The Offensive Brother

You’re not long in the family before you notice a brother or sister that tells it like it is and if they happen to offend you, it’s because you can’t handle the truth. And don’t you know, God doesn’t pull punches because of your feelings, either?

You wince when they open their mouth. As sure as hip young people have to have a smart phone made by child laborers in the heaviest polluting countries of the world, their topic of choice will be high on polarizing and low on sensitivity.

Homosexuality is an abomination? Yeah, that’s what we should talk about.

Abortion is murder? That will go well with a fellowship meal after worship.

Obama isn’t a Christian? That’s better that talking about some kid’s softball game.

You suck it up until you or someone else finally calls them on the carpet. Why do you always choose the most offensive topics? What does this have to do with what we’re talking about? How does this help us worship, right now?

And to relieve that wincing discomfort, you want to join in, but . . .

What exactly are you attacking? Are they saying anything false? Even if we accept that some—some—abortion might be in self-defense, we’re talking percentages so low that your swallowing the camel as you strain for the fly. Is homosexuality an abomination? Yes, that’s God’s word, not mine. Of course He also calls eating pig and sleeping with a woman on her period an abomination. That doesn’t downgrade ‘abomination’, its just a warning that hypocrisy might be in the air.

Is Obama a Christian? Well the evidence that he is seems to be on par with the case that Robert Downey Jr. is actually a genius with a super-powered suit, whose friends include a green monster and a blond god with a glowing hammer. 

But truth isn’t everythin! What about speaking in love!?!?

I get that, but Yeshua isn’t the pasty nice guy from all the pictures. Or did you forget He called a woman a dog?

Yes, but He didn’t really mean it. He was making a point.

So . . . then offense is okay to make a point. Did He call his own disciples foolish and slow of heart?

Yes, but . . .

So, then perfect love can sometimes be insulting and critical, true?

Well . . .

Did Elijah make fun of the priests of false gods?

Yes, but . . .

So mockery is okay for a guy ‘good enough’ to get taken to Heaven without dying.

Yes, but the pattern? Doesn’t this show someone’s heart is in the wrong place, that they keep being offensive?

Oh, good. We’ve moved into the well worn area of judging someone heart. I’m only being half-sarcastic. Despite what is commonly taught we are supposed to judge one another’s heart. How can you rebuke sin in your brother, if you can’t discern where their heart? What is the difference between inordinate affection and brotherly affection, without the heart? The difference between cursing and warning? The difference between striking in anger and accidentally striking, without a conclusion on motive?

But to discern righteously, something that cannot be seen, you must rely more on something that cannot be seen, so you must be more careful and more prayerful.. It requires a knowing of the person, listening to the person. The mere fact that someone does something offensive to see the shape of the heart.

Righteous judgment forces a brother to ask really hard questions and not judge from the surface. Is my brother saying something untrue or unloving? Or am I offended out of envy because they are brave and I, a man-pleaser?

Not only can’t I condemn because of offense, I have to admit that sometimes the right course is offensive, apparently foolish and often futile. God deliberately sent prophets knowing their fate would be terrible on Earth because of His message, and that that message would be ignored. So how can I condemn simply because he makes me uncomfortable?

I can question his heart. I can confront him, challenge whether this is for God or out of some bitterness or frustration in his life, but I have to tread very carefully before I ask him to keep silent.

Understand this isn’t the practice of gritted teeth. It’s active; I have to push back. “Brother, I understand you have a message to deliver. I’m not hear to silence you or work against whatever work God has for you, but we also have a work, and here we’re trying to worship God and give Him praise. Does it help you, to focus on how good God is, when you’re preaching about how evil the world is? We already know that, and we see it day by day, but this is Shabbat, can we leave that aside for a couple of hours and have a time of rest and refreshment? Can we look at God’s goodness for awhile and not the abomination of those who don’t know him?”

You’re actually helping the brother to speak what they are called to speak, but also asking them to help you with your work. How many times was Yeshua offended by His disciples, and yet, did He tell them to shut up and sit down? Or did He push back? “Get thee behind me, Satan.” “You know not of what spirit you are.”

Distinguish between what YHVH teaches is sin, and what simply makes you uncomfortable.   

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The Law and the Prophets were until John…?

“Luk 16:16  The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. “ 

This verse has been used to tell me that Torah is past. Of course, I wrote a book on why that is impossible. But that leaves me with a proper question, “Then what does this mean?”

