Friday, October 28, 2011

It's safer being a sinner than a Good Religious Person

That sinner, the Queen of Sheba, getting God-wisdom
We're continuing today through the (chronological) Gospels – taking a good look at who Jesus really was and is, outside of the way He's always been portrayed by what most loudly calls itself "Christianity".

Last week, we started a look at (among other things) demons in the New Testament. Today, we'll look at a few more, and talk about the demonic in relation to Good Religious People.

As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here.

And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the human-translation version on this scripture page as suits you. I default to the NASB to get the more literal translation, but do use the one that works for you. Note also that I have no theological or other tie to the bible site I list above – it's just one that lists the NASB, KJV, and The Message, and most folks I've corresponded with seem to use one of those. However, another brother says you can also get the NRSV human translation at If you prefer yet another human-translation that isn't on one of these other pages, do send it to me. I will also list it here).

Today we see that "demon-possessed" people were brought to Jesus. What does that mean, "demon-possessed"? Does the Bible or science tell us the real truth about demons? Or is there perhaps truth in both – or neither?

To modern human philosophies, which discount everything that doesn't fit within a certain narrow way of testing and thinking about the biological and psychological world, demons just don't exist. The modern cultures with the most power in the western world today teach us that "demons" are only psychological or mythological mind-creations of "backward", or psychologically disturbed, or "overly-religious" people (who are often presumed by the most insistent believers in modern philosophies to be "backward" and "psychologically disturbed", as well).

Problem is, being made of fallible human beings just like religion is made up of fallible human beings, what most loudly calls itself "Science" has degenerated in the last century into a mess no more logical than "Religion". In fact (and to my great sorrow, since I have a lifelong love of real science), "Good Science People" today are really no different from "Good Religious People". Both:
  • Either don't make a study, or make a poor one, of those parts of their base wisdom-materials (world or Bible) they accept as "reality", and then
  • Either consciously or unconsciously decide what they will find, and then
  • Use their base wisdom materials to "prove" what they decided was the truth, and then
  • Refuse to think outside the tiny box they've invented for their minds.

This is true all over, in physics, biological sciences (including medicine), geology, and more – just as it's true in fundamentalist Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and the "tweeners" like denominational Protestantism, emerging/emergent "churches", and so on. Why is it true? Because human beings are human beings, and without a lot of self-reflection and being willing to give up our self-focused crap, we naturally gravitate to ways of thinking and understanding that back up and "prove" our crap. There are people, both among those interested in science and in religion, who truly work to find the real thing beyond their own garbage – but they are few and far between, and in science just as in religion, they are ignored and trashed and even punished by the science/religion majority.

So what we’ve ended up with – in both "science" and "religion" realms – is a lot of exceptionally educated people who know crap. They're "educated idiots", heads full of years of documented study the majority conformity-culture says is "reality" – but what they've really done is just memorize a particular human philosophy, and then gone out into the world to help coat and re-coat reality with their philosophy.

So, what does all this have to do with demons? Well, the truth of the matter is, the Bible doesn't tell us a whole lot about demons, and almost all of what passes for religious "knowledge" about demons is simply human philosophy about demons – not demon-reality. Unfortunately, what most loudly calls itself "Science" today has nothing more to offer in helping us understand demons than "Religion" does, because in the slap-fight it started with its sibling "Religion" several centuries back, it decided that anything that Religion even talks about is automatically NOT REAL.

So we have two large, self-focused, domineering human philosophies, neither of them doing any real work to figure demons out based on the evidence that's there or might be there, telling us what to believe about demons. What a mess.

So all we "non-experts" can do is do our own work and decide for ourselves what we believe. And hopefully we do that in a way that isn't as full of our own crap! Several years ago I did discover a book that goes more specifically and only into what the Bible actually says and doesn't say about demons. Check it out if you're interested!
  • Have you made an actual study of what the Bible itself actually says and doesn't say about demons? Where do you get your understanding of who they are (or aren't) and what they can do (or can't do)? Does your understanding need updating or refining? 
  • If you decide demons don't really exist, or decide that they do exist, how does that change or set your understanding of the various forces at work in the world today? 

In our scriptures today we see that when Jesus healed someone who was demon-possessed and also had a physical ailment (like blindness), the physical ailment went away when the demon did. One of the important things to see here is the strong reaction this caused among those who were witnesses to it. The miracle-healing and throwing out of demons made them think, made them debate within and among themselves as individuals and as a collective people:

Is this God or God's power standing right here among us? Or is there something evil going on?

