Letters

Whose Holiday Is It Anyway?


Whose Holiday Is It Anyway?

Point One: Plunder. When you conquer an enemy, the enemy’s property becomes your property.

Plunder has been defined as “the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory.” Foot soldiers viewed plunder as a way to supplement an often meagre income and transferred wealth became part of the celebration of victory.

On higher levels, the proud exhibition of loot formed an integral part of the typical Roman triumph, and Genghis Khan was not unusual in proclaiming that the greatest happiness was “to vanquish your enemies ... to rob them of their wealth”. [Wikipedia]

Point Two: Naming rights. When you conquer a territory, you have the right to rename that territory, and to assign new purpose to that territory.

“When the territory of the Danites was lost to them, they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their ancestor.” [Joshua 19:47]

See also: Constantinople Turkey, Ponce Puerto Rico, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, Lviv Ukraine, Valdivia Chile, Puerto Cortés Honduras, Al-Sadiyah Iraq,

Point Three: We are “more than conquerors” and we are children and heirs of the One who has conquered the world. [Romans 8:37, John 16:33]. “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” [Revelation 11:15]

As conqueror of the systems of this world, Jesus has – and since we are in him and he is in us, we have – the right to rename and re-purpose conquered territory. This is ours.

Point Four:  There once was a “goddess” named Ēostre, an obscure Old English “diety” of the dawn, and by some records, the source of our dawn-related celebration we call Easter.

Ēostre has been well and truly conquered. So has Ishtar, whose name does not contribute to our holiday, but who has fallen before our conquering King.

We have the right by conquest to rename the conquered earthly holidays, to cancel their earthly origins and publicly display our King’s victory over them.

Yeah, Easter used to be something else to somebody else. But it’s not theirs any more, unless we, as the spokespeople of the Kingdom of God give it back to the conquered demons. Same for Halloween and Christmas and any other holiday you care to name.

They’re ours now. Don’t give ‘em back!




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Letters

What is a Tidal Wave, really?


I grew up within driving distance of the ocean, and we made frequent trips. I love the pounding surf and the tide pools and the beaches and the delicious meals the ocean provides.

A couple of decades ago, I was walking along an unfamiliar beach during a storm, watching the rain’s effect on the sand, listening to the surf pounding behind me, when my attention was drawn over my shoulder. I turned and, not with my natural eyes, I saw a huge wave rise up from the surface of the sea. When it reached its mighty height, way above the sea, it stopped, like someone pressed pause.

The question came to me: “This is me. Shall it continue, or shall it stop? There will be damage.” The wave just waited for my answer.

I thought for a moment; this was not an every-day experience for me. But I’d learned to trust my father, and he’d already said this was him.

“It shall continue,” I said, and it did. The wave rushed to the shore with a magnificent curl, and then far inland, miles inland, spilling over houses and shopping malls and government buildings. Then it receded, dragging a lot of dirt and detritus with it, leaving people stranded, separated, unstable.

That vision has shaped me for decades; I’ve anticipated “the move of God” as a wave, rising up from above the sea and crashing on the shores of “business as usual,” catching everyone unawares. Sometimes I’d refer to this vision as a tidal wave or a tsunami.

Many years later, a formidable earthquake struck just off the coast of Japan. It was a big deal. It was also my first experience, albeit only through the news, of an actual tsunami.

The tsunami did not act like I had always expected: a big wave coming in and splashing, and then receding like every other wave. Instead, this was more like the sea just rising, and rising, and rising. The wave just kept coming, and didn’t just recede after a few seconds like I’d always imagined.

The 2004 tsunami that devastated so much of Indonesia was like that as well. This time the sea did draw way out in preparation for the tidal wave, but then the wave came in, not like a wave, but like a tide, and it wiped a great deal of civilization off of the islands in its path.

Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if the move of God that I’m expecting (that we’re expecting) won’t be more like that: not so much a wave that passes through, has an effect, and then moves on, but more like an invasion, more like the tide rising.

Last night, a friend and I were talking about what God is up to in our day. As we talked, we realized that there is a rising tide of what God is doing among his people.

And as we talked, I realized that my ideas of the tidal wave of God’s involvement in our midst is not going to just be another wave, larger than the rest, washing us and moving on.

Those are fine, even good. But the thing on Father’s heart is more of a rising tide, a true tidal wave, that is already begun, bringing the water of his spirit, bringing refreshing, bringing devastation and destruction to an awful lot of “business as usual,” particularly among the church.

Suggestions for application:
• Pray for eyes to see what God is actually doing. It is not what the media – not the mainstream media, not the Christian media – is reporting.
• Press into what God is doing in order to find what your place in this tidal wave is. I figure I have the choice of whether to be among the devastation with my life destroyed by the wave, or among the first responders, speaking the words of life in the midst of the new move.
• Keep building relationships. When this fully lands, life won’t so much be found in jobs or possessions or church gatherings or places where we’re used to finding stability. Life will be found in real relationships.



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Letters

Managing Natural Disasters

I confess, I have some obstacles with how we pray about those events we refer to as natural disasters.

First let me clarify: it's clear to me that we do have both the obligation and the authority to speak to natural disasters and effect change there. I'm just not convinced it's wise planet management to always speak to every act of nature that inconveniences man.

Our species, the race of mankind, is responsible for what happens on this planet. We were delegated that responsibility by the planet's Creator. It's a pretty serious thing, and I take that seriously.

