Gossip, prayer, and trustworthiness.

by K.W. Leslie, 31 May

Sometimes it’s not a prayer request; it’s gossip.

The gossipy prayer request. High school likely wasn’t the first place I encountered it, but certainly the first time I became aware of it. We were in a youth group meeting, the pastor was taking prayer requests, and one kid raised her hand and proceeded to give us way too much detail about a girl most of us knew.

Definitely gossip. But that’s how gossips have discovered a loophole: Gossip may be bad, but praying for one another is good! So now they can gossip freely, on the grounds it’s all stuff we need to know. Right?

Wrong; rubbish. We don’t need to know a thing. All we need to know is someone needs God’s help, and that God can help. If your friend (let’s call him Vasko) needs prayer, all you gotta tell the prayer leader is, “Please pray for my friend Vasko; he’s having a rough time, and that’s all I can tell you.” A gossipy prayer leader will pry, but a wise prayer leader will say “Okay,” and respect it as an unspoken prayer request.

Yeah, you could try to leave Vasko’s name off it, but too many prayer leaders kinda prefer a name. They find it a little awkward to pray for “Jamillah’s friend,” or whatever your name is. But if you wanna conceal the name too, that’s fine; God knows who you’re praying about; tell the prayer leader, “Let’s call him [made-up name],” and that tends to work.

And yeah, if you’re in a roomful of immature Christians (namely kids) you might get someone who blurts out, “I know who you’re talking about.” Shut them up quickly: “Maybe you do, but I didn’t say who it is because I’m trying to respect their privacy.” Most times that’s enough of a rebuke to keep people quiet. Most times.

Praying for ordinary stuff.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 May

Seriously. You can pray for anything.

There’s this mindset people get into: Spiritual things take up one segment of our lives, and secular things the rest.

  • Going to church and reading bible: Spiritual.
  • Going to the coffehouse and reading the news: Secular.
  • Going to a restaurant: Secular. Except for the bit at the beginning where we say grace. But once that bit of diligence is over, we needn’t think about God any longer.

Problem is, that’s entirely wrong. Everything is spiritual. Not just ’cause we carry the Holy Spirit with us, and we need to stay mindful of his presence and instruction. But because we’re meant to be light in a dark world, and bless everyone around us. (Not just our food!)

And one of the ways we get over that artificial secular/spiritual divide is by praying for ordinary stuff. What do I mean by “ordinary”? Glad you asked: Anything and everything. There’s no subject off-limits to God. Anything you can talk about with your friends, you can talk about with God. Anything you can’t discuss with friends (’cause it’s private, uncomfortable, or they’re gonna make fun), you can still talk about with God.

Seriously, anything. Even taboos, like toilet stuff and sex. If you can discuss it with your doctor (and should!) you can talk about it with God. Now, kids will talk about this stuff for shock and giggles, and parents will try to clamp down on it: My grandparents objected to stuff you don’t discuss “in polite company,” and Mom used to object, “Would you say those things if Pastor were here?” (As if your pastor hasn’t said worse. I went to seminary; I know better.) But again: You can talk about everything with God. And should. Hold nothing back. He’s heard it all; he knows it all; he’s seen worse. You won’t shock him.

Oh, you’ll definitely shock other Christians. I still do. One of ’em still hasn’t gotten over the fact I used the word “horny” in a prayer. She was raised to believe there are unfit subjects for church, prayer, and other Christians. Which, I pointed out, isn’t just false; it’s heresy. If Jesus is Lord over all, that’s part of the “all.” If Christians can’t discuss real problems, and bring ’em to God, it interferes with our relationships with Jesus.

So we have to fight this secular/sacred mindset: There can’t be taboo subjects in God’s kingdom. True, there are subjects we might consider profane, and they’ll have to be handled sensitively for others’ sake. But nothing’s outside of God’s realm. Nothing’s out-of-bounds to share with him. NOTHING.

When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 May
SUPERSTITION su.pɜr'stɪ.ʃən noun. Belief or practice based on a false idea of cause and effect. Usually faith in magic, luck, karmic consequences, junk science, or ignorance. Sometimes irrational fear of the unknown.
2. Belief or practice held despite reasonable contrary evidence.
[Superstitious su.pɜr'stɪ.ʃəs adjective.]

Obviously the title comes from the Stevie Wonder song. (And if you don’t know it then you’ve been deprived. That bassline alone makes it a classic.)

Christians might claim we’re not superstitious: We trust Jesus, not circumstances! But spend any time at all among us, and you’ll find that to be utter rubbish. I would argue Christians are generally more superstitious than pagans.

Some of it comes from dark Christians who are entirely sure devils are lurking under everything they don’t like. I grew up among such Christians. Some of ’em actually tried to teach me that because the rock ’n roll backbeat runs contrary to the human heartbeat (and no it doesn’t), it makes anyone who listens to it extra receptive to demonic possession. That all sorts of things make people extra receptive to demonic possession. Your radio, your television, your computer, your phone; certain books, certain movies… I would guess the public library is just teeming with critters eager to jump us, if these folks are to be believed, and no they’re not.

Some of it comes from Christians who’ve been taught by young-earth creationists that you can’t trust science. So they don’t. But they’re willing to trust everything else, and unfortunately a lot of the alternatives are based on junk science, created by quacks and charlatans, promoted by fearmongers, spread by unproven anecdotes. They give people a false sense of “wellness” when in fact they’re not well at all. They get Christians to shun vaccines, avoid medication, fear psychiatry, reject treatments, refuse blood transfusions, and replace tried-and-proven methods with vitamins, herbs, oils, scents, homeopathy, and “eastern” (properly, pagan) medicine. You know, the stuff witch doctors tried in Jesus’s day, which ultimately left people so plagued with evil spirits, Jesus might’ve had to do more exorcisms than cures.

Some of it comes from Christians who have no idea how God talks to us. Often their churches never taught ’em, and sometimes don’t even believe God talks. So they had to figure it out on their own, and of course they’ve guessed wrong. Or they found some pagan ideas about how “the universe” speaks to us, gave ’em a try, they seemed to work, and that’s become their go-to method for “reading the signs,” interpreting the clues God supposedly leaves us in nature. Thing is, most pagan ideas are based on karma. So no surprise, a lot of the Christian practice of signs-interpretation is also based on whether we’re “worthy enough” for God to do stuff for us.

