My thoughts today are for patriarchs, or for patriarch 'wannabes' ("want-to-be's") if I may borrow an American term to express my thought. And as such they are both a confession and - yet again - another warning.
Many patriarchs are wondering why at this time in their lives they are passing through what can only be described as a hell. They have met with considerable difficulties along the way, some excruciatingly painful. Divorce and imprisonment, poverty, riddicule from the world, estrangement from family, and problems as numerous and as varied as the personality types who find themselves called into a way of life which, though bringing them many joys, has also made them inheritors of humiliations and deprivations of one sort or another. And they, like myself, have been asking: What's it all for?
This is not a pleasant subject (what refining is?) but one that can't be avoided. Moreover, if we're all honest, it's one we don't want to avoid if for no other reason than Yahweh has brought us to a position where we are desperate for answers. Today I have some.
As those of you who know me and my wives know, I have been through what I can best described as a 'hell of a struggle' recently. I have been desperately searching for answers. I have received the usual platitudes and clichés from people, mostly well meaning but also largely unhelpful. But today I gave you the real reasons for most of these difficulties.
Men, by their very nature and divine construction, are builders. They have within that nature the urge to explore, reach out, clear new ground, and build. Whether it be in the area of nation-building, family-building, career-building, or whatever, we have within us the capacity and drive to be constructing. And when we are centred in Yahweh our Elohim (God), our drive inevitably becomes Kingdom-building. A true man is not idle but has within him a compulsion, almost, to be an architect and a builder. You only have to look at history to see this urge realised in various ways. Our teaming cities and prodigious technology are all fruits of this masculine principle.
Men are, by nature and disposition, builders
Women, by contrast, have as a basic nature, the impulse to bring forth children and to conserve what the men have built. Neither of these urges is by choice but by divine implantation. Neither is accidental. Of course, we can resist them, as both genders have done, or we can pervert them to build and conserve things of our own making out of harmony with the divine will.
There is no doubt whatsoever in my own mind that the greatest temptation that faces men in particular is personal kingdom-building. Driven by ego and vanity, men want to build their own monuments (like the pyramids) that family and friends will admire. They want to be remembered and admired for what they have accomplished. And if they can, they want to be admired even while they are in the process of building. It is this admiration, which can become a kind of worship, which fuels their idolatrous drive.
I am not talking about crass idolatry in my essay today. I do not wish so much to draw attention to the obvious idolatries we see around us which so clearly are not God-honouring and which usually exclude Him altogether, but the more subtle forms of idolatry which most of us barely even notice and which, when we do, we convince ourselves do not exist.
For the last few days and weeks I have been asking myself some fundamental questions like, 'What am I doing?' and perhaps even more pointedly, 'Why?' I have been troubled over what has become for many the Gospel hobby-horse of polygamy and have written extensively about the vanities and dishonesties of some of the polygamy ministries. We have seen their fruits. Yesterday I was talking to a brother polygamist and he was telling me about a meeting he had with a man who himself wanted to become a polygamist, and expressed alarm because of the wrong motives this man had for entering the principle. I remarked, and he agreed, that the vast majority of polygamy 'wannabe' men were exploring the lifestyle for all the wrong reasons. But little did I realise just how big this problem was even amongst those who are called by Yahweh to live this lifestyle.
When Yahweh contracts us to build something, whether it be to build a polygamous family or -- the next stage -- to build a community of polygamous families (the ultimate goal) serving together in the task of WITNESS -- there is naturally excitement, tremendous drive, and euphoria when we succeeed. But at every point along the line of this process there is serious temptation. There are major pits into which so many are falling and few emerging. And the higher the call, the greater the temptations, and the worse the falls when temptation is succumbed to.
THE PROPHETIC DREAM
This morning Yahweh gave me a very powerful dream. It lasted all night. I enjoyed it whilst I was asleep but was profoundly shocked when I awoke. Like the credits at the end of a movie, I was having my life reviewed and was being applauded by men (there were no women in the dream at all) at different stages. The things I was being honoured with -- trinkets -- were utterly and totally worthless. And yet, to my great surprise, I was lapping up the attention and the fuss in the dream.
