Why didn’t she speak up?

What a remarkable, wonderful gift the gift of speech is! We were created wo commune with God and with each other with words. Think of it!!

God created us to bear his image, and that image is first seen when the first human named the animals. He used words and connected them to ideas and filled them with content. And thus he was able to receive the revelation of God.

Adam named the lamb, and when God became flesh and entered the world, he told mankind that he was the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Words. With words we pray. With words we speak the truth. With words we encourage. With words we say, “I love you” and “your hair is beautiful” and “I love the shape of you and how you fit with me and the way that your neck smells like I belong.”

But sin is now in the world, and that which was meant for beauty and truth was twisted into ugliness and lies and silence. Satan was a liar from the beginning.

Satan does not want the image of God reflected in words. He twists the words to make them ugly and hateful, and he silences the cries of the oppressed. For the darkness reigns when the dark places remain dark. It is for the advantage of the evil one that secrets remain secret and crimes remain hidden behind non-disclosure agreements.

When you read through the Psalms, you see godly men and women crying out, lifting up their voices to the Almighty One, whose Voice called them into existence.

They speak of praise and joy, pain and sorrow, laughter and anger, oppression and helplessness, despair and elation. And all of it is expressed in words.

He hurt me. He plowed my back. He is telling lies. He oppressed and afflicted me.

Because when the light is on, salvation is near. When the light is hidden under a bushel, bondage still reigns.

God would have us turn the lights on, and he calls us to use words.

But the church, which is to be the place where the light is on, is using her voice to silence the oppressed, the plowed-under, those who are crushed under unspeakable sorrow. Instead of using the voice to bring light into darkness, the voice is silenced by guilt and shame.

When one is buried by decades of silence and the heart has grown numb and buried by walls, the soul sinks into despair. But then, where the gloom has buried hope, a light finally arises and the curtains are pulled back.

And the helpless one finally finds her voice. She is finally able to speak of the atrocities done to her and bring them out into the light and look for healing.

And then those who are appointed as overseers of the soul speak.

“Did you follow Matthew 18?”

“Did you have two or three witnesses?”

“What were you wearing?”

“Where were you when this happened”

“Why didn’t you tell people earlier?”

“Why did you call the police?”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“What did you do to cause this?”

And here is the mistake that the oppressed make. They think that if they do everything right, say it just right, dot all of the eyes and cross all of the ts, then the shepherds will HAVE to listen. After all, they are the guardians of truth.

But here is why it is a mistake. If they believe you, their whole world must collapse. The reality of the brutality that you have experienced doesn’t fit their worldview, and therefore it cannot be real. In their worldview, those kinds of crimes happen to other people, outsiders, gentiles, not in our own camp.

If they believe you, then they have choices to make, investigations, confrontation, and cutting out a cancer. And it is far easier to ignore the cancer, pretend that it isn’t there, and go on with life than it is to do what has to be done with cancer. It is easier in the short term to silence the one who warns of cancer than to deal with the cancer.

So they don’t want to hear, and it won’t matter how it is said, they will find some reason not to believe you. They will twist words, they will pull out their verses, they will hire a PR firm, they will issue statements, they will do everything they can think of…

Except believe you.

And this is actually encouraging for the psalmist of every age, crying out for justice.

Listen closely: It isn’t you. It isn’t because you did something wrong, or said it wrong, or didn’t say it at the right time, or didn’t follow the right procedure or whatever other excuse the gatekeepers throw at you.

That isn’t it.

It is because they are of their father the devil and the works of their father they will do. He was a liar and a murderer from the beginning and the truth was not in him.

Speak anyway. Because when you speak, you shine a little light into the darkness.

But even more than that – you show yourself to be a child of the light.

Arise, shine, and Christ will give you light.

And the darkness hates the light. It always has because it loves the darkness. It is easier to hide in the darkness that to be exposed by the light.

Speak anyway. You will find that there are those who walk in the light who hear you. Who understand. Who see you.

Jesus sees you. He knows. He wants you to speak to him. He calls you to come down from the tree. Come out of hiding.

“Who touched me?” he says.

If that was you, tell him everything. He knows already, but he created you with a voice. Don’t let the Evil One silence that voice, because that voice is beautiful in your Father’s ears.

