Not Against Flesh and Blood

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world’s rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12 MKJV)

For us, the whole point is the glory of God. Nothing else we might evoke can do so much for us in return. The glory of Christ is our greatest benefit. This is why we say Biblical Law is its own reward; walking in that divine justice is His glory. We enter into His glory where it stands waiting for us.

The only enemy in this endeavor is yourself. Granted, there are lot of folks with varying agendas and interests who see us as a problem in their pursuits, but they are not our problem in return. It is their influence on our choices that is the problem. We have to shut down their entryways into our lives. And for added emphasis, their interests and agendas are sourced in the Devil, so it really doesn’t matter what they believe they want. The problem for you and I is the influence that pushes us anywhere but divine justice and Christ’s glory.

The system in which we live — culture, custom, society, law and government — favors anything and everything except the glory of Christ. Sometimes it helps us understand when we can see particular trends in the system. If you can form an image of what powers the system, and how it keeps people under control, you can discern how Biblical Law is the escape hatch.

There is no single agenda that controls our world. There are multiple agendas, overlapping, competing, and running in parallel. Here is just one example; it is truth disguised as fiction. It represents the global bankster interests, but there are others working at the same time. Conspiracy theories are partly true, but all of the various agendas together are a distraction. There’s nothing wrong with studying them if it’s part of your calling. What I can tell you is that, as I study each one, the one most effective response is always the same thing: Biblical Law. The best way to stay out from under their controls is doing the one thing that we should most enjoy by moral instinct.

Further, there is a certain holy delight in watching their systems crash in the face of God’s glory. We aren’t interested in causing pain, but we can’t prevent their chosen sorrows as God rips their plans to shreds. Instead, we get to laugh about how their demonic ideas don’t produce all the fine things they thought they wanted. It’s amusing to see arrogance deflated that way. Further, it’s such a joy to know that what we do will outlive every system that arises from sinful human imagination.

It’s not so much that we could bring them down as if we were activists and insurgents. We aren’t fighting them in that sense. By clinging to God’s Word, we more often simply slip through evil hands. Biblical Law frustrates their plans to rule us. Particularly in recent centuries do they fail, where systems of control rest on manipulation and deception, herding us into things that serve their interests. While these recent trends are very efficient in herding the bulk of humanity, a heart-led life of seeking Christ’s glory makes us pull away from their virtual chains.

Best of all, we are the hardest target for direct persecution. Together we are like a mist; no weapon can touch us. The one thing that gives us our shared identity exists independently of any of us. Because it is rooted outside this universe, no two of us here will manifest the same profile. About the only concrete trait we share is our fondness for each other, and that’s based on the divine love of Christ. This thing doesn’t depend on any one of us; there is no key figure in this world to keep it alive. It lives on its own.

God has granted us a unique opportunity in these times to shine for Him. Let’s not waste His precious gift, but work while the sun is shining.

Psalm 129

This is the quintessential song of oppression and persistence. Genuine faith rises to meet every challenge; against such faith persecution starves and withers. Given the context here, it would seem the threat is not some neighboring enemy, but internal enemies.

The first verse is dramatic repetition. Starting with the Exodus, Israel suffered from people seeking personal gain at the cost of the community. Israel has never been without internal opposition to God’s way; and such opposition has never prospered when their victims turn to God. We have the image of plowing with oxen to represent stripes of persecution. It’s the idea of trying to prosper from the suffering of others. Next comes the image of God cutting the reins used to pull the plow. Sooner or later the faithful will see God’s deliverance. The wicked will not harvest much.

Zion here is the symbol of God’s righteous rule and His blessings. There will always be predators seeking their own, but those who seek God will see the traitors thrown back. They’ll tuck their tails and run. These are people who are like the wild grass that infests patches of dirt blown into the corners of your roof. There’s not enough soil there. They sprout, but long before they can bear seed, they dehydrate. Nobody bothers to pick it for animal feed or bundle it into grass mats. You don’t even give them a ritual greeting; they are gone by the time you notice them.

Not a Replacement

We do not support Replacement Theology.

The Covenant of Moses was unique, a singular example of God choosing one nation as His sole representatives on earth. Their mission was to exhibit His revelation, to breathe life into it by living it. The covenant came with promises that were an extension of Noah’s Covenant, but added in a special status that granted them the best and most direct revelation of God and His ways. This covenant was restricted to this one nation.

