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Archive for May, 2012

Winged Victory

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Little Box Full of Smoking-Hot Soul

I finished my latest amp.

This thing is called the Wingman. It’s a Fender Bassman preamp coupled with the output section from an amp called the Little Wing.

The Little Wing was created by an Internet forum dude who calls himself “Da Geezer.” It’s supposed to be a sort of small Bassman. It has two 6BM8 output tubes, and it dissipates 7 watts. I wanted more juice, so I built an amp with 4 tubes and two output transformers. Why two transformers? Because I failed to take the impedance into account. Going from two tubes to four, I messed things up, and by the time I knew it, I already had one output transformer on hand.

I mounted the transformers incorrectly. I got too close to the work, and by the time I pulled back and saw that the laminates on on OT were co-planar with the power transformer laminates, the holes were drilled. But there is a test you can do to determine whether this does any harm. You connect the PT to 120, and you hook a speaker up to the OTs. If there’s a problem, you will hear hum. I didn’t hear anything, so I knew I was okay.

I wanted to put a post-phase inverter master volume (PPIMV) on it. This is a potentiometer that allows you to reduce the signal from the coupling caps to the output tubes. It lets you run the preamp at full blast, without sending a huge signal to the output. In other words, you get the nice sound of a preamp working hard, without the incredible loudness it ordinarily causes.

Because I had four output tubes, I ended up with two PPIMV pots. This is probably unnecessary, but I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t take a chance. It seemed to work fine when I ran everything through one pot, but pots are cheap, so I bought two.

I machined the chassis out of 6-inch aluminum channel. I used the mill to make the holes. While I was doing all this, I realized I needed end mills exactly the right size for tube sockets, and I managed to find some on Ebay. Next time, the tube holes will be a wonder to behold.

I put the amp together, and it barely ran. I got oscillation and low volume. I fought with it for days. Finally I realized I had the output tubes wired up wrong. Each coupling cap has to go to both OTs, and I had it rigged up the other way.

When I fixed that, I found that the bass had a sound sort of like a synthesizer. I went through the amp, adjusting voltages. The Bassman uses a 355-0-355 PT, and this amp has a 275-0-275 job, so the preamp voltages were pretty low until I got rid of the Bassman-sized resistors.

I also had to adjust the cathode resistor on the output tubes, since I was running four tubes into one resistor. The Little Wing has one resistor for two tubes.

Even with all this work, the amp did not make me happy. The bass still sounded off, and the amp did not have the clarity I wanted, also, when I cleaned up the wiring, I got noise, including heater hum.

People said I needed a bigger PT, so I ordered one. The 6BM8 tubes suck a ridiculous amount of current.

I went back to the drawing board, and I reviewed some stuff I had learned about heater wiring.

The heaters on amp tubes run at 3.15 VAC. They generate 60 Hz radio waves. If you don’t run the wiring corrrectly, the amp picks up the waves, and you get hum. A well-known guru named Merlin Blencowe says you can’t have heater-wire loops around the tubes, which is the easiest way to do it. With 12AX_ tubes like the ones I used in my preamp, that means you have to run the wires across the tube bases. This is what I did. Stupidly, I would guess. A lot of people don’t bother, and their amps don’t hum.

It turned out I had gotten too close to the work again. I had made an obvious mistake. There are jumpers and resistors across the preamp tubes on this amp, and if you use heater loops, you can put the jumpers and resistors right down on the socket. This is what I did. Unfortunately, the heater wires were there. So I had a resistor lying ON a heater wire, and two jumpers running very close to other heater wires.

So I fixed that.

Strangely, it improved the amp in ways beyond the hum. Now it’s clear. The high-frequency noise is gone. It’s beautiful. Like a little Bassman, with less low-end grunt.

With the PPIMV, you can get all sorts of singing distortion. If you were quick enough, you would be able to play this thing without a distortion pedal. You can crank the volume and turn down the PPIMV to get loads of distortion with no volume increase.

It’s a very bluesy-sounding amp. Exactly what I wanted. It’s hard to stop playing it. It impressed me so much, I went back and stuck a PPIMV in the Bassman.

I’m not going to need the new PT, so I may use it to make a four-EL84 version of this amp.

Here’s the latest photo. I might actually put a cabinet on it. I got the normal and bright volume labels mixed up.

I may let my new church use this one. They have a cruddy old solid state Crate. I was talking to one of my friends–the new head deacon–and he said they might actually want to use me as a guitarist. That would be phenomenal. Lead is out of the question right now, but I might be able to do rhythm in a month or so.

I love the new amp so much, I’ve been working up arrangements and practicing more. It’s great for any tune that brings out the sound of the amp. I worked on “Secret Agent Man” today. Lots of grit and reverb. It may be corny, but I like it.

We’ll see where the amp business goes from here. I can’t wait to get started on the next one.

Magtech .38 Super FMJ Review

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Pretty Brass; No Stench

You don’t get too many perks as a blogger. I remember when the Joss Whedon movie Serenity came out. I was invited to go to a special media sneak preview. Exciting! Then I read the fine print. They expected me to show up and wait in line, and if there were enough seats, they would let me see the movie.

Suddenly LESS exciting.

I’ve also received a couple of books for review. I turn those down now. I really don’t want to spend ten hours reading about Ivanka Trump’s tough road to success. I don’t want to wade through Pat Buchanan’s latest defense of Hitler. Saving money on a book you never wanted to buy in the first place is not a great blessing.

Not all blogger goodies are crap. A while back, I got a really decent offer. The folks at Lucky Gunner sent me an email and asked if I wanted to review free ammunition.

WHAT???

I guess you could say I was not totally opposed to the idea.

They asked me to name a few calibers I shot, and then they fired off two boxes of .38 Super, which is an expensive caliber. Not bad.

I got to shoot it last weekend, so here is my report.

The stuff they sent is made by Magtech. Here is a link, in case you want to buy a big pile of it: Magtech .38 Super +P at Luckygunner.com. It’s made in Brazil. I have never heard any negative things about the brand.

The brass looked nice, although I stupidly forgot to save it after I shot.

My friends and I went through 100 rounds of the ammunition. It seems perfectly fine. It doesn’t have the Russian stink, the casings are brass, and it fires reliably. The sad thing about an ammunition review is that you’re not likely to have much to say if it works well.

I did have two rounds which failed to eject. I am wondering if the rim is on the small side. For some reason, the ejector didn’t get a grip. But the other 98 worked fine. I was shooting a Colt .38 Super (government model) in bright stainless. I don’t know if these guns have ejector issues, but I tend to doubt it, since Colt is pretty much the iconic 1911.

I didn’t test it with a rest. I shoot to learn, not to see what the gun can do.

My shooting was not great. I don’t blame the ammunition. A long layoff, plus distracting conversation, led to problems with my trigger pull. Still, anyone coming within a hundred feet of me would have been in the zone of certain death, barring an ejection problem.

I shot a photo of the target, before I started wandering all over it with Mozambique drills.

That’s from seven yards. In my defense, I will say that the air conditioning made the target flap, but not enough to explain everything.

Kudos to Lucky Gunner, for having the class to send pricey .38 Super instead of a cheesy box of Brown Bear 9mm with cardboard casings.

Okay, they’re not really cardboard. I like Russian ammo just fine, but it’s nice to have real brass without that funky post-Soviet smell.

Birthdays

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Milk and Honey for Some, Gall and Vinegar for Others

It looks like I have made a big mistake. I accused Steve Munsey of pushing a bogus doctrine involving the “seven blessings of Pentecost.” I apparently got a couple of things screwed up.

This particular doctrine may not come from Munsey. I believed it did, because he pushes the notion that we get blessings from cash offerings on Passover, Pentecost, and Yom Kippur. He claims we get seven blessings on Passover and Yom Kippur (which he wrongly thinks is the Feast of Trumpets). But it’s not clear that he pushed seven Pentecost blessings.

There are so many crooks and scoundrels in the charismatic church, it can be very hard to keep them separate in your mind.

David Cerullo claims you will get these jim-dandy blessings if you bribe the Lord on Pentecost:

1. An angel of God will be assigned to protect you and lead you to your miracles.
2. God will be an enemy to your enemies.
3. He will prosper you.
4. God will take sickness away from you.
5. You will not die before your appointed time.
6. Increase and an inheritance will be yours.
7. What the enemy has stolen will be returned to you.

Here are the relevant scriptures, presented in the order of the blessings they supposedly ground. They are all from Exodus 23:

1. Verse 23
2. Verse 22
3. Verse 25
4. Verse 25
5. Verse 26
6. Verses 29 and 31

David Cerullo is not Steve Munsey. Oddly, however, he is offering Munsey’s seven Passover blessings in exchange for Pentecost cash. The above list is identical to Munsey’s Passover fantasies.