This verse is preceded by the parable of the unjust steward: a manager is about to get fired, so he goes and rewrites all the bills so that all the debtors to his master owe less so that when he loses his job he’ll be taken care of. It’s the type of story that makes you cringe: what could the Master be saying? Fortunately, Yeshua clarifies that the point is that the worldly people are at least smart in that they make friends with money. Unfortunately, the godly can be so tight with their money that they never make any friends with it. He says use it to gain something of real value. And then resummarizes: you cannot serve God and mammon. Then comes:

Luk 16:14  And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

:15  And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

So answer this question, bearing in mind the hearers are covetous (which is against Torah), have men highly esteemed the Torah and the prophets?

Let’s see: Torah was habitually broken—that’s why the Messiah is there in first place. Messiah is the embodiment of the Torah (Matthew 5:17) and He’s about to be killed. Just like all of the prophets (Acts 7:52). What about the kingdom of God?

At first it seems the opposite, that unlike Torah, the Kingdom is desired. What did they cry when Yeshua arrived the week of Pesach? Hoshiana (save, now!) it was a call for the kingdom to come right now. In Luke 19:11, the disciples believe (hope) the Kingdom is about to appear! After the resurrection Act 1:6 has them asking, is it now? Are you going to restore the kingdom?

So certainly, they seem to want it. But God doesn’t find His own kingdom abominable so how can men actually esteem it? Let me ask you this. Can you desire a kingdom, without it’s king? How can Messiah be rejected and yet His Kingdom be desired? And for that matter, has God just had a marketing problem all these centuries? The Torah was a flop, but if only He’d mentioned the kingdom, everyone would have become His disciple?

I think there is a clue in verse sixteen: “every man presseth into it.” The word presseth has to do with violence. When you take it back to the Hebrew you get equivalents like perek (meaning breaking or severity or cruelty). Now, what kind of person tries to take a kingdom by force? With breaking and cruelty? An usurper does. One who wants the kingdom, but doesn’t want the king. Do they really esteem the kingdom then? Or do they covet what belongs to the king? For that matter how does one ‘press’ into something when it has a door? If Yeshua is the door, why are they pressing? Because the door is too small, too narrow. The door is not accommodating to the way they want to come in.

Rather than this ‘pressing’ being a good thing that says they want the kingdom, I think in the context of these covetous Pharisees, who justify themselves, that Yeshua is describing a pillager. Which makes sense because in the next verse He doesn’t say something stereotypically gospel (more properly, the Glad Tidings), instead He reassert how difficult it is for Torah to go away. “Men don’t esteem what God does. They reject His Torah and try to take His Kingdom by force, but it’s easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away then for even the Torah to go away.” To reinforce that by clarifying the Spirit of Torah and divorce. Which is still about the subject of covetousness as is the Account of Lazarus. So the subject has nothing to do with a breaking of Torah and everything about holding on to what you should give and trying to take what belongs to someone else.

But this still begs the question, what does this phrase about Torah and Prophets being until John mean? What is this “until”? Because certainly it does mean there is some kind of transition or reorientation? We know the Torah is not done away with. We also know that the Brit Chadasha (Renewed Covenant scriptures) refers to prophets, not the least of which was the Emissary Yochanon who gave us the book of Revelation. Rav Shaul (Paul) also tells us about gifts of prophecy and prophets. We’re even told that the Spirit of Yeshua is the Spirit of Prophecy; how then could the prophets, be done?

Two options occur to me, both are based upon the fact that phrase ”law and prophets” was an idiom for the scriptures. The word Tanahk (what are called the Hebrew scriptures) is an acronym for Torah-Neviim-Ketuvim (Law-Prophets-Writings). Yeshua acknowledged this three-fold division of scripture in Luke 24:44. But it was also referred to in a contracted form as the Torah and the Neviim (Law & Prophets), which is referred to in Acts 13:15.

So is Yeshua saying then that the Tanahk is closed? If the Tanahk is closed, and that is the only scripture in existence then is Yeshua saying that the “canon” is closed? That there is no more scripture? That does seem to be a possibility. The rest then, of what we have considered scripture then would simply be very good commentary. There are many books that are referred to in the ‘canon’ but are not part of the canon. That could certainly explain how the vast majority of the scripture quotes in the Epistles are in fact from the Tanahk. However, Kefa at least considered Rav Shaul’s letters to be scriptural (2 Peter 3:15-16).

But there is a more troubling and obvious problem. The words of Yeshua would themselves, not be canonical! One might argue, that’s really okay too because the words of Yeshua are the words of YHVH, and we already have the Torah right? 

But still. He’s the Mashiach?!? How can His words not be part of the Canon?

Perhaps, there’s another possibility . . .

Notice in the Luke 24 quote, Yeshua divided the canon into the three-fold manifestation of the Tanahk, but in the Luke 16 quote, He only says two divisions? What if He’s not saying the canon is closed, but only the sections known as Torah and Prophets. What would that mean? Well, what did Torah teach us? Everything that we needed to know about the standard of right living and who the Mashiach would be. And the Prophets? They told us how the Torah would play out, and finally accomplish its goal through Mashiach.