As we talked about last week, of course, Jesus reminds them that if evil was using evil to remove evil power, then evil would fall – and evil isn't that stupid. So here again is God visibly and powerfully using supernatural power in the world so that the people He told to look for these kinds of supernatural events to prove it was Him (and not some huckster pretending to be Him) with them would be able to recognize Him. We know, of course, that in the end very few of His Chosen People were even willing to recognize Him, even as He stood right there in front of them doing things no human or demonic power could ever do. Remember what John (the disciple/Gospel writer, not the Baptist) said? 
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:9-13]

Almost all of the Jews of the day believed that simply being Jewish made them one of God's people, as if nothing more was required of them than religious rituals and attendance. And believing so, their hearts and minds weren't willing to see the greatest miracle of all: God standing right in their midst. In the end, nearly all the Jews of that day rejected God, and so they made a mockery of believing they were "God's People". And who ended up really being God's People? John tells us: those Jews and non-Jews whose hearts and minds were willing to see and accept God as He lived among them. Suddenly, being one of God's People didn't require anything from the Old Testament Mosaic Law, and didn't require being of a certain people – it just required being willing.
  • We also have to ask today when we see miraculous or big spiritual things happening, "Is this God's power at work here, or is something evil going on?" Jesus and others in the Bible tell us to always question and test to make sure what we're following or seeing is truly from God, and not some evil fake. So the question itself is good. The Good Religious People back then just made it a reason to reject the real God because their fake-"God" suited them better. When in your life have you questioned whether something's really about God or not, for the right reasons? When in your life have you questioned like a Good Religious Person, and therefore done it for the wrong reasons? 
  • "Churches" and "denominations" today are rank with the insistence that we have to join up with them to be saved or one of God's People. It wasn't too long ago, in fact, when Good Religious People even had the power to torture and murder people who refused to submit to their version of "God" and being "God's People". Yet by filling their hearts and minds with their own version of "God" in the same way the Good Religious People 2,000 years ago did, they can't even recognize and accept the real One. Have you been guilty of this in the past? (I have!) Have you since recognized the error and sought healing and the true Jesus? 
  • The institutions and philosophies that Good Religious People create can be intensely addicting and absorbing, so that it can seem impossible to be free from the fear, guilt, and/or shame that keep us attached to them (physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually) even long after we've otherwise rejected them. One could even say that their complete possession of especially (but not only) those of us who were raised in their "reality" seems demonic, because of the dominating power they can have over us. Does Jesus need to heal you of any Good Religious Demons? Are you fully aware of the physical, psychological, and/or spiritual ailments you will also be free of, when Jesus drives the demon of religion out of you?

When Jesus confronted the Good Religious People in today's scripture, He told them something else very interesting – something He'd warned them about several times before, and would warn them about again, in other ways:

It's safer to be a repentant God-rejecter, than a Good Religious Person.

Why safer? Because the sincere repentance of even the evil pagans of Ninevah, and the sincere search for true-God-wisdom made by the idol-worshipping queen of the South, actually produced people able to recognize the true God and the need to live in His ways. This so much so that those who had been God-rejecters now had enough God-understanding to recognize and condemn the kind of false-God-connection the Good Religious People lived.

Good Religious People accused Jesus of being demon-possessed and demon-powered, yet who really was? Here again we see talk of demons – also called evil or unclean spirits – but this time in relationship to Good Religious People (go back and check today's scripture again, if you missed this context). Jesus says that giving ourselves a good spiritual housecleaning means nothing toward really making and keeping us spiritually clean. When we simply empty ourselves of evil (say, at a revival meeting, or during a church service, etc), but don't turn around and fill ourselves with God, then we stay religious – and Good Religious – but then end up even more evil than when we started.

Those of us not still trapped in this kind of Good Religious Trade-One-Devil-for-Seven Spirituality certainly can see this. We automatically curl our lip or step back defensively (physically, emotionally, financially, whatever) from those we find out are Big Christians or big churchgoers or big Bible-readers. Good Religious People like to pretend that people only reject them because they reject God, but in fact the Bible says that (many) people actually reject God because of Good Religious People.

Whether we are female, Gay, poor, a citizen of a weaker nation, or just an Average Joe on the street or in a workplace or family, we suffer under the huge amount of self-righteousness, self-centeredness, nation-worship, violence-worship, hate, condemnation, sexual and other kinds of abuse (of adults and children), Bible-twisting, clergy-elevation, and even just plain old lying, cheating, and stealing we see on a regular basis from Good Religious People (Christian and otherwise). And all of the evil ugliness we see in Good Religious People – whether 6,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago, or today – is all part of what Jesus is describing here: religiously cleaning out one demon, but then ending up with seven demons. Starting out as a Level 1 Jerko, and ending up a Level 7 Smiling Ass. When we go the Good Religious Route, instead of the real Jesus route, our condition does go from bad to worse. It truly would have been better had we never become Good Religious People in the first place, but just gone from simple sinner to simple repentant sinner.
  • People decide to focus on a lot of different things in the Bible. For example, Good Religious Heterosexuals like to pretend that the Bible is mostly about God blessing and obsessing on what their sex organs can do. Good Religious Power Worshippers like to pretend the Bible is mostly about domination, violence, and acquisition at home, work, at war, etc. And so on. But one of the things that fills a good deal of the Bible, but is rarely talked about (or even seen) by Good Religious People, is the amount of effort God has put in to trying to get Good Religious People to be and do what they claim to be (His real followers, doing His real things) – and how nearly every time Good Religious People have absolutely refused to do anything but their own way. Oh, they turn around now and again, usually after a huge punishment takes away all their material goods and feel-good religious rituals. But then they go back – again, and again, and again – to doing things their own way. How has this happened within your own life? How much effort has God had to put into trying to get you to be His (real) follower, instead of a Good Religious Person? What can you do to stop getting in the way of His efforts?

