Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3 NASB

In Christianity we hear the term born-again a lot. In fact most people (Christian’s and non) believe that the church soley exists to get people “born again.” Unfortunately, that’s not biblical, that is Greco-Roman theology laced with more modern reformational and stoic philosophy creeping into Christianity mainstream thinking unnoticed.

The process of being transformed from being of the world to being of God is called sanctification & is not simply a development. It is a description of an existing relationship with God, not a pathway to God. (The path simply describes the tough journey biblically, especially in the context of 1Peter) This is allegiant language for sure, but obedience doesn’t ensure you have the desired relationship. Allegiance is the first step and obedience is a result of already experiencing the relationship. Furthermore, the actual Greek word for “born again” only appears one time in Scripture (that’s called a hapax legomenon), in 1 Peter 1:3 where the verb, anagennáō, is an aorist, active participle, meaning something like “causing to be re-generated.” (I’m sure you’re wondering about John 3:3 but that’s another conversation!)

Crazy how much emphasis has been put on this one word in scripture.

The preeminent calling of Christianity to the church (deeper discipleship) has gotten greatly deluded. People hope to follow God. They want to follow God. But how is that possible when even the Christian community still follows Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin or even worse; worldly philosophers more than Jesus and Peter?

First Peter is a book about sanctification that connects a lot of dots of the complete lens of scripture and what that process looks like.

The term born again in our modern culture has taken on a little bit different of a meaning than it did when Jesus, John, or Peter might have used the same words.

Today we think of being “Born again” as the regeneration of the human spirit. Jesus said in the book of John that “You must be born again before you can see, or enter, the Kingdom of Heaven.” In some ways the verse implies this modern version of regeneration of the person, but that might be misleading according to the Greek. I’ll get to this.

The emphasis on first Peter 1:3 might be the only time in the Bible that we truly see the simple English phrase “born again” being used. We refer to a lot of passages or translate the Bible to say “born again” in a few different places but John and 1 Peter are literally the only references that translate to English as “born again” and even that is arguable. As we learned yesterday, a better aorist active participle translation implied a much more relational transaction which would be translated as “causing to be regenerated.” But that doesn’t quite have the ring that “born again” might! and just to be clear I really don’t have a problem with the term born again I just want to interpret its meaning more scripturally, not the way that we typically understand it in western culture eyes.

I Peter 1:23  also uses a similar word that we would translate “having been” with “born again” but in Greek it’s one word, and therefore it is a different word than what is used earlier in first Peter 1:3. The word born again itself in the context of first Peter 1:3 displays the idea that you have entered into an existing relationship and the result is obedience that grows deeper by being sanctified. So now in 1:23 we’re reading it as “having started that relational process”… You’re a little further on the road to sanctification… now you’re a few steps further along the way. This is “sacred complete lens of Scripture” language. The author is crafting together the entire lens of the Bible from the very beginning (foreknowledge) laced in Jesus as the enduring word and your relationship to Him signifying the ancient communal covenant that we (all) are united in Jesus.

There’s actually an idea that this is bigger than one singular notion (or person); that together we are all grafted into the same person of Christ. As I have mentioned before, in the Hebraic way of thinking, it would’ve been very selfish to just consider your own person, it was a bigger picture considering the journey of all of Gods people -including Gods original chosen people of Israel but even going back before that to the Abrahamic covenant (reclaiming what was lost) and opening the door for all people. This isn’t Covenant Theology, or replacement theology it’s simply the entire church of God for all of time. The grafting of everybody who claims the one true God into the big picture of His kingdom!

My main point is nothing about first Peter describes this term “ born again” as a simple line of salvific one time transformation, in fact quite the opposite; the language of first Peter describes the term with a much larger spectrum defined by holiness. The complete journey of sanctification for God’s reclaiming of all of His people throughout the complete spectrum of both the old and new covenant. To write this off as a simple “one and done, step over the line in your in” way of thinking doesn’t work in these texts or for that matter, any others.

A lot of modern translations are going to use the word “born again” more than a couple times in the Bible. But we really only see the original Greek making reference to this phrase 3/4 times. We have first Peter 1:3 and 23 which I explained above and John 3:3 and 3:7. Even though they translated the same way, they are actually different words in Greek.

The premise of Yesterdays post was the thought that I am finishing today; that being “born again” is often understood as merely the decision to become a Christian. This is sometimes theologically described as regeneration. The moment that your mind decides to live allegedly and hopefully your actions and mind will continue to follow… in our modern culture we talked about this momentary type of thinking a lot but I would encourage you as you study the Scriptures there’s little if any kind of consideration for this thinking. Even when you look at the theological term regeneration, there’s a much broader implication in a one time commitment that you may or may not stick to.

From Gods’ eyes there’s a little bit of a perspective going back and moving forward that he understands the long range intention of the heart. This is what first Peter starts out with. When humans try to draw the line it actually describes a type of judgment… but God sees differently (but you even have to be careful here this isn’t fortuneteller language – we get into this on the third series of our videos).

I tend to think that John 3:1–21 doesn’t only talk about the entry point of a Christian’s conversion experience, but also a life of transformation in the Spirit. It seems clear that 3:3, 5–8 speak of the fact that a Christian is born from God and of the Spirit. The Christian life, then, is a life of transformation by the Spirit’s empowerment.

The two phrases are slightly different in Greek they mean “born again” and “born of God”. In John 3:3 the Greek expression γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν is used, which (literally) means “born from above,” “born anew” or more modernly translated as “born again.” In 1 Peter 3, 23, the Greek verb ἀναγεννάω is used, emphasises “to be” signifying “causing to be regenerated.” In 1 John 3:9, the Greek verb is γεννάω, which means “to bring forth birth” or “to be father of.” Do you see the difference between them?

This is ancient Hebraic grafting language. This is why I repeatedly say in our video series that even though Peter is teaching to a mixed audience of Hebrews and Gentiles he is speaking in Hebraic language signifying the ancient covenant in connection with Jesus from the beginning.

When the world was created those that were originally created by the hand of God were referred to his holy ones or sons (daughters) of God. In the New Testament when Jesus and Peter both explain the concept of entering into an allegiant relationship, they describe the process of the journey. But make no mistake, these words are very different than our concept of being born again today. In John, Jesus is talking about the work of the father. It was rightfully His, what was stolen by the world is now being reclaimed. (Way maker language) Where Peter is going to take the fact that you were being reclaimed and apply it to a relational journey called sanctification for all of the church.

I try not to get too scholarly in these posts but this is a good way of also understanding it…

On John 3:3 (and 3:5 in context), Keener (who is one of my favorite scholars) says the following (and much more worth exploring if you want to go find it).


