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Archive for the ‘Charity’ Category

If You Find Yourself in Bed With Leah, Climb Out the Window

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Rachel is Out There Waiting

Until I left my old church, I did not know what a nightmare it was. Now that I’m out, I realize how it traumatized me.

I feel silly saying that. I don’t want to come across as a victim. I’m happy that God has revealed this to me; it’s very positive. It will help me understand my situation better so I can make more progress. I should also add that I didn’t deserve anything better at the time. Had I gone to a stronger church, I might have been a negative influence because of my undeveloped state.

While I was attending and serving, I was grateful for the church. For the first year or so, I thought it was a great place. The presence of God was clearly there, and they had special Wednesday services that were centered around prayer, worship, and the Holy Spirit. Over time, the church declined, and God improved me, and these things added up to dissatisfaction.

It’s my understanding that at earlier times in its long history, the church was much more devoted to God. It was small and poor, but God manifested himself there. People prophesied and so on. When I got there, the Holy Spirit was still relatively welcome. During my tenure, the leaders replaced the Holy Spirit’s moves with backward human ideas. It seemed that they were hellbent on building a megachurch and getting themselves on national TV. They started pushing the head pastor and one of his sons very hard. Neither of them had the kind of natural ability that makes a T.D. Jakes or a Joel Osteen. They didn’t have the personal charisma or the cunning, and God wasn’t with them, either, so it was a pointless exercise.

The services became highly scripted, so if the Holy Spirit attempted to interrupt or interfere, he didn’t get much respect. They started printing out schedules allotting time in very small increments, so there was no space in the program. They brought in utterly useless motivational speakers like Brian Klemmer, who used his appearances to sell worthless EST-style seminars that had nothing to do with God. They started preaching prophylactic anti-dissent propaganda, labeling anyone who was disturbed by the church’s path as “negative” and “unwilling to submit to authority.” In legal circles, this is known as “poisoning the well.”

There were anointed people in the church. God provided individuals who could teach and lead. He provided talented musicians and sharp managers. These people were suppressed, and insiders were promoted. The pastor’s oldest son was put in charge of the worship team, replacing a man who had gone to college on a singing scholarship. Two of the best musicians in the church ended up entertaining small children, while people who had a more easily marketed appearance worked in the main sanctuary. One of the top managers in the church was so ineffective, merely mentioning his name caused people to roll their eyes, but he was an insider, so though he failed consistently, he could only fail upward.

The head pastor developed a habit of inviting prosperous people to become Armorbearers, regardless of whether they had any real interest in God. I believe I was one of those people. I was asked to join the team very early. I was a white lawyer from a wealthy suburb, so there was hope I could bring others like me, and they would tithe. I was a pretty ineffective Armorbearer at first, and I think the leaders of the team had very low expectations, because unlike me, they knew why I had been chosen. It’s remarkable that I succeeded in becoming useful. I think I was the only “political” appointee that did.

I failed at everything else I did at the church, because I received no support. I was called on to write books for the pastor, but a strange lady was put in charge of the projects, and she never followed through. I was allowed to cook in the kitchen, but I was undermined in everything I did, and they eventually demanded that I show up to cook even though I was not allowed sufficient display space to earn the church more than a few dollars.

At first, I was oblivious to what was going on. I wasn’t receiving the level of revelation that I receive now. I didn’t realize I had been used and wasted. I assumed the leaders of the church were on fire for the Holy Spirit, just as so many of the members were. But I grew more discerning, and I wised up. I realized that the church was a sort of plantation. A healthy church is dedicated to helping people grow in the work God has planned for them. This church seemed to be dedicated to promoting one family, at the expense of everyone else. Nobody outside of the family went on to a bigger ministry within the church, except for one pastor who was allowed to run services at the church’s old campus, which was remote and very small. Even then, the original plan was to send video from the main church, featuring the head pastor, and he often commuted back and forth so he could teach at both churches. Last I heard, he was still doing that, so I would be surprised if the other pastor has any real authority.

The church failed financially, even though the leaders decided to serve a second master by turning unused space into an office rental complex. They got desperate for money, and they started teaching ridiculous doctrine based on the asinine heresy of Steve Munsey, a prosperity preacher and fundraiser. They started claiming people were obligated to donate large amounts of money on Jewish holidays, and that God would not bless them unless they did. I probably put a stop to that. I debunked the whole business publicly, and they’ve moved to a different set of offerings with different pitches. I probably cost them six figures a year. That doesn’t bother me. I didn’t want to see poor people cheated.

I started praying for God to find me a new church, and I wasn’t alone. Leaders who were serious Christians started leaving, even though they wouldn’t admit anything was wrong. There was a remarkable exodus. I think the church is still reeling from it. The insiders pointed fingers and lied about the folks who left, trying to stop the bleeding, but the move came from God, so it couldn’t be resisted by carnal means.

The man who was in charge of all 700+ volunteers left. He was also an Armorbearer. The head Armorbearer left. His successor left. When I heard how much the successor loved his new church, I started interrogating him. It sounded promising. I thought it was up near Coral Springs, which would have been too far to drive, but he told me it was actually south of the old church. I couldn’t believe he hadn’t told me sooner! Right away, I started visiting. Then I had a falling out with the head pastor of the old church, because I was discrediting the Munsey nonsense, and I decided to make the move permanent. I was at New Dawn Ministries to stay.

I tell that long, boring story to get to this: now that I’m at New Dawn, I can’t get used to it. I’m so accustomed to carnality, obstruction, abuse, corruption, and disappointment, it’s hard for me to get used to being in a healthy church.

When God gives me a revelation, and I mention it to the pastor, he doesn’t say, “That’s great, Steve,” and walk off while clearly hoping I won’t continue the conversation. He doesn’t say something weaselly, like, “That’s not the direction we’re headed in at the moment.” He usually agrees with me. Often, he has already had the same revelation. Sometimes he mentions these things in his sermons, naming me in the process. Last week, he had me preach for ten or fifteen minutes. He didn’t take a good idea and steal it, so he could present it and get the credit. He let me deliver it personally.

I’m not claiming I should be credited with discovering God’s secrets. I don’t come up with God’s ideas, but I suppose that if he chooses me to receive an idea, he expects me to present it. Generally, the prophets’ names are on the books they wrote, even though those books were filled with the word of God. There is no prophetic book labeled “The Book of Anonymous.”

When I talk to other church members, they don’t look at me like I’m from Mars, they way they sometimes did at the other church. They nod their heads and add their own revelations. We confirm each other’s God-given notions. We don’t struggle and bicker. We don’t always agree one hundred percent, but overall, we’re focused and united.

We act on God’s word. The other church didn’t do that. We evangelize and give things to the poor. At the old church, the charity wing did virtually nothing for people. Once in a while, they would receive a gift of turkeys or boots or something, and they’d pass stuff out in front of cameras, but it was all intended to generate publicity. The church had a paid PR director who was not a member, and she contacted news organizations to draw attention to things we did.

The Holy Spirit is all over New Dawn. Half the time, Pastor Albert can’t even preach. He’ll have a sermon worked up, but the Holy Spirit will put a stop to it, and we’ll end up hearing prophecy or praying or doing something else God has planned for us.

I don’t have to explain simple things to these people. They know prayer in tongues is key. Most of them understand that Obama is an enemy to Israel and the church. They understand that we have to support Israel. They know there’s a lot of poisonous crap on TBN. I don’t have to fight them all the time. At the old church, people are stuck in preschool. You can’t make progress there, because few people ever get past the fundamentals. They’ve been taught that all God wants to do is take their money and make them healthy and successful. They don’t understand that they have to let God change them. They think they’re doing everything right, because no one has the guts to tell them they need to grow.

Our church has a new affiliate in Winter Haven. We helped launch it. Yesterday, the pastor went on Facebook and put up a photo of himself standing with two people I don’t even know. He said they went to New Dawn to learn about the Holy Spirit, because they read my blog. I couldn’t believe it. I used to have a hard time recommending the old church. I got to the point where I recommended other churches. Now I have a church I can sell with confidence, and people are actually listening, and the pastors are with me.

I don’t know what to do. I feel like a dog that just climbed up on the couch. I literally feel as though someone should be scolding me, telling me it was all a mistake. I wait for the other shoe to drop, but there is no other shoe.

At my old church, I was treated with contempt. I had an inkling before today, but I’m just starting to understand how deep it ran and how much it damaged me. I feel like a refugee. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s always bad to find out you’ve been used, but it’s particularly painful when you learn you’ve been used while you were trying to serve God.

To explain this kind of sensation, I like to refer to a kibbutznik I knew. He sometimes worked in the dining hall on Kibbutz Geva. He had lived through the Holocaust, and he had known starvation. When he worked in the kitchen, people had to go behind him and search the cabinets. He used to hide food in them, compulsively. It was 1984, and poverty was forty years behind him, but in his heart, he could not believe it. That’s how I feel at New Dawn. I keep waiting for a slap that will never come.

Oppression is a hateful thing, and it can also be extremely insidious. If I had continued going to the old church, and I had not prayed in tongues and received revelation, I would still be there right now, blaming and condemning myself. I’d be a slave and a prisoner of my own mindset. Like a battered wife. Like the Hebrews who longed to abandon Moses and go back to the cruel mercies of the Egyptians.

The injury is bigger than I thought. And if I have it, so do many of my friends. It makes me want to consider other past injuries incurred in the same way. It makes me want to look for other ways in which I need to get free.

Like I’ve said before, no one is without sin, but not everyone is a jerk. There are plenty of people who don’t even know God, yet who will bless you and improve you instead of turning you into a slave. There is no reason to stay where you’re supposed to become part of the body of a selfish man instead of part of the body of Christ.

There is no shame in slavery, if the master is perfect. God is always right. He is always generous. He always leads you into the things that will bring you fulfillment and success. It’s right to be God’s slave. Submitting to a man is another story. It’s very dangerous. You will always have to put limits on your devotion, because no man is a perfect master.

