Cain, Ham and Racism

I wonder how many of you would be surprised to learn that Cain, is not just a controversial figure in the Bible, but he also used to inspire racism against two peoples: Those who are Jewish and those who are Black.

We all know the story, right?  The Bible says that after God confronted Cain about Abel’s death, He sent him into exile and told him that the Earth would not yield crops for him.  But Cain had a strong fear that others would kill him for what he had done, so God showed him a mercy by putting a mark upon him which would identify him as someone not to be killed by another, lest God’s wrath come upon the murderer.

But Cain’s story doesn’t really start here.  Not in terms of how Christianity has used him to feed racism amongst Christians.  It really begins in the Garden, as God is confronting the Serpent for making Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit.  He tells the Serpent that He will divide the seed of the Serpent and the Seed of Adam from one another, and the man’s seed would take out the Serpent.

Interpretations of what happen in the Garden are not all the same.  There are people which believe this is about Cain and Abel’s births.  Where the first tradition holds that both Cain and Abel are Adam’s children, this other tradition holds that they are Fraternal Twins with two different fathers.  That the “Forbidden Fruit” is a euphemism meaning that Eve first had sex with the Serpent, and then Adam had sex with the serpent.

In case you didn’t know, it is possible to have twins with two different fathers.  It’s called Superfecundation (Cocozza, 2018).  Which makes this an unfortunate piece of the puzzle- science holds up the theory, and thus encourages this version of the what it means to “partake of the forbidden fruit”.  To the people which believe this, it’s not much longer before the child which is the Serpent’s is revealed.  With Cain’s inability to please God and his subsequent murdering of Abel, everyone suddenly realizes that the seed of the Serpent (or Satan) is Cain.

So let’s go back to Cain’s “mark”.  In one tradition, his mark was the pigment of his skin, and it is used to condemn Black People.  The other tradition states that all his children inherited his curse that the land would not yield to him.  This version of the story is used to condemn the Jewish population, stating that they are not actually the Jews in the Bible, but rather “Kennites” (Descendants of Cain).

I thought about going into who the Kennites actually were, but I’ll get into that on another day.  For now, I want to talk about this problem of Racism in Christianity.  However, to get to that point, we have to have some real hard talks.

First, let’s first try to erase this notion of Cain being the father of an entire race living today: The Flood.  The whole point of the Flood was to get rid of all the evil people and start fresh.  God left only Noah and his Family to inherit the Earth.  It’s pretty clear from the Biblical account that if Cain’s line was nothing but evil, they wouldn’t have survived the Flood.  It’s a simple as that.

But even if this wasn’t the case (as some Christian faiths insist that “world” meant “known world” rather than the whole Earth), the curse of not being able to yield crops seems to have no bearing here either. Jewish people cultivate their own crops in Israel, and have a fairly rich agriculture. I’m sure I’d have some people point out that Zimbabwe has difficulty with their agriculture- to which I’ll see your Zimbabwe card with the US South during the years of slavery. It wasn’t the white people largely tending to the crops- it was Black Slaves who made the market what it was. Clearly both these cultures have the capacity for Green Thumbs. I, on the other hand, don’t. Maybe the curse of Cain came down the White Line? Except that I have plenty of family on both sides that can grow their own small gardens…so there goes that theory as well.

So the next theory comes about- Alright, the Flood and Green Thumbs didn’t work, so let’s try that the Black population comes from Ham.  This one was used by Brigham Young, of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, to try and keep the Black Man down.  His argument was that if we didn’t keep Black Slaves, we would be going against God’s Will when He cursed Ham’s descendants.  This same racism was echoed around the country.  And later on, it became a point of scholarship to blame racism against Black persons on Rabbinic Racism (Goldenberg, 1997).

In some minor defense of the LDS, in 2013 they denounced the Curse of Ham as an excuse to prevent Black Men from obtaining a priesthood, but isn’t well known by their membership.  But this denouncement came about about 40 years after a leader in the Mormon Church had a revelation given to him by God that no race or skin tone should be withheld from the priesthood.

I don’t need a personal revelation.  And honestly if you’re one of those people who believe that God wants you to continue a feud with either the Black or Jewish population, I hope you’ve stuck it out this far.  

