Psalm 115

This and the next three psalms were traditionally sung after the Passover meal. However, we also know such usage came somewhat later in the life of the nation. This hymn in particular was originally composed for general worship. It’s laid out in responsive style: The leader would chant one line, the congregation would respond with the second. This back and forth went for the entire song.

The first verse establishes the principle that we exist for our Creator’s glory, and it is always in our best interest to seek His glory alone. Instead of glory, we want for ourselves His mercy and to know Him better. The heathens who don’t know Him might well ask where He is, because they see only with the eyes in their heads, not with the eyes of their hearts. A real God would not be restricted to a material form, but resides in the Spirit Realm. Nothing on this earth can resist His hand because He made everything.

Sure, the heathens can see their gods, because the are but mere idols. The Covenant forbade portraying God as having a physical form, even in visual symbols, because you dare not confine God to any particular notion of His Person or character. But their idols aren’t mere symbols; that’s all the god they have, formed by their own hands from precious materials. They seem to have all the same features as any man, except none of their parts work. It would appear those deities match all the features of the dead. The dedication to these gods consumes wealth, but the gods return nothing because they are imaginary, inanimate and dead. In some ways, so are the heathens who worship such gods.

Don’t do what the heathen do, Israel. Place your faith in Jehovah. Again and again, the echoing refrain: He is our aid and protection. Have we not seen it over and over again? He’s a real God. Can you see around you all the things He has done for us? Marvel at it! He resides in the Spirit Realm, and has given this whole universe into our hands if we simply embrace His truth.

Don’t stand in the graveyard and beg your dead ancestors to praise Him and intercede on your behalf. Worship is not for the dead, but for the living. When was the last time you heard the graves singing? But while we live, we will seek ways to make Him smile and to bring Him joy. Hallelujah!

Tell Them You Love Me

(This constitutes a fundamental teaching in our religion.)

My aspiration is your affection.

Mysticism presumes that what really matters is beyond words. We cannot possibly transmit truth, but we can fellowship in our shared truth via human communications. That requires a certain shared contextual language and culture. Our context militates against mysticism, but we agree to use the imagery of our culture against itself. We pretend to share in the culture only so we can tear it down, at least in the sense that we agree not to take it too seriously in its claims about itself. We use it with a knowing wink.

There is a mythology in our culture that human greatness matters. The concept in itself is abused. Even if we accept for a moment the pretense of objectivity as a goal of our cultural vehicle, “greatness” is defined as holding personal significance to a substantial number of other people. It’s contextual, of course. We could say that someone is a “great man” within the context of some discussion, knowing that his greatness won’t easily translate outside that particular realm. But the whole idea is to preempt any need to examine the fellow in any detail, just presume he’s approved and start paying attention to what he says and does.

It’s a form of certification, a license to hold attention. I don’t want one of those, so don’t ever tell someone I’m a great anything. Tell people you love me — or hate me, or don’t give a damn. All that other person needs to know is wrapped up in the context of your personal affection for me. There is nothing objective about this because I can do nothing at all for anyone from the grounds of objectivity. The whole point of my sense of who I am is to combat the myth of objectivity, so a part of that is combating the myth of human greatness. If you’re going to pay attention to me, it’s because something totally subjective calls your name.

Otherwise, it can’t bless you.

The great blessings of God come with the presumption that we enjoy them in a flawed context. Further, our greatest blessing is actually the company of flawed people. There aren’t any other kind of people, so we have to build a counterculture that presumes to love anyway. Notice that this is not despite flaws, but in part because of the flaws, for it is the mixture of flaw and goodness that gives us our identity.

So we make much of transparency about those flaws.

Now, we also need to take a moment to revisit the issue of privacy versus secrecy. Generally, a secret is something kept from your awareness that has at least the potential to affect you. A private matter has no effect on you. The same detail of information can move from private to secret depending on your involvement. There is plenty you’ll probably never know about me, if only because there’s no way I can put it into words. But the closer you get to me, the more access you have to my privacy because it starts to affect you.

