Not the Same Anymore

I was a big fan. Bryan Duncan nailed it once during a phone interview. He told the radio DJ that he hoped he wasn’t the same man he was two weeks ago because he felt he had a long way to go in his ministry calling. A primary symptom of spiritual growth is a sense of penitent humility, even as we feel an unlimited confidence in God’s power and mercy in our lives.

By the way, I still love Bryan’s singing voice, but a lot of his music no longer speaks to me.

So very much of what brought me here is no longer pertinent. Some of it has become quite annoying. In the past week or so searching my old music favorites, I realized that how sweet it sounds means nothing against whether it draws me up out of myself. It’s not that I have suddenly decided the musicians are no longer good enough with their song-writing, but that what they needed to say is not always what I need to hear. A few rare albums speak to me all the way through, but most of it is now just a song or two here and there.

In a similar fashion, I read almost no fiction these days. There was a time I always had a book with me, and read when I should have been paying more attention to other things. I would get lost in the stories. Now my previous favorite authors annoy me. I can’t bear to read the next book in a series I once anticipated as I devoured each line. Some of the few authors I could read again are long dead. Whenever I sample something new, I’m struck by the same annoyances. I’m sure there are some decent new writers, but I don’t have time to pursue it like I once did with such obsessive devotion.

Why? My regular readers probably know that I just don’t have much tolerance for Western thinking any more. Most fiction I encounter is so lavishly pro-Western it’s sickening, and all the more annoying when the author seems wholly unaware of it. And if I went back over some of my own fiction I’d have to rewrite a bunch of it, probably in ways that simply wouldn’t work for storytelling. I have no idea if I’ll ever write any more. Given the way I write fiction, inspiration could come crashing down on me in the next hour. However, my conscious mind finds it unlikely.

Where do we go from here, Brothers and Sisters?

I’m forging into new territory on ancient roads. I keep saying to myself and others that we are building a new reality, in the sense that we are having to form entirely new structures for thinking about what God intended for humans. The heart-mind is totally new in our civilization. It seems most of the folks who write about it from the scientific background are still mired in Western expectations and what they produce is so mixed up and useless to me. I can’t find anybody ahead me on the same path. The terrain has shifted on a tectonic level since the ancients explored this land, so we aren’t going to find exactly what they mapped out.

It’s no longer a question of taking it one day at a time; I’m exploring entirely new turf and having to grapple with a new universe by the minute. I’m not complaining, but I’ll be the first to tell you sometimes I don’t have a clue what to do next.

(Check out his channel.)

The Heart of Outreach

As we use it here, the phrase “heart-led existence” is the same as walking by the spirit or walking by faith. Our problem is that those New Testament phrases come with a lot of baggage in the minds of readers, baggage that we won’t claim.

It’s not so different from the Orwellian propaganda we face every day from the mainstream culture in the West. Perhaps you’ve heard the old joke that an Anti-Semite is anyone that Jews hate. In other words, the label says more about the slinger than the target. In that same sense, there are more things than you can shake a stick at that weaken faith while pretending to teach about walking in faith. Faith in such teaching is just a superior form of cerebral processing, and the unspoken assumption is that your faith is measured by conforming with someone else’s orthodoxy.

Even if we can get them to use words that suggest the Spirit is above human intellect, they still act and speak as if the whole thing is a matter of right thinking. Take a look at the structure of all their teaching programs, and there’s nothing that reaches above the head. Biblical faith is not a stronger commitment to some orthodoxy. Faith is a faculty that overrules the reason because it comes from a higher authority.

I’ve warned about a common religious and social catastrophe related to Zionism and Dispensational Theology. I don’t care what brand of eschatology you espouse; it’s most likely contrary the Bible. The term “eschatology” refers to rational analysis of some sort; it must of necessity be an intellectual exercise. I’ve tried to point out research by others that show where Dispensationalism came from, how the pernicious lie of eschatology teaching entered the mainstream Western evangelical churches. For example, I mentioned the role played by C.I. Scofield and his marginal notes in certain editions of the Bible marketed in the US.

If you look up his name in connection with his sponsor Samuel Untermeyer in any search engine that doesn’t track you (try Duck Duck Go or Startpage) you’ll get unfiltered results that show the full range of people who have done the research. Chase enough rabbits from the results listed and you’ll learn how Untermeyer blackmailed President Woodrow Wilson into putting Brandeis on the Supreme Court. In other words, the same people are all engaged in a world of evil and it seems to run forever. Most of those stories are told by people who have been marginalized, while the whitewashed lies are everywhere.