Charismatic gold-diggers like to plagiarize moneymaking schemes, so once one of them comes up with a juicy idea, the rest tend to glom onto it. Paula White and Benny Hinn are all over the Munsey stuff. I may have misattributed Cerullo’s seven Pentecost blessings to Munsey, and Cerullo clearly stole them from him in the first place.

My old church is not pushing the seven blessings. I was wrong about that. Here are the five blessings they currently offer:

1. God will break the debt currently hanging over your life – LEVITICUS 25:25-28
2. God will save and restore your whole family together in the Lord – LEVITICUS 25:39-42
3. God will reveal Himself to you in a new way – EXODUS 34:29
4. There will be a redistribution of wealth – LEVITICUS 23:22
5. You will have power over weakness – ACTS 1:8

I’m not completely sure what I should apologize for. Steve Munsey DOES push unscriptural Pentecost offerings, and he couples them with imaginary blessings, but I got the list wrong. I think. I’m not even sure of that, because of the content-grabbing that goes on amongst the jackals.

If anyone can figure out what I did wrong, I will apologize for it. I think that’s fair.

Yesterday was a remarkable day. It was Pentecost, and a friend of mine had a birthday celebration. His wife rigged up a surprise party for him at her mother’s house, and she convinced him she and her friends were actually having a Mary Kay party. As a distraction, he was encouraged to visit the gun range with a bunch of men from church. I was invited to both events.

In the morning, I prayed before church, as always. I spent over half an hour praying in tongues. Ordinarily, God’s power rises up in me when I do this, and by the time I’m done, I don’t need coffee. I feel alert and ready to take on the day. But yesterday I was still a little pooped, and I still had to pray with my understanding and then get up and get ready for church.

I arrived at church late, and worship was over. People were talking about the pastor. He was born on the same day as my friend, and folks were going to the stage to say good things about him. It’s good to honor people, but at that moment, this was not what I needed. I wished I had gotten there sooner.

He got up to give his sermon, but he couldn’t do it. He started the worship up again. He felt that God wanted him to do that. Everything cranked up again, and we fought until we felt God’s presence. It must have taken forty-five minutes.

He called my friend’s wife up to the stage, and he told her it was her day to receive the gift of tongues. He laid hands on her, and a bunch of people prayed, and before long, out it came! I hadn’t realized she needed it. Some people take a while to get it. It was exciting to see her begin her new life. I knew the changes it would make in her life.

After some more moves of the Spirit, the pastor told us there was no time left for the sermon. We would hear it next week. The Holy Spirit had to have his way, and I’m glad he did, because it got me where I wanted to be spiritually (after the problems I had had earlier), and my friend’s wife received a huge blessing. I went up to her and said, “Happy birthday.”

My friend Alonzo rode with me to IHOP for lunch with the other men. I made a real connection with the birthday boy’s brother-in-law. It turns out he’s a bona-fide food nut. Then we drove to the range, and Alonzo and I got to encourage each other and share insights God had given us.

I really didn’t want to go to the party. It was late. But I felt I should drop by, so I made an appearance. As I drove down I-95, the Holy Spirit hit me so hard, I felt like a basketball being pumped up with air. I was overwhelmed, and I wondered what it meant.

When arrived, I was very surprised to see other former Armorbearers from the old church. Two men who had been in leadership positions were there. The birthday boy himself is a former leader of the Armorbearers.

I was so happy to see them; I hadn’t seen one of them in weeks. I thought he had moved to another city. His wife and kids were there. I got reacquainted with his son, who used to work with me in the church kitchen, making pizza.

We ended up gathering around the pastor, telling him all the things we knew about organizing volunteers. We gave him the advice our former pastor had heard and rejected. He was grateful for it. He listened out of eagerness, not out of a desire to let us talk just so we would feel we had gotten a chance to speak. He wasn’t weighing our words to see how he could turn things to his benefit.

I spoke to several people from the old church. We discussed the way talented people had been shoved aside, ignored, obstructed, driven out, and treated disrespectfully. I gave my unvarnished opinion, which was that the old church was really an apparatus intended for the sole purpose of promoting the family that ran it. And I said it was remarkable how they wasted talent in their pursuit of church growth and self-promotion, because had they made good use of the people God had given them, they would have achieved the things they desired. That’s the ironic thing. They had all sorts of capable people waiting to work for them, and they consistently promoted insiders who were incompetent, while keeping able people out of the jobs they were created to do.

We had wonderful food. The sister of the guest of honor is a baker. She is starting her own company. She made a flawless birthday cake decorated like a Green Bay Packers jersey, and she surrounded it with all sorts of related items, like cupcakes and other confections. I couldn’t believe she made it herself. And there was a big buffet of Latin food.

We made plans. We talked about the things we wanted to do. And the pastor was all for it. He was not interested in promoting himself. He was looking to serve the Holy Spirit, using the abilities of all the people around him. He was approachable. He was not dismissive. He had time to talk. We didn’t have to measure our words in order to avoid upsetting him. We knew he would listen. It was as though a dam had broken.

I’m a lawyer, writer, and cook. I have tons of tools. The old church made me a security guard. We had one of the finest flamenco-style guitarists I’ve ever seen. They had him frying chicken wings and playing for little kids. We had a worship leader who went to Ohio State on a vocal scholarship. One day the pastor’s son–a nice guy who needs some professional vocal coaching–said he wanted to get involved in worship, and since then, the other guy has been teaching children. I could go on and on.

That was the attitude at the old place. With the new pastor, there was a different atmosphere. The walls had been broken down. There was opportunity to go forward and get some things done.

When I got home, I thought about the powerful presence of God I had felt, and I wondered what it had meant. Then I realized something. God had shown me a picture of heaven.

In heaven, foolish, hardheaded, selfish, hypocritical, arrogant people will be out of the way. They will not be present. They will not obstruct. They will not steal positions God anointed other people to fill. There will be no corruption and no nepotism. Our leader, Jesus, will be available to talk to us. He will encourage us. He will give us the right jobs. He will give us respect and support. We will succeed in doing the things he created us to do. Frustration will be back on earth, with the stiff-necked, carnal, greedy Christians who would not listen to the Holy Spirit. God will heap terrible obstacles on them, as a reward for the chains they put on his children.

We know that when we arrive in heaven, people we know will be there to greet us, just as my friends were waiting for me at the party. And there will be a feast–the marriage supper of the Lamb–just as there were food and drink at the party.

In heaven, things will work. That’s a succinct way to put it. I believe God used the party to show me what it would be like.

You have to live in this imperfect world, and you will never belong to a perfect organization, but some organizations are under Satan’s control to a very great extent, and you should not hang around hoping to fix them from the inside. Jesus taught us that it was wrong to try. He said we should shake the dust off our feet and move on, taking our blessings with us, just as he will do during the Rapture. He will shake the flesh (dust) off his feet (us) and take us to a place where we will be appreciated and allowed to succeed.

My old church was corrupt. I may as well be honest. They suppressed the Holy Spirit. They talked about helping the poor, but they didn’t do very much. They kissed up to celebrities, rich people, and politicians, while blowing off little people with needs. They taught self-help instead of Holy Spirit transformation. They disrespected and hobbled the servants God sent them. There is a limit to the success a godly person can have in a place like that. I know; Joseph made it in Pharaoh’s court. But he was the exception, not the rule. And after he died, his people were oppressed and murdered until they had to leave.

You may call this gossip, but I disagree. Gossip involves airing out confidences. It involves slander. It is done with malice. It serves no constructive purpose. There is nothing wrong with exposing the public behavior of the people controlling a confused church, especially when they should be aware they’re screwing up. Someone has to speak up. Jesus did it. John the Baptist did it. Jude did it. Don’t make me make a comprehensive list. You can’t accuse me of exposing your dirty laundry when you already have it hanging on your porch.

I thank God for what he showed me yesterday. It motivates me to carry on. Sooner or later, he rewards people. For good, but also, sadly, for evil.

Heavenly Food Stamps

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Come and Get It

Here’s a real Pentecost gift, for charismatic Christians.

Pentecost is Shavuot, the holiday which commemorates the gift of the Torah. God gave it to Moses on Shavuot. It is also the day on which the baptism with the Holy Spirit came to Christians, in the Upper Room. We call the Torah “the law.” We believe it is the expression of God’s will, in written form. And we believe that when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, God puts his law in our hearts, in a more flexible way which addresses needs very specifically.

This only works if you worship God in Spirit and truth. If you pray in the Spirit, and you are sincere, it works. There are plenty of tongue-talking Christians who are way off the path.

