Although I don't like for things to go public when someone jets the faith, I felt a need to speak about this one. Marty Sampson, an awesome and creative songwriter and worship leader with Hillsongs in Australia, who has penned hundreds of songs (either as a main or co-writer) and who has led millions of souls in worship through Hillsong Church in Australia, his travels worldwide and his recordings, is now at age 40 stating publicly that he is losing his faith. He essentially has shared that because the watered down version of Christianity most prevalent in today's society is not even remotely associated with what we see in Scripture (AND HE"S RIGHT), he feels that it is actually more of a man behind the green curtain sort of mirage and he can no longer remain part of it - not only his involvement in leadership but also stating that he is trading in his faith in general.
His words: "How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet—they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me."
Well, Marty, there are many people talking about it, you’re just not joining in on the conversation.
Sadly this is becoming more and more common. Those who have had such a limelight experience in the body of Christ are rethinking their spiritual belief system and letting their faith go.
But what is the common thread in many of these people’s reason for leaving?One might consider the age of some of these people leaving the faith so publicly. They are young. They have not weathered many storms in their life or their ministry. They have high expectations of God, which is AWESOME, but often times those things we see do not always come when we are young. We have not let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us for seasons until we have genuine, time-tested truths that have changed us internally and we are able to pour into others from the overflow of the fruit we are bearing for the Lord. He called us to bear fruit and that can only come by abiding in Him. Staying in place. Staying connected in and out of seasons until we produce fruit good for the eating. When people are young and have a notable gift to offer, we often too soon place them in a place of authority and leadership but do not fully vet them from a number of standpoints. Too often, we see churches that wish to remain relevant to the up and coming generations, pushing young and hopeful spiritual prodigies to the front and then, after a few seasons of high activity and low fruit yield, they burnout and start to question the reality of their call and also their faith. We must mentor the young and upcoming generations to the point where they are proving their call through faithfulness, through holiness, through submission (not a bad word here) and accountability to the living out of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we quickly turn these young ones into stars that will hopefully recruit the masses of the each successive generation, we short change the ability to actually give those newcomers with stars in their eyes, the true call to sacrificial living. More on that later.
And then there's the issue of many spiritual leaders who are talking the talk but not walking the walk and it is, in my humble opinion, watering down the power and glory that should be displayed through the body of Christ made up of millions of people who claim to be followers of Christ deep in their heart. Jesus said, "Greater things shall you do because I go to my Father." And for a generation, Peter, Paul and the apostles they rocked their world with the outflow of just that: God’s glory and power. Where did it go? We often see these large ministries and think, God must be blessing them if they're that big." What did Jesus do when throngs of followers were on his tail? He thinned the herd by saying things like, "Eat my flesh and drink my blood." Um, excuse me, what? You can almost hear the people saying, "Whew, look at the time." Then he said stuff like, "If you don't hate your family then you can't follow me." He checked people's hearts along the way to see if they were really committed to HIM, or if they were in it for the miracles - the show. Jesus never did the miracles for show, He was drawn to people out of compassion for their brokenness and pain. The miracles were simply a natural outflow from Him to them because of His love. But like moths to a flame, many were drawn to Him because of what they could get out of the deal instead of being drawn into what God was doing to show His love to a wayward people. The apostles also encountered people who were into the show and they quenched that whole thing pretty quick as well. Sons of Sceva needed no help from the Apostles. They had "you know what," handed to them on a platter. Simon the Sorcerer who wanted the power for his show was quickly put in his place by Peter and scared out of his wits. Nevertheless humbled. Never were the disciples/apostles about the show. They kept themselves in check quite often. The disciples/apostles were implicitly about the Great Commission, letting the world know of God's love and open invitation to life everlasting. The Apostle John, almost 60 years after Jesus, wrote letters to believers everywhere to hold onto their faith because they were turning away from the truth and bring drawn to other spiritual belief systems. Even Peter implored believers to not stop holding on even though it had been a while awaiting Christ’s return.
If judgement truly does begin with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17), it's going on now in some form. For too long, the Christian church (in western culture, at least), has been more of a "form of godliness but denying the power thereof." (2 Timothy 3:5) It has been the church of Laodicea, seen in the book of Revelation with Jesus standing outside the church knocking to come back in and do life together. Most will say, "Not my church, we got it going on." Yeah. Be really careful with that ok? 1 Corinthians 10:12 "So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall." There are many churches today where Jesus, just like Elvis, has left the building. It is time for the church at large to look at itself in a very deep and organic way - in the quantum realm if you will - and ask, "Are we full of the Spirit and boldness of the early believers?" "Are we standing up for truth based upon the Scriptures - which are an extension of the heart of God?" "Are we truly standing for the power of the resurrected Christ to be seen in our world today through us or are we just living status quo lives, going to church but needing to get home in time to get the roast out of the oven so 'hurry up pastor, let's get this service going!?'" SMH.