EXHIBIT A:

Ezekiel 18:19-20

Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Your actions are your own.  You can choose to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors, or you can choose to become righteous before God.  Every person on this planet has their own choices to make.  They are not bound by a curse made a few millennia ago- the only “bloodline curse” upon anyone are those which are self-fulfilled due to racism.

EXHIBIT B:

Acts 10:28

And he (Peter) said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Upon Christ’s resurrection, the rules changed.  Gentiles (meaning anyone that isn’t a Jew) were afforded an opportunity to enter into God’s Kingdom in a way they had never been given before.  So even without the declaration in Ezekiel, we have evidence in the New Testament that racism is not just ridiculous- God doesn’t want it.  The whole point of allow Gentiles in was to fulfill a prophecy given in Genesis that God would use Abraham’s line to bring the world together under God’s Divine rulership.

If God judges a human being by their personal character and not by their ancestors- or even by the people they communicate with- by what excuse do we, mere humans, have to do so?

Oh, and by the way, this same argument debunks all Arab racism as well. Although the feud between Ishmael and Isaac seems to be forever going on in the Middle East, there are plenty of people on both sides that have proven Jewish and Muslims can get along when they decide their ancestors and those actively fighting have nothing to do with them.

Citation

Cocozza, P. (2018).  One set of twins – two fathers: how common is superfecundation?  Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2018/dec/11/one-set-twins-two-fathers-how-common-is-superfecundation

Goldenburg, D. (1997).  The Curse of Ham: A Case of Rabbinic Racism?  Retrieved from https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~dmg2/comsalz3%20as%20publ.%20with%20additions.pdf 

Statues, St. Louis, White Jesus, Black Jesus…..

This topic…it really needs to be addressed.

Exodus 20:4 is the most difficult commandment of the 10. It seems pretty clean cut…until you realize that God literally commanded Moses to create a graven image so that people would look upon it and be healed:

Numbers 21:5-9

And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

We also have the Ark of the Covenant that has Cherubim adorned atop of it.

To recap what the exact wording of this commandment is:

Exodus 20:4-6

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

The first part is is basically- you personally can’t have them. The second part seems to come down to “if you see them, you aren’t to give them any reverence”.

So then why does Moses get special permission to have Israel go against both of these points by having the Ark and the Brass Serpent? Honestly, I’ll probably never understand that point. What I do know, is that in 2 Kings 18:4, King Hezekiah is credited with destroying the Brass Serpent because it had become a thing of worship. And that’s all I really need to know in order to continue this conversation with you. Maybe in the future I’ll revisit this complicated commandment and work it out. But for this moment in time, the Spirit of the Commandment is more important than the Letter.

America is really getting deep into whether or not we should be eliminating historical monuments. There are Catholics upset with the idea of changing the name of St. Louis because St. Louis (to them) is a Saint in heaven. And Christians across the board are upset over the imagery of Jesus Christ being erased or transformed into someone they don’t recognize.

If I’m being completely honest- if you’re one of these people that are getting upset over what happens to these things, and you identify as a Christian…you sound like you’re revering someone/something other than God. You can try to write off what I’m saying, but if you were to really examine your attachment to these things- and be honest about it- I’m sure you’d find that you’re attaching way too much value to the image over the story.

Getting rid of images doesn’t erase the story. We still have a recount of the Golden Calf preserved in the Bible, but no Golden Calf to look upon and say “hey, that’s what got God angry at Israel, and then Moses begged him to spare Israel despite it’s creation!” because it was destroyed. It’s also true that keeping the images around doesn’t necessarily propogate the story either. No one knows what the Spinx was for. Dozens of theories, but that’s all they are. We add plaques to help keep up the story…but that can all be written in a book or passed down via oral tradition. You’ll probably get more out of a book or oral format too, a plaque only has so much space to record information.

And St. Louis? Should not a people inquire of their God (Isaiah 8:19)? The stories of Saints are preserved in Catholic tradition and books. And while we can absolutely learn something from their stories, they shouldn’t be so adamantly held onto that the renaming of a city should become a point of contention based solely upon their holy status.