You really do not need the burden of knowing and processing something that won’t affect you. Thus, my sense of privacy protects both of us. There are things I really don’t want to know about you, either. Some stuff becomes clutter that hinders a proper moral focus. It’s an art to distinguish, and we justly rely on the heart for the wisdom to decide something like that.

Of particular interest in all of this is when someone feels driven or pulled into religious leadership. That presumes a certain moral probity, a certain moral authority — a certification of sorts that justifies their claim to a hearing on the matters of religion and morality.

But the defining issue is not the leader’s personal moral perfection, but their transparency. You really do need to know enough about them to place their message in context. In our culture, though, this is a lie. In fact, it’s a really big lie. It’s hard to find someone in religious leadership who is even permitted to assume that kind of transparency. Their followers are typically dragging around this baggage of “speak no evil of the leader” who is universally proclaimed “a great man”.

My personal experience hanging out with religious leaders bears this out. You would think they were eager to confess their flaws in private because they would get into trouble for a wider transparency. So once I manage to wander inside their circle of leadership, they unload all sorts of things they simply cannot say from the pulpit. And the difference between the private person and the public face is often shocking. I found it the most revolting aspect of working in church leadership.

I’m driven so hard to fight this beast that I have often said and done things that shocked the flock. In the context, it was embarrassing only in that I might feel forced to buy into the mythology, if only for the moment. Once I got away from that atmosphere, my own convictions justified my divulgence. I’m reluctant to treat anyone like a pig who can’t use any pearls.

Whatever you do, don’t call me a “great man;” just tell people you love me.

Psalm 114

This is the second of the “Hallel Psalms” sung before the Passover meal. In Hebrew, this is the lyrical equivalent of a powerful appetizer — it is very small and simple, yet dense in satisfying flavor. These few brief words conjure up a savory memory of really big events.

It’s obvious this is about the Exodus, the founding miracle that defined just who Israel was, but more importantly, who God intended she be. The psalmist draws a strong connection here to explain how it works. Ancient Near Eastern feudalism was not about land, as with Western feudalism, but about the people. A ruler’s domain was his people. During that journey out of Egypt, a wholly alien people, Jehovah is depicted as personally present at the head of the march. He was Lord and Creator of all things, as He has just proved with the plagues that discredited all the claims of the Egyptian pantheon.

One thing Israel did have in common with Egypt was the fundamental assumption that Creation was alive. This is no mere figure of speech that sees the waters as pulling back to make room for the two crossings (Reed Sea and Jordan River). The water knew its Master and cooperated with His purpose.

Indeed, all of Creation wherever they passed was delighted to see the revelation of the Creator in His mighty acts. The mountains pranced like proud rams and playful sheep. Gladly did stone dissolve into water, for nothing was too great to ask in supporting and promoting this essential mission of God. He was raising up a nation to bear His message. Not merely the written record, but the living record of people precious in His sight who would claim the rich heritage of His blessings.

Misguiding Spirits

What can you do with it?

Keep in mind the fundamentals of moral logic. Stated more expansively, I’m asking that you make that conscious effort to defer to your convictions, written on your heart by the finger of God. Keep in mind that the heart has its own “mind” with a different form of reasoning that rests entirely on moral accountability to the character of God. It’s written into Creation as well as on our hearts.

This has nothing to do with manifesting talents our Western heritage would prefer to ignore, or perhaps consider Satanic simply because it doesn’t fit in with the prevailing orthodoxy. God speaks; none of us fallen humans is authorized to decide for another how He will communicate. However, if your “message from God” conflicts with mine, it’s simply a reason to keep some distance so we don’t get in each other’s way. What we pursue here as a virtual parish would simply not work at all if you can’t humor me and the boundaries I must observe. But the grounds for pushing away from you is not too hard to understand if you have subjected your mind to your heart-mind.

In other words, I don’t care how you get your moral guidance, as long as it is bounced off conviction. I’ll bounce your declarations off my own convictions and decide from there how closely we can work. If it appears your deference to your heart produces comfortable results, we can at least be friends. It’s not a question of orthodoxy because I can’t write it all down in any detailed statement; I have to sense whether your proposal is going to cause trouble to my mission and calling. It’s a living thing, not something carved in stone.