But Meshiach has come! And He established and embodied Torah, so why would we need any more Torah? I mean additions. Do we need a ‘new commandment’? Of course not. Everything that Yeshua taught was already in the Torah, but we viewed it as through a veil. Now, in Mashiach, the veil is lifted. And what did the Prophets tell us of? The days of Mashiach!

In other words, we didn’t need any clearer picture of what righteousness is. Nor do we need a clearer picture of Mashiach. Now read the the second part of Luke 16:16. “…since that time the kingdom of God is preached…” Not that the Kingdom of Elohim is “in effect” but that it is preached.

What we’re talking about is a shift in proclamation. Nothing more needs to be ‘added’ to the instruction portion, rather now it is appropriate to be proclaiming that everything the Torah and Prophets said is coming to pass. The Kingdom of Elohim is at hand! Notice that’s what Yochanon preached, while at the same time upholding Torah and being one of the Prophets. He’s not saying the Torah is done, He’s just saying its complete. Now we need to proclaim that the long awaited and described salvation, has come!

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One of the Funniest Jokes is Indignation Over Climate Change Deniers

To let the wind out of some sails. I actually think climate change is happening; I just think a combination of we don’t really know why (and not the version of that you imagine), and SUV’s and coal are just red herrings.

But I digress.

Every now and then, I hear about how laughable are the climate change deniers. The climate change deniers are apparently such a huge setback to the world that even though all of Hollywood is pumping the airwaves with the climate change faith and the EPA exists, the intelligent people are unable to overcome the hopelessly ignorant, superstitious country folk. By intelligent people, in this case I mean anyone who agrees with popular thinking because that is apparently the definition of intelligent these days.

When I see these attacks, I can’t help shaking my head, at what a joke the intelligent people are. I literally laugh sometimes.

Since the country person is the posterboy for ignorance, that would mean that most of the eco-disciples are city dwellers, right? I mean that’s the land of public education, public libraries, eco rallies, etc. So tell me this, Eco-disciple, where does your water come from?

Oh it’s piped in by massive machinery that run on electricity and fossil fuels.

Where does your food come from?

Oh it’s put on giant a combination of boat, train, and diesel truck to bring me a banana every morning from Brazil.

How big is your TV? Do you have X-box? How often do you change your phone made out of toxic materials in the eco-utopia of China? How many wrappers do you throw away? Do you get up early and go to bed early to maximize daylighg, which are you know–is solar-powered?

What’s so laughable about these Eco Disciples (bearing in mind, I want to save the Earth, too, because it’s the first job God gave man), is that for all their ‘knowledge’ about how the Earth is being destroyed, they can’t seem to make even personal small decisions to save it. Saving the Earth is so popular, yet for some reason all that popularity can’t manifest itself in different lifestyles. Stores are still stalked with vegetables from far away so that means most of these disciples don’t have their own gardens and don’t patronize anyone who grows local stuff. These disciples aren’t dedicated enough to change their personal habits so that their legions of millions of believers can actually make a visible difference.

All they can do is change the way they spend money and talk about legislating others to make the changes that they haven’t the guts to make themselves. “Oh, I can’t stop buying disposable crap. I can’t plan ahead and buy in bulk, prepare my own meals, walk instead of drive, so we should make them recycle more of the wrappers or make compostable wrappers, and provide public transportation.”

I’m sorry, but the climate change deniers–their lifestyles match what they claim to believe. The eco disciples don’t. So who is the joke?

 

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What If God Really Has Given You Everything You Need?

Looking at a slope of ground that would make a perfect garden, if only it weren’t a slope . . . over the course of a couple years, I envisioned a set of tiers held by a cinder block wall, but alas no dinero.

Later, we found out that a local tire place pays to have tires hauled off, so they will gladly part with them. Meanwhile a tire wall is an excellent wall. But three hundred pounds of dirt per tire? That’s a lot of work and dirt is a precious commodity when you’re thinking about growing things.

Finally, we decided–inadvertently–to cut some posts from trees growing on the property. Buy some gravel for drainage which we needed for the driveway, anyhoo. A little bit of concrete for the posts and then collect some dirt from a neighbor and slab wood from a local mill.

I revisited this planning process, while preparing for Pesach by playing Hebrew in the Clay Pits, a game involving me and various garden implements being coated in clay that sticks to everything. And I can’t help thinking that a solution is always within reach.

Let me give you another example. I recently found out that a sheep ‘fold’ is not specifically a flock of sheep, but a practice of gathering thorns and making a ‘hedge’ around the sheep’s pasture. Something that ‘has no value’ could be used to construct an increasingly durable protective wall which if you though in the narrow terms of pre-fabricated resources would be very expensive.