He hears you. He keeps your tears in his bottle, and every one of them will be avenged.

So speak. Write your own psalm. Speak your truth.

You won’t ever do it correct enough or have enough witnesses for the children of the devil to listen. They aren’t going to listen, not even if you sent an angel from heaven to thunder in their ears.

Speak anyway, because you are a child of light.

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Filed under Abuse, Hope, Image of God, Words

Grief and Gratitude (a thanksgiving meditation)

I remember the last time that I cried. I was perhaps 10 or 11 years old. We were in a restaurant and I was suddenly overcome with emotion and just started crying. I didn’t know how to explain that I was just overwhelmed and exhausted, so I said something about my food.

My dad was furious. He was definitely of the “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” school of thought. He lectured me on gratitude. If I am thankful, then I wouldn’t be crying…

I started to learn how to mask any tears. Tears are always associated in my subconscious with sinful weakness. Maybe one day I will have a breakthrough and learn how to ugly-cry again. I think I might need it.

Anyway, the reason that I am bringing it up is that there is a discussion on Twitter about depression. Someone stated, “Jesus never suffered from depression.”

In order to make that statement, you would have to define depression. If you mean it colloquially, as in, “someone so overwhelmed with grief that they feel like they are dying, then it is easy to demonstrate that Jesus did indeed suffer from that kind of grief”. He was sorrowful to the point of death at Gethsemane.

If, however, you mean the clinical definition of depression, we don’t have the evidence one way or another. He also never got the flu (at least that we know of from scripture) but I am hard-pressed to know what the point is.

I think that the point of the original post is that depression, however you define it, is sin and if someone had proper gratitude then depression will flee away. Just in time for thanksgiving, someone always resurrects the idea that if one is truly thankful in everything, then there is no room for sadness, grief or depression.

Lose a child? Chin up. You can always have another.

Divorce? You’ll find someone else.

Don’t worry. Be happy. Count your blessings.

Be thankful, and all your worries and griefs will be whisked away.

Codswallop.

12 years ago, I lost a child two weeks before thanksgiving. That is a long story, one that I might have the courage to tell one day.

So I want to write this to everyone who is having a hard time counting their blessings this year. I get it. The food tastes like sawdust in the mouth. The painful lump in the back of the throat. The tears that are always threatening, and the subconscious effort to make sure that they don’t burst the dam.

You don’t want to ruin everyone’s thanksgiving. And so you try to be a bit more thankful. If only you would repent of your ingratitude, then you wouldn’t be a bother to anyone else.

Please take this as an encouragement. This world is so, so often a valley of tears. And gratitude and grief often reside in the same breast.

And that’s OK. In fact, that is exactly what redeemed humanity looks like this side of glory. We take up our crosses with him. We cry out with him in Gethsemane. And we remember the joy that is also set before us. It isn’t here.

My dad, who hated any displays of emotion, also would say, “God would not have us be too much at home here.” Our affections are where Christ is seated, at God’s right hand. This is where our thanksgiving is. That God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

The tears will be wiped away. The curse of death destroyed. The presence of God will be with a redeemed humanity, where the lamb is the light and there is no more sea of uncertainty and danger, no more night of weeping and cold sweats and relived trauma.

But today is not that day. Today, we live by faith and not by sight.

Which means that grief and gratitude reside in the same breast.

Let your children cry. Even for no reason. Let your friends and family weep.

Let them be downcast and mourn, for sometimes the weight is so, so heavy. Spend your thanksgiving with friends and family who know how to weep together, as well as rejoice together. This doesn’t mean that they are unthankful. It simply means that they see the gap between the already and the not yet.

They see the gap between Eden and East of Eden, and they are longing – so, so much – to be back home in Eden, where Christ is at the right hand of God.

Doesn’t the bride weep while the groom is absent?

When the groom appears, all tears will be wiped away. Until then, friends, don’t be ashamed of the tears. The groom is coming.

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An Abusive Man’s Toolbox

It is in the best interest of an abusive man to use religious coercion to hold onto access to his victims.

Godly sounding “christianese” sometimes serves that purpose very well.

One phrase that sticks in my craw is this one:

“God designed marriage to make you holy, not happy.”

I can’t explain how this one became so popular, except by the first sentence above. But it is wrong.