The entire concept of spirit guides is dubious. The record of God’s work in Scripture excludes anything but angels, and we can easily characterize how they operate, because it’s very consistent within the ANE culture. Our culture is so completely alien to theirs that, just as with demons, so I must caution readers that we are ill prepared to deal with the very topic of angels, never mind the actual encounters. The whole thing is so foreign to us that it sounds like mere legend, a kind of mythology that can’t be anchored in our broader sense of what’s real. So when someone tells me they have had some kind of experience with some non-human guiding presence, I have no choice but to ask questions.

For now, there are two primary results that I would expect from any genuine encounter with God or His agents. One is that you will be humble and penitent. Not so much in terms of modeling yourself after any number of cultural models that bear such labeling, but that you will surely set aside arrogance and self-focus. I have no problem with serious self-confidence, by comparison. Two, you would be especially humble and accountable to the Bible. Not slavish bibliolatry, but evincing a sincere desire to avoid conflict with what it teaches. A failure can also manifest in the perverted legalism of proof-texting, too. It’s the message between the lines that is sacred, not the precise wording.

Now it follows naturally that no two of us will get the exact same ideas about how to implement the message of the Bible. If you tell me you reject some portion because you can’t take seriously the presumed author, then I can’t take your claim to faith seriously. That is, I cannot treat you as a brother or sister in the Lord. I can be friends with you, but you’ll be more like a visitor, maybe even an ally, but not a family member.

We have one consistent image of warning from the Bible about guiding spirits — the term in most English translations is “familiar spirit.” It’s a reference to demonic spirit guides, a manifestation of darkness that intends to deceive. It’s primary effect is to guide you in any direction possible except the one God wants you to go.

Go where your conscience directs; that’s the starting point. However, your sincerity of conviction is not binding on me, nor is mind binding on you. I have to obey my own heart.

Psalm 113

For historical reference, this begins a series of psalms traditionally used to celebrate Passover. This one and the next were sung before the meal. As with other songs of this type, the format is rather simple and easy to memorize. Moreover, it follows a standard protocol for celebrating any powerful figure within the Ancient Near Eastern feudal customs. The essence of this short hymn declares how fortunate one is to live in the domain of the ruler. It is entirely appropriate for the annual commemoration of the nation’s founding event, Exodus.

All of the psalms in this collection begin with “hallelujah,” and they are called the “hallel” songs for this reason. In light of His glorious Presence, who could remain silent? Just saying His name should elicit a thrill and a sense of peace. It should be like that until the day we die, and all day long.

Nothing compares to His glory. Nothing in this earth, among all the nations of mankind, nor anything in the Heavens above, even comes close. Yet, from such a high place, His kindness and mercy is equally great, for He bends down to notice our lives here.

By His power and kindness He rescues the lowest outcast from digging in the garbage. He seats this one among His own nobles. And the poor shame-ridden childless woman is treated as precious as the woman with many children. She has a place in His personal palace.

How can you not burst out in praise for His name?

Gospel Missions

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. No matter where you touch the living truth, it always leads to other things. The Western tendency to make thinking discrete and linear, with binary logic, is a major hurdle to overcome in approaching God’s living truth. The only loose ends are you and I, hanging off the outside of this one universal living thing.

I wrote The Cult in part to introduce how demonic influences can take on a life of their own. So instead of worrying about discrete individuals doing this or that great evil thing, as if they were some anti-hero, we put the focus where it belongs.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of moral darkness in this world, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the Spirit Realm. (Ephesians 6:12)

At the same time, I wanted to wipe away the worst of our Western mythology about how evil works, and to begin correcting a large body of false demonology. Our biggest problems do not come from natural threats or human oppression; we can work around those because Our Father rules this world. But a part of His rule is establishing an Adversary as His whip hand. Satan serves God’s purpose, but we have to understand that purpose.

