Our Crazy Ancient New Religion 6

You will fail.

That is, lots of things you try won’t turn out as you expect. So the only wise course is to adjust your expectations. Turn failure into learning and learning into victory.

I’ve done what I could in this series to shake loose a bunch of crappy thinking about how religion is supposed to work. It is work, and it is mostly failure for a very long time because that’s how we get better at it. But the whole purpose is not success in those terms; redefine success as perception, not objective fact. It’s not a question of knowing the truth, but your truth. Yours and mine cannot be precisely the same, because God will not let it be that way. Yes, God Himself will see to it that “reality” is varied somewhat between His servants.

That’s why I’ve tried so hard to shake you loose from a view of reality that tries to make it all concrete. The danger in that approach is that concrete itself is alive and God can let you hear it talk if it’s part of His mission and calling in your life. Concrete ceases to be an image of something that never changes. So-called “concrete facts” are more fungible and variable than Western minds are prepared to accept. Stop asking the question of who is right about what they perceived and start asking the question of what is right for you.

Walk in the light you have.

Start where you are and pray that God will reveal where you should be. Don’t take yourself too seriously because it may require He put you through several different places to sojourn on the way to your earthly “home.” Your ideas and expectations are part of the scenery, subject to modification because it’s all a matter of path, not place. We are practicing for Heaven, and that means shedding a lot of junk that won’t get us there because it can’t exist there. A lot of that junk is the structure of processing perception.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping track of what folks around you think, of how they perceive the world. There’s nothing wrong with keeping one hand on that false “concrete reality” thing most people adhere to as they live their heartless existence. But don’t remain trapped there with them.

You cannot demand that reality be consistent across the entire spectrum of your life, much less consistent between two different people. This is why one of our catch-phrases is, “We are creating a new reality.” Reality, as most people think of it, is variable. Not wholesale, like with horror movies or drug-induced hallucinations, but variable in ways that allow plausible deniability of moral truth. Walking with Christ is wholly voluntary. If you don’t want it, God won’t force the issue in this life. Spiritual birth is wholly His choice and initiative, but walking here in this life according to the inheritance that comes with that spirituality is another matter. You are permitted to refuse moral truth on this earth regardless. However, you will never find anything else you imagine that you seek. It will keep slipping through your hands because those hands are continually reaching for shadows.

All the miracles and stuff you could see will remain out of reach until you step into the light of His glory in this moment. And you should fully expect that spotlight will move, not following you, but going where you should be at that point. What’s outside that spotlight is mostly irrelevant. All the noise and movement out there in the Shadowlands is not your concern. Don’t allow the Lust of the Eyes draw you off into mere entertainment and curiosity. Instead, exercise your curiosity in the moral demands of your life here and now.

Realize that somewhere down that as-yet unseen path, you’ll come to place when you can look back and discover what was consistent, what characterized your existence through all the various changes. You’ll begin to know who you are in that sense. Not who everyone says you are, or says you should be, but you’ll discover the person God says you should be. You know — the One who made you? Your “concrete reality” is His moral character, so stop looking at Creation for clues that your intellect can handle. Start looking for clues that only your heart can handle.

What will amaze you is the surprising level of moral consistency you’ll find in other believers on that path. When you stop seeking concrete consistency and seek moral consistency, you’ll find it. There are people in this world who will share this moral reality in ways you never expected. You’ll find heart-minds that “think” just like yours. You’ll find fellow believers who can agree with you on things that mere intellect cannot handle. You are most certainly not alone. Socially isolated at times, but never truly alone. If Creation itself can be a good friend and companion, you have to know that some of your fellow humans are also connected to Creation that same way. God will not allow the witness of His glory to be snuffed out in this world.

And you will discover a whole company of fellow-failures who have more victory than words can tell.

Our Crazy Ancient New Religion 5

Three short items this time.

One — Be aware that heart-led is not the same as spiritually awakened. So far as anyone can tell, the choice to use the sensory heart and connect your conscious awareness to the heart-mind is universal, a basic function of human existence. It does no require spiritual birth (AKA “born again”) to use it. What happens is that such people will tend to misinterpret their exposure to the moral realm. They won’t have the built-in spiritual awareness that only the Holy Spirit can give. This is why a lot of folks seem aware of operating principles and various portions of divine morality, but don’t have a consistent picture of it. They can see inside the sphere but don’t have a rooted grasp on what they perceive.

