Fear vs. Afraid

One of the teachings of mine that got me a “chew out” session in Vancouver, and probably even led to my later being labeled a “blasphemer”, was one I called “Fear vs. Afraid”. The premise of the teaching was that we must fear God, but we need not be afraid of God since we are "friends of God". 

Merriam Webster gives one definition of fear as profound reverence and awe especially toward God.” Afraid is defined as “filled with fear or apprehension.” The "fear" in this second definition being defined as, “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”  

Language is imperfect so our word "fear" in English can have somewhat opposite meanings. After giving this teaching, and apparently after someone misunderstood the concept, they then "reported me"  for teaching falsely and I was "called on the carpet". I attempted to explain this teaching to Bruce Leonard, who considered himself the "ruling elder" of Vancouver and Portland, but it fell on deaf ears. I found myself accused of being a false teacher. The push back I got on my statements; as the pendulum swung to the maximum possible position away from what I had actually said in the teaching; is  I was telling people they should not respect God. I actually said quite the opposite in my teaching. 

What I did say was to give the example of Abraham being a friend of God and not one who cowered in his presence, afraid he would be killed by God. I used part of  the letter James wrote to the twelve tribes when he states,

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.”

Moses too was able to speak to God "face to face". Since God is invisible this could only be presumed it was a representation of God, but who can really say. It is clear Moses held  favor with God as a friend allowing him to speak to face to face this way, without being afraid. When Moses returned from the mountain, with the ten commandments in hand, the people began to cower at the presence of God and were afraid of God. Moses immediately tells them not to be afraid of God so they can learn to respect his ways and not sin. Fear and afraid are polar opposites. Respectful fear causes one to embrace and respect God. Being afraid, on the other hand, drives one away from God.

In the letter Paul wrote to the Romans he stated

“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

Abraham had faith and it counted as righteousness. If we have faith, just like Abraham, it also counts to us as the same righteousness. Should we expect any less from God?

We are saved by grace, through faith, and not by anything we can possibly do for ourselves, same as Abraham. It is strictly having a complete trust in God. To trust in God is to fear (respect, revere) God. Being afraid and cowering indicates there is no trust in God and we must then turn and run away from God. Abraham, through his faith, not born out of his own works, became a “friend” of God.

In a letter to the Twelve Tribes, the Hebrew people, Paul wrote, 

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Paul understood the concept of fear vs. afraid. Fear, or respect, causes one to draw near to God out of reverence and trust. The one who is afraid of God, runs away from God instead and has no faith that God can save him. If Noah had cowered, and been afraid of God, he would not have built an ark and displayed his faith. He would have been  afraid the ark would not float, or the flood would overwhelm him. He revered the word of God and followed God's instructions.

David wrote in the Psalms,

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. 

God is a God of mercy. We need not cower and be afraid of God. We can come boldly to the throne of grace and ask for mercy at any time since we have a propitiation, a perpetual sacrifice. If we have proper faith, like those in the list in Hebrews; Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, and many more, we too can boldly come to God, without being afraid, knowing there is no condemnation placed on us. Knowing this, we can have an even greater reverence, or fear of God, without being afraid of God's wrath.

One of the teachings the ABC has is if one has a “soul sin” the only manner of forgiveness by God is to go to an elder and ask for anointing with oil. Having been an elder in the ABC, I found there were individuals that week after week after week had a “soul sin” and needed anointing over and over and over again. Really? That's just not possible. It was almost feeling, at times, like the next step beyond this would be to open a “confessional booth”. 

And what exactly is a “soul sin”? The only reference to this is Old Testament, primarily in Ezekiel, where it states the soul that sins will die. The old covenant was destroyed when we received the propitiation. Those who teach the propitiation is of no effect without human intervention are like the foolish Galatians who returned to following the law again and began arguing over circumcision. Paul wrote to them and said,

 "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

The ABC will quote the scripture in James that says,

 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

The ABC loves Greek words, so this word “sick” is the Greek word astheneo. This is no common sickness, and certainly does not refer to a "soul sin". It does not even directly refer to any sort of sin at all since it says, almost as an afterthought, "and if he have committed sin". IF! That's a big two letter word. 