So what God does with natural events and in His herding of humans who ignore Him are together the background against which we manifest His glory. These things are mere context. By faith our hearts know what we should accept with grace and what we should challenge in prayer. When our calling requires something that does not appear likely, we pray for divine intervention. Thus, we are sometimes healed of maladies and sometimes told to live with it (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

However, Satan and his demons are another matter entirely. We oppose him first in our choice to immerse ourselves in the moral life led by the heart. From that foundation, we learn how to oppose demons in more specific ways. And Western Christianity has gotten lost entirely from that ancient viewpoint because the primary effect of demonic activity is deception. The grand success of Satan’s plot to blind us by stealing away a cultural orientation that assumes a heart-led existence remains our biggest barrier to finding peace with God.

A critical part of countering that vast deception is the teaching of The Cult. People matter in the sense that they are tools of the Devil who need deliverance. The primary means of delivering them is by delivering ourselves, for in the struggle over our own selves as the battlefield, we have done as much as we can for everyone else. We have shined the light of glory on a volitional path they each must take for themselves. It requires learning to think of victory, not as some discrete event, but an ongoing process. It also requires learning to think of our Enemy as an influence in people, not the people themselves.

Further, for them to take that path and escape deception, that act itself is a miracle of God. It’s not a decision of the mind, but a compulsion of conviction. You and I cannot possibly formulate a means to make that happen in their souls. Decision Theology remains one of the biggest lies we fight, because it hobbles the whole of Western Christianity.

Stop for a moment and consider the moral logic here, the implications of what I point out. Our mission of redemption in this world is not to convince people to make a decision. Our mission is simply walking in the power of His divine moral Law. By showing what that Law looks like, we then have authority to teach it verbally. The gospel message is not magic; it has no power of its own, but requires a vivification in human lives. That’s how God does things. Jesus Christ is the Living Law of God, so the gospel message is not wrapped up in orthodoxy, but in living by His example as the Law — Law = God’s moral character.

The massive disaster of all this church missionary stuff is not that the world hasn’t heard about Jesus. Believe me, the whole world knows His name and has heard some version of the false gospel of Decision Theology. The disaster is that the churches who send those missionaries are themselves so much in need of the real gospel message. The churches are a mission field, and very tough one, at that. What a heartbreaking thing to realize that some church folks are so very close, yet so very far from the gospel of Jesus Christ, the name they claim in all they do.

Consequently, the biggest hassles we face in our faith and religion are the mainstream established churches. If there’s any human influence likely to challenge us, it’s the churches. Not the individual folks, any of whom may be just a step away from claiming the full heritage of the children of God, but the institution and how it serves as a weapon of Satan. That we face an institution is, in itself, the primary evidence of the gravity of this situation. The institutional church serves The Cult by it’s very principle of organization.

This is the one time when we need to hesitate about infiltration. Submitting yourself to the rule of religious organization is a moral compromise that comes with very high risk. The family of God is an organic thing; we should hesitate to even use the word “organization” when we talk about God’s divine plan for what a church looks like in this world. At the very least we must engage the discipline of making sure we never forget that the organization itself is just a tool, a human manifestation of faith; the church organization cannot be sacred in itself.

So we choose something tribal in nature, taking our clues from the nomadic period of Israel’s history, as the one sure way to keep the flesh nailed to the Cross when it comes to doing church. The rigors of wandering in tents as a metaphor helps us squelch the fleshly urge to take ourselves and our doings too seriously. This is part of why I invest so much energy in a virtual parish “organization” — to inhibit my fallen urge to play the hero. Having done all I possibly could, I’m still just an unworthy servant (Luke 17:7-10).

Consider these things.

Psalm 112

What would you expect to see if someone was a sincere fan of a famous figure? Not the obsessive wacko, but someone genuinely taken by the obvious greatness they saw? True fans would attempt to emulate the character of the one whom they idolize. This is what we expect when someone becomes truly smitten by the Creator. This is an adult son who proudly and consciously emulates his father, as if that father were the ultimate model of humanity.

So this psalm celebrates the quintessential Child of the Covenant. No one has to tell such a devoted follower how to act. His heart commandeers his instincts, and moral wisdom overwhelms everything he thinks, says and does. Utterly missing is the slavish rote obedience; this is genuine love and devotion to the One whose very character shines brightly through the darkness of this world. Such a man has hitched his awareness to the moral sphere, a parallel universe invisible to those whose convictions do not rule their decisions.

