Answering The Charge Of “Chaos”

•01/13/2016 • 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 14:26,

26. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

1 Corinthians 14:33,

33. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

1 Corinthians 14:40,

40. Let all things be done decently and in order.

In various discussion forums I have been a part of, I have more than once seen someone make the charge that a church meeting must have some kind of formalized liturgy with an officiant overseeing it, else the meeting would descend into “chaos”.

The idea goes like this: if everyone in the church got to stand up and share, testify, sing, teach, exhort, or whatever, the meeting would last ten hours. There is no logical way everyone can have the right to do their thing. Things would get out of hand. Brother or sister so and so, who everyone knows is crazy, would end up offending someone, and all the visitors would head for the exits. There would be no control over the meeting; people would end up talking over each other, or competing to have their song be sung first…

And on and on goes the argument. Some have so seriously believed the charge that they’ve come to believe that Paul was being sarcastic in 1 Corinthians 14:26, i.e. that he knew and understood that when the Corinthians believers all came together, everyone of them wanted to do “their thing”, but that doing “their thing” would result in an un-edifying mess, hence the rules he laid out in the chapter 14 of his epistle.

There is no doubt that God wants things to be orderly and decorous. A messy church reflects a messy Savior, and Jesus is anything but that. But why assume that allowing each member of the Body of Christ in a local assembly an opportunity to be used by God automatically leads to a chaotic situation?

Can it not be recognized instead that, when a meeting is led by and of the Holy Spirit of God, God, who loves order, will make sure order is maintained, and that Jesus Christ, as Head of His own Body, will be the only “officiant”, as it were, to direct the goings-on?

I submit to you, the reader, that the charge of chaos is really a confession of unbelief. We simply cannot fathom how God can sovereignly orchestrate a meeting, where all who volunteer to Him by faith, can be used by Him, at His discretion, in His timing, when He decides, in a way that is edifying, uplifting, encouraging, and in order. Instead we think we need a trained clergy to set us up with an “order of service”, not knowing or not caring that such a thing isn’t in the Bible.

What is in the Bible is an active, vibrant priesthood of all believers, each a lively stone reflecting the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, first to one another, and then, to the outside world. Putting a liturgy on things, where only the trained get to be involved, keeps large portions of the Body of Christ neutered and inhibited from ever showing what Jesus looks like through them, to others. Never getting a real chance to show the rest of the church and the world at large what Jesus looks like means the Body of Christ isn’t really “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love…” (Ephesians 4:16).

Yes, people may stumble. New converts are likely to stutter and have difficulty prophesying for the first, or even fifth time. But so what? They’re just kids, after all, and like anyone with children understands, it takes time for someone to become adept at something, even if that something is being used by God successfully, in a way that keeps the order God prefers when His people meet. Every joint in a body is supposed to be offering the whole something of value. The same is true in the Body of Christ. We have to allow every joint a chance to supply something of worth to the whole, so the whole may be edified, in love. Having a bunch of unequipped saints sidelined in the pews weakens everyone.

Now, I realize that this may sound nice and all, in theory. But what about in practice? Can every member of a local assembly really have a chance, in a meeting, to participate and share? I mean, what if the local assembly has 50+ members? How would it be possible?

First, let it be known that mass meetings of the saints are not the typical norm of the New Testament Scriptures. We read right away in Acts 2:42 that the 3,000 new disciples met “house to house”, but did they do it all at once, together? Not at all. They did it in small groups. There is more than one reference in the New Testament to so-called “house churches” (See, for example Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:12, and Philemon 1:2).[1] These verses prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that trying to get every believer in a city together on a regular basis wasn’t what the Holy Spirit had in mind. Rather, pockets of believers were welcome to move amongst themselves and fellowship with each other at any and all times, without any formal liturgy or clergy present. Each meeting usually involved a meal for all to share, worship and thanksgiving to God, and prayer. Occasionally, especially gifted servants of the Gospel would arrive or be sent for, and they would be used by God in the way He decided (See, for example Acts 8:14-17). But otherwise, as the saints met, their gifts and callings would begin to be showcased as the Holy Spirit moved among them and anointed those chosen by God at the time (See, for example Acts 6:1-6).

But note! If every member isn’t allowed to participate, it becomes impossible for anyone to truly discern their calling! Only when everyone is allowed to be a part of what God is doing in a meeting does it become evident who are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers, and etc. Imagine having a highly gifted prophet sitting on the bench, as it were, because he or she was a part of an assembly where they weren’t allowed to be used, because their gift didn’t fit into the schedule. Imagine someone sitting on a gift of healing and not being used because the liturgy of that day’s meeting didn’t call for the laying on of hands and the anointing of oil in the name of the Lord by the elders.

We all want to see the power of God. We all want a demonstration of just what the Holy Spirit can do. But quite frankly, we absolutely box the Spirit of God in, and don’t let the Lord have His way. He’s merely worked into the proceedings, instead of being the author and finisher of all that proceeds from Him.

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone was allowed to prophesy one by one (1 Corinthians 14:31), so that all may learn, and be comforted? If so, where did it happen? And how?

I can tell you where it didn’t happen: it didn’t happen in a church building, that’s for sure.

And I can tell you how it didn’t happen: it didn’t happen in a tightly organized, restrictive liturgy. That’s also for sure.

You see, when you allow the New Testament Scriptures to make sense, and when the Holy Spirit is given the chance to shine throughout the ENTIRE Body of Christ, and not just a select few, great and mighty things begin to happen. It’s not chaos. It’s not even controlled chaos. Rather, it’s the Body of Christ in all her glory, the way she is supposed to be: beautiful.

I urge you, reader, that if you are not a part of a local assembly that allows for EVERY MEMBER to function as a royal priest, and be used by God as He sees fit (and not according to whether or not a select group of elites decides if you belong in that day’s agenda), that you sincerely begin to pray and petition God to make changes.

