Don’t pass on malicious gossip.
“Don’t link up with a wicked person and give corrupt testimony. Don’t go along with the crowd in doing evil and don’t fudge your testimony in a case just to please the crowd. And just because someone is poor, don’t show favoritism in a dispute.
“If you find your enemy’s ox or donkey loose, take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, don’t walk off and leave it. Help it up.
“When there is a dispute concerning your poor, don’t tamper with the justice due them.
“Stay clear of false accusations. Don’t contribute to the death of innocent and good people. I don’t let the wicked off the hook.
“Don’t take bribes. Bribes blind perfectly good eyes and twist the speech of good people.
“Don’t take advantage of a stranger. You know what it’s like to be a stranger; you were strangers in Egypt.
“Sow your land for six years and gather in its crops, but in the seventh year leave it alone and give it a rest so that your poor may eat from it. What they leave, let the wildlife have. Do the same with your vineyards and olive groves.
“Work for six days and rest the seventh so your ox and donkey may rest and your servant and migrant workers may have time to get their needed rest.
“Listen carefully to everything I tell you. Don’t pay attention to other gods—don’t so much as mention their names.
“Three times a year you are to hold a festival for me.
“Hold the spring Festival of Unraised Bread when you eat unraised bread for seven days at the time set for the month of Abib, as I commanded you. That was the month you came out of Egypt. No one should show up before me empty-handed.
“Hold the summer Festival of Harvest when you bring in the firstfruits of all your work in the fields.
“Hold the autumn Festival of Ingathering at the end of the season when you bring in the year’s crops.
“Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Master, God.
“Don’t offer the blood of a sacrifice to me with anything that has yeast in it.
“Don’t leave the fat from my festival offering out overnight.
“Bring the choice first produce of the year to the house of your God.
“Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
“Now get yourselves ready. I’m sending my Angel ahead of you to guard you in your travels, to lead you to the place that I’ve prepared. Pay close attention to him. Obey him. Don’t go against him. He won’t put up with your rebellions because he’s acting on my authority. But if you obey him and do everything I tell you, I’ll be an enemy to your enemies, I’ll fight those who fight you. When my Angel goes ahead of you and leads you to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, I’ll clear the country of them. So don’t worship or serve their gods; don’t do anything they do because I’m going to wipe them right off the face of the Earth and smash their sacred phallic pillars to bits.
“But you—you serve your God and he’ll bless your food and your water. I’ll get rid of the sickness among you; there won’t be any miscarriages nor barren women in your land. I’ll make sure you live full and complete lives.
“I’ll send my Terror on ahead of you and throw those peoples you’re approaching into a panic. All you’ll see of your enemies is the backs of their necks.
“And I’ll send Despair on ahead of you. It will push the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites out of your way. I won’t get rid of them all at once lest the land grow up in weeds and the wild animals take over. Little by little I’ll get them out of there while you have a chance to get your crops going and make the land your own. I will make your borders stretch from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Wilderness to the Euphrates River. I’m turning everyone living in that land over to you; go ahead and drive them out.
“Don’t make any deals with them or their gods. They are not to stay in the same country with you lest they get you to sin by worshiping their gods. Beware. That’s a huge danger.”
I asked my one and only high priest, my sole establisher and exclusive author, “what next?” He replied, “tell our story; it’s ours but it’s yours to share as you please.” “How shall I tell it lord?” Jesus said, “do like our Father and I did, from the beginning. Share your first public encampment of us, in your first going out in return to us.“
My, “Beta’s,” song of King Alpha along the bayous of shanty town, like sleeping with the livestock of a nation, in my Babylon that heads up the world in death worship. Yes, I know this song pulls the Yesterday’s Wine album out of order, but I am not Alpha. I am “a little” disordered like most, but we’ve all been given the power and authority to retell our stories of Jesus in us as we please, in all our divine failures and messy glories. He wants us all to tell, to testify of his victory in us!
Ah, you should’ve seen this imperfect son of an imperfect man coming for Jesus.
Mammaw Brooks had to wait 14 years from this first message (below) for me “to get saved by baptism.” But I think we’re all good now, and none of this would have been possible without all her heretofore unacknowledged work with me. Pappaw Brooks always emphasized telling the truth. So when God came to me as a child, one of the many times we talked (more on that latter), that’s what I asked Him to give me. Please know the simple faith of a child is a righteous spirit to my God. He smiled and said “done.” Don’t get me wrong I tell a lot of lies, but to this day no one has been able to say that I lied about my God. Many people just said “that’s not true,” well that’s according to their version of God; so we agree. But they don’t know my God, so I didn’t lie to them.
