Atlas Judged 2021

“Anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven,” Matthew 12:31-32

And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.  “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Matthew 12:27-32


The problem we face in living free and authoritative lives in Christ is that Christians have stopped ministering the Holy Spirit to people; and those who do, do it for money. 

The blasphemy of teaching that there is no baptism of the Holy Spirit is only matched by saying a few people have a monopoly on it. 

We are both saved and sanctified by faith. 

My salvation is only now because it will be. The Holy Spirit is an advance on a future reward. He is “the guarantee” of what we’ve been promised in Christ. 

We have been freed. However, that doesn’t mean that the enemy doesn’t push back on that freedom to see if it’s real. This is what James calls: faith being proven and perfected by trials.

If you have been under a generational curse and now you’re not anymore by faith, you will still come toe to toe with that curse from time to time. You must face it down in Jesus’ name, because you’re under the banner of the Name and the Blood that breaks every curse and has given you new spiritual DNA. But you see, being free does not mean that the strength of that freedom won’t be tested. The strength of your freedom is faith. Your faith will be tested for perfection every time the old man, the curse, or the past tries to knock on your door and see if you’ll let them in.

Our lives are characterized by facing the world and overcoming. In Revelation, Jesus calls His own “those who overcome.” We overcome false teaching, offense, persecution, loss, poverty, rejection, abuse, demonic opposition, temptation, apathy, injustice; we overcome unto a victor’s crown. We share in everything Christ accomplished on the cross. 

It is all ours now as the Holy Spirit ministers it to us. 

However, there are at least two ways today that people are deprived of the Holy Spirit by teachers of the law. Teachers of the law propagate:

1) Teachings that the Holy Spirit doesn’t actively operate in and through us. People are misled into believing that they should not ask continually for the Holy Spirit, even though Jesus explicitly instructs us to (Luke 11:13).

2) Teachings that you can only be ministered to by the Holy Spirit through a select few, special individuals; who should be compensated royally for it. 

There is a real problem I see— and it isn’t reckless abandon in pursuing the manifestation of sign and wonder giftings! It is that charismatic false teachings separate out a priestly class who have ultimate authority over others. In some cases that authority and class is even considered heritable. They commodify people’s sins, shame, and oppression rather than leading them to freedom and a one time endowment of Living Water. And that endowment is through, not water immersion, but by laying on of hands. There has been a propensity to lead people into situations where they are afraid to operate without a leader’s covering.

This constricts the freedom of individuals to follow God’s authority– or husbands’ leadership– directly in their lives. There is an explicit chain of command: God, man, wife. Notice denomination isn’t in there. Neither is pastor, prophet, apostle, author, thought leader, or YouTube sensation. We are told that Christ is the head of the church, and man the head of his wife. We are also told that there is no mediator between God and man except the man, Jesus Christ.

We honor our elders and deacons as decision makers and guardians of our communities. Church laypeople must not disrupt the functioning of the church by trying to usurp the organizational authority vested in church leaders. The Book of Acts is explicit in explaining that elders were appointed to oversee the organizational duties of the church– in the text’s scenario, the position of elder was created to ensure impartiality in food distribution to Jewish and Gentile widows.

Church leaders do not replace the Holy Spirit in our lives, nor the responsibility of men to lead their households spiritually. We are warned in the letters written by Paul that false teachers seduce vulnerable widows away from the true gospel. For this reason, Paul instructed Timothy to gather older widows under the covering of the church, and to encourage young widows to remarry. Paul’s recommendation to Timothy insinuates that false teachers always seek to avoid, interrupt or dismantle godly order, and the remedy to their schemes is maintaining a chain of command that protects people from imposters. Specifically, Paul was trying to protect women who do not have the benefit of a husband.

False teachers propagate an alternative covenant to the New Covenant. It is Oholah, as Ezekiel pejoratively names the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It’s a name that means “a tent.” This is in contrast to Oholibah meaning “my tent is in her.” In other words, when we convince people that the only way to operate in the Spirit is under the confines of specific people’s ministries, we end up worshipping God in a temple but not the Temple. And the alternate temple is for some reason very expensive to maintain…

We are in a Covenant body of complete equity and merit, submission and honor, orderliness and freedom— and it’s free; costly to Jesus but free to me; and it comes with the riches of His glory. 

The reputation of the operative gifts of the Holy Spirit is very important right now. We are calling and crying for revival, so we need to repair the nets. “The nets” are those things that have empowered the evangelist to spread the gospel and rebuke unbelief in revivals of the past. People have come to attribute these nets to Beelzebub: speaking in tongues, word of faith, sowing finances, submission, covenant, and Sabbath.

We blaspheme the Holy Spirit when we denigrate these operations, which non-charismatic false teachers do with enthusiasm. We blaspheme the Holy Spirit when we abuse and misuse these operations of the Spirit, just the same as when we dismiss them.

  1. Do not speak against things you don’t understand (Jude 1:10)
  2. Do not exploit the principles of heaven for filthy gain (Numbers 22-24; Titus 1:11; Revelation 2:12-17)

Purify your desires in this season, because where your heart is will determine your harvest. When there is a harvest, everyone harvests– the godly a godly reward, and the wicked the reward of the wicked, the blasphemous the reward of blasphemy.

