The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 20

Chapter 20:

The other priests and rabbi watched her closely. They even sent spies into her solo lectures who pretended to be sincere, that they might take what she said and use it against her in accusations and court. One such spy asked her, “Teacher, we know you are honest and do not show favoritism, and honestly show the Divine in all you do. Is it good, according to what is written, to pay taxes as they worship a power structure and a false god of government?” Esperanza perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Pull out a dollar bill. Who’s picture is on it? What does it say on the back?” They said to her, “George Washington’s picture is on it. It says ‘In the Divine we trust’ on the back.” She then said, “Well, give Washington what is Washington’s, and give the Divine what is the Divine’s.” As this did not incriminate Esperanza, they were speechless and had to sit back down and marvel at what she had said.

Again, the spies came to her in one of her lectures. They asked, “Moses wrote many millennium ago that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise the children. Let’s say there were seven brothers. Let’s say the oldest marries this woman and dies before they have any children, and the same goes for each brother through all seven of them. After the last brother dies, the woman dies. If there is a resurrection to come, whose wife will she be? For she was married to all of them.” Esperanza said to them, “You make things too complicated for yourselves. This woman is not an object to which possession should be determined. Why not ask the woman who she’d rather be married to? They are all children of the Divine, and in that Kingdom what laws of this country would apply? The Divine Kingdom cannot compare with the countries of this world. That would be like asking if an apple’s skin is red, why are not oranges grown in New York.” The spies again were set back and could not answer to what she had said. They dared not ask any further questions.

She continued with her lecture. “Who do you think the Messiah is descended from? The ancestry of David? Didn’t David write:

The Divine said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
Till I make thy enemies
A stool for thy feet.

David called him Lord; so how is he a descendant?” She looked out over the crowd gathered, nobody could answer this. They stared in silence for a while. After a bit she continued, “Beware of those who think they have all the answers. They do all they can to be seen by others. They love the sound of their own voices. Their sermons are long and their vestments gaudy. They want to be called teacher, doctor, or reverend to be seen as better than everyone else. Call no one better than yourself. For there is only one who is better than you and that is the Divine. If someone wishes to be better than you, let him serve you. Whoever puffs himself up to be better than, will most certainly be humbled. Whoever is humble will be exalted. But woe to you teachers, doctors, and reverends for you shut the Kingdom of the Divine against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter go in. They will take from the poor and needy to offer up longer and more pained prayers to be seen for this “suffering”. They will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, who would travel the world for one convert and you make them as much a child of hell as you are. Woe to you, for you value wealth above the Divine. You blind fools!”

“If there was a poor widow who came to your temples or churches and put twenty dollars into the offering. Where all the rich put in 10% of their income. I would honestly tell you that the widow has put in more than any of them. For they gave out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living she had. As for these things that you see around you grand speaking halls, massive stages with sound systems and professional lighting, parking structures for many vehicles, and even coffee houses in the lobby; one day none of this will be here for you. Listen, so that you are not led astray; many will come just like me claiming to speak for the Divine. They will say that they are the Messiah, and the ‘end is here! The Divine is here to judge the evil!’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and horrible things happening in the world, do not be terrified; people will do such things. Many will make you suffer for these things. If you are loving, kind, and accepting of your fellow-man people will call you weak and all manner of things for this message. They will accuse you and persecute you, saying you are not a true Jesuit. Endure. For the message is bigger than all of this.”

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The Honest Faith: Join the Resistance

I’ve been focusing a lot on the problems recently. I haven’t provided a lot of answers, well, aside from my 95 theses. I think we are well aware of the problems, however. Things are getting worse, yes, but as a wise person once said, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” The outlook for our American way of life and religion as a whole in our country is rather bleak. Hope is in short supply, we are tired, worn out, and our ability to care seems to result in not much good. It does seem bad but there are those small breaks in the clouds. There is a light shining in the darkness it seems. As I have been re-discovering faith and a new image of the Divine, I do see light. There is hope. There is love. There is a resistance to the dark. Today, I ask that you join that resistance.

Many times over the past year, my faith was called into question. Not just by myself, but many people questioned my “salvation” and my commitment to the Divine. Honestly, it does sting a bit when people do that. They don’t know me. They don’t know my experience, or how much I’ve studied. They call my faith into question because I err on the side of love? How is that “christian” or “Biblical”? That in and of itself makes me want to have nothing to do with christianity. I know that you can’t change people’s minds on deeply held beliefs easily, but you have to try, right? This and just feeling that I don’t really fit in with “Progressive” Christians or even Atheists because I’m somewhere in between has led me to try to start my own thing. I’m calling it the Christian Resistance. Because, yes, I’m Christian. I’m not conservative, or progressive, I’m figuring out for myself my own theology. I’m listening to others and finding what is true in it all. My views aren’t very traditional on either side, but I think are inclusive to all. So today I would like to write about what the resistance stands for. You may be part of the Resistance already, and that’s cool, feel free to use the name. I call it Christian, because ultimately I do follow the man I believe to be the Christ, the Messiah. I won’t get into the separation of man from myth stuff, just suffice to say I believe in his message, and I follow him that leads me to resist.

I resist hate, of all forms. Hate is not beneficial. We’ve discussed this before about how even a little bit of hate can corrupt. I’m not a fan of the “Hate the sin, love the sinner” phrase that gets thrown around. I think it misses the point completely. I am angered those with corrupt intentions leading others astray. I do not hate them. I think they are misguided and leading others to be misguided as well. I am angered by the mistreatment of people. I’m angry, but I do not hate. This anger drives me to speak out, to speak up for the voiceless, the oppressed, the marginalized. I resist hate, because I love people. I may disagree with you on some things, but I’m willing to listen to what you have to say, and I ask that you return the favor. To resist hate one must love. Love is so much more than emotion, it’s an understanding, it’s a longing to want what is best for the other. It is imagining the other as complexly as you imagine yourself.

