01 An Elder’s Moral Covering

I’m not a leader; I’m an elder. I don’t lead; I provide moral covering.

You’ll find plenty of biblical references to the symbol of “covering for sins.” It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden and the Fall. In their innocence, Adam and Eve had no sin to cover. Once they ate of the Forbidden Fruit, their sins were apparent to themselves and they came up with a form of covering that might be okay in the Garden, but would serve no useful purpose once they were driven out. They needed a covering that God provided, and it came at the price of blood.

The symbolism is what we are after here. It rested on symbols common throughout the Ancient Near East (ANE). Somebody has to sacrifice, to shed blood so that we can reclaim the available measure of Edenic living that God allows. It takes sacrificing whatever we think we have in this life to reclaim what we could and should have under God’s covering. Returning to Eden means facing the Flaming Sword of revelation.

He revealed that His covering includes a certain amount of sacrifice by people appointed for the role. It’s a burden that requires a strength only God can provide. For an elder, it’s not a choice. It’s a role chosen by God, though it is rather predictable. It follows established protocols.

If you observe that my life is blessed and seems like a taste of Eden, then you can grab a share of my blessing by coming under my covering. The purpose is not to boost my domain, but to justify having one in the first place. The whole purpose of moral dominion is to provide incubation for other folks who should become elders themselves. I’m propagating my blessing. I’m providing the covering you need long enough and strong enough for you to grow into that role on your own terms before the Lord.

So it’s not a permanent arrangement. And while literal progeny don’t have a lot of choice in who their first elder is, they are always free to run out from under his moral covering and face things on their own. Of course, if they simply stick around and refuse to obey, they will be punished as a means to awakening the awareness of sin’s costs. An elder cannot allow anyone to threaten the covering. Elders were empowered under the Covenant of Noah to execute those who pushed too far, too long, in threatening the covering and refusing to take their sin outside the household.

That’s a symbol of how the church was supposed to operate. It was your moral family household, never mind physical DNA. But here at Kiln of the Soul, we have to reinterpret that for the virtual world. We can’t hug, for example. And we really can’t get to know each other that well personally, though some of you have caught on how to make the most of what’s possible. So there are some of you who cling to my moral covering with a strong kinship despite the geographical distance.

It’s not possible on a purely psychological level. It only works when we share communion on a higher plane. We are trans-dimensional people. We don’t cease being humans, but we have an added component that trumps everything else about us. This alone is capable of making a virtual parish work. Without this higher faculty, there is almost nothing I can do to provide covering. But if you can tolerate what comes with embracing me as elder, then it’s a sure thing you’ll be covered under my shalom of divine moral blessings.

So I’m not here on this blog giving directions. I do set limits, but that’s the definition of covering. You can wander off as you see fit. God knows: What works for me may not work for you. Still, you’ll have to find your own dominion or suffer the loss of some of my blessings. And as long as you stay close, you’ll always be liable to suffer my sorrows, because none of us is perfect. Still, I’m hoping to see you take to your own wings sooner or later. You can keep on bringing your strength back to this virtual parish, but it means sacrificing some things in order to keep things under my covering.

In that sense, perhaps we can redefine the meaning of “leader” and “leading,” but because of the cultural baggage, I would still avoid those terms.

Some Prophetic Insight

See the bigger picture.

Consider Romans 9:14-24 and Jeremiah 18. God is the Potter; His plans and motives are inscrutable to us. But His moral character is fully revealed. If we see that a country is not obeying the Covenant of Noah, then we know it is doomed. We can analyze that country in detail and see why it is doomed, and can usually discern how the doom will come. That is, we know that God typically allows nations enough rope to hang themselves; their doom will be consistent with their sin.

From our perspective, it doesn’t matter much how a particular country came into being. God grants them all a certain space for repentance. At what point has the US ever turned to God? At what point did America repent according to Biblical Law and strive to obey? I’ve seen no evidence of it, either.

So the Lord has called me to prophecy to America of her sins and to warn of the coming doom. I will contend that what I see is not unique to me; whatever wisdom and vision I have is hardly special. All of it could and should be obvious to anyone who seeks a genuine heart of faith and conviction. Granted, an awful lot of believers are blinded by a Western bias about faith and revelation, but the remedy for that is easily found. All that I’ve written against Western intellectual assumptions can be found in other works by better writers who knew more than me. I’m hardly the only Christian scholar who knows this stuff.