God instituted marriage before the fall, when Adam and Eve both walked in God’s presence in the temple of Eden.

Adam was already holy when God presented him with Eve. Even was given to Adam as a fitting helper, and Adam exclaimed with joy, “At last! Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!” And God saw it and said, “Behold, it is very good.”

Man’s lack of holiness came AFTER the fall, when he was driven from Eden, away from God’s presence. That holiness is only restored in the Second Adam.

By union with him, we are made what we are not. We are holy, because we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. He has consecrated himself so that he might consecrate us and present us to God, a bride without blemish and without spot. If you belong to Christ, you ARE holy, and you will be MADE holy – whether you are married or single, widowed or divorced, male or female.

But the design of marriage is the same as it has always been. For the happiness and joy of the two entering into marriage.

So that brings me to compassion. We are called to enter into the suffering and pain of others, especially of the body of Christ. When one member hurts, all members hurt. We are called to hurt and suffer together as well as rejoice together. But that is costly.

It takes time to enter into someone’s pain. It may cause you to re-evaluate everything that you thought was solid. It may cause sleepless nights, wrestling in prayer. It may cause you to weep, which is always uncomfortable.

But it may also cause you to have to step out of your comfortable worldview, where “we are all nice Christians here” and into a worldview where wolves terrorize sheep and the sheep are often left scattered and alone and vulnerable.

And that is never a comfortable zone for anyone to be in.

So when a sister or brother tentatively reaches out about pain in marriage, about the abuse she is suffering at the hands of her husband, about the horrible things that human beings can do to each other, it is far safer and more comfortable for the hearer to bounce it back, put up a “I-am-so-not-interested” wall and say,

“Marriage is designed to make you holy, not happy.”

Then make some mmm, mmmm, mmmm sounds. Grasp her hands and make a sad face, and send her on her way.

That way you don’t have to disrupt your own life with uncomfortable truths.

But it is wrong.

As members of Christ, we are to be as he is. We enter into suffering as he does. We walk with the wounded as he does. We pay the cost to sit with the vulnerable and suffering, because Christ paid the ultimate cost and we are honored to take up his cross with him. He paid the cost so that we might be delivered from the hard bondage of sin and misery and the kingdom of the devil.

And it should be our greatest desire to lead others to the paths of liberty. What a great joy when a sheep escapes from the mouth of a wolf!

So listen to the uncomfortable stories. Tear down the wall that you think is keeping you safe and learn to walk with the wounded. Bear the reproach of Christ, and the insults.

It is tremendously costly. Ask anyone who has made a habit of it, and they’ll tell you.

But when you do so, you will have the honor of being more and more like Christ, reflecting his comfort, righteousness and beauty to a wounded and hurting world.

“Be ye holy”, he says. “For I am holy.”

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Filed under Abuse, Marriage

9 things (November 3)

Jesus has promised that he is gathering together the outcasts, the afflicted, the exiled and the despised. He is clothing them, cleansing them, and embracing them as family. Some days the longing for that Day is pretty intense.

Under the sun, it sometimes seems as if it is better to be greeted in the marketplace than it is to be an outcast. But Jesus tells us that he has a special care for the outcasts. He knows what one needs to compromise in order to be greeted in the marketplace.

For the last two days, I have seen headlines about a missing verse in the song, “You’re so vain” by Carly Simon. They are trying to convince me to open the headline, with the temptation that this verse might reveal who the song is about. I am having a hard time believing that anyone actually still cares. Of course, I have a hard time believing anyone EVER cared.

I recently read an article mocking what the author called the “victim mentality”. I cannot fathom what certain Christians think they are trying to accomplish by mocking victims of crimes. Sometimes I think that pastors are only concerned with not being bothered. When you mock certain people for having a “victim mentality” all that you are accomplishing in ensuring that your sheep will never, ever speak to you about what is actually on their hearts.

Throughout the world, men, women and children are being cast out of the churches, just as Jesus said they would (John 16:2). Bob Dylan sings, “It’s not dark yet. But it’s getting there”. The wolves are entrenched. The sheep are cast out. But Jesus is working. Nothing is outside of what he has already said would happen. And he is gathering his outcasts together.

Everyone likes to complain about social media. But the Lord is doing something wonderful through it. He is connecting his outcasts together and giving them hope. How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good tidings, even when those tidings are proclaimed  in unexpected ways.