I resist the laziness of easy answers. Yes, I’ll admit, I am trying to simplify things to make them more palatable for others, but there is a difference between simple and easy. There are no easy answers. Sometimes they can be simple, but simplicity does not imply ease. The same with our theology. Laziness can lead to easy answers which end up being counter the entire message. Such as the shunning of certain types of “sinners”. That’s an easy answer. The simple one is to love, no matter what, no agenda, no strings, just love. That is, not at all, easy. Answers that are not easy require deep thought, research, and understanding. It is not easy to resist laziness, after all laziness is comfortable.

I resist power structures that have been put into place to subjugate, alienate, discriminate, or oppress. This was one of Jesus’ main messages. The Kingdom’s hierarchy was simple, God over all, the Son of Man ruling under God. That’s it. Simple. I could get into the complexity that is the divinity of the Son of Man and whether the title carried with it divinity, and then the complexity of the hypothesis of the trinity, but that’s way to complex and we are trying to keep it simple. The point is all people are people. No one of us is better than the other. Therefore, we should love each other as such. We are not better, they are not better. We are all just people. When we hurt each other we need to be held accountable for such. Though, that is not to say one is better than another. For instance, if one person hurts a child, that is one of the most egregious acts in my mind. I’m not superior to that person, but I do believe that person should be held accountable for such, I am not a judge, however. I do not know what an appropriate punishment would be for such a person. I’m thankful I do not have to make that decision. For if someone were to hurt my child, I would want the harshest and most painful punishment imaginable for that person. I resist the power structures because all life is precious. All human beings are human beings. We are the same, yet different. This one is complex and especially in today’s day and age we need to spend the time in deep thought, research and understanding to find all details of toppling these power structures as, yes, people will be hurt by that toppling.

I resist the things that keep me trapped. We were made to be free. In fact, Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it to the fullest.” Now aside from Paul’s apocalyptic writing on restrictions to everything because he believed the Son of Man was coming within his lifetime, this life to the fullest meant that we were free to live life the way we wanted. This was not a free license to hurt people. No, It was a life free to live in a way that you could love freely, give freely, accept freely, enjoy freely, and listen to whatever music you want. (minus experimental jazz, because that’s not really music in my opinion.) If someone’s theology, or someone’s truth requires you to be trapped into service of them or someone else, that is not a good theology or truth. The simplicity of it is, don’t hurt other people, just live your life. That’s not easy thing to parse out at all. But it does simplify how to resist entrapment. Resist by being kind, loving freely, and living freely. The Bible was not a book meant to enslave, but a book meant to provide freedom. Do not let yourself be oppressed. Resist.

I wanted to write something a bit more hopeful this week as I feel that my writing the past few months has been devoid of hope, and rather dark. I do believe there is a light. I am resisting the darkness as much as possible. I know that I’m not the absolute truth in any matter, and that my theology is rather wackadoodle these days. But I am more than happy to talk about it. I’m more than happy to discuss where I may be wrong, and where I may be right. That is the wonderful thing about the Christian Resistance. We accept all, we love all, we are not all right, we are not all wrong. I noticed this was a highly under used hash-tag on twitter and on Facebook. I decided to commandeer it and use it to bring some unity to those of us who feel out-of-place in both the “conservative” and “Progressive” Christian circles. I certainly don’t want to be seen as a leader, but more as someone who will help those who need it. I hope that I may be able to help those who need it, as that is my form of resistance. The popular society bends toward selfishness, oppression, and hate. I will resist that and be selfless, freeing, and loving. So I invite you to come and join the resistance. May we find that we are not alone, and that we matter.

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The Story of Esperanza: Chapter 19

Chapter 19

After they were done in Houston, they came up to Austin. Before they entered the city they had stopped for lunch at a rest area just outside the metropolitan area. Philip was dismayed at the state of the world for they had been listening to the local National Public Radio station in his vehicle. Esperanza gathered her group together and told of the prophet Zechariah from the Hebrew Scriptures. She told of Darius and how the tribes were released from exile. She told of how even when times looked bleak that hope for the future still remained. They focused on the later half of his writing, which in English translations are divided into chapters 9-14. They saw hope in the work she was doing. They knew that despite how things may look now, they were working toward a better future. Esperanza comforted them and removed herself to freshen up in the rest area.

While Esperanza was in the rest area, the group gathered together. They decided to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah. Pedro had found a 1994 Dodge colt nearby which had never been driven. He purchased it over the phone while the others made arrangements. They wished to make this a reality for who else would be a ruler to bring about peace to her people than Esperanza. Pedro left to pick up the vehicle with Iago. The others kept Esperanza busy until they returned. When they arrived to purchase the vehicle the owner asked why they needed this particular car. Pedro just smiled and said, “Our leader has need of it.”

When Pedro returned with the vehicle in tow behind his truck he presented it as a gift to Esperanza. They told Esperanza of the new path into the city which they would take. It was off of the interstate but a main road into the heart of downtown. They told her the route and had her drive in the lead of the caravan. As they came near the city they saw a whole host of people who supported and followed Esperanza lining the street entering the city. They all cheered and lifted banners and signs. They shouted out loud, “We love you Esperanza! We follow your lead! Bring us peace!” When the religious leaders caught wind of what was going on with the impromptu parade, they called the police. The police pulled over the parade, and said to Esperanza, “Teacher, tell them to stop, we can’t have this here.” She with tear-stained eyes looked at the officer,” I can’t tell them to stop. Even if I could, the very streets would cry out in celebration for them.” The Police then escorted the parade the rest of the planned route.

Esperanza was scheduled to speak at the large temple in Austin, which some referred to as a “Mega-Church”. She was part of a panel that weekend on religion and ethics. When she arrived she looked around at everything. She saw the other speakers had set up tables and were selling books and wares with their names and pictures all over them. Rage burned brightly behind her eyes. She saw a coffee roaster franchise had been set up inside the temple. There was even a rock climbing wall for recreation. This was not acceptable in the slightest. Esperanza began to turn over the tables and drive the speakers and their assistance out of the temple. She said to them, “Have you not read the Torah? It says,’My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you made it a den of thieves!” She sat in the temple entryway and cried softly.