Holding onto these things, rather than working on yourself and manifesting God’s Word in real time, is exactly what the 2nd Commandment was warning us against. If God wants to save the name of St. Louis, He will. Who knows, maybe He’s just not invested in saving it, and will let the people decide. If God wants to save the White Jesus images, or wants to change them to Black Jesus images, He will. Who knows, maybe He’s just not invested in saving it, and will let what happens happen. What I will say, though, is I’m about 97% sure that God doesn’t give a damn about the historical statutes- and neither should you.

We are all of God’s Creation, and Christ’s hope was that we would all love each other. The struggle to achieve that worldly love takes a great deal of time. If burying and destroying pieces of art which represent a horrible past and are believed to contribute to the overall stagnation of progress needs to happen, then let’s cast aside those things which have become society’s idols.

Hope you all enjoy your 4th of July. 🙂

War Against Benjamin & This Week’s Riots

Once upon a time, a Levite had a concubine. While coming back home, he stayed with a kind man who allowed him to stay in his home in Gibeah. While there, the residents demanded that the host send out the Levite so they could rape him. But the host sought to protect the Levite, and instead he offered his daugther and concubine. When they people refused, the Levite turned over his own concubine and allowed them to rape and abuse her all night. The next morning, the concubine was found by the Levite dead.

Upset with the results, he took her home, cut her to pieces, and sent them out to each of the Tribes of Israel. Israel came together and determined of their own will that they would go against Gibeah drawing lots.

At first, Israel tried to give the Benjaminites a chance, by insisting they give up the people responsible for what happened to the concubine. But the Benjaminites refused. So Israel had no further choice but to turn to God for advice. In the beginning, Israel looked like they couldn’t win. But God kept telling them to go at it, until finally they saw their breakthrough, and God struck Gibeah Himself.

Israel, shortly after, was torn. They suddenly realized what havoc they had reigned upon a fellow family member. And over what? A concubine? So they sought to remedy the situation and gave them wives to replenish.

This story (Judges 19-21 if you want to read it in full) has some real aggravating elements to it. The Levite and the host (assuming you believe they have two separate origins, some believe they are the same story told differently) took a cue from Lot’s story in Sodom and Gomorrah. But missed the key fact that the 2 angels protected Lot’s daughters. To the angels, the women weren’t “just women”, they were God’s creation and worthy of just as much protection as any man. Even if the Levite was upset that his concubine seems to have played the role of a whore, that doesn’t negate his responsibility to her. Not once in this story, does the host or the Levite turn to God for help to prevent the sons of Belial from committing an unspeakable crime.

Another aggravation is that God seems to punish everyone in this story, but there isn’t a clear understanding as to why. We could come up with theories about why Israel didn’t prevail in the beginning, but none of those justifications can be solidified as fact.

The War against the Benjaminites wasn’t for nothing. It sent a strong message that Israel wouldn’t stand for this kind of evil in its land. And they wouldn’t allow for systematic protection of such evil.

Per the title, you’re probably wondering how this has anything to do with what happened last week and this past weekend.

I respect many of our men and women serving the Blue Line, but I’m not so niave as to believe that there isn’t a tribal problem along that line. The Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd (and similar) cases are clear evidence that there are problems. Being a part of any group (be it career, cultural or otherwise) is just like being a Benjaminite in this story. They feel a sense of duty to protect the sanctity of whatever it is they stand for. That’s just another feature of this story in Judges that is so aggrevating…we don’t get to hear what Benjamin was actually doing to rectify the situation. Had they launched their own internal investigation? Were they really just responding to what looked like a real threat and figured Israel was so out of their minds that they wouldn’t actually be satisfied by fulfilling their request?

Without information, we can’t know enough to formulate an opinion. But with what little information we have, there’s something to be learned in the aftermath of the war against the Benjaminites. Something applicable today. After all this rioting and looting against civilian targets (don’t confuse my words as condemning everything, a police precinct was a perfectly valid target- private businesses/property are not), those who committed such crimes against their fellow American brothers and sisters, should consider what they can do to rectify the situation and restore what they have taken from those that were innocent in all of this.

If you are amongst those who participated in the looting and rioting against private businesses/properties, and claim to be a follower of Christ, you should feel the same shame as the Israelites did- because this isn’t who we are called to be.