See you next week, when we'll talk about who Jesus counts as His family, and who Jesus says "gets" His message and doesn't - and why.

This article written by Lynne at You can contact Lynne at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Have you committed the Unforgivable Sin?

Ok – on with our walk through the (chronological) Gospels, learning more and more about the real Jesus – the one painted and covered over by so many centuries of false "Christianity".

Today, we get to see a bit of what the Bible says about demons, and how Jesus handled them, but we'll also cover what's called the "Unforgivable" or "Unpardonable" sin.

As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here

And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the human-translation version on this scripture page as suits you. I default to the NASB to get the more literal translation, but do use the one that works for you. Note also that I have no theological or other tie to the bible site I list above – it's just one that lists the NASB, KJV, and The Message, and most folks I've corresponded with seem to use one of those. However, another brother says you can also get the NRSV human translation at If you prefer yet another human-translation that isn't on one of these other pages, do send it to me. I will also list it here).

Despite all our religious and secular culture "knows" about demons – who they are, how they act, the power they have or don't have, how they look, and so on – the Bible really says very little that gives us much detail beyond the kinds of damage they can do. In fact, most of what we or others "know" about demons has been completely manufactured by human beings – and ideas created from combining our imaginations with regional myths. So let's see a bit about demons, today (and there will be more in coming weeks, to be sure). What people of that place and time 2,000 years ago thought of them, and so on.

First in our scripture-read for today we see Jesus getting the same kind of treatment His followers often get even now, when they're living God's (real) way and not the Good Religious Way (or even the Great Scientific Way): Jesus was accused of being "crazy" by those who felt they knew Him and the "right" way best. And truly, we can see where they might be coming from. There were cults back then just as there are today, and they could be just as dangerous back then as the ones we see today. And imagine if your son or brother was suddenly thronged by huge crowds of people who believed he was capable of curing horrible illnesses just by a touch, and who hung on his every word as if it came from God Himself. Wouldn't you be a little worried?

Here's the thing, though. His family wasn't really seeing Who He was any more than the Good Religious People were. Who else should have already seen the God-spark in Him (even if just to see Him as a great prophet, if nothing more) than those who knew Him in all the daily life-details of family life? And yet they missed it. Assumed He must be crazy. His biological family hadn't really learned anything since they'd "lost" Him when he was a kid at the Temple and couldn't figure out why He would stay talking and debating with the scholars there. In fact, His family would remain among the most painfully ignorant of who He really was, and how pleased God was with Him, until His resurrection.
  • Have there been ways your family thinks you're "crazy", simply because you don't conform to all the ways they believe you should? Are your nonconforming ways part of God's (real) ways? How can you protect your godly nonconformity from those whose eyes aren't yet opened to the real Jesus yet? 
  • Jesus' biological family would also have wanted to protect Him from charges of being a fake teacher, which in that place and time could end in death if it went too far with the wrong crowd. What might have helped them open their eyes to His real existence as the Son of God? What might help you to more open your own eyes to who Jesus really is?

So, those who thought they knew Him best as family accused Jesus of being crazy. But those who weren't family had another charge for him: they accused Him of being demon-powered.
Back in those days, people so interested would often call on the power of a larger demon to overpower or drive out a smaller demon. That's what these people were accusing Jesus of doing. They were saying that He was possessed by Satan, and using the power of Satan to boss around lesser demons.

But is that even how the world of demonry works? And is this how good people can fight against evil?

Jesus says no. Evil is evil, and no one drives out evil by using evil. It would be like using water to dry something – the world just doesn't work like that.
  • Our human world is absolutely overrun by the idea that we can use evil to accomplish good. The big example today is our "good" use of the evils of war, with all the terror, murder, rape, child-killing, food and water destruction, and more that always are part of it to "spread democracy" or "liberate" people and so on. But we also create and participate in all kinds of "good" religious "devotion" that only massages our feel-good brain chemicals and makes us feel all righteous-y and Jesus-y without having to actually live the way Jesus Himself actually told us to live. What are some of the ways you have or continue to use or do evil things to do "good"? Have you considered that in those ways you are just doing the devil's work for him? 
  • What kinds of damage can you see being done by Good Religious People doing "good" in evil ways? Have you considered how false teachings about what the Bible says / doesn't say about Gay people, women, the poor, and so on are all evil being done in the name of "good"? How can you help heal the huge amount of this kind of damage done in "Jesus" Name to yourself and others?