When I look around the farm, while pre-fab solutions are easier if there’s money to spare, another solution that might cost more work is usually  available out of what you have on your property. Is that a little more true when you have land? I suppose so, which is just another argument for land and the Yovel principle. A really good argument for getting away from the city and back to the land, especially for those in lower economic strata.

But, I think the basic principle still applies. It’s just a good life principle to get out of the idea that only a uniform, pre-fabricated, pre-planned solution is necessarily the right one. There are many ways to tackle a problem that can be some mix of things on hand, if only we will open our eyes to look.

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Halacha vs. Torah

Recently I stumbled upon a group of orthodox Jewish followers of Yeshua Messiah, jerusalemcouncil.org. And it didn’t take me long to realize these guys have definitely benefited from an orthodox instruction. Having said that some things bothered me, namely a strong leaning on orthodox traditions. I spent much time in Backwards pointing out Paul’s objections to tradition taught as Torah.

But . . . as I read their arguments, they are very good. And I can’t deny the benefits of some of this line of thinking. For example, they found the virgin birth, the name of Yeshua’s mom, and her betrothed status without ever leaving the Torah. I can also see some great benefits of tradition, like presenting a united front and being visible to the world as distinct from the world. That is something that has been increasingly pressed upon me in my own study of scripture. The lack of our distinction as holy is terrible.

But most of have been burned and again there is the words of Paul and more importantly Yeshua, about laying heavy burdens and forsaking mitzvoth for traditions. But one of the writers for this group raises an interesting dilemma. He was pointing to the appropriateness of wearing a Kipa on the grounds that Torah has two instances in which the head is to be uncovered (a covering removed), since the Torah does not say “if they have a head covering”, he and many rabbis have inferred that the Torah expects that a covering would be present. Therefore one should wear a head covering to be ready to keep this command even though neither will probably come up in our lifetimes.

Now I can think of many commands that if I applied this same logic could go terribly wrong. For example, divorce calls for a writ to be given, should I then in preparation for keeping the appropriate way to divorce (though I have no intention to divorce) keep such a writ on me so that I can keep it if that were to occur? Is it forbidden to leave Israel because many commandments expect a visitation to Jerusalem?

But then he throws the sucker punch . . .

There is no prohibition in Torah for a woman lying with a woman as with a man. Does that mean lesbianism is ok, but not homosexual actions between men? For that matter many commands, like murder for example, address only men, does that mean its not murder to kill a woman?

It seems clearly (and Paul for example infers the prohibition of female homosexuality) that there are things addressed that are never specifically addressed. Doesn’t that mean we do in fact have binding tradition or halacha or even oral law?

How does one navigate these two concepts? Clearly there is something that is a heavy burden that is to be avoided. Clearly, we are not allowed to add one word or subtract one word from Torah, and yet . . . we are also given the repeated command to guard or hedge the Torah. How do we do that without adding or taking away? To me the principle example of wrongly hedging is Adam and Chavah, what then is the example of it done right? Or is it that there is no ‘boundary’ but rather a focus of will and spirit to perform the commands? Are we then left with individual determinations? That could be fine, but again, shall two women lie together? Is it not murder to kill a woman? There must be someway that this crosses over into a place where it can be judged by the community.

I wrestle . . . as I read “The Yoke and Burden of Messiah, and Moses.” [http://jerusalemcouncil.org/articles/teaching/yoke-burden-messiah-moses/] Has anyone else read this? What do you think?

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How Edenic-Mutts might help us live Torah Observant

Couple months back . . . well, I guess it would have been six or more . . . I was at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Ken Ham ‘happened’ to be there. A nice treat as I always enjoy hearing him speak. I used to not like him as much because he didn’t cite a bunch of science, but now I like him for that reason. That sounds ignorant, but I believe God made truth and necessary knowledge accessible to everyone. And that’s Ham’s specialty, articulating reason with faith that is accessible to just about anyone.

That day he was, in a nutshell, saying how evolution puts forth that creatures evolved from simple to more complex, but the highly-adapted versions of creatures resulting from natural selection are actually representatives of lost data. For example, if you have a mutt (a true mix) it has genes for long and short hair. When its descendants migrate too far north, the short haired offspring die out leaving only long haired dominant genes. So the long haired descendants of the mutt can never produce a short haired. Going south, the inverse happens. Thus these dogs that have ‘evolved’ to fit their environment are actually less able to survive a trip back the other direction because they no longer have the genes for that. They can never go back based on their own gene-library; they would need fresh blood from their alternately evolved cousins. In short they are more adapted, but less adaptable than their mutt ancestors.

