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Photosynthesis

December 17th, 2012

Catch as Much Light as You Can

I got a wonderful email a few days back, and I have been given permission to share it.

Steve,
I’ve been reading your blog (in all its permutations) for years and have always enjoyed your narrative style and content. I don’t drop in on your site as often as perhaps I should, but it is always a pleasure when I do.

I wanted you to know that you have had a positive impact on me. Your admonitions to pray in tongues encouraged me to try it – and the Holy Spirit has never been stronger in my life. Bear in mind that I’m from a straight-laced Methodist background (where even raising one’s hand in praise makes some congregants uncomfortable) and, at 58 years of age, the old dog / new tricks effect is in full play.

All that said, I recently had a failed business, lost a lot of what I’d materially accumulated, was looking at foreclosure, had college bills to pay for my two kids, etc. Dire times. In that state of despair, I prayed – for the first time – in tongues. I came so naturally to me that I was amazed (which detracted, at first, from my focus). Now it is a morning routine. The Holy Spirit moves in me for perhaps the first time in my life. It has been a great gift, Steve, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. The Lord clearly steered me your direction and had me accept your admonitions.

I just started a consulting engagement on a one year contract and am looking forward to this new career. I’ve still got a hard row to hoe in order to get out of debt, but I now have hope. And that, my friend, is something that lifted a crushing burden. At my age, getting hired (and particularly in this economy) wasn’t likely to happen. And as we age (particularly men who have taken the responsibility of supporting their family), that fear can be all-consuming. Absolutely crushing. It is now gone. I can function with some sense of confidence. The Lord has lifted me and prayer in tongue has given me the conduit to reach out and accept the lifting.

Thank you, Steve. It has been a blessing.

Can you believe that?

It amazes me that God is actually using me. Much of the time I feel like I’m accomplishing absolutely nothing, and I know I don’t do all the things I should, but occasionally God does something in a way that involves me, even though my activity is so slight, I’m practically a spectator.

Sometimes I’ll find myself in a group of people, and I’ll see an opportunity to pass on something I’ve learned about God. While I’m praying and trying to get it out, someone else will pipe up and say (or do) something. On these occasions, I don’t have to do much of anything. In fact, I tend to feel as if I’m being restrained. Often it will seem as people are talking over me and ignoring me, as though God is stimulating them to keep me quiet while he moves. It’s very strange.

On the one hand, it can be frustrating to be unable to speak when I feel sure God has told me what to say. On the other, it’s really neat to sit back and watch God work. It’s also nice to know I don’t have to worry about getting the glory. I think glory is like vitamin A. You need a little in order to get by, but too much is a poison.

Sometimes I’ll show up somewhere thinking I’m going to get something done for God, or I’ll be asked to do some chore or other for the church, and people will show up and start doing things around me. Sometimes they’re borderline rude. It’s as if they don’t see me. For example, someone may ask me to help move chairs, and I’ll try to get in there and work, and people will barge in and make it impossible for me to do much.

I wish something like that had happened yesterday. A toilet got clogged up at church, and God seemed content to let me handle the plunger.

The wonderful thing about teaching people about tongues and the Holy Spirit is that it’s a perfect act of charity. When you give a bum five dollars, you get him drunk for half a day, and then he’s back where he started. When you get somebody started with tongues, they get everything they need to lead a successful life for God. If they keep it up, they won’t need you to teach them much. God will teach them directly, and the first thing you know, they’re spiritually independent (of other people), and they may come back and teach YOU. That has happened to me.

One of the reasons I like the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is that you can get together with people and send a donation, and they’ll move a Jew to Israel, permanently. It’s not a fleeting blessing. You can rescue someone from anti-Semitic neighbors in the former USSR and put them where God wants Jews to be. Salvation and the baptism with the Spirit have the same quality of permanence (assuming those who receive them don’t screw things up). It’s like conceiving a child; using you, God creates the potential for a new life. In comparison, other acts of charity are a little bit like feeding a mule for a day.

SEGUE!

Slick, huh?

The other night, The Name of the Rose popped up in my cable box’s free movies list. I always have to have something to watch when the birds are out, so I turned it on. I totally forgot about the ridiculously long sex scene, which I had to blast through with fast-forward, but other than that, it was a worthwhile experience. It’s based on a novel by Umberto Eco. It’s about a Franciscan monk who visits an Italian abbey in 1327 and solves a murder mystery.

