generation’s eyes to see, ears to hear, and hands to open! And Daniel, more than most, understood the fragility of powers, the coming and going of kingdoms, the sacking and rebuilding of nations! Even so, God reveals to him the end of days and then tells him to do nothing more with it. Write it down. Seal the book. Shut up the words.
What if this parchment is burned in a siege? What if the words are drowned by a flood? What if that end finds everyone who can read already killed by a reader-virus? Or no one who understands how to unseal the secrets of the book? No campaigns or crusades to stop these things from happening, Lord?!
But Daniel feared the Lord. He rested in peace.
“…for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of days” (v 13).
He rested knowing that God’s words are surer than the sun and moon. He rested knowing:
“Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand” (v 10).
The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.