Some of the people who write about Scofield have names like Texe Marrs. He does do a good job of getting the story on Scofield straight, but only because he tends to plagiarize folks who actually know. On Samuel Untermeyer, he tends to wander off into speculations that can’t be supported. On just about everything else I’ve seen, Texe Marrs sounds more like The National Enquirer than a pastor of teacher of the gospel. Sadly, the field of those seeking to expose the lies of Dispensational teaching are planted with a lot of tares.

My point is that such information, even when crystal clear and accurate, it still just intellectual data. These people are convinced that getting the right facts will save us. In other words, they are still stuck in the same deadly mudhole that keeps the churches from doing much redemptive work. One flavor of mud is no better than another. They are all slinging mud at each other and this keeps The Cult very happy.

Climbing down into that pit is not the way to rescue anyone. Faith in Christ does not come from right ideas or accurate thoughts. Faith in Christ is a miracle only God can perform in your soul. If your spirit is dead, there’s nothing you can do to bring it to life. God has to touch your dead spirit and fill it with the only spirit life there is — His. When the dead matter of your body returns to entropy, your brain will die with it, but your living spirit will face Him as either an adopted child of His Spirit or a foreigner enslaved to Satan.

Giving people the straight facts for their brains will not breathe divine life into their dead spirits. Whatever it is that God uses for that miracle mission requires that we operate above that level. If you read my previous vision about helping folks recover from the poison of Zionism and Dispensational heresy, it really isn’t about learning all the facts. If you can understand why we can’t support the modern State of Israel, that’s only because you understand the dire imperative of living from the heart. Our primary ministry of healing and redemption starts from simply learning to operate on the moral plane from the heart.

Do you grasp what a vast, unspeakable power that holds? Do you get that walking by the heart is the only way we can walk in God’s divine moral character? That the heart-mind is the only faculty capable of understanding His Person? What do you suppose Creation will do when you walk by the Creator’s habits? That’s our evangelism, our message, our mission. Just live by the heart-mind.

You can’t convince them of the truth with words and facts, but they cannot argue with your heart.

Psalm 90

Thus we begin the Fourth Book of Psalms. The psalms that follow are generally liturgical in nature, as are those of the Fifth Book. Perhaps it’s divided between 106 and 107 only for convenience in terms of size, because the nature and style of the songs do not change.

This song is ascribed to Moses who led the Exodus. When we read of all the carping, whining and resistance he faced from Israel, we hardly wonder at the subject matter here. At the same time we notice how it resembles much of Ecclesiastes. For Solomon, this style of writing emulates the very best of classical Ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Literature. It’s easy to forget how Moses was educated in Pharaoh’s courts, and then at the hand of his father-in-law who was also hardly a country bumpkin. Thus, the message here is more subtle than might seem obvious from the words alone. This is dramatic oratory meant to draw us along a path of ancient Eastern logic, and we are obliged to read between the lines if we expect to see where it goes.

Moses first establishes that the One he addresses stands outside our time-space bubble. Jehovah isn’t just an immortal being who lives without dying. This is the great God Almighty, Creator of all things whose existence is rooted in an entirely separate realm. Existence itself is rooted in Him. It goes without saying that all things bear the stamp of His divine moral character; whatever He says is. If there is any hope for understanding this world, we first must seek His revelation.

Some of this translates poorly into English because it relies on an orientation of mind that simply is not quite possible from the same context as our tongue arises. It requires entering into a radically different set of assumptions that are exceedingly difficult to explain in any human language. Thus, Moses alludes to things in terms of characterization, not description. Most English translations miss the point here. God made us of the same stuff as earth, but we chose sin in the Garden, wandering from His revealed purpose. Thus, our human constitution includes a healthy dose of the Curse of the Fall, a measure of destruction. A primary element of that curse is our mortality. We weren’t supposed to die like this. Still, God calls us to return to Him. He is the Eternal One, and we are of such short duration in our lives that there are no words to compare.

Moses compares us to the passing of a single night and day in God’s lifetime. Our longest possible span of life is little more than a the passage of the sun over the earth to God, as if we were some ephemeral herb. Tomorrow we are but fertilizer for the next generation that lasts but a day, too.

Then Moses launches into an explanation that we have moved away from God and into His wrath. He cannot forget our rejection. Our darkest secret thoughts shine brightly before Him. Noting that we are fortunate to see some eighty years of life, our best prospect is to spend those years in labor and sorrow. When we die, we will have gained nothing that we can take with us. Like smoke on a strong wind — poof — we are gone and soon forgotten. No one can live long enough to measure the extent of God’s wrath against sin. Moses asks that we be reminded of our mortality often.