I don’t write these things in anger or bitterness. I am writing out of amazement. I am amazed how strong my church is, and I am amazed at how much hidden harm the other church did. I have no interest in getting even. I’m contemplating and exploring the prospect of getting free.

If a pastor is handing you a line of BS, telling you you’re the problem, and you’re in touch with the Holy Spirit, and you know better, get out. You can do better. I never thought I’d say this, but sometimes staying home is better than going to church. If you have no other choice, stay home and pray. Don’t suffer under the hand of Laban.

If the yoke isn’t easy, someone other than God built it. I hope people will take that to heart and serve God instead of successors to Pharaoh.

I Received no Consulting Fees for Writing This Blog Entry

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Plus a Pork Tour de Force

I should be working on my amp cabinet, but I just can’t. I’m high on pork.

I made an impulse buy at Costco the other day. How shocking. They had two pounds of smoked pulled pork for eight bucks. How could I turn that down? Besides, I think I would buy a leaky bag of anthrax spores if it said “Kirkland” on it.

Today I decided to prepare it.

I was considering putting it in a calzone. It would work as lechon asado, so I could make pan con lechon with Swiss cheese. That’s an unbelievable sandwich. Or I could experiment: BBQ pulled pork calzone.

In the end, I went with Texas toast.

I made a loaf of homemade bread, which takes about four minutes of work. I threw some cole slaw together, and I bought a baking potato, which I nuked (cheating) and then stuck in the oven to finish. I made my own BBQ sauce, and I sliced an onion.

I fried the onion in some old beef fat/peanut oil I used for fries. I used cast iron. I tossed the pork in, flambeed it in Jack Daniel’s, and tossed it with sauce. I fried two slices of bread in butter, which is just plain wrong. Then I sat down and ate.

Oh, man. I can’t describe it. As sold by Costco, the pork is not quite as good as pork you smoke on your own. But it’s more than adequate. It’s tender, and it has a nice hickory flavor. The stuff I put in it just melted into the meat. The bread was crunchy and drippy and buttery and yeasty. I think I may faint.

The cole slaw was also a cheat. I bought shredded cabbage and carrots in a bag and added my own stuff. I don’t think it makes much difference. I can’t shred cabbage any better than a factory can.

The potato was not quite right, but the wonderful thing about potatoes is that screwing them up can make them better. This one ended up with parts that were a little too chewy, and it may sound stupid, but they were wonderful. If I were cooking seriously, I wouldn’t go near the microwave, but this was just lunch, and the potato was great.

This sandwich was so good, it was sobering. Sometimes food makes you giddy. When it’s really good, it’s almost scary. It will make you serious. It will make you wonder how good food can get. That’s the situation I am dealing with today.

I can’t believe God lets me cook like this. What is the purpose? I can’t eat it all. I threw out a lot of my lunch because you can’t eat like that and expect to live.

I have an idea. My new church is thinking about feeding the poor. I’m all for this, and I’ll help, PROVIDED they do it right. There is no reason the poor can’t have the best food in Miami. The cost of food has no relationship to the quality. It’s all in the preparation. I’m thinking pulled pork sandwiches might be a good way to go. At most, the pork will cost $1.50 per pound. Homemade bread is almost free. Sauce ingredients aren’t expensive. Neither is slaw. For three bucks a head, we should be able to pretty well stun the poor, as well as the volunteers and anyone else who comes around.

We would need a couple of chafing dishes plus a big propane skillet. That’s about it.

Speaking of the poor, I learned something about a local nonprofit today. My old church has a charity wing. I know someone who went to them for help. He claimed they sat him in front of a computer and showed him links to places that could help him out. Did they give him money or groceries? He said no, although he had given money to the church in the past.

In the recent Pentecost fundraising drive (“Five Victories of Pentecost”), the leadership said they were going to give the special Pentecost offerings to the poor, via their charity wing. I ran that by my dad, the non-Christian attorney. He said, “So he’s paying HIMSELF.” The conflict of interest was not subtle. If you run a church, and you ask the congregation to give money to a charity, and you run the charity, and the charity pays you, what are you really doing? Maybe you’re not taking any money out, but what if you are? Shouldn’t donors be told how much and for what?

Out of curiosity, I Googled, and I came up with a PDF of some Canadian government documents. They say the church’s charity wing lost its nonprofit status in Canada in 2010, because they failed to respond to requests that they open their books and show that they were doing what charities do.

Okay, let’s be fair. This could be irresponsibility. This would not be a big surprise, given what I have observed personally. So far, what I’ve said doesn’t prove dishonesty. But here’s something one of the letters said: “The Organization’s only expenses for the period under audit were for non-charitable ‘Professional and consulting fees.’ The Organization did not report any expenses in support of the ‘ongoing programs’ as described in question C2 of its T3010s.”

You run an outfit which is supposed to be a charity; it’s supposed to give stuff to the poor. But as far as the Canadian government can tell, ALL–not some–of your expenses are for “Professional and consulting fees.”

You can see why it disturbed me. “Consulting” is a good excuse for organizations to funnel money to people who don’t really do anything of value. Michelle Obama made huge money “consulting.” And I think it’s fair to assume that none of the fees mentioned by the Canadians were paid to the poor (who are rarely hired as consultants). If a charity pays consultants, yet it gives nothing to the poor, what, exactly, is the point of the consulting? What are the consultants helping them do? Consultants are supposed to give advice. I think the obvious suggestion would be, “Stop giving all of the money to consultants and professionals and give something to the needy.”

Other websites say the charity received six figures a year. How can all of that money go to consulting and “professional” services?

Maybe there’s a legitimate explanation, but it doesn’t look good, does it?

A full-blown grifter–a charlatan with no intention of doing anything but getting rich–might leave a trail just like this. Money in, no services provided, and lots of expenditures for vague “fees.” So while the PDF doesn’t prove anything crooked is going on, if something crooked WERE going on, it would not look much different. I have decided to show the PDF to some friends and see what they think.

In any case, it shows I was right to quit giving them money. A long time ago, I realized they asked for money and then told donors nearly nothing about how it was spent. By “nearly nothing,” I mean I did not receive accountings showing how much money was taken in and how it was spent. I cut them off, apart from church offerings. I found transparent, trustworthy ministries and charities to give to.

They didn’t tell me where the money went. That’s bad. Reputable charities send out reports accounting for their donations. But failing to cooperate with the government of Canada…that’s another level of bad. It shows they don’t deserve money from anyone. If they’re that irresponsible or incompetent, how can you expect them to spend their money effectively?

What if they’re really helping the poor? Shouldn’t they keep books that prove it? What’s the down side? Jesus told us we were to keep quiet about giving, but he was referring to individuals, not ministries. Besides, before Pentecost, the pastor got up and told the congregation he and his wife were giving a thousand dollars in the Pentecost drive. Obviously, he is not concerned about hiding his good deeds.

This isn’t the only nonprofit that keeps things quiet. Kenneth Copeland refused to open his books when Congress came calling. On Youtube, there’s a video in which Copeland explains that Congress is full of evil people who do Satan’s bidding, and that he, as God’s representative on earth, is not accountable to them. That’s not really what he said, but it’s not that far off. If he’s not open with Congress, he’s not open with his donors, either, because if the donors had the information, it would have been impossible to keep it away from Congress, so he would have complied.

How can anyone give money to a man like that? What possible reason could he have for refusing to tell retirees and people on disability what he does with their money? He is incredibly wealthy. It didn’t all come from penny stocks and brilliant commodity trades made on a pastor’s salary; I guarantee that. Why won’t he tell us how he got where he is?

It’s sad, but Christians are so brainwashed about submission to authority, they can’t see it when the devil himself walks up the aisle and picks up the collection plate. Jesus said we should be as harmless as doves, but he also said we should be as wise as serpents. A man who won’t explain himself to his flock has no business handling other people’s money.

I pray for God to help the leaders at my old church get it together, but I also pray he throws them out and brings better pastors in. I hope they improve, but I don’t think the congregation should suffer while they learn. They’ve had a long time to get it right, and it’s not right for thousands of people to have poor leadership just so a few folks can hold onto their jobs.

My faith tells me God is replacing them, and as I have noted before, the scuttlebutt is that the head pastor is on his way out. I didn’t hear about that until after I prayed for the leaders to be replaced.

In other news, my latest amp now almost has a home. Here’s a photo.

I am not a great upholsterer, but it looks wonderful. I don’t know how to handle the inside corners in the ivory panel. I am considering experimenting with a heat gun. The vinyl will have to be stretched, if the job is to look professional. As it is, I may have to mask it with some sort of metal or plastic things I screw into the corners, over the vinyl.

The amp sounds magnificent. I can’t stop playing it. It sings. I still have some 120 Hz hum to get rid of, but it’s not bad enough to be a major concern. Once I get it fixed, I’m moving on to my 4-EL84 version.

Stay away from that Costco pork. I am just now starting to come down.

More

I’m really not sure what’s going on. I have been re-reading the Canadian government’s documents, which you can find here:

Link to Canadian gov’t documents.

The organization that had its nonprofit credentials revoked is headquartered in Miami, and it belongs (or belonged) to the head pastor of the church. But it doesn’t have the name the church’s charity wing uses. The Canadians were puzzled by this, too. In trying to get information, they looked at the current charity’s website.

Now I have to wonder: is it even the same outfit? Is it possible they let this organization lapse (irresponsible, but not inherently crooked) while setting up the new one? That would explain why they ignored inquiries from Canada.

If we were talking about a responsible organization like The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, there would be no questions. They publish and mail an annual report to their donors, and it accounts for all of the money they receive. I know Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s salary, because of that report. With my old church and its affiliates, who knows? Maybe they generally let people look at their books, but for some reason, they decided to shut Canada out. Maybe everything they do is legal and ethical. I have no idea. I don’t recall receiving any annual reports.

