Intercession: Praying for others… and answering for God.

by K.W. Leslie, 31 January

It’s not just a prayer ministry. It’s prophetic too.

INTERCESSION /ɪn.(t)ər'sɛs.ʃən/ n. The act of coming between one person and another, on the behalf of one (or both) of the parties.
2. The act of praying on behalf of another.
[Intercessor /'ɪn.(t)ər.sɛs.sər/ n., intercessory /ɪn.(t)ər'sɛs.(sə.)ri/ adj.]

Praying for rulers is one of the many forms of intercession, or the more redundant “intercessory prayer.” It’s when we try to help somebody out, by praying for or with ’em. Sometimes because they asked us to pray for them, but of course they don’t have to: We’re talking with God, they’re on our mind, we bring ’em up.

There are a number of Christians who’ve made intercession their particular ministry. They don’t go out and physically or financially help the needy: They pray for them. Sometimes for legitimate reasons: They can’t physically help, or haven’t the authority, or haven’t the finances. So prayer’s all they can do. True in a whole lot of cases.

Then there’s the illegitimate reason: They do have the means and ability, but they don’t wanna help in any of those other ways. And prayer costs them nothing. So it’s stinginess disguised as piety. Pretend faith, ’cause real faith is expressed by good deeds. Jm 2.14-17 I could go on, but that’d be its own article.

But it brings up another point: Intercession doesn’t begin and end with making other people’s requests known to God. It’s also a prophetic ministry. Y’see, God talks back.

Remember, the usual definition of intercession is when we come between one person and another. In prayer, we come between the person with the request, and the Almighty who can answer the request. You know, like any good priest does. But if we don’t listen for God’s answer—for his solution to the problem—that’s not intercession. What kind of intercessor only listens to one party?

So if you wanna be an intercessor, good for you! But if you think all an intercessor does is make prayer requests, you got another think coming. Intercession usually means you are part of the way God answers prayer.

I’m a self-discoverer? Not really.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 January

When religious quizzes try to pick out the cliché instead of the Christian.

You are a Self-Discoverer

You’re not religious, but you’ve created your own kind of spirituality. Introspective and thoughtful, you tend to look inward for the divine. You are distrusting of all forms of organized religion. You especially dislike religious gurus and leaders, who you feel are charlatans.
 What’s Your Religious Philosophy? at Blogthings 

When I first got into this blogging fad way back in 2004, I used to have a regular feature I called “Stupid Internet Surveys.” People on the internet create quizzes, y’know. It’s not just BuzzFeed; they didn’t start the trend either. But because the other early bloggers didn’t always know what to write about—much like the other folks on Facebook who have no idea what to post about themselves on a daily basis—they were sorta desperate for any junk to fill the blank spots in their blogs. Quizzes made up some of that junk. Still do.

So, take one of their quizzes and find out which Disney princess you are. Or what’s the exact age you’ll get married. Whether you can tell the superhero movie by these emojis. Which yoga pose matches your personality. How many NHL logos you can identify. Which Harry Potter character you’d be bestest friends with. Whether they can guess your age with a food quiz. Whether your parents are cool. What’s your Myers-Briggs personality type.

Like I said, stupid.

Blogthings is still around, and someone sent me their “What’s Your Religious Philosophy?” quiz… the results of which indicate I must be an eclectic pagan.

Pretty sure where I went wrong was in putting way more thought into these answers than the author of the quiz intended. Well, I do that.

Okay, I am religious. But I haven’t created my own kind of spirituality: In the course of following Jesus, I’ve fallen into the category of Pentecostalism. I try for introspective and thoughtful, but I hardly look inward for the divine: I already know he’s not me. I don’t distrust organized religion: I not only attend church regularly, but I’m actively involved in church leadership. Yeah, I believe in healthy skepticism, but disorganized religion is hardly an alternative. Nor do I dislike gurus and leaders and think ’em frauds: There are plenty of frauds out there, but most of the leaders I’ve known, have been earnest and truthful and pointed to the one leader we should follow, Christ Jesus.

So why’d the quiz get me so wrong? Well, let’s look at the questions… and my hyper-analytical answers.

Who runs the church?

by K.W. Leslie, 26 January

How’s the leadership of your church structured? ’Cause it matters.

Short answer: Jesus.

Way longer answer: When Christians are asked who runs our individual churches, sometimes we describe the leadership structure of their church or denomination. But everybody can potentially give the answer “Jesus.” It is his church after all. He is the king over God’s kingdom.