On top of that, there are a great many very intelligent minds who can see that doom from an entirely secular approach. All you have to remember is their secular motives that color how they address the topic. Most of them are trying to sell something, so it’s not a matter of prophets but profits.

There is no sin in trying to profit from America’s demise. However, keeping it clean before the Lord means keeping track of how He does things. If you obey Biblical Law, then part of the shalom He has promised includes a measure of prosperity. If you are living according to His calling on your life, then by all means, exploit this situation for His glory, for therein is much profit, both moral and material.

By no means should you resist what God is doing. Try to understand what’s happening and pray accordingly. God’s wrath is upon America and she will not return to her former power and glory. Never mind what Trump says about “make America great again” — it ain’t on God’s agenda. But there are some other things God has in mind for Trump to do as a vessel for wrath. At a minimum, his election has provoked the end game. I can’t suggest to you any kind of time table, but there is no turning back. Something in this conflict between his supporters and his foes will forever destroy the system.

If you understand Noah’s Covenant, then you probably understand that centralizing government control is inherently evil. Biblical Law rests on protocols and layers of dominion. The US as it currently exists even within her own borders qualifies as an empire. In the Bible, emperors are not permitted to make laws that dig too deeply into the daily life of subjects. We see from examples on the Old Testament that a good emperor can demand tribute and some amount of direct service, to include a military draft. If he has any sense, he stops at around ten percent. In return, the emperor must provide protection from both external and internal enemies. But he cannot set detailed policy for daily life. He deals only with the existing leadership of the people — ideally kings and tribal leaders.

Thus, policy is limited to keeping trade peaceful and fair between vassals. Translate that into our context today. There is justification for education policy at all, and no justification for any kind of inheritance tax or physical property tax. There is no justification for corporations as persons to limit individual liability. There can be no impersonal shareholders, no stocks and bonds. There can be no government bureaucracy making rules and regulations, only executing them. Everything must be personal; all property must be owned under the name of an individual. And we haven’t even mentioned the issue of respect for Creation. Those are just a few examples; do you begin to see how it deals with greed and lack of accountability?

So it stands to reason that our screwed up evil system is what will implode. That’s how God’s wrath works: Whatever characterizes an evil empire as peculiar sins is what will eat it alive, and it’s what God’s wrath will correct. Thus, we should expect that there will be a catastrophic decentralization of US political power. And because the US has done so very much evil to other countries, there will be further complications too numerous to mention here.

If you understand what draws God’s ire, you can estimate where His wrath falls. There are people and agendas that will fight tooth and nail to keep the evil centralizing going, trying to make it even worse. Those will suffer. So for example, Trump’s presidency will open the path for the destruction of both the globalists and imperialists. Within your calling and mission from God, if you see a chance to exploit and profit from that situation, jump right in. Otherwise, try not to stand too close to any of it when it implodes.

I reiterate my personal conviction that we need not fear an apocalypse. The national system can break down without destroying everything you know. It will be rough in some ways — it has to be. But there’s no reason to think life support will come to a screeching halt. Your local and state governments will vary widely in their response to the way stuff changes, so you’ll have to stay nimble. Make certain in your own heart that you are already where God wants you, then pray and keep your eyes open for what comes.

Faith Does Not Compute

Here we take a short tour through the history of Western Christian theology. Our attention is focused on the business of fallen nature and human reason.

First, we have to understand that Hebrew Scriptures assume a wholly different anthropology from what is common in the West. On the one hand, both use figures of speech, but use them differently. In ancient Hebrew culture, human nature is divided up differently and associated with different parts of the body as mere symbolism. When it comes to understanding human behavior, it really didn’t matter whether the mind was literally rooted in the brain — there were too many other factors in human nature that affected how the brain worked. In other words, Hebrew culture downplayed the importance of intellect compared to the Western image of it.

Second, there was a radical difference in cosmology, too. While the particulars varied among the multiple Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) civilizations, of which Hebrew is one, there was a common thread of belief in a distinct and separate spirit realm that was invisible to the senses. We cannot overemphasize how radically different this is from the Western assumption that this universe is all there is. The Greeks had no trouble with the idea that deities and demons were invisible, but such beings were still confined to this universe. Greeks honestly believed that it was possible to find a physical entrance to both the homes of the gods and the abode of the dead.

So deeply does this stain Western thought that you can discern the influence in Western Christianity. Early in Church history we find the official church teaching that human reason is not fallen.

