Category Archives: 9 things

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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“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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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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9 things on grieving

Some grief you carry in community. The worst grief you carry alone.

You grieve the relationship that should have been. The missing people in your life that you can’t talk about. The loved ones that were taken away because of great evil. The loved ones taken away by death, illness or broken relationship.

You grieve the loss of community and the things that you know that no one would believe even if you told them. You grieve the fear and the terror and the unfulfilled longing to be known and the terror of rejection and pain if you are known.

You grieve not being able to tell anyone of what is really going on because you still are grieving from the fallout of the last time you spoke.

You grieve the damage that unimaginable evil can do that you can’t speak out loud because you would sound like a paranoid nut job if you did. You grieve the appearance of evil that sunk into your soul and took away your safe place to stand that you can’t tell anyone because the fear of rejection is greater than your desire to be known. So you carry it alone. There is a heaviness attached to seeing the worst side of humanity.

You grieve the innocence that you lost; the child you never were. You grieve lost health, lost opportunities, lost youth, lost children, lost friendships, lost gardens, lost fellowship.

You grieve the loss of the place where you thought you stood, when the ground finally shakes and everything falls and nothing is left except Christ and His Cross.

And you grieve for that little boy that you once were, the one that you hate, the one that fills you with disgust and shame –  and the hardest thing to do is to grieve for him and to realize that maybe he was just trying to do the best he knew how and maybe you should give him a break because no one else would …

And you grieve the life that you thought you would have but the curse on the world got in the way, and you realize that “godliness with contentment is great gain” is the hardest concept to embrace when your soul is screaming – and then, you bow your head and worship. “Yet not my will, but thine be done.” I know. I truly know that the day will come when all of these tears will be washed away. How I long for that day.

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9 things (August 1)

Today is my youngest daughter’s 24th birthday. A few years back, we almost lost her, so today there is much to celebrate. We had a great day.

I found out today that it is illegal to name your child “Robocop” in Mexico. I don’t have any opinion about that. I am going to practice not having opinions about more things. I find the lack of opinions refreshing sometimes.

A few years back, there were a lot of on-line voices stridently pushing me to get worked up over net-neutrality. I forget if I was to be for it or against it, but I apologized profusely and begged off at the time, stating that I had my plate full with things to get worked up over but as soon as I clear some of those things up, I would throw a right fit – for or against. I don’t remember which. At any rate, I have some time now, but I forgot what I’m supposed to do. So I threw some water on a stray cat.

I will, however, always get worked up over those false shepherds who continually seek to add human merit to our salvation. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. It is impossible to be united to Christ without bringing fruits of thanksgiving, but that adds nothing to our standing before God.

I will also always get worked up by those who continually stir up discord in the church over their opinions. Reviling, threats, contemptuous speech and pride are as hateful to God as any “sin” you might be railing against.

My grandson is in my Sunday School class. he can’t remember the name “Esau”, but he remembers that his name (and his nickname) means “Red Hair”. So he calls him Red Hair. It’s fabulous. I ask, “How did Jacob steal the blessing?” And he says, “He pretended to be Red Hair”. That makes me quite happy.

Solomon judged between two harlots. One of them would rather destroy the baby than admit she was wrong. Solomon saw through her. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had the same wisdom. There are those who would destroy souls, churches, and even countries rather than admit that they might be wrong.

When you keep company with those who mock, scoff, and scornfully use those who are “not approved,” you will find yourself caught up in wickedness and eventually unable to extricate yourself. Remember Psalm 1. There is a difference between life and chaff.

Jesus told us that his disciples would be known by their love. No matter how much you try to twist the meaning of “love” to mean “telling people what is wrong with them”, they are not the same concepts. One is of the Holy Spirit. The other is the spirit of the Accuser. The Accuser of the Brethren has been cast out of heaven. Do not be keen to take his place.