On the other hand, a great many people who are spiritually awakened in Christ do not use their heart-mind, which is a major concern for us. So far, the vast majority of folks drawn to our religion are these people. They are already believers, but lack the clear grasp of what to do with it. We can help this latter group of people find their way, but only God can change the spiritual condition in the former group. Nothing says we can’t be friends and witness the truth to everyone.

An awful lot of our ministry looks just like counseling, but counseling is mostly a special form or teaching ministry. We have to engage our hearts to sense what is broken and help them see and hear. The stuff we might tell them won’t work until we help them resolve the blockage between mind and heart. The single biggest problem is the mind rejecting or ignoring stuff.

Two — Everything starts with your location. That’s true on two levels, at least.

On the moral level, you really need to seek a sense of calling from God. Your actual calling is a moving target because life is all about change, but the issue is your sense of calling. It’s a matter of where you stand in God’s business on this earth — Why are you still here? For some, the process is a long one, bouncing a million things off their convictions until something sticks. The process itself is exceedingly valuable.

On the practical level of application, your geographic location can be wrong against the broad moral fabric for reasons that don’t make any sense at all. At any given moment, the power of God working in your body as Creator matches you to a setting that is your “home,” where the means to optimal life (shalom) are waiting. Your divine heritage is tied to a physical location. You are built to be somewhere, and it’s incumbent on you to sense the need to move to another place. You don’t have to know consciously all the details why, but you do need a wider awareness that you are in the wrong place for your calling and your needs. Creation itself can tell you that you need to move.

Three — Western culture gets most things wrong, and it is particularly bad about the relationship between perception and reality. There’s a sense in which Western Civilization is a very bad case of mass hypnosis. Everyone has been taught a fundamental approach on the issue and it’s very wrong, but since everyone agrees to it, the world seems to work just fine that way.

So get this: Your false perception by itself can kill you. Reality is fuzzy in the first place, and a great many people die from simply believing a lie so overwhelmingly powerful that their bodies doesn’t argue. Now extend that outwards and realize that demonic deception can make nonbelievers experience things differently from what a strong believer experiences in the precise same setting. And for all the difference it makes, both experiences are equally “real.”

Yes, reality is just that fungible. You will have to explore this for yourself. It’s not that heart-led believers can’t be fooled, but that demons have a lot tougher time fooling them. Demonic powers depend on perception far more than Westerners realize. The key is a powerful moral awareness of what God says ought to be.

Our Crazy Ancient New Religion 4

Satan cannot create anything; all he can do is pervert what God has said and done.

You don’t have to buy into what follows in terms of the details. It’s just my opinion, my way of addressing something that comes up often enough to make it worth a little writing. The main thing I want to do is shake you loose from a ton of lies about what Satan does on this earth.

I’m going to pick on Moses again. You might want to recall that he grew up as Pharaoh’s adopted son, with all the perquisites of such an upbringing — education, military training, etc. Apparently he was also permitted to know something about his Hebrew heritage, but not enough. For the second part of his education, he spent forty years with Jethro, whose background is murky, but obviously a part of the nomadic Ancient Near Eastern feudal culture. Jethro was some brand of Semite and knew God by another name.

But you should suppose that young Moses spent plenty of time watching Pharaoh’s court magicians do their thing. It was part of the education process. So when God told Moses to throw his staff on the ground and turned it into a snake, that was familiar to him. Except that Moses carried a ceremonial staff of the wandering Semite type, indicating something of his tribal identity and relative importance. It had Levite markings, etc. But it was just a stick. God made it into a very real snake and Moses knew enough to get back.

We have some interesting tidbits about Pharaoh’s magicians. It’s quite possible they carried snakes around as staves — catatonic snakes. Seems they had played with all kinds of interesting potions and had plenty of snakes around, and snakes were a particular symbol of power in that part of the world. And it was part of their schtick. They had this snake-looking staff and could lay it down and do something that would weaken the effects of the potion that made the snakes catatonic and they would start acting more like a snake.