Let’s see how the ANE viewpoint is expressed in Jeremiah 17. Starting in verse 5 God is castigating Judah for departing from the Covenant (the Northern Kingdom was already long gone at this point). In particular, He refers to the “heart” as the center of one’s will, the seat of commitment or faith. There is a specific reference to the kidneys as the seat of human motives, and it’s often translated in English as “reins” or “mind.” His point comes right up front: cursed is the man who trusts in human capabilities alone. Blessed is the man who humbly trusts in God for moral truth. Without redemption, the heart of commitment is wicked. In that state, no one can subject their lesser faculties to the higher faculty that should be in the heart. There is no sense of conviction, so the heart is effectively just as fallen and broken as the rest of such a man.

This is echoed in Romans 3, particularly in verses 9-18. Paul indicates that a covenant identity never kept Jews from being just as wicked and sinful as the worst of heathens. Paul goes on to assert that without redemption, there is nothing good possible arising from human capabilities. It was always a matter of divine grace. Western Christians are completely mistaken in thinking Jesus introduced a new concept in John 3 when He spoke of spiritual birth. We can find references to that symbolism throughout ANE religious writings. Without “a spirit of the gods” within us, we are doomed. Nicodemas as so Hellenized that he had completely forgotten the mystical roots of Hebrew culture. For him, there was no separate realm of the Spirit; everything was confined to his universe. Redemption was merely to earthly Jewish identity.

Even when we find Western church teachings about spiritual birth, we find that the net effect it is merely a changed mind. Somehow being more spiritual means nothing more than a different cerebral track. It’s a conversion of mind only, in the sense that religious leaders are looking for symptoms of orthodoxy. We find them saying in effect that “Jesus in your heart” equals “right belief and practice.” And that right religion always seems to look like the one that the present leadership espouses. “If you don’t believe and act like me, you ain’t born-again.” For non-evangelical traditions, it’s more like, “We are the arbiters or what God says, so if you don’t agree with us, you haven’t heard from God.”

This is precisely the fatal flaw in Judaism, and it goes all the way back to Jeremiah’s prophecy. Judah was at that time facing Babylon’s rampaging conquest. The Judean leadership insisted that, since the Temple inside the walls was God’s House, they were safe. Would God allow heathens to dirty His carpet? Was not this Hebrew nation God’s Chosen? Jeremiah was telling them that it didn’t matter where the Temple stood. It also didn’t matter their proximity to it; the nation had moved too far away from God’s protection in their hearts. Their faith, their feudal loyalty, was in something other than Jehovah.

In Hebrew thinking, spiritual birth does not change what you are, but who you are. It opens the door for a personal communion with our Creator so that His power can mitigate the Fall. Thus, spiritual birth is not some magic that changes the ideas in your head; it changes your heart — it registers as a sense of identity and commitment. You aren’t buying into a different package of human identity, but leaving all of that behind for an identity rooted in the Spirit Realm. Christ said His kingdom is not of this world. There can be no earthly kingdom of Christ; there can be no Christian nation. In this world there can be only provisional associations of fellow believers, acting like family in an eastern feudal setting. We as Christians are brothers and sisters with no earthly father. We are away from Home working together in a foreign realm. We don’t colonize; we offer adoptions out of this world.

Meanwhile, the only people who actually understand this world are those who belong outside of it. The only people who hold a valid assessment of human nature are those who denounce and renounce it. Only when we are linked to the Spirit Realm do we find communion with the rest of Creation. We still face the same natural world, but now are friends with it, not alienated from it in some god-forsaken mythology of something must be defeated, tamed and enslaved to our will.

Reason cannot be reformed. It can be properly subjected to faith, but you won’t see that often in organized Christian religion. Instead, we see the whole matter of “faith” as better belief and action, and “spirituality” as mere education and training. Theology is data; faith is much more.

Set the Captives Free

The longer I look at it, the more I cannot imagine that my mission is pivotal in God’s work among humans.

Let me reiterate some things my regular readers already know. The gospel message is freedom. It’s the opposite of sectarianism. While a great many Christian denominations use terminology like that, what they mean is that there should be no sects other than their own. “Everyone should be free to do it our way. Who could want anything else?” The problem is that they keep religion a slave to reason. Thus, whatever “freedom” means, it has to pass through the filter of reason — and we all know that reason is the conscious cover story our minds offer for very unreasonable personal wishes.