I don’t really care about the story. It was great, but that’s not what stood out to me. The thing that impressed me was the way things have changed.

I looked up the terms “Middle Ages” and “Dark Ages,” thinking they were not quite synonymous, but it turns out you can use them interchangeably. More or less, these were the years between 400 and 1400 A.D. The Holy Roman Empire collapsed, and after that, nothing good happened until the Renaissance. If you believe what you see in The Name of the Rose and various Monty Python movies, people wallowed around in the mud in filthy grey robes, eating dirt and excrement, and that was about all there was to life. There were nobles, kings, monks, and far-off heathens who were better off, but in the Christian world, life was rough.

I think the movies exaggerate. Don’t misunderstand. I’ve read books on the Middle Ages, and they were actually pleasant, prosperous times for many Europeans. The word “house” really meant something we would now call a compound (which automatically appeals to my far-right, gun-and-Bible-clinging personality). A person Obama would call “rich” would own the house, and it would be home to his family, as well as a number of servants. The bottom floor would likely be devoted to business, so you might see a workshop (see previous parenthetical), and everyone worked to keep the place prosperous (Ibid.).

People had things like soap and combs, and servants were expected to tidy up, so it probably wasn’t as bad as Dennis the Peasant and his filth-based anarcho-syndicalist collective.

Still, people had a lot of problems, and the movies emphasize that. The Name of the Rose served to remind me how rare knowledge was in the Middle Ages, and how far people were from God.

I don’t think the Middle Ages began because the empire fell. I think they started because carnal people succeeded in exterminating charismatics.

In the early church, tongues and the other gifts of the Spirit were not considered extreme. They were staples of the faith. Everyone was expected to partake in them. As a result, God worked great wonders through people, and the church actually threatened the supremacy of human government, as God intended it to. The human race made its choice, as it has so many times, murdering those who came to deliver it. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit disappeared, and backward, hopelessly ignorant Catholic and Orthodox clergymen took over, misinterpreting the scriptures and ensuring that generations would die powerless and captive.

In The Name of the Rose, a sub-plot centers on a huge debate in the Catholic Church. The Franciscans thought poverty was a huge virtue, and the Pope–a billionaire warlord in a mitre–disagreed. The events in the movie took place during a sort of convention, in which clergymen from various factions met at a remote abbey to debate the issue. The Pope’s big advantage was that one of his representatives was an inquisitor who could burn people instead of responding to their arguments. I guess you could say this guy was the Chris Matthews of his day.

The fictional debate centered around this issue, on which the welfare of the universe pivoted: did Jesus own his own clothing?

I’m no historian, but I don’t think that’s unrealistic at all. Christians fight bitterly about all sorts of stupid things. You might think the thing that disturbs me is that we get angry over trifles. That’s not really it. The thing that bothers me is that we have been so lacking in Spirit-given enlightenment, even if we argued about big issues, they would be the wrong ones! When the light of the Spirit goes out, the darkness of human tradition spreads across the land, and the first thing you know, the kosher laws have been augmented to the point where chicken parmigiana is forbidden.

The abbey held the biggest library in the Christian world. The books were piled up in a tower, and the top floor was a labyrinth only two people were allowed to access. The justification for locking the books up was that many of them disagreed with scripture and/or tradition, and the monks didn’t want to see the populace seduced by ideas on which the Pope had not signed off. As it has in real life, the Catholic Church actively suppressed knowledge.

I don’t really care if the church hides erotic fiction written in Latin. But over the centuries, traditional churches have hidden God himself. At times, possession of the Bible has been illegal, not under secular law, but church-made law. That’s insane.

I had the misfortune of visiting an Episcopal church for a funeral a couple of years back. I was stunned by what I saw. I had forgotten what traditional churches were like. People sat in pews fidgeting while womanish old white men in fancy robes muttered and gestured behind a heavy altar, yards away. The priests handled all the God stuff. The people watched, like miserable spectators. It’s funny; when God makes me a spectator, it’s a great gift. These people…not so much.