So yes, natural disasters are within the sphere of our responsibility.

Thus far in our maturation as a people of God, I observe three primary ways we deal with natural disasters:

 1.  We ignore them, because they happen to other people, other places (or because we don't know any better), or

 2.  We panic before the disaster and mourn and wail after it. or

 3.  We decide that this event is a bad thing, and rebuke it (with varying results; we're still learning).

In point of fact, an argument can be made for each of these reactions at different times, though I have hesitation about how healthy each of them actually is as a default response.

But the issue that's got me scratching my fuzzy head today is this: where, in this process, do we perform our evaluation of the situation? Where do we assess how much our involvement is actually necessary, and what the best intervention might be?

We live on a planet that has a very long history of things happening to it. Since before Adam and Eve took their first job assignment, the planet has been active: storms spreading water around, volcanoes adding to land masses, forest fires cleaning up the leftovers of life in a busy forest, earthquakes from tectonic plates jostling. You know, those things.

And when mankind stepped onto the stage, we renamed them. Suddenly, they were no longer our planet doing what our planet has always done. Now, suddenly, these are "disasters."

If we want to get overly anthromorphic, we can talk about whether it's fair to the planet to suddenly redefine what had always been its healthy processes, I suppose. I figure that's something analogous to deciding that poop is icky, and making the decision never to poop again. There might be side effects.

Or we could consider how reasonable our expectation is that the planet should suddenly change how the water cycle works, or how it cleans up after itself, or how the planet's geology works, just because our species is covering the planet now and might be inconvenienced by the planet's natural processes.

Here's my point: I don't subscribe to the concept that just because there's a storm, just because that storm soaks soaks cities, blows down houses or destroys a season's crops does not automatically mean that we need to shut the storm down.

There were three experiences that led me to challenge my previous (and in my opinion, irresponsible) practices:

The first lesson came on an extended canoe trip. It had been raining hard enough that we couldn't safely travel the unfamiliar river, so we were stuck in our tiny tents in the rainstorm. The third day, I'd had enough, and I asked Father to stop the rain so he & I could go for a walk.

After a wonderful three hours with him, I noticed the sky: a huge rainstorm was coming in from the east, but just before it reached me, the clouds parted and went around me. I turned around and saw where the storm joined together just west of me. Every place around me was getting well watered, but I'd walked in sunshine for several hours, because Father pushed the storm aside for a little while. The storm was not stopped, only diverted for a couple of hours.

The second lesson came when a couple of very credible prophets warned about a devastating earthquake coming to my region. We live on The Ring of Fire, the planet's earthquake zone, so quakes aren't terribly rare, but this was going to be terrible.

A few intercessors for our region got together, sought God's counsel, and diffused the threat. His instructions were to a) cancel the assignment of the spirit of fear that was riding the (very public) conversation about the quake, and to b) redirect the pent-up tension in the tectonic plates involved so that the release of that tension would not be a terrible quake, but would be diffused in a large number of small quakes.

We did that and the stories stopped, the prophecies stopped, and the USGS commented on the unusual number of moderate quakes in the region. Crisis averted, but not by the brute force of stopping the tectonic plates from moving; by redirecting that energy to nondestructive symptoms.

The third lesson involved a very scary storm heading for a busy coastline. Father instructed us not to pray to stop the storm, but to turn the storm. The next day, the weather forecasters scrambled to explain the unexpected change in the storm's path to their thousands of relieved viewers.

In addition, I've taken some lessons from the realm of physics. I've realized that a great amount of "potential energy" or a great "inertia" can be more easily redirected than simply stopped in its tracks.

To stop a great storm in its tracks would literally require the equivalent atmospheric energy of several hundred thermonuclear detonations, and even if you managed to handle that power well with your prayers, you'd probably end up with scraps, several smaller storms spinning off causing less news-worthy damage in a number of smaller locations. That's a lot of work, whether it's in the natural or in the supernatural. And it's likely to be untidy.

But to change the storm's path, that requires a much smaller miracle, some say the flap of a butterfly's wings, properly applied, might be enough.

So if I've got a family picnic scheduled for this weekend, and there's a very wet weather front on a collision course with my picnic, is it appropriate to exert the requisite energy to stop the weather front, or to stop the front from dropping its rain? That might be a serious disappointment to the farmers in my region who are counting on that rain for their orchards and crops, and to the fish who live and breed in the streams and rivers.

And then, what would happen to the water that would normally have fallen in my region? It would be carried to some other region that isn't used to as much rain. How does the importance of my picnic stack up against frightening and unexpected weather patterns for my neighbors?

Or would it be better to just shift the storm? Shift it early enough and you only need to bump it off course by a few degrees. Not being omniscient myself, I confess that I don't really know what the effects of that would be.

Or should I leave Father's watering system in place, and just find a new location, perhaps one under cover, for the family gathering.

I'm not arguing that one answer is better than another. I am arguing that if we're going to take our responsibility to rule over creation seriously, we need to ask these questions.

"Yep. That looks like a problem. What are the available options to deal with it? Which option looks to be the best, and how do I implement that option?"

I recommend consulting with our omniscient Father on such matters. He has millennia of experience dealing with weather (and forest fires and earthquakes and floods and....). And he likes to keep his hand in matters of this sort.
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Letters

New Respect for the Word of God


I used to proudly and unquestioningly hold to a particular standard of belief that I now find myself questioning.  Some will likely call me a heretic for this. Heck, back then, I would have called these questions heretical!