Fall has arrived in Northern California. There is a crisp tang in the air. My wife is making fabulous apple crisp. The soup is on and the wine is flowing. Fall speaks peace to the soul, that the God of color, light, sunsets, smells, and tastes is the God who made us, cares for us, and is our Husband. Your maker is your husband (Isaiah 54)! What a thought! The leaves can rest and so can we.

Brahms’ Symphony #4 brings joy in a profound and intense way.

God gives his beloved ones sleep; but he gives it by strengthening our faith – that HE builds the house, protects the city, provides redemption, and calls his people to the Jerusalem which is above. (Psalm 127).

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Nationalism: Who makes the bricks?

Moses wrote the book of Genesis to the nation of Israel who had just been delivered from the oppression of Egypt. In Egypt, they were slaves who made bricks and built buildings for their oppressors. They made bricks day and night to build cities for Pharaoh.
Moses wrote about this when he wrote about the tower of Babel:

Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth (Gen. 11:3–4).

They were building a kingdom to regain what they had lost in Eden. After mankind was exiled from the presence of God, they were scattered. After Noah departed from the Ark, they began to scatter. It didn’t take long for them to organize and seek to build what they had lost.

We will fight the grave. We will make a name for ourselves. We will establish ourselves.

Isaiah later takes this idea and adds to it. Lucifer, by the way, refers to Babylon, not Satan.

Isaiah 14:12–15 (NKJV)
12“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
13For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
15Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.

Notice the echoes of the same themes – the tower reaching to heaven. We will be like the most high. We will exalt our throne. We will sit on the mount of the congregation of the Lord. Read the whole chapter. Isaiah is speaking about the spirit that drives Babylon, and every kingdom of this earth.

In other words, “We will establish the kingdom of God on this earth. We will build cities. We will pass laws. We will deal with evil-doers. We will create a society, a City on the Hill. And there will be no more curse.”

View it from the backdrop of the description of Babel. This is a major theme throughout the Bible, but I only want to focus on one aspect of it.

The Tower was built with bricks and mortar. And the original readers of Genesis would have known exactly what that meant. Someone had to make the bricks and build the buildings.

That would not have been Pharaoh, the one with the grand plan. It would have been the slaves.

And so comes the downfall of every single scheme to build the kingdom of God on this earth. Someone has to make the bricks.

Even the founding of our own country, which many claim is the “City on the Hill”, using the phrase of the puritans. Who did the work?

Dabney complained after the slaves were set free that he hardly had time to write anymore because of all the menial labor that wasn’t getting done.

In our own state, the California Indians were enslaved to harvest the crops and build the cities. The adobe houses weren’t going to build themselves.

The “City on the Hill” is a grand idea, until you think about who is making the bricks. One thing is for sure. The one who says, “Come let us make bricks” is NOT the one who is actually making the bricks. The one who holds the whip is the one giving the commands. The one at the other end of the whip is making the bricks.

At the end of Genesis 11, there is a contrast. We are introduced to a new character. Abraham. God gives Abraham a promise, and Abraham believes it. And he learns to wait for it.

Hebrews 11 tells us this:

Hebrews 11:9–10 (NKJV)
9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Abraham lived in tents his whole life, because he waited for another kind of city. A city where God makes the bricks and builds the city.

Dwell on that for a moment.

There is no oppression, no vanity under the sun, no pain and toil.

And truly no more curse. No curse for anyone, for God will take it on himself.

HE makes the bricks and prepares a place for you. And you can dwell in a tent while you wait, if that is what it takes.

THIS is the kingdom of God.

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Filed under liberty, Nationalism, slavery

“Christianity has a masculine feel…”

Thus spake John Piper, the wise. It makes me sad. There is a new religion that has entered through the American revivalists over the decades, and it isn’t Christianity. It is a religion of power, authority, money, influence and control. Its ugly babies are abuse, rape, violence, racism, and oppression.

This “religion” has a “masculine feel” – which is now defined as Christians taking dominion, conquering wives, controlling children, taking over counties, states, and eventually countries. (I believe that masculinity is a gift of God that can be used for much good, but that is another subject.)

