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Manasseh was the "Hitler" of the Old Testament. But guess what? He found God and it transformed his life.

"But," some would protest, "He committed mass murder, witchcraft, and rampant idolatry, defiling God's temple and even sacrificing his own son to a foreign god" (2 Kings 21:1-18). "He has to be writhing in Hell right now," these people would demand.

But guess what? At his worst moment, on his hardest day, at the lowest point in his wretched life.... Manasseh cried out in his heart and encountered God. The Lord then delivered him into the light and restored him to his throne. 2 Kings 21:1-8; 2 Chronicles 33:12. Manasseh then ruled righteously with the power of a transformed life.

Go figure! What mercy! What redemption! What a God! This is why I have more confidence in God's ability to eternally rescue us than in our ability to eternally resist Him.
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Crime Scene Investigation: "CSI" Caesarea-- Who murdered King Herod?

The traditional view is that an angel of the Lord assassinated Herod. But is this only way to read the evidence? Does the context and subtext here allow for an alternate reading? Yes, after examining the evidence, I believe so.

I propose that the angel of the Lord came to warn Herod of the destructive access he had given Satan (regardless of whether we see him as a dark destroying angel or, rather, as a dark cosmic dynamic of destruction). Like a fireman abruptly and urgently warns those oblivious inhabitants of a burning house to "GET OUT NOW," the angel of the Lord was warning Herod that his spiritual house was NOW on Satanic- fire and that it was about to collapse and crush him to death.

The Bible is full of angels delivering warnings of imminent Satanic wrath. Angels warned Paul, Peter, Joseph, Mary, Lot, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and many others of impending Satanic attack. Mankind, however, has always wrongly tended to shoot the messenger. An angel warning of Satanic wrath to come often gets blamed for bringing the wrath itself. That is as insane as blaming the heroic fireman, who is fervently warning us to escape the fire, for actually starting the fire itself. The Lord's angelic warnings are always given so that the listening party may escape the impending danger, whether it be by quick repentance or simple avoidance.

In a somewhat similar situation, Paul was literally knocked off his high horse by the Lord's light which revealed the gross sin of Paul in "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples" (Acts 9:1). Paul was abruptly warned, just as Herod was, of the gravity of his sin. The Lord revealed to Paul that he, in truth, had been persecuting and murdering the servants of God rather than the enemies of God. Paul was persecuting the Lord Himself!

But, though the severity of Herod's and Paul's sin was comparable, their respective willingness to repent was not. Whereas Herod despaired unto death for five days without finding a place of Godly repentance, Paul pivoted quickly and repented after a Godly sort (2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Hebrews 12:17). Herod, like Esau in Hebrews 12:17, could find no heartfelt place of true repentance, whereas Paul could and did. Herod in great despair "gave up the ghost," whereas Paul in great joy "received the Holy Ghost."

Now, let's take some time to look at the Herod passage more closely. Satan was about to lay claim and kill Herod based on the access given him by the multitude of serious sins Herod committed. From killing the apostles, to putting himself forth as a god to be worshipped, to failing to give the true God any glory, Herod was in Satanic free-fall.

Herod had so pushed/grieved/quenched away the Lord's protective presence that Herod was now left totally raw and exposed to Satan's missiles. Herod was about to be pushed off a high cliff of pride to crash on Satan's rocks of sharp condemnation. He was about to literally "fall into the condemnation of the devil" (Timothy 3:6). The angel came to smite him with a warning SO THAT he might repent instead of being destroyed. Sadly, though Herod had five days to find repentance, he never did. And he died.

Based on Acts 12:1-25, many believe that this passage teaches that "the angel of the Lord smote" and killed Herod in cold blood. Herod, who was the then political king of the Jews, committed two major mistakes. First, he set himself against the early church, persecuting them through imprisonment and execution. Second, he allowed himself to be worshipped as a god without giving any glory to the Lord. Let's consider this challenging passage:

"Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains : and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he SMOTE Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands....

"And Herod went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.... And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord SMOTE him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost." ~~~Acts 12:1-7, 19, 21-23.

First, did you notice "the angel of the Lord" smote TWO men here, both Peter and Herod. The first "smote" merely woke Peter up so that he could escape his prison. This "smote" was clearly non-lethal and in fact was beneficial. It was an alarm, a warning to "wake up and smell the coffee" and to see what was happening.

However, the second "smote" of this same chapter at first glance appears to have killed Herod. Or did it? Does the verse literally say the angel killed Herod? No. The word "smote" in the original Greek is PATASSO (3960), which can mean to "knock gently." It is believed to be derived from the Greek PAIO (3817), which refers to a sting or hit of a single blow and is considered less violent than the normal term used for hard-hitting blows, which is the Greek TYPTO (5180).

The point here is that "smote" can easily mean nothing more than a non-injurious warning poke. But, didn't Herod die here? Yes, but NOT then and there. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Herod died long after the angel smote him. "He fell into the deepest sorrow; a severe pain also arose in his bowels, and he died after five days of illness." (Josephus, book 19, ch. 8,2). This sure sounds like Esau-like "worldly sorrow" which has many tears and much despair, BUT lacks any true faith and repentance toward God, the kind of Godly repentance described in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11.

Acts 12:23 says that after the angel smote Herod, he was "eaten of worms" and "gave up the ghost," but the passage gives no time context. This Greek word for "worms" is only used one other place in the New Testament, Mark 9:44-48, where its used todescribe non-stop hellish torment.

So, whether Herod had literal worms or spiritual worms, he was suffering prolonged despair and deep anguish. This torment eventually resulted in Herod "giving up the ghost," a term used outside the Gospels only in the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, two other unfortunates who, after beholding the full gravity of their sin, succumbed to the condemnation of the Devil and surrendered their souls to death. They too could have repented, but did not. And to Peter's great shame, it was never offered or ministered to them by nearby Christians. Satan's condemnation kills.

This unique expression, "giving up the ghost," describes the dead end of depression. For such unfortunate men, when they see the full gravity of their sin, amplified by Satan's spirit of condemnation, they then essentially surrender their lives to despair and worm-infested torment. The only role of an angel in this process is to try to preempt the destruction by first "smiting" these sinners into self-awareness, a sort of final "last ditch" warning to repent.

By splashing the water of conviction in their horrified faces, the angel is giving a final hand of aid to the sinner IF they will but take it. Some, like Paul, will repent before oncoming Satanic condemnation crushes them to death. But, if these awakened sinners reject the road of repentance, then their self-destructive shame take them the rest of the suicidal way.

Remember, God doesn't operate in death. Satan operates in death. (Jn. 10:10; Heb. 2:14). God only operates in life. Death and condemnation flood in to fill the vacuum created when we "quench" the Lord's protective presence away with our neglect and unbelief. Some inter-linear Bible versions call this sin-dynamic "pressuring out the Christ." Herod had continually "pressured out the Christ" by repeatedly sowing evil against His church.

Bad idea. Bad sowing. Even worse reaping to come. Besides killing Christians, Herod allowed himself to be worshiped as a God by pagans. (Acts 12:20-23). Herod was being promoted and worshipped as a god by the crowd at the very moment the angelic warning came.

Herod was a runaway sin-train giving Satan wide access to shoot deadly destructions at him both from the right and the left. The angel was there merely trying to tell him to "duck," but Herod refused. But, because the angel was at the scene of the crime gamely trying to prevent Herod's destruction, men now wrongly blame the angel for the killing. No, Satan's fingerprints are the only ones on the murder weapon of condemnation used here.

Many others believe there is another explanation of this passage which differs from mine above, and they may well be right. If the angel which struck Herod DID directly cause his sickness and death, then it would have to be a fallen angel which was wrongly attributed to the Lord, as was often done in the Old Testament. I tend to think however, that this angel was "of" the Lord and did not cause Herod's death.

Again, I think the angel was a "last chance" messenger warning Herod of the gravity of his sin and the imminent Satanic wrath to come. As shown above, the word for "smote" was the same Greek word used when the angel "smote" awoke Peter from his sleep just a few verses earlier. That smite didn't kill Peter, but it just warned him to wake up. Likewise, I think this angel woke up Herod to his sin, just like Paul got rudely awakened to his sin on the road to Damascus. Remember, Herod didn't die right away according to the historian Josephus, but became sick and deeply oppressed for five days before giving up the ghost.

I think this process describes an inner human despair that surrenders to Satanic condemnation and literally gives up on life. Had Paul not repented, I believe the same thing might have happened to him. I saw my mom literally give up on life when she got a cancer diagnosis. She died within days, even though the prognosis gave her well over a year to live. She had no hope.

At any rate, I think the angel was a fireman warning Herod to get out of the house Satan had set on fire all around him, and which was just about to collapse and crush him. Herod, rather than repenting and renewing his mind, stayed hopeless in the house paralyzed with guilt and despair. The house soon fell on Herod and crushed him to death with Satanic condemnation until he finally "gave up the ghost."
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Is the Kingdom of God a kingdom of physical violence?

First, remember this key truth: "The Kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21.

Once we understand this, then all the Kingdom violence, all the Kingdom warfare, all the Kingdom enemies, all the Kingdom revenge, all the Kingdom weaponry-- comes into proper alignment. Kingdom violence is ONLY and ALWAYS internal, spiritual, and allegorical.

"Every man, within himself has Moses and the Israelites, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Patriarchs and the kingdom of heaven and hell. Thus, the events described in the Bible, and looked upon by the pious as being things of a past history, are actually descriptions of eternal processes taking place in the constitution of man himself". ~Jacob Boehme 1575-1624

The early church fathers understood this. It was obvious to them. The troubling question is why is it not obvious to us.

The early church fathers knew Jesus' Kingdom was non-violent. It was an intuitive given. It was a normative, practical and typical epiphany to be received after any believer spiritually encountered Jesus. This belief caused the early church not just to read the New Testament non-violently, but to also re-interpret the violence of the Old Testament allegorically.

Consider the explanation of Biblical violence by Origen, the great early eastern father, specifically the violent passages in Joshua where the Israelites violently destroy their promised land enemies. Origen reinterprets these passages as "types" or "allegories" of the Christian battle against our inner foes-- lethal lusts, faithless ideas, spiritless notions, and dark angels. The promised land here is our heart, not Israel.

"Unless those carnal wars (of the Old Testament) were a symbol of spiritual wars, I do not think that the Jewish historical books would ever have been passed down by the apostles to be read by Christ's followers in their churches... Thus, the apostle, being aware that physical wars have become personal battles of the soul against spiritual adversaries, gives orders to the soldiers of Christ like a military commander when he says, 'Put on the armor of God so as to be able to hold your ground against the wiles of the devil'" (Eph. 6:11). (Hom 15.1 [138]).

"[A Christian] affirms that even now my Lord Jesus Christ wars against opposing powers and casts out of their cities, that is, out of our souls, those who used to occupy them. And he destroys the kings who were ruling in our souls ‘that sin may no longer reign in us,’ [citing Rom. 6:12] so that, after he abolishes the king of sin from the city of our soul, our soul may become the city of God and God may reign in it, and it may be proclaimed to us, ‘Behold, the kingdom of God is within you'" [citing Luke 17:21] (Hom 13.1 [125].