It is utterly impossible for reason to fill in the blanks of ultimate moral purpose; reason must start from certain moral assumptions and those always rest on the individual’s personal collective mythology. Need we note again that said mythology is itself a moving target? It is simply not possible for any human to be objective. We are all born with an instinct to propagate our genes; most of us are born with a certain drive to propagate our personal mythology. But only a few of us are born with the talents to make either form of propagation happen on a wide scale (and those two talents are often found in the same person). These folks honestly believe: “My way is God’s way.” Thus is born a particular brand of religion that sweeps in larger numbers of people.

And people are taught to disregard some of their own personal mythology in order to participate in some grand vision of conquest. “Everyone should taste the privilege of living like I do.” We see this in secular politics; religion never escapes politics. Despite words to the contrary, nobody in the religious propagation business really wants to make room for significant variations in reasoning and explanation. This reluctance is wired into the culture itself. There is this a priori assumption that it can’t be worth the trouble unless the results bring in large numbers under one single Great Man’s leadership. A part of the Curse of the Fall is an endless supply of human demigods.

Instead of boring you with yet another recounting of my long journey through madness, I’ll cut to the chase and remind you that coming out the other end of the Valley of the Shadow of Death was possible for me only by tossing aside the primacy of human reason and the instinct to lead. Do not follow me. Don’t trade your old demigod for some dream of making me into another one. My mission is to destroy that very thing. What I really want to do is set you free to find Christ on your own path. I’m fully confident that Christ in your heart can lead you where He wants you to go without my interference. I’m just along for the ride.

But this is no small task. It’s made all the larger for all the cultural mythology that demands we cling to a false definition of “holiness.” If there’s one idea that comes from Satan, it’s the truculent insistence that “truth” has to result in one concrete intellectual construction. It’s the big lie that this concrete physical universe, which we experience through our senses and grasp through our reason, is the sum total of all that is. It’s that endless quest for more data so we can nail down what can be, and thus what ought to be. Whatever is meant by “truth” must be some static, dead and cold “reality.” Even when we get people to admit that there could be other realms of existence, they still insist that whatever we can learn from any other realm must result in one single concrete answer here.

And all the while, this “here” is not concrete in any way. That “concrete objective reality” is the ultimate lie of the Devil. The world seems to have somehow agreed to that one underlying assumption, even in the face of vast unresolvable disputes about how we shall define that concrete reality. So we have endless wars because we all agree that there can only be one definition of concrete reality, but we cannot agree on what it is. That’s crazy.

But because everyone buys that fundamental lie, we end up finding ourselves under threat of force to buy one or another false mythology. So we all band together with others, buying into one or another great myth so we can stand together and fight back. Nobody seems to notice how the New Testament taught that we should just nod our heads and salute whatever flag someone runs up the pole because we don’t really care. The reason we don’t care is that we are conscious that this whole thing is one big lie. We play along with the game because we aren’t in a position to reach inside other people’s heads and turn on the light of revelation. Only God does that.

And His chosen instrument for that process is each of us living by our own provisional reality, consciously aware that no two of us have the same answer. But most of all, we are aware that no two us should have the same answer, simply because we cannot. God reveals Himself differently and individually to each of us. We would not dare tell God what He has to show anyone else. Nor would we dare to demand that the net result of revelation in some soul should come out with a concrete reality that looks the same as ours.

Yet by the very miracle of agreeing that we should not see things alike, we are able to unite in a bond of faith stronger than any shared identity mere men can dream up. We find fellowship and communion, ties of compassion and affection, and we worship the same Creator and Savior and Power to live in this Shadowland of lies and deceit. This world is the prison of souls.

So if there’s one thing I want you to remember me for, it’s that I helped you break out of the prison.

Psalm 124

This is ascribed specifically to David. We should take notice how very much this is like a responsive song, heavy with Hebrew parallelism.

We have this basic confession: Were it not for Jehovah’s favor, there would be no Israel. Think just a moment about her history. How many times did the Patriarchs stand threatened by circumstances? And didn’t Israel face a very well-armed force trying to escape unarmed from several generations of slavery? And that generation that died in the wilderness? Remember those biting serpents, the droughts and lack of food? How many times should Israel as a nation have died by normal human reckoning? This sentiment is restated twice.

This sentiment is expressed in two ways. First, is the image of larger and better armed nations rising against them, described twice. Then the metaphor of an overwhelming flood is expressed three times. Make no mistake — this echoes the crossing of the Reed Sea and Jordan during flood stage.