I can give one prime example for the use of this type of anointing. In the ABC there was once a man named Horace who was a brilliant mathematician. When I first met him he was in his late eighties and had just finished contract work with NASA helping design the lunar rover. In a way, he was instrumental in helping put a man on the moon. A little later in life this man succumbed to some form of dementia after a stroke. He became, in this demented state, an "atheist" and recanted any belief in God. A meeting was  held to determine if this man was now a “blasphemer” and whether he had “lost his salvation”. There was no definitive outcome from the meeting but privately my father felt he had lost his salvation. Personally I felt this man was just weak, feeble, astheneo and worthy of God's grace and mercy. This is a time when the elders should have gone, anointed this person with oil, and IF this person had “sinned”, it would  be forgiven. This piece of scripture in James is not talking about a “soul sin”. No one need ask an elder to act as their high priest for forgiveness, counting the propitiation for sins of no effect.  This, in itself, Paul said, is tantamount to falling from grace. 

This doctrine is in place as a dependency measure. If one cannot find forgiveness without the services of an elder of the ABC, they are then captive and dependent on the ABC for mercy and grace, rather than be devoted to God and His mercy. 

Though some will disagree with me, we can be a friend of God just like Abraham. We don’t have to cower and be afraid of God like the Israelite people at Mt. Sinai. If we are less than perfect, there is no condemnation on us. We can boldly step up to the throne of grace at any time, without an elder, and, as a friend of God, ask for mercy and it will be granted. We have Jesus as our high priest now, not any man. 

If someone feels only Abraham had something special, it was written to the Galatians, 

 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

And if that is not defined enough, the gospel of John reads;

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

                                                         Jesus at the Last Supper


Tolerance and the ass


In a previous post I wrote about how love is the only commandment and often what we perceive as "love" could be better termed as "affection". This love that is the greatest commandment is not affection, it is tolerance, and not just tolerance, it is massive tolerance.

The Pharisees considered tolerance to be averse to the ways of God but God is all mercy and tolerance.  When speaking to a group of self-righteous Pharisees; lovers of the law; Jesus said, 

"(Love) is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."   

He was speaking here to Jews, telling them if they truly wanted to follow the law, they needed to obey this one command, to love, and another command just like it. Love for neighbors. That’s it. Love. Fulfill that one commandment, and its mirror image, and you will have fulfilled them all.

When Jesus was asked later to define "who is a neighbor" he told the story of a man, assumed here to be a Jew, who was robbed of all, including his clothes, then beaten and left for dead. This man was first passed up by a priest, then a Levite, the religious men of his day, but was ignored and shunned by both. The man who eventually showed him love and tolerance was a Samaritan man and this Samaritan is a man who would have been considered unworthy to even enter the temple by this Jew yet he was this Jew's "neighbor". The others who passed by were too busy in their religious pursuits to take time to help this man but it is this "unrighteous" Samaritan, a man not considered to be of the proper Jewish faith, considered an “infidel”, who cared for this "righteous" Jew delicately, without prejudice, and met all of his needs out of his own pocket. 

Showing compassion and mercy to all, no matter their lot in life, or religious views, is how we love our neighbor. These two men, with discordant cultures and beliefs were in fact…neighbors. That seems a simple, yet difficult, concept for mankind to grasp. 

Churches like the ABC are schools of Pharisaical thinking and are not places that teach the love and tolerance Jesus spoke about in the parables. Churches like the ABC look to confine, enslave, then control others through rote learning and without love. They are not places that tolerate anything outside what is perceived by the leaders to be “accepted doctrine”.  I believe the Corinthians were caught up in this same net. Paul wrote to them and gave them a distinct, almost poetic, list of the pieces of love.

Love is patient

Love is kind.

Love does not envy

Love does not boast

Love is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others

Love is not self-seeking

Love is not easily angered

Love keeps no record of wrongs

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.

Love always protects

Love always trusts

Love always hopes

Love always perseveres

I lay no claim to being perfect in all things on this list. Neither does anyone else on this earth. It is something we strive for but likely will not ever fulfill in our short span of life. 

The commandment to love our neighbor, as if they were ourselves, is where churches, such as the ABC, are severely deficient. They are blinded to their own reality by the pride of knowledge. Many will take offense at my words, and defend the status quo, but that’s just the nature of man. We don’t like to feel we have been wrong because it makes our history seem worth less. Repentance is the first layer of our foundation and repentance is a difficult thing if we are lifted up with the pride of knowledge. 

