A Little Context For Me

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Transliteration Or That Word, I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means

When the girls were little we did not have “bad words” in our house. I did this for two reasons: 1. I do not believe any word is inherently bad. 2. I did not want them growing up in a perfectly sanitized bubble, and to later be unable to function in a world that uses what so many consider to be offensive language. However, this is not to say that we did not have rules for the language they used. They were just little more unique than what you might find in most Christian homes. They were as follows:

1. In order to use a word, you must know the definition. Not what you think it means, not what your friends tell you it means, and never just because you think it makes you sound more educated than what you truly are.

2. In order to use a word, you must know the proper context in which to use it. To clarify this I used the example of swim suits and church. Obviously, you would never wear a swim suit to church, but conversely, you would not wear your church dress to the lake.

3. (And this was THE non-negotiable rule.) You should always respect your audience. In other words, while mama might not care that you referred to a body part as your butt, grandma will. So you do NOT do it in her presence because that is disrespectful to your audience.

I imposed these rules in my house because they made sense to me. However over the course of the past week, I have been reminded that not everyone adheres to these simple ideas of communication. I don’t get it. I really don’t, and I particularly don’t get why more people don’t follow the first rule as a matter of responsible communication.

Look, I am not stupid. I know that the entirety of the world did not get the benefit of all my wondrous wisdom and did not get the benefit of having these rules were explicitly explained, but really? Who needs to be told that you should know the definition of a word before you use it in public? We have dictionaries, people! You can even look up words online! It is the simplest thing in the world, really. Just go to your favorite search engine, type in the word that has caused you doubt (or should have caused you doubt), and add this magical word afterwards – “definition”, and boom! Out of the wonders of the universe, the definition of the word from multiple dictionaries will appear on your screen. Click one! Or better yet, click two or three!

I am also not writing this post because I am just generally outraged at the stupidity of humanity. I am writing this post because three times in the last week, I have had people defend idiotic notions based on the argument that they were reading a word or verse from the Bible that had been TRANSLITERATED.

Allow me to put to help you out – NO! No you have not! You do not possess any English Bible that has been transliterated.

Now, I am not correcting you because I am some horrible witch of a woman who wants to shame you. I am correcting you because every time you open your mouth to defend OUR faith you are making all of us look stupid. Please, allow me to help us all out by enlightening you to the truth.

And that truth is this – you should never use a word when you do not know the proper meaning. It completely invalidates the rest of your argument as it tells me and the rest of the world that you will say the first nonsensical thing that floats through your mind to vindicate whatever foolish thought you may have – without any thought or consideration to the truth or facts. Furthermore, it is a huge red flag that you are not above trying to bully another person with the illusion of superior wisdom. You are just the type of person that should never be allowed to represent the Christian faith. Seriously, this is where you should thank God above that he is far more gracious than I will ever be.

Now if you care to actually learn a thing or two, and aren’t caught up in your pride, allow me to give you the proper definition of “transliterate”. Better yet, allow me to link you to some very well respected dictionaries that will tell you the definition, because I never want you to take my word for it. I actually want you to learn, to know, and to grow in maturity and faith.



Since I know that definitions can sometimes be confusing allow me to provide an example:


Do you know what that word means? Unless you have studied Greek, I am going to bet that you don’t. It means grace. Yup, grace that sounds nothing like the Greek word χάρη. Why? Because grace is not a transliteration, it is a translation, and translations are different than transliterations. Chari is a transliteration, grace is a translation, but don’t take my word for it, here are couple of links for the definition to translation:



Now that you have seen the difference, I hope that you will understand that the English Bible you hold in your hands is not a transliteration. It is a translation. Why? Because it would make absolutely no sense to anyone who did not read the original language. And even then, why would you write a language that someone knows in an entirely different alphabet than the one that they had to learn in order to learn that language in the first place? It make no sense. None. Nada. Zip. Transliterations are provided so that you, an English speaking individual, can know how to pronounce the word in its original language. They are not a substitute to actually knowing a language that you do not speak. In fact, I can think of few things less foolish than transliterating an ancient text into a full volume.

So the next time you feel like defending the your view points, and let us be clear that is precisely what you are doing - defending your views and not the Bible, you might want to rethink any temptation you might feel to make yourself look smarter by using words whose definitions you clearly do not know. Because all you are really doing is putting your stupidity on display for the entire world to see.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Who Were The Nephilim? Part 2 - Sons of God, A New Testament Perspective

This is the second part of a series on the identity of the Nephilim. If you missed the first post, you can find it here: Who Were The Nephilim? Part 1

In the last post, I discussed how in order to identify the Nephilim, we must first figure out who in the world are these mysterious folks called the “sons of God.”  I gave some examples from the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) that showed how the phrase “sons of God” was most typically applied to angel or supernatural beings. Now, we are going to look at the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), to see how this phrase is used there, and how it can help us understand who the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were.