Prophets Handbook – EXHAUSTING

I’m just going to stop reading this book here.  It’s spiritually exhausting to read through anymore of it.  Maybe there’s some good points if we get further into the book, but with so much wrong in the beginning there is no amount of good that can balance it out.  As I went through all of this, I figured I would wait to see if two other key points I wanted to address earlier were included in later chapters.  But now that I’m putting the book down, I’ll take this opportunity to address two of those points:

  1. A prophet’s purpose is to profit the church (as in, bring in financial greatness to the church). 

That is NOT what the word “profit” means in this context.  While it is true that tithing is asked for in the Bible, we really should understand that tithing wasn’t really about lining God’s pockets.  It was established because the Levi Tribe, of whom were to inherit God in place of land.  The Levites were given the task of being in charge of spiritual life, so that was their job.  Essentially, what God was telling the rest of Israel was that they were to take care of the Levites by paying them for their service.  From there, the Levites had to be faithful to their responsibilities with those finances, as well as use it to help keep their own lives up (such as providing food for their families).

Today, tithing is intended to maintain this tradition.  Whether a prophet is present should make no difference.  A prophet’s purpose is to call people out of sin and encourages them to Christ by edification, exhortation and comforting the Body of Christ.  This is how it “profits” the church, not in financial terms, but in spiritual terms.  

  1. “It is defeating to use a prophet with less experience and expertise than the number of years a church has been in existence” (pg. 28)

Well everyone!  There you have it!  The solution is simple, if you follow what Paula says here!  All you need to do is go to a Catholic Church.  They are in no need of prophets because the church has been around and had experience for well over a thousand years.

I’m sure she didn’t think the wording in this sentence through.  I’m sure she means more like “less experience than the pastor”, which still isn’t a good measure.  Eli, for example, had a LOT of years on the very young Prophet Samuel, who was (according to tradition) called at the age of 11.  Jeremiah was, traditionally, 17.  And tradition holds that Christ was 12 years of age when he was found in the Temple teaching God’s Word.

You may say that Christ gets a pass, after all he was the son of God which makes him very unique.  But we cannot ignore Jeremiah and Samuel.  Clearly God isn’t an ageist, so we shouldn’t be either.  You don’t get to choose whether God wants to say something.  You can only choose to believe it or ignore it.  

Now, that doesn’t mean you simply accept what a proclaimed prophet says.  As always, you should test their veracity to know whether God truly has put this word into the mouth of the individual.  That will be the most difficult thing for everyone, especially today.  If you choose to believe that sign gifts have ceased, and a true prophet arises, you risk denying God.  If you choose to believe that sign gifts have continued, and a false prophet arises, you risk allowing the false teachings to infect the people who hear the false prophet.  Therefore, the only position we can ever truly take is to ask for God to confirm whether the individual speaks for Him.

Prophets Handbook- THE CONTROVERSY OVER OFFICE VERSUS GIFTING (pg.139)

Here’s yet another thing that Paula and I can agree with: Those which believe in the continuation of sign gifts never seem to take the time to vet the person claiming to be a Prophet of God.  But we start to disagree at the point she talks about how man is in charge of the prophet’s education.  Just as was the case with Saul, who became Paul, if God wants the prophet educated by man, He’ll be the one to make it known and that prophet (as long as they aren’t like Jonah) will seek out education by the person(s) God appoints.

But we must always be on guard to discern whether the individual is sent by God.  Where having a gift to be prophetic does not mean you are a Prophet of God (as is the case with False Prophets), it also doesn’t mean that you can repurpose it for God’s purposes.  Only God should be in control your gift.

Let’s take an example from my own life.  Apart from my testimony of being visited by an Angel of the Lord, I received a prophetic dream.  

On 22 July 2010, I had a vision of a plane crash, right after I had “attended” a wedding in the desert, and was given an exact date for plane take off: July 27th Eastern Standard.  I wasn’t given an exact time, but EST was important to vision.  I told my husband and a friend about it the day I had the vision, because I was a little freaked out by the whole thing.  Days later, I walked into a store which was airing the news.  Sure enough, there was plane crash north of Islamabad.  And the time it took off? 2141EST July 27.  The kicker, was that the news station mentioned there was a newly wed couple on board who were going on their honeymoon.  You can read the early story below:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jul/28/pakistan-plane-crash-islamabad-airbus

Now we could say that there are elements in this story which don’t match up, for example the plane didn’t crash in a traditional desert, it was in a forested area.  But the interpretation of a prophecy just needs to be understood.  In common military vernacular, all of the Middle East is considered “Desert”, of which Pakistan is a part of that area.  Too many elements of the prophecy are right on the dot, that I can’t discount it as a legitimate prophecy….