The reason for questioning is simple: I live in the 21stcentury, among a highly industrialized, aggressively secular global community. I don’t live among a first century community of farmers in a religiously-dominated culture, or among a bronze-age nomadic society. I marvel that I didn’t catch this sooner.  

And with this in mind, I’ve found myself concluding that “the most literal translation” of the Bible won’t actually be helpful to me. So I’ve abandoned my search for the most literal translation of the Scriptures for several reasons:

• The original texts of the Bible are full of stories, parables and metaphors: it wasn’t actually written for literal interpretation. Looking for “the most literal” translation strikes me as fundamentally contrary to the writing styles and methods of the Biblical authors.

• In order to have an effective, “literal”, word-for-word translation of the Bible, we need to have an equivalent English word – and ONLY one English word – for every Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic word of the original texts. And we aren’t even close to that. These languages are completely different from their roots up.

• Literal communication of agrarian metaphors and religious allusion don’t translate well (if at all) into the Information Age. The ideas are valuable, but we need to translate the metaphors, either during the translation to English, or during my reading of the English translation. Knowledge of grafting grapevines, for example, is not prevalent in my world.

• There really is at least a measure of truth behind the principle that as years go by, both the skills and the resources for Bible translation advance. Therefore, all else being equal, there is real reason to expect that more modern translations will ultimately capture the heart of the Scriptures better than earlier versions.

• I don’t actually need divine wisdom for dealing with slavery, temple prostitution, arranged marriages, leprosy, and other topics that the Bible did deal with literally. But there are principles that, if I consider them metaphorically, have application to my Facebook interactions and my driving habits.

• My other challenge is that I no longer am as interested in the (admittedly priceless) words of famous first-century (or much earlier!) followers of God. I’m actually more interested in hearing the Word of God Himself speaking to me through their words. [see John 1:1-2, Hebrews 4:12-13]

I still respect (and study and read) the NASB and NRSV and other word-for-word translations of the Bible. I value those translations, and I seriously respect their goals!

For the last 50 years or so, I’ve used my paper-and-ink Bibles very heavily, and worn them out regularly. So I’ve replaced my “primary” Bible pretty frequently. And curiously, I chose to get a different translation for my primary study & ministry Bible every few years. (My thinking back then was that I wanted to get past the mindset of the translators, and hear the heart of the authors behind the translation.) So I’ve avoided growing up loyal to any particular translation.

In recent years, there have appeared some fresh translations that are aspiring to translate the heart of the content, rather than to shoehorn an English word into being an equivalent for a Greek or Hebrew word that isn’t even part of our thinking in this century. As a result, these are fresher to my understanding and more accessible to my emotions than the shoehorned vocabulary of earlier versions (consider “adjure” or “husbandman” or “prick against the goads”).

I’ve been listeningto the Bible rather a lot recently, more than reading it (“Faith comes by hearing….”), and while I own audio versions of four different translations, I find myself most inspired, most provoked, most comforted by The Message Version. Not even a little bit of a “word-for-word” version, their goal was to communicate Scripture into the actual, everyday vernacular that we speak today. I think it succeeds wonderfully!

I chose it primarily to get out of the normal “religious” thinking that I’d grown up with listening to KJV and NIV preachers, and it’s worked for that purpose.

When I’m digging into the Greek & Hebrew, I still use the older, more traditional translations, particularly the NIV.

So you’re welcome to write me off as a heretic if you feel the need to. Keep in mind that “heretic” was a word invented during the Inquisition specifically to accuse those who [gasp!] thought independently of what the religious government told them to think. Yeah, I aspire to do that.

But you’re also welcome to join me in exploring the riches of the Word of God as He expresses Himself through the word of God.




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Letters

Oftenly Pronoun… and I mean frequently!

I was talking with a random guy on the street, somewhere in Asia. English was clearly his second language, though my Mandarin clearly had no comparison to his English. He didn't speak Mandarin, though. Things got interesting when he used the word "oftenly".

"I skate oftenly," he said.

Oftenly...

Technically, oftenly is not usually a word, but technically it is, but technically it's the wrong word. The word he meant to use was "frequently". If he wanted to say that he skated from time to time, specifically times that are so frequent that they "occur oftenly" (proper usage because the verb occur is about time), it would have been proper to say, "I skate often."

What's the difference and who cares, anyway!?

English speakers love to argue about grammatical distinctions that clearly provide no further clarity—and may even be right—or even wrong and right differently—and to make such arguments about these clearly unclear differences about right and wrong usage differently, even though they have nothing to do with the difference between right and wrong. And, I still have no idea why.

I even asked my friend whether in his country they liked to argue about nothing as much as English speakers did. Absolutely not! It was almost as comical for him to observe me deliberating with myself about the difference between "often" and "oftenly" as it is for a Brit to watch Monte Python banter about British nothingness—notwithstanding that it is most entertaining to watch the Brit be entertained by the bantering banterer, but I digress.

How should we ever know that we ought use the -ly suffixed adverb "frequently" and the non-suffixed "often" interchangeably in the same sentence? It all comes down to English style guide preferences.

In typical, classroom, American English, words like "tomorrow" and "yesterday" are considered adverbs. This may seem strange—and I do think it is strange indeed. Usually, adverbs describe manner or the way in which a verb is acted out.