The other speakers, who were priests and rabbi themselves, were a ways off. They talked together and sought to destroy her. They could not find something they could do to her, because the crowds loved her. She remained in the panel but she spoke against all who would make it into a show for themselves. Each night she and her group would return to the rest area to sleep and talk about the days events.

One day, as she was speaking and teaching in the temple, the other speakers challenged her, “Tell us by what ‘authority’ you do these things, or who died and made you the Divine?” She answered calmly, “Answer this first, was Juan, my cousin, ordained by the Divine or by men?” They spoke among themselves and then answered, “If we say from the Divine you will say why didn’t we believe him? But if we say from men the people here will hate us and not listen to us because they believe Juan was a prophet. So to answer we will just say we do not know.” Esperanza smiled slyly and said,”Then neither will I tell you who gave me authority, or who died and made me Divine.” She then turned to the audience and told them a story, “A man owned a farm. He tilled the land, built a house, a barn, and even a silo. He was called back to his home country to take care of business. So he rented out the farm to tenants. When the time came he sent an assistant to check on the farm and gather the share of the crops laid out in the contract. The tenants lied and threatened the assistant. They said that there were no crops to be had and he couldn’t possibly be sent from the landlord. This troubled the landlord so he sent another assistant. This one they played head games with and wouldn’t let them onto the land. The landlord sent yet another assistant. This one discovered the crops that had been grown and all that was done on the land, for the tenants were not present. When they arrived, they murdered him and hid the body. The landlord sent all that he could to the land, never receiving a favorable report or even word of the one assistant that had gone missing. He decided it was time to send his child. Surely, they would respect the family of the landlord. The tenants beat, tortured, and killed the landlord’s son. They hid the body off the farmland. What do you think the landlord would then do? Would he not call the authorities and have the tenants taken off the land and brought to justice? Have you not read this part of the Torah: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the sure foundation’?” The other speakers got up in a fury and stormed off the stage. They contacted the organizers to have Esperanza removed, but the organizers said she was the one bringing in the crowd, they couldn’t fire her. They knew the story was about them and their treatment of the Divine’s people for so long.

<  Chapter 18  |  Chapter 20  >

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The Honest Faith: Grinding

Recently my car has been making a grinding sound from the rear wheels. I know it’s not healthy for my vehicle to continue to drive like that, as it may be the brakes rusting over. My car is old. Well 12 years old, but in car years that’s almost an eternity. I’m going to get this fixed as soon as I can, but the issue is that I still need to drive this vehicle to and from work, and to pick my son up from day care. There is a lot that goes into the timing and money it takes to fix a vehicle especially one as old and rusted as mine. Can I afford a Lyft to run my errands while my car is in the shop? Can I afford to get whatever it is that needs fixing, fixed? Will I be able to drive it for a few more days without making things worse? Should I ask for help, or is this one of those, I just gotta get it done things?

I feel, recently, the church has been showing signs of wear and tear as well. If you listen you can hear a loud grinding noise coming from the church in America. It sounds as if the old rusted words and theology are grinding against the modern society that is moving forward. Some may say this is a good thing. That the church was meant to be counter cultural. Though the problem is it’s not counter-cultural at all, it’s anti-cultural as if there was a pendulum that had culture in the middle where counter-culture was on one end of the spectrum and anti-culture was on the other. This grinding isn’t a good thing. It’s not healthy for either the church or the culture. It is a symptom of a much larger problem.

Using my personal predicament as a metaphor for the church there is an important question the church must ask itself. Can the church afford to ignore Jesus? This of course is an afford in a much broader sense than just monetary, though let’s begin there. In Luke’s Gospel there are a few stories about money and the importance it should take in life. There is the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18: 18-30), there is the story of Jesus confronting the Pharisees (Luke 11-12), and there is even the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). The common thread for Jesus across the Gospel was not that wealth and money were bad, but rather the love thereof. Jesus, himself, taught that when you are focused on your own wealth and power it will consume you and not leave room for you to think about the world around you and how it may be affected. This leads us back to the church. Can the church afford to ignore Jesus? I’ve had a few encounters via social media with some evangelical christians who seem to trust Gordon Gekko above Jesus. They believe that “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” This is anti-culture. If you will notice society has trended in the way to say, money isn’t all there is to life. It has become more in-line with Absurdist philosophy  to understand that it is absurd to chase meaning in anything, especially money, other than just living your life. You may view a documentary on Netflix which was just released to examine more the state of which money has influenced Politics rather than people. This Documentary is by former white house economist Robert Reich called, “Saving Capitalism”. Now I could go on and on about how this particular grinding noise is playing out in the church today, but I’m not here to make the repairs just now. I’m here to ask the question, can the church afford to let the problem continue?

Let’s take a listen to another grinding noise coming from the church. Can the church afford to ignore abuse? Now this is a huge can of worms. I brought your attention to this two weeks ago, and it is now starting to encounter resistance from the church. Now the biggest argument from the church, again I’m sourcing from personal social media encounters, is from the beginning of John’s gospel in chapter 8. They site the end of the last verse of the certain story verse 11 where Jesus says, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” Aside from the fact that this story may never have happened according to Biblical scholars, it completely misses the point of the story. The story was to show that unless you yourself are completely perfect you shouldn’t be bringing judgment on another. We have some further writing from Paul in Romans 6, which I have discussed before, that say we certainly shouldn’t go on hurting people because we have license to now. Going back to our synoptic Gospel for this we have Jesus teaching on how we ought to treat each other, and none of those sounds like covering up the abuse of power (read a broad definition of abuse covering all forms). If you look at the end of Luke 6 you see the sermon on the mount, then you have the story of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet which Luke puts way before the Passion week unlike the other Synoptics (Luke 7), and the stories are continuous of this itinerant preacher man throughout the book of Luke where he tells people to treat others with kindness and love. Kindness and love do not turn blind eyes to abuse. They shine a light on it and bring it out. But again, I’m just asking the questions. Can the church afford to ignore abuse?