But I don’t believe it was from God.  Despite the visitation I received in May 2001, by July 2010 I still had not fully walked away from pagan things.  And, the person that conveyed the time stamp (EST) in my vision, was the very woman that had been possessed the night God made His presence known to me.  Now, the only argument one could make to me that this WAS from God, is if the point was to call my attention back to Him.  And maybe that is the case, but frankly, I cannot rely upon that being the truth of the matter.  God didn’t once make Himself known in this vision, nor did this vision do anything but cause me panic.  It wasn’t a catalyst to turn me 100% towards God, that still took another 7ish years.  So I until God tells me it was sent from Him, I’m going to assume it came from a different source.  And that’s something worth addressing.

I could easily have become a False Prophet after that vision.  I could have pursued it, tried to find out how to replicate the conditions which caused me to see it so that I could become this great prophetess.  I could have even falsely claimed these visions were coming from God…just like Edgar Cayce did.  My definition of “God” would have become synonymous with the agnostic word “god” or the more modern approach that all gods are the same God, as opposed to God meaning “Yahweh”- whether I intended for that to be the case or not.  Remember, the Pharisees and Sadducees believe they were worshiping Yahweh, but Jesus told them they were in fact worshipping Satan.  THAT could have been me.

But instead of doing this, I set it to the side.  Taking the position, that if prophecy was intended to be my gift, then I would receive it without doing anything on my own.  Much later, however, when I finally decided to accept Yahweh as my God, I made the foolish mistake of listening to a pastor that believed the prophetic could be cultivated if you just listened for God.  But I learned, I believe by the Grace of God, that this approach was a massive mistake.  

So that vision of the plane crash in Islamabad, I had to reject it.  I feel that this is so important for the rest of you to hear from me: I rejected this gift because it was a false gift.  I was allowed the vision as a test, and whether I failed or succeeded …well I don’t know.  Only God can say, because only He knows what the parameters of the test were/are.  But because I went through the test, I can say with conviction: If you have had prophetic dreams and/or visions, you need to really consider where they are coming from.  And if it turns out that the truth is you are on a path to be a false or foolish prophet, then you also need to reject this gift and ask God for guidance and strength to follow Him.

Prophet's Handbook-LEGITAMATE COMMISSIONING (pg.131)

Not much to say about the sections from the last one to this one, except that it could have been condensed significantly.  But in this little section, Paula and I can certainly agree on the modern practice of commissioning people to the Great Commissioning.

Some churches go to great lengths to train those they are going to ordain, while others just invite any parishioner out that is willing to come out.  They may not even fully understand the theology of the ministry to address questions, or in some cases might not be confident enough to speak.  Think about the door-to-door Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness’s you’ve encountered over the years.  I’m not sure about your own experience-I actually engage them- but I’ve had some which were quite good at explaining their theology, and others that tried to get away fast because they couldn’t answer my questions. You can usually tell the difference between someone who just has issues with speaking to strangers and those that genuinely didn’t know the answer to the question.  Not knowing the theology of the church can be very damaging to it.  But more importantly, not knowing the truth of what is written in God’s Word is damaging to those which wish to follow Him.

That’s what we need to keep in mind when we make a decision to ordain someone for a position within the church: Do they know scripture?  How well do they live up to it?  And do they spend time with God?

PRELUDE TO APOSTLESHIP(pg.138)

Paula believes that the Christian Chain of Command runs like this:

Godhead

Apostle

Prophet

Evangelist

Pastor

Teacher

^ This is based on Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:29.  Alright, I can see how she came to this conclusion.  But if an apostle isn’t present, the chain of command looks different.  