Most Westerners have a culturally induced phobia about snakes. But you can bet God had a reason for them, and I don’t recall instances of Him employing humans as consultants on whether snakes were a good idea. So they belong as part of God’s Creation and we owe them respect as fellow creatures. And using potions to make snakes catatonic isn’t too good for them, I’m sure. In other words, the magicians were profaning God’s Creation for very ignoble reasons. I’m suggesting that through their messing about with demonic influences, they learned something that looked impressive and would deceive a lot of folks. It surely wasn’t something God taught them to do.

So when Moses comes and does his miracle, it looks about the same to Pharaoh and he could pretend it was no big deal. The magicians would know the difference and simply not comment in a way that would weaken their position. And so it went through the year or so Moses came and went in Pharaoh’s court. But at some point during the Ten Plagues, the magicians warned Pharaoh that they couldn’t fake it any more. Whatever Moses was doing was the real thing, not some demonic perversion.

I’m not going to tell you that all “black magic” is like that, because I don’t know. Nor would I deny that some folks do odd things with Creation that are hard to explain. I will tell you that I generally have no fear of such things because I know that my God alone can change reality, and no lesser authority can do more than fake it. There might be a real danger to my flesh, but no threat to my soul.

If my heart tells me I have to walk through that fire, I can’t be worried about the consequences, real or imagined.

Our Crazy Ancient New Religion 3

What’s the difference between a demon and delusion?

In the Old Testament we see little mention of the Devil. He’s there in Eden, mentioned briefly in relation to Saul’s torment, Job, and a few other places. This is not the time and place for in-depth word studies, but the Hebrew text doesn’t ignore them. Rather, the Old Testament writers took it for granted demons existed. We should attempt to reclaim their attitude because it’s the one God gave them. Our biggest problem is shedding the false images typical in Western Christianity.

Further, I’m not really interested in deep theological studies here. We are looking at practical applications: What do we need to proceed with our religion? Religion is not faith, but the human application of faith. One of our biggest problems is false information on how Creation works because we have been taught to approach the Bible with false assumptions.

Given the broad collected mentions of Satan and his activities, one of the best biblical images for his position is Potiphar in Egypt (Genesis 39-40). He was Pharaoh’s “jailer,” whose mission was to take custody of the prisoners as slave labor. Based on their skills and available jobs, Potiphar could rent them out for whatever would earn him income (details varied by local custom and law). Having a noble keep the jail was a common arrangement among Ancient Near Eastern kingdoms. In many cases, the royal jailer was a very substantial noble, it could be a lucrative position. Thus, if you as a subject defy the ruler or cause him to question your loyalty, you could end up pulling a term of slavery.

The applicable part of that image is how God uses Satan as His divine “jailer.” However, there’s a subtle nuance of degrees involved: To the degree you don’t claim your full divine heritage, to that degree Satan owns you. Your eternal future is not at issue here; it’s a question of whether you live by your heart and harmonize with God’s divine character and harvest your share of shalom. The blessings God has poured on Creation for those who love Him are devoured by Satan on behalf of anyone who falls short on loyalty here in this realm of existence. Nothing Satan does can affect someone’s spiritual destiny outside this life.

John’s Apocalypse indicates in symbolic language that Satan holds authority over a third of the angelic beings (Revelation 12:4). They were swept down to the earth; it’s consistent with the Curse of the Fall, where Satan was confined to this realm of existence. His assigned task was consuming mankind insofar as they were more like dust than like God’s family. I keep reminding folks that the essence of living like dust is relying on human intellect and reason and ignoring the heart-mind. So if you return to Eden through the Flaming Sword of revelation and restore the ascendancy of your heart over your brain, you make yourself less available to the Satan’s slavery.

Restated: Conforming to the moral character of God limits Satan’s activity in your life. In a certain sense, obeying the Law Covenants will place you out of reach from the Devil. He is confined by the character of God in Creation, too. So you would naturally think the Devil will work to keep you from claiming your divine heritage. He will present claims on your blessings, and you need to stand close to Christ where God will deny his claims.

Not in the legalistic sense of Pharisaism, not to mention virtually the whole of Western thinking, but God limits Satan in a broad general sense. God is an emperor with a very complicated business of running Creation, so sometimes you’ll fall under suffering for no apparent reason (like Job), but that just means the reason is over your head. The temptation is to listen to the Devil’s lies that you somehow have gotten into hot water with God, so you need to surrender to demonic custody. Satan isn’t harmed by your false image of God and His revelation.