The organization the Canadians disqualified used this language in describing its purpose:

[T]o evangelize and educate young people and their families regarding drugs, suicide, and moral values

That doesn’t sound like what the current charity is purportedly doing. As far as I know, they occasionally round stuff up and send it to Haiti, and as I’ve said, they refer poor people to organizations that give them assistance. So maybe it’s a different body entirely.

Here is how the charity’s website describes its activities:

When a person in need enters our office we will immediately hear the person’s need and respond with appropriate resources. Often the response will be a referral to another resource. [Italics mine.]

Anyway, I don’t want to be unfair. The church’s charity has one name, and the organization in the Canadian documents has another, so they may be different entities, and it is completely possible that the church’s charity is doing more for the poor than I suspect.

Where is Les Nessman?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Back up the Truck

I’ll tell you what. If you walk by faith, and you pay attention to what happens around you, you will see God’s confirmation all the time.

I wrote about the food drive at my church. It wasn’t going well. The congregation got lectured for it, and we were urged to fix the problem. I did what I always do. I asked the Holy Spirit if I should give. The answer was “no,” so I drove my happy behind home and didn’t stop at a grocery store.

Here’s what a church member posted on Facebook today:

It really breaks my heart when people who got it, takes from the poor! Yesterday I saw an individual at church getting a turkey. Come to find out him and his wife have at least 7 turkeys at his house already. My God you don’t need it why be greedy and take from the ones who really needs a turkey? Stop acting like you ain’t got it, where infact you have more than 90% of the world that is homeless or have nothing! Where is that persons heart and compassion?

The church gave away a giant pile of turkeys. Hundreds. I didn’t know about it until yesterday. I’m sure they mentioned it in the announcements, but I’m usually working when those things air, and I have no attention span anyway. Apparently, there was no accountability. You want a turkey? You got it. So some turkeys went to the poor, and some went to God knows who. Turkey collectors, I guess.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein makes a good living running a huge charity, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. They pass out hundreds of millions of dollars per year. They don’t whine. They don’t air video of poor Jews and ask you how you can live with yourself if you don’t give. They just point out the needs and remind us that our gifts please God and make us part of prophecy. They put out an annual report. I know where the money goes. I know what the Rabbi earns. SOLD. That’s how you do it.

You Cannot Serve Two Masters

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

So Someone Cancel God’s Backstage Pass

Still thinking about the “seven blessings of Passover.”

I consulted a couple of authorities about this. One is an expert on both Judaism and Christianity, and he is a charismatic. His take? He knew of no such thing as a Passover offering. The closest major offering on the Jewish calender comes at Shavuot, or Pentecost. So unless he is mistaken, the notion that Jews went to Jerusalem and gave big offerings on Passover is wrong. I think this is a bad doctrine which has many good people deceived, just like the doctrine that says we can command angels.

The person I consulted did not flat-out state that the blessings idea was crazy, but he did say it sounded like “a gimmick.”

I haven’t heard from the other guy–“Rabbi” Aaron–yet. He’s no Christian, but he would definitely know if there were a special offering requirement at Passover.

This new doctrine concerns me, because it seems to be part of a bigger pattern of heaping excessive burdens on believers, to no constructive effect. Charismatics have developed a habit of begging people for money, and sometimes they are downright obnoxious. It doesn’t hurt the people who never give, but what about those who do? Do they really need to be told they’re still not doing enough for God? It’s a good way to drive the sincerest, most supernaturally powerful people to other churches, or out of church completely. Especially when the money the churches are already getting is being spent badly. People see that, and they think about it when they are asked to give.

I think Satan comes up with this prosperity stuff in order to destroy the reputation of Christianity, and to kill churches by discouraging the core members.

Some teachers tend to give us the impression that the more money we give God, the more money he will give us. But Obadiah mortgaged his house to keep a bunch of prophets alive, and he died in debt, with his house in foreclosure. God gave his widow enough oil to sell to pay off the loan. But the Bible doesn’t say anything about riches.

I believe that if you’re in God’s will, he will give you no more money than you can handle safely, regardless of how much you give him. If you had a maladjusted, greedy kid who did things for you in order to get you to jack up his allowance, and you knew he would spend it on porn and $750 alligator shoes and tobacco and other such garbage, would you give in? Of course not. Not if you loved him. People try not to give their kids things that will reinforce their weaknesses. Surely God is as smart as a human parent or an addiction counselor. If God lets you have more money than is good for you, it has to mean he’s chastising or giving up on you, even though it looks like a blessing.

God does give up on people. Read the Bible before you contradict me. I could give you a dozen proofs. Here’s one word that will suffice. “Herod.”

I know of a couple of addicts. One is filthy rich. His name is Charlie Sheen. No one can help him, because he has so much money, he doesn’t have to listen to people who want to save him. He lives in a Satanic stronghold with money walls. Barring divine intervention, they’ll wheel his dead body out of one of his homes pretty soon.

The other addict had a lot of money and spent it all, plus money taken from others. This person is clinging to a miserable existence, trying to avoid going to rehab, but it’s not going to work. Poverty, probably a gift from God, is going to force the issue soon. Which addict is more blessed? Which one is God helping? The rich one or the poor one?

Incidentally, the poor one has given a lot of money to prosperity preachers. This person even gave ill-gotten money to them. How about that? Where is that hundredfold return they like to talk about? My answer: it’s not coming. Call me the devil. I repeat myself: unless God decides to let this person fall deeper into depravity, it’s not coming.

Rehab is coming, and that’s better than money, which would only act as a poison.

The other day I heard Perry Stone admit that maybe God wasn’t going to give all of us a huge financial return on our donations. That’s a huge thing for a charismatic preacher to say. He believes we are supposed to be prosperous, so he’s not on the other team.

He probably got a thousand angry emails from greedy preachers. I’ll bet there are other TV preachers who would ban him from their shows for saying things like that. I believe he’s an honest man, and I’m positive God reveals things to him, so I would listen to him before I paid attention to one of the many preachers whose TV shows are really just infomercials.

Incidentally, I’ve come to see ministries and charities the way parents see kids. You want to bless them, but over time, you learn that giving foolishly will not help them, and it will reduce your own wealth. You have to be very, very careful what you give to ministries and charities. Jesus said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

As a believer, I am holy. My money is holy. My possessions are holy (hmm…maybe I should thin out my CD collection). So what Jesus said applies to the things I give to ministries and charities. If they behave like dogs and swine, I have no business spoiling them further.

God told us we have to be good stewards. In parables, he showed us that he rewards those who take their blessings and use them to advance his kingdom. Remember the servants with the silver talents? If we throw our money at irresponsible clergymen, we are not good stewards. If I give (or withhold) stupidly, I am destroying the wealth God gave me, instead of using it to do his will. Why should I expect him to give me his backing?

If you go to a church and see waste and neglect, you have to realize that if you give them things without thinking, those things will be taken for granted and destroyed, giving victory to Satan. So you have an obligation to God, who gave you good things, to try not to give anything that will be abused. You can’t expect perfection, and a certain amount of waste is inevitable, but when it’s egregious and systematic, it’s time to look for other places to put your disposable money, time, and possessions.

This obsession with giving money in order to get rich is disturbing, because it has turned Christianity into a supernatural Ponzi scheme. They tell you to give, and God will give you money. Then you give, and you don’t get blessed. So they tell you you didn’t give enough. So you give more, and you’re still not blessed. Then they tell you that you’re being tested, so you have to keep giving until you get your miracle harvest. A few years down the road, your savings are diminished, your earnings have not increased, you’re still as carnal as you can be (because they didn’t want to “judge” you by teaching you different) and they’re still telling you the money is right around the corner. But it’s not. Because you listened to men and not God.

Will God bless you for supporting ministries? Sure. I believe it. But which ministries? And how much money should you give? I don’t think God is going to bless you for giving your 401(k) to Kenneth Copeland or to a pastor who is focusing on the wrong things. I really don’t. How is God supposed to teach us, if he blesses us when we do stupid things?

Here is my question for the over-the-top prosperity preachers. If what you’re teaching is true, why isn’t it working?

Seriously, where are the millionaires you promised us? I mean ordinary church members, not people who live on tithes and offerings. Show them to me, and I’ll shut up. Show me this works for most people. I’ll settle for 75%. Ten or twenty people out of an entire church…that doesn’t even begin to cut it. If it’s not working, it must be wrong, so why do you keep teaching it?

Every church has a few people who get rich while they are members. That proves nothing. The same thing would be true of any large group of people chosen at random, whether or not they went to church. For this doctrine to appear true, we would have to see huge numbers of newly rich Christians. They do not exist.

And if giving in order to receive is so important, why do you talk so little about the real promises God made? Over and over, he promises to bless us with earthly prosperity for giving to THE POOR. We almost never hear about those promises. No, it’s always Malachi, because Malachi talks about giving to the temple, i.e. some TV preacher who won’t even open his books.

I may be a Christian, and I guess that means I’m stupid, but I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. I fully understand why people say self-serving things a lot and talk very little about things that help others. It’s because greed and lust for glory have blinded them to that which is obvious. Preach Psalm 41, which is about the poor, and no one will give you any money. It will go to the awful poor instead! What good is that? Please turn to the book of Malachi…

Otherwise-reasonable teachers have come up with a hundred different ways to rationalize sating their flesh; they have even decided that it’s God’s idea. And people who disagree…servants of the devil! Pray for them! They’re being used to keep God’s church in poverty!

Anyway, the ancient Jews did not believe in seven blessings of the Passover, nor did they take huge offerings at that time of year, so until I hear a good defense of this notion, I won’t believe in it, either. If we’re going to flirt with Judaizing, let’s at least be consistent with Jewish beliefs.

