He’s No John the Baptist

Another irony about Jesus can be found in clues tucked away in Scripture. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the death of John the Baptist with the same event, and most include this statement:

Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.

Mark 6:19-20 NASB

Notice that Herod was both afraid of John because Herod knew John was a righteous man (see also Matthew 14:5). John’s status kept him alive, whether from popularity or from real fear of his prophetic status.

Yet, when Jesus is sent to Herod by Pilate, it is a very different sort of treatment received. Herod desires to see Jesus, but has absolutely no respect for Him.

Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.

Luke 23:8-11 NASB

Herod had been trying to see Jesus before (see Luke 9:7-9), but not because he had respect, but out of curiosity. Herod didn’t think Jesus was John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded, yet respected. His interest was to see some trick or entertaining miracle.

The irony in the difference of treatment between the two is what surprises me. Why was John the Baptist considered more “scary” to this completely secular autocrat?

We think of Jesus to be the most influential Person from history. In His earthly ministry, though, it seems He was considered a nobody, an annoyance, an anomaly, and He was easily silenced. He had three years when the only people among whom He was popular were those in need of healing. Those in power knew little of Him at all.

If we are to follow the ministry of model of Jesus, then, why seek fame? Why seek notoriety? Why seek the attention of the popular, and “try and get our message out there”? Jesus didn’t. And yet, He truly is the most prominent influential person in human history.

I suppose that’s the lesson for me. What do you see through this knothole?


Pack Light

In the past month, my wife and I have gone on two backpacking trips, our first. We learned a few things about backpacking on those two trips, like, how seriously out of shape we are. The four-mile hike was torturous, and that’s really not much of a hike. When you add a 30 pound pack – well, it still shouldn’t be torturous.

We also learned that suggested methods of making coffee (something I take very seriously) are not effective. We eventually broke down and bought an aeropress pack version. After the first trip, I repacked our cook kit to include the fuel and stove inside the kit. We didn’t need the two measuring cups they included. We added a “tarp”, or something, we could use to set stuff out so we could re-pack without laying everything out in the dirt. 

There were other lessons, but, to allow a short illustration remain short, we learned to pack light, real light, as light as possible. It was kind of funny. I brought full-size binoculars on the first trip. And I used them to look at the shockingly clear and bright stars. But I didn’t use the shovel. And so on, lessons learned, and then refined. If only we had a guide to help us weed that stuff out before we packed it four miles in the hot sun…

And He *summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.”
(Mark 6:7-9 NASB)

Jesus sends out His disciples into the towns and cities ahead of them with some instruction on how to pack. “He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey…” Who doesn’t want a couple of smelly travelers in their homes? Actually, in the Middle East, that’s not a rhetorical question. Maybe more nowadays, but certainly not back then. It was actually genius. Be in need and be dependent. 

We don’t always appreciate that detail. In our culture that is a horrible thought, well for some. In fact we exalt those who are more independent, and despise those who are not. It’s a culture that makes church a bit difficult with too many “doctors” and not enough “patience” (and I did not misspell that). We abhor dependence. We abhor weakness. We shall not ask for directions (and, let’s be honest, that’s not a “gender” thing).

Jesus didn’t stop there with His instructions, though. He didn’t just give them a packing list, He gave them instructions on how to act as well…

And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.”
(Mark 6:10-11 NASB)

Rather than speculate (one of my favorite things) about why they should stay in one house, I think it’s probably simpler, with Mark’s account anyway, to simply think of it as the antithetical corollary to the rejection. Sometimes we will be cared for when we depend on others. Sometimes we will not be. If not, take nothing with you from that place, not the dust, and certainly not the resentment. 

It’s a strange life with Jesus that asks us to be dependent. It borders on asking us to be vulnerable (how terrifying!). You may have learned that “church people” are not safe. If you haven’t, that’s awesome! I hope you never do. Because lessons like that make this request of our Savior all the more difficult. Yet, it’s no less of a request of no less of a Person. He’s still our Creator and Savior, and He still makes this request. The question is, how much do we trust HIM, not how much do we trust them.

Go to church, participate, love the people, and be dependent, ask for help for yourself, for what you go through, with your stuff. Be that person who helps, and that person who needs help. We all need help, and our Savior has provided a group of disciples, called out of a dead world into life, to help. We are them, and help. We are them, and need help. It’s okay, that’s how He designed it.

Is That Our Carpenter?