This is the Church where I preached my first sermon. I believe I was about 7. Ancient sources vary on the issue so I am guessing, using family lore, and piecing it together studiously. We used to go along South Wayside to get there, but the highways and streets have changed.
I wanted to go in and say hello to the pastor, but I was very, very sad to see it abandoned. It is happening more and more, not because the world is wicked. It’s happening because many American churches serve the powers that be instead of the power Who Is. That’s idolatry that the Bible doesn’t address directly much because people didn’t have a choice of leadership back in the day. But it is many churches’ biggest business of late (about 1700 years). So, He’s letting them wither before he cuts them off. Others serve self-interest and do well, but that’s not the gospel of my Jesus. So one day very soon, He’ll just pull them out by the root. Ouch!
The first Sermon, according the memory of my excitement then and to multiple family members retold through the years:
“My God has given me a heart to love him,
He gave me eyes to see him,
He gave me ears to hear him,
And a mouth to talk about him!
[Foot stomp, hand clap Bible]
I ask you, who is Jesus to you?!
Your God… good;
Your Savior… great;
Your Lord… okay.
[Double foot stomp, hand clap Bible]
Well brothers and sisters, this is my bible!
[Hold bible overhead while clip-on tie falls to the floor]
My bible says Jesus is the Word of God.
So my Jesus says, if you claim him
And you do not serve the little orphan,
And care for the widow woman,
Then you have forgotten your God,
And you can’t see yourself in the mirror!
That is what the Word of God, my Jesus, says!
So I can’t say you are right unless I believe Jesus first!
[one foot stomp and Bible clap]
Now, maybe it was the Church of Christ that made the mistake of teaching James to me in Sunday school immediately before asking me to get up there and share what I learned. Or maybe not, the point is they did and that’s what came out of me. But since then I came to know God was in it all along. Years later, I understood why the men just stared and a few ladies cheered and wept. My grandmother looked very uncomfortable and asked me to come sit down. And as I did, I heard an angry old cuss say, “he sounds like a damn Baptist!” And there it was… the snake in the garden. There’s always at least one, sometimes a lot. I learned to ignore it even though Jesus hasn’t.
Even later, I came to understand that churches are mostly representations of the people who go there and the God they like to reify by projection, in self-fetishes, even to the extreme abominations of human ordained theocracies! Even on this day! You know, Jesus loves what I love and hates what I hate. So, we’ll impose our rules over you and lord the truth over you like gentiles do.
How else can you explain slavery at the height of Christendom Triumphant? How else do you explain all that “priviledge, wealth, and power,” and they just wither in a dead forest and wreck God’s good work worse than any pagan clan ever did? They look like a big stinky horizon line of farts on the eschatological battlefield. Jesus and I are deeply grieved about that, and he will judge that issue later. I am here to help in the interim, only if invited, for however long it pleases my Lord. If our Father ever wants another theocracy, then Jesus Christ himself will come down and do it. No one will be able to say “hum, maybe, er, maybe not.” He’s the only one with the crowns, all of them. Any other one is anti-Christ in word and deed! They will only lead to more despair and terror.
You angry about what we just said? Well, tough, go away and start your own blog. This one is for me and Jesus, and our trustworthy folks. I mean it, go back out and see what you see. And come back when you are ready to carry your cross and follow Jesus. Come back when you’re ready to serve the Lord God Almighty and those that he called his people to serve (what James calls the one true religion), instead of yourself, which really means you’re serving Satan. Go on, get to stepp’n; nobody is going to stop you.
My God has never imposed his will on anyone to follow him, so I won’t either in order to keep ourselves set apart from all the selfish Christ-claimers. You can only carry a cross willingly and with purpose in sacrifice. We wear big-boy britches in this house, and women of God dress as your own good conscious allows; you all have done a much better job than the men so far. And I do not have the unction, time, nor inclination to change diapers. That’s someone else’s job. Come back if and when you’re able, please. In my Lord’s house we don’t shoot the wounded, everybody except Jesus is a sinner. The wounded and yet still willing are the ones elevated to serve in His trust-worthiness…
And hear me, we never, never ever, scapegoat the lost and sinful, broken or poor, or particularly, the oppressed. That’s what devils do! That’s the spirit in people that crucified my Lord of Glory! Deceived still, they say things like, ‘those filthy people over there are ruining my righteous marriage!’ Man oh man, if that’s actually true, then you were never in a righteous marriage and your faith is pusillanimous. Being right doesn’t make you righteous. Being rectified by Christ Jesus means you serve and sacrifice like Jesus. Even Forest Gump knows that ‘righteous is as righteous does.’ I haven’t ever met a person too dumb, too humble, or too honest to be reconciled to God, but I have met many too smart, too proud, or too deluded to accept the Shalom of God, which is life in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Sinners and the lost and alike are targets of the gospel, not easy marks to make you feel better about yourself. You can’t claim grace/salvation/glory on the inside of your house and, at the same time, sin/judgement/condemnation on all those outside. In truth, the inverse is much closer to the truth. Jesus called it ‘an issue with their cups.’ And our Father’s prayer makes very clear the consequences of that impurity. We all need to be daily refined by forgiving others and receiving forgiveness, or else my God and my Lord would not have said it. Most say it but very few actually do it. Be doers, not just sayers, of God’s prayer for us all.