Last night I was watching Perry Stone, and he talked about the keys to a good prayer life. I’ll link to the video if I can find it. The teaching was very powerful. Some parts, combined correctly, were particularly strong. I’m not sure he understood this, but I got a big revelation while watching it, so I am passing it on.

Here are some scriptures he cited, with some surrounding text included:

1 John 5:14-15: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

So God grants the requests of faith-filled believers, if they pray according to his will. But how do you know what his will is, not just in the Torah, but specifically, in the moment?

Romans 8:26-27:

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us[a] with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

When you pray in the Spirit (in tongues), the Holy Spirit is interceding through you, supplying the words. Your prayers will conform to God’s will.

Later, he cited Joshua 1:8. I’ll give you more than that:

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Add that to the other scriptures. Consider this: to us, the indwelling Holy Spirit is an augmentation of the law. The Old Testament is full of shadows and symbols. The law, written on the outsides of animals, prefigured the baptism with the Holy Spirit, through whom God writes his law inside his children. So when you see Old Testament advice concerning the law, you should ask yourself how it may apply to your relationship with the Holy Spirit.

This tells me we will walk in power and blessings if the law does not depart from our mouths. See the above passage. We are to “meditate in it day and night.” The Hebrew word translated “meditate” is defined this way: “to murmur (in pleasure or anger); by implication, to ponder.”

We are to murmur in the law day and night. If we do so, we will prosper, and God will defeat our enemies. Obviously, you have to read this in pari materia with the rest of scripture. You can’t run a porn empire and expect this to work. Don’t be stupid. But if you apply it with common sense, it should work.

This is just a confirmation of what I already believe. The more I pray in the Spirit, the better things go. I can’t drink coffee any more, because the Spirit gives me so much energy, caffeine keeps me awake. I can’t smoke cigars, for the same reason. I feel good. I enjoy life tremendously. God heals my physical problems. He has guided me into a magnificent church. He has brought me great friends. I enjoy the things I do. My character is improving. I could go on and on.

In the video, Perry Stone talked about his father praying in tongues for 20 or more minutes at a crack. He recommended that. He was impressed by it, as he should have been. But when I saw that, I realized how far God had taken me. Fred Stone was an amazing man, but I’m praying in tongues a minimum of an hour per day, and that doesn’t include prayer with my understanding. Prayer in tongues is the gym of the Spirit, and without much effort, I’m becoming a supernatural powerlifter.

Joshua tells me something I already knew. I need to remember to pray in the Spirit throughout the day. I try to do that, but now I have more incentive.

The things that happen to me astonish me. I sit in the Garage of Blues at night, praying in the Spirit, and then I pray with my understanding. Power rushes through me. Sometimes I actually feel little pains, as though something were pumping my bones up with air. Faith comes up inside me like a geyser. Sometimes I feel I’m going to be lifted out of the chair. And life gets better, for me and the people for whom I pray.

It’s not a big burden. Through John, God told us his law (“commandments”) was not burdensome (1 John 5:3), so I should not be surprised. Prayer is not boring. How can a visit with God be boring? He created the stars. He has the answer to every problem. How can that be dull? When did we decide that was dull? I’m getting addicted to it. I hate the idea of missing prayer. It’s like going without food. You don’t need character and willpower to make it to meals, do you? I sure don’t.

I hope this helps people. God didn’t give me what I have because I’m wonderful. I’m not the one whose righteousness paid for it. Anything I have, you can get.

Give it a shot. Try it for a month. And forget the garbage charismatics tell you about giving your house and your car to God. That’s just a distraction. When the Spirit gets a grip on you, you will know when to give.

Know Your Rights

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Don’t Back into Slavery

Today I went on Facebook and tossed another harpoon at the wacky “seven blessings” doctrine fabricated by Steve Munsey. I try to do this every day. My old church is pushing this unscriptural craziness right now, since Sunday is Pentecost. I don’t want to see my friends give their rent money to satisfy greed.

I discussed the “seven blessings” with the pastor at my new church, and he agrees, it’s a way to get people to part with their cash.

I can understand getting caught up in a craze; most of us don’t hear the Holy Spirit too well. I’ve actually donated money in “seven blessings” drives before. The first time I heard about it, I assumed my pastor was hearing from God, and I didn’t question or research it. But once someone shows you that doctrine is wrong, what is your rationale for failing to follow up?

I’ve alerted people at my old church. The response was denial, with no scripture or facts to back it up. As far as I know, there was no effort to check it out. There is no excuse for that. I didn’t tell them Jesus was a giraffe; I gave them solid reasons to doubt a bizarre new doctrine. They should have looked into it. Since they did not, they can be held responsible for the damage they’re doing.

Jesus honored the Bereans for searching the scriptures to make sure they weren’t being conned by preachers. It is clear that we are expected to screen the things preachers say. If a preacher doesn’t know that, what hope is there for the flock?

They have time to craft sermons threatening people with a lack of blessing, and they have time to interrogate my friends and tell them I’m dishonest, but they can’t spend fifteen minutes calling a rabbi or using Google.

It’s funny that no one else is standing up and criticizing this fundraising tool. People are so used to hearing that all criticism is “negativity” and “gossip” and “rebellion,” they can’t open their mouths when the Bible tells them to. They think they’re “out of order” when they correct idiocy. And frankly, most Christians have no guts, and many don’t really care. This is especially true in a church that uses worldly activities to lure people. If the church is just the place where you hang out and socialize, you’re not going to think about doctrine very much. Seeker-friendliness turns churches into community centers and nightclubs.

People will tell you what they are. You just have to listen. I remember giving a ride to a bigwig from the church. A friend of mine was with us. Somehow the conversation turned to Robert Tilton, the disgraced prosperity preacher. This guy talked about money incessantly. He was extremely brazen. He ended up losing his TV empire, and his wife left him, and nobody takes him seriously any more. He has become famous on Youtube for altered videos in which flatulence sound effects have been inserted.

In the truck, I made an offhand remark about how he should be in jail, and the church bigwig said, “He’s a good friend of mine.”

In my opinion, he wasn’t just saying, “Robert Tilton is my friend.” He was saying, “There is almost no level of depravity which will cause me to acknowledge a preacher’s faults.” If Robert Tilton is not too low for you, who is?

I’m surprised how many Christians think we have to keep the Jewish feasts and holidays. Yesterday I came across a website that twisted scripture like pretzel dough, trying to convince readers that we had to worship on Saturday and observe the holidays. Some of the scriptures they cited were taken out of context. Some simply didn’t say what the writers said they did.

What is the point of having God’s law inside us, if we still have to memorize and obey 613 commandments? One of the great virtues of the Spirit-guided life is that you have flexibility. You can tailor your actions to the moment, instead of rigidly applying laws which may not work well in specific situations. Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. He permitted the disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath, and to forgo ritual hand-washing. He did these things for reasons. He was showing us that with God’s authority moving inside us, we no longer had to rely solely on the messages he sent through Moses. What’s better? An email, or a conversation?

Most of the time, the Spirit will agree with the written law. But sometimes rigid legalism can produce bad results. Look at the story of Jepthah. Sometimes you need a little leeway.

Paul was against the circumcision of Gentile believers. He was against forcing Gentiles to keep kosher. In Colossians 2:16, he said this: “So don’t let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or Rosh-Hodesh or Shabbat.” Paul, himself, continued going to the temple and keeping the feasts. But Paul was Jewish. I am not.

I believe God wants me to keep railing against this foolishness. We are spitting on one of his great gifts. We were freed from slavery to the law, and now greedy preachers are trying to put the yoke back on.

The horrible irony here is that Munsey is using Passover, Pentecost, and Yom Kippur (which he thinks is “Feast of Trumpets”) to get our money.

Passover is a picture of the crucifixion. The unblemished lamb represents a sinless savior. When Jesus died, he didn’t just bring us salvation. He bought us the gift of the Holy Spirit. He told us it was better for him to die, because had he lived, the Holy Spirit would not have come. And it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which makes observing the holidays unnecessary. Yet Steve Munsey uses Passover as an excuse to force believers to observe the holidays.

Pentecost is the day when the law was given to Moses, and it is the day when God wrote his law in our hearts by pouring out his Spirit in the Upper Room. The baptism with the Holy Spirit came into its fulness on Pentecost. On that day, our freedom from the law started to mean something. Yet Steve Munsey uses Pentecost to put us back under it.

Yom Kippur is not just the day on which sins are covered; it’s the day on which God seals his judgment. If a Jew has been condemned, it becomes final on Yom Kippur. On the final day of judgment, what will happen to preachers who spoke against the work of the Holy Spirit purely out of greed?