Greek thinkers could speak of God or gods as ‘above,” in terms of a vertical dualism; but Jewish texts were no less attracted to the portrait of God as “above” and to a vertical dualism contrasting God’s heavenly realm with the earthly. “Above” or “the one above” in fact became standard Jewish circumlocutions for God, as elsewhere in this Gospel (19:11), so birth from above means birth from God. Birth “from above” conveys the same essential sense as “birth from Spirit” as opposed to fleshly birth: what is merely human is inadequate, and the chasm between divine and human power is infinite. (p. 1.538–1.539)

Granted, born ἄνωθεν can mean “born again” rather than or in addition to “born from above”; but John’s informed audience, familiar with his own usage, will find Nicodemus’s more limited interpretation wanting… In this passage Nicodemus becomes a foil whose misunderstanding allows Jesus to clarify his point for John’s audience (cf. 14:5, … Jesus’ words about a rebirth, a transformation of character (3:6) that is an essential prerequisite to understanding the things of the Spirit (3:8; 1 Cor 2:10–16), are clear enough on their own terms… (p. 1.539)


Let me put this in simple terms, basically, John 3:3 speaks of a new birth (reclaiming) from God that engenders a life of transformation by the Spirit (3:5–8; cf Ezekiel 36–37). For sure, being born from above is the beginning of a new life. But it is a life to be transformed by the Spirit continually. The journey that we are all United through in Christ.

Therefore, to think about the term born again as being a onetime momentary experience was not the biblical mindset of either Peter nor Jesus (Who are the only New Testament authors that seem to use any kind of term similar to that.) It could be described very loosely as the condition you’re entering into after the first cognitive decision. But honestly, I don’t even feel good about that. That doesn’t seem to be the way the biblical authors would have thought, that is more of the way that we think about it today… so you could consider it as the first step of the journey but a better hermeneutic would be to look at the whole journey together, as through the eyes of God.

The problem is born-again carries a lot of modern connotations that really aren’t that great. What I was alluding to yesterday trying to keep it short, is it the idea of being born again (the way that we think about it today) is actually a lot closer tied to worldly philosophy than it is to the Bible.

This morning Tyler Childers song “born again” came on (which I will add is very well written unfortunately according to transcendentalism) and the spirit nudged me, reminding me of the worlds version of what this term means. The song implies all kinds of transcendental ideas, reincarnation, mysticism and much more. Unfortunately, this is the world’s version that Christians have bought into when using the term “born again”. It’s the idea of the Platonic soul being elevated to the place of a God. It’s an escapist idea. This way of thinking also opens the door to a universalist pluralism that all roads lead to one thought.

This is exactly the problem at Babel and what is countercultural to the kingdom language that Jesus and Peter are using. I’ve mentioned this several times before, that this is a fine line- when we are re-born into Christ and enter into the process of sanctification we will eventually become “like gods” (this is the plan from the beginning starting in Genesis three). But this is very different than trying to become equal to or even over God which was the problem at Babel.

This is exactly the opposite of the picture that God wants for us through sanctification. But this is what the world and the evil principalities and powers (better term than simply saying Satan) have done so well. They take a biblical concept and come up with something that looks very similar to it, yet is countercultural or exactly opposite to what God is asking for. It’s the great deception from the beginning of time.

Essentially, when we treat “born again” to mean something like this; we’re actually using terminology that’s more rooted in the world or Satan‘s definition, than we are to the scriptural definition of it.  It’s a major problem that I find evangelical Christians slipping into time and time again.

As a couple people have alluded to in these posts, this is exactly what my book to be released this month talks about. That evangelical Christianity unfortunately has wandered far from what the scripture as described by the journey of sanctification biblically. In many ways, we have taken on the powers and principalities version of this term and many others (or anti-versions) then we have the scriptural directive of the term.

My continual point is that Americans (particularly) need to get back to studying what the scripture actually says in the context that it was written, and put aside all of the worldly chatter and entanglement philosophies.

I’ll use one last analogy. The rainbow was originally a sign of Gods beautiful covenant of covering love to humankind. Today Christians generally abhor that image. I’m not going to get into that conversation right now… but from the time of God‘s covenant to now, the image of the rainbow represents something different to a modern culture than it did when it was presented to God‘s people. (Or does it? Squirrel! That’s another series of posts!) Should “Christians” not use the rainbow as a sign of God‘s covenant anymore because it means something different today? Or would it be better to reclaim the rainbow (a sign of cosmic love) in the name of the Lord? I’m always of the mindset that if the term meant something in the biblical language then let’s keep it meaning that and living within the ancient covenant language. (God was a master at reclaiming language in the ancient Old Testament) I’m not ready to give up what is Gods, but I’m also not willing to use the terms in the way that the world has sometimes twisted or defiled them; whether we are talking about the word rainbow or being born again.

In essence thinking about being born again as a one time momentary line in the sand that you cross looks a lot more like the philosophies of the world than it did the relational kingdom that Jesus was proclaiming and Peter signified.

My challenge, is to return to a better scriptural perspective of God‘s word and covenant; living as aliens completely given to the kingdom of God not of this world.

Are you speaking Gods covenant language or the world’s twisted language?

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Genesis — God’s enduring grace setting forth the plan to reconcile the fallen world and reclaim those that desire to enter into a relationship of covenant love to those that live in Faith through Him.

Exodus — God’s covenant to rescue and deliver us from the bondage of the world delivering His people into promised life.

Leviticus —God establishes a sacrificial system to atone for sins that will paint a picture of holy living dedicated to God and will eventually set the stage for the messiah that all might be reclaimed and enter into a new exodus and new covenant in Christ.

Numbers — God’s mercy towards those that do not fully follow His ways; He continually continues to draw us back to Him.

Deuteronomy — God’s promises to guard and Keep his people in covenant love that is all encompassing.

Joshua — God displays his amazing provincial power to those that follow Him. The promise of sacred life and land is given to His people in a picture of reciprocal gift giving by a picture of grace and lasting inheritance.

Judges — A span of 300 years where God wrestles with His people that don’t honor their relationship with Him. We see God continually meeting His people where they are and forgiving them over and over in love.

Ruth — God demonstrates that his plan is to honor those even in the worst of situations. That He is faithful through and through and not only cares for the destitute, but also gives way to drawing those outside of His chosen people (those that seemed lost) into his covenant family and giving them the greatest honor imaginable, to be in the seed of the messiah.

1 Samuel —God meets Israel by granting them a king showing His dynamic love for them and hoping that his anointed leader might lead the people back to Him. Unfortunately. 1 Samuel is a story of leaders that are given everything by God and turn on Him. But the story ends with the hope of a new king who will turn the hearts of the Bible back towards God, a man whose, heart is after the Lords… David.

2 Samuel — God re-stablished his sacred land and Kingdom through a man whose heart is for Him. A promise is granted to Him that His son will rule forever. We see a picture of a relationship that thrives between God and His servant David; in spite of continual sin, God cares for David and honors Israel.

1 Kings — Despite Israel still wavering in their relationship to God, King Solomon is blessed by God with great wisdom, riches, and honor. But as most of Israel’s kings were wicked leading the people farther from God not closer to Him. God send a prophet Elijah, to point the people back to God revealing himself again in grace abounding in hope and love for his people that continue to turn on Him.