UPDATED: February 27, 2021

The Beatitudes People: Family Mental Health Podcast

“She went into seclusion,” Luke 1:24

THE BEATITUDES PEOPLE: FAMILY MENTAL HEALTH PODCAST

[The Beatitudes People: Family Mental Health Podcast is offline while being merged into The Proverbs 31 Family Outreach.]

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Happy New Year, everyone! The Beatitudes People podcast is a year old now. We’ve had an identity struggle through 2020. 2020 ended up being a time in the secret place rather than a launch into the public sphere for this podcast. That was unexpected. But as with many things this year, if we take a moment we might see the fruit of transformation, and that what seemed like the ultimate stalemate was actually a time of being pulled back to spring forward. Today I am going to share some thoughts from 2018 that have more relevance today than I could have imagined when I wrote them. Here we go: 

The highlights of the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth are undoubtedly their visitors: the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary. With such spiritual mega-stars just dropping by, I hope Elizabeth kept her guest towels fluffy. The fact that the Virgin Mary came to visit her kind of validates Elizabeth spirituality, right? Isn’t that how we measure people? If not by what they do, then by who they associate with? 

I don’t want to focus on Mr. and Mrs. Zechariah’s A-list guests. I want to look at the lowly and boring aspects of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s moment in history– that is five months of seclusion and nine months of silence. Seclusion and silence. The period of their story that you’d label with, “Loser.” 

At the time I originally wrote  this, I was a SAHM. (Have you heard that one? An acronym for “stay at home mom.”) I was a SAHM to a two year old child, so seclusion and silence were painfully familiar to me. Well– my house of course wasn’t then, and is not now, silent. But I was silent. In 2018, I wrote:

I hear the deafening vacuum of my voice in the world getting sucked preemptively out of my lungs. Being at home without any agency to be in public, participate, contribute, and be measurably productive has been demoralizing for me.

The cabin fever I experience is due in part to a serious illness I suffered at age 23. It took about 7 years for me to recover. This brain illness– that I was diagnosed with just one year out of college– is scientifically studied as being triggered by ‘life goal achievement.’ In other words, the closer I get to reaching what I’ve been working toward the more likely I am to relapse. This illness clipped my wings. It cooped me up and walled me in. Seclusion and silence have been persistent and painful themes in my adult life particularly in the areas of career and calling.

I have difficulty valuing my role as a mother and wife sometimes… or a lot of the time. There is a gap in my adult experience- working before the domesticated life- that gap aches. The heady, haughty accomplishments of a young woman in her twenties are just an imagination for me. I never got to be one of the obnoxious, quasi-feminist marketing-freelance-event planning activists from a 90’s RomCom, I guess. I often feel that because of my illness, I didn’t get to choose, and that as a mom my choices continue to be limited. I lack agency in my life. At least by perception, I do.

So the blog excerpt I just quoted was written about three years ago. Now, in the midst of nine months of stay at home orders in California, the frustration expressed above seems silly! But, I’ll continue quoting it because the ideas get good from here! Ok, again from 2018:

The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is a story about how lacking agency, being secluded, and being silent can be the description of the prescription God has given you right now in preparation for what is upcoming in His kingdom and on His agenda. Luke 1-3 is the preparation period for Christ’s ministry. Those three chapters have a theme of preparation, and within that theme the conditions for preparation are: lacking agency, being secluded, and being silent.

The first character we meet in the book of Luke is Zechariah. If there is anyone who should be prepared for a special assignment, it is Zechariah. He is a priest! We meet him in the Temple burning an incense offering on the altar. A righteous man, in ministry, ceremonially cleansed for special worship when the angel Gabriel tells him personally the assignment that God has for Zechariah’s life. And he blows it. He speaks doubt. So he is put on mute until God’s work is done.

You’ll notice the other characters in this story do a lot of praising and prophesying. During this prep time for both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ negative speech was silenced and only praise and prophecy were allowed. Sometimes we need to be silenced for our own sake because if given a voice we would discredit and disqualify ourselves from the magnitude of service God is hiring us for.

Zechariah also had agency. He was the one who was given a command to do something. Elizabeth had no agency. Mary had no agency. Yet, they were able to quietly and calmly ponder what was happening, and be faithful in obedience. Sometimes having agency can be a stumbling block— particularly when the day’s mission is preparation for action, not action itself.

In the days leading up to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, preparation was a calling unto itself. Jesus was about to be born! This was a delicate and simultaneously monumental moment. The web of political movement, spiritual warfare, and human rebellion was on a knife’s edge. There was no room for error. There was no room for disbelief. There was no room for Christians who feel the need to grandstand, or demand a well-lit platform for their spiritual giftings, or to be given a more interesting assignment in a more exotic locale. God did not need people of position for this job; or people who were eloquent, or opinionated, or understanding, wise, or insightfulful, nor did He need people who were talented, young or beautiful. He needed barren old Elizabeth because she was a believer. Sometimes it’s less about what we put out into the world and more about what we take in and “ponder in our heart” about God.