There is so much backbiting and power plays in the local churches of today. Every so often it is uncovered and a number of Christians all over the world take this gut punch and feel it deep, praying it won't have this long lasting effect and cycle out of control. There is an inordinate amount of sin in the church - much of it sexual in nature. This is an ongoing issue that plagues at least 46% of church leadership. But also, there is manipulation and control over finances, committees and deacons hanging pastor's positions over their heads if they don't preach what will keep the machine well-oiled. If that's your version of "being the church" then dont bother attending anymore. It's useless and impotent at best and hurtful and dangerous at its worst. And it's a slap in the face to all that Jesus died for. Jesus never called us to sit back, pay our tithes and let 5% of the local church body do it's bidding while 95% enjoy a good pep talk about being a good person or meet in home groups that are never encouraged to live outside the walls of each respective house in which they meet. I've been the new guy and seen the stares. it's like no one knows how to connect with someone outside the clique. They always seem to form and they always send the stranger packing. In Bible times, people marveled at the power that was resident within the unlearned fishermen disciples of Christ. They went about healing people, raising the dead, setting captives free from Satan's power, speaking truth into people's lives revealing hidden sins, all for the redemptive purpose of grace and freedom! Welcoming all!!!! Mark 16 baby! Peter needed a bit of a push but he got there. :)
2000 years later, there's very little left of the formation of the church based upon Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The good thing: there's a form of the story still being told. The bad thing: much has been left out of the story to the point that we are drawing people into a belief system based on high emotion and not a lot of rules OR a series of rules to be followed and sacraments to be obeyed instead of a balanced approach where we teach the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD from beginning to end and hold ourselves accountable to walking out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We are not teaching that to follow Christ means we are at enmity with the world. Enmity? Google it. (Yes we are to love the world, the lost, the sinner, the hurting, the needy, those in darkness looking for meaning and purpose in life - just so you don't think me a separatist.) But here's what we've done. We have crafted such a great display for people to find out that church can be "cool" because we have great music, high energy motivational speakers, great programs for children up to senior citizens, all the best large building designs created for excellent acoustics, pallet walls and Edison lights to show how relevant we are. Like I said, anyone can start a church. We have been greatly influenced by society and culture so much that we just keep opening the doors to let all kinds of things in but has today's society and culture been greatly influenced by the church, or better yet, Heaven?? Instead of going to them, we have a placed a demand on them to find us and come to us. Are we truly changing the culture around us because of the release of God's power and wisdom flowing through our lives as we relate to others in our community OR are we living at arm’s length not inviting them into our lives? Song of Solomon shows a picture of this as the lover is desperately trying to get into where the beloved is and is practically breaking down the door. The beloved says, I’m in bed, clean, must I get out of bed, dirty myself to answer the door? Then just that quick the lover is gone. Although it has an alternative meaning within the church I see it as people who are trying to get in who desperately need us to show them the way but we just don’t want to get messy and answer their call.
***And please hear me, although it would appear I'm painting with a broad brush I want to be careful to say that I'm not standing in accusation against all churches or followers of Christ on the planet. I know I'm just as guilty of behavior not becoming of a saint and I have also played my part in driving people away from churches with my elitist righteous attitude. I hate that I have that as a part of my history. I wish to live like that no longer and have been challenged by God's word and His leading to live more vulnerable and transparent to others.***
So many people attend worship junkie one-word-named conferences and feel they have experienced heaven. They did, I'm sure of it. I'm a worship junkie. I wish to experience God in the atmosphere of musical praise and worship. I've led worship for years and wanted so desperately for God to be glorified and for people to connect with God during the times that I was leading worship. There is no greater experience on this planet than to truly exalt God and be drawn deep into who He is. Sharing that corporately in a gathering with other brothers and sisters in Christ who are pressing in and taking their time connect with Jesus is the ultimate. Allowing those times to breathe, where we can flow in and out of music and intercession and receive a directive from the Holy Spirit that is timely and even for that moment??? That always rocks in my book. But if that's ALL we do and leave a conference or church service "high" and don't share that overload with those who really need that encounter, then we may think we are changing the culture (because we've been changed) but we aren't. I've seen movies and documentaries on people going and praying for people all over the world. Praying for healing and deliverance and sharing Jesus with different religious cultures. I cringe often when I see that or hear people saying, "We went downtown with a group and just prayed for people and some experienced this or that." I then say, "Awesome! What are you doing to follow up with them?" Some reply, "Well we told them where our church was or told them to find a Bible believing church." TILT. A for effort on reaching out. F for follow up and discipleship. It's great that you want to take the power of God to the streets, but unless these people you encounter are brought into relationship with other believers and taught the truth of God, they are simply going to flounder. Maybe 1% will find that church and actually walk in. Maybe a higher percentage will think about their encounter and keep thinking about it and read a Bible for awhile. But Jesus didn't tell us in the Great Commission to "do some cool tricks like I showed you and I'll take it from there."