But you know how irony is. It is usually lost on the people who bring it into existence. Think of Barack Obama, using “Forward!” to celebrate a return to the discredited socialist principles of the past.

People I know are being led in circles in the desert. Meanwhile, my own life improves day by day. I keep going into the Garage of Blues to pray at night, and these days, the Holy Spirit comes to me so powerfully, it actually scares me from time to time. My life is getting more orderly and peaceful. I’m finally in a church that will receive the good things God has put in me. Signs keep following me. And on Sunday, two friends told me I suddenly looked five or six years younger. I think that has to come from being in God’s presence. And it all came from praying in tongues. If you pray in tongues for two half-hour sessions per day, I guarantee you will see big changes.

Maybe it seems silly for me to brag about all the good things God is doing for me. I’m not a billionaire. I’m not famous. I’m not admired by millions. I don’t have a purple suit and a huge following on TBN. There are a lot of things in my life that haven’t come to fruition. But life is wonderful, and it keeps improving, and oddly, I have become less attached to it.

I wish everyone I know could get all these things, and more, but instead they’re hearing a lot of nonsense. They are going absolutely nowhere. I hate to see my friends stuck in the afterbirth of creation.

Diesel Love

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Unstoppable

I had an interesting experience during morning prayer.

I thnk we’re supposed to be motivated primarily by love. The Bible says God gave his son because he loved us. I think that shows that love will motivate you to do things that would otherwise be impossible. The early Christians were martyred in huge numbers, and all they had to do to save themselves was to deny God, but they wouldn’t do it. I believe love–for God and for the human race–made it impossible for them to give in. I don’t think it was duty. If you tied me to a stake right now and got out the matches, there is no way duty would prevent me from renouncing my faith. For the really hard jobs, it has to be something stronger.

Because I think love is important, and because I think not enough of it is flowing through me, I pray about it. It’s one of the gifts of the Spirit, so we know God will put it in us supernaturally if we pursue it. There have been occasions when I felt it pouring out of me. I would like to have that all the time. It would make me a better person.

Today I started to feel like it was getting loose inside me. And it made me think about the scariness of love.

I had a horrible, rotten childhood. I got along with people in high school, and I wasn’t an outcast, but I was miserable because things at home were screwed up. College was even worse. My life went badly, largely because other people betrayed me and let me down. I had one relative who even victimized me for pleasure.

My mother used to tell me that I was very warm and outgoing as a baby, but that a point came when I closed off. I think that’s a natural response to the disappointments this crummy world presents. On your own, as a mere human being, you will probably lack the inner resources to keep reaching out, year after year, when you are continually treated unfairly. Over and over, you will find yourself out there alone, committed, when the people who were supposed to share the risk and commit alongside of you are actually holding back or simply pretending in order to exploit you.

Sooner or later, a dam builds up, and you put in a valve, and you let love out by measure, in amounts that seem safe to you.

If there were no God, this would be a smart thing to do. Trusting animals don’t survive in the wild. But God exists, and nature exists to tell us how not to be. Nature is backward and hopeless. We’re supposed to be better than that.

I ask God to help me love him on an emotional level, not just as a matter of duty. People say they love God, but do they really? You can want to love God, and you can choose to love him, but is that what he’s after? I don’t think so. I think he wants us to love him the same way we love each other. From the heart. Without reserve. That’s pretty tough, given that we can’t see him, and most of us don’t experience his presence or see his hand in our lives. I’m just being honest. Lying is not helpful, and anyway, God knows the truth.

Today I started to feel that it was working. And I remembered that God is not like people. He is a hundred percent trustworthy. He never lets anyone down. He was committed before you were committed. Everything he has is at risk. He will never give you the short end of the stick; he reserves that for himself. He is the only person you can put complete faith in. He is never wrong. He is never selfish. When you are with God, you can exhale.

I feel that if I love God more, I will be able to love people more. You use the same part of you to love, no matter whom you love. If I exercise it in my relationship with God, surely I’ll get used to using it.

That’s a little unnerving, because there are so many people I know who have wronged me in the past, or who are actively wronging me at this moment. I forgive people. I don’t pursue vengeance. But the thought of having warm thoughts toward colossal jerks is a little unsettling. It will take some getting used to. I couldn’t do it on my own. The forgiveness, I can generally manage, but this is a step beyond that.

It can be tough to give up a suit of armor you’ve grown used to wearing, but armor has a weight no one can carry without being gradually crushed. Love, on the other hand, has a buoyancy to it. I think the relationship between love and being guarded is like the relationship between giving and receiving. When you give, you are blessed. When you receive, you add a little weight to your burdens. You have to seek freedom.

It has also occurred to me that being filled with love is like buying a tractor. Love will pull you along. It will push you through the challenges and offenses. It may be slow, but it is steady, and it can’t be stopped.

I hope I’m right about this, because it seems like a wonderful, liberating gift. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a state of provocation and annoyance, just because venal people give me cause.

A New List of Blessings for Steve Munsey to Teach

Friday, May 18th, 2012

I am Not Optimistic

I don’t know if I’m crabby or what, but I am starting to feel like my mission in life is to go on Facebook every day and refute Steve Munsey’s highly inventive doctrine.

Shavuot (Pentecost) is coming up. Munsey claims that if you give God (okay, the church) a big cash offering you can’t afford, God will give you seven blessings. We are told the Jews did this three times a year, at Passover, Pentecost, and “the Atonement,” or what Munsey hilariously refers to as “Feast of Trumpets.”

The Jews didn’t do this stuff. They gave things other than money. They were not promised seven blessings. Gentiles were not involved. “The Atonement” is Yom Kippur, not the Feast of Trumpets, which is Rosh Hashanah. If you read this blog, you know Munsey is completely, utterly wrong, and so is every pastor who pushes his nonsense.

The other day I learned that the pastor of my old church went up on stage and told people they didn’t have to give in these fundraising drives, BUT if they didn’t, they would not be blessed.

Ooookay. Not sure where the Bible says that.

I am starting to think I’m writing the sermons for that church. It seems like every time I say something on Facebook, a sermon pops up, claiming I’m wrong. I feel like putting up a series of posts saying things like, “Pie is better than cake,” and “Def Leppard SUCKS!”, just to see if I get rebuttals.

It’s always hard to resist a Joe Dirt reference.

I’m joking about pie and bad rock and roll, but seriously, I plan to expose Munsey at least once a day until I die, Jesus returns, or the doctrine falls into the disrepute it deserves. So if I’m annoying people now, it will only get worse. I am going to make a point of hammering on it, over and over and over and over.

Is that wrong? No. Short answer. Easy question. When someone is in error, you go to him privately. If he won’t listen, you don’t have to spend the rest of your life in silence. When someone persists in spreading harmful nonsense publicly, how can God require you to keep your correction private?

I think about all the good people I know, sitting there believing this stuff. How many rent payments and car payments have been missed because of it? How many meals? How much muck is going to splatter back onto Christianity because of it?

Where are the people who are getting blessed? Yesterday someone asked me a good question. If this stuff is supposed to work, how come only the pastors are getting blessed?

Obviously, that’s not really right. If thousands of people go to a church (or a bar or the beach or any place else) regularly, a certain percentage will prosper. So it’s not just the pastors. But it’s a pretty small crowd, and there is no clear connection between Munsey’s doctrine and the good things that happen.

Today I read that Bono is becoming a billionaire. He bought Facebook stock a long time ago. How come we never read stories like that about people who give piles of money to prosperity preachers? Where are all the rich Christians that should exist by now? Far as I can tell, almost all of them are pastors and evangelists. There should be millions of Christian tycoons by now. This crap has been on the air, in various forms, since around 1980.

Here’s something funny. God really does promise blessings for giving money. To the POOR. In Psalm 41, he lists six blessings.

1. You will be delivered in time of trouble.
2. You will be preserved. Not sure what that means, but it’s probably good.
3. You will be kept alive.
4. You will be blessed, right here on earth.
5. You will not be delivered unto the will of your enemies.
6. God will strengthen you when you are ill.

On top of that, God promises to repay you. See Proverbs 19:17.

So there are seven blessings, right there. A legitimate list, straight from the Bible. It applies to Jews. It applies to Christians. It’s God’s law.

Where is Steve Munsey? Where are his friends? They can get their flocks blessed by teaching this. Why aren’t they yelling it from the rooftops?

I can’t read minds, so I don’t know the reason, but I do know that preaching this stuff won’t make them any money. I’m sure there is no connection.

