: 42 :   APPREHENDING SATAN   : 42 :


   : 42 :   APPREHENDING SATAN   : 42 :

~ some thoughts about prophecy ~

Device to Root Out Evil installation by Dennis Oppenheimer 1997  ~ photo from WikiArt~

 (I wonder if a patent has been granted?)

Many decades ago I studied in a graduate program at a nondenominational divinity school, but left before finishing.  Back then, I thought that what America needed was a better sense of business ethics.  After dropping out, I began a business career, and eventually partnered to start a business, from which I later retired.  Along the way, I made over 500 visits behind bars on Saturdays, volunteering as a nondenominational prison minister at two prisons (one, of maximum security) conducting what I term a “biblically-based stealth-ethics ministry”.  None of this has made me ethical, but it was a good workout, both commercially and, especially, with the prisoners.  They taught me much.  I was able to look into their eyes, their souls, and (I hope) help them understand their stories.  Perhaps I’ve learned something about temptation, bad choices, and criminal behavior.

Looking back, what perplexes me today is the leadership choices Americans have made lately. Why has a diverse community of  “believers” elected such self-dealing, selfish, leaders?  How can values voters be so easily duped?  (Yes, our federal and state election systems have been severely gamed and gerrymandered to suppress honest results.)  Yet I want to believe that the wisdom of crowds should be able to surmount such deception. Nevertheless, “he who snoozes, loses.”  By electing many of our current leaders, has America swallowed the “prosperity gospel” which suggests that “success” is proof of God’s favor?  (Was Jesus initially seen to be successful, on the cross?)  Even Malcolm Forbes poked fun at himself saying he who dies with the most toys wins. 

Well, I went looking for a history of the oldest deceiver ever, and may have learned something useful.  (My sense is that many believers don’t want to know anything about this topic, preferring rather to whistle past the graveyard, and the hoodlums hanging out there.)  

The flipside of Know thyself  is  Know thine enemy.  My gleanings from the book below persuade me that satan (which I refuse to capitalize) is not so much an entity or force, as a story told to explain “the other” in human communities. (We could call it tribalism, or fear of otherness: xenophobia.)

Yet Jesus himself ministered to whores and debt collectors, all the while skewering the preacher boys who ran the national temple/ government/ treasury.  What don’t we get about his example?  He didn’t flinch at criticizing high-end thievery and power-politics, even while knowing the cost, bluntly telling us that the tree is known by its fruit.  And yet we’ve elected a brash-talking, “pussy-grabbing”, casino-owning liar as our leader.  What’s wrong with this picture?  What’s wrong with “the church” in its many iterations, that it would support such allegiance?  What don’t we get about recognizing satanic behavior?  Have we allowed ourselves to be charmed by an entertainer, a false talker?

Author, historian, and scholar, Elaine Pagels, is a superb storyteller who is very accessible for the reading public.  If you’re troubled about the condition of spiritual studies today, especially on this topic, you will be gently introduced to how we got where we are regarding satan, in this excellent volume.  (Another author, M.Scott Peck, wrote People of the Lie, which might be helpful at detecting our dark side).

The last book of the New Testament, Revelation, predicts war in heaven and on earth in a final contest between God and His angels of light, and the angels of darkness, led by God’s adversary, ha satan, (Hebrew: “the accuser”).  Does God have an opposite?  Have you ever found it necessary to push darkness out of a room after turning on the light?  

We become what we love – or, what we love to hate.  Choose carefully.

Jesus told of false christs and false prophets that would be arising (see v.24). But when?  He told followers that neither he nor the angels knew when (see especially v.32, here).  Yet the visions and predictions of John of Patmos were canonized into that final book of the New Testament, after much controversy (see Pagels);  meanwhile moderns continue to speculate.

When?  Well, don’t expect me to tell you!   People love to read ahead, peering into the final chapters, especially when tribulation arrives on the world stage.  End times can be a tail chase, as anyone might notice.  Why would we want to know what even Jesus says he could not know?

