Teachings of Jesus: Matthew 10:28-33

This is the ultimate otherworldly statement: This life is expendable; don’t cling to it. There is a life for each of us after this that no one can take from your Father.

People love to nitpick over the precise meaning of the Greek words Matthew chooses. However, the meaning is obvious from the context — Greek ouranos was typically used to indicate the sky. In Hebrew usage, that was a symbol for the afterlife. We know that the Hebrew people believed in an afterlife as part of the broad Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cultural background; by no means was this a new idea to the disciples. Everyone understood the Two Realms.

Hebrew Scripture is confusing only to those who approach this from a Western perspective, looking for a way to support their favorite wild theory. Even with all their semantic legalistic wrangling, the Pharisees believed in the afterlife. However, Hebrew writers were careful to avoid attempting a direct description of it, using parables and symbolism to discuss something they knew humans couldn’t understand intellectually. They spoke of it as the abode of their deity, Jehovah, His tents “in the sky.” It was a place in another realm of existence.

Jesus spoke from the background of belief common to His people and the entire ANE for centuries: Don’t fear losing this life. Don’t fear human authority, because that power ends with your physical death — big deal. Revere the Father who has authority beyond this life; curry His favor.

Jesus goes on to talk about how two sparrows could be purchased for an hour’s wage, about enough to make a small meat dish for one person. It was the cheapest form of kosher meat you could find in that part of the world. Yet Jehovah keeps track of every sparrow by name. You can’t catch a single one without His permission. Indeed, He keeps an inventory of every hair on your head. Jesus states flatly that God puts a higher priority on human life than He does for the sparrows He made. By grand understatement, Jesus reminds the Twelve that our Divine Sheikh places high value on His family members.

Any Jewish man in that day would have understood the feudal protocol of proudly claiming Jehovah as his sovereign Lord. By extension, Jesus says, His disciples should proclaim Him as Messiah, the Son of God. Those who faithfully do so will find Jesus standing with them when this life ends and they stand before His Father. This one is Mine, Father! So you should be looking forward to that day, not fearfully hiding from death.

According to this protocol, silence can be taken as denial. Failing to profess one’s feudal commitment to Jehovah was long understood to be the same as rejecting His lordship. Therefore, failure to boldly proclaim Jesus as Messiah would see us standing before the Father with Jesus flatly denying that we are His. And just to rub it in, Jesus says He’s talking about standing before God in His divine courts above, in “the Sky” (Heaven). No Jew mistook the meaning of “sky” in that context; it was a symbol of the afterlife.

If proclaiming Jesus meant getting killed, it also meant the Father was satisfied with your obedience and it was time to retire to your reward in Heaven.

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It’s Not What People Expect

This is a prophetic message, but it’s not a prophecy as the word is commonly used. It’s addressed only to those who feel led of the Spirit to pay attention. And if I don’t share it, I will be disobedient and it will drive me nuts.

I suppose a significant portion of folks realize that America is headed for a civil war of some sort. Maybe not quite as bloody as the last one we had, but it will be even more chaotic and confused. Most of us can see two sides, but it would be a mistake to assume that’s the whole story. Change is inevitable, but a country with this many people will inevitably disagree over what can and should be changed. We should hardly be surprised that people will organize for their preferred collection of changes. And it is also inevitable that each organized pressure group will allege moral evil in their opponents, whether or not the opponents are at all organized as they suppose. But there are way more than just two sides in this mess, so try to avoid simplistic thinking.

Prophetically speaking, I will tell you that nobody represents a good answer to the question of what needs changing. Nobody wants what God wants from this, though everyone seems quite pleased to advise Him and speak for Him. I don’t claim to speak for Him in that sense; I’m sharing only what I see and it’s painfully obvious to me this is not for everyone. I fully expect very few people will feel drawn to my message. I believe I’ve made it clear I don’t want to be in charge of America’s decisions, in large part because I know it would require bloodshed no matter which way things turn out. God has told me to watch and compare with His Word, not get lost in visions of what could be. People will have to die and property will be destroyed, and the system will break down.

