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What Is Your Life?

We were in Honduras during the last major election cycle, locked down and humbled by two back-to-back Hurricanes and a landslide that took everything but our lives and left us homeless in the third world.  It was a three-hour drive to the US Embassy if we wanted to vote.  Needless to say, we didn’t.  We just prayed. I’d never placed much hope in politics but 2020 marked the official end of Mat 16:6 and Mark 8:15 leaven in my life and surrender to the truth that it is God who changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings… Dan 2:21

When God Wants To Judge A Nation, He Gives Them Wicked Rulers.” -John Calvin-

I have friends from Marxian a.k.a. progressive parts of the USA who joke about our new residence in Appalachia. They imagine the locals here as toothless, stereotypical hillbillies instead of American archetypes like Davy Crocket.  The Godless snobbery and blatant deconstruction for which Marxist America is known is enough to tempt me to categorize myself as a Confederate. I’m kidding. Still, my flesh despises everything for which those on the left stand!! Meanwhile,

The cry of my soul mirrors that of Habakkuk.

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. Hab 1:2-4

Davy Crocket was born just a few miles from our current home. While he had very little in the way of formal education he wore many hats in his life including frontiersman, trapper, farmer, soldier, and US congressman. He met his demise at the hands of Mexican soldiers at the Alamo. He became my categorical model of fearlessness, selflessness, risk-taking, and adventure to which I aspired.

Men like Davy Crockett defined the line between good and evil.

I remember pretending to die like Davy at the Alamo

My categories were simple. America was good. Anyone opposing America was bad. Killing bad people was good. If I represent America then by extension anyone opposing me was bad. Television programming reinforced this paradigm.

There’s a tale about Crockett conversing with one of his more sophisticated congressional peers from Massachusetts when a herd of Donkeys passed by. “Aren’t those your constituents Crocket? the Yankee asked. “Why yes,” Crocket replied.

“I believe they’re on their way to Massachusetts to teach school.”

I also aspired to be witty like Davy as he so clearly articulated how I felt growing up in what I now know to be pre-Marxian America. While it might seem that the Godless deconstruction surrounding us now is new, anyone familiar with things like the Frankfurt School, Postmodernism, and Critical Theory will know otherwise. Still, now that I live in the heart of what still might qualify as the America I once imagined, there’s a stirring in my flesh and soul to identify with the voices that cry,

Meanwhile, the still small voice of God within me echo’s the words of John Adams,

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And the words of Jesus to Pontius Pilot,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

There’s no natural, let alone a political solution to what ails us as a nation.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23

There is a point in the life of every mature believer where a line must be drawn between the carnality of the flesh, the mind, will, and emotions that comprise the soul and the regenerated spirit-man. It is the point where the truth of God’s word must supplant common sense and what appears to be an immutable fact.

It is a putting away of childish things we still hold as sacred in adulthood.

Today I understand that it was my childhood formations that compelled me to enter adulthood as a US Marine ready to kill whomever I was told to kill. My programmed tendency to choose a side in any conflict still lingers in the back of my mind even as it is renewed. Rom 12:1-2 My worldview remains framed by proverbial hills for which, and upon which, I am willing to die.

Now here I sit amidst another election cycle in the great Volunteer State of Tennessee. I am filled with Holy Spirit and acutely aware of my hypocrisy reflected in the mirror of God’s Word. My carnal flesh and soul driven by a hundred childish categorizations snarls and spits like Barabas in chains waiting to be chosen over Jesus by the crowd.

Barabas was a zealot.

Zealots were Jewish nationalists.

How easy it would be to unleash my inner Barabas and destroy my witness for Jesus in the name of protecting and preserving all that I call

“My life.”

It really got me thinking… 

Before I try to answer ethical questions related to the preservation of my life; shouldn’t I first examine my presuppositions regarding;

What is my Life?

I find it interesting that the Bible says more about what my life is not.

My life is not the world or anything in it.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

My life is not a human relationship.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

My life is not something I should cling to.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mat 16:24-26

My life is not on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:3-4

My life is not MY identity.

For me to live is Christ. To die is gain. Phil 1:21

My life is not mine.

…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Cor 6:19-20

Whatever it is, my life is cryptic and in Christ Jesus.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which HE loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace, you have been saved—and raised us up with HIM and seated us with HIM in the heavenly places IN Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages HE might show the immeasurable riches of HIS grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:4-7

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4

Today’s hard red pill.

I wrote about Adam and Eve’s focus before and after the fall and the subsequent selfishness and self-centeredness that distort our identities in Pressure. Dietrich Bonhoeffer went a step further in his final work “Ethics”. He begins with the presupposition that “The knowledge of good and evil” not just evil itself, separated us from God.  The result of Genesis 3 was the self-centeredness that we call our “identity” today. It supplants God’s sovereignty. At the end of the day, “Christian ethics” is an oxymoron that makes us His enemy. All of our very best judgments about right and wrong, good and evil are the fruit of the original fall from grace. That those in Christ Jesus are a new creation 2 Cor 5:17 applies to the extent that we take our eyes off ourselves and focus on Him and Him alone.  Assuming Bonhoeffer is correct, the very part of us that categorizes new and old and so joyfully and exuberantly proclaims,

“I am a new creation!” is not the new creation.

It’s paradoxical but the unholy trinity of flesh otherwise known as”Me, Myself, and I” is the part that dies when I am born again.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Chew on that.

The root of the problem

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Rev 12:10

“Accuse” is katēgoréō from which the English word category is derived.  While Adam was assigned the job of categorizing everything in the Garden, all of our post-fall categorizations are the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Turns out all of the righteous patriotic criteria and resulting categorizations formed in my childhood were from hell.

Who knew?

Still, my self-righteous carnality recoils at this.

Perhaps yours does too.

It only makes sense in the realm of spirit and truth to which all believers are called.

I’m pondering my own repentance here, not preaching down from a proverbial pulpit.

If I’m honest, there’s not a day that I don’t organize and view people, places, and things according to categories. Those familiar with cognitive science know that categories are foundational to language.

That’s a tree.  That’s a rock. Trees are plants. Rocks are not.

We categorize before we vote.

Aren’t you taking all of this a bit too far, Brian? We all have to function in a world of categories. Yes. But what if God meant exactly what He said, in Isaiah 55:8-9?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It might be worth considering, as we go about proclaiming God’s character, and plan, His will, and His thoughts about us and others in our daily lives. At the end of the day, everything we think we know might be wrong and we actually don’t have a clue about anything beyond the fact that

we desperately need Jesus.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8

The other day I told a younger brother that it seems that God’s purpose in our 30s and 40s is to generate enough proof of how little we understood by the time we are 50. The older I get, the more clearly I see how completely inept I am and how absurd it would be to even consider answering the question;  

What is your Life?