Then I was shown people who played significant parts in directing my life, sometimes in directions which were not beneficial but which were yet instructive. And as I was shown people and circumstances, an enormous jigsaw puzzle was being assembled on a vast wooden table which I occasionally went over to look at to try and see the 'big picture'. There must have been several thousand pieces because at first I could make little of it out. Many times I had to rearrange the edges, thinking the picture frame was complete when in fact it was far, far larger than I had ever dreamed. I sought for a complete picture but I never saw it. The picture simply kept expanding. I corrected pieces of puzzle that looked correct but weren't. Parts which seemed, oh so final, were actually wrong because where pieces joined were almost right but not quite. I had to rearrange and rearrange again. It wasn't long before I realised that I was "looking through a glass darkly" (1 Corithinans 13:12, KJV) and that I was yet some way off to understanding what I sought to know.
The giant jigsaw puzzle of life is more complex that we suppose
At numerous times in our life we think we have a clear vision of our 'life mission' and then launch into it with great bravado only to find that we were somewhat presumptuous and hasty. And I dare say the ladies do the same thing in their own spheres too. We get a glimpse into something that looks good and start advancing all our troops in confident expectation of victory, only to realise that the vision was not as clear as we thought it was. Unexpected surprises and traps face us and more often than not we are forced to make a disorganised retreat.
The difference between a good and bad field commander is that he can see ahead and make extensive preparations. He knows he cannot anticipate every contingency and that he must expect unforseen circumstances, be flexible, and adapt. But if he is wise, he will plan carefully and not neglect detail for the sake of his men. As Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself warned, he will first assess the enemy's strength, make some calculations, and if he sees that the odds against him are too great, come to terms and so preclude an ignominious defeat. There are many parables and teachings of Christ like that which we tend to ignore.
A wise patriarch, like good field commander, plans ahead
In my dream I met old friends, some of whom are now dead and others of which I have long since lost contact with, and they told me about their lives and what had transpired. One man had a terminal illness and I could see the distress in his face as he related it to me and as I prized information out of him. I saw how along the path of my life I had been manipulated and used by others and how I had struggled to retain my independence. I saw how, to compensate for this abuse, I had sought recognition from others in a bid to find self-worth. And I saw upon wakening, in a crystal-clear panorama, how many of the insecurities engendered from earlier abuses had been translated into unconsciously constructed projects to build self-esteem, often hiding behind the name of Elohim (God).
I cannot begin to tell you of the shame I felt, not of being abused or making mistakes - for these are easily done and easily forgiven - but for confusing my own projects for Yahweh's ... for building my own kingdom, instead of His, using His Name.
I am meeting very few patriarchs, who are either living polygamy or who are sympathetic to it, who aren't building their own little kingdoms in some way. They are very protective of them (a sure sign of idolatry), very convinced that they - and they alone - have the right 'model' and exclusive ownership - and who are very aggressive and/or devious when the weaknesses of these little kingdoms are shown up. They have all, with only one exception I have come across so far, all taken turnings out of the Way and are heading down a road that is smooth and easy in the beginning but which, using the imagery of John Bunyan, will eventually lead to the country ruled by Giant Despair.
Brethren, there is only One Truth and One Kingdom, and if you aren't headed toward it, you are off the Way pursuing the ghosts of half-truths and building the kingdoms of men. Any building project that has a strong dollup of 'I' or 'me' in it has a fatal crack in it that will, if left to widen through the rain and frosts of adversity, bring it tumbling down on your head. And if it takes divorce, illness, poverty, and any other number of catastrophes in your life to prevent your arriving at a place of self-burial from which you can never emerge, then thank Yahweh for saving your soul from vanity and spiritual death.
We, like the patriarchs of old, must patiently wait "for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is Elohim (God)" (Hebrews 11:10, NKJV), not man, even if that means waiting a whole lifetime or not even having it realised until the next generation. It may well be that we, like David, are simply to assemble the stones of the temple (individuals) without ever laying one upon another (community). Indeed, is that not the more likely scenario in the first generation of patriarchs and polygamists -- cutting and forming individual stones? Is it possible that we, the first generation, have, like David, too much 'spiritual blood' on our hands to be called to build the end-time communities which we know must come to pass if Yahweh's people are to survive the terror to come? Some of the backgrounds of the first modern patriarchs are pretty horrendous! There's even one, a one time leading light in Christian polygamy, in prison for murdering one of his wives who wanted to leave him! That is not to say they aren't forgiven in the blood of Christ if they have genuinely repented, but it is perhaps to say that they are not to be the final architects of what is to come ... that this is to be accomplished by their sons -- the perfectly fashioned stones -- who have been raised in holiness and purity, undefiled by the world?