There is, however, a least painful path possible from the broad inevitable mess. That should be obvious in terms of what we know from Scripture. I’m not taking sides; it’s all evil and destructive. What we have now must be destroyed, so fighting to prevent that is the worst evil. Let’s get this over with. It should be obvious that the US will break up into smaller countries based on cultural boundaries. What’s left is getting folks to either congregate willingly according to their cultural tastes, learn how to live as an oppressed minority where they are, or get themselves killed fighting for what cannot be.

But just to cover all the bases: The only way we could have kept this country together as the USA would have been a massive slaughter of the revolutionary minority. Not just pushing them back down into truculent silence, but it would be necessary to kill a significant portion of them. And it would have to be a very demonstrative public slaughter to make sure the survivors shut up. And the whole world would have condemned us, but the world is usually wrong about most things (in terms of those who get to be heard). Still, this would work in that it would be a purposeful and targeted slaughter, instead of the random chaotic mess we will actually have.

No, we are going to stumble into the chaos because nobody is willing to go that purposeful route. That is, by the time those capable of doing it realize it’s necessary, it will be too late. Make no mistake: What is generally considered the “left” is going to lose. Lefties are deluded about what is actually possible. Changing the laws will not compel folks accept their vision of paradise; it just guarantees that the system will break down when folks refuse to abide by their preferred laws. But the “left” is a hundred different things working together only when convenient, just like the “right.” There are break points where such pragmatism fractures, and we are going to see that. Still, in the long term, those who tend to congregate on the right will come out ahead. In any given society, the people who make things work with any degree of efficiency are inevitably possessed of a right-wing temperament, never mind what kind of political agenda associates with the right in any given context.

The reason for sharing this message is not to laud the right-wing, but to point out where things are headed. Adjust your expectations. Pray that God grants you a vision of how you can glorify Him in the midst of this very messy future. Meanwhile, let me make it clear that all of this is symptomatic of Western Civilization. Further, it should be clear that Satan is responsible for what the West is, and that God intends to destroy it. And all this business of left versus right is a feature of Western Civilization in particular; it’s not built into the human race, and it’s certainly no reflection of reality as God made it. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be the world we have to live with, because it won’t disappear until long after we are gone.

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Not Blending in Very Well

Could there be some day a Radix Fidem military chaplain?

Not likely, though not impossible. For now, it would require a fairly radical change in government. That is, the kind of process for seeking government recognition as a valid religious organization includes way too many barriers for us right now. That’s particularly true if we are talking about a stand-alone organization. Gaining recognition under someone else’s umbrella might be a lot easier, but I’m not aware of any existing organization that would welcome us. Our covenant puts us way outside the ballpark.

However, nothing keeps you as a covenant member of the family from seeking endorsement from any agency you choose. There’s nothing about our covenant that excludes other religious affiliations, so much as a general recognition that others have excluded us. I didn’t set out to start a separate religion, and our current organization — such as it is — barely provides an identity for folks who didn’t feel welcome somewhere else. Granted, the purpose of a covenant statement tends to draw boundaries that exclude certain things, but nobody is going to interrogate you to check your adherence.

The whole point of what we do here is to offer a home for your soul. It’s a covenant family household. How much organization do you need to feel at home? We try to provide that, however much it is, as long as it isn’t the wrong kind of organization. But we also welcome anyone who just wants to hang out and bounce ideas off our existing frame of reference. In other words, we aren’t trying to fulfill all of the common expectations of an organized religion, just the ones we find essential for our own sense of calling and mission together. And it turns out that’s nowhere near enough for gaining military approval for chaplaincy under the name “Radix Fidem.”

This brings us back to that phrase “meta-religion” — we are less of a religion, and more of a religious approach to defining religion. Personally, I was content on this blog to share my thoughts about what faith should produce in my human existence from within the context of my own life. From there, I made some effort to discuss with others some of what I discovered; it turns out that there were people who felt the same sense of conviction about such things. As this discussion went on, there were more folks who joined in the discussion and began asking for some kind of affiliation and organization. So here we are.