    : 42 :    Prediction    : 42 :

But If you believe in literalism and its approach to prophecy, you might want to take a look at this prediction from Revelation 13:5, which involves the number 42.  Come July or August, roughly 42 months from January 21, 2016 (inauguration day) we might learn something about prophecy.  Mark your calendar!  (No, I do not believe that Donald Trump is the anti-Christ.)  But history repeats itself, as encountered in this verse from Ecclesiastes 3:15 : That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

The accuser says we’re a mess.  What can we do about this? The challenge of understanding prophecy is vexing.  The empirical mind has long wanted to reject the very idea of prophecy.  Yet, as moderns, we’ve all had premonitions that surprised us when they came to pass.  Even physicists are today recognizing this skillset as worthy of scientific research.  We’ve spent much of human history trying to guess what is in the other guy’s head.  Have we acquired some skill to see into the future?

“Am I ok for the next ten minutes?” (Seriously, ask yourself that powerful question, in the first person, often; it can help quiet the mind.)   ¿Does tomorrow even exist? ~Jesus.

“But” you say, “aren’t we supposed to be alert?”  Good question, as alertness might commonly seem to require thought.  Yet, believers seem wary of rigorous thought, preferring stories and dogma over research. Well, curb your dogma, maybe!  Awareness of now can displace regret for yesterday and stress about tomorrow, (which doesn’t exist). 

Good detectives notice patterns – “m.o.’s” [modi operandi] – modes of operations, thru studied attention.  Behavior is but an extension of thought put into action, by choosing, some say.  While others, the “determinists,” like Richard Dawkins, insist that we have no choice, no free will at all – everything is genetic brain-chemistry, and is pre-determined.

Careful readers should recognize the importance of reading between the lines, rather than taking every word literally.  Indeed, literalism can be a curse which interferes with disciplined observation. (I had an epiphany in early 2003 which persuades me that literalism is the great red dragon of Revelation.)

Of course, satan is a famous Biblical character.  But this character is a late import into the text, not arriving in the Bible or Hebrew theology until well after the exodus from Egypt.  “Nah” you say, “my pastor told me satan was present in the Garden of Eden, as the serpent.”  Well then, I guess God created the devil, and we’re all utterly jammed.  Literalism!  Writing 2+2=5 on the chalkboard does not make it so.

If you swallowed that bait, serpent = satan, you’ve clearly attended a literalist Bible study, declining to do your own thinking, preferring pastor-priest-rabbi-or-immam ‘s ‘“voice of authority” rather than showing up for a one-on-one tutorial with the Holy Spirit.  (Arguments from authority are notoriously weak, which we noticed as children, answering back at our parents, why should I? — because I said so.)  

God is the Teacher!  Literalism and authoritarianism are tools of mind control, famous even in early Christianity. “Don’t think; don’t question; just have faith.”  ¿Perhaps you’ve been thumped on the head with a Bible by a cleric, professor, or fellow student, more than once?  (The Divine Teacher never does that, but is patient with those who show up for their tutorial with honest questions, yearning to listen, inquire, and learn.)  

The serpent, nachash in Hebrew, whispers : psst,  hacking its voice into our think-er, in the first person  :   “I’m ignorant”   “I’m insecure”   “I’m lonely // s-he’s cute”, while satan is a brash talker, a blasphemer, a bully, a liar: the accuser.  Notice that this hacker steals God’s name: I AM !!!  — the very first instance of identity theft!

Pastors and priests are taught that literalism is an electrified “third rail”, potentially causing the loss of jobs or even careers.  Questioning the text is risky, like a politician proposing to modify social security > >  X CHURCH  FIGHT AHEAD X !   Some Bible students don’t want to fight, but want to contemplate at the feet of the Teacher. Thus we have the social movement toward “spirituality” and away from “religion”.   Dare to listen for that still small voice!  Our ability to recognize voices is sublime.  Read John 10, if you distrust your abilities — also considering that satan’s voice is always accusatory, gruff, rude, angry.  Tone is telling.  Yes, this path may seem lonely and rugged.  But we are assured of God-with-us !  Immanuel.

