Two Kinds of Shame

The first observable evidence of mankind’s Fall was the presence of shame. It manifested in the first couple’s fear-soaked shrinking from the presence of God. The sound of His footfalls had only the previous day filled their hearts with joy and caused them to come running to meet them in glad anticipation. Now His footsteps filled them with dread.

Father God had not changed. But they had.

I was afraid.” 

“Because I was naked.”

“And I hid myself.” 

Shame had wrapped its filthy tentacles around their souls. So, the first couple hastily contrived some Man-conceived, Man-crafted way to cover that shame. Religion was born. And over the subsequent millennia the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve would devise ever more clever and sophisticated ways to try to cover that shame. But “cover” was the best they could do. 

In the Old Testament we find two key Hebrew words for shame—but these words communicate two very different concepts. The word bosheth connotes the guilt and dishonor we experience when our sin is exposed. Daniel used this word when he said, “”Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us, open shame . . .“[1] It is bosheth, in part, that drove Adam and Eve to flee the presence of God. And every person alive has felt its sting.

There is another Hebrew word for a very different type of pain—one that is also usually translated “shame” or “ashamed” in our English Bibles. It is kalam and it speaks of being hurt, rejected, insulted, disgraced, defiled or humiliated—sometimes in public and particularly by someone close to you. To understand the concept of kalam, all you have to do is read Numbers 12:14—a verse that contains this Hebrew term.

And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days . . . ?

Numbers 12:14

This is kalam—a man spitting in his own daughter’s face. Imagine a lovely Israelite girl being brought before the elders of her tribe for some perceived violation of community standards. It’s all a misunderstanding. She has done nothing wrong. But with the entire village watching, her angry and embarrased father does not rise to her defense. He does not step between her and the pointing fingers. Instead he walks up to her and spits in her face. Her face flushes red and tears fill her eyes.

What she feels in that moment is kalam.

We know the shame of the other type—bosheth—well. It’s that sense of uncleanness we feel when we sin—when we violate God’s immutable laws—resulting in damage to ourselves or others. It’s close companion is our English word guilt.

But we all are far, far too familiar with that second type of shame, as well. We are intimately acquainted with that humiliating sense of defilement and worthlessness we feel when others use or abuse us. Every wife who has felt the fist of a drunken husband knows this shame. So does every victim of rape. Every violated little boy or girl knows it, too. Every girl ever pressured by a parent or a boyfriend to abort the growing new life within them. Every man who has endured the sucker-punch of learning from a friend about his wife’s infidelity has felt it. 

This was your fault, the enemy whispers. You provoked this. You deserved this. You’re not worth any more than this. 

And to the post-Edenic soul . . . to the heart that has not been to Calvary to make the great exchange and seen the price God was willing to pay to reclaim it . . . these lies seem to carry the sickening ring of truth. 

Put simply, we feel the first shame when we hurt someone else. We feel the second when someone hurts us. And the very history of the human race since the fall is little more than these two forms of shame dancing across the ravaged souls of men and women. Abusing and being abused. Defiling and being defiled. 

Hurt people hurting people.  

All of this Jesus carried with Him to the cross. All of it.

With this awful truth in mind, look with fresh eyes at the word of Hebrews 12:2:  “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

When Jesus looked ahead to the cross, He didn’t see pain. He saw unspeakable shame. Our shame—both bosheth and kalam—being heaped upon Himself in almost infinite measure. Only looking beyond that shame to the joy of being “the firstborn of many brethren” could propel Him forward in obedience into that filth.   

Oh, what shame–kalam and bosheth–Jesus bore on that Good Friday. Over and over they spit in His face during that mockery of a trial. He was stripped naked and hung like a billboard just outside one of Jerusalem’s busy gates. And in the unseen realm the blood-guiltiness of every sinner was laid upon His pristine conscience.  

One of the great wonders of the cross is that Jesus did more than bear our sin. He bore the first great consequence of sin . . our shame.  No matter what we’ve done or what has been done to us, we are invited to come to the cross and leave our shame there. At the cross our consciences are sprinkled clean. Our defilements are washed away.

In one of the most astonishing of exchanges ever proposed, we are invited to trade our shame . . . all of it . . . for His glory. No wonder Revelation shows us Jeus enthroned in that glory declaring:

“Behold, I make all things new.”

New Podcast Episode is Up!