So how does the evolution-claimed idea of common ancestors provide some insight into Torah since I’ve just disregarded evolution? Where evolution goes astray is where it starts disagreeing with scripture and saying everything came from a gob of goo resulting from millions of years of rain on rocks. But this idea of common ancestors does agree to a degree with scripture. Didn’t all dogs come from the dogs of Eden and/or the dogs from the ark?

Now I also believe that the ‘curse’ of Genesis 3 is self-inflicted: God didn’t rewire everything to not work. Yah was simply saying that because of sin, the world wouldn’t work right. If I believe that as I do, none of the fallout happened immediately. Thorns didn’t miraculously appear, and since there was no death they didn’t walk out of the garden and immediately see scenes from National Geographic.

So what about the Serpent, and losing his legs? Suppose he didn’t immediately lose his legs, but because of man’s sin (or the serpent’s own fault) he had the ‘mutation’ of laying an egg with an offspring that had no legs. Or indeed smaller legs as evolutionary theory suggests. For some reason the parent and the offsprings with legs died, and thus by natural selection in a sin-filled world you have snakes without legs.

But what use is this speculation? So there were common ancestors? Well, if we start looking at the world not as if modern species came out of Eden, but that these are ‘splintered’ mutants from original Edenic-mutts, then maybe some of our problems come from that splintering?

For example, Pitbulls. Why do Pitbulls have to exist in God’s plan? Maybe 59% of fatalties from dog attacks between 06-08 were from Pitbulls because they weren’t part of the design. In fact, all of the major dog bite fatality percentages came from distinct breeds. Mixed breed or mutts accounted for only 1%.

Or take wheat allergies. Some research could be suggesting that ancient grains are less likely to offend the growing segment of population intolerant to modern wheat. Wouldn’t these ancient grains be more likely to be closer to grain-mutts? Original herbs that God seeded on the Earth?

Or take the maladies like diabetes, asthma, lung scarring, and others that are more likely and more devastating on black people? Meanwhile Cystic Fibrosis and hereditary haemochromatosis are more common among whites?

This is all really me thinking out loud, but if we are to keep the garden and have dominion (because God’s gifts and callings are without repentance), then perhaps we would benefit by being more conscious of the fragmenting that’s taken place since Eden? Perhaps, we should stop trying to breed ever more speciality, and try instead to get back to more ‘primitive’ varieties. Maybe we have ‘invasive’ species because we have too much speciality? Maybe invasive species are even a good thing attempting to restore the balance?

Maybe this would even apply to people, encourage more ‘mixed’ race marriages. Most of us aren’t a bunch of racists anyway, but maybe we should try to put forward to our children the beauty of the so-called other races? “Wow, son, look at the brown on that girl!” Maybe, try to pay a little more attention to evolutionists when they talk about what was a common ancestor, then in theory we could bread to species from that same ancestor to try and get back to it?

I’m just thinking out loud here. I might not have posted at all, but a brother said it had been a month, so I felt like I should =)

 

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Co-sleeping

If you want to have a knock down drag out fight, one of the most efficient means is to give parenting advice.

So this is not advice. (Checks all of the exits. Assesses most vicious looking parent in the area).

This is just a thought.

My wife and I have been practicing co-sleeping with our son since he was born. Practice might be too strong of a word, since we sort of fell into it out of emotional/physical exhaustion in the wake of a painfully steep learning curve on breastfeeding. With me being the helpless spectator/cheerleader. So it wasn’t really a ‘choice’ other than a surrender. Ever since then, we’ve paid a nightly price since he now refuses to sleep without us.

Refuse might also be too strong a word because now and then he does. And he does stay asleep now so we can get up and have at least a half the night without him.

So it would be easy for me to tear down the practice. And as any husband can imagine, the drawbacks are . . . often on my mind.

But, then I hear some suggest that it’s not healthy. That its a harmful way to parent. Not that I’ll get drawn into one of the KDDO fights, but I’m not sure I buy that. A verse that comes quickly to mind is Luke 11:7, “Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed.”

My general life philosophy (at the moment) is that God provides for all your needs–which has pretty good longevity as a philosophy thus far. I don’t believe we are ever in a place of true need. We may be unable to reach something that we will need, but at that moment we do not need it. An unpayable bill may be coming, but by the time it arrives the means to satisfy it will be there as well.

As much as I gripe to God about this, He has always come through.

Now, in our current situation, we’ve become very adept at working with less. There’s not a lot of money floating around our geography, and for a variety of reasons neither relocating nor an extended commute nor giving up on things like Shabbat, seem worth the trade (though, I often fudge those lines). I’m merely saying we do well with less.

And as I read scriptures, I find God has a lot of good things to say about such people. They apparently have better odds of getting in the Kingdom than a rich person–and that seems like a well-worth it benefit. Cause I’ll be laughing my butt off when you’re– well. Nevermind.