Speaking of Jews, I believe the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is a very safe charity. I believe God created it, and he is blessing it powerfully, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The work it does is beyond reproach, as far as I can tell, and it appears to be part of biblical prophecy. They feed the poor, they move poor Jews to Israel, they defend Israel from the lies of the left-wing press, they provide care for abandoned elderly Jews in the former USSR…I just can’t say enough about them. They are even giving Christians a good name in Israel, and that has never happened before. I believe God will reward you, right here on earth, if the Spirit tells you to give to this charity.

As for well-known ministries, I think Perry Stone is worthy of support. I believe he was called by God; I don’t think he called himself, the way so many others have. I also like John Bevere.

If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but right now, I just don’t see it.

Charge Your SEED GIFT at 20% Interest!

Monday, March 14th, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven, on the Monthly Minimum Payment

Today I feel like the Holy Spirit is just SITTING on me. Not every minute, but from time to time. It’s a very odd sensation. I think we’re supposed to live like this all the time. I hope that’s true; it’s extremely pleasant.

This happens to me a lot, and I always wonder why God doesn’t do something spectacular while it’s in progress. Why not let me hear an audible voice, or give me a vision, or–I don’t know–something involving special effects. I mean, he’s RIGHT HERE. Maybe he could instantly make me a better person. I know a lot of people who would appreciate that.

But that does not seem to be his style. Maybe God is careful about handing out overly abundant displays of power, because he prefers faith to knowledge. If God does enough wild things in your life, sooner or later, you have natural knowledge of his power, in addition to supernatural faith. He does not seem to like that. Not if his reaction to Thomas’s doubt is any clue.

I think I got a pretty decent revelation today, even if nobody parted the Red Sea.

As people who read my blog know, I’m a charismatic, but I have a very dim view of many prosperity preachers. They teach people that God has to give them money if they give him (via the prosperity preachers) money, and that he will multiply their offerings back to them. This is not true. At least, it’s not true the way they teach it.

For one thing, about one in a thousand of these guys talks about charity. It’s always, “send ME your ‘seed gift.'” I am reminded of what my great uncle said. He said he would love to give money to the Lord, but he could not find anyone he could trust to take it to him. Many of the prosperity guys blather endlessly about blessing their self-exalting, personality-cult ministries. That’s just wrong.

The other thing…they whine and manipulate. You’re supposed to have the Holy Spirit inside you, telling you what to do, and that includes giving. If all you have is the Bible, you obey that, but it’s very general. The Holy Spirit is specific. It will tell you who to give to, and how much. Nowhere does the Bible (or the Spirit) say to obey the voice of a whining, manipulative person. These guys go on the air with apocryphal, undocumented stories about people who gave them cash and then received money, and they tell us we’re going to “miss out on the blessing” (like God is a package of cheese with an expiration date), and they try to make us feel guilty for not putting fuel in their private planes. If you have to beg me for money, clearly, God is not blessing you. So go away.

Shouldn’t we realize something is wrong, when a man of God uses time-tested, notorious methods commonly used by car salesmen?

The Bible says we should support ministries, and it even gives specific promises for people who give to the poor. It says we lend to the Lord, and he will repay. It says we will be blessed on the earth. It says God will keep us alive and heal our diseases. It says God will not let our enemies defeat us.

Where does it say we should buy rich whiners more stuff?

Why should I support some character who does nothing but teach people they should give him money? How is that a ministry? I can move poor Jews to Israel. I can pay for air time for ministries that teach people how to connect with the Holy Spirit. I can buy vaccines for people in Sudan. I can pile my money up and burn it. Even that is probably less offensive to God than giving money to a lying weasel who begs in God’s name.

I feel the same way about bums. Come to think about it, they’re about the same as greedy preachers. They’re living in sin, and they want us to finance it. The bum’s iniquity is addiction. The preacher’s iniquity is greed. You don’t subsidize iniquity. This is why people throw their drug addict sons and daughters out in the street. Rewarding sin is not a good deed. It’s evil. And if you reward sin so you can look good to others…wow.

So I guess it’s obvious that I find many prosperity preachers irritating. I think they take God’s name in vain every time they ask for money, and I believe they will be judged for it publicly when they die. They waste the resources of God’s people, and they turn us bitter and drive us to shut off our generosity, which is essential to our own growth. They cause us to offend, and we all know what the reward for that is.

That being said, today I realized three ministries I support have brought me real, obvious benefits. God is definitely rewarding me for being associated with them. I’m not getting UNEXPECTED CHECKS FOR EXACTLY THE AMOUNT OF MONEY I NEEDED or INCREDIBLE JOB OFFERS THAT CAME IN THE NICK OF TIME or TUMORS THAT MAGICALLY FALL OFF AND RUIN THE CARPET, or any of that other nonsense we always hear about on TV, but I’m getting some wonderful teaching, I’m making fantastic connections with other believers, and I am helping advance God’s plan.

That’s my big revelation. I think God has told me who he wants me to help, and I believe I will be rewarded even more handsomely now that the Holy Spirit is aiming the bombs.

If you think I’m too hard on prosperity nuts, try this. Send ten thousand dollars to a hardcore prosperity preacher who rarely mentions the poor, and see what happens. Just try it, observe the result, and make up your own mind. TV preachers like to tell us that Malachi said to test God with your offerings. Okay, fine. Test the TV preachers.

To see the other side of the issue, pray about good religious charities to fund, try to determine God’s direction, and give. Then remember Psalm 41 in your prayers. Different story. I think I can say that with confidence.

Two of the ministries I like don’t ask for money. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The third is a charity, and they do ask for money, but they do it politely and discreetly, without a lot of whining and guilt-trip laying.

I think Robert Morris would back me up on this. He wrote an interesting book on giving. He does not beg for offerings, and in his book, he said he gave nothing to whiners who tried to play him. He waits for the urging of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t consider the Bible’s admonitions to give to the poor and the church to be operative in an aimless, general way. He waits for specific requests from God.

You may be poor. I don’t care. Maybe God made you poor because you have an iniquity you refuse to confront. The Bible says he does that. When I decide whether to give, your suffering is not the main issue. What matters is my perception of what God wants me to do. It’s easy to give money to miserable-looking people, especially if someone is watching. What’s hard is giving the right thing to the right person. Sometimes the right thing is nothing.

I recently saw Charlie Sheen on TV. The news said he was preparing live shows where he intended to present his drug-warped tirades. They were selling out. Is that a blessing? I looked at him and realized where I would be, had God not hit me with punishments and failures. I would not know God, and I would be making a fool of myself as a way of life. I would think very, very highly of myself, even as I was destroying myself. Failure helped save me. Poverty is the best thing that could happen to Charlie Sheen.

For some people, everything that should be a blessing is a curse and an opportunity to hurt someone else. People like that can only be blessed by what appears to be harm. To such a person, a blessing is a curse.

I have learned that it is just about impossible to curse a good man, and it is equally difficult to bless a bad person. A bad person is like a bag with holes; the blessings run right out. A good person–a person who lives by faith–will invoke God’s power to turn any adversity into a blessing, or to reverse it entirely.

Interesting thing: Perry Stone’s gigantic ministry has ZERO DEBT. How many preachers can say that? It always disturbs me when I hear preachers talking about the projects they’ve started “on faith,” using borrowed money. Show me an example of that in the Bible. Did Noah borrow? Did Solomon? Job? The only example I know of is Obadiah, who mortgaged his house to feed a bunch of prophets. Other than that, as far as I know, the Bible condemns debt. It says the borrower is the servant of the lender. It says a wicked person borrows and does not repay, but a righteous person gives. One of the signs that you are blessed is that people owe you money, because you end up helping less-blessed people from your abundance. Oddly, if you’re paying someone else’s bills, it may mean that you have God’s favor. Owing, on the other hand, is a sign that you’re cursed.

I’ve told God that if he wants me to do stuff for him, it will have to be debt-free. I’m not going to make a mockery of his power by relying on man. I’m not going to make myself man’s slave in order to serve God.

Perry Stone’s ministry is one of the three I plan to put at the top of my list. He says he believes the reason he has no debt is that he blesses Israel and the Jews. It certainly isn’t because he begs. He briefly mentions the need for donations and book sales, but that’s it.

So to sum up, things are going extremely well, and God amazes me more and more, every week. I hope you can read this and pick up some of the same blessings I’ve received.

Shake That Dust Off

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Or be Buried Under It

Sometimes God teaches us in the weirdest ways.

What is God’s work like? It’s like this: he makes great plans for us. He prepares big blessings for us. He brings them to us. And we turn them down. Then he withdraws while we fumble around and waste our lives. He remains with us, but he limits what he does for us, because to endorse what we do would adversely affect his own perfect nature.

Okay. That’s the background.

I joined a church. I started working as an armorbearer. I started working on books with the pastor. I started working in the kitchen.

The book projects disappeared after a new PR exec was hired. I was driven out of the kitchen after a new kitchen manager was hired. I still work as an armorbearer, but I have learned that the good things I want to do in that capacity will be very limited, so I am maintaining a reduced role.

It’s a little crazy. I’m a published author with a literary agent and a lot of ability, and I work fast, and I was willing to work for nothing. As to the kitchen, I was making the church $200 per week, and I could have earned them a lot more, and my food got raves. But I could not get permission to do the good things I wanted to do.

Yesterday I realized God was showing me what his life is like.

God has all sorts of blessings in store for us, waiting like fleets of shrink-wrapped Rolls-Royces in hidden warehouses. He wants to shower us with them. He wants to give us great careers, wonderful spouses, healthy families, and intimate relationships with him. He wants to turn us into powerful warriors who are able to harness the same might that built the galaxies. He wants us to see our prayers answered. He wants to work miracles through us. He wants to make tumors vanish. He wants to raise our dead.

And we say, “No, thanks! We have a better idea!”

I tried to bless my church, but I hit resistance, and now I have to sit back and do nothing, even though I still want to be a blessing.

