The Most Wonderful Woman

It’s been exactly two years since I posted The Most Incredible Woman. We were in Honduras and it was Cathy’s birthday. 

We’d lost everything we owned in a landslide just two days before. Most people are baffled that the experience of losing all but our lives and being rendered homeless in the third world became one of the greatest blessings of our lives. Still, I had nothing to give her on her birthday. Nothing that would sufficiently express my love and gratitude that she is my wife. I wanted to tell the world about God’s goodness that is expressed in and through my bride. I did my best in a blog. I am attempting to do the same now.

Today is Cathy’s birthday

But I feel like it’s mine because she is the greatest gift that Lord has ever given me.  I may have more in the way of material things to give her this year. But nothing compares to what she has given me.

Our marriage is our ministry.

That’s what I tell people, especially young couples prone to the temptation of seeking their own significance in Jesus’s name. 

Quite often the message falls on deaf ears.

Ephesians 5 begins with Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children...and concludes with the mystery of one flesh that is marriage.  And while the church has often emphasized Wives, submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord, sometimes to the point of abuse, the overarching emphasis is Husbands, love their wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  The chapter concludes with


Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church”.

There is no better or faster way to touch the heart of God and the mystery of Christ’s relationship with His church than in the context of marriage -no easier way to comprehend what God is doing in and through us the Bride of Christ.

The Rhino Refugee Camp 2016

We were in Northern Uganda ministering to South Sudanese refugees from yet another civil war. I was a videographer consumed with a self-appointed mission to be a voice for the voiceless. Naturally, I assumed Jesus had called me to teach South Sudanese orphans how to film. 

I Did.

I usually tell people that all I did in Harvest school was repent. The Lord had been stripping me of the idolatry of “my” ministry and “my” purpose when we got to Uganda.  Cathy was oblivious to the struggle that I could not articulate at the time and has an entirely different recollection. But I saw it as the lowest point in our marriage. Not because of any discernable problem between us. Rather what God showed me about myself revealed an inner jerk that Cathy had not seen. It made me fear for my marriage.  Alas the love of God shines brightest amid our repentance.

Ironically

At the end of the outreach, one of the base leaders asked these war-torn, traumatized children to say how each of the missionaries had impacted them.  Naturally, I expected to hear about videography. Instead, they unanimously agreed that they were most affected by our marriage.  They “saw how Cathy and I loved each other” and

“They wanted what we had”.

Our marriage is our ministry.

Everything else flows from there.

If you’ve read The Most Beautiful Woman then you know that Cathy was the forerunner in our mission work. I am Cathy’s husband – her covering. I was more like Joseph with Mary as she bore the Lamb of God.

On the mission field I never completely transcended my tendency to be the proverbial watchman on the wall always on patrol and or the one who just wants to ‘git er done. That’s fine when you have to haul hundred-pound bags of beans or sheets of tin roofing up the side of a mountain filled with potential banditos. But missions is about relationship, not just humanitarian projects. At the end of the day; who cares how many people you feed or house if the occupants are going to hell?

Thank God for my beautiful wife.

Where I am prone to bulldoze the one for sake of the mission, Cathy invariably stops for the one.

Honduras 2008

That said, she’ll bulldoze through whatever she must to get to the one.

Honduras 2020
Seley is a Lenca Indian girl with Cerebral Palsy.

Everywhere she goes she connects with others, especially children out of a pure and child-like heart.

Palestinian 7th graders in the Negev.
Cathy and her best friend Keisy in Honduras, 2020.

I had no intention of ever marrying again when I met Cathy. We became friends when she heard I might be her key to getting into the jail to minister. “Hi I’m Cathy” she began. “I heard you can tell me how to get into the jail.” “depends on how long you want to stay there…” I almost joked. We started ministering at the jail every Thursday night. Soon after we began hiking together.  She’d been fasting for ten days on the first hike. It was sixteen miles on the Kalalau trail on Kauai where we lived. She handled it like a Marine. Suffice it to say, I was more than a little impressed. Nine months later, we were engaged.

Only Cathy would marry a crazy guy like me to spend the next 12 years living with inmates and their children and then tell people that she

felt privileged and spoiled because of it.

I often joke that I had a crush on Marcia Brady as a kid.

I would have fallen head over heels in love with Cathy if I had met her as a kid.

By the grace of God, she didn’t meet me as a kid…

If you spend any time at all with Cathy then you know she is super sensitive to Holy Spirit, and she often cries when she worships, reads, or speaks God’s word, especially when speaking to those who don’t know they need Jesus.  

Make no mistake she is the reason for any favor I have with the Lord.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. Prov 18:22

Like a lot of parents with adult children these days we have a son who for reasons unknown to us abruptly stopped talking to her three years ago. It hurts me to watch her suffer as only a mother can.

I’m writing this in hope that he reads it.

But also to dispel any illusion that might lead people to believe we have all our proverbial ducks in a row.

We are just little children. 1 John 2

We have found that God teaches us various aspects of Himself through the process of our becoming identified with His heart via circumstances and relationships. Like Mary with Jesus in the movie The Passion of the Christ,

Sometimes Cathy struggles to let go.

Then she does it with patience, forgiveness, and grace.

She loves her son from a distance and prays that God will soften his heart.

It’s what God did and does with us.

After God and people, Cathy loves anything related to horses. We used to do equine-assisted discipleship at the children’s home where we lived for three years in Honduras.  As is the case with people Cathy was drawn to the most broken unwanted albeit ornery teenage horse named Diablo (the devil).

We renamed him Mr. Botangles.

A few fun facts that few people know about Cathy are that she was the Hawaii state Karate champion, she taught Kareem Abdul Jabar to windsurf, and taught our missionary dog Mariposa Loca to swim.

I could go on about all the things I love about my beautiful, fiery, passionate, insanely forgiving, Holy Spirit-filled wife and how she never ceases to amaze me – all the myriad things I have learned by simply watching her…  Still, there is one thing that I miss. 

I miss seeing the world through her eyes.

While video production was my forte.  Cathy loved still photography.  Her camera went everywhere with her on the mission field until it was swept away in the landslide. Photography is an easy way to connect with people in the third world if for no other reason than many people have never seen a photograph of themselves or their family.

Cathy never missed an opportunity

She has an uncanny ability to peer into people’s eyes and capture their souls.  Unfortunately, nearly five years’ worth of photos were buried under the mud. Thankfully I produced and uploaded this slideshow just before the mountain came down. 

If it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye then you might to want check if you still have a pulse.

I plan to see through her eyes again starting today.

Regular readers may be scratching their heads especially since I am so prone to rant over life-sucking self-centeredness and narcissism in the body of Christ.

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
    a stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2

I am ranting over the awesomeness of my bride the way I believe Jesus will one day rant over His.

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5

I’m trying to articulate my gratitude to God for the gift He has given me. As usual, words do not suffice

It is through my marriage to Cathy that Jesus teaches me the most about His heart for His bride. It is through her being my bride that Cathy models what it means to be a bride. That is part of the mystery.

and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Mark 10:8

It is in the context of marriage that the depth of God’s endgame is revealed. The realized Kingdom of Heaven is a marriage.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
 and his Bride has made herself ready;
Revelation 19:7

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17

And while you don’t have to be married to know and love Jesus, let alone be loved by Him, marriage is the foundation of any Christian community. As far as “community” is concerned, a given Christian community is only as healthy as its marriages.

Everything else flows from there.

As for me, I remain joyfully mesmerized by my bride. It is because of Cathy that I even have a clue as to what it means to love and be loved. It is in her presence that I can most easily appropriate the love of God which is His presence.

Thank you Jesus for my bride!

For The Love of Sid

“It’s not glamorous here but it is glorious” – Able Carrico –

While you won’t find the glitz associated with big social media-driven mega ministries, there are enough love, joy, and miracles in this place to confirm God’s presence. In our case we see the Lord calling us deeper into the other fruits of the spirit especially peace, patience, faithfulness, and self-control which can be unwittingly sidelined in charismatic circles. More often than not their cultivation takes place in the context of His longsuffering.

All that being said, the following is excerpted from a previous blog and describes just one of my experiences with a Holston child. It is my experience and by no means representative of the average Holston child or any official position of Holston or Holston staff. If your spirit is quickened and your heart resonates with what you read then you just may be called to work here with our rejected, abandoned, and traumatized, adolescents, and or their parents.  

Snapping turtles will invariably bite any hand that tries to feed them. I was a snapping turtle as a teen. Those who have heard my testimony or read some of my previous posts will know what I mean. God loved me despite me. Ephesians 2 Several of those whom I’ve had the distinct pleasure of serving are the same. One particular boy has a special place in my heart. I can’t tell you his real name so I’ll call him “Sid” after “The Evil Sid” from the movie Toy Story. 

Sid is the marginalized and forgotten archetype of a traumatized child.

Our Sid made a bomb just for fun and accidentally blew himself up. While his physical injuries were healed it was part of the reason for his being sent to Holston. I get that. I made bombs when I was a boy too. In this case, it was the overarching paradigm for Sid’s daily existence. He laughed while telling me he’d enjoyed the burns on half his body because he “got high for free”. “They gave me the good drugs!” he laughed. As one might expect, Sid had a particularly foul mouth.  My supervisor counted the number of times in the course of three minutes that Sid referred to me in the urban rendition of a female dog. She told me she quit counting at forty-seven.  That’s not accounting for the myriad of other profane conjunctions. He was particularly frustrated that day because he’d dropped the pencil with which he’d planned to stab me.  “Go – head bend over and pick it up so I can kick you in yo face!” I held his gaze and calmly kicked it away.

“You a b#&*!” Sid snapped.

Still, Sid was witty at times. “I need to s*&t!” he blurted. “Can you find another word?” I asked. “Ok,” Sid said. “How about “shoot?”. “That’s fine,” I replied. If you keep cussing it’ll be another grounding. “Grounding” at Holston means sitting alone at a table where you can read, write, color or draw without talking to any other kids as they play games or watch T.V. Sid was always grounded. In fact, his record was twelve hours without being grounded.

Later that evening Sid told me he was about to shoot himself.

“Are you thinking of killing yourself?” I asked completely forgetting our prior conversation.

“Blank No!… Remember? You told me to find another word.”

“Can you unlock the bathroom?”

Sid ran away for a second time a few days later.  We call it AWOL. The police brought him back in handcuffs a few hours later. He was cursing and spouting off about “swinging on staff” as soon as the cuffs were off. I guess he thought he sounded pretty tough even though he’d clearly been crying. The cops told us he’d surrendered when they threatened to release the dog. 

They thought that was pretty funny.

They didn’t have a dog. 

Every day I’d greet Sid with a smile and a hand on his shoulder.  “How ya doing Sid?” to which he’d reply,

“Blank you! You blanking blanker!!!”

“Sigh…That’s a restart on your grounding Sid.”