So if this is the case, then it seems reasonable to assume that the poor are just as able (perhaps more able) to build a godly family/house than the rich. Perhaps they are even at an advantage because they live with humility and dependence. That verse from Luke 11:7 of course doesn’t prove anything. The scriptures provide neither positive nor negative commentary on the practice. But think about it logically.

If you were poor, are you likely to have a big house or small? Small. So there’s less room for beds right? Are you likely to have a good supply of fuel or other heating methods? Probably not. So if you were poor, which makes more sense, having multiple rooms heated or one? Having each person in a cold bed, or sharing warmth in a single bed?

My wife and I aren’t poor. In many financial ways, we’re ahead of the curve because we own land and a house (more or less) and we have money saved. But we’re not flowing with cash either, and its simply easier to heat fewer rooms. And it’s simply warmer and more comfortable to share a bed in one warm room than multiple rooms.

So my point is co-sleeping makes sense (at least when we’re talking about small children). It would be a more practical/doable option for a truly poor person, so are you telling me that God made it impossible for such a person to raise a child undamaged?

I find that unlikely.

Also, when I get in bed and my son rolls over and puts his arm around me and says, “I love you.” I find it hard to believe that’s a sign that we’re doing something wrong. However, I may hate the inconvenience of someone who insists on being between my wife and I . . . I can’t find the sense that I’m doing something wrong when it seems to develop such a trust.

Now, certainly, trust can become dependence (for that matter isn’t trust always dependence?). There can be that disabling that comes with over-dependence. But does God teach us independence by hiding from us when we are young in faith? Are we teaching our children to be independent by telling them we are always really there for them even when we seem distant (as God does), or are we teaching them to be independent by telling them that they’re really on their own and can’t trust us?

And further more, what value is this independence? Certainly, I want my children to have confidence. To know that they need nothing but what exists between them and God. But our society is awfully independent if you ask me. And I stress awfully. We have children that don’t seem to care about their parents. Don’t care about their families (at least not until its too late). Want to get out of the house, keep family on the other side of a state border and see them in controlled doses until you have to put them in a nursing home waiting to die.

Of course, there’s a lot of other factors that contribute. I’m certainly not saying that co-sleeping solves this or not co-sleeping causes it. But maybe its part of the same culture. Maybe, there is a similar spirit that says ”Get the baby in another bed, in another room,” and “Get away from the parents.” I’m just looking at the ‘modern’ world, and I really don’t see much that tells me it values family. That it wants family to succeed. That children should love their parents, and parents their children.

Just some thoughts and questions, and maybe the small opinion that co-sleeping isn’t so beyond the pale as is generally considered by a world whose families are falling apart.

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Modesty

When I look at modesty (haha, pun!), I find that there are more varied aspects than seem to be accounted for in the popular use of the word.

Modesty: The principle appears to me to be about humility, an expression of true value, seeing oneself as God sees, and the way that principle should express itself.

If you search scripture, there is no dress code. Unless you’re a priest and on duty. For everyone else, there are rules about what can or can’t be worn (with fringes, sans mixed materials. Plus/minus debate). But what we normally think of as modesty in the church (hem length/cut/etc) are not found in Torah. In fact the mark of a prostitute in some places was what they covered, not what they uncovered.

If you look up the word modest in the KJV, you find it in reference to the instructions not to wear expensive clothing, not a definition of yardage. Which makes sense of the word modest, which means neither too much nor too little, but fitting (another pun!). Torah doesn’t forbid wearing beautiful clothing, in fact some seem to imply it is good when on a godly person, so it seems the apostles aren’t talking about a blanket prohibition (they keep on coming!), but that godliness should not be in show but in substance.

But the things they use to express this warning is not with the danger of revealing wardrobe, but the danger of showing wealth. Unless you have a certain amount of status you can’t afford the time/money/ or energy to be fashionable. I think there’s space for fashion as art, just as its not wrong to make a dish taste good rather than simply nutritious. Or just as its not wrong to sing well rather than just sing. Or do anything well. But the point is, especially back before the industrial revolution, clothing was a sign of status. As was plaited hair, and definitely jewelry. To dress well then, in a way was to publish how rich you were. A kind of competition that sowed division.

In Jewish religious circles, it is commonly understood that modesty is really about humility. Not drawing undo or undeserved attention to oneself. And that is something you can find in the Torah, because even the King was not to think himself above his brothers. If you love someone else as much as yourself, it leaves no room to make yourself more auspicious if it means making someone else more lowly. Your desire is for them to live with you, not beneath you.