The Covenant of Noah was not exclusive. It does offer the same basic promises of shalom, but there is no special family status with God. There is no promise of direct revelation and the bar is higher for maintaining a claim on the promises of shalom.

Israel had a special advantage in that, while their covenant was most assertively conditional, their status with God as family made it much harder for Him to sever ties. Nonetheless, the covenant flatly states those ties could be broken. Israel did so; the final break was rejecting the Messiah. Jesus’ execution symbolized the vast chasm separating them from God, that they had moved so very far away that they were no longer His family.

The New Covenant in Christ was unlike either of the two primary Law Covenants. Instead of an identity that was rooted in this world, the primary source of the Covenant is otherworldly. It has nothing to do with politics in that sense. There can be no “Christian nation;” it perverts the meaning of “Christian.” Instead, there can surely be nations who embrace Noah’s Covenant as their Law, which is subsumed under Christ. But Noah merely manifests Christ; it is not Christ.

So it’s not possible for Christians to replace Israel in terms of earthly status. We belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

DIY Everything

The do-it-yourself ethic is one of our doctrines here at Kiln of the Soul.

You could consider me a whistleblower against the established religious institutions of America. I’ve worked on the inside and I’m telling you that I believe there’s a whole lot of fraud going on inside those organizations. Not mere criminal fraud, but I see it as fraud against faith itself. So taking my professional training as a clergyman, I’m giving you the inside scoop. It’s not like the government is going to do anything about it, but I’m taking this to the court of individual faith believers. This is my specialty and I’m showing you that much of my expertise is not needed to do religion. It’s primary usefulness is shooting holes in the existing mainstream system. I don’t attack faith by any means; I promote it. And I don’t attack religion, but I attack the notion that you can’t do it for yourself.

For years I’ve been teaching folks how to do individual religion, and I’ve also taught folks how to do house-church. Granted, your household has to cooperate on some level, but there’s no reason you can’t find your own path individually if you find yourself alone. Further, I’ve tried to create a virtual parish atmosphere for those who find themselves isolated. A virtual fellowship is no substitute, but it will reduce the impact and help carry you through until God brings us to a place where our way of faith and religion attracts more people.

By the same token, I’ve been teaching a lot of DIY stuff: computer technology, fixing cars and some household stuff, self-help psychology, self-help education of your children, etc. What I have, I share freely. I’m doing my best to bring you the advantages of whatever expertise I have without you having to go through all that training. Some of you have made a similar effort to share back what you have learned. I’ve seen it on your blogs and in your comments here.

This week I received a call asking me to counsel someone who is in jail. It just so happens I have worked in law enforcement, so I was able to dispel the mythology of “truth, justice and the American way.” I warned them that fighting for your “rights” is a dead-end game; let your lawyer worry about that. It’s not a question of using his/her expertise, but of recognizing that it’s just not important. Instead, focus on a realistic assessment of what is, what is the reality of your situation and not some imaginary ideal. Decide where you have to draw boundaries. You’d be amazed at what kind of crap you can tolerate because it’s just externalities. By the same token, you absolutely must fight to maintain your moral identity. But you’ll find that the latter is often a much smaller subset of what our society tends to believe, and frequently what our society teaches is utterly false and misses the point. I also mentioned that it was pointless to take offense at much of anything. Don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you tormented. The jail atmosphere is loaded with people who delight in predatory torment, including the staff. Cooperate from a position of moral strength and be ready to pay whatever price is demanded for being yourself.

Again, this is little more than a specific application of the same DIY spirit of handling things according to their actual significance. Too much of what our world does is locked up in systems of certified expert this-n-that. It’s bogus. For most of your genuine human needs, we can bring glory to God with just-good-enough. As I continue working on things to post on the YouTube channel, the emphasis will always be DIY and doing religion in the common every day life we live.

Psalm 128

This is another Psalm of Ascension that wasn’t composed specifically for pilgrimage. Rather, it is didactic in nature and presents the pilgrim’s goal of Jerusalem as the capstone of blessings. God’s favor on Jerusalem was the foundation of national welfare, and people of faith were the king’s true treasure.

There is no distinction in Hebrew; the same word is translated “blessed” and “happy.” God’s favor is the ultimate reward. Everything implied by that image becomes a reward in itself, not least of which is communion with Creation itself, and a life consistent with God’s revelation. This is how we claim the fullness of whatever it is God offers to humans. Thus, reverence for God is just words unless we walk in His ways.