It’s been a while since I did an interview edition of the podcast and I’m so happy about this one. It’s a conversation with Sarah and Isabell Bowling about their new book, The Road to Wholeness: Healing from Trauma. It’s a potentially heavy subject, but we keep things light and positive yet redemptive.

Give it a listen when you’re on the treadmill or doing your commute thing. The New and Better Podcast is available on all the major podcast platforms. The podcasts home page is here.


You bet we’re flying the flag today. And feeling deep gratitude for so many things about this nation, it’s people, and its journey through history.

And as I think, with gratitude, about those who in the past were willing to put themselves in harms way to protect it or advance its vital interests, I can’t help but wonder if there will be many willing to do that in the days ahead.

Especially since both extremes of the political spectrum seem determined to convince our youngest generations that it’s not worth defending.

One end contends it never was. The other end, that it is now too far gone. I think both are very wrong.

For past thoughts along these lines, see these blog posts:

Here. Here. And Here.

Apple Hoped for Lightning . . . Got a Lightning Bug . . . or Maybe a Stink Bug

Wherein I weigh in on the infamous new Apple ad. One that generated an (internet) firestorm of negative opinion-ification. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the ad.

A lot of people have voiced strong, negative reactions to Apple’s new ad for the iPad Pro. Some, like this guy, see it as Apple accidentally (or perhaps brazenly) revealing it’s inherent evilness. But I don’t think that’s it at all. Yes, I’ve frequently muttered to my wife that Apple seems to hate its customers. And many of its baffling product development decisions seem to validate that view. But . . .

As a longtime advertising and marketing professional, it’s quite easy for me to imagine how this concept first emerged. What’s harder to fathom is how this ad got green-lit, produced (at great cost), and released. Let me explain.

I’m reminded of the old quote, usually attributed to Mark Twain: “The difference between the right word, and the ALMOST-right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” In this case, it’s an ALMOST-right metaphor.

The assignment for the agency creatives was clearly to highlight how THIN the new iPad Pro is . . . along with illustrating the many creative tools contained within that “thinness.”

Thus emerged the concept of putting a bunch of other items: musical instruments, paints, game consoles, and 3D representations of emojis . . . in a giant smasher press.

When all of those things are smashed flat . . . then the press opens up and . . .

We see a shiny new, wafer-thin iPad Pro.

What the creatives didn’t factor in was the visceral human reaction of distress of seeing a lot of beloved and familiar objects crushed to smithereens. Punctuating the generalized horror of it all was a closeup of that 3D smiley face emoji’s eyes bugging out when the smasher began to descend upon it. Thus the backlash.

But what if . . . What if instead of a press crushing stuff . . . it was some sort of suction machine that, through the magic of CGI, sucked all of those items into a slim, trim iPad screen.

It would have illustrated the same selling point, without traumitizing people with the sight of beloved objects being pulverized.

In other words, it was ALMOST the right metaphor. And thus a very expensive mistake.

Not Ashamed

Last words are important words. When in Acts 20, Paul summoned the elders of the church in Ephesus, he assumed it was the last time he would ever have a chance to impart instruction, doctrine, and encouragement to them. So please note what he said to them in closing:

And so now, I entrust you into God’s hands and THE MESSAGE OF HIS GRACE, which is ALL THAT YOU NEED TO BECOME STRONG. ALL OF GOD’S BLESSINGS are imparted THROUGH THE MESSAGE OF HIS GRACE, which he provides as the spiritual inheritance given to all of his holy ones.

Acts 20:32 TPT

This, friend, is why I’m always hammering away about Grace versus the Law. The Tree of Life versus that other tree. Resting in Jesus’ finished work versus striving to earn, merit, and qualify. The New Covenant versus the old.

It’s everything. It’s the key. It’s the good news . . . the Gospel . . . and I am not ashamed of it.

Hopes . . . Up

I’ve been thinking about hope a lot the last few days. My sense is that we undervalue the power and role of hope in bringing miracles to pass. Among the big three, “faith” and “love” get all the attention.

But the Bible has a lot to say about hope.

–Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not disappoint.”

–Psalms 34:5 says to God, “Those who hope in You will never be put to shame.”

–Romans 4:18 tells us: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations . . .”

Want a biblical picture of hope? In Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, He says the father saw his wayward son headed home when the boy was still far off.

That means he was sitting on the porch, scanning the horizon.

At rest. But expectant.

My sense is that many Christians, in attempt to protect their hearts from disappointment, have stopped hoping. Stopped expecting much.