"This warfare must be conducted by the Christian not with physical weapons, but with prayers, meditation on the Word of God, good deeds and good thoughts. Only in this way is the Christian able to withstand the works of the Devil, all the while invoking the help of Jesus Christ" (Hom 16.5).

Origen repeatedly stresses that a Christian reads with circumcised heart and thus 'understands that all these things are mysteries of the kingdom of heaven' (Hom 13.1 [125].

Origen says that literal (dead letter) Bible readings, at least in these warfare texts, is equivalent to heresy. Origen charges that reading Joshua’s warfare texts literally is "teaching cruelty" (Hom 11.6 [119]). Literalists "make malicious charges against our Lord and Savior, who commands the kingdom of heaven, which he had promised to those who believe in him, to be seized through violence" (Hom. 12.2 [121]). Without the "deeper understanding" of an allegorical reading, literalists, in Origen's view, produce "perverse doctrines beautified by the assertions of a splendid discourse. . . [that]. . . . introduce into the churches sects not fitting to us, and to pollute all the church of the Lord" (Hom 7.7 [83]).

So, Origen sees "the promised land enemies" not as hostile humans but as carnal and/or Satanic IMPULSES. These enemies represent NOT flesh and blood foes, but rather terroristic thoughts, malicious mentalities, lustful strongholds, deadly ideas, and sinful mindsets. This alone is where ANY level of violence is spiritually permitted-- on our own inner toxic impulses and lethal ideas, NEVER on humans made in the image of God.

Jesus was clear that PHYSICAL VIOLENCE was taboo and not a part of His divine nature. But He was just as clear that SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE takes the Kingdom of God by storm. Matthew 11:12.

What is SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE? It is the interior focused "Samson Spirit" which is so missing from the body of Christ today. It is the refusal to surrender, the will to fight and not go down, the courage to fight against all odds until the enemy gates are removed. We are called to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, to fight the GOOD FIGHT of faith, to put on the FULL ARMOR of God, and to fill our hands with weapons of righteousness in our right hand and in our left. 2 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Corinthians 6:7, Ephesians 6:10-17.

It is the faith-fueled guts of an armored spiritual warrior to STAND AND CONTEND not only against Satan along with his fallen principalities and powers, but also against all our OWN personal Philistines of doubt, worry, disease, oppression and fear. We don't fight against flesh and blood, but we do fight the fight of faith.

As for how our inner warfare looks on the outside. We brandish weapons of righteousness in our right hand and in our left.
What exactly are those weapons?

We flood our enemies with forgiveness.
We throttle them with tenderness.

We overcome them with an opposite spirit.
We pulverize them with patience.

We maul them with meekness.
We crush them with caring.

We ambush them with the awe of the Lord.
We bombard them with blessings.

We fight with a faith which works only and always through love.
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"We walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthian 5:7.

This isn't an excuse to abandon reason but rather to transfigure it into something better and brighter.

Reason, intuition, epiphany, and imagination all come together in a seamless synergy that forms a new and better way to process reality.

These qualities listed above aren't additive but multiplicative. They form what Scripture calls a renewed mind. These qualities aren't to be thought of as separate qualities but as one quality which has been wrongly fractured.

Sadly, reason often bullies the other virtues away from our inner counsel table. Reason only believes what it can see, taste, or touch. Einstein famously said he never made a great discovery through the use of reason. Paul is saying the same thing in this Corinthians passage. There is far more to everything than merely meets the empirical eye. The eye of faith sees far more.
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Here is a thought experiment on the issue of divine healing.

I think we can agree that if Jesus, during His incarnation, was PHYSICALLY present while a woman and her child were being physically assaulted by a gang of cutthroat brigands, we intuitively know Jesus would have quickly intervened to stop it (as He did with the woman caught in adultery).

Jesus might have used some natural means, but more than likely, sticking to His normal modus operandi, He would have used some supernatural means to save the victims. He used supernatural wisdom to disarm the mob mentality seeking to kill the adulteress. He Himself supernaturally slipped right through and past hostile mobs who were trying to kill Him on several occasions.

But, in any event, the Jesus revealed by BOTH the Gospel AND our Spirit-quickened consciences would NOT have stood idly by doing nothing. That's inconceivable given the parameters of our thought experiment.

Jesus would not have:
--continued to walk past the event to keep His ministry events on schedule
--stood by watching and shaking His head in empathy while the abuse continued
--turned His face the other way in revulsion, planning to later help the victims cope with their injuries, assuming of course they survived.

As sure as the Sun rises, we know the Jesus of the Gospels would have stopped this brutality-- immediately, decisively, and skillfully. Acts 10:38 tells us that, "Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, and went around doing good, healing all who were oppressed by the devil." No Gospel narrative (other than the events surrounding the Crucifixion) describes Jesus EVER allowing any form of physical brutality, demonic activity, or physical infirmity afflicting any third party in His immediate presence to go unchallenged.

Now, to continue the thought experiment, change the peril to any one of a hundred menacing scenarios.

--the woman and her child were in the death throes of a plague
--the woman and her child were decomposing from leprosy
--the woman and her child were being victimized by an abusive husband/father
--the woman was suffering from a severe mental disorder and was attempting to smother her child
--the child was having an epileptic fit and had swallowed his own tongue
--the mother had just suffered a stroke related to her brain cancer and was now unresponsive on the ground as her weeping child tried to awaken her
--the woman and her child were about to be killed by a rockslide

REGARDLESS of the peril, what would the Jesus of the Gospels have done in coming physically upon these situations? It's obvious. Jesus would have stopped each of these tragedies dead in their tracks.

Here then is the point. We KNOW the will of God is to always heal and protect when Jesus is PHYSICALLY present. It's clear and irrefutable. How is it then that we have come to LOSE that knowledge of His healing will when God is only SPIRITUALLY present--- here in our modern day life situations in other words.

How can we now say God's will towards healing has gone from kinetic (moving) in Jesus' day to static (not moving) in our day? Has Jesus changed His mind? Or, is the problem on OUR side of the CORPORATE equation?

Is it possible that something is hindering or obstructing Jesus' total willingness to do mighty works of curative deliverance here today? If so, could it be the same dark dynamic which hindered Jesus from doing mighty curative works in Nazareth as detailed in Mark 6 (except that He still healed a few sick people), where despite Jesus' absolute willingness, their CORPORATE (not individual) unbelief kept those works from manifesting in their midst-- a corporate unbelief which caused Jesus to "marvel" (and not in a good way) that they were missing the time of their curative visitation.

Nazareth is so instructive, because in that narrative we have all the relevant elements-- an always willing-to-heal Lord NONETHELESS obstructed by a corporate (not individual) mindset and heart-set of unbelief.

God, as most theologians readily acknowledge, is in some sense omni-present. God is present everywhere in some continuous capacity today, here and now. But, that by itself isn't enough to release His personal presence (which I would define as the kinetically curative Jesus revealed in the Gospels) to full manifestation.

So, again, I have to conclude that some dynamic on our CORPORATE side of the equation is "quenching" and "benching" Jesus' kinetically curative presence back into static latency.

The widespread failure to heal today simply can't be Jesus' LACK of willingness. So again I go back to Nazareth as the template of explanation for His un-manifested mighty works. There was a scorched sky of CORPORATE unbelief in Nazareth which kept the Lord's healing light from fully shining through to do the mighty works which were in His heart to do. Again, He was able to heal a few sick people, just as a few sick people today continue to receive healing from time to time through prayers of faith, but not nearly on the wide scale we would see as ideal for a fully functioning body of Christ. The reason? We are living today in a postmodern Nazareth laboring under a scorched sky of corporate unbelief.

The freedom of angels and men often combine to form interference patterns of resistant force with which we must diligently deal. The Lord is always willing to manifest, but He often needs our synergistic cooperation to fully penetrate the situation at hand. He won't (and can't) coercively rape reality with His interventions. He travels on the active faith of men. This allows Him the consent He needs, the cosmic elbow room to deliver the situation by catalyzing it with the delivering energies of Christ.

The question is NOT "whether" or "why" God intervenes or not in human affairs.

Rather, the question is "whether" or "why" WE (corporately as the body of Christ) intervene or not.

God's interventions of deliverances need OUR corporate synergistic faith, catalyzing prayer, and enabling action for His deliverances to fully manifest here on earth as they are already manifest in Heaven. God has already intervened to the max in every past, present and future situation. His Spirit fills all things (Ephesians 1:23; 4:7-10). His pre-destinies (Ephesians 2:10) swirl around us like butterflies coiled in potentiality, eagerly waiting to be sprung into actuality by our prayers of faith. But our corporate unbelief can "quench" and "bench" these potentialities into the realm of the unrealized.

So, I think there are three conceptual choices when it comes to God's response to healing prayer:

1) God says "yes" to some healings and "no" to others.

2) God says a provisional "yes" to all healings, but something on our corporate side of the equation hinders or obstructs the fulness of healing from manifesting. Mark 6:1-6.

3) God neither says "yes" or "no" to particular healings but remains detached and uninvolved.

1 and 3 are unacceptable for the flowing reasons:

-- Jesus never said "no" to any particular request for healing (2 Corinthians 1:9-20)

-- many times Scriptures say Jesus healed "all" who came to Him (Acts 10:38; Matthew 4:23-24; 8:16; 9:35; 12:15; 15:30; Luke 4:40; 6:17)

-- the only time Jesus was obstructed from healing "all" came from a corporate hindrance, not from a lack of willingness or consent on HIS part (Mark 6:1-6)

-- healing appears to be promised in several New Testament passages ( James 5:15; I Peter 2:24 and its fulfillment in Matthew 8:16; Mark 3:15; 16:18; Luke 9:2, 10:9; John 14:12-14)

-- if God refuses to heal some mothers and children of cancer while healing others, then He is capricious and cruel

-- if God stays away from healing altogether, then He is capricious, cruel, and, even worse, He has placed all of us in a death-trap creation in which disaster, disease, devastation, and destruction reigns supreme, a terminally infectious creation for which He alone is responsible.

Failed healing largely exists because the church corporate doesn't teach, pray, or believe in unity of heart and purpose. In short, the church doesn't effectively model coherent belief in a healing God. The church bride is here to relieve and/or cure the world's suffering, but we are too busy disagreeing and blaming rather than agreeing and blessing.

And let me be clear-- I am not attributing any particular person's unrealized healing to any singular person's lack of faith. That's far too simplistic and just plain wrong. I am speaking in the corporate sense. We are all connected to one another, in seen and unseen ways, in conscious and subconscious ways, in spiritual and unscriptural ways. When the revelation of the healer bride reaches a critical mass of realization within the corporate mass of believers, I believe there will be an explosion of "mighty works" upon the earth even greater than seen in the days of Jesus and the early church (John 14:12-14). A rising tide lifts all the boats.

Christ, for His part, is always ready, willing and able to manifest His rescuing power into every situation of need. But, the church is His spigot of release here on the earth, a spigot which we haven't yet learned to corporately open full throttle.

But, I always try to remember this champion truth toward which we are all called to evolve together. Our heavenly Abba "hath put all things under His (Jesus') feet , and gave Him (Jesus) to be the head over ALL THINGS TO the CHURCH. Which is His (Jesus') body, the fulness of him that fills ALL IN ALL." Ephesians 1:22-23.