Up to this point in our series, we need to recall that his lies include seduction from letting your heart rule over your health and your interaction with Creation as a whole. Satan would love to make you forget that you can hear Creation’s voices. He would love to deny the truth that your heart tells you, so that the door is open for him to enslave you.

And demons are real “persons” in the sense of being individuals with varied personalities, varied powers and so forth. Satan isn’t going to discuss with you his strategy and why he chooses to assign a very nasty demon to this person — with very apparent “possession” symptoms — and others simply have to face occasional temptation to act with weakness. But deception is the primary weapon. As long as you believe his story about something, you can’t act the way God intended.

What difference does it make whether it seems very obvious this one has a demon, while that one just lives with a very sad delusion? It’s just words; there is no effective difference. Ill health in the awareness is not so different from ill health in some other part of your physical being in practical terms. Either way, the Devil has stolen your privileges.

He does it only because we listen to him; he can’t take what we don’t surrender.

Our Crazy Ancient New Religion 2

It was almost as if someone was crying, injured and unloved.

I turned to the bush and something made me look around behind, under the leaves and branches. There, stuffed in among the limbs close to the ground was an old rotting paper bundle, a multiple rocket launcher from some previous Independence Day celebration. It as all charred and brittle as I pulled it out. The bushed heaved a sigh of relief.

Fanciful imagination? Fine, but I did remove some pollution from the bush outside my apartment breezeway and felt a sense of divine approval in my heart. It’s the same when I pick up cigarette butts and other trash from the breezeway and grass around the building. I don’t do that because I’m some kind of prissy middle-class grouch who worries about appearances, nor is it merely because I can’t forget the military training that makes it almost an instinct to police up litter. I do it because it’s right for me.

It feels the same to me if I eat right or do something to assist my neighbors. It feels the same as reading the Bible or writing a blog post about my faith. It feels like riding my bike and taking pictures of beautiful landscape. It feels like blessing my Father’s name.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:19-23 NKJV)

Westerners today call it anthropomorphism, but I assert that Hebrew minds took it seriously, sometimes quite literally, that Creation is alive and has a strong thread of God’s moral character. All Creation, your body included, cries out for redemption. The whole business of God’s revelation is to allow us some level of participation in that redemption by ameliorating the effects of the Fall. The Fall is how “creation was subjected to futility.” We embrace the Flaming Sword of divine moral truth, let it burn away our sinful nature, and strive to bring our world back into Eden.

It’s not a question of remaking the world to be like Eden, because the full measure is not possible without God’s final act of judgment on all sin. It’s taking the leverage that God places in your hands and doing what He has called you to do. I can pick up trash around my residence. I can stop on my bike rides and move large objects out of the road, or push aside broken glass. I can eat wild foods and exercise in ways my body tolerates. I can pray and read the Bible and tell others about my faith. But pulling trash out of my friend, the bush, is no less evangelism and redemption than writing books and giving them away.

Holiness is holiness, and the Law of Moses made it plain that God regards sanitation and health as loyalty. We need to break the very bad mental habit of compartmentalizing our religion. God created the heart to hear all of Creation groaning for relief so that we could get involved in His redemption.

Psalm 98

This is another coronation song. The wording suggests a rather impromptu celebration of Jehovah’s reign based on some recent miraculous deliverance. In the Ancient Near East, a ruler asserted his dominion in the form of giving laws. However, it was nothing like modern Western legislation, but the ruler would declare what kinds of things would get his attention. He would then promptly pass judgment on any pending cases, not least charges of disloyalty against those who refused to declare allegiance upon his taking the throne. A king’s law presumed a personal loyalty to him and a desire to please him. This image is necessary to understand the expressions in this psalm.

The first verse emphasizes the celebration of some mighty deliverance of Jehovah’s people. He did it by His own hand, not by hiding behind some army of men. This was no mere announcement, but an assertion by power itself. The next two verses loudly proclaim that He demonstrated the power to defend His domain; there is no way anyone anywhere on this earth can dispute it. In particular, He showed His intention to defend Israel and His divine grant to her. Let none dare challenge them in their place.

