Blasphemy: To Bad-Mouth God

… anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death. Leviticus 24:16

“Blasphemy” is not a concept the 21st century is very familiar with. In earlier centuries, to “blaspheme” would be:

  • to describe the name or character of God inaccurately,
  • to use God’s name in a way other than worshipfully,
  • to accuse God of acts or behavior God has not done,
  • to bring dishonor to the name or character of God.

Blasphemy is slander directed at the Creator and Ruler of the universe. By this definition, millions of tweets, texts, and bumper stickers blaspheme God. So do hundreds of false prophecies offered in the name of God. This is why under Old Testament law, false prophets were to be stoned to death. The act of claiming God had spoken a word that was not from God was presumptuous. It claimed for one’s own words the authority that belonged to God alone.

Blasphemy and Prophecy

In the 21st century, those in charismatic and Pentecostal churches are inclined to be very merciful to those “learning” how to use “prophetic” gifts. Words spoken as from God are rarely publicly corrected, even when they offer potentially dangerous encouragements – for instance, to cease medical treatment in favor of a promised Divine healing. “Schools of Prophecy” attempt to help guide the young and over-enthusiastic.

In a similar way, silent Quaker meetings have, for several centuries, allowed any individual to speak who believes God has given them words for the congregation. Those who speak learn, over time, to “test the spirits” as their words are confirmed or not by other members. At the meeting’s end, members quietly approach speakers whose words seem to follow God’s leading, affirming them with the same language the group has used for hundreds of years: “Thou speakest to my concern, sister.”

Blasphemy and Church Disunity

But blasphemy, as used historically, would not just refer to these kinds of claims of direct inspiration. Sometimes I wonder what God would make of the interchurch disputes we spawn “in His name.” I wonder what God would make of some of the teachings we hear. Will God consider us blasphemers for claiming that God wants to bless everyone with lots of material things? For claiming that God is responsible for every tragic event in our lives? For suggesting that human sin has more influence in this world than God’s power? Continue reading

Posted in Carlene Byron, fear of God, God, God's character, Jesus, prophecy, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Gets Perfectly Clear About Sexual Sin

The Ragamuffin Soul website first captured this image.

The Ragamuffin Soul website first captured this image. How many of “Hell’s Most Wanted” violate any of the 10 Commandments? Why aren’t adulterers on the list?


We talk a lot about sex in the conservative church, mostly of the homosexual variety. In fact, my church recently did “the sex sermon” and none of the texts referenced adultery, fornication, lust, or any of the majority of the ways that God says people are prone to pervert what was intended to be a good thing.

So imagine my surprise when I was reading in Leviticus 18 and got into God’s mind on the subject. God has a lot to say. Here’s how it weighs in, on sheer volume:

  • Verses about kinds of sexual relations to avoid: 17 (20 different kinds of relationships)
  • Verses detailing adulterous and incestuous relations to avoid: 13 (16 relationships)
  • Verses detailing homosexual or other sexual relations to avoid: 3 (4 relationships)
  • Verses detailing idolatrous sacrifices to avoid: 1

God Details Sexual Sins: No Loopholes!

God seems fairly well convinced that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” are not clear enough for us to understand. (Or God just knows how good we are at looking for loopholes!) So here’s the list of sexual sins God lays out, being perfectly clear, in Leviticus 18.

Don’t have sex with:

  1. Your mother
  2. Your stepmother
  3. Your sister
  4. Your stepsister
  5. Your niece by your son
  6. Your niece by your daughter
  7. Your stepsister (again)
  8. Your paternal aunt
  9. Your maternal aunt
  10. Your uncle’s wife (a different paternal aunt)
  11. Your daughter-in-law
  12. Your sister-in-law
  13. Both a woman and her daughter
  14. Both a woman and her niece by her son
  15. Both a woman and her niece by her daughter
  16. Both a woman and her sister while the woman is living
  17. Any woman during her menses
  18. Your neighbor’s wife
  19. Any man with any man
  20. Anyone with an animal

God also adjures Israel not to give children to the foreign God Molek. (In other passages, God defines rape/fornication and the penalties for it.)