And while I have experienced what I assume to be His presence in manifold ways that my soul tries to interpret and my words articulate, all I can do that is worth doing at all is to ponder and recite God’s Word as it is written.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,  being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

I know in part and I prophesy in part. When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like a child. Now that I am a man, I must give my up childish ways. For now, I see in a mirror dimly but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:9-12

What is my life?

God’s word says it is Jesus.

I cling to that.

His kingdom is NOT of this world.

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.

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!

Report from the Wall

The majority of my time in Honduras is spent bringing food to the foodless, roofs to the roofless, school to the schoolless, and hopefully sparking people to ask us “why the heck are you doing this?” so that we can tell them who sent us and thereby bring hope to the hopeless. Still, I am by nature, if not appointment a watchman on the wall. Hence my blogging usually takes the form of warnings to the body of Christ, and those who mock us. I sometimes wonder how I happen upon the information that I do as certainly don’t go looking for it.  This week my wife listened to a sermon by one of America’s most prominent pastors who gave a sermon where he explained that it was NOT God’s will for the Apostle Peter to be martyred. 

He said Peter died because no one prayed.  

The longer we are on the mission field the more grateful we are that we took the time to go to a missionary school in Africa before coming to Honduras.  We learned from so many different teachers with different points of view. One particularly poignant moment during this time was when Indonesian evangelist and author of Like a Mighty Wind Mel Tari walked into our classroom pavilion occupied by two hundred young student missionaries sprawled out on the cement. Some were on their faces in prayer.  Others lay slain in the spirit. Still, others sat uncontrollably twitching and rhythmically proclaiming  “Woah!” – “Woah!” as evidence of some deeply intimate interaction with Holy Spirit.  None of this was happening to me as I stood skeptically watching while at the same time double-mindedly chastising myself for my lack of faith. “Who am I to question God?” I thought as I quenched my internal dissent.  Imagine my surprise when this pastor who had verifiable experience with seeing people healed and raised from the dead when he prayed, suddenly began yelling

“Get up!” “Come on! Knock it off!” “You know what you are doing! Get up!!

Mel seemed quite unperturbed by their offense as they scrambled to their feet and he began to teach from the Word of God about the importance for missionaries to both know it and rely upon it.

I am tempted to call him a modern-day Paul, yet given the current wave of exposed sin among celebrity leaders within the body of Christ, I should probably point out that this is not an endorsement of Mel Tari beyond what I saw and heard him teach that night. I am passionate about the Word of God. That being said 1 Cor 2: 14-15 is clear. Do we serve a supernatural God who expresses His love, power, and sovereignty through giftings in His people today? Most definitely!  Are fake signs and wonders rampant today? Most definitely! No one counterfeits a counterfeit. Bottom line; there is no room for the real if we are satisfied with the counterfeit.  The problem as I see it is that amidst a shift from dead legalism to renewed spiritual authenticity sparked by the Jesus People movement in the ’60s and ’70s, at least two generations inadvertently ended up with an epistemology based on emotion, experience, and appearance instead of scripture.

Epistemology Matters

Instead of calling a spade a spade like Mel Tari we pretended the fake was real. Instead of raising Bereans who tested everything and based truth on the inherency of scripture regardless of how it feels, we gave our children a post-modern poetic license to “have it your way” provided no one’s feelings get hurt. Our failure to teach truth has produced a celebrity pastor-driven trans-truth that soothes itching ears where everyone is confused.  Today Christians either  condone or quietly recoil from what society has has become all the while denying the church’s complicity in leading our children straight down the path of Romans 1:18-32.

Sin is a path not an event. 

Celebrity Sausage.

Ordinarily, I would have been surprised when I happened upon BiteLabs.org a company that has been in business since 2014. But I’d already heard Bill Gates say that everyone should shift to eating synthetic meat as a means of fighting climate change.

In their own words, Bite Labs plans to,

“start with top-quality ingredients and time-honored recipes for the creation of fine cured meats. We mix celebrity and animal meats, grown in the house through a proprietary culturing process, into curated salami blends. Starting with biopsied myoblast cells, we grow our healthy, rich, meats in Bite Labs’ own bioreactors. Our process yields high-quality, luxury protein, in a sustainable manner that eliminates the environmental and ethical concerns associated with traditional livestock production.”

No, it’s not the Onion or the Babylon Bee.

While I don’t think they are cleared to produce human meat for your consumption just yet. The point is they are seriously trying and are thus far mostly unopposed by the public at large. 

Science fiction buffs over 50 might remember the 1973 film Soylent Green set in a future NYC in 2022.

“Soylent Green is people!!!”

The seeds of the past seem to be germinating everywhere today.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a book written by a Marxist Brazilian educator named Paulo Freire in 1968.  For some reason, I still have a clear mental picture of it sitting on my parent’s bookshelf.  I was maybe 8 at the time and never gave it a second look.  That such an obscure memory is still fresh in my mind seems weird enough. It’s even weirder because my dad was a mechanical engineer for the military-industrial complex who worked on nuclear submarines and other top-secret projects during the Cold War.

Back then an imminent Soviet nuclear holocaust was almost as scary as COVID is today.

In 1963 FBI agent Cleon Skousen presented a 45 point American Communist party plan to congress. In the decades that followed the best conservative minds in America went into government, law enforcement, and the military to fight the emerging communist threat. 

“Better dead than red!” they used to say.

Meanwhile, as Mary Graber explains, in Bill Ayers: Teaching Revolution real communists suspended their bomb-building and assassination plots and set their sights on the nation’s youth. Education became their primary field of battle.  Bill Ayers focused on school curriculums. Of course, education would also be important when they took control of the government because millions of Americans would need to be placed in reeducation camps in the southwest. Interestingly, the Weather Underground whom Bill Ayers was a founding member, estimated that approximately 25 million Americans would cling to capitalist ideals, and would subsequently need to be killed. As I explained in my previous post. Critical Race Theory and all its Social Justice stepchildren invaded academia, culture, the church, and now government in that order and is nothing more than rebranded Marxism dressed in a suit of pseudo compassion.

For the record, I am going to beat that horse until it turns to dust or I do.

Jesus said,

“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” Luke 16:8

We Christians are supposed to be wise as serpents.  Too often we are dumber than doves.

In related news, California is scheduled to vote on a statewide proposed Ethnic Studies Curriculum that calls for the “decolonization” of American society and includes having students chant to the Aztec god of human sacrifice asking for “a revolutionary spirit” and the power to become warriors for social justice.

Will it pass? Who knows? As in the case of Celebrity Sausage, the mere fact that it is being seriously considered should be enough to qualify as a serious concern.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that this Ethnic Studies Curriculum, is based on the book  “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” and instructs students to “challenge racist, bigoted, discriminatory, imperialist, colonial beliefs” and critique “white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression.”

One of the program chairs R. Tolteka Cuauhtin, labels the United States a “Eurocentric, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal, heteropatriarchal, and anthropocentric paradigm brought from Europe.”