The call for that day was inaction. It was quiet receptiveness. It’s expression was praise, prayer, and prophecy. Elizabeth and Mary gathered together in seclusion to share their testimonies with each other. This built them up in faith and courage for what was to happen— their ministries would both end with the broken hearts of having martyred sons.

Now, I am definitely not proposing that the role of women in ministry is a silent, secluded submission. Zechariah was after all the one who had his speech taken away. Nor do I think a woman’s ministry is only “her home, husband, and children.” I am saying that if you feel that you do not have agency; if you feel isolated, shut down, blocked, frustrated; if you are a mom with young kids; if you are a person who is ill or taking care of someone ill; if that’s you, know that a lack of human agency has never stopped God. You don’t need to be able-bodied for God to call you up for duty. You don’t need to build up your resume before God will call your name. If God wants you qualified, He’ll qualify you.

Women as a rule lack agency more than men do. Even powerful and wealthy women often lack agency both within and outside their homes. But in her lack of agency, Elizabeth, a faithful woman led her unbelieving husband into belief. He got in his own way—kind of like I do to myself! What he had didn’t help him. What Elizabeth didn’t have did help her, and preserved her family’s usefulness to the Lord in that appointed moment.

Our belief encourages others to believe. While we believe, the testimony we build inspires those in relationship with us to turn their eyes to the Lord also. In those moments where we feel completely imprisoned by our situation, our sickness, our disability, or our social disadvantage, [or in 2020, COVID!], we have to remember that our humble morsel of belief is the thing of value.

Our belief alone can be our gentle contribution for the colossal good of our community. Or our belief can be for the good of our relationships, our partners, or our family. In Elizabeth’s case, it was for the good of the world throughout history!

I don’t need to be able; I need to be willing (Luke 1:38.) Today, that willingness is honoring what I don’t have, and knowing that being busy for God is not as important as being ready for God.

Have a blessed New Year. Know that God is the master of seasons…nine months in lockdown has already been to long, but we wait as long as it takes for God to complete the formation of new life. Keep looking forward!

BLESSINGS, NATALIE
The Beatitudes People Podcast

“His mother taught him,” Proverbs 31:1

THE BEATITUDES PEOPLE: FAMILY MENTAL HEALTH PODCAST

[The Beatitudes People: Family Mental Health Podcast is offline while being merged into The Proverbs 31 Family Outreach.]

New Series! The Proverbs 31 Family

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the Beatitudes People: Family Mental Health Podcast! I am podcast creator, Natalie Haney. In the coming months, we are going to be exploring how negative relationships damage our faith, and conversely, how positive relationships propel us forward in our pursuit of God, and His calling on our lives, and our feelings of abiding wellbeing and promise. Let’s dive into our first meditation!

“His mother taught him,” Prov 31:1

Proverbs 31 has to be the most detested passage of scripture for Christian women. It might be worse even than the passage that says women should be silent in church. 

Over and over, with the best intention, Proverbs 31 has been taught as a list of accomplishments for the most devoted women to achieve. The popular studies of Proverbs 31— for women—completely diminish the idea that individual women would have individual personalities and aptitudes. The studies tend to make blanket statements that assume a uniform family context in which a Proverbs 31 woman would operate— and we know that not every family and marriage is alike! 

The #lifegoals laid out in Proverbs 31 are so lofty that some teachers have said the Proverbs 31 woman is actually a personification of wisdom just to alleviate the pressure. I’m just gonna say now that that is possible—- except that there are other personifications of wisdom in Proverbs. And in all those other personifications of wisdom in Proverbs, the woman being described is named “Wisdom.” So there’s that. Let’s not invalidate the Proverbs 31 women out of jealousy over her unique abilities. I fully believe she was real, or at least was expected to be found. 

King Lemuel’s mother obviously expected him to dig up this rare gem. Maybe we can postulate that rather than being a “personification” of wisdom, the Proverbs 31 woman is a mother-in-laws wish list. Maybe Proverbs 31 is King Lemuel’s mother having a severe case of “nobody’s good enough for my baby boy.” 

In all seriousness, let’s expand our scope for understanding the Proverbs 31 woman. The context of Proverbs 31 is one continuous piece of advice from a mother to her son, the young leader, a newly minted king. 

Proverbs verse ONE through 31 is a continuous piece of advice to a son who bears a great responsibility of leadership. An appropriate companion passage to all of Proverbs 31, verses one through 31,  would be Titus 1:5-9: let’s read it: 

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

Compare that to Proverbs 31:ONE through NINE. Quote: 

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.

Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
    Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!

Do not spend your strength on women,
    your vigor on those who ruin kings.

It is not for kings, Lemuel—
    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    not for rulers to crave beer,

lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
    and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

Let beer be for those who are perishing,
    wine for those who are in anguish!

Let them drink and forget their poverty
    and remember their misery no more.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Now how about Timothy 3:1-13: hear this: 

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

We see here that throughout the council of scripture, character advice for women is a supporting point within the qualifications of her man pursuing leadership. 

The Proverbs 31 woman is really the Proverbs 31:10-31 woman. Within Proverbs 31 there is a whole family described if you pay attention to a complete reading of the chapter, not just “a wife of noble character.” 