This is not intended as a harsh criticism of the Body of Christ at large, i.e. how it now generally functions. Rather it’s a vision of how the Body of Christ at large can learn to function, in complete unity, with the Head of the Church truly being pre-eminent.

We have to begin to trust God and each other enough to know that His love for us, and the love we are supposed to have for each other (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-15), will guide us and win out. If something is revealed to another, my love for that brother or sister, and for the Lord, will keep me in check until they have had a chance to speak or share (See 1 Corinthians 14:30). If the Lord is inspiring a song in my heart, my love for Him and for the brethren will cause me to share it, as a means of blessing God, and ministering to them. Love doesn’t abandon half of the Body of Christ (or more!) to uselessness. Love embraces, accepts, and desires to see every member functioning, finding purpose and meaning in why we are called to assemble in the first place: to know the Lord and make Him known.

May God bless you and keep you, dear reader. Seek Him for truth and understanding. He will show you the way forward. Amen.


[1] Please note that I personally don’t prefer the term “house church”. Rather, the way I say it is the church meets in homes, or house to house.

Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy, and Orthopathy

•12/08/2015 • 4 Comments

Right belief. Right practice. Right experience.

All are critical to the life of a believer in the Anointed One. They each need to be balanced with the other two. But one thing must be noted. There is an order, a flow to them, which needs to be maintained. Observe:

Right belief, if firmly held, will lead a person to a right practice of that belief. The practice will be an outgrowth of the conviction or belief. With a right belief and a right practice, the believer will have the God-ordained right experience, that is, the experience intended by God when right beliefs and practices are embraced.

However, a person may, for example, have many right experiences in their walk with God, but without understanding them, or realizing why they are right. They can be received as if by accident. Many people receive the Holy Spirit in this way. Not knowing too much about the Bible, but feeling drawn to God, they cry out to Him in a moment of faith and crisis, and receive the promise of the Father. But and unless they continue on with Him and allow the Spirit of Truth to lead them into all truth, they may never come to a right “anything”, whether belief, practice, or additional experience.

As Yeshua said, only those who continue in His Word are His students (John 8:31-32). This shows that doctrine comes first.

Additionally, many people maintain a right practice, and perhaps are even seeking a right belief about something, but and until the experience validates the belief and practice, it all become empty religiosity. This tendency causes much discouragement. I have met several people over the years that have pined about how the Book of Acts doesn’t seem to come alive here in the 21st century. And why not? Or at least seemingly why not? Because the right experiences of those 1st century believers isn’t happening in some of today’s groups of believers.

So, perhaps there is so much discouragement because right beliefs aren’t being maintained regarding the operation of God in the modern church? I mean, if I don’t believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as an example, they aren’t going to happen in my life or ministry. I will walk right by them, and never get to see the glory of God in power and demonstration.

Further, if something about God, His Son, or the Word is true, but for whatever reason, that truth is unknown to, or disregarded by, the believer, there will be an automatic limitation upon the life of that believer, until whatever is true is finally believed.

How many people have been incorrectly immersed? Why? An unrighteous, i.e. incorrect belief about baptism has led far too many to practice it incorrectly, and so, far too many have received an unrighteous, that is to say, incorrect experience when getting immersed. For some, all that happened was they got wet.

However, when a right belief about baptism is maintained, and when a believer with that right belief is immersed correctly (according to the right practice of Biblical immersion), they always receive the right experience: remission of sins and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

And yet, some have practiced immersion correctly, even invoking the name of the Lord when performing it, but nothing happens to or for the immersed. Why not? There could be many reasons, but here a few:

  • An incorrect belief about the Son of God
  • An incorrect belief about the Gospel
  • An incorrect belief about the need for repentance and faith prior to immersion
  • An incorrect belief about the reason to be immersed
  • An incorrect belief about normative experiences when immersed

Do you see how right belief has to come first? Without a doctrinal conviction regarding immersion, even if performed correctly, the immersed isn’t going to receive the correct or right experience God intended when He gave us immersion as part of the New Covenant.

Finally, what happens when right belief is present, but right practice and/or right experience is/are not? If a person correctly believes the core doctrines of the Bible, but doesn’t practice the faith accordingly, then they either tend toward extreme legalism, caring only for doctrinal purity as an intellectual pursuit, or extreme carnality, as an anything goes mentality is developed. Any experience, no matter how un-Scriptural, is validated, because how one practices the faith of the Son of God is non-essential. This is how many false prophets make their money. They may generally agree on the doctrines of God outwardly, but in practice, it doesn’t matter overly much what God actually says about a subject. Conversely, what God says about a subject may be so limited by the doctrinal purist, that no one can have a question or disagreement, or feel a liberty to practice their faith and receive Biblical experiences apart from what the purists maintain is acceptable.

There is so much danger in imbalance!

Start with correct belief, dearly beloved saints. Right belief, if held and maintained, will, because God is faithful, lead you to right practice. Orthodoxy will guide and direct all that you do as a Christian. And when orthodoxy and orthopraxy get together, because God is faithful, He will make certain you have the type of Scripturally ordained experiences He wants you to have, the ones you read about in the Bible, Book of Acts or otherwise.

But if your experiences are not towing the line, or aren’t meeting your expectations, chances are your practice or your belief is off. Same with your practice. If the practice of your faith is un-Biblical, be sure to realize you’ll never have sufficiently right experiences in the Lord. Your beliefs about Him and how to practice His faith need to change. In either case, if ever something is amiss, look at what you believe first. That’s the first, and really only way, to correct anything and make things right.