It is widely taught Repentance is metaneo, change our mind. That is accurate, but some miss the meaning of the other half of that statement; “from dead works”. The Pharisees sought God through their actions, their works, their much study, long prayers in the streets and their synagogues. They loved to be seen of men as more righteous through their religious actions. God ignores our actions, sees our heart and asks; Is it full of love? Do we tolerate our neighbor who will likely never see eye to eye with us? This is what love is. Those who saw this man beaten and bloodied by robbers, and just walked on by, were exhibiting hate, even though they did not think they hated in their heart. Hate and pride are brothers.

In an effort to seek and please God churches, such as the ABC, seek to be seen through their feasts, studies, charts, graphs, head coverings, long prayers to be seen of men, meetings and then even more studies in a vain attempt to be "closer to God". It's a long list. They saddle themselves with burdens, then seek to afflict others with these same heavy burdens. When the burden does not wear well, and becomes too heavy, they then blame the ass rather than the load. 

We think the story of Balaam is about how he did not discern he was going the wrong direction, or how he did not see the angel standing in the way, but the story of Balaam is really about how he failed love and wished his ass dead. When he wished the ass dead, the ass then spoke up to him and said essentially, “Have I ever wanted you dead? Even though it is you who have burdened me all these years and not I who has burdened you?” Blaming the ass did not work well for Balaam, and it doesn’t work well for us either.

Churches, such as the ABC, must examine love to learn it's truth. Fulfill the one commandment of loving your brother, and its mirror image, to love your neighbor as if it were you in a mirror. We must love the one who is our polar opposite to fulfill all the commandments. Serve God and keep his commandment(s), this is the entire duty of man. Much study is a weariness to the flesh. These are simple concepts that make the burden light, yet many find that simplicity challenging and so begin to lay more load on themselves and others. By doing so we seek our own righteousness, just like the Pharisees, instead of the simplicity that is in Christ. We begin to inflict the ass, wishing it harm, rather than reflect on ourselves and the load we have laid that has caused the excess burden.



Birds aren't real!

When things don't make sense our minds can run to absurd conspiracies. Conspiracy theories are nothing new and, if we lack proper objectivity, it's possible to hang onto these absurdities as an attempt at calming or agitating our minds. Some fall for quite ridiculous theories, despite all evidence showing the belief can't possibly be true. One of the more absurd movements in our current age is the "Birds Aren't Real" movement. Anyone watching these arguments with an open mind can see the satire, but still there are a few who latch onto this theory and actually believe the US government has killed all the birds and replaced them with mechanical drones that recharge on power lines. It's ridiculous. I assure you, if that were true, there are bird hunters everywhere who would be quite upset.

I love this quirky type of satire and humor because  it sometimes gives better commentary on human nature and truth than straight up truth. A visit to the “Birds Aren’t Real” website reveals some very talented writing and acting and I applaud their pluck.  

In an interview with "Sixty Minutes" the man who started this movement, Peter McIndoe, was asked why he created this. He explained briefly he grew up in a fundamentalist Christian organization surrounded constantly by conspiracy theories. He rejected these theories, as a child, then as a teen began to protest against the absurdities foisted on him by his church. This led to satirizing these conspiracy theories in high school and now college and this just happened to be the one that stuck. 


In the early days of my life my father had theories on the date Jesus would return. His "date of return" theories changed throughout his life as the dates, predicted or assumed from others, passed unfulfilled. Most of his theories, perhaps all, were based on the date Israel became a nation, May 14,1948. Using this date, then pairing it with words in Matthew, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened..., my father believed Jesus would return in his lifetime. This assumes the figurative fig tree is the physical nation of Israel. 


Jesus did not return in my father's lifetime and he died many years ago. Jesus has not, as of yet, returned in my lifetime as well. Given the “tribulation” is to last seven years, three and a half years of peace and three and a half years of utter chaos, and this has not yet occurred, this event is not likely to occur in my lifetime as well.


The key word in that piece of Matthew is "generation". What actually constitutes a generation? Merriam Webster gives one definition as the average span of time between the birth of parents and that of their offspring” Some quote the ninetieth Psalm, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” I think, in this day and age, where people in developed countries live quite often into their nineties and one-hundreds, we can agree this is poetic language and not an absolute. However, if one uses this Psalm as a mathematical base, or average, this would mean Jesus would return by the year 2028 at the latest. This would then mean the tribulation would have started in 2021 with the three and a half years of peace brought about by a global leader. Given that we are currently on the precipice of World War III, and are not being led by a global dictator, demanding all must worship him, that three and a half years of peace has not yet happened.  