Blessing a Christian, even for another Christian, is like trying to feed an angry baby. Even if you get the spoon in, they spit the food all over the kitchen. You can only succeed where God has chosen and prepared the field of battle in advance. You can only succeed when he has given you flesh and spirit allies. And you can only succeed where people are willing to shut up and accept the blessing.

You see this demonstrated over and over in the Bible. God had a great idea, but Eve thought she had a better one, and the result was a long-lasting curse on all mankind. God had a great idea, but the rebellious angels thought they had a better one, so they interbred with humans and gave us forbidden technology, and the result was the flood. God had a great idea, but the ten spies thought they had a better one, and the result was that hundreds of thousands of people died in the desert, a few miles from the Promised Land. The prophets brought the Jews great ideas from God, and the Jews thought they had better ideas, so they murdered them. God gave the great idea of undeserved power and help to the Christian church, and we decided we had a better idea: we would get God’s help by being good, without the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The result was two thousand years of impotence before Satan, who has ruled as a god even though he lost his title at the crucifixion.

We were supposed to raise the dead and cast out demons and heal the sick. By and large, we have failed. Miracles became so rare in the early centuries of Christianity that people began traveling to places like Lourdes because they could not get help in their own churches. We now have a Catholic church that gives the official title of “saint” to a person who performs three measly miracles! That’s ridiculous! Every Christian should see more miracles than that, every year!

We are weak and blind and poor and lame, as supernatural beings, because we preferred our own brilliant notions to God’s tired old plans.

Before the Jews existed, men rejected Yahweh. The Jews came along, and they rejected Jesus. Christians came along, and we rejected the Holy Spirit. We are no better than the people we gloat over. We are pathetic. We have no humility. We think we’re superior to our predecessors, but we’re as blind as everyone who came before us. It’s like I always say: if Jesus came back today, we would trample each other trying to be first in line to crucify him.

If Jesus came back right now, he would tell us (as he did two thousand years ago) that he came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit. He would tell us it was essential to our growth and success. He would tell us to pray in tongues, worship, pray with our understanding, praise God, fast, and study. He would tell us to quit worrying so much about doing good and worry about BECOMING good, through the Holy Spirit’s transforming power. And we would tell him he was crazy, because we like to think we can earn our blessings. Jesus was crucified two thousand years ago so he could give us power and help through our faith, and we still want him to give us what we earn by our own effort, and we think that’s more righteous than being given things we don’t deserve. We think God helps those who helps themselves, but that’s not in the Bible. That’s pure pride. That’s Satan talking. God helps those who believe and obey in their hearts.

Did Lazarus earn his resurrection? Did the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda earn his legs back? Find me a person in the New Testament who received a healing because he or she obeyed the law. The most blessed person in the New Testament was Cornelius, and he got God’s attention by praying, giving to the poor, and fearing God, not by approaching perfection under his own power. He was a Roman soldier! He made a living ordering people to kill other people! God saved him and all his house, and he poured the Holy Spirit into them. Meanwhile, many of the religious Jews studied the scriptures all day and tithed on the worthless crap they grew in their herb gardens, and God blew right by them.

Jesus burns with desire to give us power and blessings we can’t deserve, and we are determined to get by with the garbage (Paul called it “dung”) we get by our own strength.

Read the Bible. I’m not making it up. See what Paul said about earning salvation and blessings. It can’t be done.

One of the things I wrestle with as a Christian is the issue of giving up on other people. I’ve heard all sorts of testimonies about Christians who struggled for decades with sinners, trying to get them to change. After years of abuse, they finally saw results. Glory to God. But are we supposed to behave that way? I don’t think so. God doesn’t behave that way.

God told the disciples that when they were rejected in a town, they should shake the dust off their shoes and leave. God removed Lot’s family from Sodom and Gomorrah and drowned those cities in burning sulphur. God killed Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts. God destroyed the temple in Jerusalem twice. The doctrine of unlimited patience seems inconsistent with the Bible. If God himself doesn’t abide by it, why should we?

I think you show patience until you realize you’re wasting your time (which belongs to God), and then you move on. You continue to pray, but you reduce your earthly involvement. Otherwise, you end up endorsing stubbornness and rebellion, and your own character becomes corrupted. Repeated failure leads to learned helplessness, and after that, backsliding is inevitable.

Paul said more or less the same thing. He mentioned a man who slept with his father’s concubine. Paul didn’t just abandon this man; he turned him over to Satan so his body could be destroyed and the punishment would drive him to repent. What if Paul came back and did that today? Christians would shriek at him. You’re supposed to embrace EVERYBODY, ALL THE TIME! INCLUDE, INCLUDE, INCLUDE! Turn the other cheek! Imagine a multimillionaire TV evangelist telling Satan to come get somebody! It will never happen.

I’m sorry, but I side with Paul. You give people a reasonable amount of time and effort, and then you cut them off and let them fail. Otherwise, you’re an enabler. You’re helping Satan prevent them from growing up.

There is a dangerous idea spreading in churches: you are not supposed to say anything negative. Find that in the Bible for me. Read the prophets. Their writings were corrective, not laudatory. God didn’t raise prophets up to say, “Way to GO, Jews!” He raised them up to let people know they were headed off cliffs. Jesus himself was very, very negative much of the time. He whipped the moneychangers. He called the Judaism of the Pharisees “the synagogue of Satan.” He ridiculed the rabbis publicly. He even called Peter “Satan.”

Without criticism, there is no growth. The inexpressible value of criticism is the sole reason God wants us to be humble. A humble person will accept criticism and improve. A proud person will be like a clay jar that has been fired with flaws uncorrected. His neck, like the neck of the finished jar, will be stiff, and he will only be fit for the garbage dump. Hell is full of positive thinkers.

Find me a happy prophet who doesn’t criticize. I don’t mean a lying weasel who travels from church to church receiving big offerings for telling pastors what they want to hear. I mean a prophet in the Bible. There isn’t a single example. It’s even reflected in our language. Look up the word “jeremiad,” which was named for Jeremiah. It doesn’t mean “pep talk.” And you might be aware that one of the Bible’s prophetic books is called “Lamentations.” Find me the book of Congratulations. I must have overlooked it.

Gossip is wrong. Complaining with no godly purpose is wrong. But warning people isn’t merely right; it’s a commandment. God himself told us we would bear the sins of people we did not correct. Whom should I listen to? God, or itinerant Pastor Happy McFeelgood?

It’s right to offer constructive criticism, and it’s right to avoid getting overly entangled in situations you can’t fix. Imagine if Moses had stayed in Egypt and tried to reform the Pharaohs. He would have died there in obscurity, and his mission would have gone unfulfilled.

I believe God is telling me to respect my mortality and my limitations. Even with God behind me, there is a limit to what I will accomplish in this world, and I have to be a good steward of my time and effort. I am supposed to be helpful and patient and hardworking. I am supposed to pray for people (although sometimes that means praying God will discipline them). I am not supposed to get sucked into black holes that consume my valuable days and waste my faith and wreck my morale.

I am going to die. I’m pretty old already, and I don’t have that much time left to do God’s will. I have to allot my time and effort correctly, as led by the Holy Spirit. Stewardship principles apply to everything; it’s not just about money. The world is full of needy people who will listen to me and let me help them. Should I ignore them while I spin my tires with the stubborn? How will I explain that at the judgment seat?

If it annoys people that I say what I say, so be it. Find me a prophet who didn’t annoy people. Man-pleasing is one of the worst sins. We are told to take up our crosses, and that we will be persecuted (largely by other Christians). That tells me that it’s inevitable that plain-speaking Christians will anger other people. Big deal. Other people are puny, and they will die. The one I am trying to please will live forever, and he has infinite power to defend and reward.

I think I understand this lesson correctly, and I am grateful for it. I wish I were not so slow to learn, but there it is.

Now, if anyone wants to scourge me or put me in a cistern, I would appreciate it if they would call and make an appointment.

More Surgery for Penelope

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Many are the Afflictions of the Righteous…

From Heather:

Penelope will be having surgery sometime this afternoon. They will be removing all of the grafts and putting in a drain. Once the infection is cleared, then she will have to have another surgery. Please pray for success.

I am a Restaurant

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

TRIFECTA

I can’t believe how much I accomplished today. I managed to provide my church’s cafe with pizza, garlic rolls, and strawberry cheesecake, all made from scratch.

The Lord kicked in some needed assistance. I already had a sixteen-year-old working with me, and today another kid volunteered. One of my friends runs my prayer group, and he’s an armorbearer, and he’s in charge of all 700 of the church’s volunteers. His eleven-year-old son really wanted to learn how to make pizza, so I put him on the team.

Before half of the day was gone, these two were making pies from the ground up, except for some help with making dough. And I got them to roll out and tie garlic rolls, too. The biggest problem was slowing them down. We made more pies than we could use.

Now I’m enjoying one of the perks of seniority. I get to make other people do the crummiest jobs. But they take a lot of the fun out of it by volunteering for the crummy jobs before I can give the orders.

Church kids are amazing. They never seem to whine or say anything snotty. I did have a problem with them hiding in the refrigerator, but that was only because it was hot in the kitchen. They couldn’t take it. So they got out. You know how that works.

Berries are still very cheap, so I am planning to buy maybe thirty dollars’ worth, turn all of them into the base goo that holds berries onto the cheesecake, and freeze it. Later in the year, when berries are expensive, I’ll have this stuff to rely on. If necessary, I can use goo and no berries. It would still be very good, and it would be cheap.

Florida strawberries are much better than the ones we get from California. Maybe it’s because they aren’t picked green so they can make the long trip. The berries I bought for the cheesecake are nearly as good as wild strawberries, which is saying something.

I may switch over to flan, because cheesecake is expensive and hard to make. We had to charge $3.00 a slice, too. We can probably sell flan for $1.50 a slice and make more money.