2 Kings — Elijah is translated to heaven, and Elisha takes his place as God’s prophet in Israel. There are some glimmers of hope in Godly kings but eventually the leadership of Israel completely turns on God and turns to idol worship and adultery against the Lord. The Lord allows judgement on them through captivity of the Assyrians and Babylon’s in hopes that through their anguish they might return to Him. He hasn’t given up on them despite many generations of turning away from God resulting in wickedness rather than holiness.

1 Chronicles — We see a deep picture of the life of David being imperfect and broken yet still having a heart and intimate relationship for God. We see that God honors faithful steps towards Him despite our shortcomings.

2 Chronicles — This book is about Holiness and connects worshipping God with sacred space and land through a temple. It reminds us that everything is the Lords and that we honor Him when we offer it back to Him.

Ezra — After 70 years of captivity God’s people are given another chance to return to their land and rebuild the temple, yet many don’t return and fall short of God’s expectations again. God sends more of His prophets to once again urge them to live as those set apart for holiness.

Nehemiah — God blesses the remnant, those that decide to rebuild the temple and return to God’s way. This leads to celebration, joy, and life.

Esther — Is a story of a Jew who didn’t return. Some would not have considered her holy because of that yet God smiles on her. It is a message that he is also still interested in those that might still be short of God’s expectations for them. He is going to seek them out and show them the way. It is also a story of God using someone to step out and claim Him in the midst of possible persecution and even death. There is hope that some still seek him and he not only meets them where they are but blesses them beyond their expectations.

Job — God is God, and His ways are higher than ours and sometimes we won’t see things through the eyes of God; but must still have faith and trust in Him. God overwhelms Job with His majesty, wisdom, and power.

Psalms — Reminders of praise to the Lord, cries of the needy, worshipful adoration, laments, thanksgiving, prophecy, and the full spectrum of human emotion. These are continual pictures of how God interacts with His people.

Proverbs — A collection of moral teachings and general observances about life dedicated to the Lord.

Ecclesiastes —Nothing in this world satisfies: riches, pleasure, knowledge, or work. Without God in the equation, all is vanity.

Song of Solomon — A look at the bride and groom as an undying strength of love. This is a metaphorical picture of how much God loves his people.

Isaiah — Is a book of Gods struggles with His people. God miraculously saves Jerusalem from an attack by the Assyrians. Isaiah predicts the fall of Judah at the hands of Babylon, but he also promises a restoration to their land. Isaiah sets the tone of a kingdom of redemption, peace and prosperity to come; it gives hope to the broken.

Jeremiah — Jeremiah is a story of God calling his people to repent over and over, but is ignored and even persecuted. Through Jeremiah, God promises that He will one day establish a new covenant with Israel.

Lamentations — God’s people have left Him and all seems lost. Yet God is just in His discipline, and He is merciful in not destroying the rebellious nation completely; God’s people will yet see God’s compassion.

Ezekiel — God allows judgment for idolatry but promises a miraculous restoration of God’s people to their land, the reconstruction of the temple, and God’s rule over all the nations of the earth. God desires hope and reconciliation.

Daniel — God’s remnant continues to shine in the dark and are blessed in many ways such as being given the eyes to see predicting the rise and fall of many nations and the coming rule of God’s chosen king, the Messiah.

Hosea — Hosea’s mission is to call Israel to repentance as an illustration of Israel’s spiritual adultery and the fact that a loving God is still pursuing them to redeem them and restore them to their proper place. God doesn’t give up.

Joel — Joel ministers in Judah during a time of drought. We learn how to experience God’s love even throughout the most difficult of times. Joel’s final promise is that the Lord will dwell with His people in Zion and bring great blessing to the restored land.

Amos — Amos contrasts destruction with restoration in view of the Lord.

Obadiah — God’s justice revealed. God’s people will be the ultimate victors.

Jonah — Is a rare OT story of God desiring other nations to follow Him.

Micah — Micah is a call to re-examine the word of the Lord. It is a story for hope and restoration in the midst of extreme hurt.

Nahum — Is a book of justice on a nation that that had once terrorized the rest of the world. Unlike God’s judgment against Israel, the judgment against Nineveh will have no respite, and the destruction will not be followed by restoration.

Habakkuk — God is sovereign and faithful no matter what we might see or feel. The just will live by faith.

Zephaniah —Jerusalem is called to repent, and the book ends with a promise from God to restore His people to favor and glory.

Haggai —Haggai preaches a series of four sermons to spur the people back to work so that the temple can be completed.

Zechariah —Zechariah encourages the people of Jerusalem to finish the reconstruction of the temple, a work that has languished for about 15 years. Judgment on Israel’s enemies is promised, along with God’s blessings on His chosen people. Several messianic prophecies are included, predicting the Messiah’s coming, His suffering, and His eventual conquering glory.

Malachi — Ministering to post-exilic Israel, Malachi calls God’s people to repentance. The prophet condemns the sins of divorce, bringing impure sacrifices, withholding tithes, and profaning God’s name. It seems that all might be completely lost, but God ends the book with hope of a coming savior.

New Testament:

Matthew — The ministry of Jesus Christ is the rightful king to rule from Israel’s throne. Jesus offers the kingdom to His people, but Israel rejects Him as their king and crucifies Him. Jesus rises again and sends His disciples into all the world to proclaim His teaching.

Mark —Jesus is the Righteous Servant of God. Jesus is victorious in His mission.

Luke —Jesus is the Son of Man who came to save the whole world. Jesus shows the love of God to all classes of people, regardless of race or gender. He is unjustly betrayed, arrested, and murdered, but He rises again and offers reconciliation to all.

John —Jesus speaks at length of His nature and work and the necessity of faith, and He proves that He is the Son of God through a series of public miracles.

Acts —The Holy Spirit empowers Jesus’ followers and the church of Christ begins.

Romans — The righteousness of God and how God can declare guilty sinners to be righteous based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Having been justified by faith, believers live in holiness before the world.

1 Corinthians — How to deal with various issues, including sin and division in the church, marriage, idolatry, spiritual gifts, the future resurrection, and the conduct of public worship.

2 Corinthians — Encouragement to the church and how to live in peace.

Galatians — Salvation and sanctification are all of grace. Christ’s salvation has set us free. We rely on the Spirit’s work, not our own.

Ephesians — Salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ, and not by our own works. The life Jesus gives, to Jew and Gentile alike, results in a new heart and a new walk in this world. The church is the Body of Christ, and marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. God has provided spiritual armor to wage spiritual battle.

Philippians —The gospel of Christ is advancing in the world, despite hardship, and Christians can rejoice in that. We are urged to humble ourselves as Christ did, be unified, and press toward the goal of pleasing the Lord in all things.

Colossians — In Christ, all believers are made alive and complete; the new life we have in Christ should impact our relationships with spouses, parents, children, masters, and servants.

1 Thessalonians — encouragement in steadfast faith. Believers are encouraged to live pure lives and to maintain the hope that Jesus will return.