This went on for weeks. Every day I’d let Sid snap until he was tired of snapping which was usually when he fell asleep. I’d hold him accountable and give him every available consequence. I’d tell him he needed to stop proverbially blowing himself up – that threatening me amounted to him holding a gun to his head and screaming “stop or I’ll shoot!” But Sid didn’t care. At least that’s what he wanted us and maybe himself to believe. One day the Lord prompted me to stick my head in his room after he’d had a particularly rough phone call. He had at least three tears streaming down his face as I spoke.

“You don’t want to hear this now”, I began. “But let me just plant one seed. If you ever get tired of blowing yourself up and give your life to Jesus, that demon that is destroying your life will leave.”

“Hell yeah,” Sid said.

The next day I told Sid I loved him after he called me and other staff the usual slew of explicatives.  He finally laughed. 

“You really like the bad kids don’t you?”

“Hell yeah!”

Then one of Sid’s sidekicks, asked me if there is anything a kid could say or do that would make me hit them? 

“Absolutely not” I replied.

“Well…what if I hit your wife?” Sid grinned.

It was around that time that Sid started to open up about the most horrible trauma you can imagine.

“My mom is a whore.” he began. “One of her boyfriends was beating her up.  I thought he was gonna kill her.  So I grabbed a bat and beat his @$$! Then my mom called the police and pressed charges on me!”

Sid’s favorite aunt shot herself in the chest and bled out in front of him when he was 12. “I didn’t know what to do…” he said nearly crying before he could get his walls back up. Sid had concluded that not giving a “blank” is the key to survival. I told him that’s only true if you’re planning to do life in prison.

“That’s where I’m going,” he said.

Then a miracle happened.  Sid started saying “thank you” instead of “F-you” and “good night” instead of “Blank you mother blankers”. One day he stopped on his way to do his laundry, turned to me, and said,

“You know I could be a really good man if I changed.” 

If you don’t quit; you win. -Heidi Baker-

The next day Sid asked me a question. “Hey, Mr. Brian, ya know what you remind me of?” “What’s that Sid?” Given the previous night’s revelation, I was half expecting some genuine spiritual fruit.

“A Q-tip!” he cackled.

“I can see why you might say that” I laughed.

Sid’s shoulders sank as he walked away.

Then Sid tried to form a gang of other broken boys. He facilitated a classroom brawl and tried to lead a rebellion. In the end, they took him out in shackles and drove away.

One plants, one waters, but only God gives the increase. 1 Corinthians 3

I wept for Sid.

 The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.  2 Pet 3:15

One reason why I have such a heart for the Sids of the world is that they have had transparency imposed upon them. Their Sid reputations are fully documented often in a way that embellishes the bad. They don’t bother to pull punches in telling us the truth about what they think. Where others see a menace to society, I see budding apostle Pauls if the scales would fall from their eyes.

Hence when “F-you!” suddenly becomes “thank you” you can be fairly certain of genuine transformation.

We do a lot of things to facilitate transformation. At the end of the day, I suspect that one of the most significant ways a child encounters the Love of God at Holston is when we don’t beat the tar out of them when they do everything in their power to prove they are “Children appointed to wrath.” Ephesians 2:3. And while so many in our identity-focused culture recoil when I say that I work with Sids because,

I am Sid

Those who really know me know it’s true. The Sids of the world is what will keep me at Holston.

Any power or ability I may have to love is the fruit of my brokenness. Luke 7:47

My prayer is that the gift of repentance would fall as it did in H.A. Baker’s Visions Beyond the Veil. Still, the older I get, the more I am convinced that places to which God has us “GO” are more for our transformation than His need for us to accomplish His will. Those who proclaim they want “More! More! More!” – those truly called to the “deep that cries out to deep” will encounter, and become increasingly identified with the brokenness, and sorrow, of our Lord, not only His joy. Isaiah 53.

If this message resonates with your heart and you identify with the Sids of the world, then maybe give Able a call and he’ll point you in the right direction.

MARANATHA

The Ketchup of Jesus

Today is Halloween and I for one am cringing. The sheer number of professing Christians who believe they can sanctify the most culturally accepted and overtly Satanic Holiday on their ritual calendar is, in my view, insane. I know people who vehemently defend it as a cultural manifestation that should be honored. Nothing could be further from the truth. While names change according to time and culture, torture, sex and blood rituals, and human sacrifice have their roots in the worship of Baals and Belials of antiquity, the reason for God’s judgment of Israel in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk.

The “Harvest” that so many believe they are celebrating to supplant Halloween in Jesus’s name has nothing to do with Jesus. Its roots are found in a Druidic tradition whereby a human sacrifice would be offered and buried in a corn field to ensure a good corn Harvest. Ironically corn has almost no nutritional value and depletes the soil of nitrogen. Even more ironic is that so many shun God’s feasts first mentioned in Genesis 1:14 but embrace Halloween.

You can only argue on behalf of your confirmation and normalcy bias after reading this.

My former wife Jamie, now deceased, was a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse. While the so-called Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s has been conveniently dismissed as a conspiracy theory, she had childhood scars to prove it. For example, there were hundreds of scars up and down her back from a box cutter. They would cut her each time she screamed. I will spare you the more gory details of what she endured. You can ask me in person if you want to know more.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Ephesians 5:11-12

While I’m not going to write a dissertation on occult ritual abuse, I never would have believed it had I not lived with its consequences for more than a decade. There is a plethora of available info for those interested in the resulting trauma-induced mental illness on websites like The Insight Foundation. Suffice it to say that there are two schools of Satanism. The more contemporary and sensationalized Church of Satan is atheistic and mocks the idea of an actual being called the devil.

The other is theistic and knows the devil is real.

I’m writing this now because on this day I am reminded of how often we apply the Blood of Jesus like Ketchup to things that need to be crucified not sanctified.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

A lot of people will disagree but it seems to me that “being conformed to His image” involves constantly learning and coming to terms with just how miserably conformed I am to the world. It’s not a popular message. 

It was in the wilderness of foreign missions that Holy Spirit showed me how flippantly I had regarded the Blood of Jesus through which I am redeemed and afforded the opportunity to become a son. John 1:12-13 Instead of pursuing the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified in the fellowship of His sufferings, I had used it as a comforting condiment to justify and cover my petty worldly existence like ketchup on a really bad cheeseburger. I’d redacted the word of God to make it fit my normalcy and confirmation biases. I conformed it to fit my worldview instead of letting it conform me to the image of His son. I made excuses when brokenness and repentance were required. The process began in Africa, and Honduras and continues today. I call it peeling the onion of self. I know it was Holy Spirit, not just my discursive thought because the fear of God fell on me. The closest comparison I can find is what happened to the delinquent Chinese boys in H.A. Baker’s book Visions Beyond the Veil.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness… 1 Tim 4:7

Halloween is not a day for celebration. It is a day for which we need to repent on behalf of ourselves and our ancestors.

The blood of Jesus is not a condiment!

But don’t take my word for it. Our prayer is that people would take Halloween and their worldview before the Lord and scrutinize it through the lens of scripture like the noble Bereans in Acts 17:11.

Now, these Jews were nobler than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

MARANATHA!

Enantiodromia – In Jesus’s Name

Enantiodromia is a Greek word that means “running in opposite ways”. Its contemporary use began when Carl Jung coined it to describe the tendency of one extreme to give birth to its polar opposite. Enantiodromia is most easily depicted in a pendulum where the extent of one swing is largely determined by the extent of the previous one. We see it in history where uber-conservative societies become licentious and vice versa. Perhaps it is most evident in Christianity and politics, especially when the two are combined.

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” ECC 1:9

As I’ve said before, the mission field taught us a lot about the goodness and faithfulness of God amdist life-threatening situations and everything in the natural going wrong, amidst all of our earthly expectations being unfulfilled. We have come to understand that suffering is and always has been the norm for most of the world. Now we are in Greeneville Tennessee ministering to equally broken people and the as of yet unbroken one percent

whom God loves as much as the other ninety-nine.

We have found the tribulation of Rom 5:1-5 and the patience of James 1:1-4  to be vital in our understanding of the word of God and God’s ultimate plan. We have purposed to walk all of this out in the context of Prov 3:5-8. God always provided exactly what we needed to survive despite our not having a paycheck for 6 years. He guided us to whom we should serve and provided for them too. He will continue to provide because

He is the provider.

The proverbial midnight hour is His favorite time to come through.

We have learned the “name it and claim it” prosperity theme that undergirds so much of contemporary theology often results in confusion and frustration because people ask amiss that they may spend it on their pleasures James 4:2-4. That might be a hard word for those who have never experienced the conditions in which the majority of His bride currently resides. We have seen a similar error in gluttony for signs, wonders, and demonstrations of power. I sometimes wonder; is it unbelief or are people just bored with T.V.? Jesus did not come to entertain us. He came to destroy the works of the enemy. Interestingly He was rebuking the Pharisees  when he  declared “a wicked and perverse generation seeks after a sign.” Later in the same chapter, He warned about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees who in addition to being the religious leaders of the day were also opposing, political factions. It was amidst this political and religious division that the Sons of Zaddock set themselves apart from the leavenous religious and political turmoil to preserve the genuine Jewish calendar and scriptures at Qumran.

Qumran

We have learned that the purpose of prayer is for us to align with God’s will – not to align His will with ours. We have learned that His will is best even when it seems to fail in our eyes and external circumstances appear tragic. We have learned that His will has little if anything to do with our comfort in this life, that earthly comfort and prosperity are incidental to His purpose.

Tribulation is not.

We have learned that the Christian walk is NOT about OUR blessing. It is a stripping away of our self-centered desire to be blessed. It is a 1 Corinthians 3:15 burning up our cravings and fluff. A Heb 12:27 shaking of our silly significance, self-image, performances, facades, and narcissism to reveal the Romans 7:24 body of death that hangs around all of our necks for which God gave His only begotten Son so that all who believe would be saved and walk in Romans 8:1-4 freedom.

We have come to understand that our life is not about OUR identity.

It’s about His. Col 3:3

Today we look at ourselves in the mirror and see that much dross remains, much that needs to be stripped, much in us that still needs to die. This dying is a vital step in our continued healing. James wrote “let patience have her perfect work so you may be complete desiring nothing”, ‘Nothing’ is mēdeísdesiring nobody, nothing. Not one man or woman or anything. We understand that this makes zero sense to those who presume to teach and promise prosperity, justice, and Heaven on earth now. It’s a genuine paradox until we take that first step in obedient faith. We have friends whom we deeply love and who insist on preaching these very things that we have already obediently rejected – the things that Jesus rejected. Luke 14:26. As scary, enigmatic, and lonely as this sounds it is not because He doesn’t want us to have anyone or anything. Rather He wants His desires to become our desires. Psalm 37:4 He wants to give us everything – to have what He has. He can’t do that if our hearts, and minds, are full of our own cravings, and ideas about how things ought to be.

His will won’t be done in our lives if we are fighting Jesus in Jesus’s name.

The Pendulum

People often cite Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses in 1571 as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Yet the English Reformation preceded it by 40 years when Mary Queen of Scots, a devout Catholic, began ordering the deaths of hundreds of protestant heretics in Jesus’s name.