Heaven has no Green Room

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

There is Only One Name You Can Drop to Get Past the Bouncer

This morning, I thought about the things I’ve seen preachers put on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites. I’ve “followed” and “liked” a number of them, and I’ve read a lot of this stuff. I realized that almost all of it fell into two categories.

1. Feel-good platitudes that don’t offend anyone and certainly don’t help anyone. You know what I mean. “If you want God to stand up for u, stand up for God! #holywonderfulpeoplefullofpositivity!!!!”

2. Self-promotion. Things like, “WOW! I ALMOST GOT TO STAND NEXT TO JOEL OSTEEN!”

The pastors at my new church are constantly putting up useful scriptures and spiritual advice. John Bevere puts up a lot of stuff intended to help people get close to God. But they seem unusual.

Jesus told us that our hearts would be where our treasure lay. Many charismatic preachers like to tell us he meant that if we gave tons of money to churches, God would give us loads of cash in return. I’m not sure how they come to that interpretation. It appears Jesus was talking about generosity and the need to avoid materialism; he referred to people with eyes that were “single” or “evil,” and supposedly, this was idiomatic speech concerning generosity. And he said we were not to lay up treasures on earth.

It seems odd that preachers would use this verse to get people to give them earthly treasure, but there you go.

I don’t think the verse is about buying money from God, as the prosperity preachers do. I think it simply means that your heart will be occupied with the things that matter to you. If you treasure money, your heart will be set on money, and you will devote a lot of effort to obtaining it (and you may well end up running a megachurch and teaching false doctrine in order to get rich). If you treasure the things of God–things like generosity and mercy–you will set your heart on providing them.

I think it also refers to rewards we will receive in heaven. If your heart is on heavenly things, you will receive good things in heaven. That’s scriptural, so I have no problem with it.

When preachers tweet about their megachurch-running buddies, or about spending a few minutes in the glorious presence of famous athletes or entertainers, it shows where their treasure lies. They value promotion, admiration, and wealth. If they cared about their flocks, wouldn’t they spend their time talking about God, from scripture and experience? How is God glorified by your brief encounter with Shaquille O’Neal? Wouldn’t it be better to give people useful advice? Why not tell them to pray in tongues or to be sure to read the Bible? Why not remind them to be good to the poor? If things like that are important to you, you will talk about them.

In connection with this topic, I’m going to link to a video I saw a few days back. Tell me what you think of this.

VIDEO

What You Reap From me Depends on What You Sowed Into Me

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Here is a Sample

As usual, I don’t know where to begin. I’ll just start typing and see what happens.

My old church gets wackier by the second. I don’t know if “wackier” is acceptable Christianese, but it’s apt. And I can’t get away from it. The leaders don’t seem to realize how hard it is to keep secrets in a church. Information comes to me whether I want it or not. It reminds me of the old Pajamas Media days, when people on the inside would tell me stuff in order to get it published.

They can’t seem to let things drop. My plan, until someone shoots me in the head, is to criticize Steve Munsey and other money-crazed preachers, as well as feel-good preachers, just as hard as I can, everywhere I can, and maybe that is keeping me at the top of the charts. That has been suggested to me. In any case, I know they’re still poking the fire.

The church discourages the acknowledgement of problems, and people are fairly good about keeping quiet in public, so I guess they kind of lose it when someone goes off the reservation and starts hammering the totally bogus doctrine of a prominent friend of the church. It must be completely amazing to them to load up Facebook and see me putting up photos of Munsey’s astounding claims. “The Atonement” is Rosh Hashanah! How much more wrong can a person get?

Why go after the Munseys and Osteens? That’s pretty simple. They hurt my friends.

I made all sorts of friends at the old church, and I still have them. They didn’t run off and shun me when I quit going. Many of them are poor. Just about all are looking for answers. “How can I please God?” “How can I get my prayers answered?” “How can I get out of a lifestyle of defeat and want?” “How can my family be healed?” The Munseys and Osteens and the other blind guides are hurting these people very badly. They are wasting their time. It would be bad if they merely didn’t help, but they are actively coming between these people and God, by giving them false hopes and useless strategies. Were it not for the false doctrine which wastes people’s time, money, and enthusiasm, many individuals in the church might be doing much, much better. Because God really does answer prayer and bless people, once they quit trying to buy him off with their rent money.

What kind of person would leave a church full of sincere, hurting people and never look back? That’s a particularly pointed question, when the person who left knows how to get in touch with God. I know how to do it. I can hook people up. So could the greedy feel-good pharaohs, if they would be honest with themselves, cut the crap, and teach the truth.

Well, they could if they KNEW HOW. My strong suspicion is that many of them would know how, if they would only listen to God instead of the soothing sound of paper landing in collection plates.

So to summarize, I believe I am still mischaracterized as the guy who sent the foxes into the fields, and the Philistines can’t figure out how to put out the fire. And I can’t stop telling the truth publicly, because people might be helped by it.

I’m told one bigwig may be having a change of heart toward the Holy Spirit. This person has asked people to pray in tongues. That’s a wonderful sign. I hope it means something. It’s good to see God smoosh your adversaries, but it’s better to see them get a clue and change their ways. After all, I used to be God’s adversary.

Today I talked to someone I thought would never leave the church. I thought this person had a phobia of criticism, and that it might be this person’s undoing. Today this person told me there was a “lack of leadership” at the church. This is someone who never said anything negative, even when it was called for. This is someone who never gave me a clue anything was wrong. This person left long before I did. Yet I’m perceived as the Svengali?

A week or two back, it rained. I was driving to New Dawn for my second visit, and I was thinking surely God would not let me get stuck in accident traffic on the way to this oasis of blessing. I was so eager to get there. And I made it. This week I learned that on that same day, my old church had 400 people at the second Sunday service.

The second Sunday service should have roughly a thousand people in attendance. It’s often higher. Outside of the somewhat embarrassing youth service on Tuesday night, which attracts tons of frivolous kids, the 11:00 a.m. service is the big weekly event. I used to run security during this service, so I know.

If rain can cut attendance by 60%, what does it say about the devotion the leaders are inspiring? I was highly disturbed by the prospect that I might not make it to New Dawn, and the rain was coming down in buckets. Would I have felt the same way while driving to the old place? Not unless they were counting on me to work.

I am told the leaders were very unhappy with attendance. It doesn’t take a genius to understand what happened. Men cut a hole in a roof so their buddy could meet Jesus, but folks at my old church weren’t willing to take a five-minute car ride and then walk a hundred feet under an umbrella. Clearly, the church has not shown them that there is anything worth showing up for.

Do the leaders realize this is their fault? Is there any possibility that they are aware that blaming other people is not going to fix things?

I’m also hearing that the upcoming youth conference is looking bad. People tell me ticket sales are a fraction of what they were last year. The church has to fill an expensive theater on the Beach. They have to pay whether or not anyone shows up. And they may be obligated to pay the acts that show up.

The conference is one reason I left. I knew they would expect me to fork out money for a ticket and then show up and work. And of course, there would then be offerings. Last year, I didn’t see a single speaker. I was doing security stuff outside and in the lobby. I got to make a good connection and talk to two people about tongues, but don’t ask me what happened on the stage.

This year, I couldn’t face another conference. I didn’t want to assist at an event where another bunch of young preachers tried to convince people they were cool. And I didn’t want to deal with the hurt feelings and quiet disapproval that would follow if I refused to buy a ticket or show up to work.

Last year one of the “cool” young preachers had a luggage problem, and he didn’t have his special American Outfitters preaching shirt, so volunteers had to run around the city looking for a new one. That really soured me on him and his pals. I was told it was American Outfitters, but maybe it was American Apparel. That would make more sense. Anyway, I doubt that shirt had special Holy-Spirit-wicking fibers in it.

When I left the church, I told them the Holy Spirit would bring people in, if he was given the chance. The Holy Spirit is so good, once people get introduced to him, they will want to be with him again. When prayers start getting answered and lives start changing, people will recommend the church. I got nowhere with that pitch.

I used to tell people that the church was like a parking lot full of shiny cars. Remove the cars that aren’t paid for, and what do you see? Maybe 25% remain. The rest were illusions. They belonged to banks. They didn’t represent wealth. They represented debt. What happens when the silly, half-Christian people leave a megachurch? Same thing. It may have happened at the rained-out service. A smart preacher would get the hint and make changes.

“A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.”

I wish I had told the head pastor how many church members had ridiculed or dismissed Steve Munsey in my presence. He came to our church and put on an extremely creepy show where he cut the bark off a shrub branch and compared donors to Jacob with his spotted cattle (it’s not worth explaining). He bragged about Beyonce and R. Kelly–every Christian’s role models–showing up at his church. About women, he said, “It’s okay to look, but you can’t touch!” while making startling squeezing gestures with his hands held up in front of him. And of course, while some people ate it up, godly people quietly said they were grossed out or just offended.