God calls us to return to Him, and Moses responds by calling on God to return His mercy to us so that we can regain our reverence for Him. Like a man who cannot work without a good breakfast, he asks that God fill us up with divine mercy so we can do His work and bring Him glory. There is precious little happiness in this world, but the joy of walking in God’s truth is unshakable. Give us a chance to teach our children a better way to see life. Let your glory sparkle in our dark existence so that the world will know there is such a thing as redemption.

Post-Zionist PTSD

The ineffable moral Law of God calls to all humans. It is not a question of performance, but of commitment. This thing is the nature of love itself; you can’t be drawn to the moral character of God without being overwhelmed by His compassion for His Creation.

We sometimes have to fight the Devil as he drives people against that love. In the process of resisting the darkness, it is inevitable that things we do may serve to bring pain and suffering to those who are wedded to Darkness. There is little we can do about that because we are fortunate indeed to be free ourselves, merely to exercise control over own reactions, never mind whether others can respond to compassion by moving toward the Law. There is no explanation — we have to do it because we simply must.

The justification is the Cross.

What we offer here at Kiln of the Soul is no-strings-attached. Whatever binding this call includes is not our doing. We are also bound. It’s really very easy to operate this way online; it would be tougher in the flesh where we have to fight our own darkness. Compassion drives us to hold you close when that may be the last physical act to do you any good. It’s hard to turn that off when you are driven by the Cross. Here in the virtual realm, it’s easier to keep our hands to ourselves, so to speak.

But it’s still very hard to watch people destroy themselves even in virtual space. It’s compassion that drives us to warn you that clinging to certain things will form a barrier between you and your best interest in moral truth. We can’t decide for you to let it go; we struggle to decide it for ourselves and know all too well what sorrow it brings. This is why we can refuse to shrink from the task of warning you. Sling all the labels you like; we will absorb that and cry in private to Our Lord insofar as it manages to injure us. This compassion is why we would rather help you for even the briefest moment on your inner moral journey, rather than try to hold even the smallest part of you if it holds you back.

I can’t tell you it’s a prophecy, only that I am deeply certain this massive false fortress of Zionism will collapse in fire, burning and poisoning everyone who took refuge in it. Quick reminder: If Zionism was attached to a genuine love of the moral character of God, we would be first in line to sign on as supporters. But Zionism seeks to capture all the blessings with none of the moral responsibilities, so it’s utterly false. It serves a false understanding of God and His revelation. It’s a manifestation of the Synagogue of Satan. We don’t hate the people sucked into that; we pity them for completely missing the sweetness of moral truth. So it cannot stand and God will crush it in the fullness of His divine wrath, and I sense that it comes soon.

We need to prepare in our hearts a virtual hospital for those who escape with their lives. It’s going to be one of the most depressing, bewildering experiences for them. Whether they can appreciate our view on things matters not; they will need our moral healing. I understand it all too well because I was once a part of that. I was driven out but only because I was at that point already alienated. I had the luxury to discover the falseness of it all slowly and deliberately moved out. It still nearly killed me. We can’t estimate how dangerous it will be for those still trapped inside when this thing comes apart more obviously.

So this is a major element in what drives me. And so long as there is a fallen world with fallen men, you can bet there will be slavers running around trying to recapture them with reforged chains of deception. In some way, we should be prepared to immunize them as much as possible against whatever lies are cooked up in the future. We can’t predict with that much precision, but we can certainly make sure the truth itself is fully declared to do its own work in them.

You can join me or you can simply take as much of this as you can use in your own mission. It’s not about growing a visible organization and putting my proud face on something that gets attention. Forget about me but take this truth.

Decision Disaster

People have alleged all kinds of silly, goofy stuff about Billy Graham. Granted, his children have waded through enough scandal, but aside from a few unguarded jokes, the man himself is untouched by noteworthy moral failures.

That is, unless you understand the part he played in destroying the Western evangelical message. This really isn’t about him, but about his message, often referred to as “Decision Theology.” Indeed, his organization put out a magazine called Decision and it symbolized the easy believism. He once said that was a problem, but his preaching was precisely that. Go back and check the results of his crusades. In every location, he would gin up a huge army of local volunteers to follow up on those who “made a decision” at his worship services. In every case that anyone has recorded, not even 10% of those folks who crowded his alter calls ever gave evidence of having found faith. They apparently didn’t even “get religion” as the old expression goes.

Such was my experience when I volunteered as a follow up counselor for his and similar ministries. I can’t tell you that he knew about that. I recall reading somewhere that his staff tended to insulate him from stuff like that. He did and said a lot of things outside his crusade work that indicated he was just a bit cynical about things while always trying to be diplomatic and nice. Maybe he’s like most other humans — his own mixture of foibles and failures. However, no one can deny his fame is partly owed to WR Hearst and affiliated news organization way back when Billy was just starting out.