We have been giving food away at the end of the night on Tuesdays, and as I feared, people have adopted a strategy of waiting for the free stuff instead of paying. So I’m going to try to put in a new policy: free food for volunteers only. Work in the cafe, or pay. It’s better to throw the food out than give it away to people who are trying to take advantage of the church. I don’t like the idea of throwing out food, but finding a way to get it to people who actually deserve it is impossible.

I am told that the pastor’s wife (also a pastor) wants to keep the cafe open on Tuesdays, which would be a change from the current policy, under which we close it during the service. Her son is in charge of the service, so the two of them will have to get together and make a decision, but it’s starting to look like Tuesdays might become viable again.

I made pizza for the lunch crowd Thursday before last, and I’m told they clamored for it last week. I need to get another student who can work on Thursdays. That means an adult. If God is in it, someone will show up.

Someone asked for the pizza recipe today. My response was that you have to work in the kitchen to get it. Some of these people need to get a little church spirit.

The sauce is better than ever. I improved it with my secret ingredient. It really makes a difference. There isn’t much I can do to make it better.

The rolls are a good idea. It costs around 50 cents to make a dozen, and we get $4.50 for an order that size. They’re also easier to make than pizza.

I had to buy a slice of cheesecake today. I brought an apple and some raw vegetables to keep me alive, but I have to fast tomorrow, and I figured I should indulge. My knees nearly buckled when I took the first bite. I love that stuff.

Now I’m sitting here thinking about it.

I Will Guide Thee With Mine Eye

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Evangelism is Taunting

Christianity is an irrational offshoot of ancient Jewish tribal rituals, and none of it has any basis in fact. I hope everyone understands that. When God seems to do something in your life, it just means you’re primitive and superstitious, and you probably don’t even believe in proven concepts like Global Warming and Marxism.

But…

Yesterday, a blogger who befriended me years ago sent me an email, saying his life had been turned around. He had given up some harmful vices, and he was working on rebuilding his family, and he happened to see my blog and read about the changes in me, and he had questions for me.

I emailed three Christian friends with the news. It was pretty exciting. You know how wee-weed up superstitious people get.

One of those friends is a rep for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. She emailed me back and invited me to some IFCJ functions which will be taking place in DC in the month of May. It all happens during the week of the National Day of Prayer. She couldn’t guarantee me a seat at the IFCJ function that takes place on that day, but I would be able to go to an IFCJ dinner and visit the Holocaust Museum with them.

Hmm. Do I know anyone in DC? Anyone who has been drawing closer to God lately, and who might want to tag along during some of this stuff?

Only Mike. Only the oldest friend I have.

I got on Orbitz, figuring the flights would be insanely expensive. No, sorry. They’re practically paying people to fly to DC that week.

I got back in touch with my friend, and I mentioned Mike. She emailed me back, and she said she was “pretty sure” I would be able to get a seat at the prayer event, and that I would definitely be able to invite Mike to go to the dinner and the Holocaust Museum. He might even be given a seat at the prayer thing.

Okay.

Man, it’s amazing what God can do. Being imaginary and all. Global Warming is imaginary, and it can’t even drown a polar bear.

Here’s more fun. I checked Sondra K., and I happened to see this: some federal judge has decided that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. Oh, man! Good thing I haven’t booked that flight yet!

Obama is actually defending the National Day of Prayer. He may not go to church, but he knows voters go. I’ll be praying he resigns, but I do appreciate his effort.

More interesting news: college football players are about to be forbidden to put messages in their eye black. This is something I know almost nothing about, since I would rather eat tofu on Castro Street with a witch than watch football. Evidently, Christian players have been putting things like “EPH 2:8-10″ on their eye black. The NCAA has decided to equate this with standing in the end zone doing dances simulating sexual domination of the opposing team.

It’s pretty much the same thing. Clearly. If you can’t see how a discreet expression of faith is bad sportsmanship and a form of taunting, I can’t hope to explain it to you. It’s one of those things you should understand automatically, like the need to be ashamed when you carry a Down Syndrome baby to term.

When are we going to stop treating Christianity like pornography? It’s amazing how hard we work to hide it. If you’re a homosexual, you’re supposed to be proud and march in parades. If you’re a Christian, you can’t even write it on your face. How did we get here?

We live in a country where public school lunchrooms are banning pork on account of a few Muslim students. I think we can make room for Bible eye black.

Maybe the NCAA is worried that the drunkenness and betting that drive football will suffer if fans are reminded of God’s existence during games. If it weren’t for beer and betting, there would be no such thing as a professional athlete. No one would be able to sit through a whole game, awake.

I wonder what Ephesians 2:8-10 says. Let’s see.

Ha! Check it out:

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The central message of Christianity. The thing that makes the gospel “good news.” I’m sure glad little children won’t have to see THAT on their TV screens any more.

I have to go do my Orbitz thing. I can’t believe this is happening.

More

More fodder for superstition: I told my dad I was going to DC, and he said he wanted to get me the ticket for my birthday.

COINCIDENCE!

The Inner Man and the Outer Pants

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I’m in Here Somewhere

I have to run a fairly joyful errand today. It’s time to give away these huge, baggy, size 32 cargo shorts and get some in 30.

Pick your jaws up off your keyboards. I don’t know what the real size of these pants is, but it’s not 32. It’s probably 34. Manufacturers mislabel clothes because they know fat people like wearing small sizes. Still, this is pretty great.

This weekend I had to go to the Gap and get a 32″ (nominally) belt. That felt nice.

I was worried about my weight because Mike came to town. We did all-you-can-eat ribs at Sonny’s. We tried Five Guys. You can imagine the carnage. But I’m okay. I may have picked up a pound or two, but the crisis is past, and the trend is still downward, as far as I know.

I should have realized: only fat people have to worry about occasional excesses. I’m not a fat person. To a fat person, a visit from Mike would be a pivotal event leading to disaster. To me, it’s a speed bump and a pleasant break. The miracle God gave me is not going away. I will not be brought down by a few days of good eating.

Listen to me and try to get this for yourself. Don’t let me sit here and blather about it, to no constructive end. Put it to use. Fast and pray. In particular, pray in the Spirit every day, for a good long time. Cast your little visitors out. I’m free. You should be able to get free, too.

Don’t assume it’s limited to food. Do you have allergies? Depression? Chronic illness? Unforgiveness you can’t shake? Anger? I would think that any problem originating in the flesh or the spirit realm would be vulnerable to attack. God gives us the fruit of the Spirit (strength of character) to beat the flesh, and he gives us faith (a fruit of the Spirit and also among the gifts of the Spirit) to beat demons.

My nighttime allergies have disappeared. Can’t figure that out. I didn’t do anything. The other day I awoke and realized I had been sleeping on my back. That’s new. Allergies and a fat neck make sleeping on your back difficult.

Perry Stone said something interesting. Demons like to try to come back after certain amounts of time. He mentioned six months as one such period. I can’t recall the others. They were shorter. I think one interval was two weeks.

This makes sense. Satan is called the Lord of the Flies. What do flies do when you shoo them away? They buzz around and then return. And Jesus informed us that demons like to go back into their hosts.

Some believe “Lord of the Flies” is a corruption, and that the original term meant something like “Lord of Poop.” I am not an expert on the devil’s names, but I saw a spirit stuck to the wall of my house, and more than anything else, it resembled a winged insect. More like a beetle or roach than a fly, but it had wings, and it flew.

And like demons, flies are attracted to rot and death. Some types bite and sting and suck our blood. So I think “Lord of the Flies” is probably correct.

I think it makes sense that as you grow in the Spirit and drop chronic sins, certain negative things will start to fall off without explanation. The other day it occurred to me that increased righteousness will make you “slippery” to Satan. Sin is like a handle he can use to control you, so the less you sin, the harder it is for him to get a grip. And the spiritual power that grows inside you probably drives a certain percentage of your tormentors off, even if you don’t address them intentionally. To a demon, it must be like living next door to a poorly shielded nuclear reactor.

I really look forward to driving all of my giant pants to Goodwill.

Good Deeds for Your Friday

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Finish the Day on a Positive Note

Two things.

1. Peg Kaplan lost her pet budgie, Sunny, to an accident the other day. Sunny was perched on top of a door, and Peg closed it. You can imagine how she feels. If you would like to offer a prayer and comment on her blog, she could use the help.

2. Shepherd’s Gate, a California charity which shelters abused women and their kids, found a donor who will give them $5.00 for every Facebook user who becomes a fan of their page. Here is the page.

Knife Points

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Let’s all Take a Deep Breath

Yesterday I wrote an entry about working in the kitchen at my church, and I pointed out that I had to be careful where I left a sharp Chinese cleaver, because the women who worked there were liable to injure themselves with it. I mentioned a lady who cut herself with it because she used it as a spatula. And I noted that women don’t seem to do very well with sharp knives.

People seem to think I was expressing contempt for the people in the kitchen, particularly the lady who cut herself. Sorry if I gave you that impression, but that wasn’t the point. As a matter of fact, the lady who cut herself is an unusually sharp and classy person. Speaks three languages fluently. The fact that she doesn’t know what to do with a Chinese cleaver does not make her stupid.

As for the generalization about women and knives, I’ve found it to be true. Most men are bad about sharpening their kitchen knives, but I’ve only seen women complain about knives being too sharp. Men tend to like sharp tools.

The safety concern is very real. When you work in an institutional kitchen, everybody shares equipment, and if the workers are volunteers, they often don’t know what they’re doing. No one who goes into a church kitchen is going to expect to pick up a knife that will pop the tiniest hairs off an arm and leave nothing behind it. They’ll assume it’s dull like all the other knives. One of the most likely ways to learn differently is to carve up a hand.

I can’t go to church and line everyone up and ask who is going to defy my expectations. I can’t hold a knife safety class. That means I have to make sure that if I have a sharp knife, nobody gets a chance to use it without asking me first. I should never have left my cleaver where other people could see it.