But since his kingdom isn’t yet of this world, Jn 18.36 the day-to-day duties of running Jesus’s churches on earth fall to vicars. Vicar is the Christianese word for “deputy,” and means the very same thing: Lieutenants who answer to the guy who’s really in charge, and that’d be Jesus. Hopefully we truly are working on his behalf, and not for ourselves… though I leave it to you as to how well we’re doing.

Now, if you were to ask your average pagan who’s in charge, most of ’em assume the pastor is. (Or the minister, priest, father, sister, bishop, apostle, prophet—whatever you call the top dog.) Pastor says “Jump” and everyone responds, “How high?” Depending on how cynical this pagan is about organized religion, pastors range from benevolent dictators, to selfish cult leaders. To their minds, every church is some form of top-down tyranny.

And to be fair, a lot of churches do practice a top-down model. It’s the most common church leadership structure there is. Arguably it’s the first structure: Jesus in charge, and his students not. And once Jesus ascended to his Father, it was followed by the apostles in charge, and everyone else below them.

Of course I say “arguably” because some Christians argue this top-down structure isn’t Jesus’s intent. They’ll advocate for their own favorite structure—namely the structure we find in their churches. Yes, they have proof texts. If you think church oughta be a democracy, you’ve likely got verses which prove God thinks so too. Top-down, bottom-up, middle-out, nobody-in-charge-but-the-Holy-Spirit, or even benevolent anarchy, people will point to verses which they’re pretty sure back their view. Regardless of those views, I’m gonna point out the top-down model is all over Christendom because it’s consistently found all over the scriptures, all over antiquity, and all over church history. Valid or not, it’s everywhere because top-down is humanity’s default setting: Left to their own devices, humans create kingdoms, not democracies. Even in democracies we fight to be on top.

Regardless, everybody pays lip service to the idea Jesus runs our churches. Hopefully he does.

Prophetic interpretation: “God told me it means this!”

by K.W. Leslie, 25 January

Sometimes the Spirit explains his scriptures. Other times prophets just don’t wanna do their homework.

I’m writing this article under the Prophecy category, but I should warn you: It’s not just prophets, wannabe prophets, and fake prophets who try to pull this stunt. Y’know where I first encountered it? Among cessationists, of all people.

Yep. All of ’em figure they have the very same Holy Spirit as the authors of scripture. Which they should, if they’re Christians. Since the Spirit inspired the scriptures, the Spirit should also be able to clue us in on what the scriptures mean.

Cessationists claim God doesn’t prophetically talk to people anymore. So what’s the point of ’em having the Holy Spirit? Well, they think he’s here for only two reasons:

  1. Confirm we’re going to heaven. Ep 1.13-14
  2. Illuminate the scriptures.

Illuminate means “light up,” and depending on how much the cessationist will permit the Holy Spirit to do, they figure either he lights them up so they can understand the scriptures, or lights the scriptures up so they can be understood. In essence they figure the only reason God the Holy Spirit is in their lives, is so he can make their bibles work. But they absolutely won’t refer to this process as prophecy… even though it totally is. Hey, if God’s speaking to us, and giving us stuff to tell others, that’s prophecy.

Anyway, they’re not wrong. One of the many things the Spirit does is inform us what he meant when he inspired the prophets and apostles who wrote the bible. That’s cool. You won’t find too many Christians who have a problem with the concept. That’s because I haven’t yet got to the actual problem.

And here it is: They take this idea of theirs about what the bible means, don’t bother to confirm it really did come from the Spirit, nor confirm it to be true, get up in front of other Christians, and proclaim, “This is what it means. And I know, ’cause I got it from God.”

Yes, it skipped a step. We’re supposed to confirm prophecies, folks. That means when we get an idea about how scripture oughta be interpreted, we bounce it off other Christians. Ever heard of a bible commentary? Totally counts as confirming it with other Christians. So do bible handbooks, bible dictionaries, and sending emails or making phone calls to real live bible scholars. If you got it in your head “This means that,” go find out whether this means that. Otherwise the devil’s gonna realize, “Hey, this dude never double-checks,” and is gonna have a lot of fun steering you wrong. How else d’you think cults start?

The problem is when a presumptive preacher or prophet figures they never need to double-check. They’ve been following God long enough to know what he sounds like. (A month’s all you need, right?) They have the Holy Spirit, so they need not that any man teach them. The Spirit teaches everything, Jn 14.26 and fallible fellow Christians will just mix ’em up anyway. Thus they get up in front of everyone and proclaim, “Thus saith the LORD”… and the LORD said no such thing.