The net result is that we don’t fall into any of the familiar categories people use to talk about religion. If the context in which we all live were to change significantly, we would likely have to change how we present ourselves to the world. It may well be that some of you live in countries where our current organization is acceptable to the government; feel free to run with it. I’ll be glad to help you work that out and let you use the name. But I’m called by God to remain in the American context myself, and most of what I write will reflect that. It will shape the defaults, the range of things we are likely to do in terms of organization. Given the current US government, I cannot imagine how we could meet its demands without compromising on the essentials of what we are as an organization.

For example, we have no divinity school. Further, I know of no existing seminary that would tolerate much of what is essential to Radix Fidem. That’s not to say there is none, but all the ones I know about won’t make room for us. Each would require we espouse something ruled out by our covenant. We stand in a peculiar place. And I cannot imagine the resources it would take to construct a program of academic study that would gain endorsement from any of the existing accrediting agencies.

And honestly, I don’t think my books constitute a broad enough body of literature to serve as more than just a very early starting point. We are in dire need of more stuff written by other people just to take the first steps down that road. Keep in mind that we are recovering something that was mostly forgotten for 2000 years.

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Photography: Urban Parking Garages 2

We continue the parking garage saga. Today’s initial image was on the way to my first, and I decided to stop and capture that sculpture that shows up in a previous image. This open area is called Enterprise Square, but it’s all owned by Enable Midstream Partners, a gas pipeline partnership between two or more companies seeking to gain near monopoly control over the natural gas supply in Oklahoma. It’s a lovely building, though.

A couple of blocks from the sculpture is this fancy promenade entrance to Devon Energy tower. The parking garage on the right offers public access, so I slogged up the ten floors; it was a good workout.

However, even at that elevation, the location isn’t exactly the best. This is the view of most of the urban canyon skyscrapers, looking NE from the upper deck of Devon’s garage. There are a lot of buildings just about the same elevation as I’m standing.

The real gem of the day is this telephoto shot of Saint Anthony’s Hospital; I took advantage of the wide top of the concrete wall on the upper deck to stabilize the camera. It’s less than a mile away, but most cameras don’t pick up what your eyes see. This shot pulls the target just a little closer than what you would see yourself. I’ll be trying to use that parking garage in the foreground to shoot back this way next week.

The next garage was also ten floors, but there was not much point in trying to shoot any pictures with such a high mesh barrier around the whole thing. This is what you get when companies fear liability from lawsuits of surviving relatives of stupid people.

Two other parking garages next to that last one were not publicly accessible, so I headed back south of the river and found a high spot on the bank to grab this shot. It shows how small our skyscraper district is. It also shows that Devon Energy’s tower dominates by a huge margin. I tried to find out about permission to access the view, but they have a legal requirement that prevents me publishing any images I shoot from their their tower. (*sigh*)

On my way back home, I stopped to catch this shot of the lower dam on the OK River. They can’t just shut the water off, but they can keep it to a very low trickle during droughts. There were no water fowl near the dam this time.

This last shot is one of those things that called my name. There’s a spot on the bike trail back toward Eagle Lake with this winsome view of the river through tree branches. I always slow down to admire how it looks to me.

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Boundaries and Fences

A critical failure in Western Christianity is the impossible moral climate.

I want you to notice this huge, tall mountain of social expectation. Because you claim Christ as your Lord in a Western context, you are saddled with a massive pile of “supposed to” and “ought to,” and this in turn is rooted in a bad moral mythology. I’ve long said that Western assumptions about what is morally good and bad does not match what’s in the Bible. In that sense, Western assumptions about what is good and bad are also saddled with a false view of what’s possible.

In a broad sense of things, we can say that one of the biggest problems in human existence is false expectations. That’s the fundamental flaw that Satan exploited in human nature in the Garden — we can be led to believe that things ought to go this way or that, when God has said pointedly it’s not so. When we rely on reason to help shape our expectations, there is always an element of wishful thinking, conscious or not. And because revelation demands a lot of self-sacrifice, we tend to discount its demands in favor of our wishes. We keep looking for loopholes.