The next triplet of verses encourages everyone to make a joyful noise with whatever musical talents they might possess. There is mention of ancient instruments and we might surmise this was composed before the Exile.

Indeed, it does seem to echo the sentiments of Isaiah’s latter chapters in the final trio of verses. In typical Hebrew fashion, Creation itself is personified in various elements. How easily Westerners forget that ancient people believed Creation was a living thing, and God Himself used such language. The oceans, rivers and mountains thunder with His praise; do we listen? How could we not join in this celebration? Behold, He comes to assert His dominion over all Creation — mercy to the loyal, but wrath on those who oppose Him.

Our Crazy Ancient New Religion 1

Have you ever wondered why the Law of Moses is loaded with what seems mere sanitation measures?

Anyone with some knowledge of modern health sciences tends to notice how much of what Moses called “divine justice” is just common sense healthy choices for folks in that time and place. Does it make divine justice a little less divine? Only if your approach to religion lacks the heart-mind. To a Western rationalist, it is utterly necessary to understand all things from human reason. Once a rational answer is found, the discussion is ended: “We know what this is.”

No, you don’t.

Holiness as defined by that ancient religion was not in the ritual. It was a heart-led religion and culture, not a rational and materialistic culture. The ritual was reaching for a holiness totally outside reason. If all you had was ritual obedience, you could get by. There would be things that you wouldn’t like, things that didn’t make sense, but you would at least not get into trouble with your community. For a lot of folks, that was reason enough, because most people would hardly survive outside of their community.

But that would not carry the whole nation. Someone in leadership had to understand with their hearts, not just their heads, that the rituals had a far deeper reason. It was more than simple tradition as most folks today think of it. It was holiness in the sense of wholeness, of being consistent with reality. It was seeing beyond mere function to the moral heart of the matter.

Ritual and tradition are not strong enough. Health science is not strong enough, either. It has to be something that pulls at you from another realm, something that empowers you to walk, not so much in slavish obedience, but in the joy of finding your real self.

It’s true that some of the rituals of Moses are incomprehensible to us today. Part of the problem is centuries of intellectual drift so that we have virtually no one translating today who grasps the heart-led analysis, so we get garbled English renderings. I’m not superior to them, so I set aside those things if I can’t come up with a guess that brings me a sense of peace. But for the most part, the Law of Moses is contextual morality, and genuine holiness with God looks a lot like just plain good health. But making that connection straight across from human reason to human results misses the whole point.

We have to climb up into the moral sphere before we can understand what’s going on here.

Creation bears the stamp of God’s character. That should be obvious to anyone who can swallow the idea of God as Creator. It’s His design and consistent with His Person and character. But it’s alive, not inert — He said that. Thus, it responds to His touch in a very personal and living manner. It responds to the only signature it knows: His divine character. So when some other source manifests His character, how can Creation not respond to that, as well? God says the key to knowing and recognizing Him is a matter of moral character. Moral character is visible only from the heart-mind. The intellect cannot read such things; it knows only the mechanics of things.

Your fleshly body is a part of Creation. If you harmonize with His moral character in regards to your body, you will be as healthy as you can be on this earth. It’s the same as when you act in Creation aside from your fleshly body. Doing what’s right for Creation is right for your body, and vice versa. Nail this down: holiness and health are linked. Not where our intellect can see the link, but the heart alone can see it. The link apparent to our intellect is missing a lot of depth.

Our heart seeks to conform to the Creator’s love. This will, of necessity, conflict with the advice you get from health professionals at times, just as conforming to the other parts of Moses’ Law conflict with human evaluations of justice. They cannot see the moral fabric of Creation, and cannot justify in their reasoning what God requires. Creation is dead and inert to human reason.

Much of what we do in obedience to our Creator’s loving guidance turns out to be healthy for our bodies, but that’s not really the point for us.

Our Crazy Ancient New Religion: Introduction

Another series? Yes, I’m crazy and you have to live with it — or stop reading this blog.