The Proverbs 31 woman is actually the Proverbs 31 queen married to the Proverbs 31 King Lemuel.  He is the Proverbs 31 son, which means The Proverbs 31 woman has a Proverbs 31 mother-in-law, as well as Proverbs 31 children. This passage is about not just one stellar woman, but a stellar family that is powered by interdependent, godly relationships. 

The first 9 verses of Proverbs 31 are dedicated to a faithful son heeding the advice of his very wise mother— the Queen Mother. She does not start with advice about choosing a wife— Proverbs 31 is mostly about a man. Straight away in the passage, his mother warns him about avoiding sexual immorality, drunkenness, distraction, lawlessness, being derelict of his duties as king, submitting to a spirit of death and depression, and falling into poverty and misery. He is instructed instead to pursue righteousness, defined as: truth, courage, honor, leadership, discernment, integrity, compassion, charity, and humility.

He is instructed to marry himself to a woman who also loves truth, courage, honor, leads, discerns, has integrity, compassion, charity and humility.

Listen now to Proverbs 31:10-31:

“A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.

11 

Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.

12 

She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.

13 

She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.

14 

She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.

15 

She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.

16 

She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17 

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 

She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.

19 

In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

20 

She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.

21 

When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

22 

She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

23 

Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 

She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.

26 

She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 

She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 

Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:

29 

“Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”

30 

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 

Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

So let me just sum up what we are hearing in the last half of the passage, verses 10-31: the Proverbs 31 wife, that the Proverbs 31 Queen Mother instructed her son to find and cherish, possesses all of the qualities he is supposed to pursue and cling to. She is his VP. Her noble character is the antidote to every failing he is instructed to avoid. She is an accountability partner!

Additionally, five of the verses describing the Proverbs 31 woman are about the king and the reputation he has because of her. He is able to act powerfully and purposefully as a righteous man in public and his partner adds to his credibility. Proverbs 31 is not a idyllic standard for women; it is a standard for productive, mutual relationships. 

This passage describes a life of righteousness as being a group effort. We do not fulfill our purpose, or pursue our calling without the influence of our intimate relationships– we do not live lives of faith alone. We are placed in families, communities, and churches where our faith walk is interdependent on the relationships we are in. The Proverbs 31 Queen Mother knew this and so instructed her son to choose his wife wisely. She taught him and he listened, much like his own children would rise up and call his own wife blessed, virtuous, capable, and surpassing all other women (Prov 31:28-29.) 

This episode is the intro to a series about men and women, their relationships, and the effect that individuals in relationship have on: each others’ faith, their obedience to God, and their receipt of God’s promises. This is not a series about marriage. It really is more a series about gender wars— and that gender wars destroy God’s purposes for people; and this series will show how relationships at peace fulfill their destinies. Relationships have destinies, not just individuals. Families have callings, not just husbands or wives. God calls groups, nations, and tribes together into holiness and designated assignments. 

Men and women affect each other’s faith and need each other to live out an effective faith. Setting aside the discussions of: giftings and roles, the strong and the weak members, the leader and the follower— these discussions  that are pervasive within the church— this series focusses on the impact of healthy vs. unhealthy relationships on the church. Let’s get healthy together and see how our corporate callings to our churches, our communities, and the nations originate at the most nuclear level: family and friendship. 

Over the course of this series, we will look at: 

Elizabeth and Zechariah

Sarai, Abram, and Hagar

Isaac and Rebekah

Esther and Mordecai

Deborah, Barak, and Jael

Moses, Midwives, Mothers, and Miriam

Samson’s parents

Mary and Joseph

Job and his wife

Adam and Eve

Jezebel and Ahab

Stay tuned!

Atlas Judged 2021

“Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod,” Mark 8:15.

Some people fast and pray. I clean and pray.

For the past three years, I have noticed that during times of preparation for a new spiritual season, some series of events unfold that uncovers a hidden source of yeast in our home. Yes, by yeast, I also mean mold as they are one and the same, ya know.

In one instance it was the yeast in my daughter’s diet that was affecting her sleep; enter probiotics, enter sleep! In another, it was just a generally motivated cleaning frenzy preparing for COVID; where we did a Passover-style hunt for yeasts and molds and all other germs! Most recently it was uncovering a little overlooked seam in our bathtub that needed to be bleached. It was one of those, “Definitely would have been cleaning this if I knew this little gap was here, and I’m so grossed out that now everything gets bleach” kind of things! The timing of these gross finds always lines up with God showing me how I need to clean up things in my heart to be ready for what’s coming next.

It’s kind of embarrassing to talk about yeast spores and mold in your house, but I heard something great from Tomi Arayomi this week: “Embarrass your sin before it embarrasses you.”

The Bible talks a lot about clearing the leaven (yeast) from our lives. Leaven most generally symbolizes sin. More specifically pride. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus gives us an even more surgical description of what leaven is and how it rots our faith.

You have heard, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees,” Luke 12:1.

You have heard, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadduces” Matthew 16:6.

Have you heard, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod?” (Mark 8:15)

I first “heard” Mark 8:15 (I put “heard” in quotations to mean that I first processed what it was saying) a few days ago, in a prophetic word about the religious, anti-Christ spirits operating on the two sides of the political divide in the church today. I’d never noticed the nuanced phrase “and Herod” in Mark 8:15 before.