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9 things (July 20)

There has been a lot going on in the last month. Illness, traveling, illness…sometimes the desire to sit and rest is overwhelming.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ words “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…” We don’t think about this nearly enough. Which authoritarian husband would genuinely want to be treated the way he treats his wife and family?

My brother Jim helped me record and mix some hymns that I played on the piano. They are now available on most services. I don’t know what I think about that. Mostly anxious, I guess. But I hope that people like them.

“Do unto others…” Maybe think about it next time you revile your server at the restaurant; or talk to your co-worker with contempt and scorn; or dismiss fellow believers as idiots and not worth your time…

I don’t know of any adults that would learn how to be a better human by way of a good beating. I sometimes wonder why we think our kids will learn how to be better humans by way of a good beating…

Diane Langberg once said that the greatest mission field for the church is the traumatized humans in every community. She is correct. The word in the Bible for traumatized (oppressed – anaw) is usually translated “meek”, or “poor” or “humble”. Those are the ones that Jesus came to preach the good news to, according to Isaiah 61:1.

Unfortunately, the traumatized are the ones we most frequently ignore, or even revile, since they generally do not fit our world and life view. Their behavior makes us uncomfortable and their existence threatens our comfort levels.

When I think about “do unto others”, I can’t help but think about how Micah describes the kingdom of God, as “everyone sitting under their own vine and their own fig tree.” It is marked by contentment and peace. There are no busybodies, no one telling you everything you are doing wrong, no enemies, no fear. I want to invite you to sit with me under my vine and under my fig tree in the kingdom and visit you under yours. Isn’t that what the gospel is all about?

Jesus puts to death our sinful inclinations, our fleshly lusts and gives us a clean heart, filling us with his spirit, so that we will finally learn to just sit and rest, praising him forever, resting in his creative work, and saying with him, “Behold! It is very good!” This is the Sabbath of God, and we will rejoice in it.

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9 things (June 11, 2022)

Marriage is a covenant, which means that it can be broken. Vows were taken. We vowed to love, cherish, cleave to, forsake all others, honor…when those vows are continually broken without repentance, divorce might be in order. The innocent party is free to make her (his) own decision without further control and abuse from outside parties.

I’ve been listening to Time for Three lately. A truly wonderful group. “Joy” makes my heart happy.

If a covenant by definition cannot be broken, then Adam would not have died and the death of Jesus would not have been necessary. The broken covenant is the tapestry on which the story of redemption is painted.

In 1 Peter 3:1, the apostle is giving practical advice to husbands and wives in the context of the spread of the gospel to Jews and Greeks alike. When you have thousands of converts a day, questions like “Do I get a divorce from my pagan husband?” abound. To apply that counsel to abusive or harsh husbands in the 21st century is like going to a chiropractor for a brain tumor. We need wisdom, people.

Life with fibromyalgia: “Oh! That one is new! I wonder if I have contracted a deadly disease or if it is just a fibro-flare?”

Those of you on Twitter who make it a practice to revile and mock women – you will someday stand before God with all of your Tweets open and you will have to explain to the Lion of Judah why you did not fear to speak about His co-heirs like you have.

If the salt has lost its saltiness, what will you salt it with? When the church sounds just like Fox News, is it distinguishable as the Bride of Christ anymore?

The sad part to me is that we as the church have forgotten how to think. We’ve become soundbites and caricatures of ourselves. Anyone who forces us to think through our positions is considered an enemy to be destroyed.

When the great commission is framed as a “culture war”, then it must be won by the weapons of the flesh by any means necessary. Disagreements cannot be tolerated. Enemies must be destroyed. Lying, harshness, reviling and slander are all necessary for the greater good. This has nothing to do with Christ.

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9 things (May 23)

1. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.” And yet, so many organizations that go by the name “church” continually ignore, cover up, and deny the fruits, embracing the wolf. I think it is time to name these organizations for what they are. If “the least of these” are not safe inside your walls, you are not a church, no matter how your PR firm spins it.