I make no final pronouncement, just ask some sobering questions so that we may not go astray from the Path assigned to us. We are probably not as 'big' as our vanity would like us to believe nor as 'pure' as Yahweh would have us be. Indeed, if there is any doubt, be conservative rather than liberal in self-praise, for the chances are we are not as far along the Way as we suppose. It is well, I think, to reflect on the life of King David and study some of the pitfalls he made. And there were many! We all know of the big ones - his adultery and murder - and I pray that none of us will be so foolish or insane as to do anything like that. Yet, as I said, I know one former 'leading light' who is serving a life sentence for murder and another (whose ministry has since collapsed) who committed adultery with another man's wife! Sounds ridiculous? Not really. I wonder just how many principles even the most spiritual patriarch might be tempted to sacrifice to 'get' what he believes to be a really 'special' wife, for example? (A reason I quit the 'Christian' polygamous community was because there were so many wicked men and women in it who were never mentored or disciplined).
But there are other pitfalls we must not forget. David was blind to his own weaknesses. He was partial. He had favourite sons and doted on them. Absalom totally mesmerised him. He took a forbidden census. He treated some of his most loyal followers abysmally. And I am seeing such sins being committed by leaders in the patriarchal movement today - sometimes grostesquely serious ones. He exploited his charisma and popularity to the full, perhaps often without realising it.
Accordingly, Yahweh gives us reality checks, stopping us in our tracks and forcing us to look just a little bit more carefully at ourselves so we can discover and correct the flaws which are tripping us up. You'd be surprised what's lurking there. And if He is using drastic methods to get us to stop, it is often because there are very serious flaws that need urgent attention. He doesn't make Generals out of those who think and behave like Leutenants. You may be called to be a General in His army but don't be annoyed if He puts you through some long and tough obstacle courses beforehand to make sure you're up to the job.
In my experience it is possible to believe that Christ is first in your life when in reality He is far down our list of priorities. That may come as a shock to many. It has certainly come as a shock to me on more than one occasion. It is one thing to be feasting on and proclaiming the Scriptures and Torah many hours a day. It is one thing to actually have a ministry and be out there helping people. It is one thing to be sharing the message of salvation. And yet, in spite of all these things, it is still very possible for Christ to be low down in our list of priorities.
It is possible to be so busy for yourself, your family, and your interests that you forget to be busy for Christ and His Kingdom. But that isn't all: it is possible to be so busy for Christ that you forget to have a life in Him. Worse than that, we can be so busy for Him in the ministry that we have no time to either be in Him or for our families and temporal callings.
There has to be a balance in all things. Billy Graham (before he went off the Way) poignantly said once that if he could live his life over again he would spend far more time in prayer and in scripture study and less time evangelising. He's right. For if you're not spending enough time in Christ, what kind of 'Christ' are you going to be for in your ministry? Might 'He' not become a 'christ' of your own charisma - a projection of your Self instead of the Spirit of the Divine and Living One?
Now this life 'in' Christ is not, I hasten to add, the act of prayer or the act of scripture study. It is possible to be completely 'out' of Him and do both these. Not even having an impeccable doctrine (important though this is) is a guarantee that you are 'in' Him. It is possible to be Torah-observant and to be spiritually dead. The New Life in Christ does not begin with "obsevance" of anything - the observance is the fruit of the New Life, an evidence of it, but not always. Look at the Pharisees. Being a busy minister, a busy father, or a busy bread-earner isn't necesarily evidence of the New Life. I know leaders of cults who do these things. The real evidence of a life in Christ - that which is the central motif of all of Paul's writings - is that the VIRTUE of Christ shines through you. Most things can be imitated or falsified but not this one thing, which the apostle summarises in the one word "love" and which his Master, and ours, represented in His Two Great Commandments to love Yahweh-Elohim and to love one's fellow man (Matthew 22:37-39). To be in Christ does, of course, include being for your family and being for Him in your ministry - it does, of course, mean being for the business of providing for your family. It means all of these things too. But first and foremost it must mean possessing and radiating the virtue of Christ - His grace, love, and perfections.
As you all know, I do not advocate Gospel hobby-horses of any kind. I teach and preach an 'all round' Gospel and warn incessantly of the dangers of losing one's balance. Not so many years ago I was in a situation where my career consumed all my time and energy and Yahweh had to use drastic means to 'break' me out of that bondage. I next transferred all my time and energy to the ministry and He has once again had to use drastic means to 'break' me out of that bondage. Not that earning your daily bread or being a minister is wrong - Yah forbid! But it can be wrong if either take you away from a life in Christ so that unbeknown to you He slips down the scale of your spiritual priorities. I have knows some Messianics so obsessed with Torah that they hardly ever talk about a life in Christ anymore. And then you have the opposite extreme - those who are so obsessed with meditation and reflection on Him that they have no time to serve Him anymore.