2 Thessalonians —God will protect His children. Until the time that Christ returns, keep doing what is right.

1 Timothy —A pastor must be qualified spiritually, be on guard against false doctrine, pray, care for those in the church, train other leaders, and above all faithfully preach the truth.

2 Timothy — Encouragement to hold fast to the faith, focus on what is truly important, persevere in dangerous times, and preach the Word of God.

Titus — Encouragement to be spiritually qualified, avoid distractions, model the Christian life, and enjoin all believers to practice good works.

Philemon —Show the love of Christ and be reconciled to grace for the sake of Christ.

Hebrews — Move on to full spiritual maturity, by faith. Jesus Christ is everything we need.

James —True, saving faith will affect our prayer life, our words, our response to trials, and our treatment of others.

1 Peter — Our grace in God should exhibit holiness in suffering throughout the journey of sanctification.

2 Peter — Exhortation to follow the Word of God, and live in holiness as you await the second coming of Christ.

1 John — God is light, love, and truth. Those who truly belong to Christ will seek fellowship with His redeemed; walk in the light, not in darkness; confess sin; obey God’s Word; love God; experience a decreasing pattern of sin in their lives; demonstrate love for other Christians; and experience victory in their Christian walk.

2 John — The Christian life is a balance of truth and love.

3 John — Living in truth and love through hospitality.

Jude — The message of the gospel will not change.

Revelation — Jesus is the Lord of the church, the Lamb of God returns to earth setting up His kingdom of peace in a recreated new heaven and new earth.



As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 1 Peter 1:14-15 NASB

I have been “studying” and living out first Peter. When I’m into a study I’m all in. I’m googling Greek & Hebrew words all day, I’m having conversations with people throughout the week about what they think of of the verses, I’m reading books about it, I’m watching YouTube videos, and I’m listening to podcasts. I’m engaged in prayerful conversation with the spirit throughout the entire process. I’m fully engulfed in trying to understand every ramification of my text. Now, I don’t say this to boast, (which would be a strange thing to boast about) but some people have wondered how much time and effort I might put into these posts.

Last night at the basketball game I glanced over to see my youngest son Reid and his friends looking like they were praying about the basketball game from the sideline bench! It was super cute and a little bit endearing that they were asking God to influence their little basketball game as they laughed and giggled. As I begin to consider them, it came to me, isn’t this the kind of relationship that God is looking for? In their child like faith they didn’t consider it abnormal to ask God to intercede in their day today matters as they were giggling away.

As I reflect on this passage in first Peter I stop at the phrase ”obedient children” – I smile to myself and think when am I actually supposed to grow up? As I dig deeper you, guessed it, there’s more to this phrase than you might think. The Greek expression is tekna hupakoes. Tekna (children) is a special word in the New Testament. The connotation is a diligent pupil that carrie’s spiritual implications. John uses it as a tender address (“my little children”) and it’s often applied to the followers of Jesus in their early obedient walk.

The word for “obedience” is hupakoes which literally means “through hearing.” Now most people would never know this, but when I read it this way all the sudden the light goes off! You see, the phrase “children of obedience” is a Hebrew idiom. And you might find it surprising that I’ve been studying first Peter for almost 6 weeks and I just finally picked up on this as I’m translating Greek to Hebrew.

It means “children whose mother – is obedience”.

In Hebrew it’s the idea that you’ve been taught obedience from your mother at an early age, and you readily accepted without question. When we enter into new life with God, God takes over guiding us into obedience with him. We often think of God as our spiritual father, but there are many aspects of God that represent him as our spiritual mother as well.

When we are “reborn” We have an intimate connection of obedience with the father who “birthed us.” Therefore when we can continue to live in disobedience it suffers that intimate relationship.

I praise God that my boys were raised to obedience under an amazing Godly woman. I’m thankful every day that God blessed me with someone that would partner with me in instilling a heart for God in our children from a young age. But I also rejoice for the new life that they have in Christ and love to see these moments where they are now being guided not only by us, but even more so in their spirit walk.

When we choose to live in the light, we choose the path of obedient faith.

I pray I might never grow up in this sense, that I may walk in the obedient faith that I was destined and designed for!

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Last night we had a YWAM circuit rider party at our church. It was super fun to introduce our kids to YWAM, I think they are all ready to sign up after last night!

My next book is about discipleship and I have long said that biblical discipleship is nearly lost in America. Yet, YWAM and other immersive types of intense training (such as some of our programs at CTS) might still represent a biblical picture of what discipleship meant. More than anything I want to teach my kids what true discipleship looks like.

The theme of the night referenced Isaiah 6:8, the here am I send me passage. I was brought back to my current x44 studies in 1 Peter.

“you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house” 1 Peter 2:5 NASB

So I bet you’re wondering how this verse in first Peter connects to Isaiah 6:8?! You might have to speak Greek to make the connection.

Built up in Greek is oikodomeisthe and is where we get our English word “domestic” and it means literally to build but usually referenced a rock or foundation specifically. We are used to this interpretation with the parable of building a house on a firm (rock like) foundation.  but have you ever actually considered what that meant spiritually?

The way it’s written here is in the present passive tense, that means that something is actively being done to us. In other words it’s not us that’s building the house it’s the The Lord that’s doing the work in and through us; we are simply the tool.

It’s very easy just to say here am I send me. But Isaiah understood the implications when he said it, I wonder if we do? When you consider building something out of a rock it’s much more difficult than building something out of wood or man-made materials. I’m often enamored by pyramid construction & the amount of man hours and time that it took to construct them. We have to take on that same mindset when we consider what God is doing in us here on our journey. He’s willing to chip away the rock, to break here, to cut to polish… maybe even add some miraculous spiritual glue or mortar where we are lacking.

The problem comes in the fact that we are living stones. We have our own mindset when God is trying to mold us. Sometimes we don’t wanna fit in that mold, his mold is countercultural to what we think feels good in our world. The stone starts by saying “here I am” but the stone doesn’t shape itself… the master builder is the one that gives it form and function.

YWAM (DTS) is a biblical view of discipleship because they’re asking people to leave everything & be fully immersed, “all in”, to Jesus. To truly leave the world behind and become molded by Jesus.

Last night this message was echoed in their song “I’ll go anywhere… put me where you want me”

Where you you? Are you trying to tell the builder how to use you? Or are you ready be put anywhere for the kingdom? Your a block in the flock, not the engineer. Let God move! Maybe today it’s time to say to the Lord, “I am a rock. Chip away.” Take on the humility of the calling and be a servant… which leads to true discipleship… all in.



First Peter is a subtle and subversive letter. I wish I could communicate more in the style it is written.

One of the main themes of 1 Peter is asking Christ followers to submit to human authority. We like to think of our Christian leaders differently (or higher) than those of the world; but that is more a traditional thought (likely taken on from Catholicism) than a Biblical thought. The Bible doesn’t have a place for hierarchy among the church, yet speaks volumes on the equality of every believer within the royal priesthood calling. This is one of my pet peeves with the church, we expect the pastors to do the work rather than taking ownership ourselves as “the church.”