Mary Queen of Scots

John Hooper the Bishop of Gloucester was among the first. The queen somewhat graciously offered Hooper a pardon provided he would publicly recant his anti-Catholic views. He refused and was sentenced to be burned at the stake. As the story goes, high winds on the day of his execution made it hard to get a suitable fire started and only Hooper’s legs and groin were burned.  One might think he’d have been tempted to change his mind and recant. Instead, he cried out,

“For the love of God, good people, let me have more fire!”

Hooper defiantly beat his chest until his arm fell off. He did the same with the other until it also fell off.

His hair burned, his eyes melted and he died.

So much for John 13:35

Eventually, these stubborn Hooper-inspired reformers prevailed and became the dominant political force under Queen Elizabeth, a devout Protestant, and the Church of England was born. Ironically, this new and allegedly doctrinally sound church held onto some Catholic traditions like “vestments” (Priestly garb) along with some other liturgical traditions. Some believers became incensed. They saw it as clear evidence that the spirit of the antichrist was in their midst. So, they split from the apostate Church of England, and the Puritan or the “Precisionist” movement was born. The Church of England’s clergy were quite offended of course. And it didn’t take long for the very people who had survived Mary’s reign of terror to begin arresting, jailing, torturing, hanging, drawing, quartering, castrating, and disemboweling their Puritan brethren

in Jesus’s name.

Some fled to Amsterdam in 1608 where the Lutheran Reformation was in full swing and the myriad core protestant denominations were formed. Among these were my own ancestors, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins who eventually left for the New World on the Mayflower. John Alden was among the men who signed the Mayflower Compact. He served as assistant governor of the Plymouth colony from 1631 until his death in 1687.

He persecuted Quakers and Baptists in Jesus’s name.

Two years ago Amos 3:7 was foundational for those wanting to believe in a God-ordained, prophetically declared election outcome.

“For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.”

Agreed!

Ironically the book of Amos tells the story of Israel falling into idolatry and hypocrisy during a time of political stability and prosperity.  While there is no doubt that Donald Trump was elected according to God’s will in 2016, the same biblical principle applies to the election of Joe Biden in 2020 because

God (not man) establishes Kings

Meanwhile, we have learned that the enemy uses human things to pervert God’s things and God’s things to make the enemy’s things look Godly. Mat 10:16

If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue, for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.

Milo Yiannopoulos Bathes in Pig’s Blood at First Conservative Pro-Trump Art Show

The inane politicization of the Christian faith has always resulted in absurd, blasphemous and sometimes dangerous theology. It always has and always will divide the body of Christ from Him and each other. Each swing of the pendulum produces more Mary Queens of Scots and John Hoopers. At best we will remain divided until we realize that we are one body, one bride united in the same mind and same judgment that He intends to make spotless and that His Kingdom is as Jesus clearly stated,

“Not of this world.John 18:36

If it were His disciples would have fought and killed for it as when 1000 Sicarii Jewish Patriots tried and failed to make Israel great again at Masada in 73 AD. Most of them ended up killing their wives and children and then themselves rather than surrender.

Hence we are told to forgive and pray for our enemies, not kill them. Jesus came to conquer sin and death, to transform individual hearts and minds, not governments. He came to conform us to the image of His Son.

That Image is not an American

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth, I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Acts 10:34-35

It occurred to me as I traveled to so many places on the mission field that at any time my government could label the people I served as enemies and my children could be sent to kill them. My grandmother was a missionary in China and left just before the Japanese invaded.

Today we have Christian Nationalists prepping to fight China or Russia. Meanwhile, I live in a Tennessee county that was divided during the Civil War. Today Christian Nationalists and Marxian Leftists are discussing the likleyhood of yet another one to be fought in Jesus’s name. At some point, the body of Christ needs to own the hypocrisy of singing “God Bless America” while cheering the bombing of His people to hell in Jesus’s name. Like it or not we were not given the ministry of political transformation. We are given 2 Corinthians 5 ministry of reconciliation.

In Jesus’s name

Today the Church has so many false gospel flavors that align with what entitled itching ears want to hear. We have the left-wing WOKE gospel with its neo-Marxist roots. We have the right-wing replacement theology that makes the church into God’s chosen over the rejected Jews and the USA into Jerusalem. We have Christian nationalism and progressive Christianity that mix the aspects above in varying degrees. There are Christian witches and New-Age Christians. We have Interfaith, Chrislam, and the Perennialism of Oprah and Richard Rohr. We have a prosperity gospel, grave sucking and canceling racism by the authority of Gandalf. We have the Vatican siding with globalists, validating the New Age and denying the existence of Hell. We even have emerging AI Christians ready to evangelize those worshiping an AI God in the metaverse. Instead of screening our views in accordance with Paul’s warning in Galatians 1:8-9, we divide ourselves based on our subjective opinions of how the world ought to be and the resulting constructs of God’s and our identities.

Today a few of the previously fervent “Trump prophets” are saying that Trump lost in 2020 because America and especially God’s people did not turn from their 2 Chron 7:14 wicked ways. Maybe it’s just me but I really didn’t need a prophet to tell me that. God has always given a nation its leaders based on the righteousness of the people.

2 Chron 7:14 has always applied to God’s people first even though we often apply it to everyone but ourselves.

He will heal our land if we repent.

Repentance for the body of Christ begins with asking ourselves, “Is Jesus being lifted up, or is someone else being glorified in His name?”  “Am I really praying “Thy will be done”? or do I want my will done in Jesus’s name? Are we being led by Holy Spirit as we mediate on God’s word? Or are we being led by books written and promoted by celebrity pulpits? Do we believe what God has already said?

Or do we believe God changes in accordance with what we want to hear?

We have justified our blood-thirsty patriotism with our opposition to abortion. We pointed the finger and demanded repentance from those who don’t even know Jesus. Now we cheer over the repeal of Roe V Wade. But Roe V Wade never was a law. Neither is its repeal. It has only clarified the division between those who would never choose abortion and those who always will. Meanwhile, we remain one nation under God, subject to His discipline in Jesus’s name.

As a nation, we are perverting the Imago Dei by sexualizing children, normalizing paraphilias, and following the exact path of reprobates whom Paul described in Rom 1:18-32 and Jeremiah rebuked for 40 years. We shake our heads and roll our eyes in disgust when we learn that some schools in the so-called Bible belt provide litter boxes for kids who identify as “Furries” and send our kids back to school the next day.

Our silence about the hard things guards our comfort. Our willingness to cheer others who contend with evil preserves our vicarious self-righteousness.  

We sing and pray and cry out for revival but we won’t sweep the leaven from His temple and our own lives. We are far too concerned with preserving our grandiose illusions about our identities. We won’t allow, let alone invite God to search and try us so we can truly heal. If we are biblically literate and even a little honest we see that the USA fits the type and shadow of Ninevah in the Book of Nahum or maybe Babylon in Revelation 18.

We’d rather imagine ourselves as a repentant Israel under Cyrus in Isaiah 45.

While I wish him no harm, and might even vote for him if he runs again, I often wonder if God won’t take Donald Trump out completely for the sake of His biblically confounded bride. That so many continue to proclaim any political party or candidate as a fulfillment of the gospel of the Kingdom is absurd. What frustrates me most is that political leaven is just one of many reasons why our witness is so powerless and that only 6% of Americans today have a biblical word view. It is why the left correlates Christians with Nazis, atheists call us crazy,

And young believers deconstruct in droves.

Listen, I have no issue with those who want to improve our country and way of life. After all, God calls both politicians and plumbers. I happen to think plumbers are more valuable and honorable. But if politics is your call then go for it. I do have a problem with those who believe the Bible and God’s plan are about MAGA, Social Justice, or any other false gospel. Those who would question or mock my political atheism should consider Galatians 1:8-9 and maybe do a word study on “accursed” – Anathema

Our experience on the mission field and countless others like us is proof that God is true to His word, that the true Gospel is the only answer for humanity and He preserves us in accordance with His will despite external circumstances. The abundant life is found in deliverance from all that holds us captive, Luke 4:18, the wounds that cause us to devour one another in Jesus’s name. Psalm 147:3 That abundance often comes with repentance amidst tremendous suffering and loss. Those who insist on fighting an earthy battle in the flesh, against the flesh for their best life now may soon find themselves fighting against God Himself in Jesus’s name. These will almost certainly be caught in a snare. Luke 21:35 What do you think? Will we learn from the past and repent before it’s too late? Will they know us by our endurance and love? Or will there be more John Hoopers before we are done? Mathew 10:16-18

Enantiodromia

Get off the pendulum.

Obey His Word In Jesus’s Name John 13:35

Maranatha!

New Wine

“In the crushing, in the pressing, you are making new wine.” – Hillsong Worship-

So we made it to Greeneville Tennessee, a place that five months ago we didn’t even know existed when God so clearly called us here.  Everything that could have and should have gone wrong during our transition didn’t. Every good thing that shouldn’t happen so easily did. We are now living in the friendliest place I’ve been to date.  Even the most menial, and in my case, normally irritating tasks like getting the water turned on and opening a bank account turned out to be the most fun I have had in a while.  The bank was the best because they served gourmet chocolate chip cookies and coffee. I know. I’m like a little kid. The point is we are adjusting remarkably well. Still, there are periodic reminders that I am still in the process of reentry from the mission field. 

Yesterday I finally realized that “Ingles” is not a Hispanic store for English speakers. 

Holston Home where I now work is one of the most incredible places I’ve been.  It began as an orphanage over one hundred years ago.  Today it is a place of healing for traumatized children and sometimes their families.  It’s a job for which I am particularly qualified. Not because of my professional counseling background but rather because each day that I work I come face to face with my broken teenage self who grew up to become an even more broken parent and eventually healed.

Those who regularly read these posts know my walk with the Lord began in jail.  What many don’t know is that my former wife also went to jail and our two children went into foster care.  My ex-wife was released before me and so the kids went home with her. But she was broken beyond repair.  I was told that the court wanted to place the kids with me but I wouldn’t be out for another year.  One day, I was summoned to the guard shack.  My lawyer was on the phone.  She told me that something horrific had happened to my children as a result of my ex-wife’s lifestyle and acquaintances. The courts wanted to terminate her parental rights but according to the law, they could not terminate one parent’s rights without terminating both. I realized at that moment that there was only one way to end the cycle. 

I told my lawyer to terminate my parental rights. 

It was ten years before I heard of their whereabouts.  Needless to say, I paid a huge emotional price and I questioned my decision through the years. Today my daughter is married with a son and works as a manager for an import-export company.  Last I heard my son builds cellos for a living, is studying pre-med, and has a girlfriend he loves. 

My ex-wife died as a result of IV drug use. 

I’m not sure if the Lord brought me to Holston Home because I know what it means to be broken like the children here or because I was broken like their parents.

Maybe it’s both.

The boys with whom I work like that I’m a former Marine, especially those that need to borrow my self-control. That’s code for physical restraint. I guess it’s cooler to be taken down by an Ex-Marine than a five-foot female.