The programers assert that whites began by “grabbing the land,” “hatching hierarchies,” and “developing for whiteness”.  This resulted in “excess wealth” that “became the basis for the capitalist economy” and subjected minorities to “domestication” and “zombification.”  White Christians committed “genocide” against indigenous tribes, destroyed their gods, and replaced them with Christianity.

If the curriculum is passed 10,000 public schools, serving 6 million children will be taught to “name, speak to, resist, and transform the hegemonic Eurocentric neocolonial condition” and engage in “transformational resistance” that includes a final solution of…

“Counter genocide” against whites.

Obviously, there is some truth to claims regarding ancestral sins. Isaiah was clear in chapter 64 and Paul quoted Isaiah in Romans chapter 3.

No one is righteous. Not one.

That’s why Jesus came.

That Mat 24:7 ethnos versus ethnos has been a recurring motif since Cain killed Able is a no-brainer. While Cain is ironically the originator of the victim stance that drives today’s CRT and intersectionality, ethnos against ethnos is not a systemic issue. It is a sin issue. That said the problem with Critical Race Theory is not so much in its identification of relational errors and exposure of ancestral sin but in its eternalizing them for the sake of retribution, reparations, and power. Mostly it’s power. They call this justice. The insistence that Western civilization and culture ARE its previous sins is a strawman. Critical Race Theorists ignore positive contributions while framing the sins of “yesterday” as the existential realities of “today” on computers and smart devices invented by those whom they despise. That every past sin committed by so-called white European males was done in the name of Jesus or in any way reflects His teachings is at best a false equivalency. 

Of course, we could just quote Solomon and say there is nothing new under the sun. All of this has been said and done before. But that would be another false equality because that same truth applies to Y2K and the Holocaust. The fact is that false hermeneutics and 2 Tim 4 ear-tickling teachings are more rampant today than at any other point in my lifetime and maybe even since the Gnostics threatened to subvert the gospel.  Think I’m exaggerating? I just listened to an ordained, previously orthodox minister of the gospel with 132K followers on Tik Tok explain that Jesus was a racist who was corrected by a Syrophoenician woman when she spoke truth to power in Mark chapter 7.

If you can not explain why his interpretation is utter heresy then you are among those to whom I had in mind to help when I began this particular rant.  That’s ok. It’s not your fault. Message me and I’ll be happy to explain the error along with why challenging it may one day get you thrown in prison or worse.

Paul was clear that all who desire to live godly will be persecuted. 2 Tim 3:12. It is my opinion that contemporary western culture is on the verge of experiencing persecution in ways that most still do not believe are possible. Yet anyone alive today who survived a Marxist regime will not hesitate to tell you that it is not only possible, it is now almost inevitable.

Even so,

If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; If anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. Rev 13:10

No this is not a political post, a mark of the beast freak-out post, or even a rallying cry to oppose evil.  Not because I don’t think people should but because it’s probably too late. This is just a Mat 24:6 “see that you are not alarmed”  weather report, a “hey guys I see a storm brewing from my proverbial perch on the wall” fig tree rant.  Mostly this is a call for true Christians to 2 Tim 2:15 study themselves approved so they can rightly divide the word of truth if and when the Bible goes down the neo-Marxist deconstruction toilet with Dr. Sues and the Potato heads. Therin lies another dead horse that I will continue to beat. We need to prepare.  Richard Wurmbrand memorized 365 verses countering fear, one for each day of the year in anticipation of the Russian Communists taking control of Romania long before they invaded. Little did he know he would need every one of those verses fourteen times over. We’ve ministered in Romania.  Our friends there are very concerned about the future of the USA.  And while there is a prideful part of me that sometimes fantasizes about looking my mockers in the eye, and saying “I told you so.” when the events in the Olivet Discourse become undeniably real. In truth, it’s because I know the greatest revival the world has ever seen will also take place during this time. ( Joel 2) Even so, I hope that someone takes what I write to heart now, turns to Jesus, and repents before it is too late.  Time is short. Make no mistake,

There is a divinely appointed future point in time called “TOO LATE”.

Maranatha

Maranatha ( ) Maranatha

I know it’s Christmas and depending on the audience, “Merry Christmas” can be a sincere wish, an act of defiance, or a virtue signal. As for us, Marantha seems a more fitting greeting this year.   

It’s been about a month since our little mission cabin was destroyed in an Iota landslide. In a few days, it will be exactly a year since God called us out of the City of Refuge into the mountains here.

To say that we loved our little cabin would be an understatement for sure.  Of course, we always knew our time there would come to an end.  That awareness only added to the sacredness. Ironically last year I wrote that Water brought us here. I guess it’s only fitting that water-soaked earth should take us out.

I ended that post with Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.

Like a lot of people, we’ve had our times of wrestling with God this year. Perhaps you can relate. “Why Lord did you bring us here only to lock us down in our house for 13 out of every 14 days.” Yet “Why?” is the cry of spoiled children. “What are you doing Lord?” is the only valid one.  The only thing that came to mind each time I asked was the word “preserve”.  Cathy heard “worship me”. Meanwhile, each time we stopped wrestling with God over our situation, let go, and focused on Him and His word, He’d bring His purpose into our lives.

I can’t describe the confusion I experienced as I walked down the road that morning and realized that our house was completely gone then saw the two boulders laying side by side in the exact place where our heads would have been had we chosen to sleep there that night.

I did get part of an answer to my question for the year.

The Lord had directed our steps and preserved us.

The other part came from Jacob. The story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32 has always been one of my favorites.   It was during our morning devotions the other day that the word “preserved” emerged again in verse 30. I’d never really noticed it before. We looked it up and found the original Hebrew word is “Natsal”. 

It means to “deliver, rescue and save.

“Natsal” also means to strip.

We had been stripped of everything but the clothes on our backs and we were homeless in the third world.  And yet a strange supernatural peace enveloped us as well as an even stronger bond between us as husband and wife. 

That bond and peace remain with us now.

It is a peace that comes with the reassurance that His hand is indeed upon us and the understanding that true worship is trusting Him no matter what. We did. We do. If we leave this earth tomorrow it is only because our appointed time has arrived.

In the meantime, He will preserve us.

Like most full-time missionaries we’ve had our share of weird harrowing experiences. One thing we have observed is that life goes on as normal until suddenly it doesn’t. One minute your driving down the road singing silly songs then staring down the barrels of rifles or threatened with spears in the next. In any case, facing one’s imminent demise is always surreal.  One thing is certain. All of life as we know it will one day be swept away. As our 78-year-old friend, Maria just said,

“He gives and takes away.”

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” Mat 6:25-27

It didn’t take long for us to release all our worldly possessions that were buried beneath mud and wreckage.  The ease with which we did this surprised everyone especially us.  A few days later our Honduran friends asked us to come to their house.  When we arrived we found clothing and other things that the community had painstakingly dug up and washed for us. 