Sometimes they even teach this as a legitimate way to interpret scripture. They call it “divine interpretation”—or instead of “divine,” they’ll go with “prophetic,” “spiritual,” “supernatural,” “revelatory,” or some other supernatural-sounding name. Shorthand for “Pretty sure I heard God, but I didn’t confirm jack.”

Praying for rulers.

by K.W. Leslie, 24 January

’Cause we should. Why? Well, let’s look at the bible.

After we elect a new president, governor, mayor, or whomever, we Christians tend to remind ourselves to pray for our rulers.

Sometimes enthusiastically, ’cause our candidate got elected. And if we’re the really partisan sort, we’ll even rub this fact in other people’s faces. “The patriotic thing to do is to close ranks and back our new leader for the good of the country. So bury that disappointment and pray for your new leader—that’s right, your new leader.” Every so often, the Christian preaching this attempts a sympathetic tone—“Hey, I know it’s rough; I’ve had to do this when your guy won”—but most of the time they’re too happy to care. Or about 12 seconds of the message is sympathy, and the rest is a victory lap. Hey, I’ve been on both sides of it.

And there’s mournfully, ’cause our candidate lost. The candidates have been demonizing one another throughout the election, so when partisans lose they’re convinced the End Times have arrived. Hence the prayers for our rulers aren’t for God to bless them. Not really. They’re for God to mitigate their evil. Keep ’em from ruining our land. Stop ’em from destroying lives. Maybe Jesus could make a Damascus-Road-style appearance and radically transform them into someone who’d vote our way. Wouldn’t that be great?

Sometimes sarcastically; they immediately dive for Psalm 109.

Psalm 109.6-13 KWL
6 Place a wicked person over him, with Satan standing at his right.
7 May those judging him return an evil verdict, and his prayers be offensive.
8 May his days be few, and another ruler supervise him.
9 May his children become fatherless, and his woman a widow.
10 May his children wander, wander, begging, digging through people’s trash.
11 May debt seize everything he owns, and strangers steal his labor.
12 May he never find love; his fatherless children never be given grace.
13 May his generation be the last one, and his family name be wiped out.

Yeah, King David wished some hateful stuff on his enemies. And when people start praying these curses over their rulers, most of the time they’ll stop mid-psalm and say, “Nah; I’m just kidding.” But nah, in their heart of hearts, they aren’t really. Y’ain’t fooling God.

Okay, so where do the scriptures instruct us to pray for our rulers? Well, most of the time we point to Paul’s instructions to Timothy: Paul wanted Timothy and his church to pray for everybody—plus kings and rulers.

1 Timothy 2.1-4 KWL
1 So I encourage everyone to first make thankful, intercessory prayer requests for all the people.
2 Like for kings, and everyone who holds authority.
This way we can go through life in peace and quiet,
applying religion and dignity to all.
3 This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
4 who wants all people to be saved, and come to a knowledge of truth.

Note why: So we Christians can follow Jesus in peace and quiet. And not persecution.

Footprints. (My version.)

by K.W. Leslie, 23 January

How I deal with cheesy stuff is to write some of my own.

You might’ve heard of the “Footprints” or “Footprints in the Sand” story, which Christians tend to be overly fond of. Don’t know who wrote it; it arose at some point in the 20th century. Usually it’s printed on a photo of a beach, and sold, framed and unframed, in Christian bookstores.

The general idea is this: The poet dreams he and Jesus have been walking through life, and during life’s rough patches Jesus carried the poet through it. Yet for some reason the poet was totally unaware of this, and accused Jesus of abandoning him, ’cause the poet’s an ungrateful, inattentive dick, and a bad Christian.

…Well okay, people never notice that aspect of the story. But anyway.

“Footprints” is popular, and so many Christians find it inspiring, you wind up seeing it way too often. I do, anyway. For a while there in the 1980s, I think it was mandatory to hang a copy of it in every church’s youth room. As soon as the internet became widely available, people were forwarding it to one another as if it were part of a chain letter which they dared not break. It’s everywhere.

My way of dealing with such things? Make fun of ’em. Write my own version of it.

Mine rhymes.

Generational curses and fearful Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 January

Christians are curse-proof. But some of us are convinced family curses still affect us.

In the middle of the Ten Commandments, as he warned the Hebrews away from idolatry, the LORD mentioned a little something about how children suffer consequences for their parents.