And some of it is just minor, silly things. Fr’instance my youth group once held a raffle, and just for evil fun I found us a roll of tickets whose numbers started with 666. Many of the adults in our church were pleased to buy our tickets… until they found out what their ticket number began with. Some of ’em wouldn’t even touch their tickets. It’s not like possession of a raffle ticket makes you complicit with the Beast! But still: That number is a serious boogeyman to a lot of people.

But superstition betrays two things: People don’t know or trust God as much as they claim. And people are seriously deficient in common sense. In some cases they suspend their common sense, ’cause they think they have to; they think they’re not allowed as Christians to trust science, or think it’s some sort of faith compromise.

But the reality is the Christians who tell them to do so, the people they look up to for spiritual guidance, are superstitious fools. So superstition gets spread instead of faith, even disguised as faith. And Christians get mocked for being morons.

It’s a cycle we’ve gotta break by using our brains: Demand evidence. Demand proof. Test everything. Same as we do (well, should do) with prophecy. 1Th 5.21 Don’t be gullible; be wise. Don’t be superstitious; persistently pursue truth.

The centurion’s servant—and his surprising faith.

by K.W. Leslie, 28 May

A gentile whose level of faith surprised even Jesus.

Matthew 8.5-13 • Luke 7.1-10.

Luke tells this story after Jesus’s sermon on the plain, and Matthew after his Sermon on the Mount—but curing an infectious man first. Mark doesn’t tell it. And John… tells a whole other story, although certain Christians try to sync it together with this one. But not well.

The story begins with Jesus again returning to his home base of Kfar Nahum, and in Matthew encountering the local centurion; in Luke hearing from local elders about this centurion. Y’might know a centurion was what the Romans called the captain in charge of a century, 100 soldiers. I don’t know whether all 100 were stationed in Kfar Nahum, or spread out over multiple cities in the province; it all depended on how far the Romans felt they needed to clamp down on the people.

What we do know is this particular centurion had a home in town, and an employee who was either suffering greatly, or dying. Luke calls him a slave who was éntimos/“held in high regard.” Ancient slaves were either debtors, convicts, or had lost a war, and were bought and worked as punishment. Attitudes towards them are significantly different than American attitudes when slavery was legal here: Slaves were still considered fellow human beings. The centurion held his slave in high regard either because he was a good guy, a good worker, or had a valuable skillset. We don’t know which. Matthew calls him a servant, and maybe that’s how the Roman thought of him.

So the slave’s illness was enough to bring to the attention of a rabbi well-known for curing the sick.

Matthew 8.5-7 KWL
5 On returning himself to Kfar Nahum,
a centurion came to Jesus and encouraged him to help him,
6 saying, “Master, my servant has been bedridden in my home, paralyzed by terrible suffering.”
7 Jesus told him, “I will come cure him.”
Luke 7.1-6 KWL
1 When Jesus finished putting all his words in the people’s ears,
he returned to Kfar Nahum.
2 A certain centurion’s slave who had an illness was near dying.
The slave was highly esteemed by the centurion.
3 Hearing about Jesus, the centurion sent him Judean elders,
asking him, since he’d come, if he might cure his slave.
4 Those who came to Jesus encouraged him earnestly, saying this:
“The one for whom you’ll do this is worthy.
5 For he loves our people, and built us our synagogue.”
6A Jesus went with them.

In both cases Jesus had no problem with going to the centurion’s house to cure the slave. Now, compare our Lord’s attitude with that of Simon Peter, who admitted he still thought of gentiles as unclean when the centurion Cornelius called him to Caesarea. Ac 10.28 Jesus was happy to go; Peter had to first see a vision about butchering unclean animals. Ac 10.9-16 Why Peter hadn’t adopted his Master’s attitude about gentiles, I’m not sure. My guess is he had some very old prejudices, and they took a while to break off him. Paul still had to fight him on it, some 20 years later. Ga 2.11-14 But I digress.

Notice how Matthew describes the centurion and Jesus having a personal conversation, but Luke has the centurion send some of the presvytérus/“elders” to Jesus with a recommendation. These’d be the mature believers in the religious community, the Pharisees who probably founded their synagogue, ’cause synagogues are a Pharisee thing. They told Jesus this guy had built their synagogue—so we’re talking a believer who was willing to put his money into his faith. Worthy by their standards; maybe by Jesus’s too. In any event, off they went.

Near-death experiences, and the afterlife.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 May

Funny how everybody sees the afterlife they expect.

In yesterday’s article, “How long does hell last?” I brought up the subject of near-death experiences, those cases where people died and came back, and have a tale to tell about what they saw in the afterlife.

And they have all sorts of tales. Like of an out-of-body experience, where their ghost watched the doctors or EMTs trying to bring ’em back to life. Like a spirit-realm experience, where they met angels, dead loved ones, Jesus, or the Father. Like an afterlife experience, where they travel through a tunnel of light and get to poke around heaven for a bit. In some cases it’s the bad afterlife, and they’re in hell.

These stories are really popular, and people share them and cling to them for hope. Books about them sell. Movies too. Since we have big questions about the afterlife, we figure near-death experiences help answer these questions.

This is also true for Christians. The scriptures don’t tell us a whole lot about the afterlife, because God’s kingdom is about new life, not afterlife. Resurrection, not living in a realm of the dead. So since the afterlife ultimately doesn’t matter—we’re getting rescued from it!—all we know about it are hints, clues, and no real details. But we want details: If Jesus doesn’t return before we die, we’re gonna experience the afterlife, and wanna know what we’re in for. So we tend to fill in those gaps in our knowledge with educated guesses, mythology… and of course the near-death experiences of those who’ve “been there.”

Yeah, putting it in quotes kinda tips off the fact I doubt they’ve really been there. Here’s why.

How long does hell last?

by K.W. Leslie, 24 May

Some say forever, some say temporarily, and some say no time at all.

As I explained in my article “The four hells,” there are four words translated hell in the scriptures, and the one I mean by “hell” is ge-Henna, the trash fire outside Jerusalem, reimagined in Revelation as a pool of fire and sulfur outside New Jerusalem. Rv 20.10-15 Into it go Satan and its angels, the Beast, the fake prophet who promotes the Beast, the personifications of Death and Hades (i.e. the afterlife), and everyone whose name isn’t listed in the life scroll—everyone who refused to turn to God for salvation, and therefore don’t get to enter his kingdom.