I suppose it’s true that if you keep your expectations low, you suffer fewer disappointments. But I can’t believe that that is the way we’re called to live our lives in God.

As for me and my house, we’ll get our hopes up and keep them there. If we experience disappointment, we’ll trust God with the mystery.

Why was Jesus so angered by the money changers and merchants in the Temple courtyard that He fashioned a whip and flipped over tables?

by Comments Off on Why was Jesus so angered by the money changers and merchants in the Temple courtyard that He fashioned a whip and flipped over tables?

NOTE: The following is a chapter from my Kindle e-book titled “Jesus Said What Now? The Most Mysterious Sayings and Doings of Jesus—Decoded.

Hey friend, a big piece of a biblical puzzle is about to fall into place for you. Ready?

The “Jesus” revealed in the Gospels is generally gentle and kind … kind to strangers, kind to children, patient with sinners, the teller of stories about birds and flowers and lost sheep and prodigal sons. That’s the Jesus we see so consistently throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Which means most of us don’t know what to do with the angry, violent Jesus of Mark 11. You know, the Jesus who fashioned a whip out of leather straps and went on a table-flipping rampage through the outer court of the Temple around the time of Passover. What was that about? Well, there is an answer to that question that may surprise you. And it’s not what most of us have been taught. Or at least there is a big missing piece of the puzzle.

The account of Jesus “cleansing the Temple” is recorded in all four gospels. You can’t say that about many of the events in Jesus’ ministry. So, it must be pretty important. Let’s examine Mark’s account of the incident—which occurred in the opening days of the Passover week—verse by verse.

First a little context. Jesus has just had His “Palm Sunday Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem where He fulfilled prophecy by entering the city gates on the back of a donkey and throngs of people hailed Him as the Messiah. Then:

And Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple area; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

(Mark 11:11 NASB)

Okay, this is very interesting. It’s late in the day. Jesus walks into the Temple complex. Mark said He was “looking around at everything.” And then Jesus heads back out of the city to spend the night in Bethany. Got it? Then He returns the next morning with the disciples. So let’s pick up the story in verse 15:

So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”


Okay, let’s establish a little more context here. According to the book of John, Jesus attended the Passover festival observances in all three years of His ministry. And Matthew, Mark, and Luke all make it clear that this particular Passover is His final one—the one that will lead to His arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

So, if this is His third Passover in Jerusalem since launching his ministry, why not get upset about the money changers on any of those previous visits to the Temple? Or any of the other times He’d visited the Temple during the great feasts and festivals? We’re about to find out! The key to solving the mystery is in what Jesus Himself said in explanation of His violent actions.

But first, you need to understand the role of merchants and money changers at the Temple during the major feasts.

For centuries, Jews had been scattered across the Near East and around the vast Mediterranean Sea. Many Jewish pilgrims traveled hundreds of miles to attend the spring and fall festivals. And it was impractical to try to bring animals for sacrifice and offering on those long journeys. You try dragging some sheep, goats, or birds to Jerusalem from Spain, North Africa, or Persia using First Century modes of travel. Not really an option. So Temple officials arranged for festival pilgrims to be able to purchase animals once they arrived. Thus, the merchants selling doves, goats, and other items near the Temple Mount. But there was another issue.

Citizens of the vast Roman Empire carried Roman coins. And as Jesus pointed out to a group of questioners one day, Roman coins carried an engraved image of the Roman Emperor, who was worshipped by Gentiles as a demigod throughout the empire. The Jewish leaders of that day had determined that it was a violation of the Second Commandment (no graven images) to use Roman coins to buy animals to be sacrificed in the heart of the Temple complex. So, they created a solution for this problem as well. They allowed currency exchange booths to be set up near the animal vendors so people could make their animal purchases in shekels. This is how both merchants (animal sellers) and money changers became a part of the Temple Mount scene whenever there was a major observance like Passover. Are you tracking?

Secondly, you need to understand the layout of Herod’s Temple.

The Temple Jesus knew and visited frequently contained four separate “courts” … arranged from outermost to innermost. Entering the Temple’s outermost gate put you in the Court of the Gentiles, the only place on the holy hill where Gentiles could set foot. One step closer to the holy heart of the Temple complex was the Court of the Women, where ceremonially clean Jewish women were allowed to gather. This is as close as any Jewish woman was allowed to get to the Holy of Holies where God’s presence was said to dwell. One layer deeper into the complex brought you to the Court of Israel (also called the Court of Men). Here, ceremonially clean Jewish men could stand just outside an even deeper level—the Court of Priests where the Levites carried out their sacred duties.