So then, dress is just an expression of modesty. In truth it should include every action, word, or thought. Even totally naked married men and women should be and can be modest with each other, because they are humble. And what is this humble thing? It is not thinking one less than one is, because that would be to deny the image of God in you and the work of God in transforming you into it. To degrade the creation is to degrade the Creator. Nor is it to think oneself higher than one is, for that is obviously pride, and also discontentment as you claim a position higher than the one God gave you, thereby saying to the Potter, “What are you making?”

Humility is simply seeing yourself as God sees you. Who or what is the focal point of humility? It is God’s perspective. So what is lack of humility? It is focus on the perspective of someone other than God! So then if you dress in a way that promotes the beauty of the body as a praise of God’s handiwork and greatness, then that promotion by dress is humility. Just as singing God’s praise by a gifted singer is not exhibitionism, if they are showing off God rather than themselves. Likewise, covering because of shame of the body or revealing for the praise of anyone without God would also be immodest.

Thus exhibitionism of self is always immodest, and selflessness is always modest.

Expression of Modesty in Dress: But are there practical considerations? What about the complication and deception of lust.

From the first understanding, I think the idea of modesty must revolve around an objective. It’s not omnidirectional, it does not have one definition, but takes many forms. Modesty must revolve around a specific objective. Therefore neither more, nor less, is inherently modest but the reason for it. For example, if one is swimming then extra yardage makes swimming more laborious even dangerous. Therefore wearing less is modest. Perhaps even wearing nothing, just look at Peter. No one seemed to take issue with the fact that he is working without attire. Do we suppose this is the first time it happened? Or that it never happened afterwards? This was just the one time Peter decided to go au natural without any consideration for what anyone including his Rabbi might say?

Having said that. If my objective is to minister to others, where they are, then shouldn’t my dress reflect that objective? Perhaps Peter was ok because everyone understood that his manner reflected nothing other than practicality.

That sounds reasonable, so does that affirm the idea of asking women to be concerned with how their attire might distract or cause a man to stumble? Perhaps, yes and perhaps no. Perhaps, more nuanced than that. On the one hand, if a woman (or a man) knows that what he’s wearing would cause someone else to stumble, then it seems she or he should abstain. But notice it is not because it is inherently wrong, rather it is an act of sacrifice for another. If they did not know they were stumbling someone, then it could not be their fault because no one can be expected to abstain from everything that might offend. Even Godly things can offend. The very fact that someone can do something not inherently wrong and it might offend, means that the freedom of God is actually offensive to some. If a believer attempted to abstain from everything that could offend, they would have to abstain from life itself.

Further complicating is that, while one might claim to be offended by the freedom God gives us, isn’t the laying on of burdens by tradition also a stumbling block? If by abstaining, we take on ever-heavier load aren’t we falling into the criticism of Yeshua toward the Pharisees? While Paul seems to make a big deal of stumbling brothers, Yeshua goes out of his way to offend people on several occasions. This is the same man who tells his closest followers that they’re stupid/foolish at times. Tells one of them that he’s speaking for Satan. Clearly, there is a limitation to how much we can be inoffensive.

If Peter was concerned about expensive dress, what about having a nice car? I won’t lie, my car is ‘junk’ in the natural and it’s very easy for me to look at someone’s car and say, “If only I had. . . ” Does that mean everyone else is required to sell their nice cars? How low is the bar set? Do I have to give up my car for someone who is even lower on the food chain?

The only conclusion I can reach then is that people of either gender should be considerate in specific with a specific person who has given them reason to believe this is a hurdle for that specific person in a specific time. But that in general, such a standard should not be observed and the general community should call each other to true understanding and not entanglement with tradition-made-into-command, but rather one of true modesty which is defined by the need of the situation and not some artificial imposition. But since sometimes practicality leaves different options of style, and since we don’t want to encourage division just as we wouldn’t with jewelry, then one should dress in a way that is generally acceptable. Neither outstandingly ‘conservative’ because of the message that projects, nor outrageously ‘liberal’ because of the message that conveys.

I guess what that leaves me with is, nothing is either forbidden to wear (except for the Torah prohibitions) or required (except for the combinations Torah requires). But that we should take reasonable consideration for the message our attire projects and ask whether it is projecting what we mean to. Does it achieve our objective?

 

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Dear Nature, stop looking at me like I owe you money

I see these short ads from some international conservation group. And while I am far more ‘environmentalist’ than I once was, just for fun I will point out the ways this ad annoys me.

#1 The female narrator–ahem, the condescending, angsty female narrator. Informs me that everything is hers. As if she were god, and I owe some religious homage to her.

#2 The video ends with “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.” Which I really want to agree with the sentiment, but if God’s word is true than God made humanity to manage nature. That means God believes nature is made better because of our intervention. At least intervention of a godly nature. When humans act in God’s Image than nature is improved, so don’t feed me and everyone else around me this bull#&$* that nature doesn’t need us. God thinks it does.