Of course, that is also a key to what ails them.

We got COVID shortly after returning to Kauai from Honduras and I took it like a hardcore former Marine who knows how to stuff any and everything he feels. I even interviewed for my current position at its peak. I felt horrible.

“If you like me now, you’ll really like me without COVID!” I joked via Whatsapp

The qualifying question during the interview seemed to be “how would you react if a kid called you every name in the book?” I said something to the effect of

“Why I’d feel right at home.”

Humor has always been a key to my resilience. But perhaps you see the connection between that and what ails the boys.  

It was 4 am in Hawaii and near the end of my bout with COVID.  I was sitting in a recliner because it hurt too much to stay in bed. My fever was breaking and I was getting the chills.  The temperature outside was 70 degrees.  I was bundled up in sweat pants and a thick hoody under a comforter but I just couldn’t get warm. I was shivering and shaking.

Sometimes it takes a physical affliction to disarm us and reveal more truth. 

All at once, I was 15 again, the same age as my grandson Elijah, the same age as the hurt broken boy I recently “lent my self-control”.  It was Christmas Day 1979. I’d been living alone in a house with three finished walls and no heat.  It was minus twenty degrees outside and maybe 20 degrees inside. Everyone in town knew my situation but no one said anything, let alone did anything. I became the “bad kid” that everyone wanted to keep their kids away from lest I corrupt them. Now I was a lonely kid under a blanket, desperately trying to keep warm. I remember trying to be tough – trying to be hard as I strengthened the imaginary armor I’d created to protect me from a brutal world. I stoked the fires of my anger as I very intentionally transformed all my grief into rage. Anger became the energy source that kept me warm and safe. I would eventually use that anger to throw my father through a wall when he showed up and took a swing at me during an argument.

I began shivering and sobbing like a little child in the recliner. I tried to choke back the tears at first but I’ve learned through the years to let the tears flow when they come. I must have been pretty loud because I woke Cathy up and soon she was by my side holding me and weeping with me as I choked out the memory between sobs.  The connection was made, we prayed. Healing came with a deeper revelation of why we were going to Tennessee.

I sometimes joke that most kids run away from their parents but I was so bad that my parents ran away from me. Sometimes it’s genuine humor.  Most times it’s a sign of some residual armor that needs to be stripped away and tossed. That’s just part of the continued process of sanctification as we are being conformed to the image of Christ. The fact is that I was a deeply hurt and broken child well into adulthood.

There’s no room for armor and false pretenses in the Christian walk.

To this day I don’t really know, let alone understand what happened to my parents – to my family apart from generations of bitterness and unforgiveness.  I once asked my dad as an adult, if there was one thing about his life that he could go back and change; what would that be?  “I wouldn’t have had ” F-ing” kids!” he replied. 

“You guys ruined my marriage.”

I love my dad. He died several years ago. I got the call while leading a middle school process group of 13 and 14-year-old boys.  Ironically they were complaining about their fathers.  “What’s wrong Mr. Gray?” they asked as I hung up the phone. “My dad just died,” I replied.

The therapeutic poignance was deafening. 

It’s both fascinating and faith-building to watch the Lord direct my steps and turn even the hardest, most hurtful things into pure gold. I hope you can see that and don’t give way to sadness or worse – pity as you read.  Compassion literally means “to suffer with”. It is the ability to identify with and join in the suffering of others. Compassion is the fruit of suffering from which the world tells us to flee. 

Compassion is what qualifies us to participate in God’s plan.

It was about a week after my COVID-ridden interview that I started thinking about my old childhood friend Craig Hammerly. “That’s weird,” I thought. I hadn’t thought of him for years.  Craig was the unauthorized friend with whom I used to play in the woods between our houses when we were 6 or 7 years old. I say “unauthorized” because Craig was that “bad kid”.  My mother forbade our friendship. So I’d grab my Tonka dump truck, excavator, and matchbox cars and meet Craig secretly to play.  Craig didn’t have any toys so it was up to me.  I remember I’d always be trying to build something. Craig just wanted to crash the race cars into the Tonka trucks and destroy everything. It was kind of irritating but I rolled with it. Craig lived alone with his grandfather. Rumor had it that he “did things to Craig” – the kind of things that people didn’t talk about let alone do anything about.  Craig got held back and we grew apart by the time I was in the third grade.  Soon he became the school bully that everyone was afraid to fight. Craig couldn’t read but he sure knew how to punch. Elementary school mythology had it that “he’d knocked out a high school kid in a fight. Heck, even the teachers were afraid of him.” His identity became the kid who could beat up anyone – except maybe his grandfather. Craig moved away sometime before the 6th grade and I never heard of him after. It seemed kind of random that I’d feel prompted to look him up on the internet after 50 years. But there he was. His picture was all over the internet. It was no surprise when I learned that Craig, who called himself Damien Knight had been on drugs and in and out of jail for most of his life.  He’d just been arrested again a week or so before.

Craig beat his roommate to death with his fists

Maybe you come from one of those miraculously functional families that loved Jesus and each other. Maybe you are cringing or weeping as you read this. Maybe you’re scratching your head and trying to make sense of seemingly disconnected albeit traumatic data points. Maybe you just think I’m crazy. Or maybe you recognize that “there but for the grace of God go I”. One of the many ways that God speaks to us in and through the circumstances of our own lives – past and present. When I look at Craig I see myself minus Jesus. There’s no going back for guys like Craig and me only forward. But maybe I can help boys – boys like we once were to choose a different path. What I know for sure is that I had no idea why God told us to move to Greeneville Tennesee. It was such a blind leap of faith that part of me questioned my hearing at times. Today it is clear what God is doing or at least what he’s continuing to do in my life. It’s what He’s always been doing. He’s crushing and pressing.

He’s making new wine.

I don’t know what Craig’s future holds. I do know that with God all things are possible. I know that God used prison to save my eternal life and begin the transformation that resulted in the wild adventure that is my life today. Of course, I didn’t know it at first. I know the goal is to count it all joy in the midst of trials and testing. But let’s face it. The crushing and pressing hurts and all we want to do at first is to make it stop. Most of us are doing well if we can count it all to joy to have passed through them. Still, every day I am excited to see what God weaves in and through my life and where he places me as a living stone fitly framed in His house. I hope you can do the same.

I pray Craig can do the same.

Maranatha.

What Will You Bring?

James 4:14

It’s been more than three years since I’ve been back home to Kauai and just over two for Cathy. We’ve made the journey twice in the last five years. This has been the longest period we’ve been away from

Home?

I used a question mark because on one hand, I have no permanent home, not on earth anyway. On the other anywhere I lay my head is home.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

Our friend Nick Franks who runs, among other projects, the Into The Pray podcast and Fire Brand Notes blog out of Edinburgh Scotland with his wife Mairi recently asked us a poignant question. It was in the context of a conversation about our coming out of the literal and proverbial wilderness.

What will you bring with you?”

I didn’t have an answer. The question hasn’t left me and I’ve tried to answer it several times since arriving on Kauai.

Transition will do that…

It’s been over five and a half years since we stepped out of the confines of careers and the comfort of regular family and social life in pursuit of an obscure calling to deny self and pick up a Cross that we barely understand. We chose a life of relative poverty to love God and others. We did our best to stay connected with the past as Facebook likes and comments waned with prior illusions of intimacy. Some family and friends resented our decision and wrote us off completely. Others dismissed us on theological grounds. Soon no one seemed to notice that we were gone. It was in many ways a foreshadowing of our eventual transition from life on earth. Some call it death. We have experienced many deaths. I’m not whining or being melodramatic. Most people never have the opportunity to apprehend the superficial and vaporous nature of all they hold dear in this world.

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14

We’d entered as sojourning strangers into strange lands. I went with childish dreams of improving the vapor in His name. Little did I know that I was being sent to serve for my sake more than anyone I aimed to fix. We aimed for love, community, and impact. We landed in the depths of loneliness and at times despair. Again and again, we came to the end of ourselves and found that

This is where Jesus resides. Isaiah 53:3

Here in the vapor buildings crumble, farms decay and human bodies do the same. Meanwhile, God whispers as He builds His house from His throne in eternity. You don’t have to travel to the third world to find the wilderness and the truth it reveals. But it’s a whole lot easier to find it and abide in it there. Perhaps the biggest difference between the wilderness in the first world and that of the third is in the number of anesthetizing distractions. Most people choose anesthesia where it’s available.

One thing is certain.

It’s harder to hear His voice on Kauai. That may sound counterintuitive if you are prone to confusing the creation with its creator. Most everyone arrives here in what I call the Garden of Eden 2.0 with fairytale expectations of encountering some transcendent peace in its sunsets, rainbows, and waterfalls.

Today the irony of the life I left behind seems clearer than ever.

I keep asking people here about their endgame.

It occurs to me as I emerge from the wilderness and step into the land of Netflix and retail that a vast amount of human labor, what I call “monetized life” in the first world involves insuring our comfort against “the fellowship of His suffering”. There’s car insurance, home insurance, flood insurance, fire insurance, medical insurance and medical savings accounts in case we don’t have enough insurance. There is dental insurance, and life insurance, and unemployment insurance to ensure we don’t lose our insurance if we lose our income. We insure ourselves against future suffering with Social Security insurance then insure ourselves against the failure or inadequacy of that insurance with IRAs, and 401Ks. Everyone knows we will need to supplement our Medicare and Medicaid insurance with private medical insurance. We buy identity theft insurance to ensure no one steals our insurance. We purchase security systems and fire alarms. We buy organic vitamins, supplements, food, and water filters. We invest in exercise memberships and equipment, heart monitors, Fitbits and weight loss plans to ensure we don’t use our insurance before we get to enjoy the fruits of it for ten or fifteen years. We call this retirement. It is the ultimate goal of human life. When the appointed day of our death, the existence of which we’ve done all we can to deny finally arrives, someone else takes the proceeds of our insurance and buys insurance for themselves.

It would be comedic if weren’t tragic.

Meanwhile, eternity continues and God builds His house.  1 Cor 3:9, 1Pet 2:5

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

The inherent narcissism that plagues all of fallen humanity in varying degrees tends to block the realization that our compliance or defiance has zero effect on the final accomplishment of His will. Our participation in His plan is a wonderful and sacred privilege for us not a necessity for Him. That’s a hard red pill for anyone bent on fixing the vapor in His name. At the end of the day, our only real hope for finding meaning, and purpose as we sojourn through the vapor is to learn to abide in Jesus. We do or we produce more rags that endear us to the world. Isaiah 64, Rom 3

Yearning for Jesus is what causes us to abide. We don’t truly yearn until we realize that nothing in ourselves and the world suffices.

So much of our missionary journey has consisted of learning this.

So what do I bring?