As well, I can’t produce any specific references on his ministerial background, but I recall someone said he was deeply influenced by Charles G. Finney. That would be more than sufficient to explain the “easy believism” stuff, because Finney openly insisted that this was good enough. He dismissed concerns about Fruit of the Spirit and went after the manipulation and huckster atmosphere with highly emotional altar calls.

Since Finney’s time, it has been very unpopular to criticize that empty, merely cerebral religion. When I was studying for the ministry, it was rare the teacher or guide who didn’t echo that garbage. At first I played that game and my efforts brought explosive numbers into whatever organization I served. While some part of me always felt a little dirty, but I kept pushing that into the background as “from the Devil.”

There is no room here to describe the memorable steps along my path to the truth. I’ve lost count how many times it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest as each small incremental shift brought shattering pain. It didn’t have to be that way, but a lot of well meaning people shaped my thinking so very wrongly. If you can walk away from your religion, it’s not very useful in giving shape to your faith. It’s no wonder a lot of heart-led folks stayed away from organized Christianity.

Finney, Graham and millions of others made no room for a heart-led faith.

Vision Refresh

This is just an update for the sake of accountability.

Would you believe the spam I get on this blog? Every day I see at least a half-dozen spam comments on various posts, and easily a dozen spammy messages on the “Private Contact” form. Right now, the latter is mostly a bunch of Asian characters that I can’t read plus a few English phrases indicating attempts to market cracked software from Microsoft. Yeah, it’s a hassle to run this site, but it’s what God has called me to do.

So I’m going about this process of studying how to provide my own services and even buying some of the necessary equipment with your generous donations. This is DIY web services for a reason. At first I had to wonder why I felt so provoked to go this way. My instinct was to ponder if it was necessary to spend a lot of effort in high security preparations, but that doesn’t seem to be so important. I believe in prayer and how it changes us and helps us shed false impressions infesting our minds and imaginations. The longer I pray and contemplate what’s going on, the more it seems the real issue is not to worry about attacks, but to insure availability.

I’m utterly certain God’s wrath on America is merely the localized manifestation of His general wrath on the West. To the degree America dominates whatever it means to be “Western” we shall see America get a bigger share of that wrath, but it is sure to spill over into other places. That spillover includes virtual places. I really believe that many of the current services that we treat like public accommodation will go away or simply become less accessible. The funding model behind most of it is dissolving before our eyes. These are effects, not so much God’s purpose and plan. To the degree any of that stuff rests on making a profit, it will tend to disappear because profit will be hard to obtain. Only what people do for other reasons will stay around. This is why I trust Open Source software: It tends to arise from a non-profit drive to excel for its own sake. I’m seriously working to move away from reliance on commercially produced software.

Obviously I’m not trying to make a profit myself. I do this because something inside drives me and I can’t be silent or still. So it comes to my conscious mind that if I plan to keep doing this, I have to be ready to do more of it myself. In order to serve God, I have to know more about Internet services and the gritty details of running those services. I’m all too willing to share what I know and encourage you to be ready to learn as much as you need to provide your own ministry. I would talk about things like having sufficient hardware with the capabilities for running some of the services you require to minister, and stop relying on the Cloud to cover it. Even in Windows you can learn to run a server, or simply gather the software tools and learn how to use them so that you can pass the content to some other device somewhere.

If you sense even the slightest drawing to do something, I would urge you to research the new line of more powerful home routers. You’d be amazed at the stuff they’ll do, and you’d be surprised at how much your ISP will let you get away with. For example, most of them tolerate a private FTP server like mine because it’s not enough traffic to worry about. It’s so common these days they have a hard time telling you “no.” Properly secured against hijacking and abuse, a powerful home router can make your Internet presence much easier to maintain. If you need to do this stuff, learn how it works and do it well.

My point is this: We are coming into a time of tribulation when one of the few hopes for keeping your sanity is a driving sense of purpose. If you can keep your eyes on those things God demands of you personally, you can weather a lot of really tough conditions. I’m not doing this stuff because it’s a fun hobby; that might have been the case some years ago, but now I have a hard and clear focus on the imperative of divine glory. I’m not an activist fighting much of a human threat, either in the flesh or virtually. My focus is less about defending from attacks and more about making sure I provide with my own hands what is suitable for my calling. We all lean on each other, but right now there’s no one else in a position to do that work for me. I’m okay with that; this is something I tend to do well enough on my own, as it were. As things get tighter economically, I’ll have to gear up and do even more. A great many tasks in our Kingdom service will turn out to be more DIY than now seems necessary.

Part of that understanding is an awareness of the level of deception from the world about what’s going on. Some things are far worse than we are told, while there’s plenty of false alarm to distract. We’ve been talking about that already, so I don’t need to say much right now. It’s already past time, but you can start now reassessing what your calling demands and what you may need to provide in-house as we face a challenging future.