They even dug my drone and a pouch full of Cathy’s special heirloom jewelry she’d made 40 years ago out of three feet of mud.

The love was priceless and palpable even if our hearts sank under the renewed burden of stuff.  

That sounds crazy. I know.

What are you doing Lord?

While we are certain more will be revealed, at this point, the joy of a James 1:2-4 testing that increased our faith and the contentment described by Paul in Phil 4:11-13 appear to be the biggest takeaway right now. It’s one thing to read and know the word. Living is is another.

Since then we’ve been consumed with helping those less fortunate than ourselves. If you follow us and or Hope In Time Ministries on FaceBook then you know what we’ve been up to.  As for our welfare, we have a fully furnished house to stay in until March 1st.

We have no idea where we are going after that. Mat 6:25-27.

The devastation here can be mind-numbing and the temptation to check out is real.

Yet on this day, our hearts go out to so many in the 1st world.  Those grasping for the material. Those praying that their old lives will be restored and those with all hope in a political candidate. Those with the same hope in a vaccine. Those who remain terrified and angry about so many things beyond their control. Those consumed by the cares of this world and are blind.

To those I say, “there is a better way”.

I’m not a prophet, fortune teller, or seer but I’m guessing that events in the coming weeks and years are going to draw many to the Lord and cause others to fall away. I believe there is a message in the recent events of our lives that applies to all.

Everyone on earth has a world view.  Everyone frames their lives accordingly. Every world view is framed or bracketed by unprovable assumptions regarding one’s origin and destiny. It is on these assumptions that we all place our trust and fill the space in between. That so many today are thoroughly consumed with anxiety and fear over things that they can not control let alone understand is not the result of events between the brackets.  

They are a result of bad bracketing.  

Maranatha is an Aramaic word that depending on how it is pronounced means “Jesus has come” and “Jesus is coming”.  It is the gospel of the Kingdom condensed into one word. It is the truth claim that brackets the life of every true follower of Christ regardless of how messed up things might be in the space in-between. It is the truth claim the brackets our existence and supports everything we do whether or not we have a place to lay our heads. Let’s face it. “Hard” is a relative term. This past year has been hard for everyone. Yet while Jesus did not promise freedom from suffering He did promise peace.  That peace is contingent on the bracketing. 

He came. He is coming. He knows you by your name.

Be Merry.

(Maranatha!

Maranatha!)

OUR THEME SONG FOR THE YEAR

Truth or Trump?

I recently saw a headline that 43% of evangelicals think Donald Trump should be removed from office.  We know others who have declared him to be a modern-day Cirrus. I’ve had different opinions at different times but honestly,

I’ve never met the man. 

All I know is what I see, hear and read in the media.  

I write a blog for the Adventures in Missions GAP year squad that we coach called The Squirrel Pole.  A squirrel pole is a survival food trap that I learned about when I was a US Marine. 

Its based on the idea that everything in nature naturally takes the path of least resistance.  A squirrel is perfectly capable of running straight up a tree.  But place branch laden with wire nooses at an angle against the trunk and the stupid squirrel will hang itself every time.

Another squirrel poll upon which people hang themselves is the reliance on others to do their thinking for them.

I used to trade world currencies on the FOREX.

That’s when I learned the world is not the world I had learned about in school. It makes sense. The father of lies is the god of it.

As it turns out the average American’s world view is shaped by a media whose narrative is controlled by six corporations. That’s not just so called “fake news”. That’s all news.

The first thing I learned as a trader was, know your own biases, do your own analysis and emotion is the enemy of analysis. 

People are easily manipulated by what is commonly known as confirmation bias. Brokers leverage confirmation bias to take money away from nonprofessional traders who dream of getting rich quick.

They call these nonprofessionals “dumb money”.

This is how it works. The broker begins by “pumping” a stock or other financial instrument through internet and television. They tell everyone why “you’d better hurry before it’s too late because this one is a sure thing!” Dumb money is looking for a sure thing and hearing “it’s a sure thing” confirms what they want to hear. So, dumb money rushes in to buy before the price goes up. Of course, this drives the price up at warp speed. Dumber money tries to jump on the “moving train” and the price goes up faster until it hits a target predetermined by the broker who probably owns the biggest chunk.

When it hits the mark, the broker might short the stock or buy an “option” before closing his original position and collecting the profit. Of course, some of the dumb money sees the price action, panics and sells before they lose everything. That makes the price drop faster and more people jump off the “moving train” and sell to cover their losses. When the price gets low enough the original broker reverses his position and collects the profit from that trade too. This goes on all day every day that markets are open. What is important to understand is that media drama moves markets. While the public separates into tribes, fights with each other over what they believe is the correct moral side of what they think is the real issue; smart money is busy making money.

For example, gun control is always hot button issue pumped by the press. In June 2016 Barack Obama talked about a possible assault weapons ban. The media pumped a false pending executive order narrative. Guess what happened next? Gun lovers panicked. Assault weapons and ammunition sales went through the roof. Smart money made money again.

Confirmation bias makes lying easy. Confirmation bias makes us easy to manipulate.

World leaders have always used it to manipulate populations for their own gain.

Paul Joseph Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s Minister of propaganda said;

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Know your own confirmation biases.

Otherwise you’re sure to get played.

Why am I telling you all this in a missionary blog?

Adolf Hitler had motto.

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”

There is a huge cultural and spiritual war in progress for the hearts and minds of the generation that many of us refer to as youth. Some of you are youth.

The winner gets to determine “Truth”

Deception is the Devil’s number one game.

And Your emotions are a primary tool in Hell’s efforts to manipulate and control you.

In Mat 22 people were trying to trap Jesus into making a political statement about taxation, politics, and Rome so they could kill him.  It was a total set up.  But Jesus wasn’t dumb. Cesar’s image was on the money. So He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s. 

 The question is; who’s image do you bear? 

If it’s God’s then shouldn’t you be rendering all of yourself onto Him?

I recently heard a preacher ask; “Why do we get so upset when we see the world acting like the world?”  That’s what the world does.  Even more; why are we so focused on changing the world by worldly means? 2 Tim 3 seems clear. Things are going to get worse before they get better. As Christians we are called to be in the world not of it. We are called to be Holy which means “set apart”.  We can argue politics all day.  But it doesn’t change anything. It only divides and divided kingdoms don’t stand.

By all means render onto Cesar what is Cesar’s and vote. Just be aware of your own confirmation bias and your own unreliable emotions.

That said, Jesus was clear.  He said “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”. John 14:6  

Christians are ruining their witness everyday by getting angry over politics. Meanwhile PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HELL.

If you ask me we need to be telling people who Truth is and stop wasting our time fighting over who Trump is. 

At the end of the day we’re all dumb money when it comes to that.

Don’t be a Squirrel

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!

Pressure

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. Mat 16:1-4

An incessant desire for spiritual manifestations for their own sake is a desire for gratification. Gratification is a manifestation of self.