It snuck in stealthily and some of us didn’t really wake up to it recently. And many, like me, have asked since “What happened to Christianity? How did it turn in to power and politics and hatred and blustering. How did it turn into abuse and oppression and coverup? How did the dynamic of authority and submission come to take the place of the gospel? What happened to the good news that the church was commissioned to proclaim?”

How could we have gotten it so wrong? Many have written on it and have done well. Most of them have been cast out of their churches, received death threats and suffered all sorts of abuse. All that does is prove the validity of the question. “When did Christianity turn into something so unlike itself?”

This is a blog. It isn’t a book. It is a short commentary designed to encourage thought. So I would like to simply modify Piper’s statement to something a little more Biblical, and leave it at that. If you like, you can compare these statements to Piper’s statement and determine for yourself, if you are willing to do so. Perhaps the answer to the question, “How did we get here?” might spring up in your mind.

Instead of saying, “Christianity has a masculine feel”, look at these nine more biblical alternatives:

“Christianity has a lover’s embrace feel” (Song of Songs)

“Christianity has a mothering hen and sheltering chicks feel” (Matthew 23:37)

“Christianity has a begging widow feel” (Luke 18:1-8)

“Christianity has a dying beggar feel” (Luke 16:20-21)

“Christianity has a babies and nursing infants feel” (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 21:16)

“Christianity has a big, warm, lying in each other’s arms feel” (Luke 15:20; John 13:23)

“Christianity has a desperate, helpless sinner feel” (Luke 18:13)

“Christianity has a hopeless prisoner, outcast, despised, mourning, fringe kind of feel” (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-19).

“Christianity has a safe, belonging, peaceful, nourishing, apron-wearing, serving one another kind of feel” (so, so, so many passages John 13; Romans 8; Revelation 20-21; Isaiah 2; Zephaniah 3)

There are probably many more, and the difference is crucial. There are those who have power, who are masculine in every cultural sense of the word; there are those who are in charge, who have money, who sit on thrones, who rule their houses, who have resources, time, authority and status…

But that isn’t Christianity. If you have those things, you must consider them all to be dung, be willing to give them all away, learn to wear an apron, become as a nursing child or begging widow, or you are, quite honestly, not worthy of Christ’s name. Nor are you worthy to use any of the power that God has given you until you first learn to lay it aside and take up an apron.

But on the other hand, those on the fringes, those who are unclean, those who are weak, beggars, cast-aways, despised, hated, thirsty, longing for love and for embrace and for belonging and safety, Jesus is speaking to YOU.

“Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

Not “and I will teach you to be manly”

Not “and I will teach you how to have power over people”

Not “and I will teach you what you have to do to earn favor with God”

But “I will give you rest.”

I have heard that according to Babylonian mythology, the gods created humans because they needed workers.

God did not create us because he needed workers in his kingdom. He created us to rest in his bosom. He created us free to create, to plant, to reap, to sing, to dance, to rejoice in the love of the Holy Trinity, into which we have been sweetly drawn in by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we turn it into a “masculine feel” of conquest, authority, power, control, we always end up in some truly ugly places.

Stop the idolatry of Babel, resurrected as Christian nationalism. Learn to rest in the bosom of the shepherd.

James 3:17–18 (NKJV)
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That can only happen when we learn how to rest in God’s love and stop trying to control everyone or make them our servants. Learn to wear the apron. Learn to rest in the embrace. Long for the lover’s voice. This is Christianity.

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Filed under 9 things, Church, Faith

Cancel Culture and Lessons from Assyria

Isaiah 8:6–8 (NKJV)
6 “Inasmuch as these people refused The waters of Shiloah that flow softly, And rejoice in Rezin and in Remaliah’s son;
7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them The waters of the River, strong and mighty— The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels And go over all his banks.
8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.

The nation of Judah was threatened by surrounding nations. They looked to make a treaty with Assyria to protect themselves and their way of life.

Isaiah was sent to warn them of the dangers of this path. This section begins in chapter 7, for the whole context.

But Judah’s king, Ahaz, did not believe Isaiah’s words. He would not trust in the Lord or the Lord’s covenant. He refused a sign, for his mind was already made up.

He would not rest in God’s promise and God’s provision. Instead, he would trust in human power, armies, wealth, kings and nations.