Then Jesus tells the folks who are accusing Him of doing His good through the devil's power that they are on the verge of making themselves unforgivable. Lots of heartache has sprung up over the centuries over Jesus' assertion that it's possible to do something God will not actually forgive. But what is He actually talking about? What isn't forgivable?

First of all, we have to look at the whole context. The Bible tells us over and over again that God forgives all sins that we feel bad about AND turn away from. In this scripture, though, here are people who are so against admitting in their hearts who Jesus really is – so against it that they accuse Him of being demonic, to justify their refusal to see who He really is – that they are falling into the trap Paul talked about in Romans 1.

And what trap was that? It's refusing to let God's way into their hearts, so that finally God simply let them keep their own way in their hearts, and they suffered the penalty of having to live neck-deep in their own evil garbage.

Remember that God had already been at work in Jewish lives for many centuries now. He'd done miracles in their lives, even promised them He'd send them a great Savior – but the Bible tells us that again and again "His people" turned their backs on Him and trashed their relationship with Him, preferring their own crap to His shining glory. And here, finally, was God Himself, standing right in front of the people in this scripture, once again doing huge miracles to prove He was there – and they were STILL preferring to stay neck deep in their own crap rather than come to His truly good side. And they were making it even worse by "justifying" their love of their own crap by accusing God of only having power because the devil gave it to Him.

Jesus here is simply giving the same warning we get elsewhere in the Bible: if you let your heart get so hard that you refuse God's good way all the way to your end, God will punish you by letting you remain in your own evil way to rot to your heart's content.

That's the eternal sin: preferring human evil over God's good. That's what can't be forgiven, because the people committing it refuse the forgiveness. And when that happens, the Bible tells us, God will finally say, "Ok, have it your way – forever."
  • Some argue that God will ultimately save everyone, because God is love. Yet the Bible tells and shows us that while God's love does reach out to everyone, eventually, with those who just absolutely refuse to choose (real) good, He will just let them go their own way. And, unfortunately, our own human way leads to eternal hell. Have you had times in your life where you refused God or His goodness? If you've since felt badly about that, do you realize that means you have NOT committed the unforgivable sin? 
  • There are a lot of people who are angry with God today. Many Gay people, for example, have a lot of bitterness against God because they've not yet understood that He's not only not any happier with fake-"Christians" than they are, but that He not only predicted those fake-"Christians" would show up and cause all this hurt but also told us to prepare and defend ourselves from their "good" evil. What are some ways you can help yourself or others to realize that being angry at God because of a Good Religious Lie is not the same as outright rejection of the real, living God? What are some ways you can help yourself or others to heal this damage?

See you next week, when we'll see Jesus in action against demons!

This article written by Lynne at You can contact Lynne at

Friday, October 14, 2011

Did Jesus keep women "in their place"?

Today we're continuing our journey through the (chronological) Gospels, witnessing again and again how nearly completely opposite (the real) Jesus is from those who, through the last twenty centuries, have claimed to "represent" and "know" Him better than anyone else.

Today, we get a glimpse into what Jesus really thought about women.

As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here.

And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the human-translation version on this scripture page as suits you. I default to the NASB to get the more literal translation, but do use the one that works for you. Note also that I have no theological or other tie to the bible site I list above – it's just one that lists the NASB, KJV, and The Message, and most folks I've corresponded with seem to use one of those. However, another brother says you can also get the NRSV human translation at If you prefer yet another human-translation that isn't on one of these other pages, do send it to me. I will also list it here).

We've witnessed already that Jesus lived completely outside the expectations and demands of Good Religious People regarding people of different races, the poor, and people who aren't Good Religious People. Today we get to witness Jesus ALSO acting outside the expectations and demands Good Religious People had and have for women.

In today's scripture, we first see the woman who anointed Jesus' feet at the Good Religious Person's dinner party. Let's really set the scene, though, so we get the whole picture (and not just what Good Religious People since then have either ignored or twisted around to protect their own prejudices).

The party: In the ancient Jewish world, it "proved" or "improved" one's Good Religious Standing to be able to invite and get a popular teacher to come over for a big semi-public dinner. Imagine all the Good Religious People today, for example, who would strut like religious peacocks if they managed to have Billy Graham (or any of the other highly popular "Christian" television preachers or mega-"church" "pastors") over for a big banquet dinner that also included special local guests -- and even the "good" and "decent" neighbors, IF they behaved with appropriate deference to the Good Religious Atmosphere and hung back in the shadows, admiring what was happening without pretending to be so lofty as to actually be good enough to actively participate in it. I'm sure the atmosphere that night was absolutely choked with Good Religious "Virtue"!