Since the 1970’s, the non-denominational American church has tried to shuck off the reputation of the Mainstream churches’ religiosity that has historically paraded itself in the form of stiffness and moralism. The non-denominational church embraced a way of being that has been more accessible to our culture. The non-denominational church has leaned into the ethos of Paul, rejecting mainstream traditionalism for an evangelistic style of church life that “is all things to all men,” while also rejecting most of the practices of the charismatic and Pentecostal movements that are deemed confusing to the unbelieving church visitor.

As a self-deprecating battle cry, we have preached, and taught, and finger-wagged concerning the leaven of the Pharisees by grouping all three of these verses into being a warning of just one thing: religiosity.

We’ve made it so that religiosity can mean whatever we want it to mean to suit the homiletic. A warning to the wise: whenever you make a word’s meaning over-reach its bounds, you can manipulate it to be a pejorative against anyone you don’t like or agree with. The same is true for defining a term too narrowly. Christians love denouncing and de-platforming other Christians as “religious” according to a standard of the accuser’s own devising.

We’ve pushed a culturally crafted definition of religiosity onto the conservative camp. However, religiosity has a biblical definition that applies to everyone in all camps– religious and irreligious alike, conservative and liberal alike. I don’t know about you, but when I think of Herod, his religiosity doesn’t really jump out at me. Yet, he had the same leaven as the Pharisees. How does Herod’s inclusion in a trifecta of verses on the leaven of the Pharisees inform us about what that leaven is?

In the synoptic gospels, Jesus turned a conversation about forgetting to pack bread into an operative doctrine to help his disciples discern when their faith was becoming polluted by the religious spirits of that day. What we’ll find is that “religiosity” is not a one-to-one synonym for religious practice or holiness. Ok, let’s turn it over to Matthew for a second:

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Matthew 16:12 specifies, “Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

So the leaven of the Pharisees is false teaching. In the context of the bread conversation, Jesus was rebuking the disciples for forgetting about the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Therefore, I’d color this warning against the Pharisees false teaching with three specific components: forgetting your testimony, forgetting Jesus’ God nature, and forgetting about the miraculous.

When you forget what you’ve seen, who Jesus is, and how Jesus operates, you become a prime target for the leaven of the Pharisees– false teaching from within the church that burdens rather than frees people.

At the root is unbelief. Why couldn’t Jesus do many miracles in Nazareth? Because of their unbelief. Those in Jesus’ hometown couldn’t accept his God nature because they were overly familiar with the mundane aspect of Jesus’ person.

The Sadducees inclusion in this phrase also emphasizes the false teaching of rejecting the resurrection. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The Book of Revelation says that anyone that adds or takes away from the prophecies recorded in Revelation will have no share in the tree of life and will be afflicted with all the judgments of the tribulation. In Revelation, two resurrections are described– the believers’ resurrection to assess what rewards will be given to the faithful servants based on the degree to which they sought to invest their lives into the Kingdom of Heaven, and the general resurrection for all to stand judgment for sin. Only those who stand behind Jesus, their sins washed by his blood and hidden under his grace, are deemed innocent.

Luke 12 gives a different dimension of the leaven of the Pharisees. Jesus does not include the Sadducees in this rebuke, but he adds a defining phrase. Luke 12:1: “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

We just established that the leaven of the Pharisees is a teaching style rooted in unbelief, and it is also hypocrisy.

In Luke 12:1-2, Jesus alludes to a day of reckoning saying: “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

I think this day of reckoning is two fold. One, it is the White Throne of Judgement I described above. None of us, not even Christians, gets off without giving a full account of how we spent our terrestrial lives. But, I think it is possible that Jesus was talking about how his death and resurrection was going to blow open the religious oppression that the Pharisees had laden the Jewish people with; and it was going to unmask them as people in complete opposition to God. In so doing, a spiritual highway would be cleared for the gospel to stream forth from Jerusalem.

Since we have allowed 13 yr. old’s to define the word hypocrisy based on how they feel about their parents, an important feature of the meaning of hypocrisy has been lost. The full official denotation of hypocrisy is that you don’t actually believe what you say you believe. It’s not just, “you’re such a hypocrite because you fail at your own standards” or “you set standards for me that you don’t or can’t keep.” It’s that “you’re a hypocrite, and I know you are, because your actions reveal that you do not believe what you profess to believe.”

The leaven of the Pharisees is unbelief and feigned belief.

Suddenly, Christian hypocrisy isn’t just about parents and pastors, it is about anyone whose actions reveal that they are touting an allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven that they do not have. The Pharisees touted a severe allegiance to Torah and God. Their actions weren’t just missing the mark. Their actions were the fruit of being imposters parading as faithful men in order to attain the easiest access road to power, prestige, and social visibility.

Now there is a definition of hypocrisy that applies to both sides of the political aisle, people young and old, people in church and outside of it. Most people today jockey their “beliefs” for the sake of social standing and moral authority. On the right it’s called “truth” and on the left its called “narrative.”

We presume to be in possession of righteousness that we do not have in order to lord it over other people.

You see, hypocrisy is not just about failing the standards you set up for other people. It’s about not even being serious regarding the standards you set for yourself. It is less about “imposing” and more about being an imposter.