Have you noticed that Jesus tends to refuse to fit into nice neat theological categories? Even those categories we use that aren’t technically “theological”, he tends to refuse to fit well. For instance, “Jesus is our Friend.” We can sing the hymn from way back, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, and think, “Wow, that is so great, to have Jesus as our friend.” Yet, we also think in terms of “friends like us.” We can’t help it. It’s our culture, our society, our personality to think of Jesus as our friend in the same way we’re friends with Bob or Cheryl, or whoever. And we would be wrong, often way wrong.

The people of Nazareth thought of Jesus as their carpenter. He was the guy in the village who fixed the wood stuff, which was a lot, tables, tools, tent frames, plows, yokes, wheels, carts, you name it, if it was wood, he made it or fixed it. His work was never done, and when he left, well… But he was back! They had heard word of him travelling around and teaching, performing miracles, and all this weird stuff. But I need a table fixed for my shop, and Ted over there needs his cart fixed so he can bring in his stuff from the family farm, and Sue has a loom that needs a better fix than her yarn wrapped around one side of the frame. When’s Jesus coming home?

Jesus went out from there and *came into His hometown; and His disciples *followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.
(Mark 6:1-3 NASB)

I’m not going to get my table fixed, am I? What carpentry work were you hoping he would do for you? What did you need fixed? I mean, that’s what He does, right? He fixes things. He makes stuff for us, so we can go on about our lives, isn’t that right? I mean, what’s wrong with this picture? It’s the way stuff is supposed to work, who he is supposed to be, how he is supposed to fit into our society, culture, community…

I blow through this passage so fast, stopping just long enough to shake my head sadly at the people of Nazareth, and move on. But, if I stop, if I look around at what’s going on, listen to what they say, think through their perspective, I see something a lot more painful. I see myself among them. I want my table fixed, so to speak. Can you see yourself among them? Do you also struggle wanting Jesus to be that part of your world that makes it a bit better, easier, more comfortable? There’s a price for being a part of the people of Nazareth, though.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”  And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching.
(Mark 6:4-6 NASB)

Do you see it? It includes the lack of miracles, sure, and they missed His teaching. But look at the last sentence, and let it prick your heart. It drives a nail through mine. He was going somewhere else. Sure, those other people saw Him as “the miracle man”, the guy who heals people and drives out demons. He was the guy who fed a ton of people without catering. It was cool! But they also heard teaching, and he gained a lot of followers who stuck with Him, following Him as Savior, Messiah, the Son of God. He left Nazareth without a carpenter.

So, now we have a choice. We can look around at each other wondering who will fix the table. Or we can follow Him, listen to Him, be healed of our separation from our Creator, walk with our Savior, and enjoy the closeness we lost in the Garden of Eden. Doesn’t that sound better? Keep in mind, even Jesus’ family didn’t get it, those closest to Him, who should have known, couldn’t see past their own preconceived notions of Him, who He was, what they needed Him to be. You may be close to Him, but are you close to who He is, or close to what you have made Him out to be? Are you following Jesus, or seeking what He can “fix” in your life, so you can carry on with your life? Jesus probably has another plan, different from yours. Just a thought.

Demon = Enemy

Continuing to pursue the study of the spiritual landscape of spiritual warfare, I’m in the process of defining terms. It sounds pretty easy on the surface, but it has rapidly become very complex. I believe Paul has left references in his letters to teachings he gave in person, not in writing (or at least not writing we have now). 

This is not specific to the spiritual arena, there are plenty of tantalizing tidbits on which he does not elaborate. These can be frustrating at first. Then, once the frustration subsides, I remember that we have what our Savior has preserved for us. We have what we need for a relationship with Him. The point of Scripture isn’t “spiritual warfare” but “walking with our Creator”.

With that context, the frustration goes away completely. I don’t need to know. I may want to know, but my Master does not consider it important enough to explain. Probably, because He knows it would easily become a distraction from what He does want me to know.

One of these terms that you would think would be easy is “demon”. Just for fun, look up “daemon” in a modern dictionary, and you will find a reference to a “computing” definition. It is a term referring to a background program, not under the control of an interactive user. So, if you go to your “Task Manager” in Windows, and select “All Processes”, everything below the line of “Background Processes” would probably fall into this category. Which means, that, as most of you have suspected all along, your computer is demon-possessed, and probably by “legion” (mine had 86 processes running in the background).