It reminded me how I had hated church as a kid. Back then, I fought when my mother tried to take me to church, and once I got there, I suffered and squirmed and lived for the moment it would end. It was only natural. I felt no connection with God. The dry lectures I received were dull and not very useful. I was offended and repulsed. I felt that I had an obligation to be there, but the experience was awful.

At my church, I literally feel God moving inside me. I get revelation upon revelation. The speakers prophesy. The Holy Spirit shapes the sermons so that, simultaneously, they meet the unique needs of dozens of people. Church is alive because God is alive, and because he is welcome. The traditional churches dispense God’s presence and power with an eye dropper. Satan owns them, and he controls the tap.

What I’m trying to say is that we still live in the Dark Ages. The real Dark Ages started when the baptism with the Spirit died out and Satan’s blind, carnal servants took over. We spent over 1500 years in defeat and helplessness.

Since the Azusa Street revival and similar outpourings, things have been improving. A new dawn is transpiring. God could have let is continue to grovel and meander in blindness, because he is under no obligation to fix our problems, but he has chosen, once again, to give us a new light. Like the monks who kept knowledge to themselves and denied the laiety the right to approach God without proxies, the traditional churches have been a barrier between God and man, but now that the baptism with the Spirit is back, God drops behind enemy lines, without having to battle his way across the front. God comes to live inside us, and there is no carnal weapon that can get him out.

This is why carnal people like to kill us. There is no way to “fix” us. They can either exterminate us or put up with us and wait to be overrun. They came after us in the “Holy” Roman Empire, and they’re going to do it again, because Satan can’t deal with us any other way. Most human beings, including Christians, serve him. In the flesh, he is vastly superior. The closer we come to fulfilling God’s mission, the more violent and numerous our enemies will be.

We are so privileged. We can know God, in a way only a small percentage of human beings have been able to do. And we have an incredible wealth of human knowledge, too. A disciplined person with an Internet connection quite literally has no need of a high school or university. I’m so glad I don’t live in 14th-century Italy, relying on homosexuals, politicians in cassocks, and the rejected sons of nobles to tell me who God is and how to serve him.

The Inquisition is still with us, unfortunately. It has been dormant for a long time, because there hasn’t been any need for it to act, but now that Spirit-filled believers are increasing, the voices are rising against us. Suddenly, sincere Christians are “bigots” and “haters.” We are the problem. The Jews are just as bad. Something has to be done about us! And it will.

But the Spirit is always stronger than the flesh. By the time they get around to boiling us alive again, we may have so much supernatural strength, it won’t bother us at all. That was the situation with many of the ancient martyrs. They joked while they were roasted or flayed. They were glad to get out of this place.

God is pouring grace out on us, and I am really grateful for it. For a believer, this is a wonderful time to be alive. It’s easier to get God’s help than it has been in centuries. They may round us up and gas us, but until they get us, we’ll live in a state of victory our grandparents could not have imagined. We will be untouchable, until the harvest. That’s what I expect. Some will go sooner, and some will go later, but many of us will not go until we are warned by God and we are ready to lay down our lives.

I believe the Dark Ages are coming to an end. War is going to heat up, but at least we’ll be serving our purpose.

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5 Responses to “Photosynthesis”

  1. Joe Mama Says:

    I could have written the same email. Many thanks for what you are doing, it is, I suspect, having a much greater effect than you realize.

  2. Karen Says:

    Steve, the same goes for me. You have been a profound influence in my spiritual life and I thank you.

  3. Jason Says:

    Steve, same here. Your writings have had/are having a big influence on my spiritual life. Keep up the good work!

  4. Aaron's cc: Says:

    During those Dark Ages, the Jews were not eating filth nor were illiterates, despite the centuries of jealous persecutions.

    Given that the faiths that claimed to supplant (fulfill) Judaism were incapable of preserving a single detail about the meaning of basic scripture (What’s a mezuzah? How does one slaughter an animal in a kosher way? What are the fringes that are required on cornered garments? What is matzah? What are the four species gathered for Sukkot? How is the Sabbath observed?), I think that should one have had the opportunity to contrast any typical Jewish, Christian or Muslim community of the Dark Ages, I think we’d fare rather well. Jews washed… regularly. We had disciplines that ensured literacy. We had family values and wanted our best and brightest to raise large families they’d influence to be leaders. Our meat was cleaner and healthier.