Signs, wonders, prophecies, and healings were barely on my radar when I first surrendered to Jesus. “Deny self, pick up your cross and follow me” Mat 16:24 and “…they loved not their lives onto death” Rev 12:11 resonated more with where and how God met me. Surrendering to Jesus meant switching sides, enduring tribulation, and possibly losing my life in an ongoing war. God gave his only begotten son to remove the body of condemnation and death from around my neck. Romans 7:24

Any blessing beyond that was ancillary.

That was our mindset when we left the United States for the mission field. Now that we have returned to first-world nation living we find ourselves increasingly challenged by an overarching theme of God’s love framed solely as warm fuzzy personal affirmations, success, prosperity, and patriotism otherwise known as my

“I…dentity”

“Oh, how he loves us!”

Ironically many don’t even question their myopic perceptions. After all, we are new creations because old things have passed away.  We have a new identity in Christ.  That said,

The issue is in the emphasis.

His identity, Not ours is the focal point of the gospel. He saved us because He is loving not because we are lovable. Ephesians 2 What if my idea of Jesus is my own reflection as I imagine it in His eyes?

That’s a hard conversation in Charismania.

“Charismania” describes among other things, a culture that thrives on self-affirmation, spiritual manifestations, and prophetic words. The Word of God is used as cherry-picked proof texts that confirm our experiences and self-perceptions. Absurdities like portals, barking, laughing, and journeys to heaven where missing Bible chapters are revealed along with other forms of modern-day Gnosticism result in doctrine more reminiscent of “Harry Potter” or “The Secret” than Biblical Truth. Like the sin that resulted in the Fall in the garden, it is at its core entirely self-centered. Some will undoubtedly be offended by what I write. Yet there are times when a spade just needs to be called a spade because people are setting up camp on proverbial train tracks.

They will perish for lack of knowledge. 

Here in Appalachia, we find ourselves ministering to familiar populations and patterns of brokenness – people stripped of all pretenses by “the system” – their proverbial dirty laundry aired for all to see.  These people need sobriety, not gnostic emotionalism, because their adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8. 

Sober is “nḗphō“- to be calm and collected in spirit, temperate, dispassionate, and circumspect.

Hence our teaching and counseling are always framed by time-tested principles of sustained addiction recovery. The first of which is

Selfishness and self-centeredness is the root of all our troubles”. 

AA Big Book pg 62

The effects may be more recognizable in the ostracized and disenfranchised at whom it is easier to point a finger than those still hiding behind spirit-filled fig leaves.

Yet self remains the primary issue from the Fall that ails us all.

When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil their eyes went from a one hundred percent focus on God to a one hundred percent obsession with self. Realizing they were exposed, they tried to hide behind a façade of fig leaves. 

The people to whom we minister have had their proverbial fig leaves torn away. Granted, their transparency is imposed and not the fruit of obedience per se but rather the fruit of their wrestling with God. It is the fruit of complete and utter brokenness.

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Isaiah 51:15

In Genesis 32:30 after wrestling with God, Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. “Preserved” is Natsal: to deliver, rescue, and save…

…To strip, and plunder.

Like Jacob who walked with a limp for the rest of his life as part of God’s blessing, so will those to whom we minister be marked in some way by their brokenness.

“Wait!” “Did you say Jacob’s dislocated hip was a blessing?” 

YES!

The growing propensity among Christians to frame and experience the gospel as a self-centered health, wealth, and prosperity paradigm often achieved by political means is as futile as it is absurd.

True Signs and Wonders.

The other day I read a Facebook post from a friend who just lost her third child to suicide. The mind-numbing grief is so unimaginable that many do not have words to respond. Yet we know that our friend’s process of being conformed to the image of His son is as beautiful as it is genuine. She is a living epistle in the gospel of suffering.

“As I sit in my cozy home with my Bible and too much food in my kitchen and so, so many blessings, it seems to me that God is good. Not because of material things, but more so in the area of loss. I have lost 3 of my children, the 3 youngest, 3 that loved me, 3 that did not hold my failings over my head. 3 that I am convinced we’re saved! And so there is hope. Hope that we will be together again, one day- minus all the baloney of this life. Hope that they now- at last have full understanding of “why?” What has happened, how my life has transpired, the hardships, sufferings, pain and sorrow, is nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in Heaven. So many people have suffered hardship and grief throughout the ages. Many folks have had it ALOT worse than I do. Among those are many stories of strength and perseverance. The ability to continue on with this life in the face of great loss. To continue in hope. To know that God is sovereign and God is good.”

The power of the Holy Spirit’s operation in this woman’s life is as palpable as it is supernatural.  That a person could remain so faithful and strong amidst so much suffering and loss is a true sign and wonder. It is a genuine manifestation of the power of God flowing through a sober, humble, and contrite heart.

It is the fruit of brokenness.

So often I have sat amidst alleged manifestations of Holy Spirit with people prophesying prosperity, comfort, and other vain babblings while others twitch and “Woah”.  The unspoken implication is one of personal anointing, credibility, significance, and power. That it looks like turrets or epilepsy to me may be regarded as proof by some that I am not anointed. That I see virtue signaling and soulish one-upmanship rather than any fruit of the spirit listed in the Bible might be an indication of pharisaical religiosity. Still, last I checked, Galatians 5 lists Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL.

Not seizures

Listen, your experience of God is your experience. At the end of the day, it’s between you and Him. Yet I’ve repeatedly seen and heard charismaniacs question another person’s relationship with God based upon the intensity or lack thereof of animated emotionalism during prayer or worship. There was a time early in my walk with the Lord when I’d watch charismatic histrionics and feel conflicted because, on one hand, it looked like “profane and vain babblings” 2 Tim 2:16-18. On the other hand, I feared I might be defective. I’ve had pastors question my salvation because I did not yell or pray in tongues at the time. Today I understand I was battling cognitive dissonance not an absence of faith or grace in my life.  How one expresses themselves is NEVER a measure of faith or grace.  At best our expressions are a soulish attempt to articulate what we are experiencing.

In the words of Jason Upton,

“Sometimes our praise is a manifestation of our doubt.”

Years later Mel Tari, Indonesian missionary and author of Like a Mighty Wind came to speak while we were in Harvest School in Mozambique.  Mel is an icon in our charismatic stream and no stranger to signs, wonders, and miracles to include seeing the dead raised.  The sun had just set in Pemba as 350 multinational millennials sat on the concrete pavilion floor jerking and twerking, exclaiming “whoa!” as Mel walked in.  He stood for a moment quietly observing the scene then shouted

“Knock it off!”

“You know what you are doing! Get up!”

The gift of self-control descended like an invisible cloud upon the crowd and everyone stopped. Many were offended. But they stopped.  Mel went on to teach the importance of knowing and preaching the word of God in the context of Mat 16:24.