I also mentioned that the nation of Israel is often referred to as the “son of God.” Despite the fact that this reference is found in the Hebrew Scriptures, I waited to address that until now because I think there are some significant parallels in usage.

In the Christian Scriptures, we encounter this phrase in verses such as:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14

“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” Romans 9:26

…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. Galatians 3:26

And I think it is in total keeping with the spirit of the text include to see those passages that refer to the “children of God” as communicating the same basic intent. If we do this, then our points of reference broaden.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

This is by no means and exhaustive list of times we find such terminology in the New Testament, but a quick internet search for these phrases in the Bible can lead you to the rest.

Now to the meat of the matter. It is blatantly obvious that these texts do not refer to angels but to humanity. In fact, they do not appear to refer to any sort of supernatural being at all…or do they?

That is going to depend on your definition of supernatural.

Notice who is being talked about in these passages. These passages do not equally apply to all of humanity, and demonstrate the distinct nature of those who have entered into a covenant relationship with God through Jesus. Those of us who have become new creations in Christ through God’s supernatural act within our lives.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 1 Corinthian 5:17

In my opinion, it doesn’t get more supernatural than that.

So how does this relate to the passages where God calls the nation of Israel his son? To answer that we only have to remember one of the most famous stories of the Bible, God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt. Everything about that event was supernatural, from the ten plagues to the crossing of the Red Sea to the transformation of slaves into a nation. Each piece of the story tells how God supernaturally intervened in the lives of men and women to create for himself a nation through which the Messiah would come.

The story is not just about God rescuing those who are oppressed. It is about how he radically changes the identity and destiny of those who are his. A mere rescue mission was insufficient for his purposes. He did not want a nation of slaves. He wanted a nation of people who were empowered to live out a destiny greater than they could have envisioned for themselves, and through which he could be known.

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:3-6

As Christians, we share in this story of redemption and radical transformation. Therefore it is fitting that we also share in the title “sons (children) of God.”

If you are still not convinced, consider these words of Jesus,

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question. Luke 20:34-40

Did you catch that? Let's repeat it, just to be sure, "because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection." The sons of God are equal to the angels. And how does one become a son of God? Through this supernatural event called the resurrection.

Based on these passages, I can only conclude that the term "sons of God" must refer to a being that is supernatural due to their original creation or through Divine intervention and transformation. For me there is little doubt that the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 refers to supernatural beings typically referred to as angels.

Agree? Disagree? Have questions? Be sure to drop a comment below.  I am looking forward to the conversations about this fascinating subject. And stay tuned, because we still have a ways to go before we can finally answer the original question.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Who Were The Nephilim? Part 1 Or: The Post I Did Not Want To Write

I do not want to write this post. I have literally been putting it off for years. Don’t get me wrong, my excuses were top notch: I needed to do more research, I didn’t want to disseminate false or inaccurate information, it’s a peripheral issue within the Bible, and I certainly didn’t want to be lumped with all the crazies out there who are going nuts over this. Yet, even as I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t a deadline on this, that I could wait to write about it until I felt more comfortable, I kept being bombarded with questions about this issue. Online, in the grocery store, sitting around the campfire, random phone calls, and at a friend’s wedding – someone every single week, and sometimes daily, asks me the same question: Who were the Nephilim?

Grab your Bibles, kids, and follow along. We start our journey in Genesis 6: 1-4:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters were attractive. And they took as wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh and his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men of old, the men of renown.

Now if you pulled out your Bibles, which I hope you did, and you let your eyes wonder down to the sections heading you will know that these verse precede the Flood narrative. This is going to be a rather important bit of information, for now just file it away until we need it.

So let’s begin with the obvious questions first, and the one that must first be addressed before we can get into the Nephilim – who in the world are the “sons of God”?

The first rule of Biblical study is “Scripture interprets Scripture.” This means any time we run up against a word or phrase whose meaning is unclear, we find that word or phrase elsewhere in the Bible to see how it is used there. By doing this we keep our interpretations consistent, and it helps us approach the Bible with integrity while not allowing us to explain away uncomfortable truths.