What’s the difference between a fresh revelation from God versus a coalescence of focus from knowledge you already had? There is no functional difference. Your heart already knows everything God can tell you, because it’s not a matter of repository knowledge, but exploring stuff already open to you. Please, drop the mythology about how prophets knew they were called to prophesy, and how they got their messages from the Holy Spirit. They were called and got the message. The promise that we could all access the same repository of prophetic truth is ancient:

And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28 NKJV)

Peter quoted this in Acts 2 regarding the first Christian Pentecost. Don’t overly mystify the miracles of God; that’s a lie from Satan designed to keep you from seeking the full power and benefits of God’s mercy and love, His vast blessings poured out after the Fall. The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t something that resembles inexplicable “magic.” You might not manifest everything flashy from the Bible, but you can know the power of God in your life.

But you can’t know it from your head. Your intellect is fully incapable of “escape velocity” into the moral grasp of God’s ways. It requires you awaken the link we all could have between the intellect and brain in your chest. The heart has its own independent nervous system and brain to process it. The heart has a sensory field that crosses time-space boundaries to see reality as God made it, in light of His divine moral character. So the biggest task we have is teaching our minds to submit and learn from the heart-mind.

Faith is a moral commitment of the heart to that higher realm and the God who made all things. Religion is the human response to the demands of faith. One man’s religion is another man’s headache. Faith will surely distill into a range of common response, so we can share some of our religion with each other. However, as you all know, I assert that Western Christians draw religious boundaries entirely too close to the individual life. You’ve read the sermon lots of times here. What Western Christian religion looks like frankly denies the power of God to work in the heart by insisting that religion must first and foremost follow reason and ignore the heart where they conflict. It’s religion with a lot of dead faith.

Yet, it’s not as if you can just make stuff up that amuses you and hold it forth as normative. That in itself indicates a fatal flaw, a disconnection between faith and religion. That brand of creativity is mere petty arrogance. Genuine faith seeks; it calls on God for guidance and looks for ways to meet other people of faith where they are. We seek common ground, but it does require discernment to distinguish between breaking false boundaries without transgressing very real boundaries drawn by God. It’s more art than science, but an art of the heart, not mere human talent.

So here’s the deal: I’m going to propose some religious ideas. They aren’t really description, but more characterization. You decide which of them your mind recognizes as consistent with your own heart. Then you get to decide how much it matters, in terms of the distance you might want to keep between us so that our missions from God don’t conflict.

That in itself is a religious idea, so we’ve already started. This series should at least be amusing, in nothing else.

Bible History Note: Invasions

What we see in the Bible as historical narrative is hardly the only thing happening in those places at that time. There is a wealth of historical background that the writers assumed readers would know. They wrote for their own people.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to all the depth of scholarship that was so common back when I went to college. Today I hear and read people spouting stuff that they simply made up, leaping to conclusions when data seems to coincide. Better answers aren’t that hard to find, though I realize that it means going to a real library with paper books and reading stuff written long ago. Sadly, some of the best history and archaeology never made it onto the Net.

Today we estimate that Abraham was called to serve God and leave his home around 2100 BC. While it was rare for an urbanized man to join the wandering clans of nomadic herders, he wasn’t all that noticeable. Aside from his peculiar cultural ways, he was part of a very large number of nomads. Palestine was thinly settled, somewhat forested and there was plenty of room for him among the other roving tent-dwellers. There were rivalries and raids, but nothing we would call “warfare” most of the time. What made Abraham stand out was a considerably longer life-span than was common in Palestine. Mortality among the locals was largely a matter of cultural religious practices that mandated very bad sanitation practices. The wandering tribes tended to live a little longer, but Abraham was ancient by their standards.

A century later, we see evidence of a rising presence of far larger groups and more warlike. Their religions were also pretty rough, including some morally repulsive rituals. We can’t guess their identities in any meaningful terms, only their presence and some differences. A large number of towns and cities in Palestine were destroyed or taken over and the ethnic mix changed a bit. By the time Israel’s clan goes down into Egypt, things got really busy in Palestine. Substantial nations washed over the area from all directions, each conquering the one before, and it was truly chaotic, a bad time to live in that land.

This was when the truly nasty religions mentioned in the Bible make their appearance in archaeological evidence. That doesn’t mean they weren’t there before, but that now they were leaving traces that we can dig up with very large shrines and such. We also find evidence through third party mention of them, both the invaders and the large pagan cults that arose. This was when sacrificing children to Molech became rather common. Life was chaotic and fearful at best, and extreme practices were just a part of it.