It's going to happen sooner or later. Sooner is so infinitely better, so may the unified vision begin. May the church bride make herself wonderfully ready to be a conduit of cathartic cleansing and healing for all the peoples of the world. And may we each play a vibrant part.
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"And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." 1 Corinthinas 15:28.

“What therefore is the scope of Paul’s argument in this place [1 Cor. 15:28]? That the nature of evil, at length, be wholly exterminated, and divine, immortal goodness embrace within itself every rational creature; so that of all who were made by God, not one shall be excluded from his Kingdom. All the viciousness, that like a corrupt matter is mingled in things, shall be dissolved and consumed in the furnace of purgatorial fire; and every thing that had its origin from God, shall be restored to its pristine state of purity.” Gregory of Nyssa, Tract, in Dictum Apostoli, Tunc etiam ipse Filius subjicietur, and c.p. 137, and seqq. (Gregory was one of the three great Cappadocian Fathers who protected the doctrine of the Trinity from the Arians at the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople).
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Many people consider Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" the greatest American sermon of all time.

However, in fact, it's probably the worst sermon ever uttered-- on ANY continent.

Jonathan Edwards' theology was, at times, Calvinism on steroids. This view, on occasion, perverts the nature of God into an omni-causative puppet master who pulls all our strings all of the time. Calvinism's God is a bipolar tyrant who BOTH saves and destroys, BOTH heals and afflicts, BOTH forgives and condemns, and BOTH resurrects and kills. EVERYTHING is from His causative hand, BOTH good and evil. Every EVENT which occurs happens at God's express approval and command. Satan is merely a dog on God's leash performing the express wrathful commands of God, no more and no less.

In the Old Testament, God appears to order countless men, women and children to be slaughtered (See Deuteronomy 7:1-2; 20:16-17; 32:39-44; Joshua 6:21; 8:24-26; 10:28, 40; 11:11, 14, 20-2). He orders a man executed merely for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:31-36). In fact, certain types of sinners are routinely stoned to death (See Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Leviticus 20:2-5, 27; 24:15-23; Numbers 15:32-26; Deuteronomy 13:1-10; 17:2-7; 22:22). Babies' heads are prayerfully smashed against rocks (Psalm 137:9). Deuteronomy 28:15-68 lists the chamber of horrors which awaits those who dare disobey the "voice of the Lord" -- curses spread over them like cancer, in the city, in the field, at work, in finances, in their children, in sickness, in depression, in defeat, in madness, in blindness and astonishment of heart, in oppression, in poverty, in lack, in frustration, in misery, in lost relationships, in slavery, in want of all things, in hunger, in thirst, in violence, in barren lives, and in "wonderful plagues" in which the Lord "delights" to inflict on those who displease him.

Author Raymond Schwager has famously documented six hundred passages of explicit violence in the Old Testament, one thousand verses where God's direct punitive violence is described, a hundred passages where Yahweh expressly orders others to kill certain individuals, and several instances where God kills or attempts to kill for no stated reason, such as in Exodus 4:24-26. Combine this with "God" wiping out millions of children and adults in a world-wide flood, "God" killing every first born male child in the vast nation of Egypt, "God" calling down fire from the sky to kill those who reject him, THEN we are left with a monstrous image of God-- one that we SHOULD fear, SHOULD dread, SHOULD hide from, SHOULD obey "or else" face total destruction.

Is it any wonder that the sermon most consider the greatest in American history is Jonathan Edwards' SINNERS IN THE HAND OF AN ANGRY GOD. Consider this excerpt and see if you can imagine Jesus EVER saying anything remotely like this to the crowds He so loved:

Preached at Enfield, July 8th 1741. By Jonathan Edwards, A.M.
Pastor of the Church of Christ in Northampton.

"Amos ix. 2, 3. Though they dig into Hell, thence shall mine Hand take them ; though they climb up to Heaven, thence will I bring them down. And though they hide themselves in the Top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence ; and though they be hid from my Sight in the Bottom of the Sea, thence I will command the Serpent, and he shall bite them.

The Bow of God’s Wrath is bent, and the Arrow made ready on the String, and Justice bends the Arrow at your Heart, and strains the Bow, and it is nothing but the meer Pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any Promise or Obligation at all, that keeps the Arrow one Moment from being made drunk with your Blood....

The God that holds you over a pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath toward you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire; He is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in His sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended Him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment....

How awful are those Words, Isai. 63. 3. Which are the Words of the great God, I will tread them in mine Anger, and will trample them in my Fury, and their Blood shall be sprinkled upon my Garments, and I will stain all my Raiment. 'Tis perhaps impossible to conceive of Words that carry in them greater Manifestations of these three Things, viz. Contempt, and Hatred, and fierceness of Indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful Case, or shewing you the least Regard or Favour, that instead of that he’ll only tread you under Foot: And tho’ he will know that you can’t bear the Weight of Omnipotence treading upon you, yet he won’t regard that, but he will crush you under his Feet without Mercy; he’ll crush out your Blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his Garments, so as to stain all his Raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost Contempt; no Place shall be thought fit for you, but under his Feet, to be trodden down as the Mire of the Streets. O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in....

And you Children that are unconverted, don’t you know that you are going down to Hell, to bear the dreadful Wrath of that God that is now angry with you every Day, and every Night? Will you be content to be the Children of the Devil, when so many other Children in the Land are converted, and are become the holy and happy Children of the King of Kings?Jonathan Edwards, July 8, 1741."

Again, can you imagine Jesus EVER talking this way, especially threatening the children as Edwards did here? Jesus calls children to His arms to hug them, not to crush them.

Here is the point. The wrong view of God which the Calvinstic Edwards espoused, that is, one which fails to fully differentiate BETWEEN "God's character and works" AND "Satan's character and works," will ALWAYS result in wrongfully attributing wrath, revenge, cruelty, oppression, sickness and disgust to God. This is where Edwards' infected view of God corrupted this particular sermon. I have read many wonderful things Jonathan Edwards wrote or said, but this sermon is not one of them. Because it's considered so highly by so many, often being referred to as the greatest American sermon ever, this shows how deep this wrong view of God has infected Western Christianity.

Jonathan Edwards was a great man of God, not BECAUSE of that infamous sermon, but DESPITE IT. Edwards said some wonderful things, but this sermon excerpt was not one of them. I would like to rewrite it with good theology and rename it "Winners in the Hands of an Amorous God!"
...

I have believed for some time now that what we have imprudently called "the wrath of God" is, in reality, the unrecognized and unattributed "works of Satan."

Even the Bible confuses these two concepts-- "the works of Satan" and "the anger of God." This is easily proven by considering the incident in which King David sinned by numbering Israel. This incident is first recorded in 2 Samuel 24:1, and then centuries later in 1 Chronicles 21:1. In the earlier entry, David's sin is caused by "the anger of God," while in the later passage "Satan's provocation" is the cause of David's sin.

"And again THE ANGER OF THE LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." 2 Sam. 24:1.

"And SATAN stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel..." 1 Chr. 21:1.

The above passages describe the same event where David sinned by numbering Israel. Same event. Same David. Same sin. Same result: 70,000 dead Israelites, but a different cause of evil. The Samuel passage attributes it to the anger of the Lord while the later Chronicles passage attributes it to Satan.

But, I recently discovered FURTHER fascinating support for the above proposal. The Jews, both in their Talmudic and Post-Talmudic literature, believed that Samael (literally "the wrath or poison of God") was another name for Satan. They equated "God's wrath" with "Satan's oppressions."

The Talmud states "the evil Spirit, Satan, and Sama'el the Angel of Death, are the same" (Rabba Batra, 16a); and Samael there is also made synonymous with the Biblical serpent of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

In The Holy Kabbalah (Arthur Edward Waite, 255), Samael is described as the "wrath of God." Samael/Satan is a major archangel in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore, a figure who is accuser (devil), seducer and destroyer, and has been regarded at various times as both good and evil.

"Satan/ Samael, the prince of demons and/or destructive angel, has had many incarnations in Jewish literature. In several texts, 'Samael' seems to be the name of the Angel of Death. At least once in the Zohar, he is declared the 'shadow of death,' a kind of consort to Death (I: 160b). In other texts, he is regarded as synonymous with Satan, but almost as often he is treated as a separate entity (BhM 1:58-61; Ex. R. 21:7). Elsewhere, Samael is called 'chief of all the satans' (Dent. R. 11:10; III Enoch). In Midrash Konen, Samael is the prince of the third gate to Gehenna, the gate that opens on Jerusalem (2:30).

Samael has made many earthly appearances. In Pirkei de-Rabbi Eleazer (13), he is described as the greatest angel in heaven, who out of jealousy over the creation of humanity, decided to tempt Eve. Appearing in the form of the serpent, he actually copulated with her (Targum Jonathan, Gen. 4:1; Zohar I: 37a). He is one candidate that the tradition has identified to be the angel who wrestled with Jacob (Zohar, I: 148a-b). Satan-like, he accused Israel of idol worship while they dwelt in Egyptian slavery (Ex. R. 21:7). He attempted to claim the soul of Moses, who fended him off with his miraculous rod.... He is the tempting angel from whom the Evil Inclination emanates.... In later Chasidic thought, Samael is the organizing force of the kelipot, the garments of evil that enshroud the divine vine sparks contained in all things."

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JEWISH MYTH, MAGIC AND MYSTICISM, Samael entry, by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis, Llewellyn Publications (2007).

In the Jewish Talmud, Midrash, and Dead Sea Scrolls, Satan is portrayed as being intimately involved in luring and misleading the Old Testament saints into destructive attitudes and situations. Even though Satan was not explicitly mentioned in the textual lives of these Old Testament saints, these later Jewish writers nonetheless perceived Satan throughout the subtext of their Scriptures.

In their later Talmudic, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Midrashic writings, they often flushed Satan out of the shadows into the open. They saw that Satan was always there imbedded in the Old Testament texts attempting to tempt, corrupt, and even destroy Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses and others.

Satan is the one who lures Noah into drunkenness (Tanh. Noah 13). Satan provoked the Golden Calf incident (Shab. 89a). Satan lured David into a confrontation with Ishi-benob, the brother of Goliath (Sanh. 45a). These Jewish writings portray Satan as the Death Angel of the Old Testament (B.B. 16a). They also cast him as the Angel of Temptation, Prosecution and Destruction running "sting operations" to destroy men as he did in the book of Job.

In Jubilees 17:16, concerning Abraham's offering of Isaac, the document actually attributes the initiative to kill Isaac to "Prince Mastema," a well-known name for Satan in Jewish lore.

Several Jewish "Sages even speak in the plural of Satanim, as if 'adversaries' were a class of destructive angels...." THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JEWISH MYTH, MAGIC AND MYSTICISM, Satan entry, by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis, Llewellyn Publications (2007).