So we live in a society that holds forth this massive lie about what ought to be, and these false social expectations give rise to behavioral patterns that cannot work. Indeed, this is the whole point behind the red-pill movement, in that we face a vast ocean of propaganda about what women are like and what they really want, so that women are deceived about their own nature. Thus, we have feminism that posits things that cannot be, and a host of demands based on delusion. It’s the same thing with Western Christian religion, not so much in terms of specifics, but in the nature of false expectations.

Religion writers have noticed what appears as a recent spike in clergy suicides. Granted, they do give mention of how suicides are up in the general population, but the linked article puts an emphasis on clergy. The reason they do this arises precisely from the same underlying false image of what clergy are supposed to be and do. We have a problem with clergy suicides because we have a problem with the notion of what “clergy” should mean.

I won’t suggest that clergy aren’t supposed to be models; Scripture demands they are. However, the flaw is what they are supposed to model and how they are supposed to do it. The sense of isolation noted in the article is fundamental to Western assumptions about religion. I can tell you up front that the solution hinted at in the article is a matter of scooping up some habits that currently exist in the liberal wing of Western Christian religion, instead of seeking to understand the deeper failures that characterize everything Western. Bouncing around between conservative and liberal serves simply to keep the whole thing within a closed loop. This week they’ll drag in a few liberal notions about Western clergy; next week they’ll reaffirm conservative expectations of the clergy. Meanwhile, both ends of that spectrum are alien to what’s in the Bible.

In the real world that God made, the solution is a two-edged sword. First, there’s the problem of heart-led living completely absent from Western Civilization. It’s a fundamental assumption in Scripture, so there is no answer outside raising that issue. Without the heart of conviction ruling over everything, there can be no solution.

But that’s a tall order, and it requires some help orienting recovering Western minds seeking to follow the heart-led way. So the second edge of that sword is Biblical Law. Biblical Law is both boundary and fence. It’s not just laying out what’s real, but it suggests rules we make for ourselves to strengthen our resolve as a community of faith. You cannot really live Biblical Law without the heart in the first place, but because we are all in transition between the old life and the new, we put up fences to make it a little harder to forget the moral boundaries. Biblical rules bear only some superficial resemblance to Western Christian rules.

I note in passing that it is quite rare to find any Western Christian church keeping the New Testament practice of dividing leadership between pastors and elders (Two Witnesses). Your typical Western church folds the two into a single role, and that’s just plain wrong. It’s a sin, to put it bluntly. Pastors should be like Old Testament priests and Levites, while elders are like clan chiefs who actually rule/manage the church family. Go back and review how those roles work and stop reading Western culture back into the Bible.

Next, I suggest we ditch the idea of churches as democratic business institutions. Biblical churches do not have plans and objectives that marketers can turn into slogans; they are not democratic but feudal. Churches are meant to be extended families under covenant and the sole purpose is fellowship in a growing faith commitment to Biblical Law. It’s not about changing people, but persuading them to change themselves under divine leadership. It’s all about enabling the process built into redemption and serving Christ.

Stop mimicking the ambient social expectations and structures. Rediscover the ancient boundaries and build fences for yourselves. This will engender a wholly different context in which we can address problems like clergy suicide.

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Photography: Urban Parking Garages 1

The skyscraper section of Downtown OKC is less than one square mile in area. Within that area are several substantial parking garages. I’ll try to make a series of this. First up today was the Santa Fe Plaza parking garage, seen in this shot from ground level. This used to be called the Skirvin Plaza, after the famous landmark hotel on the northern side (left) of this cul de sac. The hotel was almost bulldozed, but due to public outcry it was saved and someone finally got it working again. It’s now being used as a pricey hotel right in the downtown area. I honestly don’t even know anyone who could afford a room there.