Okay, on to what Scripture says about these things. They’re bad. ALWAYS. That’s important because they aren’t always a reference to something evil in the surrounding cultures. In the Ancient Greek used in Scripture, in “secular” usage anyway, they are references to divinities or deities. That makes a lot of sense as Paul writes to the Corinthian church about food sacrificed to idols. It puts the discussion in a whole new light, or could.

When Paul is in Athens, involving himself in discussions in the market, he is brought before the Areopagus because “‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:18b NASB). Guess what Greek word is translated as “deities”? Yup, “demon”. For the people of Athens, they were not necessarily evil, just generically divine. So, that’s the cultural context in which Paul moves people to belief in Jesus.

For Jews, any sort of belief in “demons” was relatively new, and probably developed due to greater interaction with Greeks. They struggled to come up with some sort of way to discuss monotheism with these philosophical polytheists. It wasn’t easy, and adopted some of their terms to describe distinctives. They did this by “redefining” Greek terms in light of their belief in Yahweh. It led to some interesting, often confusing, writing.

By the time Jesus walks upon His brief segment of human history, belief in demons among the Jews was wide-spread. They were blamed for just about everything bad. That caused the “Rabbis” all sorts of problems, because, when there’s only ONE God, even what seems bad comes from Him. Some sort of understanding of a “creation in rebellion” emerged, and satisfied both popular Jewish and Rabbinic Jewish understanding of demons. When Jesus appears, He confirms this understanding, even expanding and explaining it in more detail.

For disciples of Jesus, as we examine the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, belief in demons essentially includes these few elements:

  1. Demons exist in a state of rebellion against their Creator and ours.
  2. Demons interact with the created order of this planet, environmentally and personally.
  3. Demons will never exercise complete control over creation.
  4. Demons will fail in their rebellion, and they know it.
  5. Demons seek to take as many people as they can with them in their failure.

They represent a “lost cause”, a hopeless collection of beings who seriously should have known better. On the other hand, they know our Savior in a way we have not yet experienced. It is interesting to me that these beings, fallen angels or whatever, started a hopeless rebellion in the first place. Their “arche”, Satan, was able to persuade them to join a hopeless cause that would lead, inexorably, to eternal punishment. 

That may sound crazy, but isn’t that precisely what is happening in this world? Doesn’t the bulk of humanity seem to be on the same path as these hopeless spiritual rebels? It does seem to extend the crazy perspective of “this present age” into the realm of those we cannot see, where a war we barely perceive is fought in the presence of our Creator. It doesn’t help make sense of this place and people. It just helps explain and “normalize” the weirdness around us. None of if makes much sense to me.

So, bottom-line: We, who walk with Jesus, win. Demons, who rebel against Jesus, lose. Demons are the enemy of our Savior and, therefore, us. This world seems full of hopeless losers. We must be in prayer for the liberation of our fellow people. That is spiritual warfare as we know it.

When Did That Happen?

I want to share something I stumbled on that some of you may already know, but I never considered before. For me, it’s one of those things around which I have spent a bunch of time, but never considered in its context. It has to do with the “Fall”. We usually think of it in terms of “Fall of Man”, but there is another element that begs the question, “What else fell when man did?”.

It’s related to the question of “Why curse the ground?” When Yahweh curses Adam for eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the punishment includes “Cursed is the ground because of you,” (Gen. 3:17). Why do that? What did the “ground” do for which it needed to be punished? Why did Adam’s mistake result in the curse of “nature” or the “natural order”? Doesn’t it seem a bit like Yahweh slapped a bystander watching the spectacle from across “police tape” or something?

While it’s true that the ground was part of Adam’s calling (Gen. 2:15), the calling seems more closely tied to Eden specifically, from where Adam was cast out. Why, then, go on to curse the ground? And the curses in the garden did have to do specifically with their design, the serpent (loss of legs, enmity with people), the woman (help-mate and child-birth), and man (keeping the garden).

But that wasn’t the weird part. The weird part that I stumbled on was this: what happened in the spiritual realm when the garden was shut to humanity? Think about this, if Jesus stills a storm by rebuking it (Matt. 8:26, Mark 4:39, Luke 8:34) doesn’t that seem to personify something about the “natural order”? Was that part of the Fall? When did the natural order start to defy its Creator?