So, IF the Jews came to believe that Satan/Samael was:
--the wrath of God
--the angel of death
--the Prince of demons and destructive angels
--the Serpent in the Garden
--the source of temptation
--the knowledge of good and evil
--an archangel
--the destroyer of men
--the greatest angel in heaven
--the chief of all the Satans
--the angel of the Lord who wrestled with Jacob
--the organizing force of evil
--the accuser
--the seducer

...then who are we to shrug our shoulders, wave our interpretive wand, and simply say Satan doesn't HAVE and, in fact, never HAD legitimate relevance to the Jewish and Christian understanding of evil, wrath,temptation, and death.

This should give us pause.

Here is why.

If even the later Jewish scholars and writers of the Talmud, Midrash and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ALL believed that Satan lurked within the subtext of Old Testament Scripture, then so certainly should we. They had a better differentiated view of the works of God versus the works of Satan. However, they didn't go quite far enough, for they STILL considered Satan an obedient servant angel who operated under the direct commands of God. Satan just did God's "dirty work" under their view. Satan was God's left hand of wrath, his angry voice so to speak.

But, Jesus corrected THIS fatal misconception. Jesus NEVER authenticated Satan as serving His Abba in ANY way, shape or form. Jesus cast Satan down and out from Heavenly belonging as the "murderer" and "father of lies" from "the beginning," the one whose "lusts" we "commit" when we sin, sins that are "of him" (Satan). Satan is the one to whom Jesus thrice referred to as the rebellious "ruler (archon) of this world."

So, Jesus took the evolving Jewish understanding the final step by revealing Satan as a cosmic rebel totally acting "off the grid" of divine approval or cooperation. Jesus demanded the exegetical re-insertion of Satan into the Old Testament narrative. Until and unless we do this, His Abba will wrongfully be blamed for acts which are unworthy of Him.

Satan is not God's angry voice. Jesus is God's only voice. And that voice has NO cruelty, deception, destruction, oppression, coercion, hostility or hypocrisy. That voice is Jesus.

Jesus saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven...

Or, put another way, Jesus saw the attributes of Satan drop away from our heavenly image of God.

When His 70 joyful disciples returned after having healed and blessed so many as they declared the kingdom of Heaven was now here, the people saw...for the first time...the pure...the unadulterated...the Satan-free...image of the Heavenly Abba.

The people SAW.

They saw a love divine without condition, reservation or limit.

They saw God as a rescuing healer, not a cruel afflicter.

They saw God as a subject of our awe, not our terror.

They saw Satan was the Old Testament oppressor, not Abba. Abba was richly in the Old Testament, but only as the Father of light, love and all blessing, in whom there is no darkness, variableness, or shadow of turning.

Jesus knew that wondrous day that Satan's nature had been completely severed and separated from Abba's nature. Satan's attributes of wrath, cruelty, vengeance, oppression, and condemnation had forever been cut, culled away and discarded as heavenly virtues.

Satan fell from Heaven's image that day. And he is still falling...
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The reason there is so little unity in the body of Christ is that there is so little unity in our image of God. ...

Don't search Scriptures to find life in Jesus.

Instead, search Jesus to find life in Scriptures.
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Paul's "thorn in the flesh" is often cited for the following horribly wrong propositions:

1) "God sent Paul a thorn in the flesh."

2) "Paul's thorn in the flesh was some sort of sickness or disease."

3) "God repeatedly rejected Paul's prayers and refused to help him remove the thorn."

Before dismantling these three errors, let's first look at this challenging passage:

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, THE MESSENGER OF SATAN to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

For this thing I besought the Lord THREE TIMES that it might depart from me.

And he said unto me, MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.

Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.

Behold, the THIRD time I am ready to come to you . . . .

This is the THIRD time I am coming to you." 2 Corinthians 12:7-14; 13:1.

So, now let's revisit the three BOGUS propositions cited above which give rise to numerous CRUEL THEOLOGIES prevalent today. By cruel, I mean those wrong "thorn in the flesh" theologies which paint God as a harsh "control freak" who literally sculpts us using the knives of pain, sickness and affliction. These CRUEL THEOLOGIES portray God as a torturer rather than a healer.

This twisted image of God resembles a mean little boy experimenting on insects, who delights in tearing wings off butterflies so that he can see them struggle to survive. Except, in God's case, WE are the butterflies on whom He experiments. He tears our wings off with sickness and affliction, so that we will learn humility and learn to give Him glory in the process. How nauseatingly disgusting this image of God is! It is so dishonoring and incompatible with the the nature of God revealed in and by Jesus. Yet, millions of people worldwide still believe in this deformed image of God!

So, let's restate each of the three BOGUS propositions. After each, I will respond and refute the claim.

1) "God sent Paul a thorn in the flesh." WRONG.

This point is easily disproven. Paul calls his thorn in the flesh "the messenger of Satan" in verse 7, and NOT "the messenger of God." Case closed! The "thorn" was FROM Satan AGAINST Paul. Satan is NOT a servant of God. Satan is NOT fulfilling God's will, but OPPOSING it on every level. Scripture proclaims Satan a cosmic rebel, the accuser of the brethren, the tempter, a liar, a murderer from the beginning, the destroyer, a thief, a devouring lion, the god of this world, and the prince of the power of the air.

Jesus came to destroy Satan's works, not implement them (1 John 3:8). Concerning Satan's "thorny" attacks, the New Testament tells us to "resist them stedfast in the faith," to "quench all the fiery missiles of the devil," and to "cast out" all demonic influence. We have ALREADY been given the grace keys to "bind and loose" spiritual forces upon the earth, to bind all things Satan-empowered and loose all things Christ-empowered.

The bottom line? Don't let anyone tell you God sends "thorns in the flesh" to afflict men. This is Satan's work, not God's. Once we are resolute on this point, we can then wholeheartedly resist EVERY Satanic missile, thorn, attack and oppression. Honestly, if we have ANY doubt or suspicion that our "thorns" are FROM God rather than FROM Satan, we will NOT fervently resist, rebuke and remove the thorns of affliction from our lives. Instead, we will accommodate them by accepting sickness, affliction and oppression as the Lord's will for our lives. And this we must not do.

2) "Paul's thorn in the flesh was some sort of sickness or disease." WRONG.

There is not one clear indication in Scripture that Paul's thorn in the flesh was a sickness or disease of some kind.

In 2 Cor. 12:10, the Greek word "for" infirmities" means "weaknesses" and is used primarily by Paul to refer to natural limitations in man's abilities. See Romans 4:19; 6:19; 8:3, 26; 14:1-2; 1 Corinthians 8:11-12; 2 Corinthians 11:30; 12:5, 9, 10; 13:4, where all these verses refer NOT to physical sicknesses, but rather to weaknesses in man's natural ability to accomplish the righteousness of God. Where man's abilities end is where God's ability begins. As God is given free reign in our lives, He then re-energizes and renews our natural ability with His supernatural ability.

If Paul WERE referring to physical sicknesses, it surely seems he would have mentioned them a chapter earlier in 2 Corinthians 11:23-30, where he details exactly WHAT his infirmities were: "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities." 2 Cor. 11:23-30.

On this list were labors, stripes, prisons, deaths of those around us, beatings, stoning, shipwreck, perils of water, perils of robbers, perils by countrymen, perils by heathen, perils in the city\wilderness\sea, perils by false brothers, weariness, painfulness, hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness and the care of all the churches. NOWHERE IS SICKNESS MENTIONED. Rather, these infirmities were all various types of Satanic and human RESISTANCE and PERSECUTION against the Gospel.

Most importantly, these infirmities were NOT to be accepted as God's will. Paul rejoiced in these infirmities, NOT because they brought him continual defeat in his ministry, but because He knew God's power was then free to be released in full measure to bring victory. "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him that loved us." Romans 8:37. God supernaturally delivered Paul OUT of each of these trials, each in a different way, but all bringing maximum impact of God's glory in the situation. God gets NO glory from us meekly surrendering to the thorns of our flesh. Rather, God gets the glory when we utilize His all-sufficient grace to OVERCOME and REMOVE the thorns from our flesh altogether.

Paul's suffering through these infirmities always led to a supernatural release of God's power to deliver Paul from Satan, while at the same time fully delivering the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul didn't give in or give up because of these infirmities: he resisted and resisted and resisted and resisted them with the power of God. He gloried in the affliction, not because of it: "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:19. We are to give thanks not FOR everything (including afflictions) but IN everything (including afflictions).

This is entirely consistent with James's view: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:2-4. It is also consistent with Hebrews 6:12, "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."

So what WAS Paul's thorn in the flesh? Looking closely at the context of the passage, an amazing answer presents itself. The thorn may well have been the Corinthian church itself.

Paul prayed THREE TIMES for for the thorn to depart. Paul went out of his way to repeatedly say that he was about to visit the Corinthian church for the THIRD time. Was Paul's repeated use of the number three a mere coincidence, or was Paul giving the Corinthians a not-so-subtle hint on what the mysterious thorn in his flesh was? But how could the Corinthian church be a thorn in Paul's flesh? Well, we know the Corinthians had repeatedly challenged Paul's motives, standing and apostolic authority (2 Cor. 10:1-2; 11:21-28; 12:11-15; 13:3; 1 Cor. 3; 4:1-4; 9). We also know the Corinthians were carnal, divisive and often petty. They continually flooded and vexed Paul with bad reports, constant strife and ugly ingratitude.

So, perhaps this whole episode simply indicates that Paul's messenger of Satan, his thorn of the flesh, was the carnally minded Corinthian congregation itself. Nothing hurts MORE than having a group of people, for whom you have laid your life down, continually challenge your apostolic authority, doubt your motives, and ignore your cousel.

Perhaps Paul struggled with their sinful defiance to the point where he asked the Lord to remove their burden from his ministry. But, God responded to Paul that His grace was sufficient for Paul to STAY connected and committed to Corinth as an apostle, to clean out their sin stables, and in his manly weakness Paul would be made perfect in Godly strength.

Again, what could be more discouraging than ministering to people who doubt your motives, standing and authority - - who seem to only be able to know you after the flesh and not after the spirit?

But, even IF the above analysis is wrong and Paul's thorn in the flesh was a continuing attack of some kind of physical affliction, this passage still can't be used to claim such an attack is from God's will. Again, Paul said the source was Satan, not God (2 Cor. 12:7). Moreover, as an alternate possibility here, consider Agnes Sanford's view of Paul's thorn in the flesh in the event it WAS a physical ailment:

"What about St. Paul and his thorn in the flesh? St. Pauls thorn in the flesh has become a veritable thorn in the spirit to thousands of Christians, who take St. Paul as an example for cherishing illness. In this they are not consistent. If St. Paul were really their example, they could raise the dead. For in seeing him as an example, of the invalid saint, they do the utmost violence to the Biblical picture of a man strong enough to endure shipwreck and exposure, stoning and imprisonment and still accomplish more than ten ordinary men could.

Behold the impressive roll-call of saints given in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Is there a weakling among them? Noah, who in his five hundredth year built an ark the size of a modern cargo ship; Moses, who at the age of one hundred and twenty stated that his eyes were not dim nor his natural strength abated; Elijah, who girded up his loins and outran the king's chariot horses; David, who slew a lion and a bear with his bare hands. There is no record in the whole Bible of a holy man who remained an invalid. Stories of illnesses we find, but these stories are almost funny in the portrayal of a tremendous urge toward health. The prostrated holy men were outraged at illness, regarding it as a sign of being cut off from God's love and cast out of His presence. From David (who made his couch to swim with his tears) to Job (who sat upon a dung-heap and cried unto the Lord till he recovered) we find no instance of an acceptance of illness as the will of God. . . .

