Babylon’s Feast; Church Protest

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…

Foreign Relations

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 —

Right?

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.

Acts 16:19

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 you shall 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…

Protest?

Petition mortals?

Boycott?

Do more?

Get better intellectual talking points?

Vote?

Rage against the machine?

No?

“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.’

Ezekiel 20:7

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.

1 Peter 2:9

The Forgotten Passage

“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.

Anti-Semitism

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

Awareness, Knowledge, Understanding, & Wisdom

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.

But! But!

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.

Psalm 25:14 [NKJV]

And so, we also have peace.

ALL (MY BELIEFS) – YOUR BELIEFS + “diversity” (- DIVERSE OPINIONS) + MORAL DEPRAVITY = WELCOME HERE (?)

I’m not a big fan of algebra. I definitely don’t care for word-salad algebra.

What does the world really mean when it talks about diversity? What does the Church mean? When a business showcases a window sticker or hands out pencils that read “All are welcome here”, what do they really mean?

Do they mean that whether one’s epidermis has been colored by the rich dark muds or the white sands of earth that they may enter and expect to be treated as a valued patron? – And, if so, was this not true before they posted the politically-charged sticker?

Do they mean that whatever lifestyle or orientation one chooses, whether straight-laced upon the road less travelled or footloose and fancy-free on the path paved with progressive intentions, whether masked in blue or loaded with red, that the diverse patron can expect to receive a correct count in change back during a cash purchase or a customary “My pleasure” after the transaction? – And, again, if so, when was this not true and who are they snubbing-it to by making the gratuitous announcement?

When a church boasts an “All are welcome” sign, do they mean that all are not generally welcomed in other churches? That all were not prior welcomed in their own? Are they making a political, theological, idealogical, or religious statement?

Of course, I make a farce of examining the statements in this way. We all know good and well what is meant because they are political and moral statements stuffed with theological, social, and partisan fluffy unicorns – popular, pretty, and sentimental, but hardly sturdy when pressure is applied.

Our world has been ‘diverse’ since the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). And before anyone knocks the Bible as another mythical unicorn in our universe, one should at least soberly recall how much of it has been proven historically and factually. Insomuch as Israel is still on the map today, one should take some note of the Biblical text. It’s astounding really, as nations come and go and drop like bombs in the sands of time… and yet Israel remains. But I digress from the topic.

There was one language and one people until God divided them and, uh, made them ‘diverse’ – diverse nationalities with differing tongues. Fascinating, isn’t it? – How hard we are trying lately to Build Back Babel Better….

Today, we call it globalism, erasing borders, and even social justice.

Spoiler alert: The book of Revelation tells us that mankind succeeds to some degree in this endeavor, and it is hardly difficult to imagine such possibility today, but the Bible also tells us in advance that it won’t last… any more than the Tower of Babel.

Granted, prior to the confusing of languages at Babel, we might assume that people generally had like-customs, similar beliefs, and came from the same basic stock (Noah) after the flood. Tragically, this later generation’s response to the flood was to snub the Creator by trying to build a water-proof tower. Well, that sounds just like humankind to me…

Diversity is not a virtue; diversity of tongue and nation was a judgement – not unlike pains in childbirth (Genesis 3:16). It exists and we need not pretend it doesn’t, even if we find ways to make it slightly less painful.

Revelations of Unity

Ironically, even as the word ‘diversity’ is floated around, shared, and whored like an undesirable yet easy prom date, there is a definite push towards all things homogenous in this land. Those who claim to desire diversity (“all welcome”) only want it so long as we’re all homogeneously egregious in vocabulary, lacking morals, and mindless. Dare to point out the abuse of a word, the trampling of all things holy under the guise of untethered and shifty sanctimonious platitudes, or the mindlessness of minding mere mortal social constructs and a diverse unity is soon sucked out to sea by the undertow of indignation, violence, “f*ck you’s”, professional and social assaults or cancellation. The world desires a uniform diversity, a homogenous ‘world peace’ – well, an insane dystopian Utopia if I ever heard of one. (On earth, this mentality works out to be Communism, genocide, or a cult, but pretty much never a Utopia.)