That’s a pretty hefty list. What is most remarkable to me is how little of it focuses on the sins we are prone to discuss. Continue reading

Posted in adultery, Bible, christianity, church and state, commandments, God, homosexuality, law, marriage, Politics, sex | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does God Care About What I Need?

Closed Door

Why would I go banging at a closed door to ask God for what I need?

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11: 9-10

Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. … how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those  who ask him. Matt. 7:7-8, 11

I find it difficult to ask God for what I need. God knows what I need already, I reason. Why should I bother him? Plus, what if we disagree about what I need? If I am thinking that I need something I don’t have, then maybe I don’t have it because God doesn’t think I need it. It would be worse to have God tell me I don’t need it than just to schlump along with my disappointment.

Why Should I Bother God About What I Need?

I don’t exactly know what to do. But God says I’m supposed to “bother” him. And God says that “it” will be given to me. The question is: What will be given? Here’s how I break down the two texts:

  • Ask … it will be given … everyone who asks receives
  • Seek … you will find … the seeker finds
  • Knock … the door will be opened … to the one who knocks, the door will be opened
  • Ask God and receive “good gifts”

Those aren’t exactly encouraging if what I’m looking for is some specific thing I’ve determined I need. Continue reading

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In Praise of Prostitution?

trafficking-250x232When I worked as a fundraiser for an urban youth organization, we had quite an upset one week. An 8-year-old girl who could barely read, but was demonstrating great aptitude in our computer lab, proudly showed the director the website her mother had helped her build over the weekend.

Mom Helped 8-Year-Old ‘Sell’ Self

The director was shocked. The site was, to put it as inoffensively as possible, a personal marketing site. The mother, when confronted, suggested that our reading lessons, which the girl generally ignored, taught a skill much less important for a girl than the ability to sell herself.

This experience was startling in itself. But even more startling was the response of a donor with whom I shared it.

Donor Praised Mom’s Prostitution Business

“At least the mother is an entrepreneur,” said the man, a leader in his conservative church. “She’s not depending on the government for a handout.”

All I could think was that he, like many, was far more familiar with conservative political philosophy than with what God teaches. Here’s what God teaches:

  • It is wrong to degrade our children by making them prostitutes. (Leviticus 19:29)
  • None of the children of God is to work as prostitutes. (Deuteronomy 23:18)
  • Anyone who patronizes a prostitute has reduced him or herself to a loaf of bread – that is to say, they have turned one of God’s greatest gifts into a mere economic exchange. (Proverbs 6:25-26)
  • God specifically charges Christian men not to wrong or take advantage of their brothers sexually – that is to say, God reminds men that it is as possible to exploit men as to exploit women and that both are wrong. (1 Thess. 4:3-6)

Our sexuality is a good gift from God, designed to bond marriages into permanent and joyful unions. God has not given us the right to set rules for others that degrade them, while maintaining the purity of our own families. In fact, as God says in Leviticus 19:29, when daughters are degraded by being forced into prostitution, the land turns to prostitution and is filled with wickedness.

Action Opportunities

Participate in a local organization that battles child prostitution.

Join a local campaign against sexual trafficking of women and children.

Choose personal purity, within your married or single state.

What other action opportunities would you suggest?

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Is it True That God Doesn’t Overburden Us?

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matt. 11:29-30

stress I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel burdened. People ask me to do more than I have time, energy, or finances to handle. Sometimes I want to do things that require more money than I have in hand.

I remember one guy who asked me if I would teach college English classes in his denomination’s program for immigrant pastors. It was a fabulous opportunity. I love to teach. I’ve written professionally for my entire career but since my degree isn’t in English, I’m not able to teach in most classrooms. The only problem was … I already was working more than full time. The job would require creating a curriculum, being available to students, grading papers. And I’m a person who needs her sleep. I told him no.

He looked at me sharply. This was a father of four who pastored a church and ran a program to credential all of the international pastors in the denomination’s district.

“You can do more than you think,” he said. Continue reading

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