“Deny self, pick up your cross and follow me”

Deny is “Aparnéomai” – to deny utterly, disown, abstain: to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone – to forget one‘s self, lose sight of one‘s self and one‘s interests. Turn’s out one’s new identity in Christ has absolutely nothing to do with any validation of self. Rather our new identity begins with Colossians 3:1-4.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
For you have DIED, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

In the meantime, “The greatest among you shall be your servant,” not a celebrity. Mat 23:11

Here’s another idolatrous error worthy of note. Jesus healed bodily afflictions as part of His ministry.  That does not mean that healing bodily affliction was Jesus’s ministry. Jesus did not come to earth just to fix our flesh and cast out discomfort. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8. Those works began in and are a product of Genesis 3. He came to restore His creation to its original state in the Garden of Eden. Individual healing is one component. The seed of the error is the selfishness and self-centeredness that defines the works of the enemy as “whatever is making me feel bad”. The works of God in this life may come in the form of healing or pain, deliverance or tribulation, prosperity or poverty, comfort, and discipline.  They are always evidenced by transformation and at least one of nine types of fruit. Galatians 5:22-23. His joy, not ours is our strength. Nehemiah 8:10  Let’s face it, IF miracles and healings were His end game, Jesus would not have denounced so many cities.

Then he (Jesus) began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done because they did not repent.” Mat 11:20

Some just hit a sinkhole.

Another aspect of selfishness and self-centeredness is found in endless streams of on-demand self-affirming prophetic words.  Tell a young person God is going to make them an anointed YouTuber and they fall to their knees and weep tears of joy. Tell them Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that Jeremiah 18:7-10 applies to America today and you’re a

You’re a death-speaking doomsayer.

For 40 years Jeremiah warned of God’s impending judgment and the consequences that would result. I can not recall reading that even one person listened to him. Instead, they threw him in a hole. Jeremiah 38  Meanwhile, expedient positivity prophets of the day like those in Jeremiah 14 or Hananiah in chapter 28 promised peace and prosperity. In Hananiah’s case, Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so…” Later the Lord told Jeremiah to call him a liar and pronounce death on him. Hananiah was dead in a year. Israel got the sword, famine, and captivity. We had a lot of Hananiahs in 2020 and some new ones today.

To paraphrase Art Katz, ‘true prophets are the most irrelevant people in the room until the day when they are the only relevant people in the room.’

Again, I am not some doomsday, heresy-hunting, cessationist, opposing supernatural manifestations, or positive life-giving prophetic words. My issue is with a lopsided ear-tickling gospel attended by soulish self-aggrandizing eccentricity that boldly masquerades as Holy Spirit, and the charismaniacs that refuse to test it.

Do not despise prophecies but TEST EVERYTHING; hold fast to what is good., Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess 5:20-22

How will we know the real if we are satisfied with a counterfeit? What is the point of the hoopla if there is no real transformation? Rom 12:1-2.

Last week the women in our recovery class asked. “Why do we have to keep hearing over and over again how much God loves us?”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

That’s all we hear!

“That’s not even the milk!” Cathy exclaimed. 1 Cor 3:2

“It’s colostrum!”

Mind you the context of our previous conversations was related to childbirth. I often joke that we always end up discussing childbirth in our class. Cathy’s point was that colostrum is the precursor to breast milk. They were asking for meat. What I heard was,

How will we be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, to stand firm when we don’t know how to stand at all?Ephesians 6:13 

So I took them to the Olivet Discourse in Mathew 24, not for an eschatological dissertation. I went there because the reality of birth pains is something that all of them had in common. 

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Mat 24:13

They were quick to make the connection between enduring in childbirth and enduring in life.  They’d had a choice. Endure to the end or abort their baby. The same principle applies to personal sanctification, and transformation, in the process of His preparation of a spotless bride. These are the works of God that destroy the works of the devil. In the interim, there’s a whole lot of tribulation, Mark 4:7, persecutions, Mark 4:17, fiery trials 1 Peter 4:12-14, testing, James 1:2-4 and shaking Hebrews 12:18-29.

Tribulation means “pressure”. 

Being conformed requires pressure. Romans 8:29

Birthing is accomplished with pressure Mat 24:21-31

Selfishness abhors pressure.

Sanctification and transformation are always birthed out of brokenness resulting from pressure.  This is counterintuitive in a culture where every discomfort and every trial is met with an assumption of evil and an ejaculatory appeal that “our will be done” in Jesus’s name. If it isn’t they ask, “why?”. Few ever ask,

What are you doing Lord?

What are you trying to teach me – work out in me?  What is it that you want to be shaken or burned off? What is it that needs to be stripped from my life, my flesh, my soul?  What are you birthing in and through me Lord?

We tend to read scripture through a similar lens. For example, most people focus on the subject of sin in the story of the man being born blind in John Chapter 9.  Why was the man born blind? The Pharisees focused on the possible presence of sin, contemporary Christians on its absence. Jesus dismisses the subject of sin entirely and points to the suffering the blind man endured so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:2-3

The crux of the matter

It would seem that there is a complete absence of self-consciousness regarding narcissism in the halls of charismania. It manifests in what I call “the spirit of the selfie”. In addition to having a worldview constructed by social media where narcissism is a path to influence and influence to value and personal significance, many have been instructed by parents and peers that not feeling “seen or heard” is the root of their troubles.  Whatever it takes to be noticed is the cure.  No longer are selfishness and self-centeredness regarded as defects of character- “the root of all our troubles”, but as strengths and assets to be cultivated. They should be crucified. That pressure (tribulation) would come by the hand of God for our benefit sounds absurd.  It only follows that attention-seeking histrionics, politics, and perverse sign-seeking would be embraced as Holy. Most can not see that the collective focus has shifted from “less of me and more of “Him” to More of ME in His eyes – a 2 Timothy 3:2 “love of self”. Charismaniacs can’t or won’t see it because “narcissism” is always offended by what should convict.

“Offense” is skandalon: a trap – a snare.

Many are ensnared.

It is a snare to say rashly, “It is holy”, and to reflect only after making vows. Prov 20:25

So how do we answer the women in our class? Perhaps we should begin with Jesus’s first rebuke in Mathew 16 and interpret the signs of the times. God applied pressure (tribulation) each time Israel fell into idolatry. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 It only follows that he will apply similar pressure on us today. That pressure was and is a function of His judgment. Modern-day Marcionism rejects the application of God as a Judge to the New Covenant age. Many don’t like the word judge today and regard it as a euphemism. But there are three greek words for judge in the New Testament. Krino: to condemn Mathew 7, Anakrino, to discern 1 Corinthians 2:15 and Krisis: God’s Judgment Mathew 10:15 from which the word Crisis is derived. Crisis is tribulation – pressure.

Krisis” (judgment) is God’s way of pressuring His people to repent and be conformed.

I’m not going to go into every factor pointing to the reality that the precipice upon which we currently stand as a nation and a church is crumbling on all sides; that there are no political solutions to spiritual problems.   Quite honestly, you’d have to have your head under a rock not to see the signs of the times.