I ordered a cleaver for the church because I’m not willing going to suffer, using the church’s horrible knives to chop pizza toppings. I guess I’ll get a diamond hone, too. And I’m getting a Chinese Chan Chi Kee meat cleaver and a smaller Chinese vegetable cleaver for myself. I’m sold on the cheap Chinese stuff. You can put a fine edge on a Chinese carbon-steel cleaver in ten seconds, and my cleaver outperforms a Shun by a mile.

My Shun cleaver hasn’t been used since maybe a month after I bought it. That was years ago. There is a reason for that. Experience proved it wasn’t a very good cleaver. If it had worked well, I’d still be using it. Sometimes you have to admit the pretty toy you bought was a waste of money.

I guess I could donate the Shun to the church. But I don’t believe in giving God hand-me-downs I wouldn’t want for myself. There’s always the Salvation Army. They could sell it, along with the chipped Shun santoku I never use. And my Tojiro nakiri.

A commenter recommended Old Hickory carbon-steel knives. One of the few things I got from my grandmother’s house was her old rusty butcher knife. I don’t know if it’s an Old Hickory or not. I’m afraid to use it, because it’s kind of a museum piece. Fortunately I have a huge Forschner scimitar knife to fill the need.

From Whence Cometh my Help?

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Blessed is the Pizzamaker

Sometimes when God gives you exactly what you asked for, it can be very hard to realize it.

There is an old story I’ve heard and read more than once this year. A flood comes. A guy is trapped on his roof. He prays for God to help him. A kid goes by in a canoe, and offers the guy a ride, but he turns it down, saying God is going to rescue him. Two men in a bass boat go buy and offer to help. He turns them down, saying God is going to rescue him. A National Guard helicopter arrives, and a cable comes down with a harness, and the crew signals for him to put it on. He turns them down, shouting that God is going to rescue him.

He drowns. He asks God why he didn’t rescue him. God says, “I sent a canoe, a bass boat, and a helicopter.”

What’s the other side of the coin? You get the help you need, and then you tell God, “Never mind! It worked out without your help.”

Lately I’ve had concerns about a piece of doctrine that may be heresy. A well-known pastor who has a TV show has been telling people to “loose angels” to fix their problems. He says he ordered angels to bring him money for his ministry, and a man showed up with a five-figure check, almost immediately. On top of that, he doesn’t command one or two angels. He’ll issue orders to a hundred thousand, which seems extravagant, given that one angel killed the firstborn of Egypt in a single night, and one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians between sunset and sunrise. How many angels do you need to bring you a check?

I know of no Biblical example of a person commanding an angel. Even Jesus said he would ask his father to send angels, which is not the same thing. I think commanding angels is idolatry. You may think you’re commanding angels of God, but what if you’re commanding demons without knowing it? I will not take part in this practice without confirmation that it’s correct.

In spite of this concern, the new doctrine has reminded me that you can ask God to send his servants to help you. So I do that. These days, I ask him to send out his servants, both spirit and human, to deliver me and my family from trouble, to bring us blessings, and to teach us so we can avoid chastisement. I have no problem doing this. I’m not presuming to tell an angel what to do, nor am I asking for venal pleasures or things the flesh can put to bad use. I just want protection, guidance, and growth. It’s like asking your company to send consultants or new employees to help you get its business done. It’s to advance God’s goals, not mine.

Last night I made pizza at the church. This is a gargantuan job for one person. I have to arrive two hours before the first pie is served, driving through 18 miles of Miami traffic. I have to mix the yeast and water. I have to make dough over and over. Prepare 10 pans. Make sauce. Get pies ready to go in the oven. Bake them twice. Slice them and put them on the steam table. I have to clean up after myself and others. One person can’t do it well.

People have been offering to help, but they haven’t come through yet. Some are busy. Last night, however, a guy named Anthony showed up to work in the cafe, and on his own initiative, he started helping in the kitchen.

I taught this guy almost everything, and boy, did he make a difference. I never had to show him anything twice. He did everything well. He anticipated needs that would come up in the future, much better than I do. With his help, I had so much dough ready to bake, I was able to sit down for maybe forty-five minutes. At the end of the night, we had to bake two pizzas and give them away, because he was too efficient. He had prepared more than we needed. He also worked the fryolator; the pastor who usually runs it couldn’t be there, and nobody else knew anything about it. He kept me going, he kept the fries going, and then at the end of the night, he washed things up before I could get to them. I literally had a hard time finding things to clean up.

I couldn’t get much information out of him. He said it was his first night at Trinity! He hadn’t bothered with the service. He had gone straight to the kitchen. Nobody does that. He said he had been going to Pentecostal Something or Other, on 7th Avenue. I tried to promote the church to him, listing the things it offered.

I could barely get him to talk. Most of the time, he just said, “Okay,” and started getting things done.

There were times when I truly wondered if he were a human being. God sometimes clothes angels in flesh and sends them to do things. At the very least, he was an answer to my prayer for human help. Not just an answer, but an extremely appropriate and effective answer.

As for the leftover pies, one of the girls said that if I boxed them up, she’d see if she could find some homeless people to give them to. That’s not waste. These people would be receiving food from a church, worked and shaped by the hands of people baptized with the Holy Spirit. That has to be a good thing. You can’t tell me God doesn’t work through objects that have come into contact with anointed people.

In my opinion, the extra pies were a blessing.

Naturally, I’m all freaked out.

I don’t want to be like the guy on the roof. I’m not going to wait for a helicopter and still think God is ignoring me. I think Anthony was the kid with the canoe.

If Anthony is on the job, what about the other helpers I’ve asked for? They must be at work, too. God has told us his angel encamps around those who fear him, and that the angel delivers them (Psalm 34). God says he gives his angels charge over us (Psalm 91). God has never lied.

My testimony seems to get better and better, regardless of the challenges I face. I keep going out on a limb of faith, and God keeps holding me up. I leap into space over and over, and he catches me, even though my faith is not perfect. It’s incredible, but it’s true.

It’s important to note that my faith is not perfect. Neither is my behavior. You should always work to have faith and avoid sin, but God can be extremely powerful in your life even when you have doubts or chronic transgressions. Never let anyone tell you you have to be perfect to get God on your side. Think of the people Jesus healed. He didn’t heal the Apostles. He healed drunks and beggars and so on. It’s always better to be good, but your failures won’t destroy you as long as you stay on the path. I believe the trend, not your current location, is what matters.

Moving on to another subject, I had a very odd dream last night. I was trying to cook something, and I noticed lizards had befouled a measuring pitcher I was trying to use. In Miami, this can actually happen. I started cleaning it up at the sink. I reached into a cupboard for something, and I saw a lizard’s toe hanging down into view, and I grabbed some sort of ceramic vessel, like a cup with portions cut out of the sides, and it was full of lizards having group sex. This, too, can actually happen, although the group size is limited to two!

I walked this thing to the back door and shook the lizards out into the yard. At this point, somehow, they had become a single lizard. It landed on a tree by the door, which was covered with snowy white cockatoos. I knew the lizard was in trouble. A cockatoo started climbing down to get him, and he leapt into the yard, where a bluejay grabbed him and took off. Birds do that here. There are lots of bugs for the lizards, and lots of lizards for the birds.

Last night, before going to bed, I saw a gecko in the laundry room. These are very creepy lizards because of their appearance and movement. Though dry, they appear slimy, and they undulate like snakes. This wasn’t one of the usual house geckos we have here. This was a new kind. Bigger and creepier. Every year, something new shows up in town.

It took off down the wall to get away from me, and I told it that it was welcome to hang around and poop wherever it wanted, as long as it ate plenty of roaches. The lizards in the dream were Jamaican anoles, though.

I wonder if the dream has significance. I see the lizards in the cupboard as household demons, making trouble. They interfere with things that need to be done. I see the cockatoos as angels, guarding the “gates” of the house. I see the bluejay as a warring angel that carried off a demon and got it out of my life.

Was the house a house, or was it me?

I guess this has no relevance, but I insure my vehicles with GEICO.

Today I’m waiting for UPS to deliver the ridiculous Makarov BB pistol I ordered. I have to get my point-shooting up to speed. Sadly, UPS requires me to be here to receive it, to prevent punk kids from getting annoying toys via mail order. It ought to be tremendous fun. But I have to sit here all day or miss it. And knowing UPS, there is a good chance it won’t arrive before I have to leave for tonight’s volunteer meeting at church.

I think I’m going to recommend this to the other armorbearers. Can’t hurt.

Free Time; Free Everything

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Keep Those Handouts Coming, Lord

This is shaping up to be a pretty good day. God willing, it will live up to its promise.

I do not have to make pizza today. I do not have a church service to attend. I do not have to work at church as an armorbearer. I have no prayer-group meetings. I don’t have to drive people to church from the shelter up in Broward County. And I got a good night’s sleep, and I still have one cup of coffee to go.

I need to do some housework. I need to get back to cornet practice. I should make time to work on memorizing the Psalms. I should finish up the gun part I’m making. Believe it or not, I’m glad I have time to do these things.

When you’re a kid, having free time means getting to lie on the couch for 16 hours and eat entire boxes of Cap’n Crunch out of a mixing bowl. Or at least, that’s what it meant when Mike and I were kids. Now “free time” means I can take a load of clothes to Goodwill, fertilize the fruit trees, or read the Bible. I still feel like I’m on vacation, but I’m not doing the same types of things.

My toys aren’t the same, either. A long time ago, I liked skateboards, Frisbees, fishing poles, and BB guns. Now I like my diesel truck, my metalworking tools, my cornet, the nifty Motorola surveillance kit I wear at church, and my drill press vise. I like things that are associated with work, self-improvement, and getting things done.

I just bought a BB gun, but I got it so I could improve myself. I want to work on point-shooting. When I was a kid, a BB gun was just something cool I used to destroy things.