God’s promises and God’s instructions were like the gentle moving waters of Shiloah (later called “Siloam”, see John 9). Gentle water washes and refreshes. It quenches thirst and gives peace. Sitting quietly by a gentle spring of water calms the soul.

It is a beautiful metaphor for God’s promise of a redeemer. Immanuel, God with us! This promise cannot fail for who can stop the creator of heaven and earth from fulfilling his word?

If Ahaz had simply rested in God’s promise and learned to quiet his soul, he would not have sold himself and his nation into the hands of the Assyrian army. Assyria would not stop. They would destroy everything in their path and consume all who stood in their way.

They were like a huge, destructive flood, crushing everything in its path.

But Ahaz would not listen. From his day on, Israel would never be independent again. They would be subject to nation after nation up until Rome, when Jesus would set up his kingdom just as the prophets foretold.

But here is the point. When we refuse to listen to the gentle voice of the promise and the instructions of God, eventually God will use the Assyrian armies to get the attention of his people. God uses tyrants to call his people to repentance before it is too late.

When we refuse to heed the voice of the gentle waters, the waters of the destructive flood have their way of compelling us.

This brings me to another thing I’ve been thinking about. Cancel culture.

We used to call it “politically correct speech”. If you say the wrong words, the consequences can be dire. I just read of another minister kicked off Twitter because of his incorrect speech about gender dysphoria. He, of course, blames it on “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, but I think the cause is deeper.

For decades we have accepted reviling speech against anyone we deem “enemies”. Whether it is the LGBTQ community, or liberal theologians, or people who support the wrong candidate, or those who speak out for social justice, or promote CRT, we (as the church) use the most degrading and hateful speech imaginable.

I guess we consider it fair game, because the objects of our derision are so “objectionable”. We justify it to ourselves by saying that these sorts of people will rob us of our place and our nation and we have to put a stop to it.

As a sideline, I know that reviling speech is prevalent on every side of political debate. But my whole life I have been a member of the conservative church and I voted Republican until 2016, so my great love and my great concern are for my own tribe.

Who am I to call out those who are outside of my experience and my knowledge? I will leave that to others.

Another side note, I know that not EVERYONE uses reviling speech against “enemies”, but I know that mostpeople sit silently and say by their inaction that this sort of communication is acceptable.

They might not agree with revilers and the language that they use, but they listen to their radio broadcasts, give money to their ministries, buy their books, read their blogs, vote them into office, and smile quietly to themselves at their silly “antics”.

And it is easy to forget how much God HATES reviling speech, contemptuous mocking, ridicule, name-calling and the hatred that so easily fills the heart.

God has spoken quietly to us with faithful preaching, gentle rebukes from the pulpits, the reading of scripture, the outpouring of the Spirit (aptly described in scripture as cleansing water) – and the church mocked, scoffed, and justified their speech as necessary for “culture warriors” in dangerous times.

We looked the other way as “pastors” reviled women with revolting and hateful words. We held our tongues as they scoffed at their neighbors and insulted opponents. We voted for politicians who “own the libs”. And we stood silently by as the church forgot that the LGBTQ community is also made up of image bearers of God.

We called those “pastors” wordsmiths, culture warriors, and passed around their words and shared their blogs tearing fellow humans to shreds with the most degrading language possible, because – we said to ourselves – we are at war for our place and our nation.

And forgot that God hates it.

    22      “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
     For scorners delight in their scorning,
     And fools hate knowledge.

And we rejected the gentle waters of Shiloah.

So now we have the flood of Cancel Culture. God sends tyrants to gain the attention of those he loves, to bring them to repentance.

So I would make the following suggestion. Instead of railing against “cancel culture” as an enemy of righteousness, take it as an opportunity to correct your speech patterns.

Use words of life, and not death. Don’t join in angry scoffing and scorn against people you disagree with. Put off name-calling and ridicule. Learn to listen to others with an open mind.

View your neighbor with compassion instead of contempt. Turn off all who cause unrest and stir up strife. Pray for those who disagree with you. Look at your neighbors and coworkers NOT as commodities to be used to fill your empty places at church, but as human beings with their own thoughts, experiences, journeys, tragedies and pains that they carry with them.

And remember that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy and peace…and there aren’t any laws against those things, nor can there be.