St. Paul had been miraculously healed more than once. He had shaken off a deadly serpent and felt no sting whatsoever from its bite. He had been stoned and left for dead, and had risen from under a pile of stones and walked into the city. He had accomplished the most amazing of miracles, even the raising of the dead. Yet, toward the end of his ministry, he was troubled by a thorn in the flesh. He prayed about this matter and God said to him, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

He did not receive an instantaneous healing. Instead of that, he received every day enough of the Grace of God for that days needs. So do I. And if God's perfect strength accomplished through me as much as it did through St. Paul, I would be well content." THE HEALING LIGHT, by Agnes Sanford.

3) "God repeatedly rejected Paul's prayers and refused to help him remove the thorn." WRONG.

GOD NEVER TOLD PAUL "NO! I WON'T HELP YOU!" Paul prayed three times for the thorn to depart (v. 8). But, God's answer to Paul was, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness (i.e. I've already given you the resources to deal with it. My ability begins where your ability ends).

God's response was not, "No, Paul, I wont help you." Rather, it was, "Paul, I have already given you the grace to deal with it in my perfect strength. You need only receive it by acknowledging your weakness in your own ability. As you embrace my ability by forsaking your own, then the perfect power of the anointing will rest on you."

Whatever the thorn was, God knew that Paul wanted a super-quick fix, as do we all, by seeking God to kiss the "boo-boo" to make it quickly go away. But, God wanted a quality deliverance that soaked down deep into Pauls character. In fact, Paul stated that Satan's access to afflict him came from Paul being in danger of becoming exalted above measure through the abundance of the [third heaven] revelations. "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." 2 Cor. 12:7.

Again, this seems to indicate an attack on Paul's character by the carnal Corinthian church rather than an attack on his body, but regardless, Paul wanted to leave this battlefield behind. Whereas Paul was tired of this battle, God responded, "This is the battlefield I have called you. You don't need reinforcements. Just use the resources I have already give you. Your character, fortitude and anointing will all greatly benefit. And you will be a much better man for it because you know and depend on my spirit more than ever."

The Greek word "thlipsis" is translated in the New Testament as affliction, but it literally means, according to one respected transliteratio, "pressure." Satan's "pressure" on our lives through afflictions eventually renders our natural abilities useless. Satan seeks to destroy us in this state of weakness by crippling our faith, hope and love. But, God sees this state of weakness as a place of brokenness and trust where we can draw closer to Him and receive a fuller measure of grace. (1 Pet. 1:13). This process works patience (joyful endurance) in our character, so that we can rule and reign as champion sons of God. In our gritty and gutty resistance to Satan's pressure (persecution, temptation, sickness, oppression, depression, failure), our character develops patience (joyful endurance) which, when mixed with our faith, releases the anointing of power.

But wasnt Paul a martyr? God didnt deliver him out of that affliction, did he? Doesn't that mean it's good to die young? Why didnt Psalm 91 work for Paul? All these questions misunderstand what a true martyr is. A martyr is not someone whose life is taken from him. A martyr is someone who voluntarily lays his\her life down by refusing to accept the Lords deliverance in the situation because his\her death would have maximum impact at this point in time. Just as nobody took Jesus' life because He voluntarily laid it down, so too nobody took Paul's life without his consent. The Holy Spirit gave him plenty of advance notice of what dangers awaited him at Jerusalem, yet Paul freely embraced the martyr's death (Acts 21:10-14).

"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jeptha; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, NOT ACCEPTING DELIVERANCE; that they might obtain a better resurrection." Hebrews 11:32-35.

Do you see? Paul had the faith to be delivered out of any peril, but he CHOSE to lay his life down for maximum impact at the time of greatest exposure (as revealed to Paul by the Holy Spirit). The Lord shows many of His beloved sons the point in time when their sacrifice can cause the most damage to Satan and bring the most glory to God. They then freely choose to lay their life down, NOT ACCEPTING DELIVERANCE as the above Hebrews passage says, and thereby obtain a better resurrection.

God doesn't promise we won't have affliction (demonic pressure). But He does promise we can always overcome it. "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33. "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us." Romans 8:37. "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1 John 4:4. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4.

Jesus clearly taught that this life of an overcomer was to be experienced in THIS life, and not just in heaven. "Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But HE SHALL RECEIVE AN HUNDREDFOLD NOW IN THIS TIME, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." Mark 10:28-30.

The Lord's deliverances work in different ways at different times. Mark 16:18 promises poison and snake bites (i.e. afflictions) won't harm us. Sometimes we are warned in advance of the snake or poison so we can avoid it. Other times, the snake bites us or the poison enters our system. At these times, our faith keeps us from being harmed by the poison\venom.

God didn't promise we would never be bitten by affliction, but He did promise we would never be harmed by it IF we fight the good fight of faith. "Behold, I GIVE UNTO YOU POWER to tread on serpents and scorpions, and OVER ALL THE POWER OF THE ENEMY: and NOTHING SHALL BY ANY MEANS HURT YOU." Lk. 10:19. Therefore, NO Satanic "thorn of the flesh" has the power to defeat us IF we by faith exercise the overcoming grace ALREADY given to us by Christ. In other words, don't pray for more grace but instead use the grace we already have. Christ has already given us more than enough grace to make us more than conquerers.
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If God's wisdom for us was to "expect nothing supernatural" through Him, "believe nothing supernatural" of Him, and to "receive nothing supernatural" from Him, He sure picked a poor example in Jesus for us to model ourselves after.

For instance, if God doesn't want us to see Him as a supernatural healer of sickness, as a supernatural deliverer from oppression, and as a supernatural provider in times of physical need, then why oh why........ did........ Jesus.... DO and DO and DO all those things continually throughout the entire course of His ministry?

If God JUST wants us to embrace our own suffering, empathize with others who are suffering, and just go quietly into the night while we gradually decay and die the death, then why did He go "around DOING good and HEALING all who were oppressed by the devil"? (Acts 10:38). It makes no sense.

Why didn't Jesus just meet with the families of the multiple corpses He raised and teach them to deal with their losses by forming grief-recovery groups? Why did He INSTEAD resurrect the widow's son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), Jairus' daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56), and Lazarus (John 11:1-44). And, moreover, why did Jesus actually display a repeated aversion to both mourning and mourners, actually going so far on one occasion as evicting the faithless mourners from the room where the corpse laid? It makes no sense.

If Jesus doesn't want people to expect or hope for supernatural provision, why didn't Jesus go around and just compassionately commiserate with the people who had no wine to drink, no bread to eat, and no fish to eat so that they wouldn't get their hope up and later be crushed? Why did He INSTEAD multiply loaves and fish to feed thousands upon thousands? (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14; Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9). Why did He INSTEAD turn water into wine so that a marriage could be wondrously celebrated? (John 2:1-11). It makes no sense.

When the violent storm came on the boat carrying Jesus and the disciples, why did Jesus rebuke it to stop? (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25). Why didn't Jesus just teach Peter to resign himself to a non-intervening God by teaching him how to quietly deal with his fear while they all waited to see if the storm would kill them or not. It makes no sense.

If people exercising imperative faith was foolish fakery that never works, then why did Jesus always commend, reward, and rejoice at those who displayed such boldness of faith? (Lk. 8:43-48; Lk. 11:5-13; Lk. 18:1-8; Mk. 7:24-30; Matt. 8:5-13). If Jesus doesn't want us displaying this same kind of chutzpah-infused faith, then why wouldn't Jesus nip this presumption in the bud and openly rebuke these cock-sure, chutzpah-infused nuts for their arrogance and presumption? Why on earth INSTEAD did Jesus enthusiastically commend and completely cure them? It makes no sense.

I am convinced that suffering is rampant today, along with a lack of supernatural provision largely exist because the church corporate doesn't pray in unity of heart and purpose. The church bride is here to relieve and/or cure the world's suffering in both natural and supernatural ways, but we are too busy disagreeing and blaming rather than agreeing and blessing. Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us that God already "has put all things under [Jesus'] foot," and that He has "given the church to be head of all things, which is His body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all." What a magnificent promise we have yet to magnificently fulfill.

Christ, for His part, is always ready, willing and able to manifest His rescuing power into every situation of need. But, the church is His spigot of release here on the earth, a spigot which we haven't yet learned to corporately open full throttle.

I believe the throttle/faucet of the spigot is on our side of the equation. I believe that spigot is what James called "effectual fervent prayer," both individual and corporate.

I certainly agree we can't ever trivialize suffering, but on the other hand we also mustn't trivialize prayer. I also agree that the sheer weight of suffering is mind boggling, but, on the other hand, the power of prayer is even more mind boggling, at least if we are to believe Jesus in Mark 11:22-25 and many other like passages. Earnest prayer should be our first and instant response to an outbreak of suffering of any kind, just as water is our first and instant response to outbreak of fire. But rather than praying, so many have been previously discouraged that prayer makes no real difference.

John Wesley taught that out prayerLESSness inhibits and obstructs God to fully manifest His A-game deliverances. He needs our organic faith-consent on some level. This occurred in Mark 6 when He, though fully willing, could do no mighty works because of their corporate unbelief.

God does teach us things in the wake of our suffering, even though He didn't bring the suffering itself. But He can also teach us wonderful things apart from suffering if we remain humble and wholehearted in prayer. Until the church hits on all cylinders, many will continue to be vulnerable to satanic and circumstantial suffering. And because of this neglect, some fights of faith will be lost, or at least not fully won. But, when the church rises to corporate unity, that rising tide will lift all our boats.

Again, if the church were hitting on all cylinders, both natural and supernatural, there would be a convergence of supernatural healings, miraculously multiplied loaves, natural physical health care, natural food supply, and a thousand other mixes of natural and supernatural provision. The church bride is pitifully disunited. We are still asleep to "the same and greater works" commission both John 14:12-14 and Ephesians 1:22-23 describe.

So, let's always remember this champion truth. Our heavenly Abba "has put all things under His (Jesus') feet , and gave Him (Jesus) to be the head over ALL THINGS TO the CHURCH. Which is His (Jesus') body, the fulness of him that fills ALL IN ALL." Ephesians 1:22-23. We are called corporately, as the body of Christ, "to do the same and greater works that Jesus did," and that "whatever we ask in Jesus name He will do." John 14:12-14.

Only two explanations are available to explain the apparent lack of the fulfillment of these above passages. They are either "empty words" on the part of the Lord, or the church corporate suffers from, as yet anyway, "empty application" of these exceedingly great and precious promises of God. I vote the latter.

I have to be honest. In a day where many are routinely accusing God of never showing up, I wonder if the real "no-show" is a corporate vision of a flawlessly virtuous and ever willing God. THAT, and only THAT, will unite the body of Christ to fulfill the precious passages quoted above. These are the prophets we really need, prophets of plenitude and passion in the Lord's kinetic goodness. Simply put, the body of Christ, once unified in vision, will corporately display and magnify the works of Christ, the same (and greater) curative works He did in Israel His church body will now do worldwide.
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Saying Satan has a "purpose...permitted" by God is like saying child molestation, rape or murder has a Godly "purpose" because God "permits" it.