The Beast and prophet are explicitly described as being “tortured there, day and night, age to ages.” Rv 20.10 Though this lake is known as the second death, Rv 20.14 it doesn’t have a sense of finality like death seems to. Death feels like an absolute stopping point—when you’re dead, you’re not alive, you’re not moving, you’re not breathing, you’re not thinking, you’re not anything; you’re dead. Whereas the second death sounds more like the beings sent into it aren’t inert, but moving, conscious… and suffering from eternal torment. Because they’re in fire. Everlasting fire, as the King James Version put it. Mt 25.41 KJV Where quite unlike the trash fires of the literal ge-Henna, the worms don’t die, and the fire never goes out. Is 66.24, Mk 9.48

Now, I know certain dark Christians who love this idea of eternal conscious torment. Partly because there are certain people they’d love to see tortured forever. Satan obviously. But most of the time they’re thinking of certain political opponents. Certain unrepentant adversaries we’ve defeated in war. Certain obnoxious people they know. Yeah, I know: We all have people we don’t like, but… longing to see them burn forever? What is wrong with these people? Since God doesn’t wanna see anyone perish, 2Pe 3.9 and these people do, this sort of fleshly, fruitless gracelessness suggests these people don’t have any real relationship with God, much as they claim to. I don’t care what they call themselves.

The other reason they love the idea of eternal torment—a reason which is just a bit more legit than t’other—is because they figure it’s a powerful motivator for getting people into God’s kingdom. If anyone’s on the fence about this idea of living under Jesus’s reign in peace and harmony (mainly ’cause the church is full of a--holes like me), Christians can point out the alternative: Outside the kingdom, it’s hot, stinky hell. You don’t wanna go to hell! We don’t want you there either; God doesn’t want you there either; why go there when you don’t have to? Don’t worry about the jerks in the church; Jesus’ll deal with them. Focus on Jesus. Turn to him. Let him save you.

The rest of us really don’t love the idea of eternal torment. Problem is, we don’t really see any way around it. That’s what Jesus describes in the scriptures. So that’s the reality we’re obligated to deal with: When people reject Jesus, that’s the destination they’ve effectively chosen. If people prefer a cosmetic relationship with Christianity over a living relationship with Jesus, that’s where they’re going.

It’s not like we can make up a reality we like better. Although that’s never stopped people from trying, has it?

Introducing death.

by K.W. Leslie, 23 May

Humans die. Here’s why.

The first time we read about death in the bible, it’s in the Adam and Eve story. God tasks the first adám/“human” with taking care of a garden. Which is described as edén/“delightful,” but we tend to treat that adjective as a proper name, Eden, same as we do the word for human, Adam.

Unlike fast-food jobs, Adam was given free rein to eat anything he found growing there. Well, almost anything. One particular tree, you remember, was off limits.

Genesis 2.15-17 KWL
15 The LORD God took the human
and set him in a delightful garden to work it and watch over it.
16 The LORD God commanded the human, saying, “Eat, eat, from every tree of the garden.
17 From the knowing-good-and-evil tree: Don’t eat from it.
For on the day you eat from it, you’ll die, die.”

Ancient Hebrew repeated itself for emphasis. “Eat, eat” meant God was serious about Adam eating whatever he wished; “Die, die” meant God was serious about the knowing-good-and-evil tree being toxic.

No doubt you also know the rest of the story: God’s warnings notwithstanding, the first humans did eat from that tree. That’s the risk inherent in free will: Sometimes people exercise it to do profoundly stupid things. Satan used its free will to go wrong; Adam and Eve did too. And since actions have consequences, they were gonna die, die.

Genesis 3.17-19 KWL
17 God told the human, “When you heard your woman’s voice,
you ate from the tree I commanded you about, and said not to eat from it.
The ground—what you produce from it—is cursed.
All the days of your life, you’ll eat of in in pain: 18 Thorns and thistles will grow from it.
You’ll eat the grass of the fields, 19 and eat bread by the sweat of your nose
till you go back to the ground that you were taken out of:
You’re dust, and you’ll go back to being dust.”

Humans were meant to live forever. Now we don’t.

Sin is why. Apparently Adam could’ve got hold of the tree of life, eaten of it, and lived forever despite this curse. Which is why God had to boot the humans out of the garden and post angelic guards around it. Ge 3.22-24 God doesn’t want sin to live forever; he wants to put an end to it. That’s why we’re gonna die. Why, frankly, we gotta die: Our sins die with us.

That is, till Jesus died for us, and our sins died with him—and now we can go back to living forever.

Saved exclusively through Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 22 May

It’s the exclusivity that bugs people.

One of the things about Christianity that offends people most is how we claim we can only be saved through Christ Jesus.

We do have bible to back up the idea, y’know.

Acts 4.8-12 KWL
8 Then Simon Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, told them, “Leaders of the people and elders:
9 If we’re investigated today about a good deed to a disabled man—how was he cured?—
10 it must be made known to you all, and all Israel’s people:
In the name of Messiah Jesus the Nazarene—whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—
by this Jesus, this disabled man stands before you, cured.
11 This Jesus is ‘the stone dismissed by you builders, who became the head cornerstone.’ Ps 118.22
12 Salvation isn’t found in anyone else, nor is there given to people
another name under heaven by whom it’s necessary for us to be saved.”

Jesus is the only way by which people have access to God:

John 14.5-7 KWL
5 Thomas told Jesus, “Master, we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?”
6 Jesus told Thomas, I’m the way. And truth, and life. Nobody comes to the Father unless through me.
7 If you knew me, you’ll also know my Father.
From now on you know him. You’ve seen him.”

These absolute statements make Christianity exclusive: You gotta have a relationship with Jesus if you want to get to God. There’s no getting around Jesus. He is how God chose to reveal himself, so if we reject Jesus, we’re rejecting what God’s trying to tell us. Bluntly, we’d be rejecting God.

Now if you’re of another organized religion… big deal. Your religion already has its own claims of exclusivity. Muslims figure there’s no god but God—and Muhammad’s his messenger, so if you wanna know God you gotta embrace Muhammad’s revelations. Buddhists don’t even care about Jesus; he’s a nice guy, but they prioritize the Buddha’s teachings. And so forth.