And also, please note that I am NOT saying that our spirit of cancel culture is a good thing. In many ways, it is exactly like the tyranny of the Assyrian king, and great injustices have been done. We also should do what we can to have compassion on those who have been brutally “canceled” and refuse to play those wicked games ourselves.

My only suggestion is that perhaps we view it as an opportunity to learn better ways of communicating ourselves and repent of those times we have used words to hurt and cancel others.

This, I believe, is a more biblical approach to the cruelty of tyranny.

My two bits.

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9 things (October 13)

Some beatings take longer to recover from. Beatings accompanied by ill-will administered by those one mistook for friends are the hardest ones.

I know it has been several months since I have written. The day may come when I can talk about it. Today isn’t that day.

I was looking for 4 gallon water jugs for my dispenser. They were not in their usual spot at Sam’s. I checked several other aisles. I found an employee and asked her. She said, “Did you check the furniture aisle?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Did you happen to notice if there were any there?” I gawped. Paused. I think she understood what she just asked. It will come to her in the middle of the night when the movie of her life runs through her head.

I sympathize with her. I often speak before I think. Maybe I want to be just as surprised as you are at what comes out of my mouth. I don’t know where I read that, but I felt it deeply.

The beatings mentioned above are even harder to recover from when they were administered for the sole purpose of hurting you.

They reviled Jesus by calling him scornfully a “friend of sinners”. We should ask ourselves how he conducted himself around sinners to keep getting invited to their feasts.

Normalize going a whole day without telling someone what you think is wrong with them.

How did we get here? How did the church devolve into this? We are suspicious of compassion, of joy, of rejoicing, of laughter, of love, of empathy, of tears, of emotions…the only thing we aren’t suspicious of is the false doctrine that takes away our humanity and the possibility of redemption. We’ve turned into cold slaves, offering our heartless service to an angry God, trying to convince him to get off our backs by rebuking everyone around us. It isn’t working.

When we think that the blessing of God is connected to how well other people are keeping the law, we become heartless, cruel, suspicious, restless, angry and vindictive. Maybe we should strive to be known as the friends of sinners, rather than the inquisitors of sinners.

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9 things (catching up and thinking about followership)

I am very thankful to God for warm and rich fellowship with many sisters in Christ. I have no biological sisters, but many warm friendships online, and in real life.

The Oregon Coast is beautiful and I’m glad that we were able to spend some time away. I got pretty sick two days into my trip, so I didn’t get to recreate as much as I wanted to – but I got a lot of reading in.

I have heard my whole life that the reason God called Deborah to lead was that the men had all failed to step up. This is found nowhere in the text. But if we assume that it is true, the practical outcome was identical: If the men listened to her, they would live. If they rebelled against her they would die. Whatever God’s motive was for raising her up makes no difference in the outcome. What was important was not her gender, but whether she spoke God’s word.

The highlight of my trip was when a young child pointed at me and said, “Hey, look at the old man!” It must have been my hat…

While breakfasting in Medford, I glanced through the “Frankfurt declaration”. I decided to pen my own Medford Declaration: “I the undersigned will continue to be unaffected by the opinions of cult leaders and heterodox celebrity preachers”.

And back to Deborah – CS Lewis has a marvelous segment in “Prince Caspian.” Lucy, the youngest of the four children, sees Aslan who tells her to follow him and tell the others. The others can’t see him, but he tells her to follow anyway. They reluctantly follow her, and eventually they can see Aslan leading her. It seems to me that neither age nor gender are nearly as important as whom one is following.

One blessing in illness is the time to read. “The Call to Follow; Hearing Jesus in a Culture obsessed with Leadership” by Richard Langer and Joanne J. Jung is worth every penny and every minute. I’ll post a review on Amazon shortly.

August is bittersweet for me. The memories come up on my social media. It was in August that my wife had a surgery that left her in severe pain for years to follow. It was an incredibly difficult time. It was also in August that my youngest daughter spent weeks in the hospital hovering between life and death. The scars remain with both. August leaves scars that only Jesus can heal.

Next week, I will again be sitting in the hospital with my daughter and she goes through more tests. There is nowhere that is a better training ground for patience than at the bedside of a loved one. You wait regardless. You can do it patiently; or you can do it impatiently. But you will wait. Sometimes for years.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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Here’s to the ones who fail…

We like to watch certain contest type shows. America’s Got Talent; Chopped – that sort of show. People arrive and show off their skills for the judges. They are fun to watch, and fun to see what gifts God has given to people.