The Spirit of Bondage to Fear: True Stories from My Childhood

•11/11/2015 • Leave a Comment

Romans 8:15,

15. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

When I was very young, around the age of three, I experienced some things that later in life, I realized had become my first memories. There is more than one memory. It is a collage, if you will, of things I remember from a period of my life, all of which took place over the course of a few days. Some of the memories are pretty neutral in their scope and content. One is even funny, in a childish, immature sort of way.

But within this collection, there is also a horrifying memory, one that has stayed with me from then until now. This memory shaped me, molded me, into the person I eventually became, and the person I was, before God saved me. It perhaps is still having an effect on me now. Honestly I don’t know for sure. I hope not.

I am not going to go into the details of what happened, because I don’t want to malign the living. So much has changed; indeed the person involved is not who they once were. This person has been born again, and if asked, probably has absolutely no recollection of what I’m going to write about.

I hope you, the reader, are okay with the vagueness with which I have so far presented this blog. Please understand my motives.

The memory in question is from a time when I believed someone very important to me, to my very existence, was going kill me. Not accidentally, but rather as an act of homicide. I remember being there, in that situation, absolutely convinced that the person who was holding me on their knee was going to do something that somehow, my three-year old mind knew, meant I was going to die. There is a part of me that, with some uncertainty, seems to recall this person specifically asking me how I would feel about them doing the very thing I thought and feared they were about to do.[1]

Some of this is fuzzy, and I’m sure the vagueness with which I am describing the memory isn’t helping. It’s okay, though, since the memory is not my main point (Suffice it to say I believed I was going to be thrown down from a VERY high place, to my death). The main point is that, above all other things, I can vividly recall the sheer terror of that moment. I know I was only three, and what can a little child’s mind really comprehend at that age? But I somehow understood all too well what was going on, and how I felt about it all.

I remember being so terrified that this person was going to actually follow through and do to me what they had threatened (albeit in a perversely humorous sort of way), that I froze, and in a traumatic panic, became absolutely silent and still, fearing that any word, any movement, any anything I did or might do, would cause this person to end my life.

I was three years old when I received a spirit of bondage to fear.

Hebrews 2:14-15,

14. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15. And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

2 Timothy 2:26,

26. And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are takencaptiveby him at his will.

The devil is able, at his discretion, to take captive those who become a slave to the fear of death.

When I was three, I was brought under such bondage, and in that moment, when I became terrified of dying, of death, the devil used the experience in order to take me captive.

The next memories of my childhood are just as bleak. Some time after the experience detailed above, I began having recurring spiritual nightmares, nightmares that endured through most of my childhood, even into my pre-teen years. They were almost always the same. I say “they” because there were in fact, two different ones.[2] I feel like I had them almost every night for years (from the time I was at least four, onward). It probably wasn’t every night, but the force with which they stand out makes it seem that way.

The first nightmare would start with some invisible entity forcing me across a field or some other kind of place, to the edge of a great and evil forest. The forest appeared to be surrounded by a moat of some kind, and this nameless, shapeless entity always made me find a way across. In the dream, it was always a risk to my life just to get across. This part was already terrifying enough. But then, once I succeeded in getting across to the forest proper, I was always forced to go in, always against my will.

Whatever happened next, if anything, is beyond my recollection. I probably woke up from the dream at that point. I’m not sure. I had this dream more often than the one I’m about to describe.

The other nightmare found me at the front door of a very wicked looking, scary house, one that just seemed to exude sinister, demonic power. And again, some unseen entity made me go into the house.

I don’t remember what happened each and every time, but I remember one time standing before the door of that dark and terrible place, standing on a welcome mat, only to have the welcome mat become a trap door. I remember falling through the trap, down into a dark and menacing room. I found myself sitting on a couch. The room seemed to have some kind of dark blue glow to it. Next to me there was a man reading a newspaper, but when I looked at him, he didn’t have a head—just a bloody stump for a neck. Around the room other evil creatures sat. Above us a screaming witch flew around the room, occasionally dive-bombing at me as she went past. I will never forget her horrid screeching.

I likewise don’t remember what happened next in that particular dream. All I can recall of these two nightmares is that once I was forced into the respective locations, I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t find a way out. I would try and try to escape, always feeling chased, like the encroaching evil in each dream was drawing ever closer, inciting new levels of panic.

Whenever I would finally wake up, I would be so scared, the only thing I could think to do was hide my head under my blanket, and be as silent as possible until it felt like the entity I could tell was in the room with me went away, as if I could somehow successfully hide myself sufficient to cause the “thing” that was nearby, in my very bedroom, to lose interest and depart. Over the years, I did this more times than I can count. I’m talking hundreds of times.

As I grew older, I found myself drawn to scary images, horror movies, and the like. I remember being only seven or eight, and going into the VHS rent-a-center at the local Pick-N-Save to look at the backs of various horror movie cases. No matter how disturbing or frightening the cover of the case was supposed to be, the backs of the cases were much more grisly and sometimes even gory. I especially remember looking at the case for Evil Dead 2. But there were others.

When I was eight or so, I remember sneaking down stairs when everyone else had gone to sleep to watch a show called Tales from the Darkside.[3] One night, I was flipping through the channels, and I found Stanley Kubrick’s version of Stephen King’s The Shining. I was fascinated with that movie for almost my whole life. My mom, after catching me watching it one time, tried to be on constant vigil to make sure I never got to watch it again, but against her wishes, I succeeded.

There was another time, again when I was about eight, that during a family gathering, when a bunch of younger cousins and other children were present, that I snuck upstairs and put on all black clothes and an old zombie/ghoul mask my brother had gotten one year for Halloween, and a cape we had had for years, and came running and yelling into the room where all of the children were playing, so as to terrify them. They all started screaming in fright, sobbing and crying bloody murder. Every adult came rushing up the stairs, scolding and shouting and cursing at me.[4]

One night, when I was sleeping in my oldest brother’s bedroom, I woke up out of a deep sleep, because, in my sleep, I heard my grandma, my dad’s mom, shout my name. I had been sleeping on my stomach, and bolted up on both hands in a heart-beat. The moment passed; I shook it off.