What these absolute statements tend to annoy most, are those pagans who are trying to claim all religions are the same, or just as valid as one another, or that it’s okay if people have a hodgepodge of beliefs from every religion. Namely it’s okay if they make up an eclectic religion, where they get to pick ’n choose their favorite beliefs from here, there, and everywhere. But if there’s no getting to the Father apart from Jesus, and they’re trying to get to the Father every which way, it kinda reveals they don’t know what they’re doing.

A lot of Christians claim what these bible quotes mean is we must become Christians or we’re going to hell. And that’s not actually what they say. They say—no more, no less—that salvation comes exclusively through Jesus. Not that we gotta first become Christians. Not that we gotta first embrace Christian doctrines. These aren’t statements about the steps anyone has to take. They’re only statements about how God works: Through Jesus.

So if God chooses to save someone from one of those other religions, be they Muslim, Buddhist, pagan, even atheist: He’s only gonna do it through Jesus. Regardless of how they—or we—imagine salvation works.

Yeah, here’s where I start to confuse and lose people.

The Twelve and the miracles.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 May

The hangups Christians have about how the apostles could somehow do miracles before Pentecost.

Mark 6.12-13 • Luke 9.6.

Of Jesus’s students, he assigned 12 of them to be apostles, “one who’s been sent out,” and eventually he did send ’em out to preach the gospel, cure the sick, and exorcise unclean spirits.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Mark 6.12-13 KWL
12 Going out, the apostles preached that people should repent.
13 The apostles were throwing out many demons, anointing many sick people with olive oil—and they were curing them.
Luke 9.6 KWL
6 Coming out, the apostles passed through the villages,
evangelizing and curing the sick everywhere.

Yep, all of them. Even Judas Iscariot.

And here’s where we slam into a wall with a lot of Christians. Because they cannot fathom how these apostles went out and cured the sick and exorcised evil spirits.

They’ll grudgingly acknowledge that the apostles did it. The gospels totally say so, and who are they to doubt the gospels? But y’see, their hangups come from the fact they have a lot of theological baggage about how miracles work, how the Holy Spirit empowers people, when the Holy Spirit historically empowered people, and the fact miracles seem to have nothing to do with the apostles’ maturity level: Once they were done doing these mighty acts, they came back to follow Jesus, and seemed to be the same foolish kids they always were.

Oh, and we can’t leave out Judas Iscariot. Christians really don’t like the idea Judas was curing the sick and casting out devils. Since he was one of the Twelve, and since these verses imply he did as the others of the Twelve did, it means Judas did miracles. And this, many Christians cannot abide. I remember one movie in particular where Judas specifically did no miracles; he lacked faith, so Simon the Canaanite, whom Judas was paired up with, Mt 10.4 did ’em all. ’Cause later Judas turned traitor and appears to have gone apostate—so Christians don’t want him having power, and balk at the idea the Holy Spirit really entrusted him with any such thing. It violates their sense of karma.

First thing we gotta do is put down the baggage and accept the scriptures: Jesus sent out his apostles, young as they were, green as they were, to go do supernatural acts of power. Which they did. We can debate the how and the why, but none of this hashing out should violate the fact they did the stuff. If it does, we’re doing theology backwards, and wrong.

Discernment isn’t prophecy.

by K.W. Leslie, 18 May

If it looks like the science of deduction, or carnival mentalism, ’tain’t prophecy.

Here’s a bit from “The Red-Headed League,” a Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle.

“Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labor, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”

Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair, with his forefinger upon the paper, but his eyes upon my companion.

“How, in the name of good fortune, did you know all that, Mr. Holmes?” he asked. “How did you know, for example, that I did manual labor? It’s as true as gospel, for I began as a ship’s carpenter.”

“Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is quite a size larger than your left. You have worked with it, and the muscles are more developed.”

“Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?”

“I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that, especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc-and-compass breastpin.”

“Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?”

“What else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for five inches, and the left one with the smooth patch near the elbow where you rest it upon the desk?”

“Well, but China?”

“The fish which you have tattooed immediately above your right wrist could only have been done in China. I have made a small study of tattoo marks, and have even contributed to the literature of the subject. That trick of staining the fishes’ scales of a delicate pink is quite peculiar to China. When, in addition, I see a Chinese coin hanging from your watch-chain, the matter becomes even more simple.”

Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. “Well, I never!” said he. “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it after all.”

“I begin to think, Watson,” said Holmes, “that I make a mistake in explaining. ‘Omne ignotum pro magnifico,’ you know, and my poor little reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid.”

So you saw what Holmes did there; he does it in most of his stories, and it’s kinda what he’s known for. He looked the guy over, noticed details, made deductions—and the fellow reacted as if Holmes was a mind-reader. Or a prophet.

This form of deduction is called cold reading: An analyst comes into a situation cold, with no prior knowledge of the situation or the people. (If the analyst already knows a few facts, it’d be a hot reading.) The analyst reads the clues, makes the deductions, and surprises everyone who hadn’t noticed the same clues. Detectives, like Holmes, do this all the time. So do doctors, psychologists; anyone who’s learned to notice these details.

Psychics too. If you’ve seen the TV shows Psych or The Mentalist, that’s precisely what the protagonists do. One’s pretending to be a psychic, but was trained by his dad to observe everything like a detective; the other quit pretending to be psychic in order to help detectives. (You’d think the detectives on these shows would know what’s going on better than they do, but the show writers have more fun in making ’em a little bit dumb.)

And fake prophets do it too.

What’s America’s role in the End Times?

by K.W. Leslie, 16 May

Same as the rest of the world.

The bible, in entirety, was written before the middle east, Europe, Asia, and Africa knew the western hemisphere existed.

True, God knew it was there. But his apostles and prophets had no idea. And God didn’t see any point in informing them. It’s not like the Americas, nor any other yet-to-be-discovered islands in the world, were excluded from the scriptures’ blanket statements about humanity. The LORD is God, and Jesus is King, of the whole earth. Known and unknown lands alike.

So North and South America—the Indian nations then, and the current nations now—aren’t in the bible. At all. Neither suggested nor alluded to in it.

So even if you’re citizen of the United States, loyal and patriotic, or even just a big fan of all things American like so many of our resident aliens, I gotta break it to you: Other than the bits about “all the world,” we don’t figure into End Times predictions whatsoever.