Here’s the relevant question: Why have a “Court of the Gentiles” at a Jewish Temple? They built one because throughout the Old Testament period and throughout God’s dealings with Israel, God had made it clear that He wanted to bless and reach the Gentiles through His relationship with Israel.

From the very beginning, when God told Abram that He was going to make him a great nation, He mentioned that through his seed “all the nations of the earth would be blessed.” Note that term “the nations.” Almost every time you see it in the Bible, it’s referring to the Gentile peoples throughout the earth. Through numerous directives, prophecies, and psalms, God made it clear that part of Israel’s role in the earth was to be a light to the Gentiles. THAT’S why there was a “Court of the Gentiles” on the Temple Mount. God wanted “God-fearing” Gentiles to be able to draw near to pray … as a small down payment on the day the Messiah would come and make a way for both Jews and Gentiles to have direct access to His presence. Until that day, the Court of the Gentiles would serve as the one place on earth a Gentile could get close to the Presence of God and pray. BUT …

By Jesus’ day, something had changed.

The Pharisees’ power and influence had risen. And the Pharisees considered it defiling to even have to be in close proximity to a Gentile. They were considered lower than dogs. Several of Jesus’ parables aimed at the Pharisees reference this revulsion. In the eyes of the Pharisees, the presence of Gentile pray-ers on God’s holy hill was as offensive as having pigs or dogs roaming around on the Temple Mount. Having to walk past Gentiles to get to the Court of Men was just too much.

So, at some recent point, the Pharisees had successfully lobbied to have the currency exchange booths and sacrificial animal sellers moved farther up the hill to the Court of the Gentiles, effectively crowding the Gentiles out of their designated space. It’s possible they had even been banned from setting foot in the Temple complex altogether.

Adding to this violation of God’s designated design, the money changers and the sellers apparently were corrupt and cheating the pilgrims. The former were offering sketchy exchange rates. The latter were overcharging the poor for the doves the law required them to purchase if they could not afford a lamb or a goat.

Armed with all that architectural and cultural context, let’s return to Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ table-flipping spree. There is a detail in verse 11 that I’ve never heard anyone mention when preaching or teaching on this passage. Let’s look at it again:

And Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple area; AND AFTER LOOKING AROUND AT EVERYTHING, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

(Mark 11:11 NASB, emphasis added)

Jesus’ actions when He returned the next day were not some impulsive, emotional, spur-of-the-moment reaction. Jesus was not suddenly triggered by what He saw there and just … snapped. No, Jesus had inspected the Temple complex the previous evening and, because it was late in the day, with the merchants and money changers likely packing up before sunset, Jesus left and returned to Mary and Martha’s place in Bethany.

What Jesus did the next morning was calculated and fully authorized by His heavenly Father. Remember, Jesus once said that I only do those things that I see my heavenly Father doing. John’s account adds the detail that Jesus took the time, probably that night, to fashion and weave together a multi-thonged whip out of leather strips. That was no quick process. Cutting and weaving a cat of nine tails out of leather gives a man time to think. And pray. And plan.

That next morning, He walked back into the Temple complex, whip in hand, and proceeded to do what we’ve all read and heard about many times. But why? My socialist friends love this passage because Jesus seems to be making an anti-capitalist statement by attacking both merchants and bankers. But is that the real takeaway here?

The answer lies in Jesus’ statement of explanation. After arriving at the Court of the Gentiles and again finding it NOT filled with God-fearing Gentiles seeking to pray as close as possible to the Presence of God, but rather finding it filled with corrupt merchants overcharging the poor and predatory money converters, Jesus drove them all out of the square and then, when challenged about it by the authorities, asked this question:

“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL NATIONS?’ But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

(Mark 11:17, NKJV emphasis added)

Jesus basically asked them if they’d read Isaiah 56:6–7, which in the NIV says:

“And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

(emphasis added)

Of course, the leaders and Pharisees had read it. They just didn’t like it. But Jesus knew what they did not. Namely, that He was only days away from laying Himself down on a cross to make it possible for people of every nation, tribe, color, and tongue to have direct access to His heavenly Father. That He was about to endure unspeakable suffering to provide that access. And that as He would cry out from the cross, “It is Finished,” the thick veil that symbolically separated all humans (except the High Priest) from the Presence of their Father Creator would be torn completely in half.