The biggest imposter of Jesus’ day is the target of our final verse, Mark 8:15. “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.”

King Herod was not the King of the Jews. Obviously, because Jesus was. But also, because he wasn’t a Jew. He was an Edomite.

In 2 Chronicles 21:8 we find out that the Edomites, who were descendants of Esau and consequently Ishmael, rebelled against the Kingdom of Judah and set up their own state. This was allowed to happen as a judgment against the king of Judah, Jehoram who was wicked. It was also really sad because it is the first time you become really aware of the “balkanization” of the Kingdom of Israel. First, split in two by the Tribes of Israel, now falling to groups without the right of inheritance to the Promised Land.

King Herod was installed as king of Judea by Rome as a mockery of the Jews. And that was his entire spirit– mockery.

Christians have largely come to believe that as long as you are relaxed, can take a joke, and don’t get too involved with holiness that you aren’t a hypocrite. But the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod includes mockery.

Right before the warning against the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, we see what’s happening backstage after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. After Jesus feeds the masses with a miracle, the Pharisees approach Jesus and start pestering him for a sign. Jesus says, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? None will be given to it.”

Immediately afterward, in the boat, Jesus’ disciples realize they only brought one loaf of bread. Jesus asks, “Do you still not understand?”

He had just done a miracle multiplying bread and they are still hung up on the amount of bread they had with them. They missed the sign! And so did the Pharisees. They asked for a sign because they were ignoring all the signs given. They wanted to dictate what sign would be good enough for them and therefore ignored every sign God gave them.

That is what mockers do. They rail against authorities. Trying to set the bar themselves, they become a law unto themselves.

Jesus uses two opposite personality profiles to encompass the breadth of this kind of leaven. First, the Pharisees with their unbelief and pride. Then, Herod with his lasciviousness and illegitimacy. Both, a law unto themselves mocking the supernatural and spiritual authority of Jesus.

Jesus asks the disciples in Mark 8:17-19: Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

The questioning regarding hardness of heart and failing to understand what you see and hear should sound very familiar. In Matthew 13, Jesus explains that he speaks in parables about the Kingdom of Heaven so that those who are not inheritors of it won’t understand it. He said, “it is for you, but not them.” After each kingdom parable, Jesus says “let those who have ears to hear let them hear.”

When Jesus questions the disciples in Mark 8:17-19, he is asking them, “Are you like them? Are you not inheritors of the kingdom? Do you not have the spiritual faculties to sense the activity in the heavenlies?” In other words, “are you unfeeling?”

The leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod is a disregard for what God is working in the spirit. More than a lack of discernment, it is an unfeelingness. The leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod is a mold, a rot. It does what leprosy does– it is a rot that deadens your sense of touch.

Don’t store up treasure where things rust and get infested. Don’t cling to yesterday’s move of God, as even manna molds.

Have you become deadened in your ability to feel? Are you able to feel what is happening in the spirit while you mull over what you see in the flesh?

I heard a great quote from Jeremiah Johnson. I’m not sure if he originated it, but he said “Where are you getting your news from? Does the media tell you what’s happening in the world?” This insinuates that we know there is no such thing as an unbiased, unvested opinion, and nothing coming from the news networks is godly, so what is the source of true insight into our world? It’s your senses being sensitive to feel the spiritual consequence of what is happening.

The leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod is not two different kinds of leaven. It is one kind with two profiles. In the one, the leaven foments a passion that cries out, “Bring me the head of John the Baptist!” In the other, the leaven rises up and screams, “Crucify him!”

Both heads on the leaven coin are anti-Christ and anti-prophetic. Jesus was the Word of God. His entire being was prophecy. Jesus told the disciples that he said nothing unless he heard it from the Father. The leaven of the Pharisees and Herod says– “kill the prophetic.”

Let me tell you how the prophetic was killed in America. It was imitated, exaggerated, monetized, sensationalized, and then discredited. Imposters feigning belief for power and money silenced the prophetic in America.

This leaves us in a situation today, where God’s people are sitting in a boat full of miracles asking, “What about the bread?” We are worried about bread just like everyone else, when Jesus told us to go do all the miracles he did and more. But, we’re afraid to approach the prophetic and the power of God because when we look at it, all we see is leaven.

Discern what the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herod is, what hypocrisy is; so that you don’t pass on a portion of the Bread of Life because you think “all bread has leaven so all bread is bad.”

Our sense of touch is the prophetic. It is time for the American church TO FEEL again.

Atlas Judged 2021

Iran Can Buy Arms Starting Tomorrow. How the Persian Empire Has Once Again Become the Most Important Place on Earth.

Ok, first. I want to apologize to the 12 or so people who read “Vote for Pompeo in November.” It was a partisan rant. I read some news regarding Iran that made me really angry and shocked, and I took it out on my keyboard. This is the post I should have written. It is of course still from my bias, but it doesn’t have the same vitriol that the first post on this subject did. I have tried in this writing campaign I’ve been on to speak the truth as I know it with a loving motivation not an angry motivation. I wrote the previous post on this subject with an angry motivation. Please accept my apology and accept my second attempt. I hope it is informative even if it is not how you digest the same information set.

with love, Natalie

The Middle Eastern Cold War has everything to do with the election next month. Have you heard about it? It’s been ongoing between Iran and Saudi Arabia since 1952. And Iran is getting a foot up tomorrow— the arms embargo is lifting. The United Nations denied the United States request for an automatic renewal, a “SnapBack,” that the UN has every right to enact. In effect, Iran is now able to buy arms from other nations and other nations can sell arms to Iran. In response, Trump is petitioning Congress to put sanctions on the South American countries that Iran launders money and arms through, which they apparently then supply to Hezbollah.