There is a running theme in all of these. Contestants will almost invariably say a variation of the following.

“They might have more experience …. but no one works harder than I do”

“I just want to show my (daughter, son, nephew, niece) that you can achieve your dreams if you work hard and set your mind on it.”

“I’ve had some sort of adversity, but I overcame and showed myself strong…”

“I didn’t let obstacles keep me from my dreams…”

These sorts of statements warm the hearts of the audience and judges. I don’t really want to cut down those who have worked hard and achieved their dreams, nor do I want to belittle hard work. Hard work is better than idleness; dreaming is better than hopeless despair. Trying is better than not trying at all.

But several decades of adversity tend to bring something else out about life.

The strong don’t always win.

The ones that work the hardest don’t always succeed.

The talented don’t always get the record deals.

Sometimes a virus travels up into your brain and eats holes there. Sometimes the joints degenerate.

Sometimes, you are a fighter and  work hard and are determined to beat the cancer, but it wins anyway.

Sometimes, the world doesn’t work the way that it is supposed to.

11 I returned and saw under the sun that—

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
12      For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them. (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)

This is actually a comfort, because I know how often we beat ourselves up with guilt.

If my illness overcomes me, does that mean I have failed morally?
If I didn’t win, is it because I didn’t work hard enough?
If my dreams didn’t come true, is it because I didn’t visualize them enough and strive enough?

What if I am just ordinary. What if I just write a few things from time to time, plant some tomatoes that never seem to grow, and never leave any kind of name or spectacular achievement behind?

What if, like the vast majority of the human race, I die, go into the dust, and fade away and in 6 months no one remembers me, my loved ones have a hard time picturing my face, and the universe continues on?

To all of the ordinary ones like me, here’s to you!

Here’s to the one whose body is wracked with pain and getting up in the morning is a monumental task.

Here’s to the ones who can’t memorize their catechism, no matter how hard they try.

Here’s to the ones who lay awake at night sweating and trembling and not really quite able to conquer their anxieties all the time.

Here’s to the ones who just get tired and want to throw in the towel.

Here’s to the ones who work 9 to 5 on the same job their whole lives who have learned contentment.

Here’s to the ones who can’t get work because their bodies have betrayed them.

Here’s to the ones who have mastered running a 10k. And here’s to the ones who can’t walk across a Walmart without having to rest.

Whoever you are and whatever your struggle, here’s to you.

Jesus didn’t come just to save the strong, beautiful, talented. And sometimes the curse on the world is just too much.

Sometimes, you don’t get over grief, but carry it every single day.

Sometimes, you don’t wish your way into good health, but will limp every day.

Sometimes, you don’t succeed, no matter how hard you work at it.

Sometimes, your hidden talents remain hidden, because you are too busy trying to put food on the table.

Sometimes, people abandon you and the hardest battles are the ones you face alone.

Sometimes,

In fact, usually –

people are born. They do some things. They die.

And while they are doing some things, if they are sometimes overwhelmed by the futility of it all, overcome with despair and isolation, and sometimes crushed by the weight of it all – if they cry out to the Lord, they might find that he hears, that he cares, that he is faithful, and that he has flights and flights of angels waiting to bear us to his rest…

If we just call upon his name.

For the scripture says,

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Not – “Whosoever has their lives together”

Nor – “Whosever works hard enough and dreams hard enough

Nor – “Whosoever contributes enough to society”

Nor – “He who has friends in high places

Nor – “He who gets the best invites…”

But whosoever calls.

Because if you count on your strength, you will probably trip.

If you count on your horses and riders, you might lose a nail.

If you count on your health, one microscopic virus could lay you in a chair the rest of your life.

If you count on your beauty, one fire, one accident, one bacterium…

You get the picture. The race isn’t too the swift…

BUT – whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved.

This is repentance. It isn’t trying to work up enough energy to quit whatever sin you struggle with. It is turning from your trust in your will-power, the power of your dreams, the power of your love, the power of your determination – and realize the hopelessness and futility of all of it.

And call upon Jesus alone. He alone saves us. Turn away from the worship of self-reliance and lean upon him alone.

For whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

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