I have always thought of demons using (or abusing) the natural order for their own purposes, not actually having the responsibility over the natural order. That would be “animism” to consider the natural functions of nature to have a spiritual entity responsible for them. And yet, Jesus and His disciples do seem to encounter more than their fair share of storms on Galilee. And Jesus speaks to the storm like a person, demonstrates these storms have no power over Him, but rather the other way round. He walks on water, in a storm. He truly does what He wants with regard to “nature”.

Did this corruption of creation (see Rom. 8:18-20) occur at the Fall in the Garden? Was it there that the spiritual forces responsible for maintaining the natural order rebelled? It may seem like the natural order is…well, orderly. But does it seem in subjection to its Creator? It is, in a sense, as He created it (Gen. 8:20-22), and will continue to be. Yet, it still seems “broken” somehow. 

As I have studied Scripture to attempt to glimpse the “spiritual realm”, it has seemed to me that nature seems to be sometimes at odds with our Creator, but not always. As if the rebellion isn’t constant. Perhaps it’s too much to personify it like adolescents telling their parent, “Leave me alone, I got this!” And, for the most part, do. But then, also abuse the power, and throw tantrums when they don’t get their way.

On the other hand, I have also assumed, for most of my life, that God simply did what He wanted with nature, and it was always Him, blessing or punishing. Now, I’m not so sure. God promises the Sons of Israel good harvests and plenty of good weather if they obey Him. But, does it happen that way? Or, in spite of good behavior, did the late rains not come, or early rains come late, or whatever? What was it that made the competing religious views make some sense to the people for whom God parted the Red Sea, showed up in smoke and fire on Horeb, gave them victory over powerful nations, and planted them in the land? I don’t know.

What if the weather wasn’t, and isn’t, always what our Creator wants? He can obviously step in and correct it, but doesn’t always, or has very violent intent with it. But why rebuke something you caused in the first place? Isn’t that a correction? When did nature “rebel” against her Creator? When did that happen? Was it always that way, and the garden was this perfect “bubble” within the chaos outside? 

All I have are clues to such answers, not clarity or certainty. How does that work? Am I being “superstitious”? That’s what it feels like, I feel silly working through this. Yet, Scripture depicts this weird milieu of spiritual reality somehow superimposed over physical realities, natural and political. It’s weird. And I’m not sure how much of it is our Savior accommodating the human condition of the day, and how much is an accurate description of spiritual reality.

So, did Adam and Eve start a spiritual rebellion on earth? Was it already going? Or did the enemies of our Creator take over from the “good guys” when the serpent succeeded? When did that happen? I shiver, and not just because it’s a cold foggy day here. It makes me want to “go home”. I don’t know how much I like this place any more.

Struggling With The Sins of Others

I am absolutely not a fan of “pride month” being June. It’s the month I was born. Now, instead of being able to do fun things to celebrate me, I find my plans blocked by parades and celebrations I find extremely “uncomfortable”. Okay, I don’t actually plan to go anywhere for my birthday that this will be a problem (except for this year, and we’re going anyway). Honestly, it’s this month-long celebration of a behavior that is so clearly a violation of my religious beliefs. It’s as if that’s the point, to offend.

Scripture isn’t “obscure” on the topic of gender-identity. It isn’t one of those “grey areas”. Paul begins his letter to Rome with these very clear statements:

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
(Romans 1:26-27 NASB)

Now, to be clear, this is a translation of an ancient version of Greek, no longer in use. So, English translators do their best to render the original meaning into English. It’s tough, though, to really get the descriptors Paul uses here to work well in English. Most of the translations I’ve looked at (here it’s the New American Standard) agree on the gist of Paul’s point. It’s wrong, people know it, and our Creator has stopped trying to stop them from harming themselves.

So, am I right in being bothered by a month of “pride” in what my Savior calls “degrading passions”? Well, maybe. Although, the chapter of Romans doesn’t end there. 

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
(Romans 1:28-32 NASB)

You see, the list isn’t restricted to LGBTQEtc-type sins. There’s actually a long list of behaviors that “miss the mark” of righteousness with our Creator. The key is how this paragraph begins, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer,…”. It is this statement that forms the basis on our Creator’s “handing over” of these people. It’s not that they are LGBTQ-whatever. Look at the rest of the paragraph’s behavior list. How many of those are mine? Way too many, honestly.

I’m not going to go through the list with a “done that” “not done that” marker. You get the point, and you could do that yourself. The point is that Paul is making it clear the problem is actually wide-spread. The Jewish readers would have been horrified and appalled at the sexual sins listed, but then they would find themselves on the list at the end. The point isn’t whether you find yourself on the list, the point is “acknowledging God”.