The "seating" arrangements: The scripture tells us that they "reclined at table". That tells us that they weren't sitting in chairs, as we would eat, but rather laying on their sides on couches designed for this way of eating one's meal (see the drawing included in this post, to see what they did). These couches were only meant for the important people, of course, and they were always set up so that the recliners' heads would all be toward the center of the room where the table was, so they could talk to each other while they ate. This put the recliners' feet pointed out towards the walls of the room – and towards where all the "less worthy" people hung out.

The three "niceties" of being a good host in ancient Israel: It was expected back in that place and time that a host would either humbly wash his guest's feet or have a servant do it (if he was wealthy enough to avoid humility but still get "credit" for it). Life was dusty back then, and travel usually meant walking over dirt and rocky roads. Getting one's feet clean was a treat! It was also normal back then (just as it is today and through history in many cultures) for men to greet other men with a simple (completely non-sexual) kiss on the cheek – just as men in our modern, western culture greet each other with a handshake. Finally, in those dry, dusty times before modern shampoos and conditioners, it was considered a nice thing to provide oil for guests' scalps / hair.

So – here we have a big banquet dinner thrown by a local and well-off Good Religious Person who either admired Jesus or who simply wanted to partake of some of His popularity. At the dinner, while they laid on their dinner-couches, the host and his special guests would have eaten and discussed religious and other topics with the Guest of Honor, all while everyone else was required to stay back from the "honored" table and just listen quietly.

But then in comes the woman.

The scripture tells us she was a "sinner", meaning she was either a prostitute, or a woman otherwise living way outside what was considered "acceptable" by the majority culture she lived in. Knowing what it means to live in a small town/city and in a tight-knit, traditional community, we can know that ALL the locals would have known her, and known "what kind of woman" she was. Knowing also from the Bible and from our own history and experience that Good Religious People have never changed in over 6,000 years, we can just picture the scene among those in attendance as she dared enter the banquet room: the frowns, the shaking heads, the whispers, the indignant huffs, the murmured threats, the puffing up.

Then she did even worse:
  • She actually stood by the Guest of Honor – which meant she violated the dinner rule that said only the host and special guests could interact with the host and special guests ("How rude!"), and
  • She (a female) then touched the (male) Guest of Honor ("What a slut!"), and
  • She poured perfume she no doubt normally used for the benefit of her own sinful "paid guests" on the Guest of Honor ("How dare she lower Him to her level!"), and
  • She touched Him with her hair, which meant it was hanging loose instead of hidden under a cloth cover in the manner her human culture required of "decent" women ("A threat to all that's good and decent!").

I'm sure the moral outrage of the Good Religious People in the house that night was immeasurable, but the Bible only tells us the reaction of the banquet's host. Simon the Good Religious Person fell – as Good Religious People so often do – immediately into mumbled judgment, didn't he? Simon didn't speak out loud and ruin the atmosphere of his great party, but instead said to himself about Jesus, "This guy's obviously not REALLY a speaker for and knower of God, or he would have been able to see immediately what a whore this woman is so she wouldn't have tainted him." We can just imagine how Simon and his Good Religious People guests would have trashed Jesus' reputation after the party was over.