When Israel invaded and began the conquest of Palestine, those other raiding tribes were still doing their business. Israel was different, but the locals experienced them as just another warring nation taking and destroying and occupying. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised to discover that a large number of Israel’s relatives had never left the land, but had managed to keep their villages alive and something close to Yahweh worship in the mix of religions (Shechem, for example). But when the Bible lists the places conquered and destroyed by Israel’s army, you should get a clue: those were the centers of degrading heathen religions. They didn’t conquer every Canaanite city, nor did they tear down every shrine or temple, on those that were nasty by just about anybody’s standards.

What we see in later history in the Bible are attempts to revive some of these nasty old cults. Most of them included degrading sexual practices as ritual. This stuff was destructive of stable family life and spread diseases. It summoned demonic presence and created an awful moral havoc that we can scarcely picture. What made things so bad was that too often during the Conquest, Israel was unwilling to finish the job, so some of this trash was left among them to tempt them. Honestly, if the average modern saw some of the nasty stuff these people did, you’d be horrified and consider killing them, too.

Leaving some folks and their towns alive was not the problem; it was the kind of folks Israel failed to drive out.

Veiled Compassion

It’s not from me; it uses me.

It’s hard to apply the compassion of my heart to people I’ve never met. What I can do is hold that compassion out there where others can see it. I already know by experience that most folks will recognize it on some level, but what they make of it varies. Precious few will actually have some grasp of its nature and celebrate with me.

I won’t claim to actually understand it.

There’s a huge question hanging in my mind right now. In the past, I knew that talents and skills were just tools to surrender to that compassion. Sure, I found entertainment in learning about computers; it scratched an itch. And I knew that my ability to fix them was a gift God could give to others. So I continued with an enthusiastic exploration of things I could figure out and keep helping folks in little ways.

And I suppose I wasn’t really too shocked when my enthusiasm for all of that died. I didn’t just toss away the knowledge and skills, whatever passes for expertise, but it has become work. I don’t mind doing work, but I certainly don’t mind when some chores take care of themselves. Fixing computers doesn’t bring a sense of peace and contentment. It’s a valuable tool, but realistic or not, I long for a time when, either they didn’t pollute our world so much, or we simply didn’t need them to carry out the gospel mission. I’ll keep using them until that day comes.

What I don’t understand is the bicycle and photography thing. Fun, yes, but there’s more. There’s a powerful moral purpose at work here, an action of compassion, but for once I don’t see how they bless others. At least, I don’t see how the harvest of blessings matches the depth of drive in me. Sure, the chatter about riding and exploring is a good thing, and the pictures of stuff you won’t normally see is entertaining. But for the life of me, I can’t yet see why I felt it was so morally necessary that I ride through West Elm Creek Valley Monday and take just a few pictures. (Actually I took more than I posted, but not all of them were worth sharing.) Sure, I learned something I didn’t know — the second lake is already on the way — but I can’t see how that is such a big deal. My conscious mind still doesn’t see why it was so important, only that it was important. It was like a sacred time in itself and I simply cannot see through that veil.

Curiosity and my sense of wanderlust don’t explain it. Were it merely my personal inclinations, I’d be out riding in far distant areas with more popular scenery. Today I have a divine appointment to ride to another area just a few miles away that I’ve not seen, and again it’s important that I take a few pictures. I’m not documenting anything, or I’d sense a need for far more images. One or two good shots and I know I’m done. But for some reason, the mere act of sharing them on the other blog doesn’t seem the end of the matter.

My theory for now is that I’m doing this in preparation for something that, if I knew what it was too soon, the knowledge would ruin things. Meanwhile, I’m puzzled how something that looks and feels like a retiree’s hobby can have such a powerful moral drive behind it. It’s a mission from God wrapped in a veil. Compassion says I must keep at it.

Yeah, I pray for a better camera, but a larger burden on my heart is the need to hear from God what really matters in all of this. If not some kind of “why” explanation, I would at least need the assurance that comes from obeying, and the assurance that I know I am obeying. Somebody will get a blessing from this, and I need to make sure it’s as lavish as I can make it for the glory of our Creator.