What about the grinding noise of lack of compassion? Notice, there is a huge uneven number in this country.  There are around 384,000 churches in America right now. As of 2015, here in America, there is an estimated 564,708 homeless people. Now if you were to assume that one of the churches main goals was to feed the hungry and house the homeless you would think that those numbers are disproportionately large. I mean consider that each church in America could house around 30 people per night, not super comfortably, but they could. If each church in America were to commit to housing that many people they could, in essense, give room and board to a grand total of 11,520,000. That’s a little under 5% of our total population in the US but it more than certainly can cover the total amount of homeless. Why is this? Why are churches not having compassion on those who are hungry and destitute? Is it because they are afraid of getting things dirty inside? When did the church become about presentation? Isn’t the work of the church about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and supporting those who need support? That was Jesus’s message in the feeding of the 5000, in the story of the sheep and the goats, and in all of his messages about the Kingdom of the Divine. So what gives? Can the church afford to lose sight of it’s mission?

I could go on and on about the problems. I have for almost a year written a lot about these problems and how I think best to combat them. I have run out of things to say about the church in that, I think it’s time to move forward. To be honest, I, personally, have kind of given up on the organization of the church. I have my reasons. I have been hurt by the church more times than I’d like to admit. Yet, like Hosea, I kept coming back to the place that would hurt me. Almost as if I was a glutton for punishment. It wasn’t healthy for me and it wasn’t healthy for the churches either. It was a grinding that I needed to fix in my own life. Yes, I’m probably going to go and get my car fixed this weekend, I kinda need my car. But what can we do to fix the church at this point in time? I don’t have the answers. As I said two weeks ago, I believe we need a revival, but what does that look like? What do you think reader? Can the church afford to keep going on in its grinding or will it become way too expensive to fix that we will just have to replace it? Reader, your voice matters. What do you think? You are not alone, You matter.

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The Story of Esperanza: Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Shortly before they were in Austin, they were in Houston preparing to give lessons there. While walking around the city one day, they encountered a blind beggar sitting downtown along side of a popular coffee shop. When they came near he heard the group and asked who they were. A passer by told him it was Esperanza of the Texas Hill Country. He began to cry out and say, “Esperanza, daughter of the Divine, please see me!” Other passers-by tried to quiet him and became concerned with how loud he was getting. He just started calling out louder, “Daughter of the Divine! See me!” Esperanza came up next to him and sat with him. She asked him, “What do you want from me?” He turned his face toward where he heard her voice. “I want to be able to see your face.” She turned to him and placed a hand on his cheek. She said, “See me, and know my message.” He blinked and when his eyes opened again he saw her face and those around. He got up and joined the group following her.

A short while later, there was a CEO of a major bank based in Houston named Zack. He had heard of Esperanza and wanted to see her for himself. There was a large crowd gathered around her as she was walking by so he was unable to see this woman he had heard so much about, as he was short. He ran ahead of the crowd and found a mesquite tree along the path. Even though he was wearing an expensive suit and shoes, he just had to see her. He climbed up in the mesquite tree and waited. When the crowd passed by below, Esperanza stopped and looked up at this well dressed man up in the tree looking at her. “Zack?” she asked as she had read articles about this man before, “What are you doing up there come down!” He immediately scrambled down and stood before her. He said, “I had to see the person they said could cure addiction and heal the mind.” She smiled, “Let’s have lunch.” When the crowd saw this they murmured to each other, “He’s going to a banker’s house? Doesn’t she know how poorly he treats his employees and customers?” While at lunch they had a conversation. She discovered that he had become addicted to a certain drug due to the stresses of his job. He had spent a lot of money on it and covering it up. She healed him and shared her message of hope and love. At the end of the meal, he stood in the place they had eaten and declared, “My name is Zack, I am the CEO of a large banking corporation. I hereby declare that half of all that I have will be given to the poor. If I have defrauded anyone, or my company has, I will pay them back four times as much.” Esperanza smiled at him, “Today, you have been saved.”

“This reminds me of a story.” Esperanza told them. “A rich young man went on a  campaign to be elected to a seat of power within congress. In order to judge their ability to help in his new status he called his assistants together. To one he gave $1000, another he gave $500, and yet another he gave $100. He instructed them to invest his money and he would determine what had been done when he returned from Washington. There were those in his district that did not like him for all manner of rumor was set against him on the Internet. He loved his people, however, and was, for the most part, a good man. He returned from his campaign victorious. He had won the votes to become the next representative of that district. He called his assistants together again. The first came to him and said,’ I was able to invest in a new start up in our district, which grew tremendously. I doubled your money in the time that you were campaigning.’ The young man said to him, ‘Well done! You’ve been faithful to me and I will trust you with my finances while I’m in office.’ The second assistant came to him saying, ‘I invested in a dairy farm in your district, it wasn’t much but we were able to get a cow and it has since produced enough milk to make back the money spent on it and then some.’ The young man said to him,’Excellent! Good job, I can trust you to be my right hand man here in the district listen to what my constituents have to say, and ensure that I know what they need.’ The last assistant came to him, ‘Here is your money. I put it under my mattress for safe keeping. I was afraid I’d lose it if I invested it for you, because I know you are shrewd business man. I am not.’ The young man looked at his assistant disappointedly,’I’m sorry, that was not what I asked you to do. You knew I was a shrewd business man, why didn’t you just put it in a savings account where at least I could have gotten a few cents interest in this time. Give me the money. I’m going to give it as a bonus to the assistant I can trust with my finances. You should have invested the money like I had asked. I’m sorry, but I cannot trust you with even a little bit. Collect your things, you are fired.’ He then put together a press conference to  speak to his constituency. He assured them he would make sure to represent them well. He introduced the second assistant who would be his go to person in the district to ensure that he heard the voices of the people. He also introduced the first assistant who would be in charge of the finances to ensure that those in his district who needed investing in would be invested in. This helped to solidify that he did care about his people.”