But then I realized my pillow was missing. I searched everywhere for it, using the pale moonlight and my hands. It had disappeared. I even crawled out of the bed, looking all over the floor. At some point while searching I looked up to see a Native American-like, shirtless figure standing in the room with a tomahawk in his hand, staring at me like he was going to kill me. I stared at him/it in unspeakable terror, unable to breathe or speak. Somehow I managed to creak out my oldest brother’s name, just a tiny, cracked, high-pitched whisper, but it was enough. It woke him up and the thing in the room was gone.[5]

I began to crave wicked things. I used to seek out Fangoria magazine at whatever stores we would shop at. I was obsessed with death, violence, and blood. I was only a child, but it didn’t matter.

Mark 9:20-24,

20. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

21. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

22. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

23. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

24. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

In verse 24, the Greek word for “unbelief” is apistia.[6] Yes, it can be translated as unbelief, but unbelief doesn’t really capture the totality of meaning. Apistia literally means “without faith” or “without faithfulness”, that is to say, “without trust” or “without trusting”. In this way, the word indicates a condition in which a person finds themselves not merely un-persuaded in their thinking (although that’s the starting place), but rather, such a person dwelling in apistia is actually in outright moral rebellion and disobedience to God and His Christ (by not relying upon their Savior for salvation). Their actions, conduct, and speech all indicate a lack of faith in, and faithfulness toward, their Creator and His Redeemer.[7]

Note now how the man explains in verse 21 that his son had been demon-possessed and afflicted since, according to the Greek (i.e. paidiothen), he was a little boy.[8] Did the father’s own apistia create a vacuum which caused, due to his unrighteous disobedience, his son to suffer the consequences?

I think yes. How else can an innocent two or three year old child end up demonized? I can’t think of anything a barely above a toddler, who can’t read, write, or tie his or her own shoes, could ever do that was so intentionally wicked as to invite Satan into his or her heart and life. I know in my own life, the devil was invited in by someone else. I was innocent.

But imagine a father, or a mother, or a family member, whose responsibility it is to care for a child, who has no moral compass guiding them. Who refuses to submit his or her life to the Creator and His Redeemer. Who intentionally balks at and with no regard for the Word of God, disobeys Him (whether as an act of the conscious will, or because of the law of sin in their members driving them forward into unrighteousness), and so, continues to reject the Lord’s offer of free salvation.

Can such an important person in the life of a child bring such unwanted wickedness upon the child?

In a word, yes.

When a child is exposed to evil, it becomes ingrained into their minds. The law of sin and death in their members becomes attracted to it. The carnal mind will begin to crave it, and the more the child is fed, the more the carnal mind will devour, until the person, even a child, is wholly given over to evil. It may take years. Innocence rarely dies in a moment. But however long it takes, know assuredly that sin will come alive in every child who is old enough, and when that happens, it will slay them (See Romans 7:8-11).

Their soul will be lost to the Lord and their name will be blotted out of the Book of Life,[9] and should they die in such a state, the very real possibility of eternal death awaits them. I do not say it is for certain. What I do say is that if a child is old enough to be saved, he or she is old enough to be lost. God is the Judge, and will be righteous in all His dealings with humanity, adults or otherwise.

This is what happened to me. It’s what has happened to millions. It’s what’s going to happen to millions more. It is happening right now, somewhere in the world, even in the lives of parents and children I personally know. Thank God for the cross of His Son!

As I got older, about nine or ten, I began drawing pictures of people getting their heads cut off, or being shot in half by some fanciful weapon. I would draw all the blood splatters and gore and guts I could, according to my ability at the time.

My mom and dad confronted me about this one night, and would not let it go. They demanded I tell them why I was drawing such things. I lied to them, a pretty convincing lie, and blamed my oldest brother. I didn’t say he made me draw anything, just that I couldn’t help thinking about “evil” (yes, I used that very word!), and when pressed, when asked who or what I thought was evil, I told them I thought my oldest brother was.[10]

By eighth grade, I was learning how to draw on supernatural forces to manipulate and intimidate people; that is, other kids my age at school. I discovered a trick that allowed me to stare at people without blinking for minutes on end, so much so that they would begin to feel my eyes on them, and would jump with a start and look around until they saw me looking right at them, with murder in my eyes. I wouldn’t stop staring. They’d become visibly uncomfortable, even shaken. I would only choose to do it to kids I felt were weaker than me. I got a lot of enjoyment out of tormenting other kids with my newly forming abilities to operate in the demonic.

I began reading horror novels, especially Stephen King. I still enjoyed horror movies, too.

In high school, I began having hallucinations of me bringing baseball bats or meat cleavers and such other weapons and using them against the student body.

After high school, I was a miserable, suicidal wretch.[11] The only joy I ever seemed to experience was when I would dream. Every now and again, I would have a dream that I was a mass-murderer, and in these dreams, I would get sick pleasure out of killing people.

I am unhappy to report now, at this point in my life, that I would always wake up feeling happy and fulfilled, like these dreams were somehow good for me. They improved my moods, until of course the reality set in, and I could only day-dream about them, realizing I could never do what I dreamed of doing while I slept.

I was at the time listening to a lot of very ungodly, even intentionally anti-Christian music, while also reading similar literature. I wrote a lot at that time, too. Without really knowing what I was doing, I found I could summon and channel evil spirits, almost at will, especially when I wrote, especially poetry.

I had become a subversive manipulator, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I was a slave to sin and to at least two different demons. I was not a nice guy to be around.