What’s the takeaway for you and me here?

Well, first, Jesus’ intensity at this moment shouldn’t be a surprise. He knew what we now know. That the “God who so loved the world” always intended to include the Gentiles in His plan of redemption. And excluding them from access for the sake of accommodating swindlers and hucksters was deeply, deeply offensive. The Pharisees and the religious leaders running the Temple were guilty of losing sight of the plot of why He had created the Jewish people. And in both action and words, Jesus delivered an indictment that said so in unmistakable terms.

So, let’s keep God’s white-hot love for lost mankind always in mind. God loves people. And in the form of God the Son became one of us to seek and save that which was lost. He’s passionate about that. Let’s share His passion.

Get the full e-book here.

Sorry, the Total Eclipse Isn’t Going to Move Across 7 U.S. Towns Called Ninevah

Like me, you’ve probably encountered many instances and “shares” of a claim that the path of the upcoming total solar eclispse that will be visible in part of the United States will pass across seven U.S. towns called “Ninevah.”

A poster to the Chinese spyware app TikTok with the account name @BryceJustChillen chillingly pointed out that the path of the total eclipse would cross seven towns in the U.S. named Ninevah. And “seven” is a biblically important number. And Ninevah calls us back to Jonah being sent by God to tell them to repent or face destruction. And Jonah points us to Jesus telling His disciples that the last days would be like the days of Jonah. etc, etc.

The video containing this stunning revelation was accompanied by this caption:

Wake up sheeple #lastdays #endtimes #jonah #bible #prophecy #bibleprophecy #solareclipse #2024 #eclipse #wakeup #jesusiscoming #judgment #fypシ #fyp #foryou #foryoupageofficiall #viralvideo #blowthisupforme #tribulation #christian #jesuschrist

Please note the hashtags #viralvideo and #blowthisupforme. This is a plea for attention. And @BryceJustChillen got it. Christian TikTok users repeated it and amplified it uncritically. It quickly seeped out of the cesspool that is TikTok and oozed out on to other social media sites.

There are few more effective ways to get a lot of attention online than to provide exhuasted and understandably freaked-out Christians an exotic reason to believe “the end is nigh.” And this did the trick.

When I encountered it, more than six decades of hard-won experience with eschatalogical prognasticators made me instantly skeptical. And as it turns out, as usual, my skepticism was justified. (By the way, what have we come to when you can’t trust an account called “BryceJustChillen” for sound analysis of current events from a biblical, prophetic perspective.)

Before I show you my work . . . first, a brief refresher course on total eclipses of the sun. They happen every year, often twice in a year, sometimes multiple times per year, but any single eclipse will only be visible from certain vantage points on the planet.

Fun Fact: In 1935 there were five total eclipses of the sun. That surely had to portend something, right? Let me take a shot at it. That year the Detroit Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. The Tigers had been to the world series four times previously but lost each time. But in the year of five eclipses? . . . On their fifth appearance, they won? Coincidence? I don’t think so.

{The above, by the way, is an example of how easy it is to cherry-pick events and suggest some sort of causal link to other events. Before I close, I’ll give you a couple of other examples.}

As an eclipse seems to move across the face of the planet, it creates a 115-mile wide arc of what is called “the path of totality.” If you happen to be standing in this swath, you see, for a few minutes anyway, the sun completely obscured by the moon. If you are outside of this arc but in the same general part of the hemisphere, you see a “partial eclipse.” The farther outside of the path of totality you are, the smaller the “bite” the moon seems take out of the sun.

Now, back to the exhilarating (or terrifying, depending upon the disposition of your soul and/or your views on the Great Tribulation) claim by @BryceJustChillen, et. al., that the upcoming eclipse’s path of totality would cover seven “places” called Ninevah.

Here’s the thing. Not . . . exactly.

According to the website there are indeed seven “places” in the United States called Ninevah but, as the map below reveals, only two of them lie inside the path of totality. (The Ninevahs are the red dots.) A couple of them are pretty far outside of it.

Notice that I keep putting the term “place” in scare quotes. It’s because several of these seven aren’t towns. Take Ninevah, Texas for example. You won’t find a Wikipedia entry for it becuase it hasn’t been a town with a post office since 1966.