Consider "eating". "I eat quickly." This makes sense with the adverb "quickly" as the eating is done in a quick manner. But, if I will eat "tomorrow", is the manner in which I will eat described with any more clarity? Does the word "tomorrow" really behave like an adverb?

As with "tomorrow", even if I eat multiple times everyday, "often" just doesn't seem to describe the manner of eating as much it describes the days and times when I eat; but "frequenly" does describe some of the manner. And, that brings me to Cambridge.

Cambridge has a different take than Amercia's 20th century classroom; "yesterday" and "tomorrow" are not adverbs—they are pronouns.

From the English style viewpoint of Cambridge, words like "tomorrow" don't tell one ounce about the manner and speed with which a verb is acted out. Rather, "tomorrow" represents a day as much as "me" represents myself, Jesse Steele, the writer of this ridiculously multi-topicked article with a grammatically incorrect title.

Now, I must add my own two cents about understanding grammar. By "tomorrow" being a pronoun, saying, "I will eat tomorrow," doesn't mean that I plan to eat the actual day of Thursday should I happen to be speaking on a Wednesday. In this "case", the pronoun "tomorrow" would have the "Locative Case" usage of "place in time", but that is a discussion—and an argument in favor—of grammatical noun case applicability to English. And, though I don't want to keep digressing, if using the Cambridge style, it does help to clarify the usage of "tomorrow" by identifying its functional "noun case" and while classifying it as a "modifier noun". If that doesn't make sense, that's okay, it's only two cents.

Where was I?—tomorrow!

If we view "tomorrow" and "yesterday" and words of the like as pronouns that represent days, then we would easily know that "often" is also a pronoun for time—whether time of day or any given day or month, year, et cetera. And, we already know that pronouns do not receive the adverbial suffix, -ly. "Often" should be considered a pronoun, just as "tomorrow", "today", "yesterday", and "everyday" for that matter.

Now I'm wondering, with the Cambridge style, if I were to describe an activity whose manner is best described as done in a "tomorrow" -like manner, would I say that I, "do it tomorrowly."? I think the best answer would be, if you can't save an adverb's life, it's more merciful to kill it quickly. After all, in any well-described writing, adverbs would be a redundancy, which is another argument in favor of Cambridge—"tomorrow" isn't an adverb, so there's nothing wrong with using it. But, I digress yet again.

In conclusion, we understand that the Cambridge style for English usage helps us to clear up this "often" problem. Proper usage is, "I skate frequently and often," because "frequently" is an adverb while "often", like "tomorrow", is a pronoun.

Needless to say, my friend was quite amused at the remarkable time English speakers have with which to dedicate concern about use of language. But, it is likely that he will "frequently and often" use the word "often" properly and correctly in the future. Thank you Cambridge.

continue reading

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Letters

The Tidy Deception


There’s a deception that I’ve come to … well, I don’t know that I actually “hate” it, but I sure don’t love it.

It’s a deception, an illusion, and it’s perpetrated, many times, in God’s name, and often with the best of intentions.

It’s the deception of the finished lesson.

I became aware of it while I was studying something-or-other for teaching. I felt like I was wrestling a greased pig. I cut my way through bunny trails and wild goose chases and fought off premature and inaccurate conclusions.

It was a long and arduous process.

And when I was done, I presented my results to the folks I was teaching, all tidy, all logical, all wrapped up with a nice little bow on it.

It was good teaching. And my conclusions were both accurate and relevant.

But I was uncomfortable with how tidy it was. This was not a tidy topic, and I felt that I’d done folks a disservice by hiding the blood, sweat, toil and tears that went into the process.

In actual fact, the blood, sweat, toil and tears are a legitimate part of the topic, of the conversation. Let’s be honest: outside of TV shows, there aren’t a lot of thorny questions that tidily wrap themselves up in 30 minutes, are there?

It seems to me that the need to make things tidy and clean and neat is not actually a benefit to American culture.

Let’s be specific. If we think that the abortion issue has a clean and simple answer, we’re not paying attention. If we think that the topic of social justice can be solved easily, we’re smoking something interesting. If we think the fear of God, or the grace of God, or the rapture, or the solution to immigration, or balancing a household budget have tidy answers, we’re not seeing the whole of the subject.

Christian platitudes are an abysmal failure. But Christian blogs and Christian books (and not-so-Christian books) that have clear-cut answers are equally deceptive.

We’ll see how I respond to this, how I deal with this in the future. As much as anyone else, I like having clear answers readily available, and I like not looking like a dork as I stumble for an answer that actually means something on a complex topic.

But we might find that not every post has a confident conclusion. I don’t know. We’ll see how this turns out.


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Letters

Mixing Promises with Faith


I have been meditating, unexpectedly, on Hebrews chapter 4 for a while, the second verse in particular. I was listening to it in The Message when it first hit me.

“We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith.” TMB

This is a topic that Father and I have been cogitating on together for many months. Now, I know that The Message is not the most literal translation of the scriptures, so I wanted to see if the same idea existed in a more precise translation.

“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” NKJV

Yep. It’s still there.


The topic I have been working on for a while is this. That God’s promises are not the whole story. There’s more to this story, than just God declaring wonderful promises to us.

Clearly, there has to be. There are so many amazing promises, in Scripture, in public prophetic words, and our daily devotions. If God making the promise was all that was needed for that promise to be fulfilled, we would be living in a Heavenly Utopia right now.