But all of this changed when I was twenty-four, the year God intervened and saved me. He did more than “save” me, though. He completely delivered my soul from hell and the evil spirits that had had me bound for so long, that is to say, since I was three years old.

Within the first week of God saving me, I began having spiritual nightmares. Wicked dreams, with demons in them, attacking me, trying to hurt me. The first dream was about a plague of locusts. They were swarming all through my hometown, attacking and hurting people. I was running everywhere I could, telling people that if they just called on the name of Jesus, they would be safe.

About a week later, while I was sitting in my living room, wide awake, eating some chips, a cold chill and evil presence enveloped me, taking away my ability to breathe. I was terrified and could just barely mumble the name Jesus, feeling like I was going to literally choke on the food that was in my mouth.

Another dream took place at night in a real life location called Spring’s Park in my hometown. This demon didn’t have any eyes, just ragged black holes where eyes should have been. It had these massive claws and was trying to shred my face, my neck, or whatever it could attack. I could barely defend myself, trying to call on the name of Jesus.

Another dream took place in my high school. The teacher turned into a demon wearing a red dress and began spinning around the room, screaming and screeching. There were others, ones I can’t remember anymore.

It got to the point that I was afraid to go to sleep. I would pray and pray before going to bed, begging God to protect me while I slept.

But something interesting began happening. The nightmares continued, but slowly and surely, with each one, I became stronger. Less afraid. I began calling on the name of Jesus with power, and in time, I was not only fighting back, I was winning the fights. I was sensing the presence of evil spirits in waking life, but they couldn’t seem to afflict me with fear. I was afflicting them by the power of God!

I eventually came to realize that God was using these nightmares to deliver me from the spirit of bondage to fear. They were training.

Two more stories:

Number One:

The year after I graduated college, I was working third shift. I was trying to go to sleep. It was morning. Suddenly, a violent surge of memories from all of the horror movies I had watched growing up and as an adult overwhelmed my mind. The worst scenes from the worst of the movies flashed over and over again. I felt repulsed, sickened, and upset. I hated the images. I wished I could forget them, knowing I couldn’t. I prayed, but weakly, as if in vain, I must admit.

Nothing happened at first. Then all of a sudden, I had a vision of a hand using one of those old black erasers to erase an old-school dark green chalkboard. All of the chalk dust from the board spilled into a large, black garbage bag. The bag was then knotted up and thrown away. And immediately, all of the images from the movies I had watched lost all of their power over me.

They no longer bothered or afflicted me. I fell asleep, sleeping peacefully. Even to this day, if an old memory is triggered, it comes and then drifts away, like it never was anything major to begin with.

Number Two:

One night, several years after I had become a believer in Jesus, I had one of my two recurring nightmares from my childhood. It was the haunted house dream. I was forced to go in, but this time, I wasn’t afraid. I turned this way and that, and for the first time since I was four years old, I got out of the house safely, quickly, and with ease. I just walked right out, and you know what? The house wasn’t scary looking. Just a normal, average two-story, white house. And it wasn’t dark outside, anymore, either. In fact, it was a rather sunny, beautiful day.

Romans 8:15,

15. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.


[1] Truth be told, I think the whole reason I became convinced that I was about to be murdered was because the person in question was the one who brought it up, thus, in my mind, making it a real possibility.

[2] This makes perfect sense to me, that there would be two, because I was later in life afflicted with bi-polar disorder, a mental illness caused by the oppressive activities of two separate evil spirits (i.e. one that drives towards mania, the other that enslaves to depression).


[4] Speaking of Halloween, since I was about six years old, I always wanted to go out dressed as Satan, or Dracula, or some other kind of grotesque monster. We were all unregenerate and didn’t know any better back then. My mom let me dress up however I wanted. She still has all the unfortunate pictures to prove it.

[5] And oh, by the way, my pillow then miraculously re-appeared.




[9] See:

[10] There are reasons for this, all of which are under the blood of Christ. But at the time, it was a nice cop-out so I didn’t have to give them a real answer. The truth is, and was, I didn’t have a real answer. I just wanted to draw pictures like that. My oldest brother was and is innocent of that particular charge I made against him that day.

[11] This is a REALLY long story that I don’t have time or room to convey, so please pardon the fact that I am jumping so quickly through time without giving many details. You can read more about it here: and here:

The Closing Of A Mind…

•09/26/2015 • Leave a Comment

Many times throughout His teaching ministry, Rabbi Yeshua said something like this:

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.[1]

While this phrase has a literal, word for word translational quality about it, we must understand the need to interpret the intention behind the words.

What did the Lord mean? What was He trying to communicate? I submit to you Yeshua was making an appeal to all those in the audience whose minds were open to what He was saying.

We must not think in literal terms. Yeshua wasn’t saying “If you literally have ears on the sides of your head, hear what I have to say”. The phrasing of the text is quite symbolic. This speaks to matters of the heart, which, in Hebrew is the word leb, and it refers to, in context, the innermost being of a person, not just the actual vital organ behind one’s sternum. Yeshua was reaching for that place within each one of us, where the seat of our innermost being exists.

He was saying, if, there, in your innermost being, where the “true you” resides, if you, in that place, can really hear what I have to say, even what I am saying now, you will understand Me and My Message. It’s not just about the physical manifestation and vibration of sound waves across air molecules interpreted as human speech by one’s brain; it’s a spiritual hearing, accomplished in the soul.

Do you have ears to hear?

In John 10:1-18, Yeshua gives us a wonderful picture of Himself as a shepherd leading us out into pasture and back again to the sheepfold. It’s a parable, indicating that He will feed us, care for us, and in the end of all things, bring us home to our eternal home in the Kingdom of God.