This is just another way of laying evil at God's doorstep.

If I believed that God permitted (ordained, allowed) infanticide, child molestations, child rapes, and child murders, all as part of His higher harmony, I would boldly affirm Dostoyevski's famous sentiment from The Brothers Karamazov, "I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child...."

No, that's not the dynamic revealed in and by New Testament. God has already DE-permitted all Satanic evil through the power of the Cross. Luke 10:18-19; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15; John 16:11; Matthew 16:19; Ephesians 1:22-23. God has ALREADY disallowed all Satanic evil, but we have YET to FULLY ENFORCE His judgment on all Satanic powers and principalities.

Jesus, in fact, IS God's complete disallowance of evil. Satan still hangs around here NOT because God allows him, but because WE do. He is a vanquished and defeated foe. God is waiting for us as His body to enthusiastically enforce HIS disallowance of evil--- today, here, and now.

"No evil ever came from [God’s] hands. . . . Let this truth be fixed in our hearts . . . whenever we are troubled with the thorn or the thistle, with the poisonous or useless weed, with the noxious beast . . . or with any of the other countless inconveniences and pains of our present condition; whenever we feel ready to faint by reason of fighting without and fears within, let us remember that God made all things good, and avoiding hard thoughts of Him, say, An enemy hath done this." G. H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages.

Jesus has broken the power of sin, but we still have to walk out of the crushed cage. No matter how strongly the power of sin SEEMS to enslave somebody, they are being bound by a broken lock on a broken gate, a useless door hanging off its hinges.

When circus elephants are young they are restrained by a rope pegged into the ground. They are not strong enough to pull up the peg and run away. When they get get full size, they are easily strong enough to yank the peg out of the ground but their mental conditioning keeps them from ever trying.

They are bound by a powerless object. Just because they neglect the truth of their own strength and standing.

In Pilgrim' Progress, Satan is pictured as a two bound lions on both sides of the Lord's highway. Though chained, if a pilgrim wanders off the center path, the lions can still afflict, even though the taut chain keeps them from reaching the center of the highway.

The power of sin has been broken by Christ once and forever. There is only way to avoid this great truth and stay needlessly in bondage-- by neglecting it with our unbelief, negativity and lukewarmness. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation." Hebrews 2:3.

I tell you beloved, Satan is bound. Let's start pulling up his flimsy tent pegs which we have allowed to bind us because of our neglect of His so great a salvation. Let's climb Hebron's heights and start diligently and adventurously exploring our heavenly inheritance together.
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HARROWING HELL (OR HADES)

“I will build my church; and the gates of hell (Hades) shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matt. 16:18-19.

At the outset, I do think Jesus' soul went to Hell from the cross, while His body went to the grave and His Spirit returned to the Father. In this way, Jesus entire being was filled with God-- all in all. I don't see anybody's spirit in Scripture ever being assigned to Hell, just their soul (mind, will, emotions), not their spirit (conscience, communion, intuition -- Watchman Nee).

This is my current speculation on Hell. In some PAST age, Hell WAS Satan's power center, his rebel home-base of demonic operations from which he afflicted the world, but NOW it is territory whose gates have been invaded and conquered by Christ, and then converted into a postmortem hospital of CRISIS treatment and recovery for desperately sick souls.

As I have studied the subject of Jesus’ soul descending into Hades from the cross, I have discovered an amazing thing. The early church strongly believed in Jesus’ descension into Hell. Origen, Tertullian, St. Melito, Irenaeus, Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, Victorinous, Epiphanius, Hippolytus, Jerome, Augustine and Aquinas all embraced it. The belief has also been imbedded in the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed since the 3rd or 4th century. The medieval church universally adopted Christ’s descent into Hell as the consummation of His victory over Satan and the powers of death and evil.

This descent is stated or implied in several New Testament texts: Matt. 12:40; Acts 2:24,27,31; Rom. 10:7; Eph. 4:9; Col. 1:18; 2:15 and possibly 1 Pet. 3:18 and 4:6. The medieval church called this victory by Christ the “harrowing of Hell” and was often acted out in plays. Next in the time-line, Luther and Calvin both believed in Jesus’ descent into Hell as necessary to complete Jesus’ full substitutionary suffering, death and resurrection on behalf of mankind. Finally, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Loyd Jones, William Barclay and A. W. Pink must also be added to this list of those who have strongly emphasized Christ’s descent into Hades as a crucial part of the atonement.

In some PAST age, Satan's power center, his rebel home-base of demonic operations from which he afflicted the world, but NOW it is territory whose gates have been invaded and conquered by Christ and then converted into a postmortem hospital of CRISIS treatment and recovery for desperately sick souls. During the Civil War, several armories, when conquered by their opponents, were converted into military hospitals. How much more so with Hell?

It has always been largely believed Satan was the ruler of "the gates of Hell," against whom Jesus said His Church would "prevail." Matthew 16:18-19. Hell was not only seen as a POW camp for lost souls after death, but "the gates of Hell" were also seen as a demonic power center from which Satan operated his destructions. Gates in the ancient world always symbolized the power center of a city. Satan's power always works various destructions toward men, both in the land of the living and in the land of the unrighteous dead. These destructions consisted of Satan's ongoing torture toward the dead imprisoned souls in Hell, as well as Satan's crippling oppressions toward the souls still alive upon the earth.

Many ancient Jewish and early Christian writers link closely the concepts of Satan and Hell (literally "Hades"). See Testament of Reuben 4:6-7; Matthew 16:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:24-27; Revelation 20:7-10, 13-14. So strong is the perceived connection between Satan and Hell, that renowned scholar W. Manson renders "gates of Hell" in Matthew 16:18 as "Satan-Hades." In other words, "Satan" is "Hell" personified and "Hell" is "Satan" objectified. Jesus has given us the keys of the kingdom to defeat all forms of Satanic-death and Satanic-Hell. Jesus through the cross crushed these two demonic dynamics once and for all, and now waits for His Church to rest in that victory by faith.

When Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 to, "fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell," He was not talking about God, but Satan. From whom did Jesus take the keys of death and Hell mentioned in Revelation 1:18? Well, we know that Hebrews 2:14-15 says that Satan had the "power of death" before Jesus' victory at he cross. We also know Jesus descended into Hell and "led captivity captive." Ephesians 4:8-10. Theologians call this "the harrowing of Hell," which culminated in Colossians 2:15 when Jesus stripped all demonic powers of their hellish armor and authority. Satan destroys with death and Hell, not God.

The New Testament seems to frequently link the concepts of Death and Hell as complementary demonic forces (Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13). Satan is clearly the lord of Death according to Hebrews 2:14, so it is quite natural to assume that Satan is (or was) also the lord of Hell. Death and Hell are both clearly portrayed in the New Testament as forces hostile to the kingdom of God ( 1 Corinthians 15:25-26; Matthew 16:18).

The early church fathers Origen and Clement actually considered the fallen earth to be part of Hades, Hell's foyer so to speak. Origen, Beg. 4.3.1. A well known Jewish book has the coming Messiah heroically descend into the underworld to rescue lost souls from Hell. This story is described in the "Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs" dating from about 100 B.C. In it, Messiah enters into the kingdom of Beliar (Baal), the chief of Hell, to rescue his captives.

The third century Christian "Teachings of Silvanus" and the "Gospel of Bartholomew" apply the same basic theme to Jesus. His disembodied soul heroically enters Hell during His three days dead. He attacks the underworld and sets free all the souls Satanically imprisoned there.

The "Gospel of Nicodemus," held as canonical for many centuries, contains the most detailed account of this story. The first written version of this book is from the fifth century, and describes Jesus harrowing Hell, which is described as a dark underground prison administered by Hades, who personifies death, along with Satan, who commands an army of demons. Source: "The History of Hell" by Alice Turner, page 66-68, Harcourt Inc., 1993.

Later patristics variously believed that powers, principalities and demons all moved in and out of Hell, sometimes as prisoners, sometimes as jailers, sometimes as tempters and afflicters of men, and sometimes as rebels to congregate under the banner Anti-Christ. Satan: The Early Christian Tradition, by Jeffrey Burton Russell, pg 144, Cornell Universal Press, 1981. But there wasn't a uniform belief about the governing dynamics of Hell. That would only come several centuries later under the leadership of Christian mystics and poets.

Christian visionaries and writers of literature ultimately led the way on exploring the governing dynamics of Hell much more than did theologians of the day. "The Vision of Tundale," a minor 11th century masterpiece, led the way for subsequent representations of Satan as the supervisor of Hell's tortures.

Dante (1265), the greatest medieval poet, portrayed Satan as powerful force operating in earth and hell. He formed a series of concentric levels of being with Satan being at the core in Hell.

Even pagan culture intuitively senses that Satan once ruled Hell, not God. Satan has always sat enthroned in Hell, not God. It was his power center from which he runs his dark kingdom. Only Christians wrongly believe Jesus is somehow the manager and hooded torture-monger of Hell.

The early Church saw itself as the champion body of Christ, AGAINST whom "the gates of Hell would not prevail." The gates of Hell symbolized Satan's kingdom of darkness. Hell was Satan objectified and Satan Hell personified, much in the same way Jesus is Heaven personified and Heaven is Jesus objectified.

While Jesus certainly carried off the gates of Hell and discarded them at the foot of the cross, He is NOT the landlord of Hell-- its liberator most certainly, its conqueror yes, but not its bloodthirsty supervisor. It's crumbled ruins are run by Satan alone, but with this proviso. I think Jesus has conquered and converted Hell into a healing hospital ward for the fractured and feverish souls who go there.

As the medieval poet and mystic John Milton wrote in his epic Christian poem PARADISE LOST, Satan would "rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven." William Law famously said, "Our own will separates us from God. Rather, our self-will IS separation from God." Hell, then, is the ultimate rebellious refuge of self-will and self-rule.

Hell remains run by a defanged devil. Its prison doors are totally unhinged, its weapons completely disarmed, its tortures totally unnecessary. Those who remain languishing there do so by their own choice, not by any eternal decree or constraint of the Father.

“Many in repeating the creed have found the phrase ‘He descended into hell’ either meaningless or bewildering, and have tacitly agreed to set it on one side and forget it. It may well be that we ought to think of this as a picture painted in terms of poetry rather than a doctrine stated in terms of theology. But it contains these three great truths - that Jesus Christ not only tasted death but drained the cup of death, that the triumph of Christ is universal and that there is no corner of the universe into which the grace of God has not reached.” William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Westminister John Knox Press) p. 249.

For Jesus to descend into this enemy lair not only unarmed with His Spirit, but also chained with all our soul sins, is almost too horrible to contemplate. Jesus’ suffering in Hell for these three days is unimaginable, yet it is captured in the Messianic images of Psalms 18, 22, 31 and 69 (and several others). These Psalms portray Jesus’ suffering for our sins in Hell, particularly when these passages all describe various aspects of the crucifixion.