Cold War is always about strategic alliance. Donald Trump has been touted as unqualified “to have his finger on the bottom”— meaning America’s first strike nuclear capacity. November’s presidential election is not about who in the White House has their finger on the button, it’s about who holds the pen. I mean the pen that signs the treaties that decide who wins the Middle Eastern Cold War. The hand that holds the pen that decides whether it’s Iran or Saudi Arabia that will rule the Middle East.

It’s not a leap of the imagination to say our lingering proxy war with Russia is currently played out through Iran’s proxy war with Saudi Arabia. Yet, in actuality, it is our trade war with China that Iran and Saudi Arabia have become proxies of.

“The bomb” is the least of our international affairs concerns as sneakier traps are being laid. As Iran destabilizes the Mideast, China has swooped in to colonize the pieces broken by the bad actor. Beginning in North Africa where Libya and Egypt were left in shambles by the Arab Spring, China is asserting itself into power vacuums that open new opportunities for its own trade dominance.

Seriously guys, let Pompeo finish what he has started in the Middle East. A power vacuum in our state department is the last thing anyone needs right now.

For your consideration:

  1. Look into how Iran’s destabilization efforts have led to war and famine in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
  2. Look into how China stepped into the power vacuums we (Obama & Co.) created in Libya and Egypt.

There are more people in the Trump administration than just Trump. And if you don’t want to vote for Trump, vote for Pompeo. Pompeo is a lion in his approach to Iran.

The folly of Iran appeasement in our previous administration cannot be overstated. It is seriously as though Obama/Biden/Clinton were actively steering our international affairs against the interests of the United States! And not just in terms of security, in terms of trade dominance. The American involvement in the Middle East is far from being about the Bushs’ egos or a supposed evangelical “obsession” with Israel. Today, American involvement in the Middle East is about China not crushing America via the trade doors that Iran opens for China through destabilizing its Arab neighbors.

Overthrowing America’s position as the hegemonic military and economic power in the world has been a chess game China has been setting up on many fronts for a long time. COVID is her moment. And she will take it. I recently read a headline that explained: China is reorganizing its own economy for a globalism that relegates the US to one side. One small side. This is why the Trump tariffs that put globalism on the verge of extinction were survivalism not nationalism.

The end of globalism was reality in January of this year, before COVID jumped the Pacific. You can google “end of globalism January 2020” and see what the headlines were. Why would anyone want the end of globalism? In order for globalism to be achieved, America cannot have the strength it has. Putting America into a less economically advantaged position is necessary for globalism to work in the long run. So as globalists, Obama/Biden/Clinton did have incentive to steer our foreign policies away from our interests.

People will say China’s move against America is because of Trump. These pieces have been in play far longer than Trump has been in politics. Which is for 4 years. He has only had any kind of political decision making power for four years versus more than 40 years for Biden and Clinton each. Who has really had the time and influence to shift China’s foreign relations and economic stratagems?

The US returning to less than a full court press in terms of brokering Israel’s strategic alliances, which allows us to undermine Iran’s standing in the Arab League, would not be foolish, it would be catastrophic. The strategic alliances that Pompeo has been brokering for Israel are all about checking Iran in an aggressive enough way that doesn’t just keep them from nuclear armament, it isolates them from other Arab nations. Nothing chills bedfellows like an Arab nation befriending Israel, and Pompeo has six lined up.

Iran is a meddler in other Arab nations affairs, if I’m to vastly understate it. They have been an instigator of unrest and a terrorist equipper in their neighboring countries. In fact, their actions in Iraq since we pulled back troops almost guarantee that we will have to go back in and start over. We have an obligation to Iraqis to continue working toward a stable government for their nation.

Iran’s tactics always involve raising up protest movements and instigating class/ethnic/religious contention. They have been the gasoline behind the civil wars in Syria and Yemen. As Iraq rebuilds from Saddam Hussein’s regime and from war generated by us, Iran has been confounding the efforts of the foundling democracy opportunistically as less and less American presence remains.

Also announced in the last two days: China is now supportive of Iran’s nuclear capacity. In fact, Russia and China have both said they would sell arms to Iran. Venezuela and Colombia have already voiced intentions to buy arms from Iran. I hope it is now clear that Pompeo’s mission to create normalized relations between Israel and her neighbors is not (just) Christian Zionism, it is practical! The only way to stop Iran is to isolate them. America’s best defense against being utterly toppled by China is via Iran through the series of Mideast peace deals that people think mean nothing.

Just because the peace deals don’t create a two-state solution in Israel, commentators feign ignorance as to why these deals matter for all nations and ethnic groups, not just Israel and Palestine.