But note what He says very carefully. He says His sheep know His voice (John 10:3). We have to be able to recognize and learn the voice of our Messiah. The sound of His speech has to become for us as familiar as the voice of a father, a son, a friend, a lover.[2]

In that innermost being of life, if we want the Good Shepherd to lead us out and bring us in, we need to be able to open our minds and hearts to what He is saying or trying to tell us.

We must never assume we’ve heard everything the Lord Yeshua is ever going to say! To make such an assumption is to close the mind off from His voice. It is at that point we find ourselves unable to go any further with Him into relationship. If all we are willing to receive from the Lord is the things we’ve already heard Him say, we can’t progress. There will be no new bread from heaven. We will stagnate, as the formerly fresh waters of spiritual revelation become muddied.

This isn’t to say that the Lord should never repeat Himself to us, or that we don’t ever need to have Him say the same things to us on occasion. But when we get to a point where we decide there’s nothing left for Him to say to us, we’re going to find ourselves eventually on the outside looking in at all the others who haven’t closed their minds to His voice.

Consider the following verses of Holy Scripture:

John 16:12-13,

12. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

13. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

Yeshua knew that His closest allies and disciples in the Kingdom of God had reached a point of saturation. They couldn’t receive anything else their Lord and Master might say to them. But He didn’t leave them without a promise. Yeshua knew that once the Holy Spirit of Truth was sent by the Father through Him, that Spirit of Truth would lead them the rest of the way into the next stages of their spiritual progression into truth. Yeshua was trusting in and depending upon the Holy Spirit to continue to do His work after He was gone. He knew the Holy Spirit would be the next relay point of contact for His students to receive enduring messages of God’s Word.

And yet, a question comes to mind. What if these holy men of old had distained the idea and decided that their point of saturation was all there was to know? What if they had decided that they didn’t want or need a new divine connection to Truth? What if after the crucifixion they just simply went home, and never heard the Lord’s voice again?

Perish the thought!

But do we do no less? Be honest with yourself. Can the Son of God say anything He wants to you, and you receive it? Can your Savior tell you something contrary to what you assume is reality?[3]

What if He, through the Holy Spirit of Truth, shows you something in the Holy Scriptures you didn’t see before? What if that new insight challenges all your preconceived notions? What if accepting and receiving what He shows you means a fundamental alteration of who and what you are, as a believer?

What if what Yeshua the Anointed One says to you, costs you something, like identity? Friendship? Fellowship?

What if the Lord tells you something that doesn’t have anything to do with His Word; rather, what He says has to do with you? For example, what if Yeshua tells you to walk away from a ministry? What if He tells you everything you’ve been dreaming about and planning and basing your life on, was never the will of God for you—that you dreamt, and planned, and based your life on a mistaken understanding of something He never said?

Can the Good Shepherd say such things to you? Or is your mind closed? Has the fresh waters of revelation frozen over in your heart?

Yeshua is our friend. His wounds are faithful (Proverbs 27:6). What if Yeshua tells you something about the local assembly to which you belong? What if Yeshua tells you to forgive someone you dislike?

Can He ever say anything to you at all, besides good?

Imagine a man of God, who for decades has preached and taught a certain doctrine only to have the Lord arrest him one day in prayer and say, “Not so. You’re wrong”.

Imagine a brother or sister who has for years felt ashamed and degraded over struggling with a besetting sin, only to hear Yeshua say, “Fear not. I love you and have made atonement for you. You are washed clean by My blood”.

I could go on with all sorts of different “what if” scenarios, but the point is made, which is this:

Yeshua longs to be intimate with His people. As much as His people love to spend time with Him, He loves to do so more. We are sacred to Him. And in any other relationship, the fact is, the people you love the most are the ones you want to spend the most time with, the ones you long to see and talk with, the ones with whom you desire to communicate and make yourself known.

Many saints pray often and fervently. But they don’t listen.[4] Their minds are closed. If we don’t know Yeshua any better that we did five, ten, or more years ago, how much did we every really know Him?

Don’t be afraid of what the Lord might say.

Psalm 85:8,

8. I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints…

John 14:10,

10. …the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself…

God the LORD, that is to say, YHVH, is speaking to us everyday, in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).[5] Indeed, right now, God is speaking peace unto His people, and to His saints. Yeshua utters and makes known the words of the One who sent Him. The Holy Spirit of Truth makes known to us the words of Yeshua. The Church is supposed to relay those words to the world.

But not if we in the church have closed our minds.

One of the chief complaints of God through His holy prophets was the unwillingness of His covenanted people to listen.[6]

It is a most sorrowful thing indeed that the Lord and King of the Universe, having saved and restored His people to right relationship and fellowship with their Creator, is daily ignored by people who have closed their minds.

Dear Reader, I leave you with an exhortation to once again open your heart and mind to what the Holy Spirit of Truth, on behalf of the Lord Yeshua, is saying to the Church…


[1] Examples include Matthew 11:15 and Luke 8:8.

[2] Within the Biblical context, to “know” something or someone is not merely to have anecdotal evidence of the facts. It’s to have experiential knowledge through intimate connection and relationship.

[3] In a close study of the concept of truth, you will find that Biblically speaking, truth is always about reality, or, the way things actually are, from God’s point of view.

[4] As a personal example, I can testify that I learned long ago to talk less and listen more, when I pray. In fact, when I begin to pray, I listen first. Giving the Lord that place of honor, to be the first to speak, glorifies Him and from personal experience, He takes advantage of the opportunity to speak. Sometimes I pray without even speaking a word. Yeshua does all the talking and I do all the listening (what a role reversal for the average saint!).

[5]In His Son” is a better translation than “By His Son”, according to the Greek.

[6] See, for example, Isaiah 28:12, 30:9, 65:12, 66:4, Jeremiah 13:11, 17:23, 19:15, 22:21, 29:19, Zechariah 1:4, 7:11, 7:13, and Malachi 2:2.



Woe Unto You…Hypocrites!