Thinking about it, I am reminded of “A Face in the Crowd.” This is an old Andy Griffith movie about a TV star who pandered to idiots. His name was Lonesome Rhodes. He hired a certified cretin–a man named Beanie–to pass judgment on his material. If Beanie liked it, Rhodes went with it. If not, it was cut.

If Steve Munsey puts on a horrifying, off-putting show at your church, and the dumbest people there go nuts, you don’t use that as a measure of the day’s success. If you can’t manage to get guidance from God, you talk to people you respect, and you listen to what they say.

I keep telling people I don’t want to talk about this stuff, but it seems like it keeps coming to me.

I don’t think it’s gossip. Correcting lies is not gossip. Defending yourself is not gossip. Exposing disgusting heresy masquerading as doctrine is not gossip. But I would like to move on.

I have been concerned about unforgiveness. I don’t want to be aggravated with these people for the rest of my life. Though I still talk about what has happened, I believe God has kept me out of the grudge trap. the other day I felt his grace hit me, and the annoyance melted out of me. I’m not thrilled with the way people are behaving, but believe it or not, I’m not bitter. That’s a blessing.

I’ve thought a little bit about anger. It’s not evil. If it were, Jesus would have been a much more cheerful guy. He was angry a LOT. So were the prophets. So anger is okay. But how long can you have it in you before it becomes problematic? I feel that God will permit you to be angry long enough to accomplish a worthy purpose, and then you have to get rid of it. I believe that has happened to me. I don’t sit around thinking about the scandalous behavior I know about. I don’t plot revenge. But I do talk about it, when I think it’s important to do so.

When God forgives, he forgets. He didn’t give us that ability, so he must not expect us to do the same. If you forget, you don’t learn. I forgive, but I will always remember. Nobody wants to step in the same pile of manure twice.

As for life outside that church, I continue to be amazed. God’s presence is overpowering sometimes. It happens at least once a day. Usually, it’s several times. My prayer time in the garage is beyond description. Waves of faith pound their way through me. Peace surrounds me like a fog. Signs keep following me.

Things keep getting better. And I’m not making huge donations to weird characters who use hair spray and wear orange suits. I’m not pursuing “The Torah Blessing.” I’m not wearing a genuine Jewish prayer shawl and lighting Sabbath candles. I’m not writing checks so I can get Steve Munsey’s seven nonexistent blessings of Passover, Pentecost, the Atonement, Groundhog Day, or Elvis’s birthday. I don’t have an anointed prayer cloth from Robert Tilton. I’m not a lifetime partner of The 700 Club. I don’t fool with ANY of that crap. What I have has been freely given, and you want it, you can have it for nothing.

What I’m doing is right. I’m honored to be insulted and slandered for it.

I Looked Into the Trap, Ray

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Thass a Big Twinkie

I know exactly what this is. It’s a sloar. And those things inside it are shubs and zulls.

Additional info:

Let my People Go

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Worse Than the Mormons

I have started to realize that my old church was a cult.

I don’t mean a full-bore, bank-account-linking, phone-tapping, making-you-put-them-in-your-will cult. It’s not like they had naked intitiation rituals or big filing cabinets full of stuff to use to blackmail people who left. And what they taught was primarily Christianity; the non-Christian stuff hadn’t completely displaced it. But they exerted way too much control over people, and it seemed like the leaders benefited from the flock more than the flock benefited from the church. Those are my impressions, anyway. I base them on several years of interaction with the church.

Since I left, they have done things that go beyond normal church behavior. When someone leaves, it may be okay to call and thank them for their past service, and to pray for their success. But they did things that were downright creepy. Things that were possessive, controlling, and sick. Not to mention cowardly.

I think there are things you have to ask yourself about your church’s leaders, in order to determine whether they’re veering into cult territory.

1. Do they ask you to do things for the pastor or his relatives, even when those things don’t benefit the church or advance God’s kingdom?

2. When things are given to the church, do they take them for themselves?

3. Are the pastors available to talk, or are they “VIPs” who are too busy and too inaccessible to speak with? Should a church even permit the use of the term “VIP”?

4. Are employees forced to do additional unpaid work?

5. How does the lifestyle of the pastors compare to that of people a notch or two lower on the food chain?

6. Is constructive criticism welcomed, and do the leaders act on it?

7. Does the church give to the poor? I don’t mean referrals to government agencies or real charities. Do they give people cash and goods? Special promotions don’t count. If a rich businessman gives the church a thousand shirts, and the church passes them out in front of TV cameras while taking full credit, it doesn’t qualify.

8. Are people afraid to express concerns to the pastors? When they do, do their relationships with the ruling clique suddenly grow cold?

9. Does the church generate and distribute an annual report? I don’t mean the garbage corporations file with secretaries of state. I mean a detailed account of what was taken in and where it was spent, with actual dollar figures. Do you know how much the church pays your pastor, and how much it spends on perks like airfare and hotels? Don’t you have a right to know, since it comes out of your pocket?

10. Are there a few people at the top who are incessantly promoted? Do undistinguished relatives of the people at the very top receive promotion that far outstrips their talents and character?

11. Is there an inner circle almost no one can crack? Do the pastors and their families have few or no real friends at the church?

12. Are virtually all of the head pastor’s friends preachers (especially preachers who are more successful)?

13. Does the inner circle have scandals everyone knows about, yet which are never confronted or acknowledged from the pulpit?

14. Does the church seem to avoid or limit activity which could be seen as promoting other local churches? Are the vast majority of preachers the pastor promotes located too far away to threaten your church’s attendance?

15. Has a leader at your church ever injected himself into your personal relationships in order to advance his own interests above yours?

16. Are people of no influence routinely ignored and pushed aside when they come forward with needs, while wealthy people with no discernible spiritual assets are invited to be part of the pastors’ social circle?

17. Does your church give VIP treatment to people simply because they’re wealthy or well-known? Would they seat someone like Luther Campbell in the front row and invite him backstage? Do they do the same thing with worldly professional athletes, whose tithes could make a huge difference in the church’s financial status? Do they seat politicians up front?

18. Does your church tend to choose physically attractive or young people for positions that require exposure before the public?

19. Does the church preach defensive sermons, showing that they are aware the flock is grumbling, yet seeking to shift blame instead of addressing the issues?

20. Does the church preach ridiculous, unscriptural “grow where you’re planted” sermons, intended to make people feel guilty about taking their tithes to other churches?

21. Does the church preach incessantly about giving tithes and offerings, while barely mentioning giving to the needy?

22. Does your church allow employees or volunteers to see information about your tithes and offerings, and do they speak to you about them when they drop?

It seems to me that my old church takes advantage of people and tries to control their thoughts. I think this is why God doesn’t bless the place. Their debt is enormous, and simple math appears to guarantee that there is no way they can get out of the hole simply through normal tithes and offerings, even if they continue having six services a week. The building is dirty. It’s in need of repairs. The sermons have become silly and boring. The music has gotten dull. The people at the top promote themselves nationwide, but they seem to be getting zero traction, and they will probably never end up like Joel Osteen or even Keith Craft or Steve Munsey. Serious Christians are leaving or reducing their roles.

There are a lot of gullible people there, and there are also people who are not gullible, yet who swallow more nonsense than they should, simply because they are used to trying to believe what preachers say. But the congregation is not completely stupid. Like Abraham Lincoln said, you can’t fool all the people all of the time. When you consistently treat people like suckers, they eventually figure it out. And the answer isn’t to whine and whimper about submission to authority. The answer is to admit fault, repent, and pray for God’s help.

I hope they decide to leave me and my friends alone. A pastor should not reach into another church and pester people who worship there, just because they used to go to his church. That’s like abducting someone’s kids. It is warped and wrong, and I hope they understand how inappropriate it is.

Paradigm Lost

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Is it Safe to Come Out?

God continues to amaze.

Weird things are happening at my old church, and I can say the same of my new church. The difference is that the things that are happening at my new church are positive.

I can’t believe how well I fit in. The pastor and his wife are COMPLETELY on board with the Holy Spirit.

Back around 1995, I turned on Fox News for the first time, and I had my usual emotional reaction to listening to the news. I braced myself for a pile of left-wing distortions, omissions, lies, and sneers. But it didn’t come. I thought something was wrong. I figured it was a momentary aberration. But they never returned to “normal.” No matter how many times I watched, I continued to see fair treatment of conservatives.

It felt odd. It didn’t seem right. It seemed like the other shoe was hovering over my head, waiting to drop.