But you’d be surprised how many American prognosticators simply can’t have that.

Blame American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is special, the greatest country in the world, the greatest country in history, and the related belief that Americans are smarter, more capable, more innovative, more talented, than the folks of any other nation. No offense guys; we just grew up under more freedom. If you had American-style freedom, maybe you’d do as well. But probably not. We’ve been freer longer, and we’re pretty sure that has something to do with it too.

We’ve been taught exceptionalism all our lives. It’s a huge part of American-style civic idolatry. So yeah, this is a lot of the reason why we Americans behave as if we’re special. We’ve always been told we are, and we believe it.

This attitude has trickled into our religion. Our End Times prognosticators figure the United States is special, doggone it, so we oughta fit in the End Times timeline somewhere. They’re not entirely sure where, but they shoehorn us pretty much anywhere they can get away with it.

Prayer techniques that get God over a barrel?

by K.W. Leslie, 15 May

Such things don’t exist. But Christians are nonetheless looking for ’em, and frequently claim they have one.

Years ago one of our prayer team leaders was talking about how she discovered the power of praying the scriptures.

By which she simply meant she quoted a lot of bible as she prayed. This was nothing new to me; I grew up among people who did this all the time. They liked to pray in King James Version English. So, direct quotes from the KJV came in handy. “Lord, we pray thee for our meat this day, for thou hast told us to pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ Mt 6.11 and so we do.” Sometimes they’d even include verse addresses, if they really wanted to show off. But that wasn’t common.

Our prayer leader wanted to emphasize praying the scriptures because there was, she insisted, power in praying the scriptures. If we wanna tap that power, we need to pray the scriptures too.

Um… what power’s she talking about?

Well, whenever Christians talk about powerful prayers, we nearly always mean one thing: We get we ask for. Every time. Every request. God always, always answers our prayers with yes.

Yeah, sometimes we also mean powerful-sounding prayers, which is why we’ll use the KJV language and proof-text everything we declare in our prayers. But if all you want is an impressive-sounding prayer, we wonder if there isn’t a little bit of hypocrisy behind that desire. Nah; what we want is a prayer which gets stuff done, son.

So Christians are always sharing techniques which guarantee God’ll never ever tell us no. We want the magic formula to tap God’s power. Quoting his own bible back at him sounds really good to a lot of Christians, which is why we pray the psalms and the Lord’s Prayer. Once we use his own holy word on him, we’ve got God by his divine short hairs and he simply has to grant us our three wishes answer our prayer requests.

When I phrase it that way, Christians balk: “That is not what I mean.”

Yeah it is. Bad enough you’re fooling yourself; don’t try to fool the rest of us.

Not that they don’t try. “I’m fully aware God has free will; he can say no whenever he wants; he can say no to unworthy, self-centered prayer requests. But what I’m doing is righteous…” and then they try to explain why they’re fully justified in reducing the holy scriptures to a magic incantation which bends God to our will.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t quote bible in our prayers. It’s actually a good idea—provided we’re quoting bible in context, and not trying to bend it till it sounds like God might let us have our way. Jm 4.3 If we accurately quote the scriptures, we’re more likely to pray as God wants us to, and pray for stuff God approves of.

But the attitude behind trying to make God do as we want, instead of praying as Jesus did, “Thy will be done,” Mt 6.10 is just greed disguised as piety. Let’s not.

Sending out the Twelve.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 May

It is why he picked ’em.

Mark 6.7-11 • Matthew 10.1-15 • Luke 9.1-5.

I’ve previously written on the Twelve, the guys among Jesus’s students whom he designated apostle, “one who’s been sent out,” whom he actually did send out once or twice before he returned to the Father. Here we reach the point in the gospels where he sent ’em out. Mark puts it right after teaching in Nazareth, Matthew after Jesus commented the workers are few, and Luke after curing Jair’s daughter.

Mark 6.7 KWL
Jesus summoned the Twelve, and began to send them out in twos.
He gave them power over unclean spirits.
Matthew 10.1 KWL
Summoning 12 of his students, Jesus gave them power over unclean spirits,
so they could throw them out, and cure every illness and every disease.
Luke 9.1-2 KWL
1 Calling together the Twelve, Jesus gave them power,
authority over all demons, and ability to cure disease.
2 Jesus sent them to preach God’s kingdom and to treat the sick.

Matthew even goes on to list the particular 12 students:

Matthew 10.2-8 KWL
2 These are the names of the 12 apostles:
First Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother. James bar Zavdi and John his brother.
3 Philip and Bartholemew. Thomas and Matthew the taxman.
James bar Alphaeus and Levvaios surnamed Thaddaeus.
4 Simon the Canaanite and Judas the Kerioti—who also turned Jesus in.
5 These are the Twelve Jesus sent, and he gave orders to them,
saying, “You shouldn’t go down the gentile road, nor enter Samaritan towns.
6 Rather, go to the lost sheep of Isarel’s house.
7 Go preach, saying this: ‘Heaven’s kingdom has come near!’
8 Cure the sick. Raise the dead. Cleanse lepers. Throw out demons.
You took it freely; give it freely!

And off they went to preach the kingdom.

’Cause prior to this point, Jesus had singled out the Twelve as his particular apprentices. They were meant to observe everything he did, learn what he preached, watch how he threw out evil spirits so they could do it themselves, and otherwise follow his example. Mk 3.14-15 Because that is what he expected of them.

And it’s what he expects of all his students. Us included. He didn’t make us Christians so we could bask in his salvation, then do nothing more. We’re to proclaim his kingdom, same as he. We’re to drive out evil spirits and cure the sick, same as he. We’re to do good deeds, same as he. We’re to be Christ to the world—while meanwhile Christ is representing us to the Father, getting us equipped, and preparing for his own invasion.

The Twelve were never meant to be Jesus’s only apostles, you know.

Short-staffed for the big harvest.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 May

Pray for more workers. We’re short.

Matthew 9.35-38 • Luke 10.2.

I’ve ranted quite often, and written regularly, about the fact the majority of Christians aren’t religious. We believe in Jesus and expect him to save us, but following him is another deal altogether: We don’t. We figure we don’t have to; that because we’re not saved by good deeds, there’s no point in doing any. Even though there’s so very much for us to do—so very much God wants to include us in—we sit things out, figuring God can do it himself, or even expects to do it himself. Meanwhile he’s waiting for his people to obey, and getting really annoyed at us that we don’t. And so the stuff doesn’t get done.