This is self-evidenced by any major city abroad. They have all begun to look the same (as we vainly ‘celebrate diversity’). Where is the excitement in traveling from New York City to London? You will find a Starbucks and a McDonald’s in both locations and that is but a very obvious example. Finding the homogenous in China and India and Peru is even more depressing. Sure, there are historical, architectural, and political relics that remain distinct and diverse but for how long? I wonder. Individuals may enjoy the distinctions available in these places, but the corporations and powers-that-be can’t profit from them; they want to rule the world with one ring. Diversity is a welcomed guest in wall tapestries, unexpected kindnesses, beautiful architecture, and songs sultry sung in a foreign tongue, but it is a complete menace when it diverges from your comfort zone, your beliefs or values, the corporate profit lines, and your preferences or expectations of a tidy, U-centered, and wholly agreeable world.

Even amongst Christians, one doesn’t have to look too far to find similar messaging. After all, the book of Revelation describes a people from “every tribe and tongue” before the throne of God. That is riveting and true and exciting. Nonetheless, I think I need not point out that this takes place around the throne of God and not around our social constructs or earthly kingdoms. While these shiny ones may be drawn from every tribe and tongue on earth, what do you think their identity is based upon in heaven, around God’s throne? Is it not predicated upon their identity as children of God, heirs with Jesus? And why should God mind the external diversity? He created it! – And, yes, He created it because He rules the world. (We didn’t get a vote.)

I feel very confident that He won’t much care which tribe’s color scheme got upvoted on Reddit. Just a guess.

To desire the unity of the brethren – that is, of those who claim to believe in and follow Christ’s ways regardless of their past or their skin color – is a noble thing and scripturally mandated. To desire the unity (i.e., uniform embracing of an Anything Goes ideology and morality) of the whole world, of light and dark, believers and unbelievers, all customs, all morals (or lack thereof), and all ways and beliefs is an entirely different and UN-christian devilry (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

That effort is merely the modern retelling of Babel and will prove about as productive.

Roadblocks of Sincerity

Sincerity is a feral social drink, hard to tame and difficult to wrestle into a bath, and as bewitching as Bathsheba on the rooftop bathing. How many times has a loved one betrayed all morals, all belief, all tradition, and all value while buzzed on the intoxicating acceptance of another mere mortal’s sincerity?

Often enough to turn the tides, I’m afraid. I have fallen prior under this spell too, and niceness is its cousin.

I live in a town with two warring churches. One has maintained its traditions and, the other, has gone the way of the progressions (a word I use facetiously) of our day, but neither can accuse the other of insincerity. They are both sincere to the utmost – that much even a newcomer can smell in the air.

You see now the dilemma…

If I believe sincerely one way and you believe sincerely the other, well who can know who is right? In matters of where to find the best grocery prices, this quarrel may be easily put to rest, but in matters of faith, what is the standard? Where will the line in the sand be drawn? If we are both sinners, prone to error, prone to dimness of sight, then whose eye has the log and whose has the splinter (Matthew 7:3)? – We cannot simply agree that both are right without falling headlong into disbelief altogether and eventually. Somewhere there is error and, elsewhere, truth exists, but how can we know it when everyone’s sincerity is bleeding out all over everything like a bloody murder scene? In matters of sincerity, everyone is the victim-supreme; no one is more sincere than me.

Thankfully, God does see the heart… but, as God, he also sees where sincerity is a poor substitute for truth. Like aspartame for sugar. Sugar substitutes can taste quite nice and every bit as sweetly sincere as sugar; but they are not cane sugar, and that is the truth of it. (Hence the moniker substitute.)

(Aspartame is terrible for you! Stop putting it in our chewing gum, Powers-That-Be!!)

“But he’s a good guy…”

“But she’s a nice girl…”

“She’s sincere in her faith…”

The Christian rub is that all of that Nice, Sincerely doesn’t mean anything on its own – if the Bible is our standard, our line in the sand. Jesus called himself “the Door”. No one comes to the Father except through Him, He says. So, if we accept Jesus as God’s Son, then His words are the standard by which we find truth – and by which we are unable to accept all other faiths as legitimate, however sincere.