So right now I’m working on gathering content that supports my teaching. This is a mission of building the library and keeping it available. Maybe it’s a little superfluous right now, but I feel certain some of it will disappear suddenly. At the same time I’m updating and reformatting my own content to ensure it’s in the most digestible package I can offer. I’m trusting God for a lot of things I can’t do, but whatever I can do is now my sacred mission.

Right now the focus is content and availability.

Charity Without Conviction

Conviction is another word for heart-led living.

Conviction is always consistent with God’s character and with His revelation. Our grasp of what it requires of us will surely vary over time, but conviction itself is eternal. Conscience is our mental awareness of conviction, and the content of conscience will change as we strive to obey. What it demands today will surely change tomorrow, but the grasp we have tomorrow is unlikely to improve much if we don’t obey what it means to us now. Conviction is the imprint of God’s divine Presence in your soul.

In John 3 Jesus tried to pull Nicodemas back into the ancient Hebrew mystical mindset, away from the rationalist frame of reference that rabbis had embraced after Alexander the Great made his charismatic sales pitch for Hellenism. Nicodemas couldn’t understand how Jesus could exercise the obvious miracle power of the Creator while operating outside the legalistic boundaries of Judaism. In his darkened mind, it was a curiosity that could someone exercise the privileges of the Covenant without the Covenant as he imagined it. Already, Nicodemas reflected the mindset that God was bound under the rabbinical definitions of what had been revealed in the Law. God was no longer a Person in the ancient sense of His revelation, but had been reshaped into someone who must bow the knee to some higher authority that they imagined as “The Law.” They completely lost the proper image of Law as arising from the character of the Lawgiver. Today’s Talmud in part reflects this comical mental image of God, but it was already inherent in the corrupted rabbinical teaching back before Jesus was born.

So Jesus, as the ultimate living expression of God’s moral character, took precedence over the written expression of the Covenant. You could mistake what Moses wrote and argue about what it could mean because Moses wasn’t there to correct a corrupted imagination more than a thousand years after his death. However, the rabbis could not argue with the living God when He chose to walk in human flesh. The miracles Jesus performed were promised in the Law; His miracles aimed to establish His credentials as the Law of God in the flesh. It was contrasted against their lack of miracles. It was the proof that He could use His Father’s Creator authority to remake Creation at His whim, but He did so in accordance with the revealed Law of God, because His actions and words manifested the heart of God, the moral character of God.

In Matthew 13 Jesus taught in parables and told the story of a man sowing his fields — a parable about parables. It was a parable about how His teaching was planting seeds of moral conviction. There are plenty of things in human existence that can keep us from absorbing the truth on any level. But seeds don’t stay seeds forever; they are meant to grow and take root and produce the Fruit of the Spirit.

When Jesus fed the 5000 they were ready to make Him their Messianic King (John 6). To them it looked and tasted just like the bogus Messianic Expectations that arose from corrupted rabbinical teachings after the Return from Exile. So this crowd figured tactical and practical considerations didn’t matter; here was someone who could change reality to suit His whims. That was true as far as it went. Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels and no army could have withstood even one angel. But Jesus wasn’t in the business of fixing Israel’s political discomfort. He was there to announce that Israel had rejected the Covenant so completely that the inherent promise was going to be offered to all humanity and on a different level. It never was a matter of DNA, but the Covenant had always been a matter of commitment to the Father’s moral character. Anyone in the entire world who embraced the provisions of the Covenant could become an Israelite. But because the people who claimed the name of Israel and were in the best position to exercise the Covenant refused to obey it, and refused to let anyone else obey the Covenant, it called for drastic action.

Jesus instituted the same basic mission with a different charter. So there was no use in trying to fix the current “Israel” but to create a wholly different kind of Israel. But Jesus gave them a chance to figure it out before the final end to that Old Covenant. Their rejection manifested in attempts to make Him a worldly king. Eventually He had to drive away everyone who was unable to get it. Later in John 6 we see where He used parabolic language to polarize the crowd. Too many of them considered the bread of bellies as the best that God could offer. Jesus wanted to winnow out those who would prefer the Bread of Heaven.

Since when does Christian charity have to obey human reckoning? I can’t count how often I’ve read or heard “Christian” teaching on charity that insisted we cannot share the gospel message until we have filled empty bellies. If that’s what it takes to get a hearing, then it’s not the gospel they are hearing. The gospel is seeds of conviction. Let those who are tied to this world do charity their way; we aren’t offering food, but food as a symbol of compassion. If we don’t have food, we offer compassion any way we can. But if they don’t respond to compassion itself, then they cannot hear the gospel. The genuine power of conviction works all the way through human death, so hunger is no impediment to the truth. And if we aren’t sharing the gospel, we have no reason to build our own separate charity works. An orthodox message does not make relief work somehow “holy.”