“A whole lot less than what I left with.” is my first response. You might think people would be interested in the lessons we’ve learned in the context of a life lived in a manner so foreign to that in the US and especially Hawaii. Yeah well…not so much. I’m not shocked or offended. It’s just an observation. COVID fear, or should I say terror has wreaked havoc on the souls of people in pursuit of worldly bliss. Six years ago I’d think twice before going into the local Walmart. “Did I really have time to negotiate the gauntlet of conversation in every aisle?” Walmart was a community meeting place and “talking story” was a cultural expectation. Only “haoles” (foreigners) ignore the presence of others. Ironically “haole” means “without breath”. According to Hawaiian lore, the spirit is in the breath. Anyway, need bread and milk? Make sure you have at least an hour. That’s how it used to be. This time I went with the sole purpose of seeing who I might see. I was pretty excited after three years. No one even looked me in the eye. They just scurried along with zombified stares. One woman stopped short as she entered an aisle in which I stood alone. She sighed and appeared rather flustered before turning around and choosing an empty aisle.

It seems she was afraid to share the space.

A few weeks ago I got to share at Puka’s Ministries. “Puka” means “hole” in Hawaiian. In this case, it refers to the piercing in Jesus’s hands, feet, and side, that He endured for our transgressions. Services are held under a tarp across from the beach. It’s how Cathy and I always thought church should be done on Kauai. I mean why does any church need a building with a sixteen thousand dollar per month rent bill or an eight hundred thousand dollar mortgage? There are plastic chairs, the kind that guys like me need to be careful lest we lean back and they break. There’s a make-shift plywood stage and the dirt floor turns to mud when it rains. There are two porta-potties across the field and they serve a free lunch after the service. If nothing else you will know Puka’s by their love. The worship leader and Pastor are old friends and supporters of ours. They are familiar with brokenness. Hence, their ministry is mainly to the broken. “A broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart, God will not despise”. You won’t find a better church on the island. There are former inmates, addicts, jail guards, rag-tag surfers, homeless, and successful business people who might not seem as familiar with brokenness. Their humility tells a different story. I showed our most recent video that no one could see due to the glare of the morning sun. We tried to cover the gaps between tarps with a blanket to block the light. But to no avail. So I began with my own broken roots to include addiction and jail lest anyone be tempted to place the visiting missionary on a pedestal. I spoke about missions, God’s call, ongoing repentance, and the obedience that is the antidote to fear. I felt like a river overflowing its banks. Cathy said she’d never heard me speak so fast and…so scattered.

“Next time slow down and maybe say less.” She said.

I realized as I began that I am an overfilled wineskin ready to burst. I probably sounded like a machine gun. Turns out the answer to Nick’s question is

“apparently a whole lot more than I can share in forty-five minutes.”

In addition to bursting at the seams, the Lord has given me a renewed love and burden for the Bride of Christ. That might sound strange if you are a regular reader of mine.

We’ve been out on the fringes alone, forerunning and pursuing the Lord and His most lost sheep for so very long that we figured the wilderness was our one and only calling. But then I have always said that Psalm 37:4 “Delight your self in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart” is not about us getting what we want as much as it is about Him placing His desires in us. It’s as surprising to us as it is to anyone that He would be calling us back with a renewed passion for a ragtag blemished harlot destined to become a spotless bride.

It was only in October that we were looking at the condition of the United States and the blatant apostasy in so much of the church and saying,

“We don’t know if we even want to visit again!”

Still, I think it was Augustin who wrote, “The church is a whore but she’s my mother.” Hosea married a whore named Gomer. She was a type and shadow of Israel and the contemporary church.

Alas a man makes his plans but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

This past November we were sitting on a rock by our blessed river – the one into which the landslide fed our home and all our worldly possessions exactly a year before. The waters of our preservation and our stripping had remained our most sacred place to worship and pray. It flowed onward unimpeded in spite of us like the days of our lives. Bits and pieces of roof and fluorescent yellow flooring were strewn all around us. And God spoke. Cathy and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes and simultaneously said,

“We have to go back.”

It was just like the moment in December 2015 when we stood on opposite sides of our bed in Kauai, looked at each other, and simultaneously said,

“It’s time.”

We thought we were headed directly to Honduras. Ten months later we were in mission school in Africa.

Anytime God moves us He reserves the right to change the course and direction. Understanding this would save more than a few from the snare of offense.

We arrived back on Kauai on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, and started our ten-day quarantine. Ironically the department of health official at the airport seemed to think she’d busted us for having a fraudulent COVID test. “She’s the type that will be guarding the camps,” Cathy said. We went out once or twice after quarantine and immediately got COVID. “Praise God!” Cathy exclaimed. That’s a blog in itself. The point here is that it was during that time that God guided us and repeatedly confirmed that He was sending us to Greenville TN.

Why Tennessee?

We’d replied to a call for help by Will Hart on the IRIS Global alumni Facebook page. IRIS runs the mission school we attended in Pemba Mozambique. The more we learned about what God is doing in Greeneville the clearer the vision became. I should also point out the fact that the growing clarity followed our decision to be obedient. Lord willing and unless something radically changes, I will be working at the Holston United Methodist Home for children. My role will be similar to the one I had as a counselor at Hina Mauka Teen CARE on Kauai. The difference is that discipleship is the goal instead of the risk I faced in a public school setting. I will have ten to twelve boys to disciple. In addition, the unlikely partnership between a charismatic ministry like IRIS with a United Methodist Church and a 100-year-old children’s home seems proof enough that God is disrupting what Nick calls the “denominational maze”. We aren’t sure exactly what Cathy will be doing. But I suspect it will involve stopping for the one and maybe some involvement with the equine therapy they do at the school. We are excited.

Still, the transition is bittersweet.

Our tears at the river were partly a result of the fulfillment of our faithful waiting in the wilderness with no visible direction other than to put one foot in front of the other and trust God. They flowed because of His love and faithfulness. They flowed because we are leaving the people we have grown to love as our family.

I married Josh and Paulet in 2018 and they have joined the ranks of our many adopted spiritual children. We planted and watered. Now it’s time for God to give the increase as only He can. We had waited and trusted and waited some more and never gave in to the confusion the enemy tried so hard to sow into our lives and our marriage. Trials that are known to destroy marriages on the mission field only brought us closer together. We came out more solid and more in love with God and each other than ever before. I am more in love with and mesmerized by my bride today than on the day we first met. She only becomes more radiant and beautiful as the years pass by like the rushing waters of our river in Cerro Azul.

I think the Lord may be trying to tell me something about His own passionate love for His bride.

If you haven’t seen it yet, our final video is posted below. It begins with our rehabbing the 380 sqft cabin in Cerro Azul and ends with its destruction in the landslide. The shots of the people in between are a window into the lives and souls of the Honduran people we have grown to love so very much. We will continue to glean the lessons the Lord taught us through them for years to come. We remain part of Hope In Time Ministries and will help Josh and Paulet. We will continue to serve on the board and I will help with the website and newsletter. We will visit Honduras again as soon as we can. Who knows? Perhaps one day we’ll bring teams of kids from Tennessee.

Thank you.

We would like to thank all of our supporters through the years and especially our four monthly supporters. We could not have done it without you! We never did much in terms of raising money for ourselves and we never asked you for money. Instead each and every one of you heard from the Lord and came through at the midnight hour. Not only did you help us financially but you each played a major role in the growing of our faith. That you heard so clearly from the Lord about our need should build your faith as well. Those who donated immediately after the landslide saved our lives, our mission, and countless Honduran families in the aftermath of two back-to-back Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

We are eternally grateful.

That said, I will be archiving the Gray Hope Donorbox campaign at the end of February. Monthly donors will receive a “donation failed” message after that. You don’t need to do anything other than mark it as spam to avoid receiving the same email each month. Those donating directly to Hope In Time will remain unaffected. If anyone feels led by the Lord to support our transition to our next mission you can click here; Gray Hope Missionaries before our departure to Tennessee on February 28th, 2022. Thank you again for laying down your monetized lives here on earth for the sake of the Gospel and our mission to the people of Honduras. We love you and may God bless you. We pray that you know the peace that surpasses all understanding that we have come to know so well in this season.

MARANATHA!

CRT Genealogy and Scripture Rebuttal

I just had my first experience being interviewed by my friend Nick Franks on the Into the Pray Podcast. Cathy said I stuttered a lot. I blame cognitive gridlock. CRT is a rabbit hole with more detours than the one Alice took to Wonderland.  The final destination is at least as crazy. I figure some people need some white noise (Pun intended) to help calm themselves down. Others need to check themselves before they wreck themselves…ETERNALLY. You can listen on Apple, Spotify, Google, and anyplace else where older, cisgender, Christian, patriarchal, colonizing, white males are still permitted to speak.

I have written several blogs on the subject of Critical Theories, the WOKE movment and Christianity. While not exhaustive, this outline highlights what I view as major turning points in the evolution of the current cultural Marxist Revolution that is upon us today. It is intended as a reference for more extensive research on the part of concerned Biblically sound Christians with a desire and calling to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”. It will be utterly useless in the hands of anyone devoid of the fear of God and a clear comprehension of Paul’s warning concerning any other gospel in Galatians 1:8-9

What is commonly known as Critical Race Theory, the philosophical backdrop of the Woke / social justice movement is not new.  It is a mutation of an opportunistic virus created by Satan when he rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven. It is rooted in pride and defines everything related to humanity in terms of power. Narcissism is it’s food. Just as the Bible gives us genealogies that show the origins of peoples and ideas culminating with the birth of Jesus, so does CRT have a genealogy that culminates with the current destruction of western civilization and especially the Church as we have known it until today. The list of Bible verses at the end is intended to help you frame a solid 1 Pet 3:15 apologia regarding God’s view of humanity.

The beginning

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Gen 3:1

The history of man has been one of rebellion against God ever since. It is marked by cycles of blessing, ingratitude, entitlement, rebellion and captivity.

Our current cycle begins here.

The following timeline and descriptions are not exhaustive. They are intended as tools to help those interested narrow the focus of their research.

1789-99 Rousseau – egalitarianism – French Revolution

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was an 18th Century Philosopher who proposed Egalitarianism as a solution to society’s problems. It was framed by the idea that 1. A social utopia was possible. Think “Build Back Better”. 2. This would require a dismantling of all social institutions that got in the way. 3. Once established, a temporary totalitarian government would be required to maintain the new utopia by force.  Egalitarianism helped to fuel the French Revolution.

1830-40 Friedrich Hegel a contemporary of Rousseau is most famous for what is known today as the Hegelian  Dialectic where the thesis conflicts with antithesis to form a synthesis. This is the root of “Dialectal Materialism” that is foundational to Marxist philosophy. The Hegelian Dialectic is a foundation for “discourse” in CRT and the principle of the “problem-reaction-solution” model employed by all totalitarian regimes to gain and maintain control. Hegel is important to the extent that he inspired Marx.

1848 Karl Marx published his renowned Communist Manifesto.  While classical Marxism is economically based whereby a violent overthrow of the capitalist class by the working class was viewed as inevitable.  However, Marx did not account for the fact that while the rich indeed got richer, the poor got richer too.  The takeaway from Marxism that still applies today is conflict theory.  Critical Theories are just rebranded Marxism in that the economic, “oppressor versus oppressed” as a conflict generator is replaced by race and gender.  Hence the term “Cultural Marxism”.