#3 This one is just kind of funny because I’m pretty sure the movie makers don’t take my view on God. Either nature is god, there is no god, or god/gods/goddess(es) don’t matter. So when the narrator tells me how everything belongs to her, and then says “I have fed species greater than you, and I have starved species greater than you,” besides wanting to gag or throw something at the screen, I can’t help thinking . . .

Wait. Nature, didn’t you kill off more species (in evolutionary theory) than are currently on the planet? So mankind has killed off a couple hundred thousand, and we’re supposed to feel bad when you’ve whole sale slaughtered all these greater species? We owe the greatest killer in history . . . anything? Nature, that keeps creating diseases to kill us? Nature that has to be redirected to allow our species to prosper? I mean, it doesn’t exactly hand survival to us on a silver platter. I mean that whole ‘survival of the fittest’ kind of tells me that we’ve had to work pretty dang hard to get this far.

So how exactly do we owe you anything besides to shackle/chain/cage/imprison and enslave you for our own prosperity?

#4 Building on the previous thought. If nature wiped out all these species before us, in the evolutionary view, nature was quiet different. At one point, nature was barren rock. Then it was lifeless rock. Then it was a swamp with a bunch of germs in it. Then it was a series of catastrophes that killed everything that had dared to rise out of the muck.

Point being, nature is not a status, its a flux. So how is nature now, complex, and beautiful with some polar caps more valuable or better than a lifeless desert? A polluted ocean? A nuclear waste populated by cockroaches? What makes one nature better than another, and nature itself is indestructible.

The only thing that makes nature now ‘better’ than the way it was (in their theory) is that we value it this way.

Wait, what nature? You’re talking like you’re all that, but you don’t mean a thing except that we say you’re great. The only reason to preserve you in your current ‘natural’ state is because we have said it’s good. Because that nature serves us.

 

So, I’m not making a point here just having some fun at the expense of snooty, inconsistent environmental messages.

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Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Guilty.

Now that that is out of the way, I’ve been thinking about the Shmita year. At the Clark household we’re practicing keeping it 2014-2015. I know some debate when to keep the Shmita (Sabbath year), wondering if you start counting from when you acquired the property, do years of rest prior count, etc., but the way we see it God’s design was a single Sabbath year kept by His people. So we just keep it when the common Hebrew calendar indicates.

But we’re in a quandry since even in a good year our garden has not yet been sufficient to provide a full year’s sustenance, let alone two or three as God promises. I can meditate on how that is the case, after all God promises the blessing before the year arrives, but I’m not hung up on it. If God hasn’t provided the blessing than I wager he’s merciful to however best we look to keep his mitzvah.

But I have been thinking about the why. One answer that comes to me is that Yah’s people are not united and that the blessing was promised to a people in covenant and obedience, which we lack. Some might suggest its because this isn’t the promised land, but I would point out (as I do in my WIP) that Yah judged heathens for defiling a land that had not yet been given to Israel, among other points of rebuttal.

But another thought came to me recently. Our garden insufficient garden, I frankly imagine is the norm for most of us, who end up relying on the professional farmers. But is that a problem if our inability to provide for ourselves as a people pushes us to rely on those who don’t keep Yah’s ways?

If that’s not the ideal situation then our ability to obey is in many ways tied to our planning. Makes sense of that little word in many mitzvot, ‘observe’. Yah doesn’t just want us to do or not do, but to be observant, to look for the chance to obey. An inclination that asks, “How can I keep this?”

Thinking this way, I reflect on all the times a feast day has ‘snuck up’ on me. Or I find myself in a place thinking, “Isn’t there a command about this?” And after the fact, I’ll find myself having missed something. It occurs to me that many of the ‘surprises’ come about because I’m driving along my life when suddenly, I see a sign that says, “God this way —>”.

It’s hard to make the turn because I wasn’t looking for it.

Suppose I had a garden of sufficient size, with a bountiful harvest. Would I have had the foresight to put away the excess or would I blow it in a big shindig or say, I have more than I can use and not worry about storing at all? I don’t know, but I get the sense it would have been something like that.

It occurs to me that many of the commandments are hard to keep because our lives have been built without them in mind. We have ‘our lives’ that we live, and then a commandment comes up that is outside of our normal life and so its hard to keep it. A friend once told me about an service member he was coaching for profanity in a training environment. And my friend told his subordinate that it looked like the he/she was “trying to maintain two vocabularies,” one for home and friends to be ‘cool’ and one for work to be professional. That the problem was this duality and not the difficulty of the standard.

Is God asking us something hard? Or is it that our whole lives have been built without Him? Are we meant to rush for that quick turn? Or is God calling us to change lanes a couple miles back because His place was the destination instead of the rest stop?

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