Culture doesn't just change by osmosis from sky high believers who just spent hours worshipping Jesus. It comes from heart to heart connection with those are hurting, seeking truth, struggling. It's messy and it should be. It's rarely convenient and so we should perhaps change our definition of convenient. It takes time and relationship building. Intentional relationship building. Sacrificial relationship building. Consistent relationship building. Just like Jesus. 3 years and almost nothing to show for it until they encountered the resurrected Christ. Then it was GAME ON! There's nothing wrong with mountain top experiences where you feel like you have entered into Heaven and experienced God. But why do we do that? To personally grow spiritually? Yes. But it's to allow that overflow of the Spirit to minister to others in service and to live sacrificially, putting yourself in a place where people begin to be drawn to you because of your love for them. The same love God shows us on a daily basis. Agape. Unconditional. Love that allows Jesus to wash the feet of Judas just as much as the other disciples even though he knew in a few hours Judas would betray Him to the Roman authorities - and then, the Cross. Do we love the hurtful to us? Do we keep coming back for more just so we can love like Jesus? Can we visualize those people as disciples of Jesus? Do we have vision to see them radically discipling others with the love of God? I have a feeling it's in those places where the real power of God shows up that defines the embodiment of what Jesus came to teach us about the Father's love. Those are the places where people like Marty Sampson and Josh Harris (I KISSED DATING GOODBYE) need to spend more time than in the limelight of huge ministries that create a false sense of Christianity and in turn cause them to jet when it doesn't stand the litmus test of a crisis of faith. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
We had a saying in a church myv fur and I helped to plant: "What you lead them through, is what you lead them to." If people find Jesus in the huge show of lights, music, fog and energizing motivational preachers then that huge show is going to need to be part of their continual journey. If the church doesn't bring it a few weeks in a row and they can't emotionally engage, then their faith system begins to falter. If the motivational speaker finds himself mired in scandal, then that new believer begins to lose spiritual focus. If they were "saved" in a local successful church - success being based on pews being filled and money rolling in - when the crowd shrinks they may find themselves questioning what they really believe about how God works. Which is not a bad thing if you have a seasoned true lover of God to ask. Fun Fact: Did you know that 70% of church growth is transfer growth? Mostly Christian consumers wanting a better show OR others who move to a different area and find a different church.
I believe we are seeing a number of people leaving their version of the faith because it was never truly presented to them in all its fullness to begin with - maybe. This is the tip of the iceberg to what is going on below the surface I know but I believe it is a major part of the reason we are seeing people walk away. And it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's good to be shaken. Hebrews 12 talks about a time coming when all will be shaken in Heaven and on Earth. But we are receiving a kingdom - it's an ongoing process - that cannot be shaken, as our faith so easily is when it is not grounded on the true Kingdom principles of God.
I believe God is sending a clarion call now to believers to be the church that Jesus originally formed. A church, the world wide body of believers, that moved in power, stood against the normal belief systems of society and were treated badly and harrassed for it, but a church that was so strong because of its sound doctrine founded upon the Word of God that not even the gates of Hell could prevail against it. Following Jesus headlong into the unknown because when asked, "Are you going to leave too? the disciples replied, "Where else can we go, You alone have the words of eternal life." What is released into the earth by believers who live that way is the stuff that those leaving the faith need to see.
Lastly. Pray for these that are leaving. Do not condemn them but pray that the The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit and The Cross will become so real to them that they will be drawn back into the body by His love - shown consistently by imperfect followers of Christ.
This is more of the lengthy teaching blog series on Judah, Jehu and Jezebel. These next 3 blogs will breakdown Jezebels effect on israel and subsequently the symbolism we can apply today as result of our sexual brokenness. Aside from telling me it's too long, please leave your comments below after each of the blogs. I'd like to hear your thoughts!
Jezebel, Part I
Jezebel, Jezebel, Jezebel…what can we say about Jezebel? (Almost sounds like Roger Rabbit saying, Jessica, Jessica, Jessica...and we aren’t too far off from Jessica’s reputation - “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”).
Well to start, she wasn’t exactly the kind of girl that I would hope my son would bring home to me. You know like Super Freak? So let’s take a look at Jezebel’s personal life. Who was she? In what type of environment was she raised? So, as with all fun Bible lessons, let’s start with searching the Hebrew language and breaking down her name.
Back in Bible times, names were extremely important and could even determine your destiny, which is why God would sometimes change a name to reflect His call upon their life, i.e. Abram, (father of many) to Abraham, (father of many nations) meaning his role increased as God was going to use him not just to be a leader of a family but of a nation and nations, which would be an offshoot of Abraham’s offspring or vice versa Saul (asked for, prayed for) to Paul, (small or humble) because God was going to demolish the pride of a so called “Pharisee of Pharisees” in order for Paul to go from torturing and killing Christians, to aligning himself with them; powerfully promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ and the coming Kingdom of God. Or sometimes God would tell people what to name their children. John the Baptist and Jesus received their names that way.
Jezebel simply means “where is the prince?” a common phrase used in the worship of the god Ba’al, which means “lord, owner, master.” When the farmers would see their vegetation die, it was understood that Ba’al must be in the underworld. (Perhaps that was his winter retreat? I hear Hell is wonderful when it snows.) When warmer weather was approaching, the people would ask, “Where is the prince?” As in, “Is he coming back? Will we have a harvest?” It was a hopeful cry trusting that Ba’al would return and bring the rain and abundance.
Jezebel’s name could also mean, “Not Exalted” - which could have its own implications seeing that Jezebel apparently spent her life working to exalt herself; which we will see later in this blog. Jezebel’s father was named Ethba’al which means “toward the idol” or “with Ba’al or man of Ba’al.” Ethba’al was a priest of Ba’al as well as Asherah (whom we shall discuss shortly). Eventually, after killing Phelles, the existing king of Tyre, Ethba’al became the new king of Tyre, expanding his realm to the region of Sidon and over all the Phoenician people - even to include the island nation we know as Cyprus. So Jezebel, as “fate” would have, was born into a nation whose very foundation was Ba’al and to an apparently power hungry father. So, since we’ve brought up this Ba’al character, who is he?