’Twas ever thus. Jesus knew from experience. When he ministered to the people of the Galilee, that’s what he found. People who needed to be ministered to, but who never had been, because the Pharisees had the bad habit of only taking care of those they deemed worthy, or only tending to their own. Which which meant they didn’t venture outside their narrow communities to help the truly needy. That’s why Jesus kept running into so many people who were demonized: If the Pharisees had done their job, had been compassionate like their LORD, the locals wouldn’t have been turning to witch-doctors to get cured—and the witch-doctors wouldn’t have been able to put all those critters in ’em.

Fact is, the people didn’t know God cared. They didn’t know God loved them, and wanted to make them his people. They were lost, scared, confused, looking for hope, and didn’t know where to find it. Same as people today.

Jesus went out and found them, and found them everywhere. And even though he’s Jesus, empowered by the unlimited resources of the Holy Spirit, it’s still too big a job for only one man. He said as much to his students.

Matthew 9.35-38 KWL
35 Jesus went round all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, curing every disease and illness.
36 Seeing the crowds, Jesus had compassion for them:
They were mistreated and thrown away, like sheep which had no pastor.
37 Jesus told his students, “The harvest is truly great—and so few workers!
38 So beg the Master of the harvest, so he can send workers into his harvest.”

Jesus later repeated this when he sent out his 72 apostles to do some of this work:

Luke 10.2 KWL
Jesus told them, “The harvest is truly great—and so few workers!
So beg the Master of the harvest, so he can send workers into his harvest.”

Because if people aren’t gonna get off their butts on their own and do their part, the Holy Spirit is gonna have to light a fire under us and get us off our butts. So we have to pray: “God, bring us more workers!” We always need more, because there’s no shortage of lost and needy people.

Jesus visits his homeland.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 May

It didn’t go well.

Mark 6.1-6 • Matthew 13.53-58 • Luke 4.16-30.

Luke puts this story right at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, right after he got tempted by Satan and gathered some students. It sounds like the right spot for it—if you’re gonna start teaching, you do it in your hometown, right?—but it’s not really. Because it seems Jesus already had a reputation as a teacher and faith-healer, which he got from somewhere… like the other synagogues and towns where he taught.

Mark has it after Jesus cured Jair’s daughter, and Matthew has it after Jesus shared some parables. It begins with Jesus going to his patrída/“fatherland,” or as Luke nails it down, Nazareth, the town he grew up in. Friday evening after sundown, he taught in synagogue.

Mark 6.1-2 KWL
1 Jesus went out from Kfar Nahum to his homeland. His students followed him.
2A When Sabbath came, Jesus began to teach in synagogue…
 
Matthew 13.53-54 KWL
53 When Jesus finished these parables, this happened:
He left there, 54A went to his homeland, and taught in their synagogue.
Luke 4.16-21 KWL
16 Jesus came to Nazareth, where he was raised.
By his custom, he entered synagogue on the Sabbath day, and arose to read.
17 Jesus was given the book of the prophet Isaiah.
Unrolling the bible, he found the place where it’s written:
18 “The Lord’s Spirit is upon me because he anointed me to evangelize the poor.
He sent me to proclaim forgiveness to captives, and restored sight to the blind.
To send away the shattered in forgiveness,
19 to proclaim a year of the Lord’s acceptance.” Is 61.1-2
20 Closing the bible and returning it to the assistant, Jesus sat to teach.
Every eye in the synagogue was staring at him.
21 He began to tell them this: “This scripture has been fulfilled today, in your ears.”

Luke gives us more of a glimpse of synagogue custom: The men stood round the podium up front. (The women stood in back, sometimes behind a partition, sometimes not, and had to be quiet ’cause synagogue was for men.) The teacher would stand to read the bible, ’cause respect. Then the teacher sat down and interpreted what he’d just read. The men would ask him questions about his interpretation—sometimes to understand him better, sometimes to challenge it.

Well, Jesus just gave ’em something challenging. He claimed Isaiah’s statement about what God had sent him to do, also applied to himself.

Yeah, let’s look at Isaiah. The guys who wrote the New Testament tended to quote only part of a verse, partly ’cause they wanted to save papyrus, partly ’cause they expected their readers to know the rest of it—or to unscroll a bible and read the rest of it. They didn’t quote it out of context; we do that. So it’s unlikely Jesus only read the first two verses of Isaiah 61: He read the whole chapter, and maybe chapter 62 too. I’ll quote a little bit more than Luke did:

Isaiah 61.1-4 KWL
1 My master LORD’s Spirit is upon me because the LORD anointed me to bring news to the needy.
He sent me to bandage the brokenhearted,
call captives to freedom, release to those in chains,
2 to call a year of favor from the LORDand a day of revenge from our God.
To comfort all who mourn, 3 and to set an end to mourning in Zion:
to give them a fine headcovering instead of ash,
oil of joy instead of mourning, clothing of praise instead of a dim spirit.
God wants to call them righteous oaks, God’s planting, his glory.
4 They built ancient ruins, abandoned by the first people.
Now they’re building cities anew—the generations-old abandoned ruins.

And so on. Israel gets restored, the gentiles come to know Israel and their God, blessings and peace and so on forevermore. And it all starts with Jesus. So, y’know, good news!

Except the locals had their doubts: It all starts with this guy?

Curing a bleeder.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 May

Wasn’t actually Jesus who cured her. It was the Holy Spirit.

Mark 5.25-34 • Matthew 9.20-22 • Luke 8.43-48

Smack in the middle of the story of curing Jair’s daughter, where Jesus was on the way to Jair’s house, a woman snuck up behind him, touched him, and the Holy Spirit cured her of an ailment.

I know; you thought Jesus cured her, right? But if you know the story already, you recall Jesus didn’t do a thing. Wasn’t his idea to cure her—and yet she got cured. People naïvely presume this is because Jesus was so charged with special healing power, anyone who touched him would get zapped. But that’s not how miracles work at all. Jesus did things by the power of the Holy Spirit, Ac 10.38 same as everybody. She was cured because somebody chose to cure her—and that’d be the Holy Spirit.