Some have even gone as far as to say the Bible doesn’t really create a picture of hired staff that we have made the church out to be today. That the biblical picture of the church was lay leadership. That thought would also pass on to the money given in a New Testament biblical picture going to support the needy and missions, not the elaborate buildings and salaries.

The Flavor of 1 Peter, who some would say was the singular leader of the church, is actually quite contrary to that thinking. Peter insists that we have freedom under Christ and grants the emperor the same honor that is due everyone else. True equality.

Peter demonstrates this by asking slaves to submit to their masters and wives to their husbands. These slaves are not asked to be doormats, but as Christ followers who subvert injustice the way Jesus did— by bearing up under it and showing humility and servitude. This is the backwards kingdom ultimate sign of biblical leadership within the church.

Likewise, he admonishes wives not submit to unbelieving husbands from a posture of inferiority, but from one of triumph that wins over their husbands by the superior power of godly conduct. Perhaps this was cultural, but perhaps it wasn’t!

The head. kephalē (Greek: κεφαλή) appears some 75 times in the Greek New Testament. It is a borrowed word, in Greek it is known as a military term and shares a similar meaning to the more popular word phalanx (Ancient Greek: φάλαγξ; plural phalanxes or phalanges, φάλαγγες, phalanges) which was a military formation, usually composed of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, or similar pole weapons. An important aspect was that it marched forward as one entity. The head referred to the first part of the formation, guarding or revering those behind in a place of honor.

The head took the brunt of the attack. If you think of a Vietnam style formation and somebody tells you to take the lead or be the head… it’s not necessarily a place of great honor… it’s the place of great servitude… and there’s a very good chance that you might be asked to give the ultimate sacrifice of your life itself. Yet how many times in history have we seen the person who supposed to be the greatest, the commander or the general take the lead and urge the troops on towards battle.

When you take this mindset & apply it to Christ as the head of the church and the husband is the head of the wife it takes on a different meaning than what you might consider it traditionally.

It’s a position of extreme servitude, not just to the ones you love the most, but to everyone. It’s the greatest measure of honor towards equality within the church.

Today I ask you to take on the mindset of Peter and that you might not esteem to be the greatest of the church by the world standards, but to be the greatest servant… to be a picture of Christ in humility.

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Laughter is a curious thing. It can show immense joy, bereavement, sorrow, hurt, cunningness or even deceit. I intentionally present this list to show that even though laughter might come through in more negative ways than positive; we always think of laughter positively first. Perhaps it is a window into the heart and the sacred heavens.

When you get to first Peter three you get to a list of people that might be considered the superstars of faith. In this list we see the name Sarah. The strange thing is that when I read about the life of Sarah in the book of Genesis I am torn. I don’t think most people would consider the description we get of her as a life of great faith. In fact, I see a lot of things that look opposite of faith such as vengeance, anger, betrayal, and abuse… how can those descriptions be reconciled with great faith?  She’s one of the last women in the Bible that I would consider as a role model or somebody of Godly obedience; is it simply a Hebrew Contronym?! What is going on in Genesis and 1 Peter? Has my theology of her in Genesis always been wrong?

We get very little in the Bible that we actually know directly from her and when we do get something, we’re not really sure how to read it; such as in Genesis 21 where I’ve always wondered, is this sarcasm? I hate to say it, but I’ve always pictured her as a bitter mess.

Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” Genesis 21:6 NASB

Maybe you have wondered the same thing and perhaps we can consider 1 Peter to shed some light on our Theology. There is an element in the New Testament when sometimes we see Jesus and other authors set the record straight. What I mean by that, is perhaps throughout (OT) time people interpreted the narrative incorrectly (as we often might continue to do) and through the New Testament lens, the authors are inspired to paint a slightly different picture. We might get the story clarified. So let’s consider that take…

In Sarah’s mind children are everything and, right or wrong; are the basis of her self worth. When her years of child bearing seem to be over she finds herself living in a wasteland… or does she?

In fact, consider for a moment, that Sarah’s situation might even require more faith than Abraham. We always consider Abraham to be an archetype of Faith in the scripture. But what if Sarah actually had greater faith? Perhaps because of the culture where men where typically “over” women for the last several thousand years, we were given Abraham, but would this passage suggest that to a later audience when the cultural paradigm “against women” would shift or change that we might actually consider Sarah to possibly even have greater faith than Abraham? Should she be our 21st century archetype of faith? Her faith came from the inside-out; Abraham’s came from the outside-in. Everything in the scripture would indicate that God is more concerned about the heart first; it is described as a greater attribute of holiness than the outside (although that is also important).

Perhaps Peter was right. As much as we get the idea that Sarah’s life was surrounded with hurt and bitterness (and who knows what else) we also might get the picture that she believed it was entirely possible within her humanity for something of incredible magnitude to still happen through God even when Abraham didn’t. (And remember in the hebraic mindset, the idea of living in constant toil meant that you might be even further blessed in the sacred realm).

This is where I want you to consider what real faith looks like. That even though the world left no consideration… they called it impossible by science and every other logical consideration…

Sarah laughed. The world says there’s no chance, but her laughter says otherwise. So maybe she was a scoffer, but maybe she was scoffing at the world! Do you believe that your body is a sacred temple for God‘s divine work?! Do you think that you’re limited by what the world has told you?

1 Peter is all about claiming your life in sanctification. I see Sarah definitively described in this book… and it is divine.

Laughter is a Contronym in Hebrew. It can mean mockery to some, but to others it can mean the deepest faith resulting in Joy. Perhaps in your free will you can claim more than you ever thought possible. Which one will your life represent? Which side of the Contronym will you live? Will you allow your laughter to show the mockery, deceit, and lies (scoffers) of the world, or will you choose to ignite the divine inside of you; that your laughter might be the very essence of the Lord in you.

God has blessed me and my boys with a [superwoman for the kingdom] wife and mother very similar to Sarah in that she is always working from the heart. We Love you and are grateful to have you co-lead our family Krista! Together we choose joy and believe to live for a sacred kingdom.

Don’t fall into believing that the world can mandate God or anything that has been given to you through Him. Choose joy! Choose Faith.

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Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Matt and I finished up a series on first Peter. Our films are over an hour each and there are at least six of them so far. First Peter is a fairly short message, but it’s simply not enough time for everything 1 Peter has to offer. Especially when you get to the word studies which is my favorite part; I hit on this briefly in the last film but I thought I would expound a little bit for the 4 or 44 people that read these long posts and decide to live the x44 Jesus remnant life.

I love the word devour. I think of a lion absolutely ripping through its prey. I have a picture in my living room of a mighty lion and we often think of it as a Christ type. But as CS Lewis so greatly described in Aslan, it’s not the worlds version of the lion… The love of Jesus is backwards; He’s a mighty lion but acts as a lamb. It’s interesting that the lion is used in scripture as a description of Jesus And Satan. It’s a classic Hebrew contranym. Which Lion will you serve?