•08/28/2015 • Leave a Comment

There are some really hard truths in the Holy Scriptures of the Bible. One of the hardest is the testimony of Yeshua of Nazareth against the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. Seven times He brings an imprecation of “woe” against them; and in each case, He calls them “hypocrites“.

What is “woe” and how does it relate to “hypocrites“? What is a hypocrite, Biblically speaking?

In this short blog I intend to answer conclusively the questions above, so as to leave no doubts in the mind of any who read this. Let’s begin:

Woe” is a small Greek word, namely ouai. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible describes it simply as “a primary exclamation of grief“.[1] In the King James Version of the Bible, it is translated only two ways, as either “alas” or as “woe“. But what do those mean, in context?

Alas is a word derived from Latin, eventually coming to us from Old French and Middle English. It is a compound word, made up of two parts. The first is ah-, which functions as “an exclamation of pain, surprise, pity, complaint, dislike, [or] joy“.[2] The second part, or –las, means “wretched“, and comes from the Latin word lassus, which means “weary“.[3] Therefore, when compounded, “alas” is an expression of weariness, in which a person interjects into their speech an exclamation of how something or someone, or some situation, is causing or has caused them grief.

This stands to good reason, especially when one looks to see how Yeshua used the word in Matthew 23. But what about “woe“?  Woe is simply any type of grievous distress, affliction, or trouble.[4] As an interjection, to express woe is to exclaim to others how distressed, afflicted, or troubled one is over something or someone.[5] This again makes perfect sense in context. In Matthew 23, the Lord is expressing how much the Scribes and Pharisees grieved, distressed, afflicted, and troubled Him. They are a thorn in His side, if you will. But why? Why did these two groups of men cause Yeshua so much consternation? What about them invited the Son of God to pronounce a weary “woe” against them?

The key is to understand what a Biblical “woe” is. In the Holy Scriptures, both in the Old and the New Covenant, a “woe” was a terrible ordeal, something catastrophic, a calamity. It could be a plague or a war. It could also refer to divine judgment. A woe might also simply be the resultant consequences of one’s own sins, against God, against self, and/or against others.[6]

This then should wake us up to the fact that if the Lord and Messiah of Israel has pronounced a seven-fold woe against the Scribes and Pharisees, it means a perfect calamity of judgment and terror is upon all hypocrites everywhere. What a terrible thing to be, in the eyes of the Son of Man!

What then, is a hypocrite? It must surely be understood that Christ’s condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees wasn’t simply because they were Scribes and Pharisees. In fact, the Lord had some good relations among them (e.g. Nicodemus). To be a scribe, or a copyist and Torah interpreter was and is not an innately evil thing. To pursue holy separation unto God, that is, to be a Perushim or Pharisee is not by any means a bad idea.

The issue resides in the how. How does a scribe interpret the Torah? Faithfully? Justly? Or is there perversion and human tradition intermingled in the interpretation? Are the Words of God used against His people simply because the people are ignorant of the texts of the Bible (e.g. perhaps because, in the days of the Lord, many people were illiterate)?

Is a person pursuing holy separation unto God as a means of achieving self-righteousness (See, e.g. Luke 18:10-14)? Does being separated unto God in holiness cause one to become superior and judgmental in their attitude toward those considered less separated or holy (See, e.g. Isaiah 65:1-5)?

It all comes back to motivation and purity of purpose. In that day, many, perhaps even most of the Scribes and Pharisees were not just in their motives, speech, or actions, thus drawing Yeshua’s ire against them. If their motivations, speech, and actions or conduct would have been pure and right in His sight, the Lord would never have pronounced a woe against them, and He certainly would not have called them hypocrites, or more literally, those “under judgment or condemnation“.

Hypocrite is a rich word, full of meaning, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant.[7] It is a compound word, like alas, made up of two parts. It stems from a Greek verb, used frequently in the Scriptures of the New Covenant, especially in the Gospels.

The modern use of the word hypocrite is defined thus: a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives.[8]

This is likewise the basic meaning behind the use of the word in the Bible. But we need to go a little deeper to exegete lexigraphical meaning. As already stated, hypocrite is a compound word, made up of two parts. The first, in Greek, is hupo-, and it simply means “under“. The second part derives from the root krino, meaning “to decide“.

More however is still needed. When thinking about what it means to decide something, one must get a mental picture in their mind. To make a decision is to weigh facts in the balance, separate things or ideas into their respective categories, consider all the different options, then choose. In choosing, one then selects one option to the forfeiture of others. This means a judgment call is made. Whatever one has chosen, it has been judged the best choice, to the detriment of the other options. In this way, krino has come to mean “judgment“. A judgment is simply a decision for or against something.[9] But again, this elicits a mental image, as of a judge in court rendering a verdict (i.e. innocent or guilty).

All of this and more indicates that when the Lord called someone a hypocrite, He was actually telling them that they were under judgment. He as Lord and Judge of All[10], was holding their lives in the balance, and as the testimony of the Gospels show, He was finding them wanting.

By rendering such a verdict against them, the Messiah was determining their guilt. In so doing, He brought against them accusation and proof of their guilt, as Matthew 23 and other passages demonstrate. In finding them guilty as charged, He condemned them as hypocrites, or those pretending to be something they were not. The Scribes and Pharisees should have been the most righteous, the most holy, the most anointed, the most divinely selected and blessed portion of people in all of Israel, and yet they were not. They were fake, wolves in sheep’s clothing.

They were presuming to be innocent in the eyes of God and man, but inwardly they were the guiltiest of sinners.[11] A careful reading of the Gospels indicates there was no love lost between Yeshua and the Scribes and Pharisees. Yeshua was relentless, even merciless toward them.

And what was His judgment against them? What was the “woe” or calamitous disaster awaiting the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ’s day?