Thus we begin by doing a search of the Scripture, where else do we find the term “Sons of God” and how is it used? We will begin by looking at how this phrase is used in the Hebrew Scripture. Later, we will consider it’s use in the New Testament.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. Job 1:6. (Job 2:1 says almost exactly the same thing.)

When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:7

Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of God, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Psalms 29:1 

Who among the sons of God is like the LORD? Psalms 89:7 

I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Psalms 82:6 (This verse does not contain the exact Hebrew phrase for “sons of God”, but I believe that intent conveyed is the same.)

But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods. Daniel 3:25

Now, I have only provided snippets, but I suggest that you go back and read the entire passages I have cited here. Ask yourself a few questions: Who presented themselves before God in Job? Who was present when God laid the foundations of the earth? What beings are also described as “morning stars” in Scripture? In your Bible, what differences do you see in the translations, does it say “sons of God” or “Heavenly beings”? Who was the fourth man in the fiery furnace? Was it just another man? Why would he be likened to a son of the gods?

I would be remiss not to note that there is some resistance to accepting this phrase as universal reference to supernatural beings. God refers to Israel as his son (we will address this point when we get to the section over the New Testament uses of sons of God), and some believe that this title can also refer to the judges of Israel, men not necessarily anything greater. However, I believe that in doing so the plain reading of the text is rejected in favor of explanations that are easier for us to accept. Furthermore, the entire Bible is a history of supernatural events, so why should we resist this one point as too far out there while accepting things like the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, Daniel’s deliverance from the lion, a fish who found Jonah nauseating, or above all, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? Aren’t they all just a little crazy if you really stop and think about it?

Proponents of the idea that the sons of God were simply men are adherents to what is known as the Sethite theory. In other words, they believe that the sons of God were descendants of Seth and the daughters of men were the descendants of Cain. This leads to some interesting questions that must be answered if anyone is to approach this passage with intellectual integrity. Why was it wrong for the sons of God to marry the daughters of men? There has been no Biblical prohibition against intermarriage at this point, and there will not be any for some time yet. Why did these union produce such noteworthy offspring? What is the biological and spiritual reasoning for such an event? Was there such a marked difference between the daughters of Seth and Cain? Was Cain inherently evil? Go back to Genesis 4:17-22, the names are interesting study in a person’s attitude towards God. (I discuss this in Leah's Romance.) I am not going to do an in-depth analysis of each name, but note how many end in “el” which is a direct reference to God.

As you can tell, this not a simply question to answer. Oh, sure, I could give you my thoughts, but I want you see more than just my opinion. I want you to be able to see the Biblical reasons I hold this view. We are going to be camping out here for a while, because as I have studied this, I have come to believe it is far more than a peripheral issue and has a significant bearing on how we read the Bible, how we view God, how we view the existence of good and evil, and even our own reality.

Be sure to post your questions in the comments. I will try to address each one in turn. Having them here, instead of scattered across the internet will help me not to miss any of them. I also welcome opposing views. I am more than willing to entertain the idea I might be wrong. Blessings, everyone.

For the next post in this series, click here: Who Were The Nephilim? Part 2

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Where Was God?

 “Prayer doesn’t do anything. Where was God when you were getting the shit beat out of you?” she sneered.

My heart broke a little bit more. It is the one question I really don’t have a good answer for. I can’t point to some supernatural intervention. I can’t claim divine deliverance. I can’t even say that I saw a glimmer of light in the dark. I just took it hoping that it would all be over soon, and at her words I felt stripped naked as if my whole life had been a sham.

For days, that question haunted me. I knew he was there. I knew that I had not endured that for nothing, and that he had not missed my suffering, but I didn’t how to convey that truth. I didn’t even want to look for a way. That chapter of my life is closed and opening it up to sift through the pieces in hopes of finding anything concrete meant opening up a lot of old wounds. I didn’t think I had the stomach for all the gore.

Over the years, I have talked a lot about my previous marriage. I have shared my story in churches, schools, and in my book. I have been commended for being “brave in my transparency” and praised for “daring to be so open about such a painful topic.” I can give you a rundown of the abuse without batting an eye. I can recount the feel of his fingers around my neck without fighting down the need to flinch. I can even tell you why the physical violence was far less traumatic than the emotional and mental abuse he doled out as he worked up his nerve to finally strike with his fist.