Peter uses a strange Greek word for “devour” in this verse. It’s not the word I would’ve chosen so it makes me wonder why and causes me to dive in deeper.

Katapino is the strange Greek word that literally means, “to drink down.” In contrast the Greek word esthio that literally means to devour, why didn’t he use that word?!

Here’s where it really gets interesting, katapino means “to drink completely”. Now to most of you this isn’t gonna make any sense at all. Unless you’re really into dieting and working out then you actually might understand this kind of thinking. Some people say you don’t want to drink your calories in a day. Meaning that when you’re working out and dieting stick to things that you drink that don’t have calories so you’re only consuming food with calories.

But how does that relate to devouring as in completely drinking something? This is so good let me share it with you!

Here the devil (or a better translation might actually be the powers and principalities as Paul often used) is portrayed as a ruthless, cunning and destructive adversary.

So normally when you think of a lion eating its prey it actually doesn’t completely consume its prey it leaves a lot of bones it just eats the meat.

Yet what Peter‘s doing here is contrasting what we know of the world (a fierce lion, the most feared beast of the day) to a spiritual adversary who is far more dangerous than this beast… he’s implying that this adversary doesn’t leave anything left and he completely consumes it as if it turns to liquid and drinks the entire thing.

He’s warning to not be completely consumed by the evils of the world. When you become consumed, you’re done. In other words, what the devil, or the evils, or the principalities or dark rulers want is total destruction of your spiritual life. It’s actually an annihilation of your identity. That the light that we are supposed to be shining in the name of Christ might be completely unidentifiable.

But there’s still even more… I see it regularly but both Peter and Paul often think in Hebrew even when they’re writing in Greek. When he’s talking about drinking there’s a word play that there is “life in blood.” There is a lot here that I don’t have time (nor the strange energy) to get into in terms of Satanic rituals and mythology. The blood of Jesus brings life and here Peter is alluding that Satan and the evils of the world are seeking to steal or drink away the challenge that Jesus gives us to be true disciples and partake in his body and blood.

So even though Peter appears to be speaking to believers, (and why this passage is sometimes used to deny the theological idea of once saved always saved); he’s warning us about a very strong enemy… not just a singular enemy we often frame as Satan, but a legion of evil and has no problem reconciling that definition of evil as the world.  I hate it when we put Satan on a pedestal is gods equal enemy but that’s not what’s going on here… Peter is actually saying this evil is everywhere around us. (Careful here, this is not in an omnipresent definition such as God would take on, but more of thinking that we are immersed in a battle & the enemy is all around us.)

The trust of this entire section of scripture is don’t let the world steal your calling to be a true disciple of Christ. It’s a tough question of whether you’ve dropped everything at the door as the disciples did when they accepted the challenge to be true disciples. They were willing to leave every aspect of the world behind and live Jesus. That is the major calling or pursuit of the New Testament to become true disciples and to bring others to be true disciples. Today especially in America I think we’ve lost that pursuit. I think most of us would’ve been the disciples in John 6:6 that claim Christ yet would’ve said “this is too hard” Jesus and turned away.

My life mantra and desire is that everyone would become a true disciple. We live in rival kingdoms; one is the world and one is Jesus. Today you hear a lot of people talk about standing firm or fast… but then they gravitate towards the worlds definition of that… Jesus‘ definition is to be totally into Him. I pray that today you might consider where you are by these definitions and claim to life in the blood; and drink it well. Don’t let the evils of the world drink you instead. The world has no diet here!

Stand firm in the Jesus and speak life in light.

Micah 6:8 Is that all?

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 NASB

Some interpret this verse as the simple quintessential verse in the OT mated with Jesus’ words reiterated in the NT to love God and love others interpreting these verses as “that’s all that God requires of us.” At one point in life, I would have also interpreted these verses in that way, but I don’t anymore. I have come to view these verses not as the “complete calling”, put as more of a foundation of the heart and mind to begin the journey to the place of deeper intimacy that God wants to take us to.

As I study the context of both verses, we find similar “specific” audiences. We are in the midst of those that seem to have made or are considering making the first step of allegiant obedience to follow God/Jesus with their heart and mind. To turn from the world and seek a new life. These words in Micah are a basic but specific set of instructions to those in that stage of their journey; do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly and/or love God and love others. It is really the only information someone of the world or recent conversion needs understand to begin living a life in obedient faith.

However, there is more. As we walk in humility and God meets us in fervent faithful living for Him, the reciprocal relationship will become more intimate and what is asked for in the walk becomes deeper and more devoted. The deeper calling is to completely give your life to the calling, in the New Testament this is described as discipleship. It’s interesting as you study the calling of the 12 disciples by the world standards, they had already been called disciples; but then Jesus asks them to consider his definition of discipleship. Sometimes this is referred to by scholars as true discipleship. That discipleship goes beyond the simple foundations and asks for a spirit of giving God everything that you’ve been given to be “all in.”

The word used for “Humbly” in Micah is the Hebrew word Hatsnea, it is the only time in the Bible this Hebrew word is used. I teach on these words a lot. They are called hapax legomena and there are over 1,480 instances of them in the Bible.

There is one other place where we can find a derivative of the same Hebrew word “tsana” in Proverbs 11:2 and it’s in the form of a contranym or something that means the opposite. From here we get the idea that it’s walking without attracting attention to yourself.  Whenever you see the idea of walking a path in the Bible it’s describing a relationship with the Lord. To humbly live according to the scripture.

But Micah’s use of tsana’ reminds us that when we do what God asks, we are merely fulfilling what any good servant would do. We do not get special merit or honor for doing what is expected of a servant. Jesus’ comment reflects this perfectly. How will the servant reply to the Master when he is given recognition for fulfilling the command? “I only did what I was expected to do.”

When God is calling you to the next step of true discipleship, it’s a call to deeper devotion… to walk deeper… even as far as death.  that was how he called the 12 disciples, and it was literal!

What begins with Simple faith, leads to one step at a time of obedience and eventually gives way to giving everything back to God. It’s a Journey or maybe we should call it a backwards expedition for the kingdom.

The epitome of walking humbly is to do whatever God asks anonymously and with all you have been given in Christ.

It’s unfortunate that too many Christians and churches get stuck at basic Christianity. The quintessential calling of Christ was for deeper devotion in discipleship. To follow faithfully one step at a time. Sometimes I think the Christians have forgotten what deeper discipleship means.

Micah 6:8 doesn’t give us merit to stay where we’re at; God is calling us one step at a time to draw deeper to him and become true disciples given deeply to our calling.

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I hate combining anything that resembles God and politics… but I think it’s time. My book “this is the way” deals with the subject a little bit.

Seems like there’s a contrast from 1 Peter to Romans 13 specifically in terms of how we should honor the government and others in authority over us. This brings up all kinds of theological questions, yet we know the complete lens of the Bible agrees so how do we hermeneutically figure this out?