But Jesus confronted Simon with a learning-story, and then used it to (hopefully) open the Good Religious Person's eyes to how God was seeing this situation. Essentially, Jesus said:
Simon, you claim to honor Me with a dinner banquet – and yet you didn't give me any of the things this culture says a truly honored guest should get. Out of all the wealth and "righteousness" you have, you denied Me even a little water and a small towel to wash my hot, road-dirty feet. You denied me even a peck on the cheek to publicly demonstrate your acceptance of Me into your home. You denied me even a bit of common oil to soothe My body's exposure to the elements. So your "honoring" Me is half-done and false. 
Simon, you do live a low-sin religious life, and you do the Jewish religious things God requires for your sin-forgiveness, God forgives your sins. But you obviously only love God a little, and God knows it. 
But this woman – who, unlike you, has not even one bit of honorable status or wealth to 'share' with me – has honored Me above everything she is or has, has given the best of what she has to give. Simon, she washed My feet with the tears of her own sorrow and suffering, and used her own hair to dry them. Since I came in here she's not stopped publicly demonstrating her acceptance of Me into her heart, with her non-stop kissing of My feet. And she's given over her perfumed oil, one of the few valuable possessions she has and one of the 'tools' she must use each day to get the food and shelter she needs, loving 'wasting' it on My feet. 
Her honoring Me is extravagant and true. Simon, she does live a high-sin, non-religious life. Yet she obviously loves God hugely, and God, who knows her heart, forgives her hugely.
  • Have you ever been excluded – or perhaps helped exclude others – from being part of a religious group or religious function for "moral" reasons? The Bible tells us that's required sometimes, but only for people who won't stop making others believe a false Gospel. Knowing that, then, should this woman have had to sneak in to be able to participate in this banquet? 
  • No matter how sinful someone is (or is thought to be), should anyone ever be able to block them from seeing Jesus? 
  • What's your reaction to seeing Good Religious People in the Bible accusing Jesus (God Himself) of not knowing God and God's way (we've already seen it several times in our study so far)? If Good Religious People could be so spiritually blind 2,000 years ago, why should we believe they are any more likely to really see and understand God and His way today? 
  • Simon the Good Religious Person had Jesus over for dinner to "honor" Him – but since he did nothing else (not even the basics of common host courtesy everyone in those days was expected to do) to honor Jesus, who do you think Simon really meant to gain honor through this banquet? Good Religious People today also honor themselves by "honoring" Jesus. Do you imagine God feels "honored" having to "share" like that? 
  • A woman back in that time and place was required to marry (heterosexually) and remain married, in order to be economically safe. Their culture back then didn't have other jobs they could apply for, so only women wealthy enough to run their own business could avoid having to beg on the streets to stay alive (and few who begged would remain alive long). Unmarried women who couldn't return (for whatever reason) to their father's house, and who weren't wealthy enough to do anything else,  often turned to prostitution to keep food on their table – and then were condemned as whores (even by those men who made their living at prostitution possible). Do you imagine that Jesus wasn't aware of the dynamics that forced many women into prostitution in those days? Who do you imagine He had condemnation for: the woman who had no choice but to be a prostitute, or the people whose culture wouldn't allow her to keep food in her mouth and a roof over her head any other way? 
  • Good Religious People who even bother to recognize themselves in Simon will often point out proudly that Simon still only had "few" sins compared to the very sinful non-religious, according to the parable Jesus told Simon. Was that Jesus' point, or are they (too conveniently) missing His point once again? 
  • Who truly had the better life: Simon, with all his wealth and power and religious participation, yet whose heart had only the bare, required minimum to give to God; or the sinner who had nothing but pain in her life, yet whose heart could offer everything she had to God without question? 
  • We often see the sinner's pain and repentance in her tears, but do we also recognize the huge inner strength and faith this woman had? She knew exactly what all the people of her town thought of her, and she knew she was walking into a hornet's nest of Good Religious Hostility by putting herself not just within Simon's house, not just off to the side of the room where everyone else sat and listened, but pushing herself forward, right up to Jesus and the table He rested near. She risked everything they could say and even do to her, just to be near Jesus, just to express her love and gratitude to Him. Should you or I or anyone do any less? How great a model and mentor she should be to us all!

But Jesus didn't just leave it there. He gave God's comfort directly to the woman, as well, didn't He? He essentially told her, "The sins you so grieve over are forgiven!" The Good Religious People around the room were critical, of course, as in "Who does this guy think He is, forgiving people we KNOW aren't worth God's forgiveness?" Once again, those who claimed to be God's Best (or Only) People failed to recognize God literally right in the room with them. But Jesus answered their attack with even more reassurance for the woman. Even though she had not participated in any of the religious rituals God required of the Jews then to be saved, and even though she lived a life outside what was considered acceptable by the Good Religious (and other) People, He told her, "Your trust in God has saved you. Go on your way, knowing you're at peace with God."
  • Many times we get stuck in sin, and we grieve over our sinfulness. Did Jesus tell this woman she was stuck, or did He tell her to drop that burden and move on? 
  • Did the fact that Good Religious People wouldn't have forgiven or loved or appreciated this woman change Jesus' forgiveness, love, or appreciation for her in the slightest? Why would you, then, ever imagine God gives two cents what Good Religious People (or anyone else) things about you? 
  • How should it change your life to know that everyone else in the world – especially in the Good Religious World – can absolutely despise you, yet you can be completely and utterly at peace with God? 

The scripture tells us that after this, Jesus continued what He'd been doing: going from place to place, preaching God's Good News to everyone. "The Twelve" disciples were with Him (remember that the Jewish people, of course, understood themselves as descended from twelve physically-related brothers, but from now on God's people were to be counted as those who were spiritually descended from the new  twelve physically-unrelated brothers). But the Bible tells us that women also followed Jesus and travelled with Him, just like the men did. And Jesus allowed that to happen.

Sometimes women with money in those days were patrons of religious teachers or groups, but it would have been considered appallingly indecent for women to travel with Jesus and His male followers. Men and women in those days were kept separated in nearly everything, including education and attendance at religious functions. Most women, in fact, weren't even allowed religious or other education, at all (sometimes wealthy women were allowed education, but not in any coed setting). Even among the pagans, having women in a religious group caused scandalized gossip and moral outrage.