If we are to believe Luke, he speaks of multiple “watches” and “the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect”. That’s a much safer position than to make supposition of his return and disguise our own opinion as prophesy.


I am not in a position to argue when Jesus will, or will not, return. If we believe the account in Matthew, Jesus stated no one actually knows. I have heard it said Matthew only states day or hour, not year or month. OK, whatever. The point is this. If we profess we know when Jesus will return, as so many have done that came before, we are not being truthful.


In 1972 my father was convinced, using a formula, that a generation is 32 years long. Attaching that formula to the date Israel was reborn, this meant the tribulation would start in about one year; 1973. (1948+32=1980-7 years of tribulation=1973) The group was convinced of this date and sent three men, Earl, Tom, and Jim, up into the foothills of the Northern Cascade mountains to find a place we could escape the coming troubles. This did not go well. A blizzard hit, they were quite unprepared, and they almost died. The tribulation never actually began though, so we were all good.


Over the years there were other prophesies and predictions of things that would happen within my dad’s lifetime. California was expected to suffer a large earthquake and part of it would fall into the Pacific Ocean. Pictures were shown at meetings of vast underwater caves and pillars to prove this “prophesy”. There was supposedly a large rock in San Francisco one could run to and be safe if they happened to be there during the quake. I do not know where that rock is located. I looked for it once, but it eluded me.


Another prophesy was the Japanese would rearm and take over the United States through the port of Port Angeles, Washington. This was entirely based on a dream my father had one night. It is understandable he would have such a dream as he fought the Japanese in close combat during World War II and returned with PTSD that lasted a number of years. 


Yet another theory that still has legs today is the US government will, at some point, declare anyone who is a true spirit filled Christian to be an enemy of the people. It is said prison camps have already been built, and all true Christians will be rounded up and put away in these camps so the truth cannot be told.  I sincerely doubt this one.


None of these things ever happened. These were all man-made theories, not prophesies or even facts. Fundamentalism is full of these sorts of paranoid theories and today these types of theories seem  rampant.


In the first letter to John, the author writes.


Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.


If we are to believe there is a spirit of Antichrist in the world today, it is actually those who do not believe Christ came in the flesh as human and suffered all of mankind’s pain and frailty. When I spoke this simple truth, the judgment came down upon me swift and fierce. Curious that.


If someone professes to have the formula or mathematics of when things will happen in Revelation, Isaiah, Matthew, etc., know this;  those alive at the time of Christ’s death also believed he would return within their lifetime. Two thousand years ago! He didn’t. All through history men have stated they “have the formula” for when Jesus will return. Most of those men have now passed on. Also know this, the book of Revelation speaks about things that happened, things that were currently happening, and things that will happen. It's not all about the future.


Write the things which you have seen (past), and the things which are (present), and the things which will take place (future) after this… Past, present, future. Revelation spans the entire expanse of time and is not just a prophecy for the future. Not a popular opinion but true nonetheless.


One person intimated to me the current coronavirus pandemic is evidence of the end times. A similar pandemic happened about one hundred years ago, and it was felt then the end times were upon us in full swing. A Google search will yield hundreds of formulas and theories that have been presented, modified, and died on the vine with Jesus not returning. No one can definitively say when Jesus will return.


There is no doubt the earth is decaying, not evolving into something greater. Isaiah spoke of this, …Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner…


Scientists speak of evolution when they should really be speaking of morphing and change. But that change is decay, not advancement. It is difficult to argue with the physical evidence of so many creatures that once inhabited the earth and have long ago disappeared. Animals and fish were once much larger, but the earth is in a state of decay. These are all inarguable facts. 


There are multiple ways of interpreting the evidence, but they all lead to the fact the earth is decaying and is not moving forward to a better future. The evidence of this decay, part of which is being grossly accelerated by mankind, should not be confused with evidence of the return of Jesus. When pandemics, wars, famine, etc., strike the earth these things have happened in many watches, many time periods before. If it is occurring in this time period, this watch, it is not definite proof his return is imminent. This same type of “evidence” has been occurring throughout the history of earth and used many times to prove an erroneous theory of Jesus return.


The scriptures say Jesus will come as a thief in the night. No one makes an appointment with a thief as to what month or year they will rob your home. If someone claims to know the year or month or day or hour, that spirit should be tried to see if it is truth. It probably isn't.