As the saying goes, we can all be sincerely wrong. That is true. But again, the Christian faith is predicated upon the Bible, Old and New Testament; throw out the Bible and you have nothing but another religious movement void of power, void of Christ, void of the very Presence that will unite so many from diverse backgrounds around the throne of God (here and there).

Many faiths boast some form of ‘Right Conduct’ without anything to tether their beliefs to and, thus, their beliefs of what is or is not acceptable constantly change. Sadly, many in Christianity today have taken a like role by redefining their interpretations of scripture or by throwing entire passages of the Bible out to redraw their social lines of acceptability. What a shame. They have taken what does not change, the designs of our Creator in heaven, and substituted them with social sincerity and pleasantness to appease the earthly masses. I think they will find much sincere regret in that action one day…

Nonetheless, it is called faith for a reason. All of the intellectual (historical, Biblical, scientific, etc…) arguments in the world cannot hold together the faith of the one who determines to be respected by the world and applauded by mere mortals. Our god-at-heart will be our god-in-fact: our feelings are most sincere in their desires. That does not, of course, make them right. Christianity has long wanted a seat of honor in the intellectual world; the major institutions in Christianity have now proven that they are willing to compromise much to gain that seat to their shame. (Nearly every denomination has split along these lines now.) I’ve no doubt that some of them sincerely believe in their error.

I can sincerely desire to go to bed with my neighbor’s husband. I might even sincerely desire it because my husband is mean and his wife is ugly. That does not make it any less a sinful temptation and against God’s law, however sincerely I feel about it. I might sincerely desire that all people be saved and believe in Christ (i.e., believe as I do), but that does not make it right for me to sincerely hold a gun to your head and insist upon it. I might sincerely desire to have a home as nice as yours; my sincerity does not give me the right to burn yours down in a twisted sense of immoral ‘social justice’ (i.e., covetousness and jealousy).

Truth is not an easy prom date; she requires more than sincerity to court her intimately. Her standards require more of our character than cheap-seated emotions and convenient opportunities. One may take advantage of her good name with lies and deceit, but one cannot gain her riches without fidelity; she is not mocked.

Living Temples

There is a better building the Christian citizen is supposed to be concerned about:

…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 2:5

(If you want to know more about what those “sacrifices” are, see Romans 12.)

And that spiritual house is full of diversity.

And that spiritual house does strive for unity.

But that spiritual house does not pretend to make spiritual what is mere and stinky flesh.

Our external diversities are meaningless to the Creator, except insomuch as He enjoys them… and He has clearly stated in his book which moral ‘diversities’ He does not enjoy or approve: Among them, the worship of idols, false accusations, and sexual perversity.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

All, indeed, are invited to believe; not all will choose or be chosen in that path. Can you join together what God has separated? I think not. He has always retained a ‘remnant’ of believers who condemn the world by their very belief, and so it shall remain until he comes to complete the harvesting of souls.

Building back Babel better will not be enough to withstand the coming flood of judgment.

Build God’s house instead – His house of living beings who understand their true citizenship and identity in Christ and relate not with the world in its passing passions.

Scenario: Tables in the Valley

I expected to feed the birds, as one does upon hanging up a bird feeder; I did not expect to entice a variety of rotation. First came the chickadees, peckish and flighty. The house finches showed up next, one and then a dozen, alongside a striking but small woodpecker. Now, the sparrows seem to have domain – or, at least, have been added to the rotation of visitors. And I can’t help but to think of my own rotations of life…

The places I’ve been, the people I’ve known, the times I’ve been fed by strangers, the known and unknown hands looking out for me; and I wonder whom I have fed, known or unknown, like the birds gathering around my feeder, coming and going – I, not knowing where they are going, they, without a care as to where me or my feeder hailed.

Somewhere between sensitive transitions and numbing familiarity, we catch glimpses of heaven held by the fragility of perfect scenarios. Not perfect people or perfect circumstances but the brittle and glossy reflection of just the right moment, the right space, the right words, the lovelier hopes, the right table set – momentarily – right in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death (that is, in the middle of this thing called life).

The seasons, the weather, and the changes of life teach us that these moments don’t last. And how can they? We are not yet made new, in body and soul, present with our Creator; we are not perfected this side of glory (and anyone who claims so needs only to make the claim to prove the fault of their boast). People come and go. What once was lovely fades, if not falls flat down – sometimes by our own hands, sometimes by others’, and sometimes by the unknown or mysterious workings of time and spirit.