In the Ancient Near East, eating your own harvest is contrasted with crop failures and theft from raiders and invaders. In short, everything will go well for you. The image of the wife as a fruitful grape vine is an ancient symbol for a whole lot more.

Consider that her life is rooted at home, not wandering. She’s fruitful and it all contributes to the family’s welfare. His children grow up like olive trees already at the table, supplying a generous diet and the means to light the house. Both are symbols of God’s Spirit resting on the household, which is more to the point. This is what a reverent and faithful servant of God can expect; it’s what God has promised.

In the best of times, the City is busy and wealthy. In the worst of times, Jerusalem is the one place that must be defended. But the symbolism is that God must be the center of every believer’s universe. If you don’t make Him first in your life, don’t bother with the rituals of pilgrimage. With genuine faith in God, there will be a Zion and a Temple to visit every year, and you will lead your children and your grandchildren there to worship.

This is the shalom of God.

Clay Pots

You’ll recognize the reference to 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in clay pots, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

It’s all about the treasure, not the jars. This is more precious than the Qumran scrolls, because this is something that lives, not fragile shreds of dessicated animal skins with ink. By the same token, we could benefit from a little psychology of persecution. That is, we need to understand the bottom line: We keep this faith alive on the earth. Nobody’s pretending that ours is the only valid expression of truth; it’s valuable as one that is far different from the mainstream. Thus, should the Lord decide to add to our numbers, we rejoice that others are being set free. Should that number He adds be very few, we should rejoice that He has chosen us for something rare.

This isn’t as bad as having to hide in the catacombs. We shall be permitted to operate freely, for the most part. However, there will plenty of people and places who will not welcome us. We can dance outside in the parking lot, singing and humming the music to ourselves. We’ll learn acapella worship. I’d love to have contributions of instrumental music for some of our videos, but there is a place for doing it with nothing except what we carry with us everywhere. The whole idea is seeking what God can do with what He grants us.

This is what I’ll do in some of my videos. Be aware that my project on adding a video channel to our mission will take time, because I seek to portray this strong effort to keep faith alive when there’s virtually no support from human sources. A part of this is teaching folks to think about all the DIY work we can do with minimal stuff. At least part of the time, I’ll restrict my video-taping to just a cellphone. It’s more than just a strong preference for the natural setting; it’s shining the light of God’s glory from cracked clay pots.

You Are Entitled

You are entitled to your own fantasy world.

Most of our world shares a certain common core of fantasy in the first place. That fantasy presumes that there is such a thing as “objective reality.” That’s a bad lie and it has dominated society for way too long. All they really have is an agreement to proceed on a highly enforced track of a particular set of false assumptions.

It so happens that God permits folks to do this. In His longsuffering mercy, He has granted people enough moral rope to hang themselves. And there’s a whole lot of hanging going on right now.

It doesn’t take much to realize that we stand in the midst of very loud and ugly dispute that fractures and divides the common belief system into competing sub-systems. This has been encouraged by manipulators who were just a little bit smarter — in a predatory sense — but still suffering their own blindness about what’s real.

And there have always been a few who realized that all the flavors of this social orthodoxy were wrong, but lacked the moral discernment to reject it assertively. Instead, they fled from it into all manner of diversions that at least seemed to feel okay at the time.

In all of these efforts to chase one flavor or another, the primary missing ingredient is not a failure to choose the “right” flavor, but in the fundamental assumption that there even is a “right” flavor. There is no such thing. The truth is not available on that level in the first place. The search for such an answer is doomed from the start. It’s not that we cannot get along and share a certain amount of functional assumptions, but that we take too seriously what should be regarded as provisional.

There was a time humanity didn’t suffer under such delusions. People managed to get along fairly well working from their own unique approach to fundamental questions of reality. That is, however much peace and stability is possible in the first place, they were doing a decent job of obtaining it through that provisional agreement. Most of the human race was cynical and skeptical about their senses and their own logic and regarded “reality” in that sense as a dubious proposition. They accepted that one must make decisions and act, but that the sense of identity and stability didn’t rely on such things. They never expected any two people to consistently see the same thing in any particular shared experience.