Exodus 20.5-6 KWL
5 “Don’t bow down to them. Don’t serve them.
For I’m YHWH your God: I’m El-Qanná/‘Possessive God.’
I have children suffer consequences for their parents’ evil
—and the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—when they hate me.
6 But I show love to a thousand generations
when they love me and observe my commands.”

Elsewhere in Exodus, when the LORD revealed his glory to Moses, he repeated this idea of forgiving a thousand generations, yet afflicting three or four generations.

Exodus 34.6-7 KWL
6 The LORD passed over Moses’s face and said, “YHWH. YHWH. God.
Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Great in love and truth.
7 Lovingly guarding thousands, putting up with evil, rebellion, and sin.
Not cleansing, cleansing those counted as evil—
from parents to children to grandchildren,
to the third generation, to the fourth generation.”

And in Deuteronomy Moses also forbade certain people from joining the qehal YHWH/“the LORD’s assembly.” That’d include

  • a mamzér/“mongrel,” the child of a Hebrew and a gentile, “till the 10th generation.” Dt 23.2
  • Ammonites and Moabites; 10th generation. Dt 23.3
  • Edomites; third generation. Dt 23.7

And of course there’s total depravity, the idea that humanity is innately messed up because Adam and Eve’s original sin was passed down to the rest of us, spoiling us from the moment of our birth.

In general, these ideas are the basis of the popular Christian idea there are generational curses, a problem that’s passed down from parent to child in a family for centuries. Like alcoholism, or the tendency to have heart attacks in one’s forties. Like bad genes. Only this time it’s a particular form of sin problem.

Fr’instance say your grandfather was involved in conjuring up the spirits of the dead. And whattaya know; mine was. According to generational-curse theory, that’s gonna affect me. Even though I’m Christian; even though I was Christian before Grandpa got involved in necromancy; even though Grandpa later repented and became Christian. Simply by virtue of his being my grandfather, evil spirits have been called upon to plague my grandmother’s life, my parents’ lives, my aunts’ and uncles’ lives, my siblings and their kids, my cousins and their kids. And of course me.

Gee, thanks Grandpa.

Tattoos require commitment.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 January

If you’re gonna have something permanently etched into your skin, maybe think about it a bit, okay?

Got into a discussion with Mathilda (name changed to protect the feelin’-guilty) and I found it interesting enough to rant about. Even though my views may get me into trouble with both legalists and libertines.

Mathilda has a tattoo. I do not. Never got one. Not that I disapprove of them per se. I simply haven’t found anything I’d like to permanently decorate myself with.

I know; the older folks are gonna quote bible at me about how you’re never, ever supposed to tattoo yourself.

Leviticus 19.28 NIV
“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.”

The word the NIV renders “tattoo” is qaháqa. In modern Hebrew it means “tattoo,” and it only appears this one time in the bible. Unless you count the apocryphal book of Jesus ben Sirach, which I don’t. (Long story as short as I can make it: Sirach was written in Hebrew, translated into Greek; the Hebrew got lost; the 11th-century rabbis translated it back into Hebrew and translated exétilen/“plucked” Si 10.15 as qaháqa; when a Hebrew copy was rediscovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, verse 15 was missing. So all this means is the medieval rabbis didn’t think it meant “tattooed.”)

Qaháqa comes from the root quch/“cut [with a sickle],” like in harvesting. It refers to scarification: Decorating yourself with scars. Usually for religious reasons, like the pagan practice of marking yourself so the spirits of the dead might identify and protect you—which, you’ll notice, is the very context referred to in the verse.

As usual, I point this out to Christians who are anti-tattoo, and they immediately object, ’cause bias. Everyone they know, every bible translation they use, interprets qaháqa as “tattoo,” and they assume I’m just looking for a lexical loophole in Leviticus. Even though they don’t pay their employees daily, Lv 19.13 nor treat foreigners, illegal or not, the same as natives. Lv 19.34 Seems it’s more about cherry-picking beloved causes than really following the scriptures.

But if you honestly are trying to follow this command—and to be on the safe side, you’ve decided to ban any kinds of marking on yourselves, including piercings, tattoos, makeup, henna, drawing on yourself with markers, or writing quick notes on your hands; for any sort of reason, and not merely as magic symbols to attract the dead—that’s between you and God. Not between me and God. I haven’t been similarly convicted. If you wanna judge me for that, you might wanna read Romans 14 again.