Look at how Paul leads into this discussion:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
(Romans 1:18-20 NASB)

Our Creator is known. He has revealed Himself through what He has created. So, people, also His creations, are without excuse regarding acknowledging their Creator. But it goes on:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
(Romans 1:21-25 NASB)

Did you notice the pointed accusation in verse 25, “…and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”? Do you catch the point? I know that I struggle with that. When I think of what people think of me more than what my Creator thinks of me, I fail precisely at this point. Then I gossip, I slander, am arrogant, boastful, insolent; am basically selfish, self-centered, and fear the creatures rather than the Creator.

So, yes, a month dedicated to celebrating any one of these failures of humanity is frustrating and confusing. But what should I expect from such a world as Paul describes? Isn’t every day some sort of celebration of these things? Don’t our entertainment choices celebrate the list of sins?

I still don’t like it, I feel uncomfortable with the topic, and I don’t want the topic of “gender identity” pushed in my face. And yet, I am right there with them with my own vices on this list. The sad reality is that I am not going to be pleased with the reading of the “books” in Revelation listing everything we’ve ever done, both good and bad. I’m going to have a lot more bad than good, that’s just the truth about me.

On the other hand, I believe my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. At the end of the process, it’s not what’s written in the books, but rather my name being in the Book of Life that matters. What’s in the books may be embarrassing, but that will be overwhelmed by the joy of my name being in the Lamb’s book of life. 

My Creator is my Savior, and not because of something I’ve done. He is my Savior because of what He has done. He loves me. My actions on that list have not voided His love for me. So, I can only assume that this is true of anyone who’s behavior is on that list. The key is whether we acknowledge our Creator. 

So, at the end of my line of thinking, I’m still uncomfortable and frustrated. I am also more mindful of the wide arms of my Savior. If He accepts me, He will accept anyone who acknowledges Him, anyone who believes that He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Will the behavior change? Mine has. On the other hand, some hasn’t. But how I view my behavior has completely changed. I accept my Savior’s view of my behavior, His definition of good and evil, His desire for my actions toward others. Perhaps that’s the litmus test of acknowledging our Creator as our Savior.

What do you think? Or is that a dangerous question?

Revenge By Good Behavior?

Teaching young people, high school-age or middle schoolers, is more like leading wading through a dense jungle together with them, than actually teaching, in a traditional sense. Yesterday, I was asked, “If doing good to people ‘heaps coals on people’s heads’, are we doing good to people to get them angry? Isn’t that manipulative?” I don’t think that question would even occur to most adults. On the other hand, I don’t think most adults ask about what they don’t understand, at least not about the Bible anyway.

Romans 12:20 NASB

Well, I figured the best approach to any sort of answer was to examine the context. Here’s the verse where the phrase is found. It’s a quote from Proverbs 25:21-22. The reference to “burning coals on his head” is probably cultural, and doesn’t mean what it sounds like. I couldn’t find an explanation though, and it seems the imagery remains a mystery.

Paul doesn’t just quote this proverb without some sort of helpful context. Look where it occurs in his discussion in Romans 12 (where application begins):

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:14-21 NASB

The quote is bracketed by “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” from Deuteronomy 32:35 reserving vengeance to Yahweh, and the summary statement, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That last statement probably provides the best understanding of “heaping coals”. It is probably not meant as a punishment as such, but more like an incentive to repentance. Although, vengeance of Yahweh could feel like hot coals on the head. Even so, the vengeance would, hopefully, lead the person to repent.

These verses leave disciples of Jesus with the clear call to treat those inside and outside the church well, even (or especially) when persecuted. We are to associate with the lowly, to be at peace with everyone, and leave revenge to our Savior. Bless others, join them in their pain and joy. Don’t make it about you. And “be of the same mind”. When does that happen? We are all about factions, differences, politics, race, sexual orientation, whatever. 

What would the world think of a group of people who lived out these principles? Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out? I’m struggling with the part about not making it about me. I always seem to catch myself after I snack on my foot. But what if I really tried, worked at trapping that thought before I spoke? What if I did good, fed my enemies, treated them with kindness? What if I wept with those in mourning? What if I rejoiced with those rejoicing without wondering when good stuff will happen to me? What if I was like minded instead of contending for the wrong priorities?

What about you? Can this be you? Can you be like this? Will you? Perhaps we can help each other work at it together? What a thought.