And in the midst of all that "scandal", we once again find Jesus. The Good Religious People (and the Good Pagans) of the day may have considered women unfit for learning – but Jesus taught women, and He taught them exactly what He taught His male students. Jesus also allowed them to follow Him, to participate in what He was doing as much as His male students did. And they did so, learning, growing, supporting just as the men did. In Jesus' real church, women were always right there with Him, ministering and being ministered to, from the very start.
  • Jesus seems to have been really good at not giving a hoot about the standards, rules, and expectations of Good Religious People, even when they felt they were only following or enforcing "God's law". Do you still give a hoot? 
  • Even though Jesus ignored or actively broke religious rules all the time, He never acted chaotically or in ways that ignored manners, being respectful of others, and living God's way. Think up three modern examples of religious rules that Jesus would have ignored or broken. Now think up three modern examples of other kinds of rules that Jesus would have not ignored or broken. What's the difference? How should those things be different in your own life?

Next week, we'll see more of how Jesus handled demons and evil.

See you then!
This article written by Lynne at You can contact Lynne at

Friday, October 7, 2011

What does it take to be even greater than John the Baptist?

A quick note: I've normally been posting on Thursdays. My schedule with the new job has changed, though, so I'm going to aim for Fridays instead.

Ok – we're continuing our journey through the (chronological) Gospels, checking out Jesus as He really was and is, and how different that is from how He's been portrayed by Good Religious People for nearly all of what most loudly calls itself "Christianity".

As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here

And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the human-translation version on this scripture page as suits you. I default to the NASB to get the more literal translation, but do use the one that works for you. Note also that I have no theological or other tie to the bible site I list above – it's just one that lists the NASB, KJV, and The Message, and most folks I've corresponded with seem to use one of those. However, another brother says you can also get the NRSV human translation at If you prefer yet another human-translation that isn't on one of these other pages, do send it to me. I will also list it here).

This week we meet the famous John the Baptist again – the same John we met earlier in the Gospels:
  • Amazingly-born into the elderly priest-family of Elizabeth and Zachariah and destined from birth to be filled with the Holy Spirit,
  • Chosen to be God's announcer to the Jewish people that the Messiah He'd promised them for so many centuries was at last here,
  • Baptizer of Jewish people who wanted to use baptism as a outward sign of their inner heart's turning away from their own way and back towards God's way (although the Good Religious People of then – no different than the Good Religious People of today – who wanted the experience of doing the outward sign without actually having the inner heart change, of course, showed up too), 
  • Rejecter of anything but give-it-all-up-for-God, speak-only-God's-truth-and-never-shut-up, especially when it torques off the Good Religious People and political/financial powerhouses, and,
  • Baptizer of his cousin, Jesus, even though he recognized that Jesus had no need for a sin-rejection / God-embracing baptism, as everyone else did.

When we meet John the Baptist again, he's been off still doing what he's been doing for some time now: calling people on their crap, and baptizing those who wanted to clean themselves up for God. But now John's own followers have been telling him some of the things Jesus has been doing – which included things like touching the dead (even though that's religiously disgusting, according to the Mosaic Law) and violating the Sabbath (even though that was such a violation of the Mosaic law that it technically required the death penalty). John had believed in Jesus before – recognized Him as having God's-spark like no other ever had. But even John had questions of faith. So (not able to go himself, since he was in prison for telling a high government official how immoral this official was by God's standards), John sent two of his followers to ask Jesus just what in the world is going on: "ARE You the Messiah? Or are You just a great prophet Yourself, and we should be waiting for the actual Messiah still?"

The answer Jesus gave back to John not only proved who He was according to scripture, but it also invited John (and everyone else) to decide based on their own eyes and ears. Jesus told him:

The scripture says the Messiah will heal blindness, lameness, disease, deafness, and even death, and will comfort the have-nots with the truth that God's going to fill them to overflowing – and that's exactly what's happening now, through Me. So you're completely right-on if you don't reject Me because I don't match Good Religious Expectations for the Messiah.

John's followers took the message back to John, and John must have felt so much better. Since his whole life had been about not only waiting like everyone else for the Messiah, but also about risking and giving up everything (literally) to proclaim the Messiah's coming and the need to repent to God's People, John could now sit even in the filth and horror of an ancient prison and know that he'd accomplished exactly what God had set for him to do – that all his work on his own heart, all his giving up everything to a real follower of God's way, had not been for nothing. What a great life!
  • Since even John the Baptist had questions about faith in Jesus, does that provide you comfort that you're still ok with God when you have uncertainty? Who did John go to to help solve his faith issues? Who should we go to, to get the answers we need?
  • John the Baptist took the harsh road of total denial of all the world considers "good" or even "necessary", so that he was only about God and speaking God's truth to His people. When the world around them was so corrupt that God's (real) truth wasn't allowed in the political or religious realms, that's what God's (true) prophets did: they sat outside it all, not allowing corruption to taint their own hearts or message, and did and said what God put in their hearts to do and say – even when it cost them everything. As corrupt at our "churches" are today, could John the Baptist's message or living be any different if he were living and speaking today? How is that people calling themselves "prophets" today imagine they can live and work as part of the "church" system and not become corrupt, even though no real prophet seen in the Bible ever could? 
  • The Jews of the day recognized John as a real prophet because he lived like what they had seen from their scripture as being a real prophet. What should we scripturally expect a real prophet of today to live and sound like?