Did Peter and Paul (arguable author of Romans) disagree on theology? And what about John with Revelation or Timothy using the term entangled when describing the government and Christians? In the years between the mentioned works (letters) did the political climate regarding the church change that much?  What about the sermon on the mount, would Jesus have spoken differently closer to 7Oad?! Surprisingly these questions haven’t been approached in detail by any author I know of. (And let’s just say I have a pretty good handle on the world of theology books today.)

Thus, Matt (of x44) has decided to tackle this for his dissertation towards his Th.D. in theology and biblical studies @CTS.

This subject is really interesting right now with the recent timing of Russia’s 2022 attack on the Ukraine.

American nationalism might be seen as a problem within fervent Christianity. I’ve simply questioned many times …” what kingdom are you living for, or what flag are you flying”, and “who are you serving?”  America grants us the freedom to worship the Lord. I am grateful. But at the same time, it often acts like a rival kingdom to that of the kingdom of the Lord. The Bible uses a lot of words such as entanglement, it asks if we can serve two masters. It challenges us to choose this day whom we will serve. It also says over and over that our allegiance should only be placed (solely) in the Lord.

The Ukraine & Russian situation has brought a lot of this thinking back to the front line. I taught American social studies at the junior high, high school, and college level for many years of my life. I teach some of it now at the seminary level.

When America became a nation, it was a rebellion towards England. We usually don’t think of the word rebellion in light of Christian character or attitude. Yet, in many ways it can fit as a rebellion against the world taking the mindset of being set apart in Jesus. Isn’t that the backward kingdom that Jesus preached? Yet, most everything about American leadership seems contrary to what Jesus taught.

Some want to position America as if it’s “God‘s country” but it is actually a better picture of “Babylon” and Christians should better be viewed as the exiles.

It seems that Jesus describes loyalty to His kingdom and that any other kingdom or system of the world is counter (rival) to that.

In many ways America seems more like a religion than anything else. We emphatically study the creation of our country, we have sacred texts (Constitution), hallowed saints (presidents and war heroes), sacred ground (Monuments), holy days (Memorial Day, Independence Day), hymns (National anthem, star spangled banner), Symbols to pledge to (Flag), and celebrate soldiers dying on your behalf in a way that seems to describe idolatry.

It merely takes a trip to DC‘s capital rotunda or the Lincoln memorial to completely get this picture of an ungodly temple. Above the Lincoln memorial we can read: “IN THIS TEMPLE AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS ENSHRINED FOREVER.”

The hard question we are faced with is, can a Christian honor the Lord first in their life and still be a good “patriot” or allegiant to America.

God created everything and called it good but soon after it was lost. His sacred plan is that everything will be reclaimed for the kingdom and eventually, the earth and the people will be re-created to be completely holy and as one. It is no secret the Christians are part of the plan to bring everything to that end.  Does America have anything to do with that? Can we live in America, honor America, place any kind of allegiance to America, allow our sons and daughters to fight in the name of this kingdom…

All while keeping the kingdom of Christ first?!

Some have a major problem with Russia. You may not know this, but Russia feels like they are entitled to the land that was once there’s i.e… Ukraine. From their perspective, they’re just taking back what was stolen from them. Trust me I have no heart for anything Russia is doing.

But consider that in light to what America has done particularly through Western expansion & eminent domain. Didn’t we just take land that wasn’t ours?!

So you might’ve gotten this hint, but Russia has been a little bit pointing their finger at the US warning them to get involved or judge them because of the US track record, (stealing land from Indians, expanding slavery for 100 years, going to war with Mexico to steal land etc…) in many ways what America has done is actually worse than what Russia is doing. At least Russia has some kind of argument for the land they’re fighting for!  But even worse, when I put it like this; these attributes don’t sound very much like the way Christians should be acting do they? In fact, it kind of comes off as countercultural to the kingdom of God and the mission that Christ professed.

So where are we at as a Christian person living in America? Are we going to take back this nation for God? Well, the problem with that argument it was never a nation for God… it was a nation formed for people to freely worship whoever they want.

Are we going to reclaim the entire world as Christians? If that’s you’re thinking, doesn’t it make more sense to side with the Christians all around the world then to side with other nations including our own?

Should we start as a Christian with taking back our own land in the name of God? Some think that way. Let’s start with America and then venture to the rest of the world. Or does that describe a better picture of getting involved with the sinful or being unequally yoked? Is that Timothy’s warning of being entangled?

The question comes down to how you can best live as an American for the kingdom of God in the place where you are & the world that has been entrusted to us.



“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21–22)

The Bible refers to “burning coals on the head” of someone you may consider an enemy in Rom 12:20 which is quoting Proverbs 25. In our western minds this looks like us possibly turning the other cheek or acting gracious towards our enemies as we possibly take on a sense that God in his wrath will serve them justice for their deeds. In other words, we sometimes think that if we are nice to our enemies, God will in the end give them a good cosmic spanking (karma right?!) They will get what they deserve. Have you ever found yourself offering grace in order to incite strifeful thoughts?  Will God reward you if you are simply practicing random acts of kindness to your enemies even if your real intention is for God to serve them destruction by doing so? Some people even go as far as using this way of thinking in constructing their views of hell.

You may also argue that God will use our acts of kindness to convict the person as a psychological expression of guilt (this is what Augustine and Jerome thought.)

If you simply google “coals in the Bible” or one of these passages, you will likely find a lot of messages that seem to be rooted in the above thinking. But as we take a closer look we get a bit more, we see judgment. People like to equate this with hell, but there is a lot more to judgment than simply eschatological ramifications. In Leviticus 16 we get more of a picture that hot coals bring purification. In this way God is often equated to refining fire. Fire reveals brightness, power, and sometimes healing, which are all Godly attributes. But more often than not, you’re going to find Proverbs 25 and read God’s vindication to the wicked into the story. May writers will unabashedly say that “We must “leave room for God’s wrath” (Romans 12:19) and wait for the vengeance God brings in His own time. When we relinquish to God our right to take revenge, we show faith in His justice. God will bring conviction upon the sinning heart.” There may be some truth to this statement, but if that is your intention for goods than you have the wrong heart and you have missed the primary message of the passage. This statement doesn’t seem to describe the God of Love, Grace, and Mercy of the rest of the Bible. It also leaves you considering the wrong things about the definition of God’s wrath and vindication. You might consider watching this video for a better understanding of wrath within Biblical Theology. I think we can find a better way to interpret this passage theologically and in doing so, participate in a better lens of scripture.

The biggest problem reading all or any of these western ideas into this passage is that everyone thinks God is on their side but is simply hesitant to completely be on Jesus’s side. Perhaps the person you have always framed as your enemy may not be the enemy of Jesus.


There are several different things we need to take into consideration when exegeting this verse. The Hebrew word gahelet describes the hot coals used when getting ready to ignite a sacrifice. You might think of it as an ancient fire starter. The metaphorical meaning is a reaction that will “spark” contention, but we need to interpret this according to its original meaning and symbolism. It represented the sins of the people given at the altar. The people brought the contention, but God refined it as a holy sacrifice.