The bird feeder sits empty. The hand behind the feeder dies or moves away. The season pushes the birds en route elsewhere. Sylvester eats Tweety. The perfect scenario comes to an abrupt end.

The manager that held everything together takes another job. The pastor that splayed heart and soul for you, dies. The one you thought you’d love forever suddenly does you an ill-turn and leaves you abandoned. The small band of sisters you’d acquired dissolves into the busyness of middle-age. And everything changes.

I’ll admit, my prayers are all selfish of late; catching glimpses of heavenly light makes them difficult to pray. One-too-many perfect scenarios on rotation chastise and chase away all my woes – in remembrance of Him.

I’d love to tell you that I woke in the middle of the night to write these words under the perfect skies of the Northern Lights, but the truth is that I woke by the fright of the washing of the valley of death rolling over me. Getting up in the dead of night to do anything is uncharacteristic of me. Feeling waves of death and being compelled to write are far more characteristic – whatever the time. Even so, what blessed peace is mine!

When in remembrance of Him, my head and heart settle the matter once and for all: My Maker sets all of my tables – my time table, my bread table, and my scenario table. In such moments of remembrance, Jesus is my Prince of Peace, and I fear nothing – not time nor lack of it; not people nor lack of them; not my accomplishments or ambitions nor lack of them. For, in remembrance of Him, Christ reigns sufficient in all things, for all things, becoming all things unto me.

Because the table, like the feeder, is nothing.

It is He who sets the table in the valley that is everything.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me…” Psalm 23

The Mortal Orientation of The Immortal

To The Immortal Citizens of Heaven

Beyond the reach of the remaining megalopolis-churches, skirting the lunar social stardoms, the sensational ‘lesser lights’, grounding itself in the three-pronged savior of the backwoods, the grassroots, and the homegrown local, shoots a word from the ground-floor of the past and the prophetic: 

“The next revival will be a nameless and faceless one.” 

See how quickly the neon-outlined darlings of Christendom have fallen – and continue to fall! As quickly as one erects a billboard, a headliner, a new book, just as hastily that same one falls backwards and headlong from their own backdoor. The Swaggarts, the Hinns, the Haggards, the Houstons, the Lentzes, the Zacharias’, the nicely decorated Jars of Clay, so many in the famed ‘industry’ of Christianity, all tumble down… 

These words, ‘nameless and faceless’, however, bore fruition in all of culture and, largely, by way of social media. The more we learned, the less we trusted; the more we heard, the more we realized ‘they’ didn’t know either. And the more territory they claimed in superstardom, the less we realized we needed them – the ‘experts’, the famed ‘authorities’, the ‘mega’, and the super-spiritual sapes. 

We could, after all, do our own research, buy the lights, the camera, and the action, construct our own virtual reality stardom complete with fans, haters, 3rd party drop-shipped ‘merch’, gnarly defense mechanisms, and hipster anxieties of a victimized stardom – once only found on a celebrity’s own murky website after a movie release. Each player in society now holds the same cards of potentiality, despite how they play the game. 

Cause every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser… – Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

‘Influencers’ are all the rage and abound in every niché. Chefs, theologians, and high school drop-outs, left or right wing, all have about the same odds of making a name for themselves today (a strange misnomer, as we were all given names at birth – weren’t we?) Suddenly, a deluge of leaders no nobleman, royalty, or founding father would have given the time of day to in the past, have an all-access calling card to speak to hundreds, thousands, and millions – if they just find the right schtick. 

If the phenomenon of ‘Q’ proved anything it’s that a name or a face isn’t necessary to accomplish worldwide status or influence. Just a letter and a means of travel. In fact, all the better not to have a name or a face! After all, could bald-headed Quinten, upper-class Quest, or teenage Q-tip gain ear-ship across such a wide audience as did ‘Q’? It is doubtful. In vagueness and anonymity lay all its sublime power. 