1911 Chinese Revolution

Russian Communist Revolution 1917

American Communist Party forms 1919

1929 – 1935 Antonio Gramsci who was imprisoned by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was the first to define socialism as a religion and stated “socialism is precisely the religion that must kill Christianity.” He is best known for his Prison Notebooks that inspired future critical theorists and formed the basis for the theory of hegemony whereby instead of a violent and bloody revolution Marxist goals could be achieved through institutional manipulation and coercion via institutions like media, religion, and education. His socialist religion was rooted in “trust in man and his best strengths as the sole spiritual reality.” 

1923 Frankfurt School of Economics is formed and Critical Theory is born in 1937. Theodore Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse were Marxists whose goal was to rethink and rebrand Marxism that had thus far failed to produce the projected utopian society.

Adorno believed that the authoritarian personality is the result of Capitalism, Christianity, Conservatism, The Patriarchal family, and Sexual repression.

Horkheimer took Critical Theory from being an analytical tool to one of implementing social change.

Marcuse was perhaps the most classically Marxist of the three and proposed that certain ideas, speech, behaviors, etc. must be disallowed. It could be argued that Marcuse is father of the current “Cancel Culture”.

1945-52 Chinese Communist Revolution

1960 Students for a Democratic Society, later became The Weather Underground.  Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorn participated in multiple bombings in the 1960s and ’70s. Both got off on a technicality. The concern over communism grew during these years. While conservatives went into government, law enforcement and the military to counter the threat, Marxists like Bill Ayers went into education to advance their agendas.  Bill Ayers specialized in curriculum.

1963 undercover FBI agent Cleon Skousen presents a 45 point plan of the American Communist Party which included a discrediting of the nuclear family, the Bible, and the replacement of “revealed region” with a social form.

1966 Professors Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven developed what is known today as the Cloward – Piven strategy whereby the current socio-economic system in the USA would be dismantled by overwhelming social services and other entitlements with applicants until the entire system collapses and is replaced with one based on socialism. Those influenced by Cloward and Piven include Bill Ayers, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

1967 Jacques Derrida develops what is commonly known today as “deconstructionism”. While it originally focused on textual criticism that is not without value in terms of Bible exegesis, it became foundational to cultural Marxist deconstruction we know as “cancel culture” today. It also underpins the process whereby so many Christians are deconstructing and falling away from the faith. 

1969  Michael Foucault is best known for ideas like “power/knowledge” the idea that power is gained and maintained by producing and controlling what is accepted as knowledge. His book The History of Sexuality laid a foundation for the current gender-driven upending of society.

In the late 1960s – 70s Harvard law professor Derrick Bell develops critical legal theory.  Bell is often considered an originator of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Besides the idea that racism is normal and endemic to society he also proposed “convergence theory” that in essence says white people are only capable of operating in accordance with their own self-interest. Hence any support of civil rights on the part of whites is because it converges with their interests.

1971 Herbert Marcuse postulates that radical feminism is the best platform for launching the cultural Marxist’s nonviolent revolution.

1971 Saul Alinsky a Barrack Obama mentor publishes Rules for Radicals. It becomes a manual for community organizers. It is prefaced with praising Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom.

1979 the atheist Post Modernism of Jean-François Lyotard is born. It is not taken very seriously outside of academic circles. It ultimately turns the idea of objective truth and especially objective moral law on its head.  The result is that two generations were educated based on a system of relativistic thought that now teaches things like 2+2=5. 

1986 the Standpoint Epistemology of Sandra Harding is often correlated with Critical Theories but is more a product of postmodernism and feminist philosophy.  This has been called Ethnic Gnosticism by Voddie Baucham because it asserts secret knowledge on the part of the oppressed. Truth is based on individual lived experience. For example, a black woman knows things that can not ever be known by a white man. One result we see today is the idea that a white male must listen but not speak when it comes to subjects involving a black person or a female or any other oppressed person or group.    

1989 Kimberly Crenshaw – Intersectionality essentially monetizes the victim stance by identifying oppressed and oppressor groups.  Power is determined according the number of oppressed groups to which one can claim membership. A black female has power.  A black lesbian has more. It is possible to belong to both an oppressed and oppressor groups e.g. a white Christian female or a gay male. However, a white cisgender Christian male can only be an oppressor. One’s only hope within the context of this world view is that new oppressed groups are being added daily to include “overweight” and “introvert”…

2001 Richard Delgado is often credited with condensing and formalizing CRT in his book Critical Race Theory – an Introduction.  Among other things he planted the seeds of the current proposed anti-hate speech laws and outlined the basic framework upon which current CRT is based. They are as follows.

1. Racism is embedded in society and is normal.  CRT begins with the assumption of racism and then searches for it until it is found. Real-time application: “anti-racism work” whereby white people are taught to seek out ways in which they are racist.  They are taught there is no way not to be racist and this will be a lifelong endeavor. That said, only white people can be racist because they have all the power.

2. Convergence theory: Whites are incapable of doing anything except in their interest. For example, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is accused of attempting to conceal her racial bias by adopting black children. She couldn’t have done this out of genuine love. But rather to appease her own guilt for her inherent white privilege.

3. Racism is systemic. All systems eg. Education, Law, religion, etc. are racist. Hence the very foundations of society, language, history, and culture must be deconstructed (dismantled) and rebuilt from the ground up.  (See Egalitarianism)  Racism is an identity, not an action. Real-time application: a black man assaulting an Asian woman results from “Whiteness” imposed upon him by systemic racism.

4. All knowledge is socially constructed.  Language forms the building blocks. What you say matters more than what you do. Today looting and burning by oppressed groups are “peaceful protests”. The January 6th, 2021 protest in Washington D.C. was terrorism by white supremacists. George Floyd is a hero because he died in the custody of white police. Ashley Babbit was a terrorist because she tried to climb unarmed through a window and was shot dead by a black police officer.

2008 Barrack Obama is elected POTUS. The teachings of his primary mentors e.g. Marxist pornographer Frank Marshal Davis,  Bill Ayers, Saul Alinsky, and Liberation Theologian Jeremiah Wright provided the philosophical foundation for his radical transformation of America.

2011 the Occupy Wall Street movement emerges seemingly out of nowhere. Ironically funded by “one perecenter” billionaires like George Soros.  The emerging classical Marxist narrative seeks to marginalize the 1% in and threatens to “burn it all down”.

2013 BLM is established by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in response to Travon Martin being shot by George Zimmerman. 

2014 Michael Brown killed in St. Louis MO

2016 Donald Trump elected POTUS.

2017 ANTIFA emerges as a formidable presence in the USA. while the group traces its roots back to 1936 opposition to the Nazis its reemergence might be traced to the Occupy Movement. ANTIFA could be termed an anarchic-communist group with a horizontal leadership structure similar to Central American Drug cartels.  However, the extent of their operations, organizational and communication sophistication are evidence of external financing and some form of centralized leadership.  These are the jackbooted brown shirt-type thugs that along with BLM are what Vladimir Lenin called “useful idiots”.  As has been the case in every Marxist revolution, these will be the first to be lined up and shot if and when the desired Marxist regime is achieved.

2018 “White Fragility” published by Robin DiAngelo essentially creates a Kafka Trap for white people who deny being racist in that their denial is taken as proof of guilt.

2020 Ahmaud Arbery shot by vigilantes in GA.

2020 George Floyd dies while derrick Chauvin kneels on his neck.

BLM and ANTIFA loot and burn business districts in cities across the US.  BLM raises at least 90 million dollars much of which goes ActBlue a democratic Super PAC supporting the Biden campaign and other Democratic candidates.

2021  Patrisse Cullors purchases four homes for 3.2 Million dollars.

While Marxism purports to seek justice for the oppressed it has always been and always will be used to gain wealth and power and then consolidate it into the hands of the few. Even the most cursory internet search that bypasses tycoon-owned fact-checkers will show where the money has flowed since the onset of the current social upheaval seemingly driven by racial and gender-based injustice and COVID quickly reveals that the world’s wealthiest people have only consolidated more wealth and power.  Businesses looted and real estate destroyed by young entitled and Godless mobs will only be bought up by the world’s financial elite.  Meanwhile, big box stores and online robber barons like Jeff Bezos who helped finance the chaos will control more and more of the market and with it the lives of these useful idiots.

One thing is certain.  We know a tree by its fruit. Woke, Social Justice based rhetoric is neo- Marxist at its core and, therefore, the spirit of anti-Christ. If your church or Christian organization insists on embracing it, then leave.  Paul is clear in Galatians 1:8-9. 

These people are accursed. 

Bible Verses

Again, Critical Theories are a world view and even a religion. They have multiple epistemologies (how we determine truth), multiple ethical frameworks (how we determine right from wrong), and multiple metaphysical views (how we determine what is real). As Christians, our worldview is determined and articulated by scripture.  If you are a true Christian your worldview must line up with Scripture Acts 17:11 or you are in sin and possibly not a Christian at all.

Here are some thematically arranged scriptures that will help you give a solid 1 Pet 3:15 apologia for the Christian worldview that is under assault by Marxist sociological theories.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

Gen 1:26 all of are His image-bearers

Gen 3 we were all born into sin as a result of the fall.

Isaiah 64:6-7  “But we are ALL like an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are like filthy rags;

Rom 3:10-18 Paul quotes Isaiah “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 

Luke 13 Unless we repent of OUR OWN sins our fate will be the same as the Galatians.

2 Cor 4:4 god of this world has blinded unbelievers.  Know where you stand.  Know that world opposing world views are not argued away without a proverbial road to Damascus type experience.

Gen 11 The only division between peoples took place at the tower of Babel.

Acts 2:5-12 That division was dissolved by Holy Spirit.

Eph 2 Defines the valid dividing line between people.  Those in Christ Jesus verse 6 and those who remain children of wrath verse 3.  Denial of this core biblical truth is a subtle key to the growth of false CRT / social justice-based gospel narratives.

Righteousness is only possible through the blood of Jesus. That’s His righteousness, not ours.

Rom 3:25-26 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at present so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

2 Cor 5:16-19 “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Gal 3:28-29 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.,

Rom 2:11-16 For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many, as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth, I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

Col 2:8  “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good…

Gal 1:8-10  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Verse 9  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preaches any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10  For do I now persuade men or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Rev 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 

The word for “accuse” in this verse is katēgoréō from which the word “categorization” is derived. The devil is constantly attempting to divide and categorize us. Those adhering to Critical Theories are doing the same. They represent the spirit of anti-Christ.

Biblical justice is based on our individual actions not the actions of those assigned to the same category.

Deuteronomy 19:15 on the basis of two or three witnesses.

Lev 19:15 no preference for the poor (or anyone else) injustice.

2 Tim 3:12 those living Godly will suffer persecution. There is no God-given plan to eliminate it before He returns.  Hence justice will be determined by Him.