“The pastor functions as its governor when the church is not answering to an apostle.  In this context, the pastor is over the prophet.” -Paula Price

The Apostle Paul never said any such thing.  Though, I can see how Paula might arrive at this conclusion.  Paul tells us that the Prophets are subject to the Prophets.  But the pastors, not having divine communication like the Prophets, would be at a disadvantage.  The Greco-Roman world was full of false prophets, and as a result it was a simple matter to become a false and foolish prophet amongst those which follow God (much like it is today!  Seems that problem never goes away…).  Paul’s message throughout his ministry is less about squelching God’s words to the people via God’s Prophets, and more about encouraging the pastors to test whether or not the Prophet was a true prophet.

But Paula’s whole idea of what a prophet is seems to predicate on a Programmer-God, rather than an active Leader-God.  And again, I can’t help but wonder where she got this idea that God programs every prophet with a word He wants disseminated during the prophet’s timeline.  It simply isn’t supported by scripture.  The Prophets aren’t trying to figure out what God is saying to them, God reveals exactly what He wants done.  Even if it’s that their role is to confound the masses (such is the example of Isaiah).

Barabbas or Christ?

I figured we could all use a break from my book club, so what better day to do that than Easter Sunday?  Every year for the last 2 years I’ve made it a personal challenge to find something new and beautiful in the Easter and Christmas stories.  This year, I’ve chosen to look at the scene where Pontius Pilate puts a decision to the crowd to choose Jesus Christ or Barabbas for the Pascal Pardon.

Over the years, this piece of the story has been used by a lot of Protestant groups to demonize the Jewish people both historically and in modern times.  By seeding racism from this incident, I feel like there is so much missed.

Let’s start with the obvious- racism (all of it, not just anti-Semitism) is dumb.  If you’re using this incident (or any other scripture, for that matter) as a reason to hate on the Jewish People, get over yourself.  Historically, we Gentiles were just as evil as they were, and at times worse.  It’s not a matter of whether or not Gentiles knew that God exists either.   Let me give you 3 examples:

  1. Balak readily affirms that YHWH exists, and asks the Prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites.  When that doesn’t work out, Balak convinces Balaam to help him make Israel blaspheme against God.
  2. Jezebel was made very aware of God’s presence, and maintained her treachery until the end.
  3. Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, watches his own father go through hell because he had gotten arrogant and God decided to put him in his place.  But when Belshazzar takes over, he gets very arrogant and throws an unspeakable feast- which God makes an appearance in and writes upon the wall.  The night after Daniel delivers the interpretation, Belzhazzar is killed.

The Bible tells us mostly about the Israelites, but there are stories and hints around the evils of gentiles too.  No race gets a pass.  None.  So throw that racism to the 4 winds and look at this scene with a different set of eyes.

Everything had to align so that God would be glorified in such a way that no one could argue He is King above all gods (Psalm 95:3)

Matthew 16:21-23

‘From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”’

Peter didn’t want this for his friend.  But Jesus rebuked him.  Christ later, in Gethsemane, asks for God to change His mind, but that if He will not God’s will be done.  All of this to make a point- nothing, absolutely nothing, could be done to change what the future held for Christ- except God.

This isn’t the first time that God has put things into motion so as to assure an outcome.  In Egypt He literally took away Pharaoh’s free will:

Exodus 7:3&5

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt…And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them”

God sends a lying spirit into King Ahab’s prophets so that Ahab will go into battle:

I Kings 22:19-23

‘Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord : I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord , and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’ Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you.”’

Finally, we know that in order to fulfill what God had set into motion, the people of Christ’s time were shut off from the truth: 

Matthew 13:10-15

‘And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’’

If you recall, during Isaiah’s time (Isaiah 6:9-11), God didn’t want Israel to repent of their sin because He didn’t want them to be healed.  But here, it’s not about not wanting them to be healed, it’s about ensuring that the world would be healed through Christ’s sacrifice.  

So you see, this exchange scene has two very important messages.  The first is that the people who were seeking to crucify Christ were intended to do exactly as they were doing.  God set everything up, and one could easily argue that He was convicting their souls to do exactly this, just as He had done with Pharaoh.  Thus, we cannot hold anyone in this crowd accountable for their actions prior to the crucifixion, only their actions after Christ had risen and was proclaimed by the Apostles.