God has faith in us, in our ability to discern divine love, divine guidance, divine government.   Got appetite?




Here's lookin'at you, kid.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Sermon from MOUNT LEVEL plateau  :  blending the essential reports of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, into a single account of these core ethics teachings of Jesus (“the Sermon”).  Translated from Greek periphrastically, reading between the lines.  Don’t let your spiritual life go flat!   (NB: I was not aware at the time of rendering this blogpost that Leo Tolstoy published his effort in this vein, titled The Gospel in Brief, which Ludwig Wittgenstein carried with him everywhere in the trenches of World War one.)  My edit and paraphrasing:

Jesus came down to the shore of a lake with his students, to speak to a large crowd, inviting anyone far & wide — up, to listen and to be healed.  Each member of the gathering pressed to touch him, for they sensed they were consumed with their own distractions, needing whatever it was he had – feeling by it they could attain to their true potential – and noticing a powerful peace enveloping them.  He got into a boat, pushed off a bit, and settled into his peaceable kingdom, beholding his subjects – to address them freely, summoning their attention in order to share his dominion – saying :   

[The Beatitudes :  An inverted kingdom of beautiful attitudes]

Divinely happy are you – powerless.  For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the powerless!

Divinely happy are the sad!  (?)   Be encouraged that comfort beckons from within, – closer than your very own breath. Laugh, even!

Divinely happy you, starving.  Yet real satisfaction (manna!) is right within you.

Divinely happy are those who claim nothing as their own; they shall receive graciously, and go gently.

Divinely happy are the helpful, for they shall be helped.

Divinely happy are you who are purified from desire, by fire. Right now you have opportunity to behold your own true Nature.

Divinely happy are you utterly-dependent children-of-God  — as you resemble the peacefulness of your Father.

Divinely happy are those who are driven away, tossed out, rejected – for all of heaven is their home. 

Divinely happy are you when you are hated, insulted, abused, falsely accused for My sake.  Celebrate! – and be deeply grateful, as your reward is now, heavenly – for I count you precious, along with the prophets who testified before you, who were also abused.  You needn’t be ashamed, with Me! 

Divinely happy you, who are the spice of the domain. However, if seasoning is either excessive, or withheld, it spoils the flavor of the dish, rendering it unappetizing.

Divinely happy you, an elegant portal thru which light passes to the inhabitants of a hilltop community — light which can neither be obstructed, nor overlooked.  ¶  Nobody would hide a lamp beneath a tub – but rather, position it centrally, to shine for the entire household.  So, let your (our!) light shine for everyone, enabling them to notice the beauty of The Source, as reflected by your beautiful attitude.

Divinely happy are your smilin’eyes for they see Me (Us!) everywhere they look.

Divinely happy are those who hear the words of God, and honor them.

Divinely happy are my slaves [*see comment section] who are alert, watching for Me, your Master, coming to serve you a meal which you’ll never forget – and it’s always on the house!

Divinely happy are those who come in my Name, my Nature.

So come!– you who are awakening into divine delight – come to the blessing offered by Our Father, receiving the Kingdom prepared for Us, which is already here since before the world was impregnated.  We can live large together, as family!

But don’t suppose I’ve come to dismantle the Teachings [of Moses] and the prophets.   (Such would-be dismantlers ruin their calling, for I tell you truly that heaven and earth would perish before the Teachings could ever be dismantled.) Instead, I’ve come to bring even the tiniest details of those Teachings fully alive.  Let’s be clear: adhering to basic teaching and learning has benefits in God’s kingdom, inviting us higher.

However, unless your integrity surpasses that of many legalistic church folk or grandstanding do-gooders, your warfare with yourself to attain that inner kingdom could fail, due to misinterpretation.  Yes, we’re acquainted with the teaching prohibiting murder, but if we lose our peace, becoming angry towards brother or neighbor, we invite crisis.  Worse yet if we announce our anger loudly, calling someone thoughtless – which will surely invite public scrutiny of both parties.  But denouncing someone as a moral slob taints you with the same smoldering stench of which you complain.  So, when approaching the altar to make an atoning sacrifice for words or thoughts at large, first we should re-think our differences, and make amends.  Then a gift is acceptable, and receivable.