So many churches and so many gods, and so many “Jesuses” I don’t recognize. Paul seems to stress the opposite approach. Many peoples, coming from many places to worship one God in one Faith by one Spirit baptism sent by Jesus Christ and our Father (and yes, you can say an actual believer’s water baptism too). Then, within a day and across an age, all those different folks become substantially and formally metamorphosed, by God, into one likeness, one image, into one body for his uniquely begotten Son. It’s kind’a like my God made my wife for me.
Pappaw Brooks said the first way is “horseshit.” I agree and so does Jesus, as I’ve always understood him. And they’re right, because I’ve known them both my whole life and neither ever did me any harm. But the splitters, deceivers, theocrats and self-imagers have attempted, without exception, to harm me and grieve the Spirit given to me. My other grandfather, who trained as a Methodist minister, he told me, “son that’s the problem, when you tell the whole truth of God’s Word in most churches you bust their hustle. ”
Now I understand it as idolatry in preferring to hear and see what pleases yourself. It is not evil to say if it is true, call a spade a spade inside the hosue in order to care for and serve the all those in trouble outside the house. In fact, it is an act of Grace to point it out now that we’re in the finals… and there’s too many diapers and not enough britches. It would be wrong to stay in our anger or stay in the hypocrisy because it would hurt ourselves and, more importantly, the others.
A reodering to/by/for God’s Logos is in order and it starts as an inside job that will become a more perfect outside job. This is all facts, let conviction and edification land where it does according to the spirits. Look out at your world now, the churches in power through their poor associations with the powers that be and selfish choices are at fault; no one else had the power or authority to create our present perilous state.
More on all that later, I hope, but this post was just looking back at what Jesus said in my first sermon then, and what it messages today. Now some more psalms that have better theology and doctrine than too many churches we’ve encountered.
Mammaw Brooks taught me to read from the bible as soon as I started to learn my abc’s. I had trouble and I had to write and rewrite words to remember how to spell them. It was hard but we spent untold hours talking about the stories and which words were the most important. Years later I was told that I probably had dyslexia or some structural brain disorder, but that was one term before I was going to graduate undergrad with honors. So the clinician said there wasn’t anything she could do for me; then she asked me how I overcame it. She was a nice lady, so I told her about my folks and Jesus working with me.
Bonus track for my baptism: I never felt apart from God but I did receive some insight and direct instructions from my Lord at my baptism by Neil Kemper in the Trinity River (1989). Jesus came to me and said, “never accept authority in any earthly government or receive orders from any human priesthood.” I was like, “er, well, alright.” Over the years my obedience disappointed a few people by declining one or the other. I am sorry for that. My sisters figured, “that’s our brother marching to the beat of his own drummer, again.” My parents and pappaw and Neil all thought, “that’s about right for you.” But poor mammaw, all she heard was, “[our grandson] will never be a Church of Christ preacher!”
Well mammaw, it seems God laid a better plan for us that he nested in his hugest decision tree of all. Wonderous things we only understand, dimly and in part, now, 31 years later. A long curacy by any one’s standards, especially after a 22 year catechism. So let’s sing apart but together (kinda like churches are nowadays) about what we both wanted most for each other then, now, and forever! If I can be Willie, then you can certainly be Patsy– although in real life we’d sound more like Punch and Judy. Let’s sing it anyway mammaw because, we know now and we’re are so joyous. You might even dance! Or not, maybe not…
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, “I am the Almighty God. Walk before Me, and be thou perfect. And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”
He Is Your Life
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.
Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master.
Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don’t take advantage of them.
Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master to no end.
Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.
The next post (sundown October 9th) will be an excruciating parable discussing explicit, mature issues of horrible abuse. I did not want to write it, but Jesus ordered it because his Spirit will do glorious things with it, slowly coming to light. We want a few mature, circumspect, and sober women and men to review it and redact it as they deem proper in good conscious before anyone else sees it. Do not let anyone be harmed by it! A great light will arise from this pit, and then we will close one night later on a very positive upswing. Promise! But the power of the upstroke is proportionate to the preceding down stroke. It is a profound downgrade, but it is time to start building vertical circles of trust for the upstroke from our pit. This is a very serious and painful issue for too many but we trust you.