The Gospels in fact quote many of these verses as fulfilled prophecy. Psalm 22:1 and Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:13,16, 18 and Luke 23:34 and John 19:23-24; Psalm 31:5 and Luke 23:46; Psalm 69:21 and Matthew 27:34 are four such references, but there are many more. Psalm 18 in particular describes on its face Jesus’ battle as the “sorrows of death and hell” and “the floods of ungodly men” compassed Him (verses 3 and 4).

C. H. Spurgeon commented on Psalm 18 as follows: “In poetical language, the psalmist describes experiencing Jehovah’s delivering power. Poetry has in her treasures no gem more lustrous than this sonnet. The sorrow, the cries, the descent of the Divine One, and the rescue of the afflicted are set to music worthy of the golden harps. The Messiah our Savior is, over and beyond David or any other believer, the main and chief subject of this Psalm. We have grown more certain that every line has its deepest and profoundest fulfillment in Him.” Treasury of David, p. 110 (Nelson).

After having been literally flooded and attacked by all our sins for all time; after being tortured by demonic powers known as the “strong bulls of Bashan” (Ps. 22:12; Col. 2:15); after paying the penalty for every sin committed past, present and future; after all this, the price had been paid without Jesus sinning Himself.

“In the Book of Psalms we are given an insight into our Lord’s inner feelings, and His sufferings for us, as nowhere else. He often quoted from the book of Psalms, and in each case applied the quotation to Himself. He may have intended us to understand from this that all the Psalms are Messianic, though our eyes may not always be open to see Him in them. . . . The Jews are unanimous in applying a Messianic interpretation to those Psalms which are generally accepted as such by Christians. It is a remarkable fact that of all the citations in the New Testament from the Old which have a Messianic reference, nearly one-half are made from the Psalms.” Christ in All the Scriptures, by A. M. Hodgkin, p. 111 (Barbour).

We must see this crucial point. When Jesus was sinless upon the earth during His thirty three years of natural life, no harvest of demonic destruction or sinful oppression was able to enter into His body gate to afflict Him. “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” Jn. 14:30.

Yet, when He descended into Hell, His gates were voluntarily opened wide allowing all sinful destruction and demonic oppression to come into His soul like a flood. Yet, like a champion boxer, He would not go down!

With His hands tied behind His back by our cords of sin, punch after demonic punch, claw after demonic claw buffeted His defenseless soul. Millions, billions, trillions of blows struck, gored and mauled Him. Yet, He would not go down!

He took the full brunt of punishment past, punishment present and punishment future. Yet, He would not go down!

He kept His focus during this hellish torment on two things – His inextinguishable love for His Father and His inextinguishable love for us. When the price had been paid for all sins for all time, the cords started to loosen. “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” Acts 2:24.

Jesus, through this greatest of battles in which He fought as our champion, put the curse in reverse. It is as if He rewound the tapes of our lives to the beginnings, erased all our sinful choices, then fast forwarded them while at the same time re-dubbing our lives by inserting His will into every one of our life decisions according to the good and perfect and acceptable will of God the Father. Satan seeks to lure us into re-recording sinful choices over our tape. Conversely, Jesus wants us to rest completely in what He has already accomplished in us. (Heb. 4:3-10).

Beloved, do you realize what this means? Jesus has already lived your life for you! He has already faced every situation you have or will ever face. Yet, He has made the right and blessed choice for you, thereby reversing the cursing of all our faithless choices. Jesus, in effect, chose His way out of Hell for you by remaining steadfast to His covenant with the Father.

Let us never again say Jesus doesn’t know or understand what we are going through. Not only does He understand it, He also received the full harvest of evil from it. Yet, He never gave in to the temptation of it and in effect reversed, revised and reinstated our standing with the Father as sons of God. All we have to do to receive it is believe it. Whatever your need or challenge, Jesus has literally been there and done that with complete victory. We can walk in perfection just as Jesus commanded (Matt. 5:48) only because Jesus has pre-walked our lives for us and makes His indwelling perfection available for us.

"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs....Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, 'Because THOU WILT NOT LEAVE MY SOUL IN HELL, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.' Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; HE SEEING THS BEFORE SPAKE OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, THAT HIS SOUL WAS NOT LEFT IN HELL, neither his flesh did see corruption." Acts 2:22-36.

This is the R-rated version of the Cross, 'R' standing for righteous!
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We need to purge the duality out of our image of God.

The OT, in its literal reading, appears to paint God as BOTH the bringer of evil and sender of good, as BOTH the wrathful smiter and forgiving King, and as BOTH the cruel afflicter and generous healer of men.

And while there are numerous allegorical/Christological ways to reinterpret those passages, the literal reading level must also be dealt with using New Testament wisdom. Otherwise, we are left with a bipolar, fickle, Janus-faced deity who, in the final analysis, is unloveable, unappeasable, and unknowable.

When Jesus "saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning," I believe one aspect of this amazing statement spoke to the theological "purging away" of the Satanic qualities the Old Testament had wrongly attributed to God, at least on the literal level of its writings. In other words, Jesus came to differentiate, evolve, renovate, and purify the Old Testament "letter" into New Testament "better." He saw all Satanic qualities "fall" from our heavenly image of God.

Jesus, during His incarnation, reveals God's nature as non-dualistic. God, after all Satanic qualities have been removed by Jesus, is revealed as:
--a plague remover, not a plague sender
--a storm stopper, not a storm causer
--a death raiser, not a death dealer
--an oppression healer, not an oppression bringer
--an ever present help in time of need, not a never present help in time of need
--a bottomless fount of mercy and renewal, not a volcano of wrath and revenge.

On the mount of transfiguration, upon seeing Moses and Elijah transfigured alongside Jesus, the disciples asked if they should now build built theological temples to all three-- to Jesus, to the law-giver Moses, and to the prophet Elijah. The Father answers from heaven, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" Here, Abba makes it clear that Jesus is the SOLE lens, the SOLE voice, the SOLE heart, and the SOLE mind we are to listen to in regarding all things divine.

Jesus, by what He ministered, taught, and modeled, completely sundered, separated and slung away all Satanic attributes from the New Covenant image of God. "Peace on earth, goodwill to man!" heralded a new and better understanding of the divine nature. Let's hear Him!
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Authorial intent is not all it's cracked up to be.

Here is a thought experiment which explains why.

Picture a young child prodigy creating a work of art that he himself can not yet begin to fathom. He lacks the developmental, experiential, and educational skills needed to conceptually grasp, technically describe, stylistically appreciate, or ably articulate the factors which underly the style and substance of his own work. He has created something beyond his conscious means.

And yet there the masterpiece stands. Inspired? Yes, certainly, on some significant level. But, is the work of art technically flawless, completely intended, artistically understood, and perfectly expressed by its child author? Surely not.

Simply put, the child is developmentally unable to understand what he has created. Despite the child's developmental limitations, would the art-world's subsequent analysis of the child's early masterpiece LIKEWISE be chained to ONLY what the child was developmentally and consciously aware of when he created the work of art?

Surely not. That's silly.

The more mature experts would use their greater and more advanced experiential understanding of art history and theory to fully appreciate, heartily hone, deeply analyze, and insightfully interpret the masterpiece. The child created something more than he consciously knew.

Reading Scriptures is no different. The original Old Testament authors were, as Paul said in Galatians, spiritual children in need of a tutor. The Christ-Spirit is that tutor. With Him at our hermeneutical side, we are now called and equipped to evolve, transcend, and supplant the Old Testament authors' own original understanding of their Scriptural works of art. Their authorial intent is NOW replaced with a better informed Christological understanding of Scripture.

Unnecessarily chaining our reading to the Old Testament writers' original intent at the time they wrote the text can only retard, limit, and deprive us of deeper, better, brighter, and truer meanings of both Scripture and the nature of God. The concept that will tip over this sacred cow of authorial intent is "sensus plenior."

"The sensus plenior (Latin for 'fuller meaning') is that that additional, deeper meaning, intended by God but not clearly intended by the human author, which is seen to exist in the words of a biblical text (or group of texts, or even a whole book) when they are studied in the light of further revelation or development in the understanding of revelation." Raymond E. Brown, The Sensus Plenior of Sacred Scripture (Baltimore: St. Mary's University, 1955), p 92.

Here is a prime example. Notice here how Paul totally obliterates any concept of adhering to the "authorial intent." He slays the cow.

"Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall notbe heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." Galatians 4:21-31.

See the seismic interpretive shift Paul produced here? What Moses (or the Mosaic writer) originally intended as a historical narrative, a theoretical narrative, or a tribal narrative, NOW is completely reinterpreted by Paul as a Christian allegory contrasting the religious paradigms of law and Spirit.

No Jewish or Christian exegete seriously believes Paul's above interpretation was EVER remotely intended by Moses (or the Mosaic writer). Paul didn't limit himself to what the ancient writer meant, but rather to what the Christ Spirit now means.

No competent scholar has EVER seriously claimed that the apostle Paul honored, adhered to, or even considered in any significant way the original "authorial intent" AT ALL of the human Mosaic writer who gave us the above story in Genesis of Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac.

In fact, Paul bypassed the original authorial intent altogether by reinterpreting this Genesis narrative as a Christological allegory with an ENTIRELY different meaning, an ENTIRELY different application, and an ENTIRELY different semantical usage.

So, if we are "ball-and-chained" to ONLY what the Old Testament writer originally and specifically meant, then any Christological interpretation becomes impossible. None of them knew Christ in any clear way. None of them knew the indwelling kingdom dynamics of Spirit and love in any clear way. None of them were indwelt by the Pentecostal Spirit. None of them knew the nature of God in any clear way.

Jesus said so.

"And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. You have neither HEARD HIS VOICE AT ANY TIME, nor SEEN HIS SHAPE." John 5:37.

"NO MAN HATH SEEN GOD AT ANY TIME; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." John 1:18.

The implications of this are huge. If nobody, prior to Jesus' coming, had EVER heard God's voice or saw the true shape of His nature in the Old Testament, then why on earth would we limit ourselves to their uninformed perspective and authorial intent?

The implications of the following passage are even more immense: "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." John 1:17. In other words, IF Moses' understanding and expression of the divinely inspired impulses he was attempting to process LACKED "grace and truth," then the original authorial intent of Moses' writings must be evolved and transcended.

Simply put, we must allow New Testament "better" to replace Old Testament "letter." If not, then OUR current understanding will regress BACKWARD into a darker time and a dimmer understanding of God's nature. But, as we choose instead to evolve and and beautify the text with the "grace" and "truth" of Jesus, the semantical content of Scripture changes and becomes brighter and better as it now aligns with the light and love of God revealed in Christ.
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When somebody refers me to the impenetrable gates of an eternal Hell, I refer them to the indefatigable arms of a rescuing God.

Jesus promises us that Hell's (or Hades') torn-off gates are already in His cosmic trophy room for all to see.

In what theologians call the "Harrowing of Hell," Jesus' soul descended into Hell from the Cross "to lead captivity captive" as all its inhabitants ascend into Heaven in Jesus' wake, so that CHRIST may then be "all-in-all."

Hell's gates aren't locked from the inside or the outside, as some surmise. They are altogether gone.