The same thing is happening at my church. It’s freaking me out. I really mean that.

Every so often, I feel a powerful urge to post something about the Holy Spirit, or about the way modern charismatic churches have turned into whorehouses and cults. I’ve been posting stuff like that for quite some time. I’ve gotten used to the knowledge that I could be inviting rebukes or silent disfavor from people in authority, or from those they have succeeded in indoctrinating. I knew I was sealing myself out of the Circle of Trust, as one exiled volunteer put it to me in a moment of levity.

I don’t have that problem any more. If I post something on Facebook about the power of tongues, guess who shows up to “like” it or expand on it? The pastor or his wife! I’m not kidding!

Here’s a video I posted. It’s Glenn Arekion, on Sid Roth’s show, talking about the power of tongues. It’s one of the greatest teachings you will ever see. My pastor’s wife actually REPOSTED it. Can you even try to understand what that meant to me?

In my old church, they actually had a policy about who was allowed to receive or interpret a message in tongues. They apparently thought they could decide whom the Holy Spirit would choose, which is like trying to decide where lightning will strike.

I would guess that the aim was to avoid a scenario in which crazy people ran up and down the aisles gibbering and making things up, but it was not a good solution. After all, the Holy Spirit gives us direction, and like the Bible says, where there is no vision, the people perish.

I’ve come to realize that I was going to a de facto pre-charismatic church. Technically, they were charismatic. They taught that we should be baptized with the Holy Spirit. But they didn’t really believe God would do much for you.

The New Testament tells us the Holy Spirit will enter into us like a virus and grow and reproduce God’s nature in us. We’ll develop the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. We’ll have faith. We’ll work miracles. We’ll be more loving and self-disciplined. My church did not teach that. They admitted that the fruit and gifts existed, but they taught self-help and positive thinking. They said we should try to pray for 15 minutes a day; they didn’t tell us to do a lot of praying in tongues or with our understanding. They spent much, much more time talking about human effort than about God’s power, and like the Bible says, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In other words, you are going to promote the things you actually care about. In other words, BS walks, etcetera.

There was one area in which they claimed God would move heaven and earth to help you. That was the area of money. If you gave burdensome, unscriptural offerings, God would repay you with giant returns. It hasn’t happened to anyone I know, but they taught it. Where are all the millionaire Christians? Haven’t seen them yet, although the prosperity gospel is over thirty years old. There are millionaires here and there, but the harvest that was predicted does not exist. There should be more millionaires and billionaires.

They taught that we would get “thirtyfold” and “hundredfold” returns on our offerings, but I don’t know one person–not one–who has had that experience. I know people who say giving has resulted in more prosperity, and I would not deny that, provided giving is done correctly, and that it’s not all you do. But let’s do some math so you will understand how far off the doctrine was.

Imagine you get a thirtyfold return on your tithes, and it kicks in on a yearly basis. One year, you give ten percent of your increase. The next year, God gives you thirty times that amount, or three times your original income. Your tithe should go up by a factor of three. The following year, God should give you thirty times three times your original tithe, or nine times your original income. So on the low end of the promise–“thirtyfold”–your income should multiply by three on a yearly basis. At the end of five cycles, you would be looking at three to the fifth power, or 243 times your original income. Before too long, you would own the entire planet.

I don’t know anyone who has seen their income multiply by 243, but I do know people who say they tithe yet have gone broke.

Anyway, it’s extremely odd that a church would tell people to expect God to work financial miracles, when they also tell them they have to help themselves in all other areas. It is suspicious.

The church taught about networking, which says a lot. They taught about things like good posture and exercise. Good stuff to know, I suppose, but it’s not really what the Bible is about. The Bible is about being filled with the presence of a loving, powerful supernatural being that changes you and fixes your problems.

What I’m saying here is that they taught about the Holy Spirit baptism, which makes them charismatic, but they lived like Baptists or Lutherans. They lived like people who had never heard of Azusa Street.

I showed a few people the power of tongues, and it worked for them, but the church never had any interest in it. Funny; those people have left or backed away from the church. The Holy Spirit brings revelation. He shows you problems with bad doctrine. He is the reason people are leaving.

Now I’m at a church where people are as excited about tongues as I am. I just don’t know what to do. I’m beside myself. I feel like I won the lottery. I would have been happy with less worldliness and venality. I never expected to find myself in such agreement with the people above me. I did not think such churches existed.

I feel like I got away from Pharaoh. When God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let the Jews go, he told him to tell him they had to be released so they could serve God, or be his slaves. It wasn’t just a political liberation. They were under a worldly man who took too much of their time, work, and money. Their primary purpose was to serve God, not a greedy, self-promoting man who exalted himself above God. In moving to a church that respects the Holy Spirit, I feel that I will be free to serve God. The parallel is remarkable, especially since I started going to the new church during the week after Passover.

Obviously, the people who ran my old church were not on the same moral level as Pharaoh.

I could not bless my old church. I tried to write for them, free of charge, and I did good work, and nothing came of it. I cooked for them, and nothing came of it, even though I did such a good job, people begged me to go back. I tried to help fix up their cafe. The tools I brought in ended up gathering dust. I was initially invited to join the pastor’s prayer group, but that fizzled out. If it ever restarted, they did not inform me. I occasionally led a different prayer group, but the man who was in charge of it was fired by the church (his position was eliminated), and the group vanished. I joined the official prayer team, but I saw they were doing things that I had been taught were dangerous, so I quit.

There was nothing I could do to help the leadership. I felt like I was pouring fertilizer into the sewer. And when I gave them advice, the usual response was to reject it and criticize my negativity, or just shine me on. “That’s great, Steve. We love you, bro.” God hasn’t sent them anyone else who can do what I can do. Why would he?

I only succeeded as an Armorbearer. A sort of security guard. That’s nice, and it produced a lot of good fruit, but making me a security guard is like hiring an electrician to compose an opera. God gives people gifts for a reason, and when his blessings flow, people are matched with the jobs God equipped them to do.

I don’t know what I’ll do at the new place, but I know I’ll be able to do the most important thing of which I’m capable. I’ll be able to promote the Holy Ghost. Everything else is peanuts. If I teach someone to pray in tongues, no one is going to come along behind me and say I’m wrong. In fact, I’ll be reinforcing what they already teach. That’s what I would have done at the old church, if I had been able to!

I don’t care about the cooking. A church shouldn’t run a business, anyway. You can’t serve God and Mammon, and you shouldn’t waste people’s tithes subsidizing a failed restaurant. Not when you have other bills you can’t pay. I’ll be using my cooking talents in my home from now on, when I invite friends for prayer meetings. That’s good enough.

When I worked on a kibbutz, I met a man who had starved during the Holocaust. When he worked in the kibbutz kitchen, they had to send people behind him to clean up. He used to hide food in the cabinets. He couldn’t help it. He could not get used to the idea that food would continue to be provided for him.

I feel like that man. I’m so used to being suppressed and disappointed, I feel like I can’t stand up straight and relax. Can I really be in a church that listens to God and moves in his guidance and power? Can it really be that people won’t take advantage of me and say one thing to my face and another behind my back? I can’t get used to that paradigm. I need time to heal, so I won’t transfer the emotions I felt at the old church to the innocent people at the new church. I know they won’t be perfect, but most likely, there are some depths to which they will not sink.

I miss my mom. Every so often, she gave me a piece of wonderful advice. The language was a little harsh, but I’ll repeat it anyway. One day she told me a friend’s ex-husband had bought the friend a new Lincoln Town Car. I asked why he would do that. And she said, “Because not everyone is a son of a bitch.” That really stuck with me. It’s wiser than it sounds.

I would never call anyone at my old church a thing like that. I don’t think they sit around plotting to do evil. But I have always treasured that lesson, and the fundamental idea applies. Every preacher falls short of the glory of God, but they are not all so carnal you can’t deal with them. There are churches where people are treated pretty well. Even on this cursed planet, that is not too much to expect.

I was going to write about something else. Oh, well. Tomorrow.

I am a Mole

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

I Leak my Own Sensitive Information for the Sake of Efficiency

In case anyone is monitoring my website here are a few facts. It would be easier to call me and ask, but anyway:

1. I was not the first person in my social circle to leave my church.

2. Several people left or chose new positions before I took off.

3. I did not tell any of them to leave.

4. I was surprised when they left, because I did not know it was going to happen.

5. I do not know why every person left. Some told me. Others did not.

6. I did not tell them to go to New Dawn, because I did not know it existed.

7. No one told me to leave.

8. No one told me to try New Dawn. I asked people what they thought about it, and it sounded pretty good, so I decided to take a look.