John 8:21 (New English Translation)

21. …Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will look for me but will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.”

We know from later testimony (and even earlier in the Gospel of John) that the Lord was going back whence He came, i.e. from the Father in Heaven (John 16:5, 16). In telling the Scribes and Pharisees that they would “die in their sins“, He was telling them they were doomed, lost eternally, never to be saved.

This is the fate of all hypocrites, or those pretending to be something they are not, thus under judgment awaiting condemnation.

But this isn’t the hard truth mentioned in the opening. Certainly, it is hard, but there is a truth harder still. The question that needs to be asked is, what about us? Are we hypocrites?

I know few willing to admit it. For most believers in Yeshua, it’s automatically discerned by reading the testimony of His words, that hypocrisy is one of if not the least tolerated sins. And so, we all strive to not be hypocrites. Well and good. But how many of us truly succeed?

Here’s the point: If, in your conscience, you routinely experience condemnation, that is, a sense of guilt and shame, as if you are constantly offending God with your life, speech, and actions, feeling like you’re just not good enough, but yet claim to be a saint of God, saved and full of the Holy Spirit, guess what? You are a hypocrite.

To the world and all other believers, you are claiming that Christ saved you, washed and purged you by His own blood (See Hebrews 1:3 and Revelation 1:5), and gave you new life through the Holy Spirit (See John 3:3-5, Romans 6:3-4). But to yourself, to your own inner person, all you see is wickedness, sin, guilt, shame, regret, and unforgiveness. In your heart, you don’t really believe the Lord saved you, hence why you suffer from condemnation. You still believe you are still an unwashed degenerate, and like the Scribes and Pharisees, that you are likewise not going to be able to go where Christ is, and so, are likewise going to die in your sins.

You are wearing a mask that outwardly says one thing to the world, but inwardly, your conscience is singing a different tune. The issue is not that you feel the way you do about yourself, or even that you experience condemnation in your conscience.

The issue is your honesty about it all. As long as you play along, go along to get along, to keep up appearances, to act the part, so no one is the wiser, interpreting God’s Word for others, attempting to live a holy, separated life, and yet, not really trusting the Blood of Christ’ Cross, you’re a hypocrite.

You can’t be quickened by redemption and dead in trespasses at the same time (See Ephesians 2:1, 5). You are either one or the other. If you don’t know which you are, that’s fine, as long as you are pressing toward finding out. But to be living in a constant state of fear and torment about how your trip to the Judgment Seat is going to be, indicates you have not been made perfect in love (See 1 John 4:17-18). You do not have and so, will not have, boldness in the day of your judgment.

The inward voice of your conscience testifies against you. It’s not the devil. It’s you. You are walking in the flesh, and so, cannot please God (Romans 8:8 and Hebrews 11:6). All who suffer condemnation are in the flesh (Romans 8:1). If you have received the Holy Spirit, you ought to be walking in It, sowing to It, in order to reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8). Stop blaming Satan or anyone or anything else. It’s simply a matter of trust, between you and your Savior.

What you need, as the author of Hebrews so eloquently put it, is to be taught again (Hebrews 5:12). Somewhere along the way, someone taught you incorrectly, and you bought into a false idea of self, a false idea of God, a false idea of the Son of God, a false idea of salvation, a false idea of grace, a false idea of works, and/or a false idea of the impartation of righteousness by faith.

Or, perhaps, it’s not that someone taught you wrong, it’s that you refused to truly believe. Faith, my dear reader. Faith!

Yeshua didn’t come into the world to condemn it. Rather, He came to save it (John 3:17). That includes you (John 3:16)! But you have to take the mask off. You have to come into the light and admit to your pretension (John 3:19-21 and 1 John 1:7). Smite your breast and plead for mercy (Luke 18:13). Then, and only then, will you escape the condemnation you feel, and will “go down to your house justified” (Luke 18:14).

Don’t be like a Scribe or Pharisee, outwardly righteous, and inwardly full of dead man’s bones. The Lord doesn’t need, and can’t make use of, white-washed sepulchers.

Be not as the hypocrites are (Matthew 6:5)! Get into your “prayer closet” and allow the Spirit to make intercession for you with groanings that cannot be uttered, until you have victory (Romans 8:26)! Until God’s love is perfected in you! Until all your fear of judgment is cast out! Until you find boldness in the presence of your Savior in this life, so you can have boldness when you meet Him face to face in the life to come (Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10)! Until your faith is built up (Jude 1:20)! Until you know you are walking in the light, as He is in the light, so that the blood of God’s Son can cleanse you from all unrighteousness! Until you can reckon yourself dead unto sin (Romans 6:11)! Until you know you have successfully escaped the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7, Luke 3:7, and Romans 5:9)! Until you believe the testimony of the Lord instead of the testimony of your conscience (John 3:33, 1 Corinthians 1:6, and Revelation 12:11). Until you can receive this hard truth and not be offended! Until finally, you have received and experience the following:

1 John 3:21,

21. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.






[5] Anyone familiar with the Yiddish phrase oy vey or “woe is me” is familiar with such interjections.

[6] See, e.g. Numbers 21:29, Job 10:15, Proverbs 23:29, Isaiah 3:9, Isaiah 6:5, Jeremiah 23:1, Matthew 18:7, Luke 6:25, 1 Corinthians 9:16, Jude 1:11, and especially Revelation 8:13 and 9:12. Suffice it to say the use of “woe” is throughout the Old and New Covenant Scriptures. Many more examples abound, but all basically express the same concept, that of difficulty or calamity causing grief, even anguish.




[10] See, e.g. John 5:22 and 5:27.

[11] See, e.g. John 9:41.

Mark Showalter's Blog

Always seeking to know God more

Theo-sophical Ruminations

A collage of theological and philosophical musings


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.