Even so, the consequences of this shift in culture, both spiritual and physical, are not all so grim. Perhaps, in Christian terms, there will be another John Wesley or Martin Luther, another Azuza Street or Brownsville Revival, to disrupt the balance of mainstay influencers as its own influence grows. Still, how much more effective might it be for the Citizens of Heaven – nameless and faceless, save for One Name – to act as ambassadors, each with their own gifts, within their local churches, communities, schools, businesses, and homes without competing for such status — being neither pedestaled as gods by those around them nor desiring the extraordinary (lear jet, mansion, or money bags) of a temporal being’s life, holding steadfast with contentment in domicile missions, eternally-driven? 

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? – 1 Corinthians 3:3

As Citizens of Heaven, should we identify as the mortally famed, named, and knighted do? – As “mere humans”? 

That reminds me of that ‘only human’ phrase some wield as their shield rather than the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16). What are we among these “mere humans”? If the words of the Bible are inspired, as we rightly claim, then surely the apostle, Paul, was not tossing around mere words — Was he? Surely, he meant something by the distinction “mere”.

Identities Transitioning

I am a sixth generation American. My great-great-great-grandfather came over from Stenlille, Denmark, and I often wonder about the difficulty of that journey. 

I don’t know what it’s like to land on foreign soil with no job, no home, and, possibly, no family to seek out. I wonder whether they traveled alone or with a group of Danes to the hills of Wisconsin, and what led them there. Did they quietly put their heads down to fit in with those already established in the ‘New World’? Did they have Danish friends who could casually teach them the English language? When did they stop reading the Danish bible I gained as an heirloom, their children unable to speak the language? What other peoples, languages, and cultures did they encounter in the process of melting in? And what customs and comforts did they keep near and dear, perhaps rejecting foreign ideas about how to live? 

The desire to form a new life while still clutching what cradled one’s identity-past, that urge to belong and be accepted while being also unwilling to sacrifice some of the former ways that might make social acceptance or vitality more favorable are, surely, desires not entirely foreign to any person. A soul’s felt or actual identity may be challenged in many ways, whether as the orphan, the newlywed, the new mother or father, the widow, or the newcomer in town. 

We all engage in various identity transitions throughout life and the God-given ones are no simpler than the man-made versions. One need only to read a new mom’s blog, or observe an orphan living in residential care, listen to the newlywed’s explain their first fight, observe the fragility of a widow’s tears and the hard lines on a newcomer’s face to find the surface-level obstacles presented as the identity cocoon is being reconstructed – 

It is not yet clear how they will emerge or whether they will survive the transition. And we speak of mere mortal things here! But the Christian struggles here too, often desiring in some way to follow Christ while retaining worldly comforts or worldly ways of thinking. 

Nonetheless, how the identity of the Citizen of Heaven holds up in this present darkness bears far weightier consequences than the temporary afflictions observed in the mortal identities named above, though the circumstances and spheres of both bear influence upon the immortal soul – don’t they?

Identity Politics

While ‘identity politics’ has become a popular and sordid catchphrase today, it is not a new idea. All that we do – political, religious, sexual, recreational, or dutiful – is coded from childhood, delineated in the unseen impressions made upon our soul’s DNA sequence: We act upon what we believe to be true of ourselves, what we believe to be true of others, what we believe to be true of God, and how we believe we fit into the context of mortality or immortality (whether we are correct or in error in those beliefs). 

The cold collision amongst these beliefs, intentionally being teased like a 1980’s hairstyle in America today (and making us look just as ridiculous), has congealed like blobs of cheap hairspray or nine-day-old soup in the present ‘melting pot’. Assimilation is no longer the goal, but ‘diversity’ – something we’ve had all along, of course. The zeitgeist of the new ‘New World’ is one of building back the Tower of Babel better. The average citizen is the new slave of the corporate agenda, without a say at the big people’s table, where they cast virtuous signaling slogans like nets down upon us, saying, “Be a team player” (It’s selfish to have a dissenting opinion: polarization), “We’re in this together” (Group think is the only right thinking: propaganda), and “Solidarity” (If you’re not with us, you must be against us: dehumanization), while their figureheads clearly indicate that all they really mean or desire is complete bobblehead-obedience from the masses: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

What is it, I wonder, that they believe about themselves? About you? About God? About life? It must be rather grim, I think…  But you have no need of me to tell you these things! They are all over the news and social media daily – aren’t they?