The song then jumps into praise. God didn’t let them eat us alive. David compares this to a bird caught in a snare that escapes because the trap broke. It’s not that Israel was smart enough to stay out the traps, but that God kept breaking them free. Their salvation was in the “name of the Lord.” That’s a Hebrew turn of phrase that reminds us God operates as an eastern suzerain, and we are His vassals. This is all about His glory, His reputation. Let us remind everyone that this is our Creator.

Psalm 123

While very short, this Psalm of Ascents is far more intense than any English translation can convey. It echoes of someone in deep distress from oppression, implying a persecution for one’s faith in Jehovah.

The first word in the Hebrew here points to God as the obvious focus; there is no other. We are bowed down under the pressure of a world that dehumanizes and tries to own us, but we recognize no Sovereign but Jehovah. He is the One who dwells in the Heavens as His natural home, built by His hand.

In a related figure of speech, the psalmist cites a protocol whereby the servant watches the right hand of his master, or her mistress. Many Ancient Near Eastern potentates would establish subtle hand signals, training their servants to respond immediately. Just the slightest twitch from Your finger, O Lord, and we are ready to jump. We are watchful and eager. What is not easily translated to our culture today is how such a servant was utterly convinced that the whims of their lord were always in their own best interest. In this case, it’s all the more so true when we seek His mercy and favor for deliverance.

And what favor do we seek? The psalmist includes everyone, emphasizing it by repeating it. We burdened by the hideous moral distress of contempt we face from those bearing worldly authority over us. The obvious implication is that God is not like that; we are His family and His treasure. Who compares to the greatness of God? Yet men with piddling authority over a few others so quickly forget humility before God, and oppress His people.

This prayer doesn’t seek revenge, only deliverance.

Nagging Memories

There’s something troubling me.

On the one hand, your sense of moral conviction does not reside in your physical heart. The lamp of spiritual truth would burn just as brightly if you depended on an artificial heart to pump your blood. On the other hand, there is simply no way to deny the unique ability of the heart as a sensory organ. If it’s not your physical heart pushing out that powerful electromagnetic field, then something in your body near the heart is doing it. The field has been measured and it emanates from that spot just to the left of your sternum and inside the ribcage. I suppose the question of whether an artificial heart takes away that measurable field is something that hasn’t been tested by the medical researchers who discovered the heart’s sensory field. Thus, I am not able to explain just exactly how the literal sensory heart connects to the metaphorical heart of moral conviction, only that there appears to be a connection.

What I can declare without reservation is that when you make a conscious effort to connect your awareness with that sensory field in your heart, it changes your whole perspective on reality. It’s more than my personal experience; it’s amply testified by others on this blog and in other places on the Net. Further, once you’ve entered that realm of awareness, there’s no going back without something inside of you dying first.

As part of that shift in consciousness comes a sensitivity to moral health. Not just your own, but the environment in which you live. More to the point, it pulls you into a place where your moral health becomes deeply connected to the moral environment. It’s not a question of dependency, but the interaction is there. Your sense of internal peace can be afflicted by what’s wrong around you, and there comes a call inside of you to deal with it in some way to avoid going insane. Each of us in our unique calling from God has to discover what we were meant to do about the context in which He has placed us. Between you and the Lord, no one else can fully understand just where you will find that balance point between bearing up under sorrow and taking some action to reduce the sorrow.

But there are some common elements for all of us. A part of that is healing old moral wounds. That is, the Spirit of the Lord works through this moral sensitivity to heal those wounds, but the means of doing so is where things tend to be unique. A part of the common experience is how the ghosts of bad experiences come back to haunt you. Pay particularly close attention to something that makes you feel out of sorts, as if you were being pulled out of your normal self. In the mirror of such moments of torment, anything that makes you feel like someone you don’t really know — someone you may not like — there is a signal in the heart to seek the Lord’s face for an answer: What does this torment signal for me?

I can assure you that sometimes the answer may literally take years before it reaches some point where your conscious mind knows what to do about it. That’s not meant to scare you, but to assure you that there is always an answer. You have to realize that it may require moving you a very long way before you are in the place where it starts to make sense.