And we’ve all heard the instruction of the ancients, that we’re not to cheat on God or spouse, but I tell you merely imagining idolizing, cheating, is equally wrong.

   BEWARE, ‘WOE’.  The Greek translated woe sounds like why in English.  KJV translates it alas; it means weariness, grief, pitiable, awful.

Why?  You sold out so soon, getting rich quick, when you could have had so much more!  Why did you fill up on junk instead of favoring real nourishment?  Why have you built your own reputation rather than Mine?

¿ Got woe?  It’s not too late, if you are willing to listen.  Love those who are hostile towards you, pray for those who damn you, and respond gently to those who abuse you, injuring your jaw — but before turning your other cheek to that guy, see My happy blessings within them, welcoming My response thru them, thus recognizing everyone as a child of our heavenly Father – as this is The Way our Father’s children walk.  If you love only those who love you back, that’s merely mutual taxation.

Don’t hurl your pearls of wisdom at cynics — instead, wait in faith, trusting they’ll come back to ask you about divine happiness.  The sun rises on all Father’s children, and rain falls on all, as well.  So grow into the full maturity of your Designer genes!

Don’t delay clarification with those with whom you disagree, lest they misjudge you, resulting in further condemnation of you by others, impacting your liberty.  Simply be clear that you can’t redeem yourself, trusting God to clear everything.

Give yourself away unreservedly, trustingly, considering you’ve received Me freely.  (Trust never fails!)  Compassion is a most honorable economic system. Generosity anticipates the true need, doing as would do.

But woe to you churchy-legalists, hypocrites, who flog others with my words.  ¿Weary of being criticized?  ¡Stop judging! Blurting out your failure to recognize Me in others is embarrassing. Tend to your own practice.  Peer into the sacred mirror to extract the rafter from your own eye so your vision may be clear enough to remove a fleck of sawdust from the eye of a neighbor [thus becoming an ear-eye-nose-throat specialist, for Us.]…    

Jesus proceeded next to evict an afflicting spirit-of-voicelessness from someone in the crowd.  Suddenly that person could both speak and hear.  A woman exclaimed “satisfied is the womb that carried you, and the breasts that nursed you.”  He countered by saying “satisfied are you who hear the word of God, cherishing and illustrating it.” Others weren’t so sure, saying “he removes demons by the chief of demons.” But he refuted that by asking if then all healing was not the working of devilish knowledge, pointing out that those who were teachable could imitate him, learning to do and teach what he was doing and teaching. And then he emphasized that all teaching was from The Father, and about The Father, concluding by saying don’t call anyone rabbi, or father, for our Teacher is Our Father which is in heaven.



AKA the Our-Father, or Lord’s Prayer – different from Jesus praying for us.

Later, noticing Jesus in prayer, one of his disciples requested of him: “Lord, teach us to pray as John-the-baptizer taught his disciples.”  Jesus responded:  Pay close attention now. Simply get quiet, and pray from your secret interior, listening – and longing to meet your obligations, with Father’s help.  [We all have a rich Daddy!]  Don’t hesitate or sputter.  Don’t merely repeat flowery words, “reminding” God to bless your plans.  Your needs are already known (except by you).  Seek to know.  Be direct.  Try this:  

O, Father of us all, Un-Flappable. 

Purify my sense of Our Nature.

Reveal our citizenly duties to your realm.

Remind us that your plan for Earth, today, is as beautiful as Heaven itself.

Sustain us day-by-day with manna appropriate for today — letting go of our shortcomings to the degree we cease keeping score of others.

And guide us past temptation, rescuing us from the peril of rebellion. 

For You, Father, own it all, powerfully bright in glory, as it should be, and is.