What makes it holy is ensuring that compassion isn’t just a word that becomes the excuse for milking people who lack conviction to resist emotional manipulation. We don’t build some “respectable” organization that makes a comfortable living for those running things. If the figurehead for a charity dresses better than you, keep God’s money in your pocket. Don’t donate your time because they’ll simply despise you and abuse you.

Sow the seeds of conviction.

Proverbs 29

This chapter is a collection of shorter and simpler proverbs, the kind of thing you might hear among the peasants. It’s as if Solomon asks his sons to consider: What will the common man think of you? What sort of proverbs will they say out there in the streets, the roads between little villages and in the fields of labor? What will it be like at the bottom of the political ladder during your reign?

1. A man who hardens his neck when reproved shall be suddenly broken, and there will be no healing. A more literal rendering refers to “a man of reproofs” — someone whose life is characterized by receiving frequent correction from those in authority. If he allows calluses to build up on the back of his neck so that he is indifferent to such education, at some point will come a strike that breaks his neck. Wise kings don’t ignore the little people, lest they suddenly realize they stand alone against whatever God allows to rise against them.

2-3. When the righteous increase, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people mourn. Whoever loves wisdom rejoices his father; but a companion of harlots wastes wealth. Were a king to go among his subjects in disguise, would he see people generally relaxed and pleasant, or will he find them deep sorrow at the heavy burden of his reign? The second sentence uses very much the same wording; brighten the people and you’ll brighten your father’s countenance. The Hebrew figure of speech comes out more like “shepherd to harlots” as the image of fat and sassy women who always get what they want. Such is not the image of righteous royal court. God grants wealth so you can rise in reputation when you share it with your family, not your cronies.

4. The king establishes the land by judgment; but he taking bribes tears it down. A king can make or break his own domain. The literal image of a just king’s domain is “standing strong.” The opposite is “beating it down.” What a king does in private affects his entire realm of authority.

5. A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet. The image is subtle and hard to translate here. Flattery derives from the image of someone noisily running ahead to remove all the least impediments so that the king never sees so much as a grain of sand changing the elevation of the bottoms of his shoes. In its place, he spreads a net to trap the king in a false sense of dependence.

6. In the sin of an evil man there is a snare; but the righteous sings and rejoices. Again, the richness of the imagery is lost in translation. If a king tolerates rebellion, he gains the punishment of the rebel for himself. So in the minds of the common people, those who rebel against moral justice should hang, choking noisily. But those who seek moral purity should be singing and dancing.

7. The righteous knows the plea of the poor; the wicked cares not to know it. Most English translations partly miss the point here. The focus is on the word “know” — the just heart guides the mind to a full grasp of reality. They give an honest hearing to a suit filed by those with no money or power because moral justice is its own reward. The righteous judge wants to be a part of that. The immoral judge has no concept for any of this, only his own personal comfort. He won’t even permit the poor to bring a claim into his court.

8. Scornful men bring a city into a snare, but the wise turn away wrath. Another bad translation: This proverb begins with a term that means scornful, but it’s also an old pun about someone trying to inflate their reputation pretending to translate a foreign tongue. They miss the whole point of the conversation. It’s derisive term for self-important big-shot ambassadors. Letting such people have authority will kindle a fire (“puff” is not snare) on the nation as symbolized by the image of a capital city. The word for “wise” here is someone who knows when to keep his mouth shut because he lacks that inflated ego. Instead, he seeks a way to defuse tension from behind the scenes.

9. If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether he rages or laughs, there is no rest. A better translation: A wise king will have no peace in his court if he has to put up with the constant intrusions of someone lacking moral discernment. Every hour it’s either raging fury or uproarious mocking. The image of a fool is someone utterly foreign to contemplation and facing his own humanity; he’s always grousing about or making fun of others and insists the most powerful person present hears him out.

10. Men of blood hate the upright; but the just seek his soul. Bloodthirsty people are maniacally driven to prey on the man of good character; they’d kill him on sight. But the morally just folks will do their best to emulate that man, driven to spend time with him.

11. A fool speaks all his mind; but a wise one keeps it in until afterwards. This is a blunt statement echoed often in the background of ancient wisdom literature as a whole. Even in our time, we recognize civility as the tendency of not blasting out every thought that crosses your mind. The image here is someone who has no sense of social stability because they are too self-absorbed.

12. If a ruler listens to lies, all his servants are wicked. A king is known by his counselors. If they don’t hasten to correct false information, what kind of king must he be to have them around?

