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

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.

10 Responses to “If You Find Yourself in Bed With Leah, Climb Out the Window”

  1. Ruth H Says:

    A long post and well worth it.
    I guess I should tell you I recommended your blog in a comment to someone of prayer group on Facebook. It is just called Prayer Group. I believe Heather is the one who introduced me to it.
    Anyway, I thought your blog posts would help that person.

  2. Steve H. Says:

    Thanks, Ruth.

  3. Ruth H Says:

    I goofed on that name, it is Prayer Request.

  4. pbird Says:

    Hi Steve. Its been a long time since I read here. I am so happy for you. It is rotten to be used and despised, but you sure do learn from it!

  5. Aaron's cc: Says:

    Absolutely don’t understand the title of this post.

    Leah was the mother of half of the 12 tribes, including Judah (messianic) and Levi (priestly). It was Rachel who generously enabled her sister to marry, also thereby freeing Leah from the risk of being married by Esau.

    Back to the post… if you recall, over a decade ago I suggested that you visit multiple churches. In my neighborhood, there are probably 20 Orthodox shuls within a 2-mile walk of my home. Like pizza shops in NYC, bad ones don’t last more than a couple of years. Competition for business and houses of worship is good for the consumer. Entitlement is bad.

    As I wrote in a private email, while there are tithings required of Jews for the priests and Levites, WHICH priests and Levites one gave one’s tithings to was entirely up to the donor. No recordings in Jewish scripture that if someone didn’t give to a specific priest or Levite of his threatening suspension of blessing. Instead, there are LOTS of references to some corrupted priests, recorded for posterity. Most priests were legit but the bad ones needed to be recorded as a warning for others.

    Sometimes, doing time under Laban can generate Divine gifts, insights, and even profits that Laban never intended. The difference between Laban and your old church is that your old church never even gave you an opportunity to benefit. The similarity was that once it was clear that you were departing, they tried to harm and undermine you. Jacob left with wives, 11 sons, a daughter, and flocks making him wealthy. It took a dream where G-d spoke to Laban to get Laban to give up his aim to harm Jacob.

    Leah is properly one of the 4 matriarchs, three of whom are buried in Hebron. She loved Jacob. The matrilineal ancestor of the Messiah through the tribe of Judah deserves an apology.

    Perhaps Delilah, who enticed Samson and cajoled him into losing his strengths while providing nothing in return, would be a better analogy. Samson allowed Delilah to nag him until he eventually brought harm on himself. Better that he would have divorced the shrew and never lost his Nazirite strength. Should your old congregation continue to pursue you…

    Tonight I leave the confines of my solid home to sleep in a sukkah to acknowledge the TRUE source of my blessings. Ps. 146:3: Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

  6. Steve H. Says:

    Don’t read more into the Leah reference than I intended. Like Laban, the pastor of my old church offered one thing and delivered another. Laban promised Rachel and delivered Leah, who was not desirable. Imagine how bummed out Jacob was when he woke up.

    My old pastor promoted himself at the expense of others, and he resented it when people fled bondage. At least, that is my perception.

    The historical comments on Leah are welcome.

  7. Aaron's cc: Says:

    Not desirable or not AS desirable?

    There is NO indication that Jacob resented what happened. He got a two-fer. Yes, he favored Rachel’s beauty but the leader-tribes of Judah and Levi were through Leah.

    The “weak eyes” is interpreted in Jewish sources as not being bad-looking but that Leah cried because she thought she was destined for Esau.

    Perhaps the aesthetic difference between the sisters was as minor as that between Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor? Maybe a mere preference for the younger?

    Any evidence of sibling strife? That Jacob wasn’t a dutiful husband to Leah, who participated in the ruse? Oh, and Bilhah and Zilpah were half-sisters of Rachel and Leah, all sharing Laban as a father.

    Oh… and Rachel gave Leah the “code word”, allowing Leah to succeed at the ultimately-correct-and-necessary deception.

    They must have been CLOSE ENOUGH in resemblance that consummation wasn’t thwarted. It’s not as if Amanda Plummer or Rosie O’Donnell or Michelle Obama was swapped for Audrey Hepburn.