God and I were good. We had worked through all the heartache of those years. I had yelled and screamed at him for abandoning me, for leaving me alone, and ignoring all my cries for help. I had even taken the radical, and some claim blasphemous, step of forgiving God for all that – not that he needed it, but rather I needed to let go of my bitterness. I had to be ok with his way of doing things, and I had to take responsibility for my foolish pride and rebellion that landed me in that marriage to begin with. I don’t resent those years anymore. There is a huge part of me that still grieves and always will grieve the effect it had on my children who witnessed those events, but for myself, it is a time that has been redeemed as I have witnessed my story help so many others.

Maybe the question stung because I had gotten used to be lauded for my ability to rise above the circumstances of being an abused woman and then a single mom. And I was stunned that this scar that I had wielded like weapon for so long had now been turned against me.

So I have been thinking about the answer demanded of me, and I have been trying to find the words to express the truth that has been hidden in my heart, to quantify it in some way that would make sense to someone who is not inside my skin.

The only time my ex would lay a hand on me was if I was holding one of our children. He never attacked unless my daughters were in my arms. The first time, I was holding my oldest daughter as he grabbed me from behind putting me in a choke hold and shaking me like a rag doll. She was only two weeks old. All I could think in that moment was, “Don’t drop the baby.” So I didn’t. I held her tighter against me with one arm and with the other I gripped his arm taking the pressure off my neck. The last time he lunged at me as I was putting nightgowns on the girls, and he sat on my chest screaming as he tried to strangle the life out of me.

He might have succeeded. I wasn’t scared, and I didn’t fight. As the waves of blackness washed over me, I was tempted to let them sweep me away, but then one of the girls made a sound that caused me to look over at them. They were small and scared of what was happening, and all I could think was how if he killed me, he was the only parent they had left. So I fought back. I got free, and I got him out of my home and my life.

Where was God in those moments? He was holding my arms around my baby so I didn’t drop her. He was showing me why I had to fight to get free. He gave the courage to do the scariest thing I ever did. He gave me the strength to endure the years of being alone and trying to keep it together for the ones who counted on me. I screwed up so many times, and I made more mistakes than I can even remember. There were days when I was certain that they would be better without me, but every time that those dark waves of oblivion seemed more enticing than returning to the battle, he was there reminding me that love does not give up, that love does not get to indulge in that depth of selfishness.

Were there any burning bushes? No. Clouds parting, voices from the sky? No. Just my kids. Just the ones who had been entrusted to me, and the ones who relied on me to keep fighting. This is probably not the answer that anyone is hoping for. We all want the presence of God to be some over the top display and then are angered when he doesn’t reveal himself that way. We think we deserve a fairy tale, for him to make everything perfect and easy when he is near, but that’s not how he works, that’s not how faith is built.

And what good is prayer? It changed me. It is still changing me. I am learning to be okay with how he doesn’t split the skies open because I think I deserve that type of affirmation. He is showing me how to see him small moments, and to how to feel is presence in the chaos. He is teaching me how to become more like him – love more like him both in the times I rage before him in my frustration and in those moments I quiet my heart to listen and to know him. Prayer is where I learn, where I see the connections, and find the answers to the hard questions of life, as I allow him to change me. For never in a million years would I have understood his the depths of his love if he had not connected the dots for me, and showed me that if I as a mere human can rise from edges of death motivated by nothing more than the love of my children, then how much more does the one who rose from the depths of the grave love me? Does he love you?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Two Legs And A Piece Of An Ear

The coyotes were thick that year. Paw prints around the chicken coop and their howls sounding just beyond the edges of the porch light were constant reminders that they were on the prowl, waiting for their next chance to kill. It was spring. With young pups in their dens, mamas were lean and hungry. Their normal reserve was wearing thin, and they were willing to take risks that ran contrary to their timid nature. We should have known it was only a matter of time before one of the cows would become vulnerable as they began dropping that year’s calves.

But the coyotes weren’t the only mamas lean and hungry. I was in my second year of seminary. Every week I spent nineteen hours on the road, to and from class. I juggled Greek and Hebrew vocabulary and grammar, the needs of my children, the obligations that came with living on the family farm, and the constant strain of simply trying to survive.

The first semester of grad school, I had tried working until my body rebelled. It seemed that I wasn’t super woman after all, and twenty hours of work combined with fifteen hours of class, homeschooling, that massive commute, and various other needs that had to be tended were more than I could take. Not that I would admit that. In my mind, failure just meant that I hadn’t tried hard enough, and I was livid when I was forced to “self-terminate” my job. Officially the paper work states it was due to lack of availability to work. The truth was I was terminated due to my lack of availability to the womanizing manager, thus beginning a downward spiral into student loan debt, but even then money was virtually nonexistent.