Traditionally the woman’s been known as St. Veronica, even though her name never comes up in the bible. Doesn’t matter. Art and movies tend to depict her as an old woman; after all she had been suffering more than a decade. But Jesus called her thygátir/“daughter,” which means he was older than she. Possibly she’d suffered this illness all her life. Certainly all the life of the 12-year-old girl Jesus was planning to heal. But as a gyní/“woman” in Jesus’s culture, she was at least 13, she hadn’t suffered it all her life anyway.

We also don’t know what Veronica’s ailment was. Here’s the entirety of what the gospels say about it:

Mark 5.25-26 KWL
25 For 12 years, a woman had a bloodflow, 26 and had suffered greatly under many witch-doctors,
spending everything she had, and never improving. Instead she was much worse.
Matthew 9.20 KWL
Look: A woman suffering a 12-year bloodflow,
coming up behind them, grabbed the tassel of Jesus’s robe,
Luke 8.43 KWL
For 12 years, a woman who had a bloodflow, who all her life spent lavishly on witch-doctors,
wasn’t better, with no one to cure her.

Commentators speculate it might’ve been related to her menstrual cycle, though you notice they’ve no basis at all for saying so. But if it did begin at puberty, she would’ve been in her twenties when the Spirit cured her.

In any event her treatments had bled her dry as well. People in the United States are pretty familiar with the idea of healthcare emptying your bank account, so we can kinda relate. (Well, unless we’re rich.)

Other than asking God to cure her, Veronica’s only resort was yatrón, a word the KJV (and many current translations still) translate “physicians.” But remember: Nobody practiced the scientific method back then. These guys didn’t know jack squat about medicine. They practiced folk remedies, some of which were downright silly. Sometimes they assumed evil spirits were the problem (’cause hey, sometimes they were), and tried to take ’em out of you. Sometimes a gentile yatrós might even try to put one of those spirits in you, on the grounds it might cure you—and that was why so many unwell people also needed Jesus to perform an exorcism. But basically these guys were witch doctors, not physicians.

So all these quacks could do was take her money, promise they had a method which provided relief, but she’d get no usable results. Like Luke said, there was no one to cure her. So, same as most people of that day, she had no other recourse but God. And sometimes our doctors can’t treat us, or we don’t like how they treat us, so in desperation we try non-western medicine… which means we’ve resorted to the very same “physicians” Veronica tried out, who took her money but had nothing to show for it. Again, we can relate.

Jesus raises a dead girl. (Or was she only asleep?)

by K.W. Leslie, 08 May

When Jesus rescued the president’s daughter. (No, seriously.)

Mark 5.21-24, 35-43 • Matthew 9.18-19, 23-26 • Luke 8.40-42, 49-56

There’s a story in the middle of this story, about a woman with a bloodflow. I’ll get to it later.

Mark and Luke tell this story after Jesus’s side trip to the Dekapolis, and Matthew puts it after Jesus taught on fasting.

Mark 5.21-43 KWL
21 After crossing back over the lake in the boat,
a great crowd again gathered around Jesus. He was on the shore.
22 One of the synagogue presidents, named Jaïr, saw him, fell at his feet,
23 and urged him to come with him, saying this: “My daughter is at the point of death.
If you come lay your hands on her, you can save her; she can live.”
24 Jesus went with him. The great crowd followed—and was crushing him.
Matthew 9.18-19 KWL
18 While Jesus said these things, look: A ruler came and knelt before him,
saying this: “My daughter died just now, but come lay hands on her and she’ll live.”
19 Getting up, Jesus followed him, as did his students.
Luke 8.40-42 KWL
40 Upon Jesus’s return, the crowd greeted him, for they were all expecting him.
41 Look: A man named Jair came. This man had become president of the synagogue.
He fell at Jesus’s feet and prayed that he come to his house,
42 for he had an only-begotten 12-year-old daughter, and she was dying.
As Jesus was going away with Jair, the crowd was choking him.

Maybe you caught the discrepancy; most Christians totally miss it. In Mark and Luke the girl’s at the point of death. In Matthew she’s already died.

Changes the story a little; there’s no longer any sense of urgency in getting to the house before death takes her. Not that curing illness, or curing death, makes any difference to Jesus. Does to doctors—and to us, because we have a bad habit of projecting our limitations upon God. We gotta not do that. Jesus can cure anything. Death too.

But the girl being dead already is why Matthew doesn’t include this bit in mid-story about people running up to tell them she’s died. Didn’t need to.

Mark 5.35-36 KWL
35 While they were speaking, some came against the synagogue president,
saying this: “Your daughter died. Why keep bothering the teacher?”
36 Jesus refused to listen to their message, and told the synagogue president, “No fear. Just trust me.”
Luke 8.49-50 KWL
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone from the synagogue president’s house came,
saying this: “Your daughter has died. You needn’t bother the teacher.”
50 Jesus, hearing this, told Jair, “No fear. Just trust me: She’ll be saved.”

So was the girl already dead or not? Obviously most Christians vote not—because it’s a more dramatic story that way. But that’s not enough of a reason to pick one gospel over the other. I lean towards the idea she wasn’t dead yet, mainly because there’s no good reason to make it up. “Don’t be afraid; just trust me” is a common theme in the gospels regardless.

Killing the pigs.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 May

How the destruction of 2,000 pigs wasn’t at all Jesus’s idea—and actually got in his way.

Mark 5.11-20 • Matthew 8.30-34 • Luke 8.32-39.

Picking up where I left off: Jesus and his students traveled to the Dekapolis, a province (well, more like 10 provinces) in northern Israel inhabited by Syrian Greeks, located on the far side of the lake. They encountered a man (Matthew says two of ’em) infested with the sort of evil spirits which pagan Greeks worshiped as minor gods, a.k.a. demons. The spirits were making the poor demoniac’s life hell. They realized Jesus wouldn’t tolerate what they were doing to the man, and would order them out of there. But they had an idea, which maybe they could get Jesus to go along with.

Mark 5.11-13 KWL
11 There was a great herd of pigs grazing near the hill.
12 The demons begged Jesus, saying, “Send us to the pigs, so we can enter them!”
13 Jesus allowed them, and coming out, the unclean spirits entered the pigs.
The herd stampeded to the cliff over the lake—like 2,000!—and drowned in the lake.
Matthew 8.30-32 KWL
30 Far off from them was a herd of many pigs, grazing.
31 The demons begged Jesus, saying, “If you throw us out, send us to the herd of pigs.”
32 Jesus told them, “Get out.” Coming out, they went off into the pigs.
Look, the whole herd rushed off the seacliff and died in the waters.
Luke 8.32-33 KWL
32 There was a great herd of pigs grazing on the hill.
The demons begged Jesus so he’d send them to enter the pigs
Jesus allowed them, 33 and coming out of the person, the demons entered the pigs.
The herd rushed off the cliff into the marsh, and drowned.