They didn’t trust apparent “reality” and whatever part of them lived within that sphere. Instead, they understood quite consciously that we all have a faculty well above that level of existence, a faculty that connected to something beyond. Most of ancient humanity had learned to develop a different faculty, above and beyond mere intellectual capability, a faculty that was fully able and ready to handle the chaos of reality that was alive and active, sentient and willful, and entirely personal.

We seek to understand this ancient society and their higher faculty. Whether or not we have achieved anything isn’t important; we are at peace with a capricious and unpredictable reality because we believe we are friends with it. We proclaim to you that your fantasies, however outlandish they may seem to others, are no less appropriate than what the mainstream pretends is reality. We believe it’s possible that you can find your own place to stand and experiment with what calls to you from inside your soul.

We will share our own approach with you, but only if you feel drawn to it and you sense it will work for you. We won’t rush to correct your alleged fallacies. We will most certainly not waste time squashing your personal reality unless you ask for help making adjustments. That help will consist of pointing how we do things as an example, not as a template. And while we do have a template, it cannot be expressed in concrete terms, but requires teaching the intellect to serve, not rule. We know that truth makes its own path in your soul, and if this is going to do you any good at all, our best hope is helping you see the barriers and letting you remove them yourself. We are utterly confident you’ll find your own answers after that.

Don’t let anyone take your fantasies away from you. They will die on their own as you awaken and allow that higher faculty to set all things in order for you.

Don’t Count on It

Context: I surrendered to the gospel ministry as a teenager. Then, I attended college (Oklahoma Baptist University) to study and train for it. I never made it to seminary, though I never stopped trying to study on that level on my own. I spent hundreds of dollars on books, but eventually kept only a few. The journey out of bondage to Western evangelical Christian religion was long and painful, but it began with something I heard back in college. “The Bible is an eastern book; Jesus was an eastern man. Christianity is an eastern religion.” It took awhile for that to sink in.

During that long lag time from the late 1970s in college to my final departure in 2005, I did my best to volunteer in churches on whatever basis they would tolerate me. A couple of times I was granted an official internship. Several other times I was hired as Music Director simply because no one else would do it, and I just barely could. So I was frequently working as church staff and often hanging out with the pastors in daily work and conferences and just anywhere I could. I was trying to absorb the culture and hoping someone would notice my spirit and talents and sponsor me for something more permanent. While that never happened, I did learn a lot about the culture.

It included endless whining about how the mass of church membership just barely showed up. Never more than something like 20% actually got involved enough to make things happen (by their estimates). Today there is an endless supply of books and studies and programs on how to provoke your membership to a greater degree of spirituality. As you know from reading much of anything I’ve written, it can’t happen because they confuse “spirituality” with “better thinking and acting.”

Now, I will tell you that I did learn how to grow an organization so that more people showed up and put their money in the offering plates. And I was pretty good at that part, but I always felt that I failed because the majority of the people were unchanged. They liked how I could talk and stir up their enthusiasm, but they never did much. They had too many different reasons why they just couldn’t. Eventually, I got used to it.

It was good training in one sense. That kind of disappointment as “normal” made me capable of tolerating the lack of response on these two blogs.

Brothers and Sisters, what we do here makes us total aliens to the mainstream. It’s not that we can’t find mainstream folks who can love us and deal with us; the church leadership wouldn’t let someone like me stay around very long. The honest truth is that what I teach undermines their programs, and I refuse to attend a church where I can’t teach. I will not be silent, so that means they have to marginalize me at best. I’m not going to sit there and sing and enjoy the music and chat with friends and knuckle under bad teaching.

I’ve known for at least a decade that my calling was to prepare, to make myself an arrow in the quiver. I knew that a time would come when chaos would come and then my gifts from God would be activated. The small things I’ve accomplished here were training, sharpening, proving that these things work. A few of you have responded and found this stuff useful. God bless you, because that blesses me. It keeps me on the path, but sooner or later that path will meet chaos. Indeed, my prophetic gift tells me we are all headed for the chaos of tribulation. That’s what I’ve been prepared for; that’s what it will take to break open the somnolence of souls chained to all that bad teaching. It will be my faith and shalom in the midst of chaos that will call to those who suddenly realize they need something they don’t already have.