9. More people are planning to leave or considering leaving, so yes, it will get worse. I have not injected them with drugs or put implants in their brains. I have no control over what they do. I did not put the idea of leaving in their heads. I don’t even know who all of them are.

10. I did recruit two friends.

Hope this saves you some time.

Joyful Noise

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Plus Negative Feedback

The new amp is done, except for some soldering and the installation of the cord and fuse.

I think it came out very well, given that I started with a piece of aluminum that had been banged around in a metal dealer’s establishmen. Here’s a photo.

If you’re an amp guy, you will see a potential problem there. When you work on projects like this, it’s easy to get too close to the work and forget what you’re doing. I accidentally mounted one of the output transformers in such a way that the laminates are coplanar with the power transformer laminates. Supposedly, this can cause a coupling effect, so the 60 Hz buzz from the AC goes out through the power tubes.

I don’t know which way the bobbins inside these things are oriented. The wire coils inside go around bobbins, and the magnetic fields generated by the transformers are parallel to the axes of the bobbins, as they exit the metal. I think. That’s what my physics background suggests. I believe the fields would be strongest at the ends of the power transformer bobbins, so if it’s pointing at the OT, it could be bad. But maybe it’s pointing the other way, which would be okay. Maybe.

I have found out about a way to test for hum. Before you put the amp together, you stick the transformers in place, and you connect the OT to a speaker or a set of headphones. You connect the PT to an AC source, and you listen to see if it makes the headphones hum. If so, you have to move the OT around until it stops. I guess I’ll do that tomorrow.

I feel like writing some more about my new church. I have been a little reluctant to do that, because it has been suggested to me that certain people at my old church are under the impression that positive remarks about New Dawn are “Trinity-bashing.” I hope that’s not true, but if it is, they’re going to have to hitch up their diapers and take it. There is only so much I can do to avoid offending them, short of wearing a muzzle.

Last week I suggested a friend of mine visit the new place. I’ve already covered some of this in posts I took down. He didn’t fit in at the old church, and he was part of the little circle of people who were excited about prayer in tongues. The Holy Spirit worked a shocking change in him after he started praying in tongues regularly, and he started getting all sorts of revelation. A number of people noticed it. Anyway, he was in a slump, and I thought the new place would suit him.

When I got to church on Sunday, he had already been there for 50 minutes. He said he already knew the pastor. He also had relatives all over the church. His nephew was an usher. He had been there before. I didn’t know any of this. I just thought he would do better there.

The pastor preached on John 15 and Matthew 7. In John 15, Jesus said he was the vine, and that branches that didn’t abide in him would be cast into the fire, and in Matthew 7, he said false prophets would come and take advantage of the flock.

Let’s see if I can remember the important points.

The pastor said the bit about casting people into the fire was not about us. It was about the false prophets. He said God “pruned” us, as a gardener would prune useful branches to improve the yield, but that he would not discard us. That makes sense to me. We are taught that it’s pretty hard to lose salvation, but we also know that if we pray in the Spirit, God will change us from inside and help us bear fruit.

False prophets, on the other hand, are not part of the vine, so they may be cast aside. Makes you wonder about Steve Munsey’s status, since he is clearly making up doctrine that makes him money, serving his own belly instead of the Lord. I assume he’s a Christian, but you never know.

He also taught about Luke 16, in which Jesus told us that if we were not faithful with other people’s things, God would not give us our own things. He said he had worked in other people’s ministries, and that he had been faithful, and that now he had his own ministry.

Naturally, I wondered if he was going to say something indicating that my friends and I had blown it by not sticking with our old church, but on the contrary, he said that if you can’t be fruitful under one man’s ministry, it’s time to pack up and move to another.

My friend Alonzo had moved to New Dawn before I had. He and his wife were sitting across the room when the pastor said the bit about packing up. I looked toward them, and she was looking at me and my other friend. We were all thinking the same thing.

Later in the service, the leaders were getting into prayer and prophecy. There was no tightly scripted service at this point. If you’re Spirit-filled, you know how a minute-by-minute schedule can prevent the Holy Spirit from working. They were calling people up, and somebody called Alonzo and his wife.

For a long time, they have wanted to have a ministry helping people with marriage. They want to write a book on God’s advice for couples. When they met me and learned that I was a writer, they asked for my help. At the old church, they had tried to work in the new ministry for couples, but their ideas had been shot down. I’m not saying they were right or wrong, but they were shot down.

While they were at the front of the room, the prophecy started. They were told they were going to have a ministry for married people. They were told that God had not given up on them. The message seemed to be, “You may have thought you were going to be be ignored forever, but I’m going to bring you through this.”

That was amazing. They’ve had some really tough times, and they’ve had to deal with rejection and discouragement, so they needed to hear that God was still with them. And the pastor had no way of knowing they wanted to run a couples’ ministry. He hadn’t seen them in two weeks. They weren’t planning to join the church. He barely knew them.

There is one other person I’ve been trying to bring to New Dawn. He’s a musician. He’s looking for a place where the Holy Spirit is free to act. While I was standing around after the service, the music director came over and asked if any of us were musicians. They’re recruiting! So now I had some ammunition. God saw the need, and he put this tool in my hand.

Since Sunday, I’ve been Facebooking, as usual. The Holy Spirit keeps doing great things in my life, and I write about it. I write about the power of tongues. Guess what? The pastor has been “liking” my statuses. He believes the same things I do! I had no idea. It’s so strange to have my doctrine ENDORSED by a pastor. It’s like the first time I watched Fox News. I thought something was wrong, because they weren’t slanting the news way to the left. I thought it was a momentary aberration, but eventually I realized they were different.

My new pastor really believes in the Holy Spirit. When he posts on Facebook or writes on his blog, he says things I agree with. I don’t have to hide and scurry around by the baseboards. I can say what I know, without worrying about what people will think.

I know he thinks like I do, because when he thinks he’s not getting a good response from the crowd, he’ll call them “this Methodist church” or “this Baptist church.” He’s kidding, but I know what he means. He means we shouldn’t be like backward churches that teach salvation but stop short of the Holy Spirit message.

I sincerely believe that while my old church is nominally Assemblies of God, which means “kooky charismatics,” in practice and belief, it’s closer to the Baptists or Presbyterians. If you say God healed you miraculously or did some other supernatural work in your life, people in authority don’t seem to buy it. They preach that God will work miracles in order to give you a huge return on your tithes, which isn’t true, but other than that, they don’t seem to think he’ll do much for people. They teach self-reliance. Very strange.

I got an interesting revelation about the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that you can be forgiven for speaking against the Father or the Son, but that those who spoke against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven. Here’s what I believe God told me.

God told ancient people about the Father, and some did okay with that, and others fell away. So he sent Jesus. Some went forward with Jesus, and others fell away. Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who put him to death, because they did not know what they were doing. When Jesus left, he sent the Holy Spirit. This is all God has left. There is no fourth manifestation. Every Spirit-baptized charismatic knows about the Holy Spirit. When the churches persecute and exclude and slander him, as they do, daily, no one can say, “They know not what they do.” If they reject him and lie about him and suppress him, while speaking in his name and fleecing the sheep, they will have no excuse, so they will be judged.

Churches are teaching that tongues are of the devil, or that they are just “evidence” of the Spirit’s presence. They deny Paul, who made it clear that prayer in tongues builds us up, and who linked the Armor of God to prayer in tongues. They are depriving people of the only means of receiving improved character (the fruit of the Spirit) and supernatural weapons (the gifts of the Spirit). As a result, people remain in what the Bible calls “iniquity” and “lawlessness.” The Holy Spirit isn’t powerful in them, so they don’t receive his guidance, so the law is not written on their hearts. They don’t have God’s GPS.

Some Christians teach that you get the whole Holy Ghost package as soon as you accept salvation. That’s just plain stupid. Martin Luther believed, yet he hated Jews. Is that the fruit of the Spirit? Jimmy Swaggart is a charismatic, so he has received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which puts him one step beyond mere salvation. Does he strike you as a person whose nature is like that of God? Is he mature? Is he even honest? Of course not. Kenneth Copeland is a charismatic, and he’s downright mean. So where are the fruit and gifts of the Spirit, which these people and many other carnal Christians supposedly received in full measure?

Don’t even try to tell me they’re supposed to TRY. If it comes from human effort, it’s not the Holy Spirit. Anyone can try. The fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit have to be more than that.

Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God was within us, and that it grew gradually, like a mustard tree. He also called tongues “living water.” What do trees need in order to grow? Use your head.

I think the big lesson here is that no matter how easy God makes it, we will find a way to rebel. Sadly, the most influential rebels run the churches of this world. That may be about to change. God is patient, but we may be about to see a little judgment.