Well you and I know him by a different name, Satan. One of the many incarnations of gods throughout the ages that Satan formulated in people’s heads to entice them away from YHWH or JHVH, the God of all creation, the one true and living God. Ba’al was mainly known as a fertility god, especially as it related to abundant harvests and the blessing of rain.
The Canaanite land to which God was bringing Israel, otherwise known as the Promised Land, was chock full of Ba’al worshippers. Over time the pagan belief systems influenced these distant cousins of Israel. They came to believe that Ba’al was the god who brought rain to the fields each year to assure a good crop and fertile soil. God told Israel that upon entering the Promised Land, they would encounter worshippers of foreign gods. God gave explicit instructions to the children of Israel that they were not to accept these belief systems but to stay true to Him. God also told them that they were going to need to fight the various nations still living there in order to possess the land. In Judges 3:1 we read, “These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan” (He did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience). One reason I believe that Israel needed to battle these nations is because Israel became soft, entitled, if you will, during their wilderness experience. Even though it was a tough experience, they had adapted over the course of 40 years farming and herding and, along with God caring for them by providing food and water and fighting their battles for them, the up and coming younger generation of Israelites did not fully understand what it was like to truly have to fight for something meaningful, something that was officially theirs. They needed to learn to truly value something and hold on to it for dear life - especially now that the generation that had been freed from Egypt was dying off. These people understood what it was like to truly live everyday crying out for God to deliver them from their slavery and bondage in Egypt. So, God left some nations in Israel that would most certainly war against them in order to hold to their land, but in doing so would actually train Israel to defend their inheritance. Learn by doing. Trial by fire. This tangible example has spiritual implications as well. God is consistently working in our lives to bring us through difficult life experiences to teach us how to fix or eyes on the prize of our inheritance in Him. Sometimes we let it slip through our hands and other times we hold on for dear life believing His goodness and promises for our lives.
This was an amazing gift of God to Israel after bringing them out of 400 years of bondage in Egypt and 40 years of wilderness living - a land flowing with milk and honey, fertile soil and lush green pastures. It was meant for Israel to hold onto it with all their might and not let it go for something pretty and shiny - or to deny Him after they got the good land. After all, when the 12 men returned from spying on Canaan shortly after being delivered out of Egypt, they brought back grapes the size of their heads! That’s got to be some seriously fertile soil and peak growing conditions! They could’ve taken Jericho that week simply trusting God but they delayed the conquest for 40 years because 10 of the 12 spies said they felt like they were “grasshoppers” compared to the size of the nations they were going to have to fight. All that being said, when Israel finally assumed their rightful inheritance and entered the land, warring as they went, God once again emphasized that they were not to associate themselves with these other nations or their pagan gods. Not too much time had gone by since God had given to Israel, through Moses, a list of laws - the Torah as some call it - the law of God. This list of 613 laws, including the 10 Commandments, took into consideration many of the religious behaviors of pagan worshippers that surrounded them in other nations. In fact, He pretty much kicked off the whole list of laws with this command, “You shall have no other God but me.” And then came the secondary laws where they were told to avoid all aspects of pagan lifestyles and not to accept pagan religious beliefs. Well, that lasted about a hot second.
Israel started to hang out with these distant cousins, learn their ways, and wouldn’t you know it, they sorta forgot what God had told them about staying true to Him alone and not letting anything interfere with their worship of Him alone. I mean, they were supposed to obliterate the enemy and take hold of the land! They had one job. (Well maybe 2). But, because the Canaanites experienced such plentiful harvests and seemingly had the best of everything AND THE FACT that they attributed it to Ba’al, well you can’t blame them for becoming a little curious now can you? (The answer is yes. Yes, you can blame them) Maybe there ARE other gods? I mean YHWH is cool and all, but man we had to really rough it out there in the wilderness sometimes and wait on His timing to do His thing for us.” Maybe this Ba’al dude is just super hard working and really wants to bless his people here.” That might have been some of their thought processes. Satan seems to always do that stuff, regardless of the reality of the situation, he always has this tendency to make people want it now and then he ends up giving those people what they want when they want it and not build in them the character of patience that leads to humility and trust as God does with those who follow Him. (Selah)
The goodness with which God wanted to bless Israel was such a special gift from Him and they took it and instead, started to attribute much of it to Ba’al. That was a first step over the edge of an incredibly gargantuan chasm. Intermingling and accepting what they thought to be true. It goes to show you how strong relationships can be. They can either create a movement for God or fragment your faith. You are who you hang with.