2. When one is cast out of a wolf-embracing organization, or has fled for their own safety, they have not left the church. They simply saw the fruits and realized that what they were in was not a church.

3. The SBC hasn’t been a church for a long, long time. Ever, really. An organization founded for the purpose of keeping slaves under control might say some good things from time to time, but so does the devil. You can’t tell a church by what is plastered on their website or printed in their bulletins. You will know them by their fruits.

4. I pray that the people of God who are still in bondage in the SBC will be able to flee and find safety.

5. I also pray that we all would see the warning signs before the candlestick is removed. If our “ministry” is more concerned about culture than the gospel; if our “ministry” is more concerned about keeping women in their place; if our “ministry” is based on money, power, numbers, and privilege; NOW is the time to repent and return to our former love.

6. Is anyone else extremely disturbed that so-called Christian leaders are denouncing winsomeness and kindness because of the “hostility” of the culture?? There are so many problems with this I don’t even know what to say. The outright exchange of the ethics taught by Jesus (and all of scripture) for the ethics of Fox News should shake us to the core. But it does expose the god that so many serve.

7. Placing one’s trust in strength or riches will always lead to oppression and robbery (Psalm 62). You will know them by their fruits. If there is oppression or robbery, there is no Biblical faith.

8. We are all sinners. If a church is doing its job, we will be made uncomfortable by our sins and urged to find cleansing and healing in Christ. But if your person, your dignity, your body, your worth and your voice are not safeguarded and protected, then you are not in a church.

9. Everyone is continually being catechized. It is the nature of being human. If you are being catechized by porn, you will not have a healthy view of relationships and sexuality. If you are being catechized by the media (whether right or left wing) you will make decisions based on fear. If you are being catechized by right wing nationalism, you will not understand Christianity and will find yourself worshiping another god. We become like the idols we serve (Psalm 115).

Read the Psalms.

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9 things (May 13)

Lots of celebrity pastors express concern (condemnation) for so many ex-evangelicals who are “deconstructing.” Pause. New subject. Josh Duggar’s pastor, a leading evangelical voice for a leading evangelical family, is begging the judge to allow Josh to return to his children. Let that sink in a little. There might be a connection.

For 40 years now, since the “moral majority” became a thing, the leading voices in evangelicalism have united for “traditional family values”. The result is that Anna Duggar does not believe that she has biblical grounds for divorce and that her children need a father like Josh. This makes me brutally sad. Perhaps Christians should unite over good exegesis, mercy for the oppressed, and being a voice for the voiceless.

Every time I think about writing something, I wonder if there is even a point. Then I remember that the battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against demonic spirits in high places. So I breathe. Look to Christ. And say what has to be said, even if no one listens.

The most influential religion in America is no longer “moral therapeutic deism”, in my opinion. It has given way to Trumpism and “Christian” nationalism. These are the ugly stepchildren of Dominionism, the moral majority, and revivalism. This false religion, incidentally, grows from the same soil that bred Josh Duggar, just as the Bible said it would. But it has nothing to do with Christianity.

To Anna Duggar: You can do better.

The Bible says that we are “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10). If this is the inerrant word of God, then it is true. If it is true, then your salvation does not depend upon your emotions, your mood, your works, your doubts, your fears, your anxieties, your questions. Flee to Christ. In Him, you have everything that you need for life and salvation.

Really. Everything. Please turn off the celebrity preachers telling you otherwise (Yes, I’m looking at John Piper). You have everything. This is the root of all joy, all love, all peace – and when you have love and joy and peace, everything else follows from there. In other words, you have life from Christ, for he paid it all.

We should normalize marking ourselves safe from celebrity preachers. There is money to be made and power to be wielded by convincing people that Christ is not enough. When Jesus is known, the religious experts of every age lose their power. This is the heart of persecution.

Go and listen to the preachers that say, “He must increase. I must decrease”. There are a few of them out there. They generally have tiny churches and wear clothes from Target and Penney’s, but they are at peace. They would also love to show you how to have peace with God.

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