After John's followers left, though, Jesus started speaking to the crowd about John. He asked them:

"When John was still proclaiming God's way in the desert and you went out to experience what John was doing, who did you think you'd find? A weakling that just goes this way and that? No? Well, what kind of man did you expect to find? Someone who lives in nice, soft clothing and enjoys big money in his pocket? No way – those kinds of people live in the high places of the world. So what did you go out to see? A prophet? Oh yeah – a prophet! And someone even more than a prophet. John's the one God spoke of in the Old Testament when He said, 'I'm going to send someone to announce I'm coming, to prepare people's hearts for Me.' But hear this: among human beings, there's no one greater than John, but as great as John is, everyone who lives like God says to live is even greater than that! So pay attention, because from when John started doing his thing until now, God's way has been shoving its way back into the world, and you've got to be a 'fanatic' like John to get on that train."
  • One of the ways that Good Religious Bible Scholars re-write God's Word is proved in this passage. Jesus literally says above, "But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces". And the word translated "soft" here literally means "soft" – it's the Greek word malakoi. Yet many Good Religious Bible Scholars decide in 1 Corinthians 6:9 that when Paul is writing about the kinds of people who don't get to go to heaven, the Greek word malakoi suddenly means "effeminate" or "homosexual" instead (though, of course, those two words don't mean the same thing either). So, when the Bible context isn't condemning, "soft" to them means "soft" like Jesus said it: the pampered, powerful rich. But when the Bible context is condemning, suddenly now "soft" means Gay or a feminine male. So instead of translating exactly what Paul wrote and what God meant us to understand, in a way that matches other contexts in the Bible, they changed what Paul wrote – changed what God meant for us to understand – so that it matches what they want it to say and condemns people they want to condemn (feminine males and/or Gay people) and let's off the hook the people they don't want to condemn (the pampered, powerful rich). How do they "justify" that? If they bother at all, they say it's because Good Religious Scholars a few centuries after Paul decided that the word here means "effeminate". The fact that those ancient Good Religious Scholars were from a Greek/Roman culture that so worshiped violently aggressive masculinity that they would have called every man today who isn't a bloody, raging cage-fighter "effeminate" means nothing to today's Good Religious Scholars. They re-write it like they want to see it. So what does that mean to you, seeing such a blatant re-make of God's Word by "experts" and "Good Christians" who claim to know and teach the Bible better than anyone else? Should you listen to these people without always making an intense study of everything they have to say? If they can provide "justification" for an entire false-"Christian" culture to hate, bear false witness against, deny job and family protections to, and otherwise abuse Gay people and feminine males (which totally violates all of God's Old and New Testament insistence that we protect and assist those who are oppressed or persecuted, and not help their oppressors), can they be said to even know the real Jesus? Or are they just more of the blind-leading-the-blind right into hell's pit, just as Jesus described? How have such re-writes of scripture impacted your life, your family's life, your community's life? What can you do to help make God's real truth known? 
  • Jesus obviously had very high esteem for John the Baptist – and yet Jesus tells us that when we live God's (real) way, we are even higher up the esteem-ladder than John was. Jesus didn't mean for us to think that made John less – but rather, us more! How does it change your life and your living to know that as someone who's working to live God's way, you can't even imagine how highly you are esteemed in God's kingdom? 
  • Some people who have a violent nature themselves have tried to make Jesus' statement about being zealous in our pursuit of God's kingdom mean that God wants us to be violent or aggressive in "His" work. Does that even make sense, though, considering the way that Jesus lived in the world (even when dealing with His mortal enemies), and how those who first learned from Him (Peter, Paul, etc) lived in the world?

But Jesus said even more to the crowd, didn't He? He said God's people of that day accomplished no more than do children trying to get other children to play their (and no one else's) game. He said:

"John the Baptist gave up even the bare essentials of food and fun to live God's way, and you say he's crazy. But I don't give up the bare essentials of food and fun, and you say I'm a food-hog and a drunk, someone who's friends with sinful and hated people. But you know what? We're proven right because what we accomplish is right."
  • Since what calls itself "The Church" is split into different "denominations" and "churches" and so on, and since there is line-drawing and spatting and infighting (and now even agreements not to "steal each other's sheep"), is there any better image today (and for the last many centuries) for the "Christian" "Church" than of a bunch of pouting, scrabbling little kids pushing people to "play Christian" their way, and not some other kid's way? What would happen if all these "Christians" put down their own egos and their own identification with human ways of re-imaging God? 
  • Have you even been caught in someone's condemnation of you no matter what you did? What do people who do that to us "get" out of it? When they are Good Religious People, are they even focused on what God's calls important?

See you next Friday!

This article written by Lynne at You can contact Lynne at