  8. Steve H. Says:

    Again, I think you are reading way too much into it. But as long as the subject is on the table…

    Was Jacob disappointed? Take a look at this:

    So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

    Clearly, Jacob preferred the younger daughter, even though the custom was to marry off the older one first.

    Here is what Jacob said the next day:

    So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”

    Doesn’t sound too happy.

    Here is what the Bible says about their marriage:

    When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved . . .

    God himself concluded that Leah was unloved. That’s good authority.

    I don’t see how Jacob got a twofer. He worked seven years per wife, so he earned both. What really happened was that Laban burdened him with a wife he didn’t choose, AND he made him a debtor, which probably meant he was not at liberty to leave and prosper on his own land. Looks like a form of slavery to me. This was clearly Laban’s intention, as shown by his behavior when Jacob tried to move out. Jacob knew he had to sneak out in order to get away, and God had to restrain Laban in order to prevent him from harming Jacob.

    As for “weak-eyed” being interpreted as having cried a lot, I took a look at some Jewish commentary online. I noticed that it was not considered binding, and that the authorities conflict. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting possibility.

    The evidence that Rachel was better looking can be found in Jacob’s preference for her, and in the nature of the verse that describes Leah. It says, “Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.” The most natural interpretation of this sentence, even without the English “but” added, is that it is intended to contrast Leah with a sister who is beautiful, indicating that Leah is not so hot. But I don’t speak the Hebrew of 3500 years ago, so I can’t say who is right or wrong. The preference is unquestionable, but the fact that rabbis are still unsure of the reason suggests that nobody really knows what was going on.

    As for evidence of sibling strife, I don’t think it has relevance, but it seems clear that Leah was treated much worse than Rachel, and that she suffered because of it. She said she was unloved, and called her situation an affliction. Whether her suffering took the form of bitterness and/or resentment, I don’t know.

    Oops. I’m wrong. She was bitter. Look at this: “But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Also: “Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die!'” That looks a bit like strife to me.

    Looking at my own comment, I see that the conclusion that Leah was not “desirable” (objectively) was an assumption, but it’s pretty clear that she was not desired (subjectively).

  9. Aaron's cc: Says:

    “Rachel envied her sister”.

    Gen 30:2 “And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel”.

    When there is any favoritism in Jewish scripture, “unfavored” is translated as “hated”. The Hebrew is not the same as for the hatred of Esau to Jacob.

    The backstory of the birth of Dinah is that, knowing that there were to be 12 tribes and that she had 6 sons, Bilhah and Zilpah each had 2, and Rachel had only Joseph, Leah prayed to transform her fetus into a female so that Rachel wouldn’t have fewer sons than the concubines. Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin.

    Jacob had no choice but debt. His nephew, Eliphaz, stripped him of all his property. He made a deal… work in trade for a daughter. After the deception, after the week with Leah, he got Rachel… and Bilhah and Zilpah and then worked for more years.

    I’d conclude that she was “less desired”, not “not desired”. Better examples of “not desiring” wouldn’t have resulted in 6 sons and a daughter through Leah. Jewish law is clear that while a wife has conjugal rights (greater rights than that of a husband), a man who finds his wife unattractive is obligated to divorce her. Marital relations under duress is seen as degrading and will result in spiritually damaged children.

    Jacob worked for Laban… and prospered with two wives, two concubines (half-sisters), twelve sons, a daughter, and departed with vast flocks, having enriched his corrupt employer (who tried numerous times to change the terms of the work relationship) and himself.

    That slaves were treated so well, married to the daughters of the owner, entrusted with the owner’s property…

  10. Steve H. Says:

    “When there is any favoritism in Jewish scripture, ‘unfavored’ is translated as ‘hated’.”

    We get the same thing in the New Testament. There is a verse where Jesus said people would have to hate their fathers and mothers, meaning they would have to prefer following him to pleasing their families. People get all agitated over it. It’s sort of like the story where Oprah decided to give up on God because the Old Testament said he was “jealous.”