Isaiah 53:2-3 “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” This is the only verse that declares anything about Jesus’s appearance.  The declaration is made 700 years before Jesus was born.  Those who proclaim that Jesus was a racial minority have no basis for this argument.  He was somewhere on the scale between albino and black.

2 Cor 4:14-15 The true gospel says that one of God’s purposes in blessing us is that our thanksgiving (should) abound to the glory of God. Gratitude to God for His blessings is a form of worship. But the social Justice gospel demands we atone for God’s blessings.

Finally we have the issue of racism addressed in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. You can read about that here.

MARANATHA

Peeling the Onion and Learning to Abide

Still Growing Down in Honduras

The name “Gray Hope Missionaries” has occasionally caused a few eyebrows to rise.  “What does that even mean?” they ask with a familiar reticence in their voice. I’ll admit it does sound a bit self-centered. I originally coined the title with the idea of it being a conversation starter. That’s manipulation code for initiating an evangelistic or “support us” sales pitch.

We all know God’s will requires funding.

Amirite?

Gray is the color between black and white, light and dark. It’s how I imagine hope. It’s also a Scotch Irish name that literally means hope. According to Google, the family crest which may or may not be my family crest, is an anchor.

That we live in the gray is another way of saying we see as in a glass darkly.

We need as much hope as we can get.

If you ask a missionary what life on the mission field is like you will often get an oral or written narrative along the lines of our most recent Hope In Time Newsletter, the ministry with whom we currently serve. Yes, we really do what we say. That’s not the point.  Increasingly, we find ourselves cringing at what inevitably ends up looking like horn-tooting, self-promotion. It’s a Catch 22.  We can’t be accountable to supporters without pictures of us doing what we say we do. But then it’s hard to direct the reader’s attention to God while staring at our mugs amidst a story about some tin we just nailed.  

I’ve come to almost despise the drudgery of self-promotion if only because it’s not biblical. Mat 6:1-4  When I think back to the marketing videos I regularly produced until two years ago I am embarrassed that I cultivated so much narcissism and self-aggrandizement. Yet narcissism and embellishment are just good business these days. They are expected and even praised in our consumer culture. That this is accompanied by a corresponding subconscious distrust of anyone asking for money seems rather ironic. That we associate meekness and humility with failure, and grandiosity with success, may offer some insight into why our culture has so little wisdom and discernment and continues to select psychopaths as leaders.  

But I digress.

In my experience, being a missionary has been more about coming to terms with things that people preoccupied with the first world rat race never have time or perhaps the desire to think about. 

I liken it to peeling an onion.

We began with peeling away our previous assumptions about ourselves, missions work, God, His Word and the world, as well all the ethical dilemmas that result from pride-ridden dreams of being a “world changer”.

This is counterintuitive as we are taught that success is contingent upon one’s ability to portray it.

Next came a season of preaching one thing and doing another. In my case that looked like talking about abiding while franticly striving to live up to prophetic words about my being a “world changer”.

Turns out telling people they are “world changers” is also a marketing strategy.

This recurring motif frequently ends in missionary burnout. Either we learn that,

“His strength is made perfect in weakness. We would rather boast in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon us.  For when we are weak, then we are strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 

or we quit. 

This may seem simplistic to those whose careers and prosperity are the fruit of their dependency on God. But try it after slaying prosperity on the altar. This is where we encounter our inner Judas.

Mary, therefore, took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” John 12:3-6

The temptation to do everything apart from the literal commands of Jesus can be strong. There’s always an excuse. I have learned that given a severe enough tragedy or perceived inequity, and there always is, darn near any worldly strategy can be justified in support of financing God’s will.

Yet Jesus assured us there will be no human solution to the world’s suffering and problems. That includes poverty, climate change, and injustice to name a few. The Christian walk is not about world-changing effort and success let alone how God uses the almighty “us” to do it. It’s about being broken as we learn we can not. Only brokenness teaches us to be utterly dependent upon Jesus. That is the kingdom definition of success.

It begins with accepting the abject silliness of our self-imagined significance. John 15:1-17

You can do nothing” is not hyperbole. “Nothing” means “nothing”. Hence, I’m thinking a better word for “missionary” might be

“Abidinary” – one who abides in the vine.

In our case, becoming an “abidinary” has meant dwelling both literally and prophetically in the wilderness. This has been especially true since moving into the mountains when the entire world was locked down. Our driver’s licenses expired and we don’t have a car.  Every time we are tempted to think it is coming to an end, another mutation and mutant worldly narrative kicks in. We are stunned and amazed at what the world has become and is becoming. It seems that everything we knew could happen – but probably wouldn’t – is happening. Maybe you can relate. Each time we learn that normal isn’t coming back the Lord brings us back into the Book of Exodus. We shed another onion layer as we look into the type and shadow of our own impatience, impertinence, and ingratitude.  Sometimes we are at the Springs of Marah in Exodus 15 grumbling that the living water is not sweetened to our taste.  Other times we are in Exodus 32 carving a golden calf 2.0.  Our calf isn’t made of gold but steak dinners and dreams of RV living while touring the US.

Meanwhile, God keeps placing us at the proverbial entrance to the Leviticus 8:35 tent.

For the record, I am not claiming to be a Levitical Priest.

Rather there is just so much history and depth in the original Tabernacle and Priesthood. Leviticus 8 is about the consecration and ordination of the priests. Many believers discount the Old Testament, especially Leviticus. “That was the old covenant,” they say. “Only the new one applies today.”  And let’s be honest. Detailed descriptions of donning one hundred pounds of priestly garb before tying a bull to the altar, slaughtering it in the heat, and spreading the blood and guts around can be boring and well…gross. 

Still, everything points directly to Jesus and lends greater depth to our understanding of Him and our relationship with Him. 

The bull was first and foremost symbolic of the priest tying himself to the altar. What took place there was a prophetic depiction of Jesus who would be both the final and perfect sacrifice as well as the high priest who offered it. It was symbolic of the depth of what is required if indeed we offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Rom 12:1-2.

Meanwhile, we sing “Come to the altar” as if it were an invitation to hug Santa Claus.

The altar is an invitation to tie ourselves up, be slain and die.

The tying, which is submission, is up to us. The slaying is a job for the High Priest. That’s Jesus. Anyone who has ever slaughtered a bull knows the sheer brutality, labor and gore involved. That the same sacrifice was immediately repeated with a ram only makes the scene seem more burdensome and intense. We may not slaughter animals as a propitiation for sin today. But shouldn’t our alter calls reflect the same sober intensity? Interestingly, Lev 8:3 lends deeper context to the scene when we consider that the entire congregation was required to be present. 

This was church. 

The Levitical Priests were just getting started.

“And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. As has been done today, the Lord has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the Lord has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” Lev 8:33-35

There is mind-numbing, soul-shaking, typological, depth to this for those who understand. Suffice it to say that in addition to the wilderness, this is the place where God has repeatedly placed Cathy and me for the better part of two years. It is an uncomfortable place, albeit an often joyful place, a paradoxical place filled with futility and hope and the realization that our best efforts are analogous to a finger painting by a three-year-old presented to his father. Perhaps the desire to please God alone would qualify as an acceptable sacrifice. But then who can honestly say they do that? Hence, the bible says our best efforts are filthy rags. It seems more likely that our worldly displays before man for which people so often praise us has become our reward in full. Peeling the onion has shown us that

The counterfeit of true worship and sacrifice is the worship of one’s own reflection in the eyes of another and as we might imagine it in the eyes of God.

We are the tabernacle today. The tent entrance is symbolic of the place of coming to terms with ourselves as God reveals the deepest parts of ourselves in answer to prayer. Residual parts we don’t like and wish were not there. It is always parts we wish were not there that need to be cut away, discarded or burned. The altar is hard work. But the hardest part is in the submission to waiting.  

The entrance to the tent is a most necessary place.

It is at the entrance to the tent of our tabernacle that we wrestle with drudgery, immobility, and loneliness. We are all strangers in a strange land. But Honduras is a place where no matter how low and slow we go we will never be seen as equal, a part of, or the same. We are gringos. We are opportunity and blessing, consumers and cash. Sometimes we are bipedal ATMs. The deafening silence so devoid of true fellowship at the tabernacle door can produce the temptation to retrieve what was slain and return to comfort in the land of the prospering dead. We are here for seven days, however long or short a time that may actually be, according to His will and “so that (we) do not die.” There may be a different season and assignment on the horizon. In the meantime, this is what it looks like to learn to abide. John 15:5 

We are “Gray Hope Abidinaries”

Maranatha!

A Spotless Bride

“In the crushing – in the pressing, you are making new wine.”

-Hillsong Worship-

It was during a Sunday service in 2003 or maybe 2004 when we first heard our pastor lift a teenage girl in prayer. Her name was Crystal. She’d been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. We became acquainted with her over the next decade as she frequented the same circle of believers. Much to her chagrin she always ended up the center of attention. I remember wondering if she felt like cancer had become her identity as people faithfully and fervently prayed for healing. While there were significant periods of remission, the cancer always returned.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Rom 8:5-6

If there was one thing about Crystal that stood out most, it was a profound, almost palpable peace that seemed to envelop her. When I last saw her she was having horrific seizures several times a day. Yet, we never would have known it if she hadn’t told us herself. Maybe it was my imagination but her eyes only seemed to grow brighter as her life drew to a close. I remember the hospital room being filled with “persistent widows” praying for the miracle healing they just knew had to come.  Ironically, Crystal was far more concerned with comforting them.  There was something she wanted to share. Could it be that healing for the sake of healing alone is never the point, that there are deeper things, bigger things than mere physical health? But she was slow to speak and soft-spoken when she did.  No one could hear her amidst the desperate invocations of the miraculous before visiting hours ended. I’m not being sarcastic. Surrendering to life’s end is hard for all involved even though the same natural end awaits us all. Very few truly embrace what the Bible says about this. I worked in nursing when I was young and used to care for the dying. They always had so much to impart as they shed the superficial layers of their lives. I really wanted to hear Crystal. I wanted people to embrace rather than just give lip service to the fact that “the world and everything in it is passing away.” 1John 2:15-17 It was clear to me that

Cancer was Crystal’s ministry.

Everything she loved in and about the world had been repeatedly torn from her grasp. In truth, she was dying in every picture taken of her as an adult. The light and life in her eyes was a result of all the crushing and pressing that had transformed her into new wine. I could see that she yearned to pour it out. To be honest, I remember feeling angry…really angry! While people prayed for healing I prayed they would shut up and listen. Meanwhile, Crystal was patient, surrendered, desiring nothing.  I remember looking into those crystal clear eyes – her head and body covered in praying hands. I wanted her to know that I shared her frustration. Instead, I saw Jesus staring back at me – convicting me of my petty anger and resentment.

Crystal died soon after.