In Hebrew, words connect. You might consider the second greatest command to love our neighbor or enemy.

In context, when in Romans 12:14-21 we read that most people are not going to change their ways simply out of random acts of kindness, they often require divine assistance. It was no different in the Old Testament.

“The king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning in the brazier before him.” (Jeremiah 36:22) At first this seems like a rather random, boring verse. I have found a lot of significance in the seemingly “boring” scriptures over the years. The brazier (Hebrew, ach – אָח) is a fire pan or grill that was used not only to cook but also keep the home warm and fire going for long periods of time. If you have ever been camping, you know how important a fire is. In the ancient homes the goal was to keep the home fire going as long as needed or to the extent you could afford it. In some cases, it was actually a sign of wealth to keep a fire going all the time. Today we just pop a TV dinner in the microwave and set the thermostat for 72 on a rainy day. In ancient times having a fire burning to cook whenever you were hungry was often an expensive luxury. If you could afford the wood, then the hired help often held this at the top of their priority. In extreme winter cases, especially when illness set in, death may even occur if a fire went out. If you have ever tried to heat a home or workshop using wood, you know what a chore this can be. You have to work before you can work or live! But most people didn’t have the luxury of hired help or enough consumables to keep the fire burning so they relied on neighbors with spark. In ancient times there were many reasons to live in caravans and this was one of them.

In ancient times you burned whatever you had. Getting consumable fire was more difficult than it is today. Things that burned were sought after commodities; especially things that burned long and slow such as coal! We know they had coal in the Bible, there are over 30 mentions of it. We even get a reference in Isaiah 6 that might lead you to believe that coal is a gift from the heavens! (Even though we would more traditionally associate it with Hell!) This is a fascinating study as we find that coal was likely formed by a cataclysmic event. This idea associates the formation of earth’s coal beds with the great flood of Genesis 6-8. Many Hebrews regarded it as a gift given by God directly from the creation of His hands from the earth. In the New Testament when a roman official (who often wanted to be revered as a deity) would plan a visit, they would “prepare the way” by repairing the roads before them. The finest roads required use of coal (a tessellated pavement.) Coal was often regarded as not only luxurious, but often times spiritual and greatly sought after. It was considered a commodity.

In Genesis 22:6 Abraham seems to travel a great distance to which he “brought the fire” with Him. Some believe the fire itself was significant, perhaps coming from a home altar tied to sacred land.

Getting to the message, if you didn’t have hired help or a great supply of consumables to burn, you often borrowed an ember from a neighbor to start your fire. A neighbor would gladly meet the reciprocal request, especially if they were in your caravan, the better question was would you ask an enemy for an ember?

Can you imagine what it may communicate if at the end of a long hard day of blazing rain you simply showed up at your enemy’s door with the gift of coal? They couldn’t say no, because of the great worth it brought to them. It not only represented something monetary, but also an expression of the greatest commodity available to the day which, as you may have gathered by now, was also a metaphor for the persons time and energy. In a sense you were offering your best to the enemy.

In Ancient times caring for enemy was the symbol of strength, faith, and generosity. It takes on the New Testament covenant idea that God is reclaiming all the earth to be His people. “To feed an enemy and give him drink was like heaping the empty brazier with live coals—which meant food, warmth and almost life itself to the person or home needing it, and was the symbol of finest generosity.” (Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, by B.M. Bowen, p. 29)

When the passage describes heaping coals on an enemy’s head it is talking about generosity with no strings attached, even though it is followed up with the word reward. Often when you gave away a coal, you gave away part of what sustains life and luxury. In many ways coal was a foreshadow of the new covenant and God asking us to give of our absolute best with no strings attached. Yet as a reward is mentioned here, we also know that grace became a circular relationship that continued to bless.

Essentially when we offer kindness to an enemy, we are blessing them. In Hebrew there are several expressions of blessings. Barak (which is a contronym, or a word that meant the extreme opposite both a curse and a blessing) is the one you are probably most familiar with which is one of the 7 words of worship. This takes on the idea that whatever you consider your biggest curse in life may be fully given to the Lord, and He in turn accepts your sacrifice and turns it into the biggest blessing from you within His kingdom. You pray that your curses become blessings both from you to the Lord and towards others. You give wholly of yourself, and God takes that humble sacrificial gift at His altar and uses it to do immeasurably more.

The other Hebrew word that translates as blessing is ashar. Ashar translates into the way that you interact with others, the sense that you might bless them. In this way Barak is often tied to the actions of God back towards us where ashar demonstrate the actions of us. What is really interesting is that in Hebrew words are written as pictures. (You here me talk and write using Old Testament Mosaic language a lot.) Ashar resembles a fire on the head. In other words the Hebrew word itself carries the entire connotation of a blessing coming in the form of a coal on the head.

There is a bit more to this passage though, what about the last line? Could there be a retribution principle going on? “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21–22) I Peter 3:9 also carries a similar feel, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” The main problem with people thinking about spiritual rewards is that they think of them in terms of the world. We are too entangled. What is a true spiritual blessing? From spiritual eyes blessings are often curses, or come in the form of tribulation, trials, affliction. So make sure you get this straight, from God’s view if you are following him wholly; your going to bedazzle your enemies with kindness and the best gifts you have been given and then you can likely expect affliction; and not only should you expect affliction, but accept it with Joy! What kind of backwards, messed up deal is this? Welcome to the kingdom!

Well, perhaps we should be ok stopping here, but I am also glad there is a bit more to the story! The Septuagint translates this as (“the Lord will reward you with good things”). I usually like the Septuagint, and in this case I do think it represented what the people thought of God; that maybe he would bless them on earth materially for their good deeds. The book of Job partially supports this idea; although better communicates that He may or may not! Some commentators have also noted that the idea of a reward may come in the form of reconciliation, but I personally do not think we have the hermeneutic within the text to take that away. What I see is that we are to act in kindness to our enemy because God speaks it.

When I read this in Hebrew, I find the root for reward comes from Shalom, which as you know carries the notion of peace, or a feeling of being wholly complete. It also asks for protection at times of war. This might cause a lightbulb to go off in your head. As I painted a picture earlier of creeping to a neighbors camp asking for a spark to start a fire you may have actually prayed for protection on your way over and I highly doubt you would have sent a son or daughter. The mindset is that they are the enemy but we desire shalom “from” them. That takes on the notion of both peace and protection.

How would your world be different if you always treated your neighbors and/or enemies in this way? Perhaps eventually they wouldn’t be your enemy much longer.

Do you see the transparency that God is asking for us to take on for his Kingdom? When I function as a New Testament covenant priest to the nations my prayer is that God will bless and keep me. This is the quintessential calling of who we are; and when we are faithful, God is also faithful in asking us for full transparency to be wholly given in our pursuit for the kingdom. This is essentially the greater calling to be a light in the dark.

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