But we’re not. Therefore, ipso facto, there must be more to it.

And this verse tells us what that “more” is. If we don’t mix the promises that he has given us with faith, then the promise goes unfulfilled. The limitation is not his. It is ours.

Hebrews four declares that it has been this way for thousands and thousands of years, since the journey to the promised land. This is the reason that Israel did not inhabit some of the things that she was promised.

And this is a reason that you and I have not experienced the fullness of every one of our promises.

It is probably worth mentioning that the thing that is holding us back is almost certainly not the thing that we *think* is holding us back. It is almost certain that what we think is responding in faith to our promises is not actually the same as what God thinks “mixing those promises with faith” actually is.

We think we are responding to the promises with faith, but either we are mistaken, or God is a liar. I know who I am going to believe in this situation, and it’s not me. I’m going to believe that God is not a liar. So I clearly have missed it on this one.

It is beyond the scope of this brief missive to discuss what actual faith really is, what really will empower all of our promises. But if it was the thing that we call faith, that we have called faith all of our lives, then we would not be living the life that we are currently living, would we?

For the record, it’s pretty obvious that my own definitions of mixing promises with faith have been inferior, or insufficient, also. I suspect that this will be a topic of conversation between Father and myself for quite some time. You are invited to join in this search with me.

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Letters

The Cutting of the Lord


Jesus promised us that our growth would be rewarded with pruning. We think, “Pruning? That’s cutting! That’s taking things away! That can’t be good!”


Here are some details about pruning.

• Pruning carefully will drastically increase the fruitfulness of the pruned tree. Cutting back results in a dramatic increase of fruit!
• Pruning at the right spot strengthens frame of the base plant. Pruning makes you stronger.
• Pruning is not actually optional (John 15:2). If we bear fruit, we will be pruned. If we do not bear fruit, we’ll be cut back very severely (but not killed), so that when we grow back, we’ll grow fruit. And when we do, we’ll be pruned for even more fruit.

So how does he prune us?

In John 15:3 Jesus says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” So him speaking his word to us is part of our cleaning, our pruning. This is him speaking to us, mostly through the Book, and a lot of that is about how to respond to the crap in our life.

In Luke 13:8, he gives us more detail. The conversation is about pruning, and in that parable, Jesus says to the Father, “Leave [him] alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it....”

Fertilizer in that day was manure: animal poo. So pruning may show up as crap in our life.

Here’s an example: in Luke 9, the boys are arguing about who's greatest. That's poo. The ambition to be great is actually good. The competition apparently is the poo.

So in 9:48, Jesus prunes them. “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

This is what pruning looks like. That’s not as bad as we feared, is it?


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Letters

What Covenant?

Abraham believed God & God made a covenant with him. (Gen. 15:6 & 18) That covenant was based on the fact that Abe believed God. Now he’s God’s friend, as well as his covenant partner.

But in Genesis 12, Abe is afraid & lies about Sara. He was afraid the king would kill him to get his hands on his hot wife, so he says, “She’s my sister, not my wife!”

Abraham is giving in to a spirit of fear, and he’s a liar. Those are bad. But God backs him up, IN THE LIE! He defends Abraham (and his marriage) from the ignorant, horny kings.

Wait, what? God defends the liar? And defends the lie? Why would he do that?

It was hundreds of years later that Moses comes down the mountain with The Law, which includes “Don’t sleep with another man’s wife,” and “Don’t tell lies” and such. Now, with coming of The Law, adultery and lying (and several other things) become a sin.

The Law is a part of Moses’ covenant with God. It’s not part of Abraham’s covenant with God, or Noah’s.

In Abraham’s day, there was no rule that said “Don’t sleep with his wife,” and no rule that said, “Do not bear false testimony.” These rules didn’t show up until late in Moses’ life. They weren’t forbidden in Abraham’s day.

Were they still stupid things to do? Of course. And Abraham paid the price for that. But they weren’t “wrong” in Abe’s day and age.

So it’s not appropriate (or even meaningful) to judge Abraham or Noah by a covenant that didn’t exist in their day. In the same way, it’s not appropriate to judge a Peruvian farmer by Norway’s laws, or to judge a Mostho factory worker based on Peruvian law.

And The Law not actually part of our New Covenant either. Therefore, it’s completely inappropriate to judge New Covenant believers by Moses’ covenant. Or Noah’s covenant. Or any other covenant.

Are you a New Covenant believer? Then it’s completely inappropriate to judge yourself by Moses’ covenant either.


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Letters

Angels Support the Values of the Kingdom


It was one of those days where it seemed there were more crazy people on the roads than usual: cars pulling out right in front of me, crowding me off the street, the guy turning right from the left lane right in front of me.
 
I was not amused.

Eventually I made my way to the freeway, and took a deep breath. “This feels like an attack,” I realized.

So I prayed. I invited angels to protect me as I made my way across town to my appointment.


And as soon as I prayed, I knew I was wrong: I didn’t need to invite them to protect me; they already were protecting me. They were the reason I hadn’t actually been hit by any of those crazies on the road. That green Volkswagen had stopped so suddenly was because an angel was stopping it from running into me.

So I thanked the angels for their effective service, and invited them to continue. And I went after any assignment against me, cancelling that. That felt better, and I encountered no more crazies that day.