I’ve noticed something funny. I used to feel like I was praying selfishly when I asked for stuff like financial success, a good wife, and physical healing. Now sometimes I feel selfish when I’m praying for help dealing with my chronic sins, or help with the church’s pizza efforts. But those things aren’t self-indulgent goodies. They’re things that are presumably God’s goals as well as mine. I guess I’m in the habit of thinking of prayer as selfish. And because my desires are more in line with God’s these days, when I pray for things that will help me do his will, I’m also praying for what I want, so maybe it’s natural to feel selfish.

Odd.

You have to ask God for stuff. Constantly. I’m convinced of it. He wants us to be humble. Part of humility is admitting you can’t do things by yourself. If you resist asking for things, you’re saying you don’t need God’s help. Every second that you live, you survive only at God’s pleasure and only with his assistance. Independence is a seductive, ego-bloating illusion. This is a hard thing for a Christian to swallow, because we believe in work and responsibility, but it’s true. You apply yourself, but you should also pray. Otherwise, you start to think you created your own success. No ordinary human being has ever done that. Not one.

The Bible criticizes people who talk about their expectations without crediting God. You should never say you’re going to have a good year, or that you’re going to do well at a task, unless you acknowledge the need for God’s help in the same breath.

When I remember this truth, I think of Adam. Before the fall, his life was presumably a model for ours. What did he do for a living? Did he slave away behind a plow all day? No, he reached up and picked fruit from trees someone else planted. His job was to manage the world and grow to be like God. While he did that, God provided for him. The need for hard, unpleasant work came after he sinned. If Christians are supposed to live in the kingdom of heaven while on earth, then it seems safe to say our lives are supposed to be more like Adam’s than Abel’s or Jacob’s.

The Psalms seem to support this. The 127th Psalm says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” Other translations put it differently; the idea is that God’s beloved are blessed even while they sleep.

My take on this is that you should work, but that you should not make work an idol. If you never see your kids or your wife because you work long hours, it doesn’t mean you’re righteous. It means something is wrong, and it’s causing you to neglect your family. If God is with you, you should be able to take care of yourself and your family while earning a decent living. How can you call yourself blessed and say your life is working, if you always miss your kids’ birthday parties and school plays?

I think about this principle sometimes in connection with sleep. I’ve become nearly fanatical about getting at least nine hours of horizontal time. Before electricity, people slept much longer than they do now, even though they worked harder. Lack of sleep causes obesity and high blood pressure. It ruins your memory and concentration. It makes you irritable and causes accidents. Sleep is not a luxury; it’s essential to good mental and physical health. There is nothing virtuous about sleeping four hours a night. It’s a curse. Your body is the temple of God. Mistreating it needlessly can’t be a good deed.

The book of Proverbs talks about the industry of a virtuous woman. It says she gets up before dawn, to begin working. What it doesn’t say is that she was in bed at least ten hours earlier, because that’s how people lived back then. You got up at around dawn, and after the sun went down, it was hard to see, even if you used oil lamps (which smelled and gave off smoke and cost money to use), so people tended to go to bed early. If the sun goes down at six p.m. and rises at six a.m., and you get up at 5:30, you’re still getting a lot of sleep.

People used to criticize Ronald Reagan because he quit work early in the day. But look what he got done. Bill Clinton worked late, and he was barely competent.

People who don’t sleep much love to brag about it. I don’t get it. To me, that’s like bragging that you never brush your teeth. I’m not impressed. It makes you sound foolish. If you want to impress me, say you sleep ten hours a night and never miss an important family event, while providing for your loved ones.

And most people who brag that they miss sleep because they’re super-righteous are lying. Ask them what Jay Leno said last night, and they’ll usually know, because they were up late watching him.

Sometimes people put me down when I say I can’t do something because I have to sleep. I don’t care. I know I’m right. If you need someone to drive you to the hospital, I’ll get out of bed. But if it’s something trivial, go bother someone else. If you can’t understand your own physical needs, it’s not my obligation to drive the message into your thick head. Maybe you’ll come around after you fall asleep at the wheel and run over a concrete bus bench. Hopefully, no one will be sitting on it at the time. Sleep-deprived drivers kill a lot of people.

Human effort and sacrifice are overrated, because of pride. We love to think we’re martyrs and that we did it everything without help. It’s a hard attitude to give up. It’s wonderful to feel like a saint. But only one person in history earned that feeling. The rest of us are pretenders.

My advice is to ask God for things all day; even unimportant things. Get his advice. Ask for protection. Accept it with humility.

Never say, “I want to try it on my own before bothering you.” If you want to see how that type of thinking pans out, read the book of Joshua.

I slept well last night, I’m making time for God today, and God willing, this will be a good day. If I’m wrong to see things this way, you’ll know, because I’ll be living behind a dumpster in two years. I don’t see it happening.

I Call Dibs on the Guy Under the Flattened House

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Haiti Effort Marred by Competition?

Yesterday I read an interesting article about Haiti. The relief teams that are working there are competing with each other, not just to provide the best aid, but to get the most money, attention, and control. The article cited an organization that ran another organization off, even though the second outfit had essential equipment the first one lacked. Nice. I’m sure the people who died as a result of the turf squabble would be glad to know the first group didn’t lose its spot in the limelight.

It said two “competing” doctors got in a verbal altercation on a flight leaving the US.

If I understood the article correctly, aid organizations or their branches get funding based largely on the turf they’re able to carve out. So if you can set your clinic up in Port au Prince before the next guy can do it, you can keep him out and get more money for your work next year.

Nothing is as evil as bureaucracy. Satan started his career as a civil servant, after all. The Nazis and Soviets were bureaucrats who killed people in the name of efficiency and order. The Chicoms are bureaucrats.

Bureaucrats are driven not by the express missions of their organizations, but by the desire to enlarge and secure their own power. The guy who dies with the biggest cubicle and best parking space wins. If that means a few people who rely on you have to suffer, no problem.

One of the wonders of America is that we keep so much power out of the hands of bureaucrats. That’s the purpose of the Bill of Rights and the Tenth Amendment. Some parts of the Bill of Rights still function pretty well. The Tenth Amendment is more like a whale’s vestigial pelvis. It’s there, but it’s not clear what it does.

Bureaucracy is like idolatry. Sometimes, it is idolatry. It distracts you from the purpose you were intended to serve, and it causes you to hinder that purpose by serving another one. Either you’re trying your best to dig earthquake victims out of the rubble, or you’re diverting some of your strength to venal pursuits such as attracting media attention and increased funding. When you divert your strength from your stated mission, you’re working against it.

I hope Aaron will forgive me for quoting an email he sent me yesterday. It applies:

That “progressives” seek to eradicate poverty flies in the face of scripture which asserts that there will always be some poor people. That becomes a challenge to those better off, but even then there is a hierarchy of what should be done. Among the following levels of “tzedakah”, none include the legislative threat of fine or incarceration for the wealthy to not adhere to an unfair progressive taxation policy. Rambam organized the different levels of tzedakah (charity) into a list from the least to the most honorable.

8. When donations are given grudgingly.
7. When one gives less than he should, but does so cheerfully.
6. When one gives directly to the poor upon being asked.
5. When one gives directly to the poor without being asked.
4. When the recipient is aware of the donor’s identity, but the donor does not know the identity of the recipient.
3. When the donor is aware of the recipient’s identity, but the recipient is unaware of the source.
2. When the donor and recipient are unknown to each other.
1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.

If you reverse this thinking, you may also conclude that one of the worst evils is to do charity poorly because you subvert the goal of easing suffering in order to gain admiration and wealth. When you do that, you unnecessarily increase the suffering of others–greatly–in order to bring yourself a trivial benefit which is, ultimately, a curse.

If you travel to Haiti and you work hard, but you’re extremely concerned with the attention you get, and you find yourself blunting other people’s efforts in the process of glorifying and financing your own, what have you really achieved for God? Almost nothing. You’re working to bless yourself and your buddies. Heathens do that. For that matter, many non-believers work more selflessly than you do.

Whatever you’re doing for God, you’re certainly doing nothing to improve yourself. If you’re not improving yourself when you do a thing, you’re doing evil. People say life is a test. That’s wrong. Life is a school. If it were a test, you could finish it in a day, like the SAT. It takes decades because it’s a long process of positive change.

The actual test will only take a day. That day has already been named. We call it Judgment Day.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed the subtle venality beneath the surface of some of the relief efforts, but I haven’t made a point of writing about it. I don’t want to stir up trouble pointlessly. It’s good that people are getting help, even if a lot of that help is ego-driven. But it’s very ugly to see this kind of suffering used to build careers and draw ratings. And I’m sure it discourages good people from getting involved. This kind of behavior is the reason I vet charities before I do anything for them. You have to be sure you’re paying for rice and bandages instead of Bentleys and hookers. Nonprofits, including churches, have made a lot of carnal people rich.

Nonprofits shouldn’t be glorifying themselves when they help Haitians. They should glorify God. For Christian nonprofits, this should be obvious. If you’re in Haiti, God put you there and gave you every penny and every item you have, and if you succeed in helping, the glory is his. That means you should never even consider getting in the way of another relief worker. The glory isn’t yours to begin with, so competing for it is a type of theft. When you have to explain yourself on the day of judgment, you’ll be told you’re a worker of iniquity. No one will care how many TV channels aired your story. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”

We’re reaching the long-foreseen stage when the attention is cooling down and the public is getting bored. The glory hounds will probably lose interest soon, because the glory will be elsewhere. As relief workers dribble out of Haiti, hopefully, they will leave a residue of people who are humbler and more sincere. I can’t help but think that over the long haul, those people will do Haiti more lasting good, because they will rebuild souls as well as bodies. Ultimately, Haiti’s problems are spiritual, not physical, so spiritual people will do more good than well-financed attention gluttons.