Hallelujah! O, how blessed is the one who genuinely reveres Jehovah. So starts this psalm. We know how to translate the word “commandments,” but we hardly grasp the concept from within our Western culture. It refers to the broad investment of interest in some domain, and the full range of efforts to express a divine compassion and urgent care for everyone involved. A better term might be self-disclosure, in the sense of moral character. What kind of fool spurns such guidance?

The terms of this celebration are parabolic. Yes, you stand to gain materially, but that’s hardly the point. If that were all you cared for, you would not be revering Jehovah, but some other deity. So we see the image of his progeny representing the whole product of his conduct in life. What a reverent man produces is worthy of pride, just like a family that becomes famous through the achievements of their children. Such a household never wanders in moral darkness, but like the sun shining, their world is bright and clear.

The Hebrew word for “lending” comes from the image of intertwining two lives together. It is a demonstration of commitment to someone else’s welfare as if it were your own. It’s not a loss, but a wise investment that reaps rewards. Creation itself favors those who are generous with what they have to share.

Such a person becomes an integral part of Creation, taking their rightful place and restoring some measure of the original task of mankind: managing God’s Creation by His divine will. It’s not as if they depend on Creation, but that Creation takes a cue from their moral wisdom. Thus, nothing in this world can shake them. Fear is just a tingly feeling, not a genuine experience. Someone who walks by moral convictions instinctively knows they can face anything.

So it is when people who are less wise come to him for relief, he is able to share more than just a few bites of bread, but the full meaning of shalom comes with every morsel he gives. His very presence in the community is a calming and strengthening influence that restores cosmic moral balance. Those who have yet to sense God through their own hearts can look to this Child of the Covenant as a clue how to find Him.

Best of all, the wicked whose hearts are darkened will find him truly stressful. They don’t want to face people like that.

Just a Little Closer

(This is the prophetic portion of today’s message. The instructional background is on the other blog.)

Standard caveat: Never treat my prophetic messages on par with divine revelation. It’s nothing more than my attempt to share something beyond words that I experience as divine moral reality. I am wholly likely to fail at any given point; God uses whomever is available. I’ve made myself available, and if you can do a better job, what the heck are you waiting for? Meanwhile, I cannot be silent.

You can’t see this with your rational senses, but another increment of wrath has been set loose on the world. In fact, the normal sources for news can’t cover this because they don’t have a heart sense about the moral truth of things. What it means is that the next echelon of demonic power is on the march.

Whatever bad stuff you can recall has happened in the past few weeks will get worse. What demons do is deceive people who have rejected revelation. The level of deception gets uglier; the resulting choices people make will get uglier. It makes not a dime’s worth of difference whether any of the actors are conscious of their moral evil, because the deception envelopes all things like a fog.

We expected this, so why am I telling you about it?

Do you recall in Acts how many times Paul was warned about going to Jerusalem? Yet he went because of a divine moral necessity. The idea is not that I’m trying to stop anything, or get you folks to organize and stop things, but that God has always offered some element of informed consent. It’s His nature to reveal, not hide things. He always gives us just a little more than we can handle, though we might imagine ourselves wishing for more detailed data. Rather, He always gives us full moral content — that heart-mind awareness beyond words — so that we can approach things in mature faith.

I’m fully confident this not The Apocalypse, but John’s visions do foretell how tribulation works when it comes. So this thing we see before is apocalyptic in nature; it follows a revealed progression. It comes in waves with short pauses between them. It hardly matters whether the folks who believe they make the decisions are trying to make us miserable; they still don’t have a clue what’s really going on here. Their wish to harm is still shaped by demonic deception.

And that deception is about to get nastier. Don’t stop what you are doing, just be aware that the fire is getting hotter. You won’t get burned, not really. The Devil cannot touch those who cling to heart-led faith. He is bound by the same moral laws that govern everything in Creation. His reach toward you is shortened by your obedient intent. But it’s almost guaranteed that some things you were counting on will fail, because we can’t possibly understand it well enough to pass through this with no surprises.

So my point here is that my prophetic senses touching the moral realm tell me that today stuff shifted into a higher gear of moral wrath. Brace yourself. The crazy shit is going to get a little closer than before.