And Father & I talked about this as we drove. I was thankful for the protection of his servants – our servants – on the roads, but if the angels are protecting me, why were there so many near misses if they were on duty? Why not just keep things safe and sane, why not stop the green Volkswagen five or six feet earlier so I didn’t jump out of my skin with that near miss?

This is the part I’d like to share with you, see what you think.

Angels are (essentially) employees of the Kingdom of God, serving those who will inherit salvation, right? So their actions will be consistent with the values of the Kingdom, yes?

It floated into my mind: “What is the currency of Heaven? What is it that moves His hand?”

Faith. Faith is the currency of Heaven. It’s the prayer of faith that changes things.

In fact, Romans goes so far as to declare, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” [11:6] More, that’s how this whole adventure began: “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” We enter the Kingdom by faith and ever after, the Kingdom continue to work by faith.

Then it hit me. The employees of the Kingdom of God won’t be working in such a way as to bypass God’s values, in such a way as to invalidate the currency of the Kingdom. That means that angels won’t be working in a way that removes the requirement for faith, for my trusting God.

In fact, it’s more likely that they would choose their actions in such a way as to increase the faith of those they minister to, to encourage me to trust God more, in this case, rather than trusting my own driving skills.

In fact, it appears that angels are aware of the level, the maturity of our faith, and treat us accordingly. Their actions will be different for a new believer than for one who has walked with God for several decades, because it takes more to grow the faith of the seasoned saint, while the babe in Christ is challenged by even the simplest things.

In some cases, God (perhaps through the ministry of angels) provides for us, but his provision might show up at the last second. (“God is never late, but he sure misses a lot of opportunities to be early!”)

Why? Because if the provision showed up early, we’d never have to exercise faith. We’d stroll along comfortably, content that our provision was in the bank, rather than trusting our Father.

Us trusting our Daddy. Yeah, that’s part of his goal for us. Us being comfortable? Nah, that’s not a priority.

And God’s work in our lives, angels’ work in our lives, will never work against the need for us to walk (or drive) in trust.



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Letters

Angels Support the Values of the Kingdom


It was one of those days where it seemed there were more crazy people on the roads than usual: cars pulling out right in front of me, crowding me off the street, the guy turning right from the left lane right in front of me.
 
I was not amused.

Eventually I made my way to the freeway, and took a deep breath. “This feels like an attack,” I realized.

So I prayed. I invited angels to protect me as I made my way across town to my appointment.


And as soon as I prayed, I knew I was wrong: I didn’t need to invite them to protect me; they already were protecting me. They were the reason I hadn’t actually been hit by any of those crazies on the road. That green Volkswagen had stopped so suddenly was because an angel was stopping it from running into me.

So I thanked the angels for their effective service, and invited them to continue. And I went after any assignment against me, cancelling that. That felt better, and I encountered no more crazies that day.

And Father & I talked about this as we drove. I was thankful for the protection of his servants – our servants – on the roads, but if the angels are protecting me, why were there so many near misses if they were on duty? Why not just keep things safe and sane, why not stop the green Volkswagen five or six feet earlier so I didn’t jump out of my skin with that near miss?

This is the part I’d like to share with you, see what you think.

Angels are (essentially) employees of the Kingdom of God, serving those who will inherit salvation, right? So their actions will be consistent with the values of the Kingdom, yes?

It floated into my mind: “What is the currency of Heaven? What is it that moves His hand?”

Faith. Faith is the currency of Heaven. It’s the prayer of faith that changes things.

In fact, Romans goes so far as to declare, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” [11:6] More, that’s how this whole adventure began: “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” We enter the Kingdom by faith and ever after, the Kingdom continue to work by faith.

Then it hit me. The employees of the Kingdom of God won’t be working in such a way as to bypass God’s values, in such a way as to invalidate the currency of the Kingdom. That means that angels won’t be working in a way that removes the requirement for faith, for my trusting God.

In fact, it’s more likely that they would choose their actions in such a way as to increase the faith of those they minister to, to encourage me to trust God more, in this case, rather than trusting my own driving skills.

In fact, it appears that angels are aware of the level, the maturity of our faith, and treat us accordingly. Their actions will be different for a new believer than for one who has walked with God for several decades, because it takes more to grow the faith of the seasoned saint, while the babe in Christ is challenged by even the simplest things.

In some cases, God (perhaps through the ministry of angels) provides for us, but his provision might show up at the last second. (“God is never late, but he sure misses a lot of opportunities to be early!”)

Why? Because if the provision showed up early, we’d never have to exercise faith. We’d stroll along comfortably, content that our provision was in the bank, rather than trusting our Father.

Us trusting our Daddy. Yeah, that’s part of his goal for us. Us being comfortable? Nah, that’s not a priority.

And God’s work in our lives, angels’ work in our lives, will never work against the need for us to walk (or drive) in trust.



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Letters

My Authority


Authority is always given, never taken.  That’s pretty much immutable.

Father could claim authority in my life in his role as my creator, but he doesn't. That's what free will is about: he gave me the right to choose whether he will actually be my Lord or not, and it’s a choice I need to keep making, not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it choice.

Civil government assumes (correctly) my submission to its authority by virtue of the fact that I choose to make my home within the boundaries of its authority.

Nobody else has the right to claim authority over me, though some may claim power over me (e.g. incarceration).