Ok, one more foundational note and then we’ll speed up the clock here. So according to the religion, Ba’al was believed to be the son of El. El had a mistress named Asherah (sometimes known as Ashtoreth, Astarte, Ishtar). And ohhhh wasn’t she a peach? Ba’al was actually the love child of El and Asherah. But then as El kind of faded out of the picture for whatever reason, Ba’al and his mother became….um….shall we say….close? Ewwww. If you’ll recall, one of the 613 laws stated that a man was not to have any sexual relations with his dad’s woman. This is why, right here folks! Mirroring in their worship, who and what their god was, led the pagans to live highly perverted and sexualized lives. Whether serving Ba’al for his fertility powers in the earth OR worshipping his dear old mother, Asherah, for the fertility of women, they had some pretty crazy sex rituals. Often times these rituals would take place around wooden poles, cut from trees, with carvings of naked women on them to represent Asherah. (Psalm 115:4-8) Oftentimes, these poles overemphasized the breast which was meant to represent life giving power. Incidentally, the god that supposedly blessed women with fertility is the same pagan god that would require a child sacrifice as well. Sound familiar? <<cough cough>> abortion <<cough cough>>.
So we'll stop here and let it sink in. Take a breather and read on when you can. I know in a world of headline news and 15 second sound bytes, no one actually takes the time to develop the "WHY" of a story anymore. So take your time. This is great bathroom reading especially for those who take a little longer than most humans. :)
Although this is not part of the Judah, Jehu and Jezebel blog, it seemed like a timely word. Hope you enjoy. The blog series will continue. In my years of porn addiction counseling as well as marital counseling overall, the one constant I see in most marital strife is not so much communication issues, though they are plentiful, but it is more the inability or stubbornness to surrender one’s individuality within in the confines of the marriage institution. And why? Well, because frankly, it can be painful. Each person in the marriage will eventually arrive at a place where they are afraid to let go of all they have ever known their life to be and is embark on a journey into uncharted waters. If they can overcome this fear, the marriage is off to an amazing start. If one or both get stuck here, it has the potential to not be a very fun ride.
To many, the best thing to do is to have a clear exit strategy for when the pain or uncertainty gets too severe, and one is pushed too far. If you are clinging to an exit strategy in your marriage “just in case,” I have some somewhat bad news for you: you are not fully engaged in your marriage and it has a better chance of failing than being a success and ultimately becoming a light of the power of Gods’ love working in AND through your marriage - which is the highest call upon everything we will ever do or ever have in our life.
I remember, one time, counseling a married couple, and getting this mental picture of how intense the journey to oneness can actually be. That picture, oddly enough, was from the famous silver screen monster of the 1930's, Frankenstein. I was dealing with a couple who were so attached to their own individuality, their own pasts, their own expectations of how the marriage should function, that they would not loosen their grip and allow the Holy Spirit to guide them to unity and oneness. I saw this mental image of Frankenstein, who, for the 1% who may not know, was an experiment of a mad doctor, obsessed with using multiple body parts from different dead bodies, aligning them in the form and structure of a human, and then sending an immense amount of electricity through the newly formed body to bring this new “person” to life. This was actually one of the first concepts of "what is life" and does this creature actually possess it's own soul.
I told the couple (and many since then) that I know it’s fearful to let go of what we know and to trust God to enter the unknown. If I were to look at the process of “becoming one flesh” in only the natural, and take it to its most logical conclusion, I see a man and a woman facing each other on a machine, like one of those car smashing machines, that will smash their bodies together. As this happens, physical pain would result from the crushing of bones and ripping of muscles, etc. (I mean, let’s not get too graphic.) Then, when the machine has done it’s work, what falls out onto the ground is a pile of bones, muscles and vital organs, BUT, the two people would now resemble just one person - very similar to Frankenstein.
Much like that natural concept, there is a lot of pain and death as we allow God to take us as two separate individuals, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and recreate one new person in covenant love and purpose. In Ephesians 2:14-15, speaking of Jews and Gentiles, the apostle Paul begins to explain the mystery of the death of Christ - that through Jesus’ sacrificial death, he paved a way for all the nations of the world to become ONE, under the authority of Christ as the head of this new union. In Psalm 133 we read “how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (or sisters, or marriages, or siblings or co-workers - get the point?) to dwell together in unity.” God is all about oneness and unity. Just look at the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Distinguishable but inseparable in every way. Jesus'prayer in John 17 was a request to the Father that the disciples would be one even as He and the Father are one.
After the honeymoon phase of our marriage, as things start to settle down and we realize that this marriage is forever, we can often feel like we are breaking inside, losing our ability to control our circumstances and having to ultimately make the decision to let parts of our lives die that we’ve come to rely upon - especially those parts that have helped us navigate our single life. When you first met your spouse, it would take about 18-24 months to lose that whole "infatuation" feeling. The chemicals in your brain responding to this new found love and all the "puppy love feelings" that go along with it, actually need to settle down for you to be able to reason properly about your future with this other individual. It is also said that a relationship takes about 6 to 7 years within the confines of a marriage, for it to start to find that place of oneness and intimacy. That can be upwards of 7-9 years that you need to invest into a relationship before you start to see it settle in to God's design for marriage and actually have the strength to endure all life long. But in that season, it is the time to surrender yourself to the work of the Holy Spirit who will now guide this entity into experiencing amazing depths of God’s love, which will in turn empower this new person, making it so much easier to move forward in sunergy and momentum, than if we were to keep fighting to the to the death to not lose our identity. Most marriages hit the skids at around the 6-7 year mark. This should be a lesson that although it's hard around this time frame, if you both choose to push through it all, you will push into oneness and intimacy like you never have before. So many people married for over 50 years say that what they experience in their 70s and 80s is something incredibly beautiful, not even to be compared to the early moments of the new found love. I believe that. I feel that in my marriage, thankfully. But, this is my second marriage. I chose not to fight and push through in my first marriage because of my porn addiction and never dealing with the deep unmet needs of my life. (Which you can read a little more about here.)