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The Story of Esperanza: Chapter 17

Chapter 17

While Esperanza and her group were traveling through Austin, one day, they walked under an overpass. This overpass happened to be a popular place for the homeless to “camp”. As they were moving through one of the homeless men recognized her. “Esperanza, teacher, please help us.” he called. When the groups eyes adjusted to the shade, she saw the skin lesions. She asked about them. The man who called out answered, “We cannot afford care, most of us have cancer of varying types. We are forced to choose between room and board, or treatment. Most of us chose treatment and go when we have enough for one of us to go.” Esperanza whispered to Pedro. Pedro pulled out his phone and began fiddling with it. She spoke to the man. “Gather all in your group, go and see the nearest oncologist. When you have you all will have room and board for as long as needed until you get back on your feet.” The homeless gathered their things and set out as a group as soon as they walked into the sunlight beyond the overpass those with skin lesions discovered they were gone. Those with pain felt none. The left to see the doctor. One of them when he saw that he was healed turned back. He ran and fell at Esperanza’s feet, thanking her. Now he was a trans person from female to male, which had him shunned by most in their group. Esperanza said to him, “Weren’t there more of you? Where are the others? Go, here is the address that you shall receive room and board, it will all be taken care of.” She motioned to Pedro who handed her his phone. She jotted down an address and handed a slip of paper to the man. She smiled and continued on her way.

As they walked on, Esperanza told her group a story. “There once was a judge. This judge was selfish and couldn’t care less about humanity. There lived a widow in the same city. This widow was constantly filing a motion for a restraining order against a man she claimed was stalking her. For a while this judge refused. One day he thought to himself, ‘I should just grant this filing so that I can have some peace around here, or else she will keep coming.’ Notice what the selfish judge says. The Divine hears your cries, and does not wait to answer them and give you what it is you need. When all is said and done, will you be selfish and not give to those who ask of you? How about this? Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Priest, and the other a banker. The priest stood and prayed aloud so that all may hear him. ‘Divine, I just, Lord, I thank you that I’m not like those sinners over there. I’m not gay, or trans, or a molester, or greedy, or even like this banker over here. I go to church every day, and I tithe 10%.’ But the banker, standing in the back corner, wouldn’t look up. He just stood looking at his feet. He prayed quietly in his mind, ‘Divine, have mercy on me a sinner!’ I tell you, the banker was more justified than the priest; for he asked and was given forgiveness.”

The group arrived at the convention center in Austin that Esperanza was teaching at. While getting things prepared, a senator for the state of Texas arrived at the convention center to speak with her. “My good lady, what must I do to have this life you tell your people about so often?” he said with an almost fake sounding southern drawl. Esperanza stopped what she was doing and looked him dead in the eye, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but the divine. You know the laws: don’t sleep around, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit perjury against a neighbor, and honor your parents.” He said to her with greasy smile, “Why, of course, my lady. I have grown up in a Jesuit church. I’ve followed those laws since I was little boy.” Esperanza never broke her stare, “One thing you lack, however, sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and then you will have the life you seek. When you do, come and follow me.” The fake smile he gave to the media and crowds broke. He now looked stern and woeful. He said with a bit of a quiver, “Thank you for your time, miss.” He turned and hurriedly retreated for he was very rich. Esperanza went back to what she was doing. As soon as the Senator left the area she said to her group, “How hard it is for the rich to enter into life! It is easier for a rocket scientist to perform brain surgery than it is for a rich person to discover life.” Philip asked, “Then who can be saved?” She said to Philip, “What you think impossible is the simplest thing for the divine.” Pedro turned, “But, we left everything for you.” Esperanza looked at them and smiled, ” You stayed with me through everything. You’ve discovered life. You will give others life. People now look to you for life. There is not one of you who has given up everything for this message that will not receive life in return for what you have given up.”

She continued, “For life is like a vineyard owner who went out early in the morning to hire day laborers. After he was out purchasing supplies, he spotted some more laborers and hired them as well. After lunch he found more and hired them as well. Later in the afternoon after a meeting with his distributors he found more and hired them as well. When the sun was setting the vineyard owner went out to his fields. He called all the workers in. He paid all of them the same wage for the day, even the ones he hired early in the morning. Those who were hired earlier complained. He said to them, ‘Didn’t we agree on this price this morning? I’m giving you more than a fair wage, I choose to give them the same wage. What I do with my money is my decision. Or would you rather begrudge my generosity?’ Life is generous and completely counter to what many would believe. The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

<  Chapter 16 Chapter 18  >

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The Honest Faith: A Call for Revival

I am a husband, a father, a son, a brother, and a minister of the word. I take my duties which go along with these titles very seriously. I love my wife. I love my son. I love my mom and my dad. I love my sister and my brother. I also love all people. This love is not only my duty, but also my pleasure as to me it is more than just a responsibility. It is a calling. Love is not a difficult thing to grasp. It is complicated at times, but love is a simple concept. This simple concept has become twisted and manipulated over time however. Love has gone from “Not insisting on its own way” (I Cor. 13:5) to “it’s my way or the Highway (to hell).”

I mention my relationships, because that is where my deepest hurt is coming from recently. The love of my loved ones is the thing that is hindering my relationship with the Divine and the Divine’s supposed community. There has been a trend, especially in evangelical circles, toward moralism. This trend has replaced the gospel as the most important message of the western church. Moralism is the practice of moralizing, especially showing a tendency to make judgments about others’ morality. Yet, the odd thing is, this moralism has a very odd double standard that more aligns with a secular conservative morality rather than a morality of even Scriptures (take your pick on which). The western church has become obsessed with this idea of, for lack of a better term, American Moralism. Where the message has gone from: God loves you and forgives you no matter what, to: if you don’t follow God, guns, and the American dream you are going to hell.

This morality has a clear disdain for women, children (who have been born, fetus’ are another topic), LGBTQ+, pacifists, anyone who reads anything other than the Bible for historical study, scientists, historians, anyone who thinks anything remotely different than they do, anyone with a mixed or different heritage, and more recently anyone who watches any other news network besides “fox”. I say this disdain is clear because more recently in American politics it has become very evident what this moralism values above the Gospel. It values power, wealth, “rightness”, superstition, and fear. With the election and the excusing the sins of a man who openly admitted to molesting a married woman. The excusing of the sins of a judge who has more often than not shown a clear mistrust and racial bias against those of a different heritage, and has been recently accused of abusing his power to molest young women. These things were excused in an attempt to gain power and to instill a moralism to control others’ morality systems.