The Handbook of Texas, a publication of the Texas State Historical Society tells us:

 In 1914 Nineveh had a population of fifty, a cotton gin, and a general store. By 1925 the population had grown to a high of 150, and it was reported at that level through the mid-1940s. In 1950 the town reported eighty residents and four businesses. The post office was discontinued in December 1966 . . .

There is no existing town called Ninevah in Missouri either. That’s why the “seven Ninevahs” narrative talks about “places” not towns.

I work with data for a living. So I know that any 115-mile wide swath painted across the lower 48 would cover thousand upon thousands of cities, towns and “place names.” So I used the aforementioned site,, to perform a little experiment.

One of my favorite little Texas towns is a place in the Hill Country named Utopia. It’s the setting of a wonderful faith-based novel and movie: Seven Days in Utopia. So I searched to see how many places called Utopia are in or near the path of totality. The answer is five!

“Five” is the biblical number of grace. So, this clearly indicates, utilizing the logic of “seven ninevahs” that the eclipse portends that the United States is on the verge of becoming, by the grace of God, a utopia

Continuing my experiment, I searched Geotargit for the place-name “Orange.” I discovered at least 14 places in the U.S. with the name “Orange” that lie on or near the path of totality.

And 14 is double “7” which clearly indicates that Donald Trump (“Orange Man”) will win a second term in the upcoming election (and probably usher in a Utopia.)

Look . . . Much of this has been in fun. But it’s true that, as I’ve written repeatedly in my posts about critical thinking and cognitive biases, the easiest lie to believe is the one you need to be true. The one you hope is true. And if you start with flawed premises, it’s inevitable that you will reach logical conclusions that are false.

Yes, God gave astronomical events as “signs in the heavens.” (Genesis 1:14) But what those signs are signfiying is rarely clear until after the fact.

A Few Thoughts About “Deconstruction”

Deconstruction is a term you hear frequently these days in Christian circles. It tends to mean different things to different people, and I believe there is a reason for that. In my view, the term is being applied to three, very different phenomena. Let’s take a look at each of them.

1. The Open-Minded

It’s frequently being applied to people who have changed their minds about some significant piece of their theology. These were previously persuaded that the Bible says “X” about issue “Z” but have now come to believe that the Bible is actually teaching “Y” about issue “Z.”

If that’s deconstruction, then I’ve done it four or five times over the last 45 years or so. For example:

  • In college I changed my mind about “cessationism,” i.e, whether or not the gifts of the Spirit and miracles ceased when the writing of the New Testament was complete. (Thanks Jack Deere, et al.)
  • A few years later I changed my mind about the accuracy of Dispensational eschatology, particularly concerning the issue of when Jesus’ rule of planet earth begins. (I have a book in the works about this.)
  • Around that same time, I had a radical reformation of the lens through which I read Scripture in an awakening about the nature of Grace. (Thanks Dudley Hall. See any of my “Praying Grace” devotionals.
  • Several years after that, I changed my mind about the meanings of the terms “the elect,” “sovereignty and “free will.” And a few years after that, I changed it back again. (See my newest E-book!)
  • A few years ago, I experienced a complete overhaul of my understanding of “church” and being a part of a Christian community. (See this white paper I wrote!)

I think you get the point. These are all big doctrinal issues. Christians, at least a certain significant percentage of them, have always changed their views on core issues as they matured and grew in the faith. (Heck, in this sense, the reformers we all admire, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Wesley Bros., were Deconstructors.)  I suppose there are some out there who got born-again at 7 years of age and died at 87 having never rethought a single doctrine of whatever stream or denomination they were born into, but I haven’t met any. 

2. The Abused and Disbelieved

The second way I hear “Deconstruction” used occurs within a very sad and serious space. Many people have experienced some form of abuse inside the church communities in which they planted their lives. That abuse is sometimes spiritual and sometimes sexual. And in far too many cases, if these people somehow found the courage to come forward, instead of redemptive arms of love and healing, they experienced shunning, victim blaming, and other forms abuse and gaslighting. And often, a circling of the wagons to protect the abuser.

Frequently that abuse was at the hands of the lead pastor. And because of the nature of the predominant model of “church” that I laid out in that white paper I mentioned above, there is no context or pathway for accountability for the abuser. 

In a recent Facebook comment, I wrote: “I’ve spent much of the last 40 years working with and for and around high profile leaders. Rare is the one who intentionally keeps some people close who are willing and permissioned to plainly tell him when he’s being a dolt or a jerk. Or a lech. Most are surrounded only by people with powerful incentives (employment, prestige, acceptance, etc.) to keep the party going. I said “rare” not non-existent. I know, and know of, wise leaders who are quite intentional about staying accountable. But we won’t hear about them in the news.”