“God is dead – it’s just taking a while to get rid of the body.”

Yuval Noah Harari – spiritual advisor to Clause Shwab head of the World Economic Forum. 

Those who can not or will not see require more pressure to see beyond their self-preserving patriotic exceptionalism. Acts 10:34-35 Ironically the Pharisees and Sadducees whom Jesus rebuked as “An evil and adulterous generation (seeking) after a sign…” had the same issue with narcissism in that their perceived authority and destiny were rooted in their

Identity.

If identity is the Colostrum as Cathy says; then how do we get to the meat?

First, we must determine our direction and focus and make any necessary course corrections.

We might only be one degree off course. However, there is a vast difference between one degree off for 500 feet and one degree off for 500 miles. Long story short, if your course remains set on you, your identity, and your life then you will at some point be numbered among those whose hearts fail them for fear of what is coming on the earth Luke 21:26.  At that point the least of your concerns will be your disappointment over the myriad of unmet expectations and the self-centeredness you mistook for the voice of God.

You might be saved, but only “as through fire”. 1 Cor 3:15

The alternative is to identify and cease being conformed to the (selfish, self-centered, and narcissistic) ways of the world and be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:1-2

“Renewing” begins with denying self. It means digging into God’s word and making His character and ways your focus instead of your identity, desires, and self-esteem. Yes, He loves you. Still, it’s not about YOU. How you feel about yourself has zero bearing on God’s will and plan.

Renewing involves embracing both His goodness and His severity. Understand that God disciplines those He loves… If He doesn’t you are an illegitimate child Hebrews 12:6-8 Only then will you begin to appreciate His Holiness. Hence renewal begins with acknowledging your wretchedness, before God. The greatest miracle is that He loves you despite your weaknesses and failures. His Holiness and love, not your worth, qualify you for His salvation.

Renewal is evidenced by an attitude that declares your adoration of Him not His adoration of YOU!

Renewing means to cease striving for His approval as you imagine it. If you do strive let it be to expose and boldly bring to the throne of grace your weakness, self-centeredness, absurdity, and silly-silly false pride such that you become worthy of the title that Paul assigned to Himself in 1 Corinthians 4:13,

“The offscouring of all things.”

Renewing means tearing off our fig leaves to crucify our facades. Renewing includes the revelation that your life is “In Him” not the other way around.

Renewing means “letting patience have her perfect work” James 1:4 until you recognize the utter futility of pursuing anything other than Him and His will. Your life is a vapor. James 4:14 He doesn’t owe you a thing. You on the other hand owe Him everything,

especially your gratitude!

At the end of the day, renewal can be likened to peeling an onion. There may be tears as each layer of self is peeled until finally all of “ME” – all of “MY Identity” has been plundered and stripped, to reveal Him and Him alone where my true life is hidden.

Any Krisis and resulting pressure in between is God’s mercy.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations (pressures) also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” and that hope does not disappoint. Romans 5:3-5

Our friend provides a glimpse of that hope.

“As I sit in my cozy home with my Bible and too much food in my kitchen and so, so many blessings, it seems to me that God is good. Not because of material things, but more so in the area of loss...What has happened, how my life has transpired, the hardships, sufferings, pain, and sorrow, is nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in Heaven. So many people have suffered hardship and grief throughout the ages. Many folks have had it ALOT worse than I do. Among those are many stories of strength and perseverance. The ability to continue on with this life in the face of great loss. To continue in hope. To know that

God is sovereign and God is good.

Phil 1:21

To live is Christ. To die is gain.

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

The Metaverse Reloaded

“Multitudes multitudes in the valley of decision.” Joel 3:14

Saule Update

Saule Omarova’s confirmation as Treasury Comptroller appears to have been squashed by centrist Democrats following the revelation of her thesis “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in The Capital,” written when she attended Moscow State University on the V.I. Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship in 1989.

The sheer madness of this should be clear to anyone born before 1979.

Of course whether or not Omarova was confirmed isn’t the point. The revelation of intent is the issue at hand. As in the case of homicide and suicide, left unchecked, “intent” will eventually find a means to achieve its desired outcome. We address the intent so as to avoid the consequences of failing to do so. Omariva’s plan, which isn’t her plan at all, but the WEF’s, would begin with the centralization of all banking in the Federal Reserve. That includes your bank account. Every financial transaction would be monitored in real-time. This would be a first step in creating the infrastructure for a digital dollar, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency. Blockchain is the operating system supporting all major cryptocurrencies. Just think Bitcoin if you are confused. People like it because it is decentralized and transactions are peer-reviewed instead of government regulated and controlled. Right now it affords individuals a path to true freedom and the possibility of a genuine government of, by, and for the people. Of course, this is only true because governments have not established control over them.  For the record, the WEF likes cryptocurrencies.

They just want us to work out the bugs before they assume full control. 

Those rolling their eyes do so at their own peril. Several European nations including France and Sweden have already started down the digital currency path. Of course, conditioning the public to accept a digital dollar will be easier in some areas than in others. So how can the resistance be overcome?

Enter vaccine passports

While not the only option, it would appear that the blockchain digital infrastructure for money and banking could be preceded by a digital vaccine passport. At least it seems like a logical path at this time. The reasoning is simple.  Paper is problematic because it is easily destroyed, lost, or counterfeited. An obvious solution is a digitized passport most likely on smartphones or “wearables”. If the term “wearables” is confusing

Think “Fitbit”.

Or maybe an ankle bracelet. If you know then you know.😉

Blockchain isn’t mentioned until the very end. Still, smartphones can be lost, stolen, or compromised as well. Luckily, Quantum Dot Tattoos have been in the works for several years and coincidentally may provide a viable solution. These would theoretically allow one’s complete vaccine history to be encrypted and stored using nanotechnology.  No, it’s not a “chip” per se, even though it stores information like a chip.

Think of it as an injectable barcode.

My friend who is a robotics engineer also confirmed the QDT isn’t a chip, but just a copper dye QR code like a tattoo, but invisible to the naked eye. Of course, that’s really not the point. The point is they want me to take the info I now carry on a little yellow card with my passport and put it inside my body where they, (but not me) can access it when they desire. In terms of behavioral conditioning, it’s not a huge leap to my consenting to a chip that stores all my financial, identification, and medical data. Once again, this coincidentally fits perfectly with another proposed step in the plan.

Enter the “Body Activity”-based cryptocurrency.

Be sure to click through each of the Tabs e.g. “Patent Family”.

In this case, human bodies will essentially become crypto miners. Don’t freak out. It’s not slavery or the Mark of the beast. Not yet anyway. For those rolling their eyes, crypto miners are computers that “mine” cryptocurrency by processing complex mathematical algorithms at high speed. I have several friends that do this now. There is absolutely no digging involved. If you’d like proof of how easy it is, just download this CryptoTab browser and start mining Bitcoin for free now.