You might remember devout Jews don’t eat pork. It’s because the LORD identified any animals which aren’t ruminant, which do have split hooves, as ritually unclean. And God specifically singled out pigs, Lv 11.7 because nearly every other culture raises and eats them, and the Hebrews might get the idea a popular food animal might be an exception.

No, ritual uncleanliness does not mean pigs are sinful, nor that eating them is a sin. The only consequence in the scripture for eating an unclean animal is you couldn’t worship. You’d first have to baptize yourselves and wait till sundown. Realistically, if your only worship consisted of going to temple three times a year, Ex 23.14 technically you could eat pork all year long, abstain during the temple festivals, and you were good. Well, not that good. But good enough for worship, which is why certain Jews eat treyf (unclean things) all year round, and only abstain for the holidays.

But Pharisees strived to stay in a constant state of ritual cleanliness. Their custom dictated that you had to be ritually clean to go to synagogue, and they wanted to be prepared to enter the synagogue at any given time. (Lessons went on all week long, y’know.) So this meant a constant state of ritual cleanliness, which means no pork ever. In fact the idea of a herd of pigs, raised on land that was historically part of Israel’s covenant, would’ve bugged Pharisees greatly.

Anyway some commentators figure this fact puts a new spin on the story: Here are some animals which shouldn’t even have been in Israel anyway. So Jesus likely had no qualms about the demons destroying them, and even permitted them because he wanted the pigs dead. Go ahead demons; purge Israel of its swine.

Okay, now back up a few yards and let’s think about how contrary to Jesus’s character this interpretation is.

Secret Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 May

Most of the time, this particular teaching of Jesus has the effect of getting Christians to quit waffling and publicly declare themselves Christian. ’Cause Jesus doesn’t want secret followers.

Matthew 10.32-33 KWL
32 “So everyone who agrees with me before people: I’ll also agree with them before my heavenly Father.
33 But those who disown me before people: I’ll also disown them before my heavenly Father.”

Though y’might notice there were secret Christians in Jesus’s day. Nicodemus of Jerusalem and Joseph of Arimathea were two rather obvious followers… but give ’em credit; they did out themselves by entombing Jesus. Jn 19.38-42 We don’t have Jesus’s comments about them, but since they rather publicly got involved “before people” when push came to shove, I seriously doubt Jesus is gonna disown either of them at the End.

Thing is, there are a number of people who secretly, privately, personally believe in Jesus. But they don’t have the balls to step forward and publicly say so. Maybe they’ll say so in private… but sometimes not even then. “My religion is none of your business,” is their usual cop-out. “Religion is private.”

True, some religious practices are private, or certainly should be. Like prayer. But identifying with Jesus of Nazareth? Not so much other fellow Christians; we can be awful, so I get that. Still, denying Jesus? You realize Simon Peter still gets crap for doing exactly that. And rightly so; it was a dick move. As it is when anybody pretends they don’t know him when they do.

Which is precisely why Jesus makes this kind of deal about it. If you love him, you’re gonna acknowledge him. You’re gonna defend him to people who don’t think so much of him, or don’t think so much of anyone who puts their trust in him. You’re gonna stand up when it counts. Even when it might mean you’ll suffer consequences. Especially then; it’s hardly a significant gesture when there aren’t any consequences.

And yet we still have such creatures as incognito Christians. Who sometimes show up when we really need ’em, like Joseph and Nicodemus; but who more often cave under pressure, like Peter that one time. And to Peter’s credit, it’s a mistake he never made again.

Facing Jerusalem.

by K.W. Leslie, 01 May

It’s a really old custom which you might not know about.

Before Solomon ben David, the fourth king of Israel, the LORD’s worship site had consisted of a tent in Jerusalem. Solomon personally supervised the construction of a gold-plated cedar temple, and the day he dedicated it to the LORD, here’s some of what he prayed:

1 Kings 8.28-30 KWL
28 “Turn to your slave’s prayer. To show him grace, my LORD God. To hear his shout of joy.
To the prayer which your slave prays to your face today.
29 May your eyes be open towards this house night and day,
to the place of which you said, ‘My name is there.’
To hear the prayer which your slave prays towards this place.
30 You will hear your slave’s petition, your people Israel, who pray towards this place.
As you sit in the heavens, you’ll hear and forgive.”

More than once in his prayer, Solomon mentions the idea of praying in the direction of the new temple. 1Ki 8.35, 38, 42, 44, 48 And towards Jerusalem, towards Israel, towards the homeland God gave the Hebrews.

Thus it wound up becoming Hebrew practice to pray in the direction of the temple, or of Jerusalem. ’Cause we see Daniel doing it in Babylon.

Daniel 6.10 KWL
Daniel, who knew what was recorded in the writing, entered his house.
The windows in his upper room facing Jerusalem were opened for him.
Three times a day, he knelt on his knees and prayed thanksgiving before God,
just like before, which he used to do previous times.

“Okay,” you might argue, as Christians will: “That’s something Jews practice. They pray to Jerusalem. Gentiles like me don’t have to.”

Nah; Solomon had you covered.

1 Kings 8.41-43 KWL
41 Also to a foreigner, who isn’t of your people Israel, who comes from a faraway land:
Due to your name— 42 when they hear of your great name, strong hand, stretched-out arm—
when a foreigner comes and prays towards this house, 43 you hear in the heavenly place you dwell,
and do everything which was requested of you by the foreigner.
Thus every people on earth can know your name and respect you like your people Israel;
thus they know your name can be called via this house which I built.”

After all, Solomon knew the LORD isn’t only Israel’s God, but everyone’s.

As a result, whenever Pharisees built synagogues in Jerusalem, they made sure their buildings faced temple. And whenever they built synagogues in other parts of Palestine and the world, they made sure their buildings faced Jerusalem. ’Cause while Solomon’s prayer isn’t a biblical command or anything, it was a custom which they sorta saw the value in.