I can and do choose to submit myself to other authorities in my world. I have submitted much of my will to my bride with the simple commitment, “I do.” I have a pastor (not in position, but in fact) to whom I submit this: I will always listen to his input, and take it seriously, but I do not delegate my decision-making (my will) to him.

Similarly, I have invited a few others to speak into my life, though not all of them know it. However, if someone assumes that they have authority in my life, that generally disqualifies them to speak into my life. If they insist, we’ll have a blunt conversation. I am the one responsible for me. Only I can exercise my own free will, regardless of theology or psychology or civil law. The best they can do is either a) counsel me on *how* they think I should make my choices, or they can make their own choices for how they will respond to my choices (e.g. if I drive drunk, they might choose to incarcerate me), but they cannot make my choices for me.


I’ve had a goodly number of folks come into my life for the sole purpose of assuming authority over my life and my choices. I used to submit to that process, but giving away my free will has never worked out well in my world. And it insults my beloved King if I despise (= “to treat as unimportant,” e.g. by giving away) his precious gift of free will.

In my opinion, this is one of the greater obstacles to the western Church, and one of the greatest problems in many western nations, particularly my own: individuals giving up their responsibility for our own lives, choices and circumstances. 

The current buzzword for the process of not taking responsibility for our free will is “entitlement,” and it’s a doozy. The sense of “It’s not my fault!” is pretty epic right now, and it’s often accompanied by either “…therefore someone should pay me for it!” or “…therefore I’m powerless!” or pretty often, both.

So much gets resolved when we merely accept responsibility to make our own free-will choices.





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Quotes on Suffering from PBB: An American Tragedy, by Edwin Chen, circa 1979

The complaints of the known-PBB-poisoned crops, farm animals, humans, and experimental animals.