Zoom out, please. Our Middle Eastern affairs concerning Israel are not always actually about Israel, or Palestinians. Yet, for America’s benefit, Pompeo’s simple obedience in relentlessly supporting Israel has led to brilliant foreign relations that are decidedly effective to protect America’s ability to remain an autonomous and self-determined nation.

Vote Trump to vote for Pompeo. After all, a president’s real realm of influence is foreign relations, on which front Trump is killing it even if it is just by appointing Pompeo.

In contrast, the Obama/Biden/Clinton foreign relations plan allowed Iran to train and install ISIS and empower Hezbollah, and generate an Arab Spring in six countries. The end result of the Arab Spring was autocratic overthrows that created even more extreme government— Islamist theocracy rather than democracy. In 2015, Obama also spearheaded the UN resolution that set the October 18, 2020 expiration date for the arms embargo, which was indefinite until then. A return to such folly wouldn’t just destroy the Middle East, America’s largest rivals would be the biggest winners. And don’t overlook that Turkey is the newest country being groomed by Iran. Look out Europe.

The following is an alarming set of headlines from various points of time and a variety of sources (none of which are Fox News):

“The Weapons Ban on Iran is Ending.” from the Economist. October 13, 2020.

“Bill Introduced to Congress Aims to Stop Hezbollah Money Laundering.” from the Jerusalem Post. October 16, 2020.

“Obama Should Never Have Appeased Iran.” from the Atlantic. January 12, 2020

“In Rebuke of US, China backs Iran nuclear deal, calls for Mideast security forum.” from the Times of Israel. October 11, 2020

“UN Arms Embargo on Iran.” from SIPRI databases. January 20, 2016, includes UN resolution document links and UN voting records on those resolutions.

“The Cold War Between Saudi Arabia and Iran That’s Tearing Apart the Middle East, explained.” from Vox. January 4, 2016.

A Country by Country Breakdown of Saudi and Iranian Influences in the Middle East.” from The Globe and Mail. April 14, 2011.

“Famine Emerges as UN Theme, Crystallized by Yemen Disaster.” from The New York Times. September 24, 2020.

“Why Iran is Getting the Blame for an Attack on Saudi Arabia Claimed by Yemen’s Houthis.” from the Washington Post. September 16, 2019.

“China in the Mediterranean: Implications of Expanding Sino-North African Relations.” from the Brookings Institute. July 2020.

For an American administration to maneuver alongside Islamic radicals and China the way that Obama’s did, there had to have been a common interest between such ideologically opposed world powers— the only thing they all three have in common is a desire for Christianity to decrease in global influence. Christianity is monochromatically cast as the intolerant colonizer though it is the most culturally adaptable religion in history, as Mario Murillo interestingly asserts. We did colonize, but we also acculturated in equal measure to the acculturation we required. Many of our customs and traditions and all our holidays are from other cultures.

Funnily, Christians were persecuted as atheists in Rome for not worshipping enough gods! We weren’t religious enough for the Romans. Our freedom in Christ to “be all things to all people” still confounds the stridently religious as much as it does the rest of the world. This is why Islamists call us the Great Satan– because we corrupt Muslims with our free-wheelin’ ways.

If you digest the news through the lens of the Apocalypse then the peace Pompeo and Kushner are brokering on behalf of Trump and Pence really could be a harbinger of the end of the world! But if they don’t finish the job they started, it is more than likely just the end of America— Christianity’s haven of world influence.

You might say, “Natalie, it is not for Christians to have vested interests in their own nation, we are a global church.”

Yes, however, Paul wrote to Timothy saying to “pray for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life, godly and dignified in every way.” 1 Timothy 2:2.

See this: In the Bible, every empire that God’s people were exiled into had just as much pluralism and freedom of religion as America does today. Egypt, Babylon, and Persia (Egypt, Iraq, Iran) — in each case we arrive on the scene of a story of God’s rescue at the precise moment when the empire’s leader has legislated a sudden shift from religious freedom for foreigners to forced worship of a state religion or religious suppression of Jews specifically. From Moses to Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednego then on to Mordecai— we meet God’s people in the moment religious freedom has been revoked. Test me on that in Exodus, Daniel and Esther.

It was always when freedom of religion was taken away in the empire that God judged the empire and delivered his people from them. We do need to be vested in threats to America’s freedom at home and abroad. Praying above all. America is protector-in-chief of all religious freedom globally, not just Christian privilege.

For the spiritual context that got me looking into studying this history, find my posts from September: “11 Arab Nations Are Ready for a Revolution” and “A Dispatch for Intercessors: An Angelic Messenger and the Inheritance of the Nations.”

If you read these dreams, it would be significant to note that there are 10 nations caught between the influence of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Which nation will overcome the other and lead 11 nations in a free and open marketplace of ideas and finance, giving an 11th Hour Release of the Gospel in the region?

I’ll say this— I think it’ll be Iran. If Iranians win their own freedom from radical Islamist oppression, they will lead the Arab nations caught up in the Middle Eastern Cold War to religious freedom. Pray for Iran.

Imagine how a mighty move of God in just one country could change the world. The gospel breaking forth in just one nation could change history. Pray for Iran.

The last time Persia was this important Esther was queen.

LAST UPDATED: October 19, 2020