30 minutes of mining. This might take a while.🤔

Or maybe skip that and go directly to the COIN app and start mining cryptocurrency via body activity now!

All you gamers can earn money by playing video games. Imagine that. Steppers can throw away their FITBITs and get paid for their steps instead. And yes it’s a real Cryptocurrency called XYO that can be stored in an Etherium wallet and held, staked, or redeemed for Fiat currency. Again, fiat means paper dollars. Now imagine bypassing all those complicated steps and depositing your earnings directly into a central bank every minute of every day.

“Isn’t this like printing money out of thin air?” you ask.

YES

Still, those who understand fiat currencies and fractional reserve banking know this is pretty much how the global economy functions anyway. At least it does for Central Banks. The difference is that for now, these principles can work for the individual instead of just banks. Secular “all trueists” like those at Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador see it as the hope of the future. It’s certainly helping the poor in El Salvador now. Certain missionary organizations are exploring it as well. It actually makes perfect sense if secularism, pragmatism, and maybe even postmillennialism were true. Still, the goal is for human bodies to function as computer hardware without exorbitant electrical costs. It’s brilliant. Is this a behavioral conditioning for something more? Only slothful induction rolls its eyes, and snickers a snotty “no”. Is it verification of the Revelation 13 direction in which we are headed? I would say yes. At the very least the technology makes it more real even if the specific intent isn’t there yet. I’ll leave it for you to decide where we are on the intention timeline. Suffice it to say that for now, interacting with mammon is unavoidable. The operative question is where and when do we draw the line?

And what qualifies as worship?

Another interesting technological trend is the fairly recent push toward DNA computing. Digital code amounts to 1s and 0s. DNA code is composed of A, C, T, and G. This could radically expand memory and computational power. But don’t worry, as weird as this sounds the public narratives say DNA computing is still cost-prohibitive and still limited to test tubes.  Again, think “intent”. As for where we are today, I like to remember that they told us in 1983 that the SR-71 spy plane was a brand new advance in technology.

SR-71 Blackbird

Then I joined the Marines and learned they had it in 1968.

And consider this.

5Mb Government Hard Drive in 1956
64 Gb Consumer Hard Drive in 2021

“Wait. Did you say 2018?”

Yes

In case you were wondering, its sitting in about a tablespoon of tablesalt.

It helps if we understand that the pace of technological advances went exponential immediately following the invention of the automobile.

“But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4

Of course, people have always freaked out and imagined the worst with every technological advance. Anyone with half a brain knows that’s just dumb.

In the meantime here is more current info to fill the proverbial blanks previously occupied by question marks.

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Facebook company name has changed to Meta. Meta means beyond. Mark Zuckerberg is creating a metaverse. Actually, a lot of other people have been doing it for a while. Mark just wants you to think he invented it so he can assume control.

Think of it as merging with a video game which is how it will begin.  Instead of manipulating a character from an external console, you will become the character or should I say the Avatar. Right now it still looks like VR glasses. But that’s just the beginning. Remember the holodeck on Star Trek? If you’ve seen the movie The Matrix then the intention just got real. The  Metaverse will be a literal digital universe where everyone can hang out without the hindrance of space and time. Think about it. Why fly or drive to a meeting when you can just sit in a chair or the toilet and show up as a well-dressed 3D Avatar in an NFT suit? (More on that later.)

I don’t even want to consider what porn addicts might do.

Whoops…

Who cares if you are locked down in your house or a battery pod?

AMIRITE?

So what if you become a biological crypto mining machine when you can roam freely doing anything you like on Pleasure Island… I mean the metaverse, with The Lady in Red.

Heck, even Holy Spirit will be taking up residence there.

Read the article above or check out the first 15 seconds of this video from THECHURCH.DIGITAL and you’ll get the point. And I’m not just talking about the coming AI god in Anthony Levandowski’s Way of the Future Church. I’m talking about the apostate body of Christ.

“And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.” Rev 9:6

I’ve always wondered how that one might work.

Of course, the fact that you just learned something new does not mean it’s a new idea.

I’ve been following Global Futures 2045 and especially their Avatar Project since 2012.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:5

It looks like they are pretty much on track with the original plan. They might even be ahead of schedule. In a nutshell, they want to download people into computer Avatars so they can live happily and forever in a Matrix – I mean the metaverse and dispose of these nasty climate-destroying carbon-based life forms that are forever polluting mother Gaia.

Then they will have her all to themselves? No, they didn’t say that. At least I don’t think they said that.🤔

In addition to tieing all this to various crypto coins, one of the proverbial carrots being used to lure people, especially creatives into the metaverse right now is called NFTs.

NFT “Non-fungible Tokens”, are Crypto currency-type assets where creators create artwork in the form of video game-style Avatars and digital assets and then market them in the metaverse for ridiculous prices.

There are all sorts of crazy uses planned from tickets to elite parties to certificates of authenticity for antiquities and artwork. To be honest I don’t have a full understanding of these new crypto assets yet. But anyone who has played a modern video game knows that you can buy uniforms, weapons, vehicles, and upgrades for better game performance. So you get the idea. Old guys can think of it in terms of Monopoly as a video game. The only difference is that the money is real. Well sort of. You can still convert it to dollars that can be converted into tangible things like food and flack jackets. On the surface, it sounds pretty silly but fashion designers, interior decorators, and other content creators are invited to make a killing trading their art on a crypto exchange.

In fact I made one myself

Meet FX Crypt Dog

That’s right. I went there. I’m pimping my dog. Bidding starts at $120,000,000

Ironically money launderers love this idea. I’m thinking so will governments and multinational banks looking for an excuse to seize control of the crypto-verse all in the name of our well-being of course.

I’m quite certain they will.

Those naive enough to think they can’t or won’t should keep in mind that hard drives, power sources, and the people that profit from them are not bullet or bombproof. To paraphrase resident Joe Biden.

It would be pretty dumb to bring an AR-15 to an F-15 fight.

Just a few years ago this was all regarded as a conspiracy theory. Heck fifteen years ago, the idea that the Federal Reserve is not a US Government bank was a conspiracy theory. I’m not saying this craziness will succeed. Similar themes have repeatedly played out in history beginning in Genesis 6 and 11. Jesus said it would happen again with the same result during the end times. Mat 24:37-39. Right now I’m merely pointing out that some very powerful multi-billionaires are just crazy enough to try it all again.

It just so happens that their current efforts correlate with scripture.

Yes. I know.

“The wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.” Proverbs 13:22

I get that. Just be careful. Be certain that you are firmly rooted in the word of God, sound-minded, and possess the fruits of the spirit especially self-control. If you are a person who finds gambling and especially slot machines anything other than mind-numbingly boring, then don’t even think about touching this…stuff.

You could lose your soul while trying to gain the world.

Don’t become a donkey.

Maranatha