The real question here concerns how we are to engage the world and identity politics as Citizens of Heaven. – For, if you are ‘in Christ’, that is what you are! Heaven is your homeland. 

And it’s no more made of pie than the moon is of cheese. 

Homeland

Confusion regarding the homeland is understandable. One is physically born in an earthly ‘motherland’, concrete or jungle, and even those who speak of rebirth into a heavenly citizenship (through Jesus) are too easily led astray by imaginations awash in sterilized whites attached to galaxies far away that appear harsh, when not indifferent, towards our daily struggles in rotting flesh and bone-picking. 

Some look up and see only a mountain, only a cloud, only a speck of dust contrasted against an endless void of space, ever expanding, ever unknown, ever changing. Within such absent confines, it is nearly impossible to imagine that which does not change, can be known, and is absolute. Everything today is a fluid relativism dropped on the spectrum: One thing today, something else tomorrow, and who can know it? 

Somehow, even the Citizens of Heaven have swallowed parts of this lie (when not the whole), yet both cannot be true at once. We cannot be mere mortal primordial soup flinging like a dog’s drool through the shaking universe and “seated in heavenly places with Christ”, created “in His image”, at the same time (Eph. 2:6; Gen. 1:27). Both cannot be true and both require a measure of faith – whether placed in God or in man’s stated mortal observations. 

Speaking of identity politics, I judge neither the round earth nor the flat earth believers. After all, have you seen the Earth or Mars from outer space yourself or only NASA’s ‘artist rendition’ of it? Anyone living in the digital age knows that believing anything you see, hear, or print today requires a measure of faith – and some have more faith than others. (At this point, many have been made aware of the cigarette corporations’ lies and deceit in the past concerning the health risks of smoking; many have researched the government experiments on minorities, forced sterilizations and vaccinations; and the folly of Jussie Smollett is a lesson about the lengths even a single individual will go to further a pet-cause.) Nevertheless, and whichever belief we hold, Citizens of Heaven should look up and see something wholly different than the rest of the world. 

Rather than a formless void, an empty space, a chaotic flurry of gasses, we gaze upwards into the eyes of God that run to and fro throughout the whole earth (round or flat) (2 Chron. 16:9); there is nothing untouched from His view. Yet here am I! Small, but not meaningless beneath His gaze; subjected to life’s fragility, but not insignificant in His purposes; dim, yet charged with glowing just the same with His blessing, His mission, and in His will; ‘in the world’ but no longer of this mere mortal chaos, entropy, or the curse: Immortal and “seated with Christ”, though I see it now only through the eyes of faith. 

Why should I feel discouraged? 

Why should the shadows come? 

Why should my heart feel lonely and long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion; a constant Friend is He. 

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches over me. 

– Civilla D. Martin

And yet heaven’s citizens do long for their homeland, and I believe that is as it should be – don’t you? I think the apostle, Paul, said it best: 

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed. But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. – Philippians 1:21-24

There are few with such a mindset today. Many who have renounced their citizenship in the land of sin and death yet go on living as if they were of the world, more concerned with the world’s values, customs, beliefs, laws, ideals, and pursuits! Death is a difficult process – whether bearing with the slow demise of this earthsuit or dying to our old ways by taking up “the mind of Christ” – and one that many avoid (1 Cor. 2:16). It is easier to balance on the fence and gather worldly pillows in our nest to ease our stay there than it is to walk through the valley of the shadow of death en route to the homeland. But it is fundamental that a Citizen of Heaven, to gain citizenship, first dies to this world, being “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). 

We don’t love ourselves, as the world does; we die to ourselves.

That is Christ’s way. 

Literally and figuratively, Citizens of Heaven no longer exist in the world’s eyes; rather, we become as dead men walking, alive in and to and for Christ alone. We belong no more to the land of sin and death (or under “the law of sin and death”, Rom. 8:2), and we will find no belonging there to satisfy the newborn soul’s demand for homeland milk. When we try to satisfy such a soul with foreign milk, we will later find that soul pierced through with many anxieties and afflictions of mind and heart, riddled in body and soul for all of the compromises made solely to be of the world, to belong to it, to be loved by it, to be comfortable in it.