(memo: Those who forgive, will be forgiven; but if we neglect to let go of the failures of others, Father will not excuse us until we doget this!)

Ask your Friend persistently, expectantly, sorting needs from wants.  Knock yourself out.  Don’t be timid.  Be familiar!  It’s Father’s nature and compassion to give that most-holy gift to those who ask for the Breath of the Spirit – which we are then able to give back.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  [Relax.] Inspiration, yes, Peace, and Presence forever.  Be.  Hear.  Now.  Alive.  

Another point:  charity is not to be done to impress others, to duck our duty, or to win favors from The Father, who can’t be bribed.  Father sees all, so be real.  And if you need to fast, don’t do so as a performance.  Seek an audience of One, telling nobody. Then invite relocation of your appetite from your belly to your heart. You will find balanced nutrition is your heart’s natural desire. Your spiritual appetite will increase, and your belly’s demands will decrease, as dining daily with Father satisfies like nothing else.  

We become what we seek, so make integrity your ideal, conforming your life to the divine, instead of to pleasure, power, prestige.  What you value will fill your soul.  But if you chase fantasies, they will vanish into nothingness. Pursue pure light rather than mere flickerings, and it will reveal a unified, holy environment surrounding us all.  

We can’t serve two masters — God and worldliness – so don’t!  Serving yourself never works, as your self is an incompetent master, luring you into a tail-chase. Yeah, yeah, details:  food, clothing, shelter, and God knows what else. Really!  So quit burdening yourself with worldly distractions, giving priority instead to what is central, as God knows and shares how to keep it all balanced.  (¿Who do you serve — God, or capital?)  Let God govern your priorities by serving the Father first, sending masterfully-selfish impostors to the unemployment line – and then you will find divine balance. Concerning others, demonstrate your trustworthiness in the smallest of things, and you will be entrusted with larger.   

Quit worrying about tomorrow, as it never comes. It’s always today, and we have plenty of employment dealing with stuff that needs correction right now, today, the only day we will ever have.

A graceful entry requires balance, which takes practice, discipline, persistence – as The Way is narrow, admitting only one at a time.  ( ¡ Can’t make juice without squeezin’grapes ! )  So practice walking uprightly to avoid stumbling into hell, as that road is spacious, ruining many by group-think.  And be alert, as there are phony visionaries along that road who would lure you astray.  Instead, notice behavior which exposes selfish motives.  Sour fruit is detected quickly as unwelcome at the table, being from wild vines which, being separated, are fit only to fire the oven.

Nobody gains access to the kingdom by lip service – by merely speaking My Name as a password.  But those who recognize my presence everywhere-always, awaken to realize holy ground is already beneath their feet.  Yet those who merely talk a good name-game will hear The Owner say “Who are you?  Talk is cheap.  ¡Clean out your locker, slacker!” 

“So, listen up, and work smart: build your life on bedrock instead of on shifting soil, if you don’t want it to collapse into rubble.”  

Those present, who heard his liberating words, [and we, by their referrals] are awe-struck by the demonstrated power of his compelling reasoning, even yet today.


Later, Jesus said to his proteges “Let’s sail to the other side.” He slept aft during the crossing.  Soon a furious storm began to swamp the vessel, and his students awoke him, pleading “Master, don’t you care that we’re all about to choke?”  So he arose, and silenced their alarm, gently pronouncing:  Peace.  Turmoil vanished, replaced by a pervasive calm.  

He then asked What is fear?   Have you no trust?  They were too stunned to respond, asking themselves  ¿ who is this guy, that even a tempestuous sea submits to him ?

[I’ve appended a benediction from Psalm 107 ]    O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.   2  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;  [ . . . ]   28   Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29  He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.


NOTE : You may share this by linked excerpt ; copyright is reserved by site owner.  

ALSO: I urge you to consider reading a book by Professor Bart Ehrman, titled Misquoting Jesus: the Story Behind Who Changed the Bible, and Why, in which he argues that each of us is an interpreter, whenever we read.