If you ask most of those christian moralists why that is, they will point to the one major issue that divides the country, Abortion. While it is an important issue to discuss, it is not the only issue on which we are divided. For example, I do not believe that elective abortion is good, or emotionally healthy. But I also believe in a woman’s right to choose that for herself, rather than having a moralist society say that it is completely illegal to do so. I understand the tough decisions that a woman needs to make. I understand that most do not go about it lightly. I do not believe most women go into the world thinking, “Oh, abortion is a valid form of birth control.” That is reductionistic and silly. I also do not believe in total Anarchy either, but that is a different story. This one issue, while important in itself, is used as the blinder to all others. It is the carrot on the stick that has led the vast majority of the western church astray from the path of the Gospel. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was never intended to be given to the church either. The western church, myself included, has been unable to see the forest for the trees for so long.

Most recently there has been a trend. This trend is a wonderful one. A very empowering and life giving, however world shattering, trend. This trend is about women speaking up and showing that sexual abuse, and harassment is much more common than people make it out to be. It was tagged on social media with #MeToo. While I am a man, and I have my own story of being the victim of sexual abuse, it is primarily meant for women as they have had a much harder time speaking up and being listened to for the sole purpose that they are women. The church, for the longest time, has faced many stories and allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of all sorts since time immemorial. Though with the virality of this trend, many more stories are coming to light. Just this week alone there are stories of pastors of mega-churches, 3 pastors in my state alone, and many more across the country. The church has repressed sexuality and even talk about sex for a long time, it is almost no wonder that we have gone beyond the boiling point for such stories. This is just sexual abuse, though. There have been all kinds of tyrannical abuse stories from spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, and so on from the church.

It is enough to make anyone say, “Enough!” Yet, the cries of the congregations go unheeded because they are not what is important to this beast we have created. No, this beast is massive, ugly, and only cares for power and wealth. That is all we are to it. Notice I use the small c when I refer to church, because there is a clear and distinct line between toxic moralism christianity and healthy Jesus following Christianity. That line, that gap, I’ve written about many times. It is widening, daily. It threatens to consume not just the United States of America, but the world whole. There is a problem, you may choose to ignore it, God help you if you do, but it is there. When moralism becomes more important than the gospel message we’re just feeding the small c church monster.

I used a term to title this blog post that may trigger some memory of abuse for some, for that I apologize. But I use it for a purpose. The purpose is that I’m trying to speak the language of those who are caught up in the beast’s grasp. Those who are all to willing to ignore the problem. Because it is time we take a good hard look at what the church has become. It is time we ask the important questions like “What does the gospel look like in the 21st century?” We need a revival. We are a resurrection people. It may mean we need to let the western church as we know it die, so that it may be resurrected. I don’t know what it is supposed to look like. I don’t have the answers to that. I’m just a writer, and minister in the USA, what do I know. I just know something needs to be done. I just know that we cannot continue how we are going because this problem, this beast threatens us all. We are dealing with the impacts of that beast every day. There are more mass shootings every day. There are more stories of abuse coming to light every day. There are more and more people suffering new abuse stories every day. There is a church that has been consumed by moralism rather than the gospel. In case you forgot, the gospel is this: GOD LOVES EVERYONE! Everyone is welcome at the table. No strings, no agendas, no morality needed. EVERYONE. For God so loved the world that God decided to move into the neighborhood, so that we may see that God loved us enough to suffer and die with us. Whoever decides to accept that love is welcomed to that love. For God didn’t come to judge us, but that we may be saved from our own moralism.

This is your call to revival. This is your call to take a good hard look at the church. If you are going to a toxic church, If you realize that you are in the grips of this monster we have created, it is time to get out. It is time find a healthy Jesus following Church. One that does not care about the money or the power that you bring to it, a Church that welcomes you for who and what you are. A Church that cares for and welcomes everyone with no strings, no agenda, no need for moralism. That is the Agape Love, the unconditional love that the Bible talks about. That is Good Christianity. They exist. They are out there, though they may be hard to find. Take care of yourselves. These are tough times we live in. Remember that you are not alone, you matter. You are not alone, you matter. You are not alone, you matter.

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 16

Chapter 16:

Esperanza spoke on, “From long before the time of Yeshua Ben-Yoseph people have been trying to create the Kingdom of the Divine by force. You have tried to force the message of peace by violence and fear. That is not how this works. The law was given so that you may understand how to treat one another. That is a message of peace not of violence and fear.”

The Priests and Rabbi decided to fire back and trip her up on the law, “What about divorce? Is that lawful?” Exasperated, Esperanza turns to them again, “What does the earliest record of the law state?” The religious leaders returned with, “It says to give a certificate of divorce if requested.” She again looked hard at them. “This law was written for humans to act civilly together. If someone requests a divorce and means it shouldn’t it be given so that they can live peaceably in society? Laws are written for us to live together peacefully, not for us to be enslaved to them. This seems to be the one law you and people like you excuse the most. Why not the others?”

“Let me put it this way, there once was a very rich man. Outside of this man’s gated community was a poor woman who often liked to camp outside the gates as the lawn was well maintained and the walls provided shelter from the harsh wind. She also knew there were good scraps of food in the dumpster as the rich people within the community threw away large amounts of unspoiled food. Coincidentally, both the rich man and the poor woman died on the same day. The poor woman arrived in the Kingdom of the Divine, the rich man, however, saw only a desolate apocalyptic hell-scape. He turned and, as if looking through a frosted window, saw the poor woman and another figure with her. He called out to them, ‘Please! Help me! I only want just a bit of water. I don’t see any, how am I to survive in this?’ The figure spoke, ‘Don’t you remember all the wonderful things you had in life? Do you remember that this woman beside me had none of those things. Now she has all the good things she could want, and you have none. For the measure of a man is not in what he has, but in how he shares it.’ He then said, ‘Well if I cannot have those things now, send someone to tell my family so they will not end  up like this.’ The figure spoke again,’ They have the law and those who taught on the law for centuries. Why would they need another?’ The rich man spoke again,’ But they don’t listen to those things, I didn’t. If someone who was dead comes back and tells them though, maybe they will listen. ‘ The figure spoke again,’ If they don’t treat other people with love and kindness, they wouldn’t be convinced to do so even if someone from the dead were to tell them to.'”