Over the years there have been a handful of troubling experiences that play over in my mind, creating a very disturbing atmosphere in my soul. It’s not some sort of guilt, either false or justified. It’s an unanswered question: Why does this still trouble me so much? Why does it provoke deep emotions that conflict with each other? I replay this event and test variations, changes in how I could have responded, to see if any different choices make better sense. Could I had done it better? Sometimes that’s enough to find a solution and I get peace about that thing. Sometimes it continues beyond that, typically because it’s much bigger than my own failures. When something from the past makes me angry enough to kill, it’s a signal that there is an unanswered question with a much wider implication.

What’s troubling me today is something that merits a separate blog post.

The Taste of Truth

We are wired for narrative.

The Hebrew culture was mystical in nature; it was part of the Ancient Near East (ANE), which is a collection of cultures and civilizations that shared a mystical orientation. Westerners have struggled to make sense of that peculiar brand of mysticism because it is so very alien. Our language and culture makes mystical things “spooky” and dangerous, whereas the ANE folks took it for granted and were entirely comfortable with it. Their “unknown” was never threatening; it was where man could find God.

It’s further exceedingly difficult to get across to Westerners that there is a third level of awareness beyond first, fleshly wiring in appetites and emotions, or second, intellect and reason. This is why genuine faith and trust in God is so very difficult for Westerners. What Western Christianity ends up with is a requirement for orthodoxy (“right thinking”) to force pre-approved outcomes. We simply cannot have something open-ended like faith is meant to be. Thus, it provides a phony “faith” that is some form of iron logic, which is supposed to conquer the flesh. But it cannot conquer flesh because intellect is still flesh; it’s still man doing something the mind imagines is God’s work. To be “spiritual” means some better quality of cerebral exercise in reason.

The only real difference between that kind of belief versus atheism is simply a matter of starting assumptions. It rests entirely in the fallen flesh. It’s all the same kind of thing. People choose their assumptions on some grounds they cannot comprehend because reason cannot admit to dependency and need. The seeming power of reason is too enthralling to ignore; intellect cannot choose to surrender the myth of superiority in all things. It is the God-complex woven into the human soul. In other words, you cannot start from logic and arrive at truth because there is nothing on which to stand. Logic is a tool; it has no substance in itself. Thus, the choice to believe or not is nothing more than subconscious sentiment.

This remains the sad story for the vast majority of those seeking to practice Western Christian religion. Especially as the size of the organization grows, the portion of people in it who are simply believers without genuine commitment on that third level grows higher because the size of the crowd makes it easier to hide the weakness. There’s so much shared enthusiasm that it feels like it must be the power of God; it didn’t come from within the self.

This, despite the rather flatly literal teaching in Scripture that genuine faith in the individual defies the whole world if necessary; even the end of reality itself does not vanquish true faith. Move those individual members to a hostile environment and their belief suffers. Something nibbles away at the edges of the fragile belief. It requires a constant exposure to that mass enthusiasm to reinforce those cerebral boundaries. There’s no fountain of life welling up within.

Nobody says the mind cannot be strong; it’s never strong enough. It can’t bear you into God’s Presence. We don’t need more teaching. There is no truth in explanations that meet the tests of intellect. I use it here in our virtual parish only to deconstruct, to indicate how you shouldn’t rely on it. I use the tools of reason and intellect to poke holes in what the brain can do by itself.

The truth of God isn’t in teaching. The closest we come to divine revelation in human language is parable and narrative. Do you understand that two or more narratives can conflict on the facts and still tell the same truth? Two people can come away from a narrative with entirely different experiences, but still stand in the same faith. Narrative brings with it a whole raft of experiential truth that touches the places mere data cannot find. And it’s those other places in the soul where we can provoke or crush genuine faith. A well told story that rests on certain assumptions will convey those assumptions by drawing the listener into them. It becomes the reality in which that soul stands for a time.

Thus, the very concept of communication and language in the ANE was all about the narrative, drawing us into the place where we can find truth. We are wired to absorb that truth. Once we get used to this, we can detect lies because they bring us to the wrong place, a place that feels alien and hostile. But only if we are used to thinking in terms of the narrative and its purpose as communication. As long as we hang everything on the data, anyone can slip vast deceptions into the narrative and we’d never know it.

A morally strong narrative finds a witness in your convictions. It feels like home; it restores your faith. It tastes like something eternal.

Psalm 122 (Updated)

Though written by David whose palace sits in Jerusalem, he assumes the perspective of a pilgrim who has come from the farthest distance.