There are three vital factors in the equation of the Gospel Walk for a man and they must be properly balanced:
LIFE IN CHRIST + LIFE FOR CHRIST +
LIFE FOR FAMILY & BREAD-WINNING
The balance is a little different for a woman whose ministry is principally her family ... to raise up godly young men and women before they leave home. It is not my purpose today to go into the minutae of this equation or suggest how you should precisely balance it - if you have a life in Christ, you won't need a manual from me, for Christ Himself will tell you how to apportion your time.
When we fail in one or more of these areas, we usually compensate by putting too much time and energy into others. I have stressed family often enough. There are many avoiding marriage who know they have been called and are employing all kinds of rationalisations and excuses. (I am not speaking to those who are being deliberately kept waiting by Yahweh for His own purposes). Do these people really believe Yahweh when He said is is "not good for a man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18)? (That applies to women also). Do they understand the opposite - "it is evil for a man/woman to be alone?" when they don't have to be? In my experience, those who have been called to marriage and who keep on refusing it are demonstrating some sort of idolatry in their lives - I challenge them to look at that equation above and let the foolishness of their pride and stubbornness slap them in the face! Wake up! For if you do not respond when the season comes, what will happen to you when the season passes? Do you have your covering? If not, O woman, what will you do when the evil which even now is being released into the world to take us into tribulation comes crashing through the door of your own spiritual house? And what of you, O man, who has neglected your life in Christ and so weakened the spiritual covering for yourself and for your wives and children?
The end-time Church (Messianic Community) is passing through a terrible but redemptive blaze. If you aren't passing through that fire right now, I would be dead scared because it means you are probably not on the Path! The fire that then comes will burn you up!
I've recently been complaining bitterly about this fire but now I see its purpose much more clearly. Now I fear for those who are on the outside and not on the inside where it hurts a bit. I am worried about those people who are running away from marriage and drowning themselves in career or other distractions. If I were them I would be fearing for my salvation. Better to be safe inside the purging fire, however painful, than on the outside temporarily safe but soon to have the ground removed from under your feet.
Yesterday a brother alerted me to the fact that anthrax spores have been found in a place where they shouldn't have been. The terrorist attacks on the World Trace Center and the Pentagon are but the opening overture of a wave of evil that is to come. (As is now true in 2016). As I write this (2001), we are in Day #3 of an unfolding war which will not suddenly end. The wars we have been seeing in Asia, Africa, and the Balkans which have never been concluded and have just dragged on year after year bringing untold misery in their wake, have now come to the rich West. The wars which were afar off to us have now come near. Any day a nuclear explositon, deadly anthrax, or some fatal nerve gas could be released by terrorists in your city. Are you prepared? Have you gathered out to places of safety? Are you a single woman without protection? What are you doing about this now that death may be on your very door steps? Will you grow complacent because there is a lull and convince yourself that such things won't happen to you? I know one brother who saw in a vision about 30 years ago the population of his home city utterly destroyed by anthrax or a similar contagion. I know another brother in Sweden who was shown in dreams the suicide attacks in the USA involving planes. The founder of our Order has seen in vision what is shortly to come to pass and a vision of what is happening now..
This is a heart-felt plea for spiritual reason and common sense. I do a lot of that, as you know. But when Yahweh lays such a heavy burden on my heart, I am compelled to declare His message so as not to have blood-guilt upon me. World history is entering a new and deadly phase. The old gods which have laid claim to dwelling alongside and with the true Elohim (God) of Israel in the lives of many Christians/Messianics, will soon be exposed for the liars that they are. They simply won't sustain their former spiritual lives any more. They will leave you destitute if you don't repent and seek for shelter in the fire of Yahweh. This really is no time for complacency or hiding away any longer - the burned-out wreck of the World Trade Center is a prophetic warning to all of us to WAKE UP!
In the ten or more years since I wrote this article in 2001, we have witnessed the proliferation of wars - Libya, Iraq and Syria to name but three - and the invasion of thousands of ISIS terrorists into Europe and America. All that I wrote in 2001 has come to pass and worse is yet to come.
In coming articles I shall be focussing much more on what a life in Christ is for a patriarchal family.