13. The poor and the deceitful man meet together; the LORD gives light to the eyes of both. This requires a little context. Being poor doesn’t mean you are stupid. Being a predator (typically a loan shark) doesn’t mean you don’t know what is evil. The two encounter each other in the business of daily life and recognize each other for what they are, despite a great difference in what they make of it. Sometimes we don’t get to see how things turn out in the end, but God gives everyone an opportunity to choose His ways and reject the deception of how things seem to be from a mere materialistic perspective.

14. A king who truly judges the weak, his throne shall be established forever. Clumsy translation: A king who exercises strong moral judgment with those who are weak will stand in God’s favor. Never mind what God plans in terms of earthly events, such a king will be blessed within the context.

15. The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a boy sent off causes shame to his mother. This is the image of a mother who can’t be bothered to actually be a mother helping to form the character of her children. When he gets of hand at home, instead of taking the time to discern the moral issue and correcting the child’s false ideas, she just runs them out of the house for the sake of her own convenience. Only by a miracle would such a child grow up to care about others; all the more so if he is king.

16. When the wicked are multiplied, sin increases; but the righteous shall see their fall. Mistranslation here: When the wicked are elevated in power, a general level of moral decline sets in. Eventually this will run it’s course and their predations will rot the system from the inside. Maybe not within a single lifetime, but those with a high moral character will recognize why a government collapses. Morality is reality.

17. Correct your son, and he shall give you rest; yea, he shall give delight to your soul. Why does Solomon invest so much effort in these books he writes? It’s because he wants to die seeing his kingdom a happy place and his sons worthy of celebration. As they take up the tasks of running the kingdom, they must understand the moral truth of how things work, and that giving the people a life worth living is their whole mission.

18. Where there is no wisdom, the people perish; but he who keeps the law, he is blessed. The KJV is a bad translation of this, and has been quoted abusively in English speaking religion. The word for “wisdom” means insight, a clear moral understanding of what God says about the world He created. Without out that, you might as well slaughter the common folk with your own hands. But investing resources and time into making the Covenant everyone’s “common sense” will stand you in God’s favor.

19. A servant will not be corrected by words, for though he understands, he will not answer. Most people in the East became slaves while pursuing other plans. You should hardly be surprised when they aren’t eager to please. They might know what you want but feel disinclined to respond appropriately. This is why slave owners are prepared to use physical force. However, the contextual implication is the image of a king who does not want to serve the moral truth of God. What should he expect his kingdom will do if he is unresponsive to their real needs?

20. Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Again we return to that quintessential image of a wise man: He waits until his moral authority gains him a hearing. Sure, some few have minds like a steel trap, but they usually get there from long patient study. The image of “hasty” is an impetuous child crowding you and demanding your attention without any regard for anyone else. In an adult, this isn’t mere folly; this is a serious threat to life and limb and you rightly treat them with defensive violence.

21. He pampering his servant from youth, that one in his after days shall his successor. There are better English translations, but the ambiguity is in the Hebrew thinking. It hardly matters what someone’s legal status is; if you treat them as family, they are family. That could be good or bad, so be cautious whom you welcome into your inheritance. Consider the end of every matter as best you can and act accordingly from the start.

22. An angry man stirs up fighting, and a furious man abounds in sin. Talent means little if moral character is lacking. When kings consider whom to commission as servants, they should avoid the genius who grates on everyone’s nerves.

23. A man’s pride shall bring him low; but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit. The contrast here in Hebrew imagery is rich. On the one hand is a man with an inflated ego; he’s up there where he could fall at any moment. The other is someone who isn’t full of hot air, but actually substantial, and he stays close to the ground in the first place. Massive cornerstones that keep buildings from falling down a slope aren’t known for drifting off into every gust of wind.

24. He who shares with a thief hates his own soul; he hears an oath and does not tell. This translation misses the point. The first part is clear enough about being a partner with someone who takes what isn’t his. The second part is not about keeping promises, but about hiding curses. If you become aware of a conspiracy of evil, you are part of the evil if you don’t report it to the affected parties. It matters not whether you can do anything about it, but that you are obliged to turn on the lights so everyone can see.

25-26. The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe. Many seek the ruler’s favor; but each man’s judgment comes from the LORD. Anxiety over what men can do to you is a trap. Trust in God and embrace His revelation at whatever cost, because after men have done all they can, you still have to face the Creator. It makes no difference if the man is a king.

27. An unjust man is a hateful thing to the just; and he who is upright in the way is hateful to the wicked. Nothing does more for a king’s reputation than making the right enemies.

Burning Heart; Changing Life

And then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:31-32, NKJV)

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“Why in the world would you want to do that?” The young man’s question was a demand. He was a brilliant technician who had sacrificed a great many hours of sleep to experience and know precisely how it all worked and what the results would be for just about every variable.