This next shot (right) is from the seventh floor of the Santa Fe parking garage, looking west down Park Avenue. This an example of “urban canyon.” My bike was locked to a lonely lamppost just below where I’m standing for that shot. The whole garage has a wide ledge around it to prevent people attempting to climb down the outside face of the structure. There was a rash of mostly kids falling to their deaths awhile back, trying to climb between floors. This thing is so big that walking to the NW corner put me in line of sight of a different street. This image (left) is looking off that corner. That red thing on the lower right is a fancy sculpture in an open plaza; it’s basically giant steel tubing cut at odd angles and welded into a sort of random cluster.

It was a long hike across the top deck of this thing back to the SE corner. You can see it looks down on the passenger rail station (the covered area). Folks have to climb up stairs wedged between that building and the high wall upon which the tracks stand. You can ride the train to just one place: Fort Worth, TX. Our state officials have been begging and bugging everyone possible to add another line up toward Tulsa, and maybe a line to Wichita, KS. Our passenger rail service died some decades ago due to low ridership. Now it’s kind of an “in” thing to do again.

From this garage I rode up a block and west a few blocks to the garage contracted to the County Courthouse. The shot to the left here is looking back to the northern end of the previous garage. This one has 9 floors but the view was about out on the western edge of the skyscrapers. This next view (right) is SW and takes in the Arts Center in the near foreground. Maybe you can tell that’s another parking garage in the background left (that’s another target for this series). In the middle ground with the circular sidewalk is the City Municipal Building. That’s where I had to go and pick up my claim check from the bike wreck. To the rear on the right side is an odd brick tower: our County Jail (AKA, “The Money Pit”). My son works there currently as Fire Safety Inspector, among other things. This last shot is looking at near NW OKC, prominently featuring our Saint Anthony’s Hospital up on the horizon. It sits on a low rise and is only the latest iteration of their building, having sat there for ages. They now have several franchise medical centers around the metro.

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We Aren’t in Charge

Radix Fidem: We rule nothing. At the most, we hold a very limited dominion in this world. We manage what few things Our Lord has entrusted to each of us as His servants. The probabilities of any of us having significant human authority are remote. We are used to this.

When Jesus talked about sheep and goats (starting in Matthew 25:31), His point was about faithfulness to His lordship via Biblical Law. This is not about charity; it’s about family taking care of family. It’s about governing over the household of faith. The only way you can be a sheep is to concern yourself with things sheep focus on: eating and making more sheep. We grow wool only to be sheared. It’s all about serving our divine purpose.

The only reason there are goats involved is because sheep appear to be stupid out in the pasture. They really don’t pay much attention to anything beyond eating and making more sheep. So a shepherd keeps goats in his flock because they pay more attention to threats, like predators and unsafe terrain. But what they produce isn’t worth nearly as much as what sheep do. The goats are useful only to help keep the sheep alive and safe.

The sheep of the Lord’s pasture are lousy governors. When they become good at governing, they become lousy sheep, and are more like goats. It’s not that sheep are totally defenseless; rams are known for being aggressive at protecting their own. But they lack strategic vision because it requires paying less attention to the mission at hand. Strategic vision is not a mark of holiness and divine calling. While goats tend to lead the flock away from danger, it’s out of pure self-interest. But it works well enough.

This picture would be in the minds of those who heard Jesus tell this parable. After three years with Jesus, thinking they were preparing to work in His Messianic court ruling over the world, Jesus was trying to bring them back to sanity. They were sheep, not goats. They were valuable to the Father as sheep, doing what sheep do, and governing their fellow sheep was not part of that. They would be granted a highly limited dominion among the sheep and let the goats worry about everything else.

Notice what this says about elders in the congregation. You should prefer sheep who self-limit, not the goats lauded by normal human standards. Look for someone who focuses on sheep being sheep.

Genuine followers of Christ make the worst governments in human history. There are plenty of other reasons governments might be bad, but true believers aren’t equipped for government. This is a general observation Christ Himself made. It’s a warning not to expect many opportunities for making decisions about such things. Let God our Shepherd worry about that, and give room for the goats He appoints. In due time, it will become apparent who is His treasured flock; the mark of His favor is not political savvy and power.

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