We have arrived! We are here in Jerusalem and the first thing we want to do is pay our respects to God. This first verse is very popular, though seldom properly understood in context. Instead of seeking rest and recovery from the journey, the pilgrims hurry to seek God’s favor. The anticipation that energized them on the journey brings a demand that cannot be denied. Meanwhile, they pause just a moment to celebrate the fact their feet are now inside the gates of the city. You can almost see them bowing down to kiss the stone pavement. This becomes a song to Jerusalem as the capital of the nation and the symbolic home of God’s Presence among His people.

It’s not just any city; Jerusalem is a most winsome place. The word typically translated as “compact” carries the connotation of communion, a place where the whole nation returns to their spiritual home. It signifies the sense of moral fitness, that everything is in its place, and that the whole universe is in proper balance under God’s favor. It’s a primary meaning behind shalom. The sense of unity in the vast nation is a testimony to God’s greatness. Surely we can all share our gratitude to Jehovah. How proper it is that the City is also the seat of government, the City David won for himself from the Jebusites.

So while we are in the House of God, let us pray for the continued shalom of this lovely place. Given what it represents, let the Lord’s favor rest on those who love to be here. Let there be that powerful sense of peace and rest and vivid life that demonstrates God’s promised blessings. And even if David has to write it himself, there is a standing command from God to pray for the welfare of the king.

Meanwhile, lest we imagine that David is tooting his own horn, he explains his true motives here: David is still the shepherd boy serving his Lord. All of this is for the sake of his flock, his tribe, his nation, his brothers and sisters Israel. If there is peace in the City, it’s a whole lot easier to insure that peace rests on the whole kingdom. So it is for the sake of God’s great name on the earth that David seeks the well-being of his whole nation.

Note: Keep in mind that when David wrote this, there was as yet no Temple. The “House of the Lord” would have been the Tent of Meeting standing in the courtyard outside his fortress-palace.

A Shift in Emphasis

This is a “get to know me” post.

I really thought I was coming home from Europe to become a church pastor. I had been ordained for a decade and had been quite well received by the chapel folks in the military. But as soon as I got back to the US, I ran into all kinds of trouble. So I distracted myself for awhile in secular education work, but then I really stirred up trouble, so I quit that work. Once I had time for contemplation and study, I found myself completely out of place in the mainstream of religion. The harder I tried to make things work, the more they broke. It finally hit me that I had long been an outsider, so I began reaching out to those who had been similarly disenfranchised from religion.

That’s how my online ministry started. The virtual nomadic hunter-gatherer life was far more fruitful in spiritual terms, while the domesticated fields were full of toxic rot. This engagement of the fringes manifested in all sorts of ways — switching to Linux and Unix, learning about obscure networking stuff, developing a writing style to captured like-minded readers. But in the process I began turning over a lot old rocks and ruins, and discovered that whatever “mainstream” meant, it was all very wrong. I moved farther afield and discovered that a lot of non-Christian folks were using stuff that reflected the more ancient biblical viewpoint. A lot of real weirdos and kooks starting hanging out with me (in virtual space).

Too be honest, I really believed we could still find some place to stand near the mainstream, if not inside of it. But after more and very consistent rejections, I gave up on that. It was pretty lonely for awhile, because nearly everyone who really liked what I was doing were people I’ll likely never meet face to face.

Those who were too conventional became scared off by my explorations. You should imagine that process brought even more radical changes in my outlook. Eventually, I began to discover where I really belonged. Oddly enough, this space became its own new “mainstream” in the sense that I was ready to starting working on a whole new society. In other words: While I was at one time reaching out to marginalized folks, there came a point when I moved out there on the margin and put down roots. So now I’m reaching back into the mainstream to pull out folks who need to escape. The field of focus remains folks who are marginalized, but it’s people who aren’t self-consciously so. They aren’t standing out on the margins intentionally. This change wasn’t a conscious decision process; I’m not self-absorbed enough to think I can create a new reality all by myself. This thing coalesced around me bit by bit. Now I look around and realize I’m not alone; I’m not some kook raging in the wilderness. There’s a village growing up around me.

And that village keeps looking at me for clues. Personally I wonder if they haven’t all made some huge mistake, because I’m not sure I can do them that much good. But this thing persists and I refuse to just run away. This is where I belong, so if you’re going to keep hanging around, let’s try to make the most of it. This is what’s behind the recent series on building a new Christian Culture. The interaction I get seems to call for this kind of effort and no one else seems to be working on the question.