It may be my counseling background that has me viewing the current state of the world through the lens of Crystal and the five stages of grief through which every terminally ill patient must theoretically pass. They are denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance. They speak for themselves. What is most relevant here is that these stages apply to all who dwell on the earth. I have observed that some people get stuck in one stage or another. Some form of emotional /spiritual illness often results. Today people are losing their sanity over the sudden recognition of their own mortality. It’s as if death didn’t exist before COVID. Similar to those who prayed for Crystal’s healing to the exclusion of all else, many are failing to embrace the reality that can only be seen amidst

True Trust and Surrender to God.

If you ask me COVID is just a symptom of a much deeper illness. People are desperately praying as I write, that God will heal our land. Yet the faith to which so many cling is really just denial. I’ve said many times, that as a nation, we are guilty of the same sins that resulted in God’s judgment of ancient Israel. He is judging us now. Still, many remain unable or unwilling to grasp the reality that individual justification is possible amidst God’s simultaneous judgment of a nation. Biblical illiteracy causes others to confuse God’s discipline with His wrath. Jeremiah 29 While people do everything in their power to cling to passing moments of bliss and preserve bliss’s beauty in its prime, it’s getting harder to deny that the world and especially the USA is in fact terminally ill. It has been for a very long time. Periodic lulls or remissions simply perpetuate the illusion that all is well. Meanwhile, God is speaking in and through the illness that he has no intention of healing. At least not in the way so many of us desire.

Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. Eze 12:2

One thing seems certain. People will respond to what is coming in accordance with their respective stages of grief.  Those in the denial and bargaining stages will continue to work and pray and cling to ideas and prophecies that a coming messianic POTUS will save the day. Meanwhile, the devil laughs, “Heads I win. Tails you lose”. Some will call for national repentance and like Jeremiah intercede on behalf of the nation. These often rail at unjust government as if we are righteous. But don’t expect to see Big Eva or any mega-church calling upon themselves to “turn from their wicked ways“. The fear of rejection is just too strong. Those in the anger stage may react foolishly and perhaps even violently while embracing a false belief in another 1776. Once again the devil flips a coin. “Heads he wins. Tails you lose.” Others will be so grieved that they become despondent. Some will even take their own lives. Still, others will step into Prov 3:5-8 driven acceptance and like Jesus in Gethsemane and perhaps Crystal on Kauai, walk-in Col 3:3 and James 1:2-4 knowing that “to live is Christ. To die is gain.” Phil 1:21. A place where worldly desire is seen for what it is and the only prayer that remains is

“Thy will, not mine be done” 

By the way, this is a benchmark, not a platitude.

I didn’t know Crystal well enough to say when her transformation took place. I only saw the result. One thing is certain. She made peace with God and her own mortality long before I stood at her bedside. All she wanted was Jesus. And while she never had the time or opportunity for a husband, the crushing and pressing and suffering that was her life produced a new wine of grace and holiness becoming of a spotless bride.  2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:27, Rev 19:7

A spotless bride, not a prosperous person or nation, was and is the ultimate purpose of Jesus’s coming.

May we “Set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth

May we be spotless like Crystal.


May our only cry be,

  

Maranatha!

Am I a Moron?

No that’s not snark. It’s a serious question that every thinking person must be willing to ask. We don’t learn and correct errors by shutting our ears and digging our heels in the dirt while telling ourselves we are smarter and right. We do so by considering the questions and evidence presented by others and examining our thinking. 

“Why do I believe what I believe?” should be the very first question we ask ourselves. 

Moron

Moron (n.) 1910, medical Latin, “one of the highest class of feeble-minded persons,” Adopted by the American Association for the Study of the Feeble-minded with a technical definition “adult with a mental age between 8 and 12;” used as an insult since 1922 and subsequently dropped from technical use.

According to Piaget, thinking in children between the ages of 8-12 becomes more logical in terms of concrete events.  They begin using inductive logic to reason and derive conclusions from specific information and arrive at a general principle. E.g. “If my friend pees on the electric fence and gets shocked, the same thing will probably happen to me. Therefore, I shouldn’t pee on any fence because it could be electrified.” While thinking becomes more logical, it tends to be rigid. Abstractions and hypotheticals often “go over their heads and under their feet.” An example might be considering the potential relationship between individual hydration levels, footwear, or the lack of thereof and electrical conductivity when peeing on or near an electric fence. 

Subtle humor and innuendo are also abstract.

So how can one avoid the pitfalls of thinking like a moron? While IQ and maturity are obvious factors, there are some tools we can use to check ourselves, especially when involved in a heated debate where we all tend to regress into morons at times. They are called logical fallacies.  If a calm person tells you that your argument is fallacious, they are not cussing at you. They are just referring to one or more of the following fallacies that need to be corrected. They go by various names, however, the principles remain the same. This list is not exhaustive. However, based on my experience, they appear to be most common in public discourse, especially on Social Media.

The List

Appeal to Authority – is a circular argument that produces a conclusion based on one’s faith in the credibility of a source. For example,  “The CDC and FDA says substance “A” is safe.” How do you know the CDC and FDA are correct?  “Because they are the CDC and FDA.”  The argument is fallacious because it neither proves nor disproves anything about substance “A”. It is merely a statement of who we trust. Of course this argument might be less fallacious if they were never wrong in the past.

Ad Hominem – involves attacking the credibility of the messenger as a counter-argument while avoiding the original argument or question at hand. Here’s a fun example, “The Theory of Gravitational Effect” is invalid because Issac Newton was a patriarchal, alt-right, Christian extremist.”  Laugh if you will but this is literally where education is headed if we allow it.

The Genetic Fallacy – is Ad Hominem’s cousin and assumes the validity or the lack thereof of a piece of information or an argument based on the perceived credibility of the source. For example, when Senator Bernie Sanders questioned the 911 narrative and its role in justifying the invasion of two countries and the forfeiture of our constitutional rights, his arguments were dismissed by conservatives on the basis that he was a far-left democrat. Today we have democrats who correlate those who question current vaccine safety and efficacy with white supremacy and support for Donald Trump. That Trump was the founder of Operation Warp Speed is irrelevant.

The Strawman – is a smokescreen and involves countering an argument by arguing a point that was never mentioned and is not relevant to the issue at hand. For example “Isaac Newton read the Bible more than any other Book. His Christian worldview led him to believe in an objective reality governed by objective truth and objective physical laws that he sought to uncover.” Strawman: “The Bible is not a valid source because it condones slavery!!”

The Slippery Slope – is sometimes called a “False Equivalency”; E.g. “Last week my friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor. On Saturday he hit his head on the floor. He went back to the doctor on Monday and the tumor was gone.” Conclusion: Brain tumors are cured by hitting one’s head on a floor. Is there a correlation? Maybe. But correlations alone only yield questions that identify a possible need for further investigation. They are never proof of cause by themselves. Unfortunately, slippery slopes make for excellent clickbait.

The implication that these women died because they were unvaccinated is a slippery slope. Could the lack of vaccination have played a role? Perhaps. We do not have enough information to conclude either way.  In the meantime headlines and media, assertions generate a whole lot of fear and engagement. 

“Who benifits most from that?”

Appeals to Emotion – headlines like “500 new cases on Kauai!!!” generate a response from the more primitive parts of our brains like the amygdala. Fear overrides the higher cortical areas from which logic, decision making, and self-control are derived. Anyone following the data knows that “cases” alone means nothing in itself. Yet, MSM depictions of worst-case scenarios no matter how rare generate a proverbial stew of fear and rage that can be used to frame and charge public narratives- then policies and laws.  History proves that an emotionally charged public will gladly forfeit its constitutional rights for the illusion of safety.  Those who desire to think beyond the level of a moron must discipline themselves to suspend emotion when triggered and ask “What am I being asked to believe?” and “Who benefits most if I do?”

The Band Wagon fallacy is a form of “Appeal to Authority” based on consensus. E.g. “The majority of doctors, scientists, people, (insert chosen group) _______, agree that such and such is true.” The majority of secular Germans and Jews during WWII agreed that their government was incapable of genocide. 

Consensus alone means nothing in itself.

The bandwagon fallacy is perhaps most applicable to Millennials and Gen Z because it is so driven by the need to belong. As a group, these are the least likely to go against the tide of opinion within their peer group. Here’s a 3 min video of two additional Bandwagon supporting principles that should scare you and maybe even save you some money in the process.

Normalcy Bias –  supports the Band Wagon fallacy.  It is rooted in the fact that our expectations of the world tend to shape what we think we see. For example, a large portion of the American population believes that their preferred political party always operates in their best interest; that almost none ever do is irrelevant except at election time. Aside from history books, most Americans have no experience with Democide (death by government). Yet it was the leading global cause of death during the entire 20th century. While most thinking people can choose to adjust when told there is more to the picture than meets the eye, the first thing we see is usually governed by our normalcy bias.

Rabbit or Duck?

Slothfull Induction – is the refusal to question or examine existing conclusions when evidence that warrants further investigation is presented. All the other fallacies ultimately lead to Slothful Induction. This fallacy is most clearly seen in ad hominem dismissals like “Libtard”, “Trumper” and or exclamations of “conspiracy theorist!” any time an alternative question, hypothesis, or viewpoint that conflicts with the status quo or individual normalcy bias is articulated. While history is ripe with conspiracies, normalcy bias declares they can not, will not happen today. The urban use of the term conspiracy theory specifically refers to a conclusion rooted in a slippery slope. For example, “Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci are conspiring to depopulate the earth with vaccines.” is a conspiracy theory. “If saving lives is really the goal then why isn’t every possible treatment option being made available?” is a logical question.  “The governments of the world are engaged in transhuman experimentation in direct violation of the Nuremberg Code!” is a conspiracy theory. “Given that our government has engaged in illegal medical experiments that violated the Nuremberg code in the past e.g. the Tuskegee experiment; why should I trust the government now?” is a logical question. Interestingly Slippery Slope conspiracy theories do a lot to ensure that a genuine conspiracy, should it exist, will never be exposed.

The benefits of not being a moron

Understanding logical fallacies can help us to avoid arriving at premature conclusions when further questioning is indicated. It can help us to avoid being manipulated and having our valid questions dismissed such that we forfeit our own best interests. Logical fallacies apply to everything from purchasing a car to voting to choosing the best course of medical treatment. Most importantly it could keep us from forfeiting our God-given rights to

“Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness”. 

Listen, no one thinks perfectly. It certainly is not my intention to mock or put anyone down. The truth is that all of us are morons at times. We think better when we think together. “If I were the devil…” as Paul Harvey used to say, I would be looking for ways to prevent that. I can respectfully discuss any issue with anyone willing to commit to avoiding fallacious arguments and self-correction when a fallacy is identified. That takes maturity and a willingness to be wrong or at least to not win. Unfortunately, this is very rare these days and I have come to expect the worst in any public dialogue. Hence, at the end of the day, I have written this post so that I have a simple cut and paste response to 99% of the narratives that come my way on SM. There is simply no point in wasting time disputing the consensus of an overwhelmingly self-destructive neo collective. Feel free to use all, part, or none of it to save yourself the time and the frustration of being triggered into being a moron.

Maranatha