I could write a novel on the obstacles I had faced just trying to get by. My love life was a shambles. The church I attended underwent a major shift that led to me leaving, and not on good terms. I was living on cigarettes and coffee. Five hours of unbroken sleep was a luxury, and I was having to work double time to keep up with my classmates whose previous degrees had prepared them for the classes we now took. Even the most common terms tossed about by my profs were foreign to me, and I was looking up almost everything they said so I could understand the lectures – Reform Theology, Liberation Theology, documentary criticism, redaction, pericopes, types and shadows, all of it left me wondering if I really belonged here. My fellow students seemed to know I didn’t belong there and only a few were willing to be more than polite, and few weren’t even willing to do that.

Emotionally, mentally, and even in this place where one would expect to be fed spiritually, I was that the end of my rope. Don’t get me wrong. God provided in ways that defy explanation, but sometimes it is hard to see him at work when your world is crashing down around you.

“As a shepherd recuses from the mouth of the lion two legs or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued.” Amos 3:12

These words roused me from the open-eyed nap I had perfected for chapel, and I briefly tuned in to hear the rest of the speaker’s sermon. “Why in the world would anyone bother to save two legs and a piece of an ear?” I wondered, and then my sleep deprived mind turned grouchy. “You’d better hurry up,” I mentally told God, “or that’s going to be all that is left of me. And what good is that going to do you?”

That night after the kids were asleep, I sat on the front porch and dined on ramen noodles and steak sauce, and considered dropping out. What type of mother was I being to my children? How could I possibly get through this when I was constantly so lost on my assignments? Maybe I was never meant to fit in with all the people who had really been called to be in seminary, and I needed to come to grips with the fact that my pride had led me into an impossible situation. The coyotes screamed in the darkness, and on impulse I screamed back hoping to scare them away. Instead, they joined me filling the night with their song until it seemed as if everything dark and black hid hundreds of their kind. I laughed, wasn’t this how it always goes? Stand your ground only to learn that the enemy has you out numbered and surrounded?

The next day, one of the cows limped to the barn. That she had calved was obvious, but the baby was nowhere to be seen. I pulled on my boots and began searching the forty acres. In the far back corner, I found what the coyotes had left.

Two legs and a piece of an ear.

People claim that God doesn’t talk to us these days, but he spoke to on that one. I didn’t need words. It was spelled out in blood before me. Was my God any less loving or caring than me? Was he any less compassionate towards me than I was for this animal? And if I trudged through the heavy grass, to find what was hidden from me, would the God who saw everything miss my struggles? Here I was examining the aftermath of a vicious attack, but he swore to be there to reclaim what was his even from the mouth of the lion. Not to simply view the remains after the enemy had left.

In Exodus 22, we are told that if man gives livestock to another for safekeeping, and it is torn to bits that that the caretaker should gather the remains, and hand it over as proof that he was not a thief. As I walked away from the bloody bits of the calf wishing I could have done more and being confronted with the fact that I could not, I realized that while I had done all I could in the natural, I still had a job to do in the spiritual. I was not a thief. I had not neglected the gifts that had been given over to my care. My life may have been shredded by the teeth of an enemy who roams about like a lion seeking who he could devour, but I was still responsible to get those pieces back to the rightful owner. So that day, I gathered up the remains of my life and presented them to God.

I realized that in keeping those bits of my ravaged hopes and dreams, I was condemning myself as a thief. I was hanging onto what did not belong to me, and hiding the evidence of my own innocence in their demise. And I think this is where most of us miss a step. We see the death, and we see the gore, and so we walk away without completing the task set before us.

Some of us need to go back to the far corner of that field in our lives where our dreams died, we need to pick up the scattered pieces, and return them to the One who gave us that dream. They belong to him, not us, and we need to finish what we started. Walking away, leaving the remains on the ground, shouldn’t be an option. For as we march to God’s throne to offer up even these fragments, we are walking in defiance of our enemy, and bearing witness to the world of our God’s goodness and mercy. We are rejecting the lies of the one who devours, proclaiming that he does not have the final word, he does not get to define our reality, and we will not be branded a thief based on his actions. We are affirming that God sees through it all, he knows who bears the blame, and that we can trust him in our brokenness.

So get to walking, look for those pieces. Stop bearing the guilt that belongs to the one who destroys. Don’t entertain the shame for the deeds of the one who kills. Move in faith towards the King who surrounds us with love, and who never saw death – even the death of dreams – as final. Then stand back and watch what he can do with two legs and a piece of an ear.