The second story here, is the exchange itself for someone who was considered a criminal.  This exchange is at the heart of what Christ came to Earth to accomplish- exchanging His life for the life of sinners.  In effect, it was a very public display of Christ’s ability to give us all another chance at redemption even when the odds seem against us.  Whether Barabbas took it or not, we are not told.  His decision doesn’t really matter though, what matters is the option bestowed to him.  Though, I must admit, if Barabbas didn’t take his second chance to turn his face to God, perhaps that would have driven home this point of Christ’s love for all of us, and a testament to God’s ever-inspiring grace and patience.

Prophet’s Handbook – PROPHETS AS AGENTS (pg.123)

“The person needs not be neither feared or trusted until God does.” – Paula Price on a prophet which hasn’t had a prophecy come true yet

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that God ever will if the “prophet” has been proven to not be speaking on behalf of God.  The only time that God’s prophets would have been seen as failing in the Bible, was in the story of Ahab- and that’s because God specifically put out a decree for them to lie so that Ahab would get destroyed.  They were justified by Micaiah’s testimony, and only after Micaiah had delivered the same message as the rest of them.  But again, I note- it’s the only incident we ever hear about.  So up to this point, God made sure that all of these prophets were known to be trustworthy.

The reason I suspect that God wouldn’t ever honor them in the future, is because they have already done wrong by trying to rally people on behalf of God.  It’s not that these people cannot repent, but rather the fact that they have already put themselves in a very precarious situation.  Furthermore, Jesus Christ acknowledges that people can perform wonders and even prophesy accurately without being sent from God in Matthew 7:21-23.  Thus, by saying “until God does” puts us in a very dangerous position ourselves.  It means that we could easily take a sign or wonder that comes true, and was not from a Man of God, as being from a true prophet…after we have already seen another sign or wonder fail.

Let us not allow ourselves to be fooled, but instead test all the spirits.  Speaking of which, I think I’m far enough into the book to bring up a concerning pattern in Paula’s book.  She keeps talking about prophets as representatives to other deities.  While I’m sure that we can all agree that other deities are said to have their own prophets, God tells us that if prophet tells you to follow after other gods, they are not to be followed, but are there to test you. 

As Christians, we should have no part with other deities.  It’s one thing to bring them up so that we know by comparison their treachery.  I can even see a value in comparing their methods against Christian methods for being prophets, if you were going to take it that far.  But what I am seeing time and time again with Paula isn’t a comparison.  It’s almost like she wrote the book just as much for them, as she did Christian prophets-without trying to be obvious about it.  And honestly, this bringing up of other deities in this manner is a massive red flag for me.

Prophet’s Handbook – AGENTS AND OFFICERS – WHAT THEY DO (pg.121)

In this section, Paula brings up intercession, which gives me a fantastic time to ask you all a question (not intended to be an admonishment):

When you pray on behalf of your community or a country, what are the elements of your prayer?  Do you ever ask God to forgive them?  For example – if you’re one of the Christians vehemently against Abortion, when you see Democrats fighting for abortion rights, do you ever turn to God and say “Lord, forgive them for they do not know what is right.  Forgive those that seek abortion, for they have not understood You wisdom…”

God doesn’t have to listen.  When Jeremiah went to God to interceded for Israel, God decided not to honor Jeremiah’s intercession- because it didn’t serve His purposes to get Israel back on track.  But God did listen to Moses.  God tended to listen more when it concerned individuals though.  Like when people asked that a prophet entreat the Lord to remove something from them.  Jeroboam is an example of this, where his hand shriveled up and the Unnamed Prophet asked God to remove it from him.  Another example was Job praying on behalf of his four friends.

Intercession is more than praying against demonic forces, it’s also praying on behalf of each other, and making a case to God for His mercy.  It may be the circles I find myself in, but oftentimes I find Christians which think of intercession in terms of “help this community through their time of need” or even asking that God will intervene to turn people towards him (Revivals), rather than in terms of asking God to forgive others for the way they are turning the masses from Him.

God’s decisions are His own, but if we have a community of people speaking forth this kind of intercession, I can’t help but wonder if it would be of benefit to our nations.

Planning a COVID19 Easter Communion

It’s been on my mind. In my family, I’m the sole Christian which understands the value of Communion. My son is too young to understand and value the Eucharist, and my husband is Agnostic. And without a church I haven’t had communion for a very long time. In a previous piece, I wrote that the early church wanted an ordained person to administer the Eucharist. But I’ve been reconsidering this as I contemplate the Passover Meal.