In the nation (not state) of Georgia, originally a province of Russia, stands a large 26 foot monument made up of two mechanical statues representing a famous young literary couple who are in love - Ali and Nino. At each day’s end, the two statues, move toward each other and because of their design, are able to completely interweave. In one phase, both statues look as if they are completely one unit; seamless. But that is only the beginning. The two figures then pass through each other and end up with their backs touching. This is because the two are never fully able to achieve a relationship because of the demands of war in their country. To see the movement of the monument from beginning to end leaves you with fluctuating emotions. You are so touched with their love and unity, but ultimately realize that this relationship can never be. HOWEVER!!! there is that one moment where monument shows only one person. HIT PAUSE!!!! That stage is God’s best for our marriage and what He works so hard to see established. YES! GOD IS FIGHTING FOR YOUR MARRIAGE TO LAST!!! He is for marriage! He is for covenant!!! All of Heaven's resources are available to you to see this marriage become not only successful but to be a light for how God can work miracles in other people's marriages, giving them hope to trust in Him! It is heaven on earth when it finally happens, but it comes at a cost. Self-sacrifice. You see, when Jesus calls us to a relationship with Him, He tells us that the only way it will work is for us to lose our self in the process. God places this same demand on our marriages because it causes each person to truly experience God's sacrificial and unconditional love.
Trading Our Spiritual Authority for Sexual Pleasure: Judah, Jehu and Jezebel Part Two- Judah and the ProstituteRead Now
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.” GEN 38:15-16
Judah was one the twelve sons of Jacob and such is one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah was also the lineage through which Jesus would eventually be born. In fact, in the book of Revelation chapter 5, verse 5, Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. To be crowned with such an honor, Judah must have lived an exemplary life, probably much similar to Noah who was saved because of his righteous life of reverence to God. Not so fast.
Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, was instrumental in getting rid of his half-brother, Joseph, by helping to throw him in a pit until such a time as a band of Midianite traders came by and Judah and his ten other brothers sold Joseph into slavery. Then they lied to their father and said that they found Joseph’s clothing with blood on it leaving Jacob to only assume the worst - his son Joseph must have been killed by a wild animal. Strike one. Secondly, he didn’t really seem to have exercised fatherly authority over his sons. His first son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but Er lived wickedly before God. It doesn’t say how, but Er died because of his disobedience to God. As was custom, the next male in line would assume his brother’s widow as his wife and so continue the bloodline. Well, his second born son, Onan, did marry Tamar, but at the last second, in the middle of a sexual encounter, Onan pulled out and “let his seed (semen) spill on the ground.” (Gen 38:9) He may have even attempted to cover it up with dirt and dust so as to make it look like he officially consummated his nuptials. This displeased the Lord as well and Onan ended up on the dead son’s list. Strike two. Down two sons to one, he told Tamar to remain celibate until his younger son, Shelah, became of age for her to marry. We are not told how long that might have been, but it would appear it would be a number of years because Tamar returned home to her family until Shelah would be old enough to sire of a child. What shame she must have felt.
In the culture of that time for a woman to not have a child was to live in a place of shame. A barren woman was thought to have a womb shut up by God, possibly because of some wrongdoing or sin in the bloodline. Ultimately, Tamar decided not to wait for Shelah to come of age. She heard that Judah, now a widower, was heading to a town called Timnah where his sheep were being sheared. The Bible tells us that Tamar dressed up like a pagan temple prostitute, veiling her face and traveled to a town called Enaim, which was on the road to Timah. She obviously caught Judah’s attention. Judah clearly made the assumption that she was prostitute, not recognizing who she was. So, as the story goes, he ended up having sex with her. I mean, who can blame him right? He lost his wife and two kids. All he had left was his youngest son, who it would appear may have already taken a wife for himself. We tend to do this don’t we? I mean, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is to bury one child let alone two and then lose a spouse. That is quite a bit of grief, trauma and loss. But as human nature would have it, end up letting all the pain fester in our soul. We simply don’t deal with it. It’s too painful to face the loss or whatever has left us feeling completely worn out and empty. We would rather find another way to cope, a way to just escape it all when what we really need is a long term recovery process in order to properly deal with this immense and overwhelming feeling. So, I’m sure at that moment, there was quite a bit riding on Judah’s shoulders. He saw this woman and just needed that physical and emotional release. However, he did not have any money on him at that time so she asked for his signet ring, cord and his staff as a pledge for payment. When he returned to pay her, she was gone and no one had any knowledge of a prostitute even being there.