In the wake of this under-recognized phenomenon, we have a growing sea of people who still love Jesus but aren’t sure they love His churches. And as a result, aren’t sure they believe much, or any, of what those churches have told them about what a life in Jesus looks like. 

They sense deeply that they were built for community but they, correctly, cannot believe that what they’ve experienced is what a good, loving God had in mind for that term.

They’ve lost their faith. (Note that I didn’t say they’ve lost their salvation.) They are understandably angry. They’re wounded. They’re confused. They are sheep without a shepherd. And sheep cut off from the flock are oh, so very vulnerable. 

They need our compassion, not our offendedness. They need our understanding not our tribalism. They need to have redemptive love applied and healthy New Covenant communities modeled. 

Healthy connection will ultimately fix whatever flaws there may be in their theology. Let’s heal their wounds before we fix their belief system—if it indeed needs fixing. The Samaritan “woman at the well” wanted to debate theology, Jesus refused and instead invited her to drink deeply of Him.

That’s two groups. There is a third group to which the term “Deconstruction” has been applied. And here is where I’ll probably step on some toes.

3. The Government Messianics

There is a large and growing contingent, of mostly younger Christians (or at least young people raised in church), who find the deep abiding positions of the church and widely accepted interpretations of the Scriptures at odds with their preferred political orientation and public policy preferences. 

Put another way, they can’t reconcile the way they want to vote with what their Bibles and their Bible teachers are telling them, so they look for a new way. It’s a form of reverse engineering that begins with what they want the Christian faith to command and require; and then go looking for proof texts and interpretations that fit the model, while ignoring any that don’t.

Let me illustrate this by turning a rhetorical device Jesus used on its head: 

  • You have heard it said that believers (individually) and churches (collectively) should care for the widows, orphans, the poor, and the oppressed. But I say to you, Christians should vote to have the government use its coercive power to confiscate wealth and redistribute as it sees fit.
  • You have heard it said, “He who gives to the poor lends to God, and He will repay.” And to “give cheerfully and willingly whatever is in your heart to do.” And to be “generous.” But I say to you “Be generous with other people’s money, not your own. Elect politicians who will force your neighbors to be generous whether they want to or not.”
  • You have heard it said to “know no person according to the flesh.” And that “in Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile.” But I say to you, “Adopt a lens that looks at people first and foremost as members of identity groups based on natural/fleshly characteristics, rather than as individuals. And assume all members of each group think the same and have the same experiences.”
  • You have heard it said that God loves us as individuals, saves us as individuals, and that we are individually responsible before him for our choices. But I say to you, believe in collective guilt–including guilt handed down from your ancestors. Assume that all people of certain groups are oppressors and all members of other groups are oppressed.  
  • You have heard it said that God created humanity, male and female. That both the masculine and the feminine are of his design. But I say to you, gender is cultural construct, and biological sex is a continuum with many points.
  • You have heard it said that “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful to inform doctrine and belief.” But I say to you, Paul is VERY problematic and you’re better off with a “Red Letter” Christianity.

I could continue but you get the point. Progressivism is increasingly a religion in our culture. One that elevates government to the role of replacement “messiah” for the true Messiah who came to make all things new. 

Thus some . . . I said some, Deconstructors are really just abandoning the historic Christian faith for a substitute that easily comports with the new, dominant, idolatrous religion in our culture. 

So the next time you hear the term, you might find it useful to discern which of these three phenomena you’re encountering. 

New! A Comforting Answer to a Painful Question

Over the years I’ve encountered scores of people who had either walked away from God or had what amounted to an “arms-length” relationship to Him because no one had offered them a satisfying answer to this question:

If God is good, why is there so much tragedy and heartache in the world?

As I mentioned in a Facebook comment just days ago, virtually every “atheist” was really just someone who was mad at God or profoundly disappointed in Him.

Philosophers call it “the problem of evil.” Theologians call the subject “Theodicy.” Millions and millions just call it something like: “If God is good and loves people, why are tragedy, misery, and heartache constantly raining down on them in the world?”

In my new e-book, I reveal an answer that is simultaneously comforting, liberating, accessible, and thoroughly biblical. If you or someone you love has struggled to fully rest and trust in the goodness of God because of questions like these, these pages hold your “good-news” answer.