On the other side of the park where they were gathered was a playground. Esperanza motioned to the children playing there. “Would you want to keep them from the Divine? Would you tell a child not to treat someone else with kindness and love because of ‘The Law’? No! You would let the children run to the Divine. For they know full well that all are loved, all are human. Unless someone comes to the Divine with a heart like that, they are doing it wrong. You would rather hinder that, however. I tell you whoever stops one like them from coming to the Divine,… Well, it would be better for them to shut their mouths and lock themselves away. Woe to them who do such! There is forgiveness though. Listen to the voices of those who tell you that you are doing such, if you do you will be forgiven.” One of her friends, Pedro, shouted, “How many times should we forgive these creeps?” Esperanza smiled with a reproving, but humorous smile. She spoke loudly enough for all to listen. “You should never stop forgiving. When you stop forgiving you’ve become just like them. You would close the gates to the Kingdom to even just one, you have become just like those who would keep children from the Divine.” Pedro blushed and got lost in the group of friends. The teachers could say nothing. They burned with rage and stormed away.

When she returned to her friends, they lauded her. They asked her, “Can you teach us more of the Kingdom, so that we can speak like you?” She said to them kindly. “You already know of the Kingdom. With a little bit of work, kindness, and love you can change the world into the Kingdom. The world doesn’t change suddenly. It doesn’t happen with signs and fanfare. You wouldn’t be able to point and say, ‘Oh, look there’s the Kingdom.’ It’s already here, you are making right here, right now. This gathering is the Kingdom. Things may get bad. They always do, but never stop loving and being kind to one another. Don’t stop accepting people for who they are. You are going to encounter all sorts of people like these. People who worship power and wealth above all else. They will say they are followers of the Divine, but they only lead people away from the Divine. This message is dangerous. People will despise you for this message of love and kindness. Don’t go back to how you were. If you want an easy life, you can have it, but you would never be happy. Instead, never stop forgiving, never stop loving, and never stop treating others with kindness. If you do, you will be filled with life.”

<  Chapter 15  |  Chapter 17  >

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The Honest Faith: Fear

In his book “The Devil and Miss Prym” Paulo Coelho wrote “Fear again. If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.” While this is from a novel it does display a deeper truth about our world. Fearmongering has been a trend of those in power for many years. In the “Nuremberg Diary” Gustave Gilbert writes how Nazi leader Hermann Goering explained this tactic “The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” I read once in a novel, I can’t remember which one for the life of me at the moment, that fear was how the secret society was controlling the world since the end of the cold war. Even though it was a silly plot device in a novel it still held some truth to it. Have we been controlled by fear?

Recently, I’ve joined a digital community that is made up of people who have left the Evangelical christian culture. Some have left christianity altogether, some are still trying to find out what is true in the arena. One of the major themes I’ve noticed in the background of many of these people is the use of fear as a manipulation tool. This has been done through Fearmongering or creating a culture of fear. As I have been working through my anxiety to claw my way back out into some resemblance to normalcy, I noticed that so much of that anxiety was a manufactured fear of the false truths I let people lord over me. I have thought a lot about my career inside the church walls and I noticed the places where I was the most abused were places that had a culture of fear so as to give the priest or pastor some sort of power over the congregation. This wasn’t all churches, and I’m not going to point fingers. That wouldn’t be helpful, suffice to say I experienced it first hand. I’m trying not to be afraid anymore.

What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid of it? Who told you or taught you to be afraid of whatever it is? This is a big question to ask ourselves as it will help to determine why it is we do some of the things that we do. In 1976 a satirical film titled “Network” took a look at the unusual nature of the broadcasting industry. The unusualness of this satire is that it became reality. This reality was centered around people’s anger, yet when it was found to be unsustainable shifted to this fearmongering that most news networks have resorted to. They’ve been doing it for a long time, some have perfected that art through their far right or far left ideologies. I don’t think I need to name names again, as you probably already know what I refer to and it isn’t helpful.

There is so much to be afraid of. If you turn on the tv, listen to the radio, or even go to church on a Sunday morning you are told to be afraid. America has been kept in this constant state of fear since the end of World War II. I’m not going to tell you that there isn’t anything to be afraid of because that is just reductionistic and not true. Yes, there are things to be afraid of, but in the grand scheme of things they are small. These fears, statistically speaking, have almost a non-existent amount of happening to you. I know that doesn’t make it better. But it helps to remember what is real, tangible, and possible. I can recite a number of platitudes and verses about how not to be afraid, but again, I know that doesn’t help. What does help, is knowing that you aren’t alone. You matter. What you do can make a difference. What helps is naming the fear, knowing it exists, and reminding yourself of how small it is compared to you.

With that being said I want to turn our attention to the church. I know that what I’m about to write may be controversial. Though let me preface it by saying that I follow Yeshua. I’m a firm believer in the Divine. My beliefs have changed a lot, but I still consider myself to be Christian. I’m not asking you to get rid of your beliefs, I’m just asking you to have an open mind about what I’m about to say. I want you to examine your faith. Take a close look at why you believe in the Divine, and/or Jesus. Was it because you were told there was something to fear? Were you coerced into church and all that Churchianity stuff by a fear that your immortal soul would be forever condemned if you didn’t? Were you taught by using Pascal’s wager? Was there an altar call at every service at your church? It may be that your pastor or priest did not intentionally do this to control their congregation. It probably wasn’t even their fault. They were probably genuinely concerned for your immortal soul. That isn’t to say they weren’t complicit in the culture of fear within the church. Have you joined groups or volunteered for something within the church out of this fear? Maybe it was fear that other people would gossip, or that the one old church lady would judge you if you didn’t. But it was there, wasn’t it? Take a good hard look at your faith and your church. Are you going willingly, or are you being guilted or coerced into it by fear?