Judah did not just simply give a few items up that might have had some value, he literally gave away that which would establish his identity (signet and cord) and his authority and power (his staff). The signet was like a stamp that was pressed into clay or hot wax sealing a document. It was like a claim. When that particular stamp was seen on anything, it meant it was from or belonged to the person to who owned that signet. It was his identity. The staff was very important to a man. Not only did it give one sure footing traveling around on the craggy terrain of the Middle East, it was a sign of who he was as a leader of a family or clan. All throughout history the staff was symbolic of authority and power as well as identity. You knew whose rod or staff belonged to someone. Many times they were marked on or designed purposefully to signify who that staff belonged to. As time went on, staffs became scepters that kings would use to establish their authority over a kingdom. So even though it’s a bit more organic, these items that belonged to Judah spoke more about him than the value that Judah placed on them at the time he traded them for a moment of sexual release. What Judah did in that moment was place more value on the moment of need instead of who God was forming him to be. The interesting thread that we will follow in these blogs will have to do more with the staff.
Back to the story. Due to that midday soiree between Judah and Tamar, Tamar actually conceived. But now Tamar had some ‘splainin’ to do because she was supposed to have conceived, according to custom, only within her family by marriage. When it was found out that Tamar was pregnant, and apparently not by anyone in Judah’s clan, she was accused of prostitution. Judah was all ready to burn her at the stake. Nice, right? Wound a little tight, Judah? Judah has sex with a prostitute - forbidden - and then wants to kill Tamar for her sin. To allow her the chance to tell her story, Judah asked Tamar with whom did she commit such a heinous act of adultery. Tamar then reveals something to Judah that he most assuredly did not expect to see, let alone in Tamar’s possession. Tamar shows Judah his signet, cord and staff - the very same items given as an IOU for said prostitution services. Oh to be a fly on the wall of that tent. Immediately, Judah relented in his anger, even going so far as to commend Tamar on her righteousness because she was committed to the family and the desire for an heir.
I recant this story not because of righteous Tamar who took matters into her own hands when Judah would not. I recant this story because the father of the bloodline of Judah saw a prostitute and took time out to have sex with her! - even trading in items that were symbolic of his authority and identity. This smells a bit of his uncle Esau, who for a bowl of soup traded in his entire birthright to Judah’s father, Jacob.
As mentioned, Judah was a widow and most likely did not have any sexual outlet. But to read this scripture passage, it seemed like a pretty natural thing for Judah to do. Was it a one-off? Or did Judah have a penchant for having sex with prostitutes? I wonder if he did this because his conscience was nagging him for selling his brother into slavery and lying to his father about it. As far as Judah knew, he would carry that lie to the grave with him; he and his ten other brothers. Can you imagine that stress?
I can only imagine that, mingled with the loss of his family, it would be a fairly hefty trigger that could drive him to do pretty much anything.
Following that line of reasoning, what is it that could cause you to go outside the boundaries of proper and righteous sexual behavior - stress, loneliness, boredom, emptiness, etc.? Regardless of how we feel, whether burdened in some way or hyper-sexual in need of a release, we are to be keenly aware that by improperly sexually gratifying ourselves through porn or other sexual deviant behavior is not only unhealthy for our body, soul and spirit, but that it is completely unacceptable behavior to God. We are told by Jesus in Matthew 5:28 that if you even “look at a woman with lust in your heart toward her, you have already committed the act of adultery.” You see, Jesus always goes to the motivation of the heart not just the behavior itself. When Jesus’ disciples were chided by the religious leaders of the day for not ceremonially washing their hands before eating, Jesus told the Pharisees, it’s not what goes into your body that makes you unclean, it’s what comes out - the thoughts and intentions of the heart - again speaking to the deeper issues that are not dealt with and dictate our behavior by pulling on us like puppet strings. And Judah had a bunch. When push came to shove, Judah gave in to his own desires. But the story is not without mercy because Judah received a special blessing from his father, Jacob, before Jacob died.
In Genesis 49, Jacob has been reunited with Joseph who he thought he might never see again, even the 10 brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery had restored their relationship with him and all 12 brothers were now at their father’s bedside and as was tradition, the patriarch of the family would bless his children. Words were uber-powerful back then. When you gave a blessing, it was done deal. Even names meant destinies. When Jacob got to Judah he said:
“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
Read verse 10 again. (I bolded and italicized it to make it easy on you). The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until it comes to Whom it belongs - prophetically speaking of Jesus the Messiah. Jacob is telling Judah that even though Judah traded in his identity and authority for a romp in the sack with a prostitute, in God’s mercy, that staff would be returned to him, not just by Tamar, but through God’s forgiveness and redemption and would be the cornerstone on which the lineage of Jesus Christ would be built. God is so cool. He knows what exchanges we have made in our life to follow after sinful, unhealthy behaviors and still, He loves us enough to give us another chance to fulfill our destiny. Pay particular attention to the term, "obedience of the nations." That will come back around.
Ok, you made it. Next time, get an oxygen tank because we’re going to jump in deep!