It’s 4 January. It’s still Christmas. And this fact annoys you.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 January

All the way back in 2016, my church decided it was time to begin our 21-day Daniel fast on the first Sunday of the month. Specifically this was Sunday, 3 January 2016. Welcome back from the holidays, folks; no doughnut for you.

“Really not appropriate to schedule a fast for a feast day,” I pointed out to one of my fellow church attendees.

SHE. “Feast day? This is a feast day?”
ME. “It’s still Christmas.”
SHE. “Christmas was two Fridays ago.”
ME. “Christmas began two Fridays ago. And ends tomorrow. It lasts 12 days, remember?
SHE.What lasts 12 days?”
ME. “Christmas. Remember the song? ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…’ and each day the singer just kept getting more and more birds? ’Cause Christmas has 12 days.”
SHE. “Who celebrates it for 12 days?”
ME.I celebrate it for 12 days. I’m still eating cookies.”
SHE. “Well, you can do that if you like. I took the tree down the day after Christmas.”
ME. “You mean the second day of Christmas.”
SHE. [irritated scoff]

Tell many a Christian that today’s the 11th day of Christmas, and that’s the response you’ll get from them. The irritated scoff. Christmas ended last month. And good riddance. They were so done with the holiday once Christmas dinner was over. And if they weren’t, the hassle of returning Christmas gifts did it for ’em.

Like I said back in my advent article, a lot of people have adopted the mindset our popular culture foists upon ’em. To them, the Christmas season begins on Black Friday, ends 25 December, and the rest is just aftermath and cleanup. Put the decorations away as soon as possible, ’cause it’s time to concentrate on the new year. And the stores are already selling Valentine’s Day items. (“Already? Are you kidding me?”)

But if you’ve burnt out on Christmas, it’s because you’ve not really been celebrating Christmas. You’ve been celebrating the awful Mammonist substitute the stories peddle. Our churches unwittingly help ’em do it too. We perpetuate the idea of a one-day holiday, a frenzy of gifts and toys and events, and a slapped-on veneer of “Remember the reason for the season!”

In fact Christmas is primarily about how Christ the savior is born. If you’re doing Christmas correctly, and someone brings up the word “Christmas” after the 25th, that’s the mental image which should’ve immediately popped into your mind. Not decorations, toys, and obligations. Jesus has come. ’Cause if your first response is to scoff… you did it wrong.

Good and bad bible translations.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 January

Stuff I’ve discovered by reading different translations every year.

I realize people are gonna find the title of this article through Google or one of the other search engines, and are gonna be vastly disappointed I haven’t provided an easy-to-use chart establishing, “These translations are good and holy and inspired of God… and these translations are the product of an international conspiracy of devil-worshipers,” or some other such extreme. You want fear-ridden nutjobs, you’ve come to the wrong blog.

Nope; today’s rant is about the bible translations I wind up reading through—and getting irritated by—when I do my bible in a month thingy every January. That’s right; I don’t merely suggest you do it, and leave you with a big pile of reading material. I do it too. I pop over to Bible Gateway, pick a translation I’m not all that familiar with, and get to readin’. Sometimes I start in December, while it’s still Christmas. Sometimes later in January. Still tend to get it read within 3 to 4 weeks.

Most of the time it works out okay. I pick an unfamiliar translation, read it in its entirety, and now I can experientially tell you what it consists of… unlike some nimrod who reads a few passages and jumps to a conclusion; usually an angry one. Fr’instance a decade ago I read the Message back to front. So now, when people ask me what I think of it, I can say, “I read it,” and not just mean a book or two, or assorted chapters; I read it. And…? And I like it. It’s good. I don’t agree with all the translation choices, but I’m never gonna agree with all the translation choices. But it’s good. Feel free to use it for casual reading, devotional reading, or even in church. It’s not gonna bite.

It’s not infallible. No translation is. When you do serious bible study, do not use only one translation, the Message included, without double-checking it against many other translations. (Even when you know biblical languages: Make sure your interpretation isn’t too far afield from all the others!) But again: Casual, devotional, church, Twitter: Use it. Have fun.

Then there are the translations I don’t care for. And yeah, even if you found this article for other reasons, you’re probably gonna be curious about my take on them. You’re looking (in vain) for a perfect translation, and you wanna eliminate a few contenders. Or you’ve already convinced yourself it’s the King James Version, but you spitefully wanna know why other translations suck, just so you can bash ’em a little more. I don’t wanna enable you, but at the same time I don’t wanna encourage publishers to crank out bad bible translations. So I’ve got mixed feelings… but I’m plowing ahead anyway.