The older man let his breath quickly out his nose, then opened his mouth. His chest expanded to pull in a large volume. In a calm, almost bemused tone he responded, “It doesn’t matter to me what makes sense to you. I know what I want and you can either take my money or tell me you aren’t interested.”

——–

It is human nature to make a great many decisions based on something other than reason and social custom. It is a standard delusion to imagine what what makes sense to you must be somehow universal. The vast lore of scientific and historical knowledge of how this world works could never cover all the bases; together they cannot possibly answer all the questions. Human need cannot be quantified that way.

Once you become conscious of this and embrace it as moral truth, it becomes a lot easier to suffer the arrogance of people utterly convinced that their way is the ultimate answer to all mankind’s ills.

If you are not in a state of flux on at least a few things in your life, then you have already died. It is the nature of childhood to explore things not yet experienced. Yet each child will unconsciously foreclose on a lot of possibilities for any number of reasons. This does not make them inferior. As we age, we tend to shut the door on more things, but that’s so we can pay more attention to things that do call us onward.

Adding in a conscious awareness of the heart and the moral sphere of consideration adds more complications. It does not reduce tension; it makes tension natural and normal. We stop wasting effort on vanquishing tensions and seek to build our own peace internally. We serve to personify peace in that sense. It’s not that everyone will simply buy into our sense of peace, but that their tension has little effect on us.

Even something as quantifiable as the computer technology so very important to my ministry calling, it still must yield to the variability of human questing. If computers become the masters, we are doomed. They are the servants, second in line behind the intellect that must also submit before the moral authority of the heart.

Don’t ignore your convictions; God plants them in the nerve clusters of your heart’s independent nervous system. There’s a mind there with its own logic, and the people of the Ancient Near East took it quite literally that the heart was an entirely different faculty from the brain. It’s the part of us that can know God.

Psalm 89

This is the final psalm in Book 3; the last verse is more likely a benediction to the collection than for this psalm. The author here is Ethan, brother of Heman who gave us the previous hymn, and equally famous for his wisdom and as a Temple musician during David’s reign.

At least a couple of modern English songs take their words from the first few lines here. No other starting place would make sense than to praise the name of the Lord. Whatever else may follow, these declarations are true. Never mind what it looks like or what it feels like, Our God never fails. This is followed by a recitation of the divine call and promise to David as King of Israel.

Unless you are foolish enough to reject the Lord’s anointed ruler, this is very good news to anyone who resides in the Land of Israel. Thus, the next few verses celebrate what a marvel this promise represents in terms of revealing God’s character. Given how He has been so incredibly faithful before making such a promise, including smashing Egypt to set His people free, how could this grand promise go wrong? Who is like Our God? No one compares favorably with Jehovah.

The Ethan lavishes rich praise on God for demonstrating unquestionable mastery over the whole earth. He rattles off the names of landmarks visible for many miles around, as if God had simply pinched them up with His fingers. It’s hard to summarize all the symbolism. People who serve God can walk with confidence and pride that the world itself is their ally. If God favors you, nothing else matters in this world. So God’s promised favor on David is very good news for the rest of the kingdom.

Indeed, Ethan paints a glowing image of God’s choice and ritual anointing of David. It was virtually the same as adopting David as His own Son. For a moment he says things scholars have long insisted were Messianic prophecies, if for no other reason than that they could not be literally true of David the man. Even while his memory lives fresh in the psalmist’s mind, David has become the symbol of a promised deliverer. While David eventually dies, the promise he symbolized will eventually walk the earth again.

As part of this commitment to mercy, God declares that He will show exceptional restraint in correcting the people over whom David rules. They won’t get away with murder, but He will punish them with an eye to driving them back to His throne. God has no intention of tossing this covenant aside out of mere impatience with them. Again, the symbolic meaning is hard to miss.

So how sad it is that Israel must surely have driven hard against God’s patience, because things aren’t that happy right now. To all appearances there is no longer any covenant at all. Nothing protects them and shalom has departed utterly — no prosperity, no safety from human or natural enemies, no protection from plagues. If anything, the enemies around them have more favor from God than He grants to Israel.

In accordance with the courtly protocols of his day, Ethan asks rhetorically how long God will hide His face from them. Should the current generation who remember His divine mercy die before it returns, who would be left to teach His ways? Ethan wonders if he’ll die before God relents. So he cries out for the Lord to remember that not everyone in Israel has turned away from Him. How much longer must he hide in shame as God’s enemies parade and celebrate while insulting His people? Don’t forget us forever, O Lord!

Then comes the benediction we are sure belongs to this third division of Psalms.