There's a thread of sexual brokenness woven throughout the entirety of the Bible as we know it. 66 books from Genesis to Revelation spell out a number of great and powerful things God has done for all those who choose to follow Him and make Him their Lord and Savior. But in many different ways, sexual brokenness rears its ugly head. it seeks to prey upon the deep unmet needs of our soul and become what we think will offer us fulfillment. For many, sex has become their greatest need. The unmet needs are met with a steady diet and increase of sexual behavior that momentarily fills the void but then we return to that empty place, worse off than when we started. It is said that our true needs are food, water, oxygen and shelter. In some cases, people will say relationship as a 5th element. As we give ourselves to fulfilling our deepest unmet needs with that which can never ultimately satisfy, a conversation goes on in our brains. When we started using porn or other sexual behavior to fill our emptiness, we thought, this feels good. It feels better than the pain I experience daily or hourly. Later a different conversation is held between the brain and the survival instinct. It is no longer that doing this other thing feels good and helps me in the moment. The conversation switches to, "if I don't do this other thing, I'll die." It's literally chemical mayhem in the brain. So our brains continually drag us into this unwanted and compulsive sexual behavior that started out just feeling good and now has us on a trajectory with a brick wall going 160 mph - simply because we feel we must operate in it or we will die. The enemy of our souls is cunning. He'll draw you deep into a place of darkness only to laugh at you and tell you what a huge mistake you've made and what a huge mistake you are.
One interesting thread in the Bible goes from Genesis, pops up in 2 Kings then anchors down at the end of the tapestry in the book of Revelation. It's a story, I believe of royalty as a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ. In the book of 1st Peter 2:9 it reads:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
A royal priesthood. There is royalty blood now running through the veins of the follower of Christ. The Bible also tells us that we have become "joint heirs" with Jesus of all of Heaven's resources. As royalty himself, King of Kings and Lord of Lords as well as Prince of Peace, he shares with us that royalty and has granted us authority to move in His power while on this earth. Matthew 28:18-20 states that:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.
We now have the ability to move in His power by His Holy Spirit in us and take our rightful place having authority to move in that power and see God's glory released in various ways. However, as of late, we have not seen the individual believer or the church at large truly moving in a place of authority. We have watered down the gospel, leaving it void of any real effect in our lives or even our local churches. Instead of following the command to go to the people, we have set up shop in large houses of "worship," and created a great show for them "come" to. Let's put all the work of salvation on the people so we don't have to do that much. I’m not sure that was the scene in Jesus’ head when he sent the apostles out. Now before you go an get your bloomers all in a tizzy, I know that not all Christians or churches live at that place but the majority do. "You come to us and we'll give you what you need" instead of "we'll come to you and serve you and bless you and build relationship with you and somehow, someway, you will see the love God has for you. because we will be as faithful a friend to you as He is to us." (All before they set foot in a church building). I think in negating the true essence of the Great Commission, we have lost our ability to truly move in the power and authority as royalty because there's really no reason to test God to the point of seeing Him come through for us after praying desperate prayers. In Mark Chapter 16:17-18 it says:
"And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not harm them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be made well.”
Now before you go having visions of me dancing with a handful of rattlers, I'm not into snake handling churches. I think this was actually lived out when the apostle Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Malta and a deadly venomous asp bit him on the hand. He was very much in the charge of living out Christ's Great Commission going into all the word and in the doing of that, He was protected from such dangers. He was smack dab in the will of God and was surrounded by divine protection. He was walking in God’s authority not tempting it by grabbing it and showing all of Malta what he could do. When I see churches grabbing a handful of snakes and dancing around, I lose it. They are making the Kingdom of God look stupid. But look again at that verse. Look at the authority that is supposed to belong to the true believer. Authority in our words and our hands to accomplish the Kingdom work and protection while following God's commandments.
Well back to living in royalty and ruling over the areas of our life, breaking free from sin and gaining ground for the Kingdom of God. This initial blog is a set up to examine the lives of three people. Judah, son of Jacob (Israel) from whose lineage comes the Messiah, Jesus Christ, often called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Judah had a little suare with a prostitute. Never caught that? He had quite a bit of sexual tension and dysfunction in his family. We'll unpack that. Also we will discuss Jehu, a military commander who was anointed king of Israel and who was responsible for the death of Jezebel and the whole house of Ahab, who was the king of Israel just prior to Jehu's anointing. Then there's Jezebel. (cue the sexy whistle). Much has been written on her. She was manipulative and controlled her husband, king Ahab. She was provocative, sexual and sensual and often got her way using those traits. In fact at the time of her demise, she was caked up with make-up trying to manipulate Jehu but it didn't work out so well. I'm surprised no one has come out with line of Jezebel dog food to date. :) And finally, we will sum all this up in the book of Revelation Chapter 2 where God, speaking to 7 churches in nowaday Turkey, refers to a person he labels as Jezebel (whether a reference to Jezebel of old or her name we are not sure - I'm banking on the latter) who was luring believers in that region into sexual behavior as they tried to live for God.
All in all, I'll draw attention to "the scepter." The scepter, even the "rod" of old was a prominent instrument that would set apart clans, lineage, but more importantly and more specifically, royalty. You'll see how we pull it all together in the coming blogs! Keep checking back. Hopefully this whets the spiritual appetite. After all is written and done, my prayer is that God will use this to help the believer who deeply struggles with porn addiction or other unwanted sexual behavior to break free and stand in that place of royalty that God gives us and operate from a new found authority based on his/her freedom in Jesus. I'll also along the way, share my vision that I believe God gave me to show that many followers who would be princes and princesses have abdicated their place of authority and are currently serving the goddesses of sexuality and sensuality today. (porn, sex trafficking).