Source - PBB: An American Tragedy, by Edwin Chen, circa 1979

  • “A cow in front of him looked as if she had been crying. Tears were streaking down her cheeks. He checked her for other infections, especially pinkeye. He resumed down the barn alley. He encountered another tear-streaked face. And then another. And another.” (p.6)
  • “There’s no reason for these cattle to have IBR (a flulike disease which can cause abortions in cattle),” said the stoop shouldered animal doctor. “I vaccinated them all myself and the vaccines came from several suppliers so we can’t blame it on a bad batch of vaccine. But I'll be hanged if I know what it is. These cattle don't act like any I've ever seen before. No cuds, no appetites, no fever. I don't know what they've got.” (p.11)
  • “But soon other symptoms appeared among the cows, such as abnormally rapid hoof growth and lameness.” (p.12)
  • “One night, Sandy woke up with a stab of pain, marking, she later recalled, 'The beginning of a spreading kidney infection. Before that was taken care of, Lisa’s (daughter of Sandy) cough had gotten worse instead of better.'” … “... turned out to be pneumonia and required ten days in the hospital.” (p.12)
  • “The poor calf wouldn’t eat for two weeks before it died.” (p.14)
  • “Soon similar reports (autopsies) arrived on the other calves. Several had ulcers, others inflamed kidneys.” (p.14)
  • “In many cases, the mice would rather starve than eat the (PBB laced) feed during experiment). (p.17)
  • (The calves from the initial PBB exposure) “...had begun to have their calves.” … “The poor animals would have over term calves, and they would develop no mammary tissue, and their pelvic ligaments would not adjust to allow for normal calf presentation.” (p.17)
  • “Yet the cows continued developing illnesses. Many had hooves that curled upward and inward uncontrollably; some began losing hair, then their skin thickened and wrinkled. With each death Dr. Jackson would do a postmortem. The signs always seemed the same, enlarged livers, inflamed kidneys, nearly a total absence of fat.” (p.19)
  • “At the National Animal Disease Laboratory, where Dr. Furr was giving the feed to steers and pigs, two of the pigs died, one bleeding from the ears and one from nearly every orifice in its body.” (p.19)
  • “'One of my rabbits died,’ he told Halbert. Dr. Jackson’s rabbit experiment was his own idea.” (p.20)
  • By mid March Halbert’s own cows began dying before giving birth to calves. Losing both a cow and her calf became more frequent.” (p.23)
  • “...lose their hair in huge patches; soon there was no hair left on their faces and necks, and the hairless patches were spreading quickly. Before long both calves were totally hairless. Then their skin begin to develop a condition called hyperkaratosis, which makes it resemble elephant hide. The calves failed to respond to all treatment.” … “(Halbert’s) wife (same farm as these cattle), Sandy had developed a bleeding ulcer and inexplicable chest pains.” (p.25)
  • “The cows dropped right down in milk production; they weren’t doing well at all.” (p.27 Art Laupichler near Yale, Michigan CoOp)
  • “But death continued to plague the farm. One victim was Super cows, so named because she was the best animal the Halbert’s had ever bred.” … “But two days after Supercow died, her week-old calf also died.” (p.29)
  • “At the Halbert Farm, the disposal of 8000 quarts of milk every day soon became yet another problem to cope with” … ”So Rick decided to haul the waste and milk out, and spread it on the fallow fields. But once the load got bogged down in the field and had to be drained on the spot before it could be pulled loose from the mud.” The liquid wastes were allowed to run off, following the lines of the cornfields and disappearing finally into a stand of young corn. 'Within a few days, we noticed the corn in the field had fallen flat, as though someone had driven a steamroller through that part of the field.’ she said.” (p.50)
  • “'Some of the cows were so weak when they were unloaded that they couldn't stay on their feet. A number of the animals resembled the starving cattle from the drought-stricken Sahel, their hides looking as if they were thrown over their bones. Dozens of them had lost patches of hair on their necks and faces; and the exposed skin resembled elephant hide.’” (p.51)
  • “When one of the drivers saw the pathetically thin animals plodding slowly up the loading ramp, their ears drooping, their coats dull and coarse, their patches of hair missing to reveal elephant-like skin, he gasped, 'My God! What happened to these animals? Is it contagious?’” (p.51-52)
  • “Ball wrenched his back in a minor mishap.” (p.57)
  • “They had rented a house on a farm and a friend of theirs had given them several chickens as a present. ‘They were very pleased,’ Dr. Corbett said, “to be supplied with all the fresh eggs they could eat and took it as a personal affront when I commented that they were the most miserable looking creatures I had ever seen. They were scrawny, and their feathers were falling out. They looked as if they had been half plucked.” (p.66-67)
  • “'We fed the experimental group from days seven through eighteen of the nineteen-day pregnancy period.” … “'Several of the experimental animals died before the end of the feeding period. We performed autopsies on the animals and found two surprising things - the animals had died from massive gastrointestinal hemorrhages, and they all had greatly enlarged livers.” ...of the remainders, autopsies occurred at day 18… “‘Autopsies on the experimental animals revealed a continuing pattern of abnormal liver enlargements.’” (p.67-68)
  • “'It’s an exencephaly,” Dr. Corbett said as everyone gathered around the (mouse) fetus - it's head severely deformed and it's brain protruding from it's skull.” … never seen by any of them in all of the lab workers’ unrelated studies… “If it was due to Firemaster, he thought, there ought to be more of them in the remaining fetuses. 'Here’s another one.’” More were found in the next stage of further studies involving Firemaster and impregnated mice. (p.68)
  • “'For instance, Albert Vandewater, a 49 year old Fremont, Michigan, farmer, said he had been hospitalized for six days in December 1973. Then in March he was admitted to Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids with a suspected coronary problem. 'He is able to get around, but not able to work,’ the FDA report said. Although heart problem was ruled out,’ the report added, 'Mr. Vandewater now cannot see to read or drive. He has a loss of energy, has lost thirty pounds over the past nine months, is subject to blackout spells and has been since December 1973.’ Vanderwall’s farm was quarantined after a chicken was found to have been highly contaminated with PBB.” (p.85-86)
  • “'Also in Fremont, one of the hardest hit areas, dairywoman, Nancy Rottier told FDA inspectors she had begun suffering from migraine headaches, usually 3-4 times per week, for the last five months. Her farm was quaranined…” … “Then her headaches disappeared, since she stopped drinking her own cows’ milk. A subsequent physical examination by her own doctor found Mrs. Rottier 'entirely normal.’” (p.86)
  • “In Newaygo, just a few miles southeast of Fremont, 50 year old Ethel Johnson told FDA officials she began experiencing unusual fatigue in the fall of 1973 and 'just couldn’t seem to make a recovery.’ She became abnormally nervous and began losing weight. A thorough examination turned up nothing. Almost every night she had to get up 3 or 4 times to urinate. Her husband advised her to drink more milk. She did, but her problems worsened. Her ankle and feet then began swelling. After a week’s hospitalization in Fremont, doctors were unable to come up with an explanation for her ailments. They told her to go home and relax. But the swelling continued, and her hands and feet often throbbed at night. Another doctor told her the swelling probably was caused by her circulation, ‘which wasn't the best.’ Before long, Mrs. Johnson was experiencing dizziness and lack of coordination, often staggering, as if intoxicated, when walking and missing her mouth while eating. Her problems began improving after April 1974 when she stopped drinking milk because of the publicity about sick dairy animals, she said.” (p.86)
  • “Her husband, Melvin, told the FDA inspectors he also had coordination problems that set in during the winter of 1973. He spilled coffee frequently, tripped and stumbled often and had fallen in the barn numerous times. Like his wife, Johnson also missed his mouth when eating. An ophthalmologic examination found nothing wrong with his sight. Occasionally, he also had sharp stomach pains that felt as if he were 'stabbed with a knife,’ Johnson said. He said he thought his problems were due to his advancing age. Tests later revealed that the Johnson’s milk had contained 11.2 parts PBB per million, an extremely high dose.” (p.86-87)

 

Next quote p.90. Will continue through entire book.

  continue reading

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The Bible or Relationship?

I love the Bible.

I don't mean that metaphorically, this is literal: I love that book, I love those stories. Even more, I love the precious revelation of this relationship that I've been reborn into, the Story of Covenant.

However, I'm far more interested in hearing Holy Spirit speaking through the words than I'm interested in taking the words of the translators - skilled as they are - for my definitive final word.

Even if I could get past the translators, if I could have walked around with Peter and Paul and John and hear them, in their original language, share their experiences and counsel of their relationship with God, I'd still rather talk with God, face to face.

And I think He'd prefer that, too.

This is about a relationship, isn't it? A PERSONAL relationship, right? So the relationship with the person is the authoritative reference.

I am thankful for my marriage certificate. It tells me about a relationship that is precious to me. But I can tell you that I'd much rather curl up before the fireplace with the Lady named in that certificate, than with the certificate itself.

The certificate is valuable, priceless even. The Lady, and my relationship with her, is even more priceless.
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