Passover was done within the family unit, not as a community. If we go back to the story of the plagues there is a key point that we have to acknowledge in order to figure out the importance of the Passover: From some of the previous plagues, it was made very apparent that God didn’t have to have the Hebrews preform their own ritual to protect them from a plague. That is to say, the flies didn’t get into Goshen, Israel’s cattle was protected from disease, and the Hail didn’t extend to Goshen. There may have been more plagues which didn’t, but only these three are confirmed has having not been a problem in Goshen. Then why did God ask Israel to carry out a Passover ritual?

Most people point out that it was meant to be a foreshadowing of Christ’s story. While I do believe there is truth to that, I don’t think the explanation goes far enough. I think it was about weeding out who was and wasn’t faithful. If you didn’t perform the Passover Ritual you would lose your first born because God wanted faith and obedience; if you did perform it then you showed the world that God kept his Word. It was a 100% win-win strategy on God’s part. And so God told Israel that this would become an official celebration recreating the Passover Meal so as to remember what happened in Egypt. And later on, He would use that same formula to bring salvation for the whole world.

The Passover Seder can be done as a community or as a family, and if they are suppose to be our model then it should also hold true that as long as someone serves in the capacity of Christ’s role at the Last Supper, then the Eucharist this year can also be performed at the household level. Removing the idea that you have to follow along with a televised version of the Eucharist in order to ensure an ordained individual is administering the Eucharist.

Per Paul’s description of Marriage, that husbands are the head of the family, this would mean that the person who should stand in the role of Christ for the ritual would need to be the husband. If we look to the original Passover Seder, the answer for a family which shares in their Christian walk together, the answer to this year’s Easter Eucharist can be found with some ease….

Though…I’m still not sure about someone in my situation. The sole Christian in the household. If, as I believe, the Passover was about stepping out in faith and obedience to God, then it would be wrong to look at the situation as though it’s completely hopeless for someone in a similar situation to me (maybe you live alone or cannot be with family for some reason). In contemplating this, and looking at the way that the Passover has been treated over the years, I wonder if there is a way to modify this ceremony for an individual. It’s something I am still contemplating myself, but if I do it might look like this:

Read the Passion of Christ through the Resurrection (All of Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, or John 11:45-John 20) in front of an alter made of earth (per Exodus 20:24-25) with wine, unleaven bread, a candle and frankincense (to burn), and a small non-flammable bowl with optional woodchips for tender.

Offer a prayer of repentance with the burning of the frankincense (symbolizing the gift Christ was given at his birth, but also to mirror the saints in Revelation 8:4).

Finally, after having repented, take communion with the following form of speech:

Ask God, the Father, to bless the bread.

“Jesus, my Lord and savior, during the Last Supper you broke bread with your disciples (break bread, and lay the portion you’re not going to eat in the wooden bowl) saying ‘This is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.’ (don’t eat yet)

Ask God, the Father, to bless the wine.

“After blessing the wine, you spoke again to your disciples saying ‘Drink from it, all of you (pour some of the wine onto unleaven bread on altar, leave enough for a single sip) For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.'” (don’t drink yet)

Lord, in honor of your sacrifice for me and the world, I hope you will allow me to join you at your table, that I may accept your sacrifice (After eating the bread and drinking the wine, light the remnants on fire. For God told the Israelites that what was remaining should be burned up, rather than left behind).

That last part seems kind of silly though, for God also said that the lamb should be eaten completely, and if there is anything that remains it should be burned up. One could easily eat all of the unleavened bread, even if it was the size of a slice of Naan bread, and only pour out enough red wine to accommodate a sip, rather than a cup. The reason I’d choose to have left overs, however, is to symbolize the communial meal that we share with Christ when we partake in Communion.

By reading what Ignatius said historically (that only an ordained minister should administer the Eucharist), I’m still not certain whether or not the above described ceremony would even be viable in God’s eyes. But when I take into consideration that the Israelites had to find a way to contend with the lack of a clergy caste that could accommodate their religious lives several times over throughout the Old Testament, then it seems to me that it is possible God will accept the effort in extraordinary circumstances. COVID19 seems like one such circumstance, and so I’ll need to contemplate this further over the next couple of days and ask for God’s wisdom.