Now, God can do anything He likes. This could turn into a huge movement of sorts that reaches millions. Let’s pray to that end, but let us also hear with our convictions what God tells us He wants us to believe. Some of you are already with me, standing in faith until He pulls us out of the quiver and launches us into the battle. Some others of you will blossom and join that work. And some of you will tell me about it and we will rejoice together in the miracles. Still, my heart right now says we shouldn’t expect much in terms of numbers. We aren’t doing a religion that is designed to draw crowds and our socio-cultural context doesn’t encourage genuine heart-led conviction.

So while some mainstream Christian leaders know how to game human behavior to attract large audiences, we aren’t in that game. What we do is inherently “inefficient” in those terms. Those pastors struggle to get their huge numbers to really get involved in religion; we will struggle to avoid attracting that kind of audience. We’ll give freely to all who ask, but we know there won’t be that many takers once they understand what it involves. We aren’t building a system that automates religion. What we do is a lot of work right from the start. That’s the only way it will work at all.

Christian Mysticism will never be a mass movement, unless it becomes fake.

Can’t Sleep

Something is burning in my soul and it’s keeping me from taking a nap.

For some twenty years I have been chasing down the dark alleys of my soul, trying to find out who God meant me to be. It’s not as if I have nothing left to learn, but I’ve never had this powerful sense of peace before. This is not something I can keep to myself, and I don’t try. While I can’t give you mine, I can certainly tell you how to find your own. And if I don’t tell you, I’m dead. I’ll spiral down into nightmarish depression and literally die.

How could I not assume it would be the same for everyone else? That is, if you aren’t chasing the demons out of your own life, then they own you and you are already in Hell. Lord knows, I see enough of it around me in meat space. I see people tormented and I long to tell them how I climbed out of my own pit. But our culture makes it hard to do that, and I know that in most cases the only way I can share is when they see my shalom and ask me about it. When they see the glory of Christ shining in my life, they are drawn to seek it for themselves. I’ve often shared the experiences in writing. The sad part of it is how few there are.

I can only assume that it’s the same for each of you. A precious few of you share your faith adventures with me, privately and sometimes in the comments. But out of some 800+ subscribers on the other blog, I’ve not heard from more than a dozen people, and some of those have disappeared. I’ve had a much larger number of people argue with me over the 8+ years of this blog. What difference does it make if you click the “like” button and I never hear your story?

This is not about chatting with me, a poor lonely soul at the keyboard. It’s about telling others who read this blog that I’m not the only one who actually does this heart-led stuff. It’s about the fellowship of moral communion that makes it all more real and powerful for all of us. It’s about showing your gratitude to God by standing up and testifying what He’s done for you. Now if you are doing that in some meat-space venue, I’ll praise the Lord with you. But only if you tell me something about it. Don’t send money or love notes; send a testimony.

And I have to wonder how many of those hundreds of subscribers are making this just a feel-good thing reading either of the two blogs. You might be physically awake, but you are morally asleep. It’s not about trying to change the world. The world will remain fallen long after we are dead. It’s about conquering your own fleshly fallen nature. It ain’t much of a victory if you keep it to yourself; there’s no glory for God if His glory doesn’t shine through you.

We can’t afford to be morally asleep. Can someone turn on a light, please?

Psalm 127

Translations vary on whether Solomon wrote this himself of took it into his collection of wisdom literature. Either way, it reflects the kind of broad moral insight he had. We can be sure this wasn’t written for the annual pilgrimage. However, it was included later because, without such moral wisdom, there would be no city and temple to which they should return every year. This psalm is loaded with Ancient Near Eastern symbolism; don’t get lost in the apparent literal meaning.

God is the foundation and the blueprint of a life worth living, for both individuals and the nation as a whole. Don’t start any projects without first insuring that God is involved. And once you have built, you cannot keep it without God’s continued favor. You must choose a course that God has laid out in His revelation, or everything you do is wasted effort.

Cease striving on your own power; work smarter, not harder. Internal peace is a gift from God. Good responsible stewardship means taking care of your own sanity and health as part of the shared resources of your covenant community. There is nothing noble about a pointless sacrifice to lesser things.

But if you hear and obey the Word of God, then it would be just like a man who fathers many children while he is still young. Now that’s a job worth some extra effort, worth a little struggle early on in your life. The spawn of obedience will go far, stopping threats from a distance like archery in battle. You can never have too many arrows of that sort. They will become men before you are old, established and well known in the community. Then when you do grow old, these worthy sons can present a strong argument in your favor when opponents try to bring judgment against you.

The implication is that you’ll die in peace because you lived in shalom.