An OT prophetic "type" of this incredible event is Samson taking away the enemy Gaza gates on his mighty shoulders after tearing them off their hellish hinges. He then carried them to the top of Hebron's hill as a trophy for all to see that the enemy had lost their power of captivity over others.

This allegory foreshadows Jesus doing the exact same thing to Hell's gates through His death and resurrection.

Jesus promised us that these unhinged "gates of Hell would not prevail against His church." Jesus now owns all the keys to ALL the gates of captivity.

Hell then is a gate-less community. Its inhabitants need but get the happy feet to stroll out of it, whether it be the hellishness of this life or the next.

Matthew 16:18; Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 4:8-10; Revelation 1:18; 1 Pet. 4:6; Acts 2:31; Judges 16:1-3.
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David ClancyMaybe part of our job on the other side will be helping those who through their own wrong ideas about who God is choose to stay in Hell rather than migrate to Heaven! Again, just a thought!2 weeks ago   ·  1

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The cross is not primarily a revelation of our violent resentment toward God and each other, although it does reveal that dynamic.

No, the cross' core revelation is that of God's boundless and bounteous goodness toward us. It is as though Jesus voluntary laid down on the cross as if it were a donor's bed at the cosmic blood bank. He then voluntarily transfused His blood's cleansing and curative spiritual energies to flow freely in and through all of us.

All we have to do is voluntarily recline and rest on our cross and allow the transfusion of His energizing passions to replace our anemic attitudes, our anemic emotions, and our anemic actions.

"I am crucified with Christ : nevertheless I live ; yet not I , but Christ liveth in me : and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God , who loved me , and gave himself for me ." Galatians 2:20.

The cross then is not about transgression, but about transfusion. And this transfusion is transcendent!
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"I AND THOU": REVISITING ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY!

The currency of the Hebrew heart is relationship. Martin Buber (1878-1965), a Hasidic Jew widely read by both Christians and Jews, explained this heart currency in his classic book "I AND THOU." Buber believed that there are only two kinds of relationships: "I and It" and "I and Thou."

The "I and It" is what dulls, deludes and destroys the hearts of men. The "I and Thou" is what allows man to relationally know and love God, to know and love others, and to know and love all of creation. Our challenge is to convert all our relations from the Greek "I and It" to the Hebrew "I and Thou." This conversion is a voyage of the heart. "I and Thou" is a fully engaged heart focused on mutually interacting and participating with God and His creation through the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew nature within us craves the cure of the "I and Thou" for all our soulish ills: loneliness, alienation, family\social dysfunction, depression and other mental\emotional problems. The sickness that causes these things is the "I and It" way of relating to God, man and the world.

Before discussing the specifics of "I and Thou" versus "I and It," it is extremely helpful to know what event triggered this revelation in Martin Buber. One day, while Buber was intensely working on one of his books, a depressed young man came to his house seeking counsel. An inconvenienced Buber listened to the young man and quickly gave "by the book" advice, but all the while he was antsy to get back to his work. The boy, to Buber's relief, soon left, which allowed the author to return to his book. Later, Buber discovered the boy had committed suicide after leaving their meeting. He was devastated. He vowed that he would never again put his agenda of things above living relationships. He saw that even though he was technically listening and responding to the distressed boy, his heart wasn't fully engaged so that meaningful, dynamic interaction could occur, an interaction which might have saved the boy's life.

As this revelation grew, Buber began to see that the fallen state of man resulted in a death of real relationship. Man was created for fellowship: with God, with fellow man, and with all creation. God's first gift to Adam was not just a woman, but a relationship with a woman. God's gift to us is not just His son Jesus, but a relationship with His son Jesus. 1 Cor. 1:9. Adam walked with God in the garden. We can walk with God in the garden of our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Adam lost His intimate relationship with God when he chose to be "as God" rather than "with God." We lose relationship with God when we enthrone our minds to rule our lives self-reliantly "as God," rather than yielding our minds to serve our spirits so that we can rule and reign "with God."

Fallen man relates to all things from the "I and It" mode. "I and It" is a controlled relation between me and a thing - - any thing. It can be a thing I touch; like a car, jewelry, money and clothes. It can be a thing I observe; like sports, television, entertainment, nature, music and books. It can be a thing I feel; like jealousy, anger, lust and affection. It can be a thing I imagine; like fantasy, invention and planning. It can be a thing I perform; like work, play, speech, and tasks. It can be a thing I go to; like church, home, work and vacation. Lastly, and most tragically, it can be a who I communicate with; like God, wife, child, friend or anybody I relate to without a fully engaged heart.

The result of "I and It" is a solitary existence, profound loneliness and quiet desperation. As Lily Tomlin once said, "We're all in this alone." This statement jokingly but painfully captures the true essence of the Hebrew concept of the "death" man suffered on the day he ate the forbidden fruit. Death is loss of relationship, connectedness and intimacy. Death is the separation caused by the "I and It," a state of heart isolation which leaves us unable to relate, respond and embrace another with all our being.

Recently, the "I and It" was demonstrated to me in a very striking way. My wife and I were sharing at the breakfast table about what the Lord had been doing. My wife would look me directly in the eye when she was talking. But, whenever I would respond, her eyes would glance down at the newspaper until I was finished. Then she would again engage me eye to eye. After this continued for a while, I rebuked her for being "I and It." Her response chilled me to the bone: "You do the same thing to me all the time." She was absolutely right. Not only have I frequently failed to give her my undivided heart attention; I have also often neglected my children, friends and clients in the same way by not engaging myself fully with them. That is changing. I am learning to quiet my mind from distractions and seek heart to heart relational events with all people.

The essence of "I and It" is this: it is a one-way relationship completely controlled by me. I may buy It, sell It, curse It, praise It, ignore It, rationalize It, manipulate It, idolize It, demonize It, keep It at arms length, embrace It closely and\or anything else I am able to do with It. I am the God of It. I decree how I feel about It, what I do with It, whether I accept It, or whether I reject It.

The only thing I can't do with It is fully engage my heart to have unreserved interaction and participation with It. I can only have this communion of spirit with a Thou and never with an It. An "I and Thou" relation is one without any control, agendas, reservations, restrictions or boundaries. "I and It" is a one way street controlled where the "I" totally controls. "I and Thou" is a two way street where the bonding experience itself fluidly forms a relational event full of meaning and purpose.

Because of the emptiness in our souls, the lack of "I and Thou" with God and His creation, we desperately seek something to fill the void. We clutch on to anything we can control - food, money, people, sex, drugs, man-made religion, sports and entertainment. The "I and It" soulishly tries to fill the void of the "I and Thou" by making us "control freaks" who build thousands of one-way relationships which imitate interaction but never satisfy our deep need for true fellowship. Buber believed that true meaning in life is never found within an isolated self. Blessed life is experienced only in relational events in what Buber called the realm of the "between": between man and God, between man and man, between man and creation.

Simply put, "I and It" is relating to God and His creation through the control of our mind. "I and "Thou" is relating to God, man and creation through a fully engaged heart. "I and It" is a monologue. "I and Thou" is a dialogue. "I and It" is a routine. "I and Thou" is fresh. "I and It" is rigid. "I and Thou" is fluid. "I and It" continually constructs mental fences of separation. "I and Thou" continually constructs heart gates of communion. "I and It" promotes self. "I and Thou" promotes relationship. "I and It" seeks control. "I and Thou" seeks intimacy. "I and It" is a planned destination. "I and Thou" is an ongoing unpredictable adventure. "I and It" is always centered on the past or future. "I and Thou" is continually centered on the eternal now. "I and It" relates to God in the way a slave relates to a master. "I and Thou" relates to God in the way a son relates to a loving Father.

"I and It" divides its focus on other things while relating to people. "I and Thou" turns the television off, puts the newspaper down, closes the book, and looks people eye to eye while sharing with them. "I and It" prays faceless checklists of forced topics. "I and Thou" prays seeking spontaneous communion with God's presence through scripture, worship and intercession. With "I and It," a man's home is his castle where he is king. With "I and Thou," a man's home is a sanctuary for the presence and kingship of God. "I and It" is mind-based Greek philosophy which says, "I think, therefore I am." (Rene Descartes). "I and Thou" is heart-based Hebrew passion which says, "I respond although I will be changed." (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy).

The question remains: what is the secret of the "I and Thou?" How do we walk in this intimacy with God, man and creation? First, we must recognize that anything less than "wholeheartedness" will leave our mind with "I and It" soul control. Jewish thought defines "evil desire," yetzer hara, as a half-impulse which robs us of "wholeheartedness," lev shalem. Hebrews believe a ¼, ½ or even a ¾ heart all produce a sluggish spirituality which renders men partially-asleep and unable to love and please God. Sin in this light is not seen as a desire to do a specific evil act, but rather as a lukewarm heart which lacks the passion to evict evil. Like a laser beam, righteous passion dislodges, displaces and ultimately disintegrates all our evil desires. Less than a whole heart keeps this spiritual laser from focusing its light to the intensity needed to sanctify our souls from sin.

Second, "I and Thou" is possible to experience in every situation because of the omni-presence of the Holy Spirit. We can wash dishes, drive a car, mow the lawn, do our jobs, exercise and pay the bills in an "I and Thou" mode because God is always in, with and before us. We can abide in continual dialogue and intimacy with the Holy Spirit, "even the Spirit of truth . . . for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you . . . for in Him we live, and move, and have our being." Jn. 14:17; Acts 17:28. This allows us to relate "I and Thou" even with our enemies who don't want to be "I and Thou" with us. As we relate and minister to others, our enduring goal must be to first interact with the Holy Spirit as we invite Him to establish the experience in righteousness. "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." Col. 3:23. From this "I and Thou" bonding with God, revelation and anointing will flow allowing us to be "I and Thou" with all men, even those who hate us and despitefully use us. Jesus continually walked in "I and Thou" with the Father:

"Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." Jn. 5:19.

From this Father-Son union, Jesus was able to fully relate to all men. Some opened their hearts and some didn't. But Jesus fully engaged His heart in every situation and left no opportunity unseized to relationally minister healing, deliverance, salvation, prophecy or correction, all as led by His Heavenly Father.

Third, "I and Thou" is the path of glorious union with God. True worship can only flow from true relationship. True relationship can only flow from "I and Thou" interaction. "I and Thou" can only flow from a fully engaged heart. A fully engaged heart is one which has been made "kosher," or spiritually fit, for the presence of God. "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." Jer. 29:13. The eye of the tiger begins with this last verse and ends with this next one:

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matt. 22: 37-40.
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Language is so squishy. Words slip. They slide. They squirm. Words mean different things to different people.

Meanings evolve, morph and sometimes mutate. Words sometimes cooperate with our inner intentions, but other times they clash, collide, and corrupt our best efforts to speak the truth.

Language is a very iffy proposition.

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'"
Lewis Carroll

It is for this reason that we MUST prioritize the Holy Spirit as our universal translator.

It takes God to explain God.

If 90% of human communication is non-verbal (as experts tell us), then how much more of the divine-human dialogue is non-verbal?

Language is wondrous and poetic when we hold it deftly and loosely, but becomes hard and brittle when we clench it literally and legalistically.

Stay loose and give language room to breathe. Else, it might spiritually choke both speaker and listener.
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