I’m Sorry, WHAT?

Think about the last time you were sure you misheard someone, only to discover what you heard was what they said? The resulting cognizant dissonance can result from shock, from abhorrence, from joy, or even horror. When was the last time you ran across a verse that caught you up short, shocked you, compelled you to every reference you could find to help you grapple with the dissonance in your mind?

I’m searching for an understanding of the Biblical Spiritual Cosmology. Honestly, I’m not sure what to call it, but from what little I can figure out so far, it is the spiritual reality alongside our own, where the “spiritual warfare” we don’t see takes place. It’s where the “sons of God” come before His throne, including Satan (Job 1:6). It’s the place in the heavens where the spiritual forces of evil collide with their Creator (Ephesians 6:12).

I want to know what we’re up against, the lay of the land, a map, to know the enemy and friendlies. I’m not having an easy time of it. Scripture seems to assume I know more than I do. Paul just leaves things said without providing a context. He’s provide oral teaching, and refers to it in letters without describing it further. He already has with his audience earlier, in person. But now, we don’t have that. What the stink is “the third heaven”? How many are there, for Pete’s sake?

Well, in the process of this quest, I ran across this verse:

And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.
Deuteronomy 4:19 NASB

I’m sorry, what? Our Creator and Savior allotted the “host of heaven” to all the peoples under the whole heaven? In the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, it says He does this as “guides” not to be worshipped. The problem with interpreting this reference as “guides” is that the context is worship. But, this same entry claims that some Jewish commentators claim this passage condones idolatry among Gentiles. I’m confused.

Let’s set aside for a second whether this reference condones idolatry among Gentiles or refers to them as “guides”. Regardless, there is a sense in which they are given importance I didn’t know our Creator gives them. He allotted them to all people under heaven. Everyone who looks at them is supposed to draw some sense of importance from them, a purpose of their Creator, and ours. 

Consider, for a moment, that almost every human religion ascribes some quality of deity to the sun, moon, and stars. It’s like the prevalence of flood geology. How is it that stars had such a perfuse importance to we, human creatures? And their proper relation to the “Peculiar People of God” is that we do not worship them like everyone does.

Here’s my dilemma: Since we are not to worship them, how, then, have they been allotted to us as also those under all the heavens? Not for worship, clearly, so what for? Are they “guides”, then for what? To where?

I do not know, not yet. But I believe it has something to do with the “spiritual cosmology” I’m pursuing. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, be sure to look up; not to then bow down to what you see, but, rather to marvel at the works of our Creator’s hands declaring His glory (Psalm 19:1).


 Eventually, stuff works out. Below is a picture I took of the planet Mars. As I said last week, a big white spot.

It would probably be more interesting if you could see the stars around it, but that was difficult because this was just to the right of it:

And the focus on these was difficult because of distortion in the air, so this is all I was able to get.

You see, eventually, things work out. And, that is true for everything. The cliche is that “all things come to an end”. Not just good things come to an end, but all things. Eventually, there will be this event where the Creator of the universe sits on a throne to judge, and heaven and earth will flee from him, and find no hiding place…I know, right? What will that look like?

There will be a day when books will be opened, and another book will be opened. John described it this way:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:11-15 NASB

Books were opened, and everyone, great and small, were judged by what was written in “the books”. But, at the end of the process, it didn’t depend on what was in the books, but whether your name is written in the Book of Life. Are you alive? That’s what counts.

I have been reading a book that explores theology using the Peanuts cartoons as illustrations. I was pretty intrigued by it until the author makes this case that there is no future hell, and everyone goes to heaven. Nice idea, but not Scriptural. He tries to make it so, but the problem is that his attempts are to reconcile his idea of what a “god of love” would do, rather than accept the self-revelation of the God who is love.

So, this author and I differ on that view. Eventually, we’ll know which of us is right. One day we’ll stand before this massive white throne, and our judge will be the God who is, rather the one of our imaginations. Maybe we will both be wrong, having both worshipped different gods of our imagination.

I’m trying to perceive the God revealing Himself through Scripture, and I’m relying on my hope that He won’t judge too closely on accuracy. I’ve given up on understanding Him, and now work on accepting Him as I perceive Him. Eventually, I will see Him as He is. I doubt I will understand Him, even then. And, I hope my exercise in acceptance of Him will pay off as I grapple with that “up close and personal” experience of His presence.

I hear it’s good to have goals…