    In Judaism, rabbis don’t hide truths. When a student wins a challenge with his rabbi, the rabbi kvells and probably looks to see if he has an unmarried daughter to marry to the student. Rabbis, unlike their peers of other faiths, asserted that Gutenberg has a guaranteed place in Heaven for making scripture and commentary reliably reproducible and inexpensive.

    Eco’s a lot of fun. Reading the book is much better than the movie.

    Given what Judaism has done under murderous duress, denied the right to own land or to engage in many professions for nearly 18 centuries, there is still quite a measure of Genesis 12’s “those who curse shall be cursed” to be doled out, if there is any Divine justice, to those whose clergy and followers sought ill for them or who rationalize(d) what was done to innocent Jewish communities. Hard to find a single philosemitic community between the Council of Nicea and the American Colonies. It’s only after education became available that a rational re-assessment of 18 centuries of violent hate became possible.

    By contrast, let’s look at an unbroken chain…

    From 0-200: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannaim#Scholarly_lineage_of_prominent_tannaim
    From 200-500, we were writing down the Talmud: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amoraim
    From 600-1050, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geonim marked great academies in Babylonia.
    And from there to the mid-1400’s is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rishonim Even Christian scholars assert the indispensability of Rashi in understanding the meaning of scripture.

    A few individuals for which there is little parallel among the communities that oppressed us:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saadia_Gaon
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Gabirol
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maimonides Maimonides even had a fundamental influence on Aquinas. There are explicit references to Maimonides in several of Aquinas’s works, including the Commentary on the Sentences.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nachmanides
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahya_ibn_Paquda
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehuda_Halevi
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Ibn_Ezra
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gersonides
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Abravanel

    Physicians, mathematicians, astronomers…

    We had centuries already of writing treatises on how to develop a connection with G-d even 1000 years ago. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chovot_HaLevavot

    YOUR Middle Ages were Dark.

    We were publishing on how to develop ethics and improve character: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musar_literature In the 18th century, the seminal work of this sort was written, and one which I (and tens of thousands of others) learn in perpetuity, Mesillat Yesharim, whose chapters are:

    Introduction
    Man’s Duty in this World (Ch. 1)
    Watchfulness (zehirut) (Ch. 2-5)
    Alacrity (zerizut) (Ch. 6-9)
    Cleanliness (of sin, nekiyut) (Ch. 10-12)
    Abstention (of improper practices, perishut) (Ch. 13-15)
    Purity (tahara) (Ch. 16-17)
    Piety (chassidut) (Ch. 18-21)
    Humility (anava) (Ch. 22-23)
    Fear of sin (yirat chet) (Ch. 24-25)
    Holiness (kedusha) (Ch. 26-27)
    Epilogue

    It was more than a century after this that Disraeli quipped: “Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the Right Honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon”

    Can you cite a single tongue-speaking community or scholar referring to it of the 1st century? 2nd? 3rd? Martin Luther, founder of Protestantism? Is there any unbroken provenance of the tradition?

    Glad tongues work for you and others, but please don’t group Medieval Jews as ignorant dirty savages comparable to their Christian, Muslim and pagan peers.

    It might have sucked to be a Jew in Europe in the Middle Ages, but it sucked less than the alternative. You’d have probably retched an order of magnitude less among us.

    Eschewing chicken parmigiana (no rabbi says that this is direct from the Torah — it is a fence) is hardly worth mentioning given that rabbis have NEVER asserted that it’s

    Maimonides:
    … the flesh of wild [kosher] animals and of fowl, whether [boiled in] the milk of a wild [kosher] animal or of domesticated kosher cattle is not forbidden by Torah law, therefore it is permitted to boil it and it is permitted to derive benefit from it, but it is forbidden to eat it by Rabbinic decree, in order that people will not mistakenly come to violate the Torah prohibition of meat and milk by eating the meat of kosher domesticated cattle (=beef, lamb, goat) in the milk of kosher domesticated cattle (=milk of cow, sheep, goat), [mistakenly thinking] that the verse only prohibits [boiling] a kid in its own mother’s milk, literally, therefore they forbade all meat and milk.”