If you are a self-professed ‘Christian’ still content in striving after the blissful nectar of a mere mortal’s social status in this land, then you can be sure that you have not yet died with Christ; you have not yet begun your immortal journey. We, Christ’s brothers and sisters, are sojourners here, compelling others to join us, on our way to the new homeland and Our Father’s bosom. The worldly sways of false and relative equalities, veneered covetousness from the gods of ‘more’ and ‘better’, simply do not translate into worth or identity for heaven’s citizens.

Therefore, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. – Romans 7:4

Unentangled Culture Clashes

It’s a dog-eat-dog, wolf-eat-wolf, sheep-eat-sheep kind of world out there. A passport is no longer sufficient for navigation; now the divided want blood. If you think you have an earthly homeland privilege, forget about it! That’s so 2001… 

But it does not do for a soldier with present orders to get caught up or caught off-guard by civilian affairs. Though we are Citizens of Heaven in Christ Jesus, we bear a (spiritual) soldier’s plain duty here on earth. 

If all of the world were to forbid us to talk about or teach of our homeland customs, laws, values, and faith here, in the land of sin and death, what possible reply can the soldier give except, “I have my orders to carry out”? It may be written in stark black and white or in invisible ink upon the heart; either way, “It is written” and so the Citizen of Heaven must do. 

Alas! The world does not care about your orders, dear saint! You’re dead to them! – Remember? God still laughs at the thrones of men as nature’s Commander-in-Chief, so that we can boldly reply to the accusatory world, “Take it up with my Superior!”; we also go boldly before the throne of God in Heaven to seek counsel, take comfort, and gain our next orders when needed. The Captain of the starry hosts is not at all surprised that the foreign and ungodly have put you in jail, falsely accused you, or sought to kill you — and that in the name of their own supposed moral rightness! He and many of your own countrymen have been there before you! 

Only do not give up your homeland bread and water and blood! Come what may, trust in Him! – The God you know by name, not the one they pretend to know by stamping His moniker on their mammon. That’s foreign coinage to you, meaningless and valueless in your homeland. However useful it may be here, it has no ties whatsoever to a Citizen of Heaven’s reborn value system. 

Identity

Should a Citizen of Heaven identify as mortal? I don’t think so – How about you? 

That is a bold statement when made by an earth-suit who bleeds the same as the next soul while in this terrestrial skin. If Citizens of Heaven, seated with Christ yet present on earth, go around talking about this ethereal homeland, someone is likely to load a gun to send us there under the pretense of testing our theory and putting us all out of our misery – Right? 

That is a very real possibility, however, whether one boldly owns their soul’s DNA or makes a narrow escape from the fires of hell by shrewd silence. The Lamb of God’s blood is not silenced and His work forever speaks. 

Simply put, as a child of God, as a Citizen of Heaven, I no longer identify as a mortal – and I have put this in terms even the worldly can understand. The rebirth in me does not recognize death’s claims in this foreign land. 

Death will leave our bodies but it will never touch my soul” – The Hunts, Peace Be Still

In the beginning and for all mortal beings:

Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” — Genesis 6:3

But in the end and exclusively for those found in Christ and in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 20:12; Ex. 32:33; Phil. 4:3; Dan. 12:1):

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

— 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

What leverage can this world have on you if you are already seated with Christ in your heart and soul? Can they take your face, your name, the very heart of you away if all of those precious things – your face, your name, and your heart – belong to God alone? 

The Citizens of Heaven have often been ‘nameless and faceless’ in their own rights, as they bear the name and face, the identity, of Jesus alone in this foreign land. But rest assured, dear saint, that God knows every child of His by name, by face, by heart, and by deed, and He sees all. There is no trouble, no blessing, and no injustice that escapes His perspective. He sits far above sociology’s proverbial stadium of perspective: He knows the truth about you and me and those He calls ‘wicked’ and those to whom He attributes ‘righteousness’… 

I am not a social pacifist. Nevertheless, if we are to engage in foreign affairs, beloved, we must first understand who we are (or whose we are), where we are from, what is (and is not) the mission, and who we represent. That is the job of an ambassador – is it not? 

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20

Peace be still to you.