    To sum it all up: Since people thought of fowl as meat, the Rabbis were concerned that if people were permitted to eat fowl and milk together, they would conclude that other types of meat must also be permitted with milk. They thus decreed that everything which people think of as meat should be prohibited to eat with milk, and decreed that fowl and kosher wild animals, which were not prohibited by Torah law, would henceforth by prohibited by Rabbinic law.

    Ah.. but by WHOSE authority do the rabbis have to rule this way? G-d says they do. Got a problem with that, take it up with Deuteronomy 17:8-13: “If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, even matters of controversy within thy gates; then shalt thou arise, and get thee up unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose. And thou shall come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days; and thou shalt inquire; and they shall declare unto thee the sentence of judgment. And thou shalt do according to the tenor of the sentence, which they shall declare unto thee from that place which the LORD shall choose; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they shall teach thee. According to the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do; thou shalt not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. And the man that doeth presumptuously, in not hearkening unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die; and thou shalt exterminate the evil from Israel.”

    If you’ve got a problem with the provenance of law from Moses through the last prophet, Malachi, and the legitimate Sanhedrin whose rulings were transcribed into the Mishna and Talmud, there isn’t much scriptural basis for it.

    Nothing in scripture between Moses and Malachi abrogated the halachic rulings.

    Lashon hara is harmful TRUE speech… and it is prohibited. Exaggeration is counted as motzei shem ra, which is far worse. Diminishing Jews by associating them as living similarly for any reason OTHER than intentional oppression by the majority (whose ignorance was largely and deeply pagan and whose faith was, if present, only slightly related to the intention of their faith’s founders) is tantamount to slander.

    Have a meaningful holiday. And ponder when 18+ centuries of violence against His people will finally be meted out.

    I suspect when people respond when they face their Creator “I didn’t think of that”, He’ll respond, “How could you NOT think of that?!? You lived in a FREE country. How MANY times did you call the White House or your Senator or Congressman to complain? Did you EVER get your congregation to go en masse to fight those who brag about loving death? How much time did you spend watching NFL or Dancing With the Stars versus lobbying to protect My people?”

    One could hardly have blamed Jews if they stopped fighting the persecution and simply were absorbed into the majority communities. And then they’d have become as spiritually ignorant.

    To portray Jews as ignorant during the Dark Ages, you have to suppress a LOT of truth.

  5. Steve H. Says:

    I don’t like to publish comments like that, because a) it pushes us into the realm of disputations, b) the purpose of this blog is not to convert Jews or defend Christianity, but to inform Christians of whatever I learn in my walk, and c) comments that long are somewhat abusive of a blogger’s hospitality.

    This is a Christian blog; that’s just how it is. I write it for Christians. It’s not here to promote “meaningful interfaith dialogue” or debate or tolerance or whatever else it might be called.

    I will tell Christians what I believe. Sometimes that offends non-Christians. That can’t be helped. It won’t change. All I can say is that it’s not my goal, and I will continue doing all I can to help Israel and the Jews. And by “help,” I don’t mean badgering them to convert, teaching that Christians are here to replace them and move to Israel, or publishing gratuitous criticism of Jewish doctrine.

    I’ve said much less about the failings of Judaism than you’ve said about the problems with Christianity.

    NONETHELESS, since you bring all that up…

    1. Any age that includes the destruction of two temples, the Diaspora, the occupation of Eretz Israel, the Inquisition and related efforts, and the extermination of roughly 1/3 of the Jews is a dark age for Jews. There is no way to spin that as a victory. You will never convince me that God intended the world, in 2012, to contain 12-15 million scattered Jews who are mostly atheists, and 1.2 billion rich Muslims. Surely that was not God’s doing. I don’t believe Abraham would have celebrated, had he seen the future.

    2. I cannot accept the premise that Jews are doing great in God’s eyes. The Old Testament shows how things go for the Jewish people when they please God, and it’s nothing like what’s been happening since Solomon imploded.

    3. I know of no prophet who showed up and told God’s people–pre-Jewish, Jewish, or Christian–that they were to be congratulated. The prophets are uniformly critical. Jesus was EXTREMELY critical in his remarks about Jews AND Christians. I think he and the prophets were onto something.

    I’m not going to host a 40-comment argument that amounts to wheel-spinning, but I will say that much.