Something that I have learned through my year of therapy, I have since “graduated”, is that when you realize a fear is there, when you name the fear, and realize how small it is in comparison to yourself, you can then begin to stand against it. I have found this through the man Yeshua. I found that he taught not fear, but power. Power to those who were powerless before. He taught those who were kept in this state of fear to stand up and topple these fears by being human. He taught those who were outcasts of society that there was no system to fear. He even said the faith (read: longing) of a mustard seed could move mountains. A little bit of longing for the world to be a better place could drive you to make it so. That is bigger than fear. Action speaks louder than fear. Bravery can only be accomplished in the face of fear. I’ve written about questioning and the importance of always questioning. I’ve written about a fair number of things at this point. But I think this is the important point about this. If you are too afraid to question those who lead you, why do you allow them to lead you? If you are being kept in subjugation through fear, you need to stand up and question that fear. You need to question those who tell you to fear. You may find there was nothing to fear all along.

I’m not going to tell you not to be afraid. That isn’t helpful. Instead, I’m going to tell you to examine that fear. Figure out what is causing it. Look at it in the grand scheme of life. In comparison to who you are it is small. So stand up, be brave. Don’t let that fear pretend it is bigger than you because it isn’t. If you are struggling with fear, If you are being forced to do something out of fear, or if you feel the fear is too big for you to face alone please seek help. You are not alone, after all. Send someone you trust a message. Or even send me a message. I would be happy to help, though I am not licensed professional in any way. You don’t have to face it alone. The fear is not bigger than you. You are bigger than the fear. Don’t let fear be your faith, Yeshua never taught that. Let love be your faith. Let Love set you free. Your faith, beliefs, and worldview should not be something that is brought about by fear. They shouldn’t even be something that feels like a burden or restricting. Instead, it should be freeing. Freeing to love, and be brave in the face of that fear. Freeing to stand and fight for others to be released from that fear. Love frees all. Love conquers all. Love is love. Love can never be a sin. So go free others with that love. Fear not, for I am with you. You are not alone, you matter!

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Esperanza’s popularity grew with each tale of her healing. One day she posted to social media this statement, “If you want to be my follower if you truly want to learn from me, you must consider this cause more important than all you have. The cause of love is more important than your family, your life, and even your own wellbeing. You must be willing to suffer and possibly even die for other people. Consider what it will cost you to follow me. Who goes out to buy a sports car but cannot afford the payments? They are laughed at and made fun of. What person when planning a party does not consider their guests when planning snacks and meals? If you hold tightly to what you have in the here and now, you will eventually lose it. Instead give freely, love freely, and know that this is dangerous work. What good is a car without gas? Or a fountain without water? If you say you follow me and my teachings but do not actually do them you are without purpose.”

A short time later, Esperanza had met with her friends and there was a larger group of people gathered around her. This was a gathering of people many would consider being outcasts and ‘sinners’. A group of rabbi and priests were passing the gathering. They murmured rather loudly for people to hear, “She hangs around sinners and outcasts? She eats and has gatherings with them?” The crowd grew silent and split so that Esperanza could speak to the group of teachers. “Tell me which one of you if your dog runs away will not go out and put up missing posters? How about when the dog is found would you not celebrate that your family member has returned home? These are my family members. This party is an image of what the Divine’s kingdom will be like. We found each other, you are welcome to join us. Or how about this, if you lost your wallet, do you not tear your house apart looking for it? Once you have found it would you not breathe a sigh of relief? These people are looking for a place to call home. Here together, we are building home.

There once was a man who had two sons; the youngest said to the father, ‘I know we are a wealthy family. I’d like my share of things to try to get started on my own ideas and company.’ The father considered this and wondered what his son would do with the investment. He gave it to him. Not much later the son went out and got distracted buying himself all manner of frivolous thing. He bought clear toilets with money in them just for show. He bought the most expensive beverages and food. But did not get started on his business ideas. When he discovered he had spent all that he had, he panicked. He was evicted from his penthouse and all of his stuff was repossessed. He started to work at a fast food restaurant because it was the only job that he could get. He couldn’t even afford to eat. He would have gladly eaten any of the food he served up every day, but the company had strict rules against that. He thought to himself, ‘How many people work for my father? Don’t they have enough to eat? They get paid well enough. They have enough, yet I am dying out here on minimum wage. I’ll go to him and say that I’m sorry, I’m not worthy to be called his son. I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.’ He took what little he had earned after months at the fast food place and bought a bus ticket. When he was still far from the house, his father spotted him. He knew it was his son. His heart welled up and he ran to meet him. The son stopped and could not make eye contact. Through the tears, he said to his father, ‘Dad, I’m so sorry. I’m not worthy to be your son.’ The father interrupted him and said, ‘Stop. You are my son, you will always be my son. You made a mistake. We’ll work it out. Come inside get cleaned up and put on good clothes for we are going to celebrate tonight.’ The eldest son caught his dad on his way back inside. ‘Dad, I’ve been here the entire time. I’ve worked hard for you, you’ve never given me a party.’ The father smiled and put an arm around his eldest son, ‘Son, your brother has come home. You are always with me, everything I’ve had is yours. Your brother has come home to the place where he belongs.’

There also was a businesswoman who owned many franchises. One day one of her advisors informed her that there was a franchise manager who was skimming money from the business. She called the manager in for a meeting. ‘You have been accused of skimming money from the business, what do you have to say for yourself?’ While the manager was trying to explain, he thought to himself,’What am I going to do? If I’m fired I have no marketable skills. I know, I will lessen my take so that other people will take care of me.’ The businesswoman fired him. He was given to the end of the week to settle up any accounts with a close eye. He settled up the accounts cutting his portion of the commission out of the bills, on some they amounted to 50% on others it was 20%. The businesswoman was informed by those who kept a close eye on the man. She was impressed at his thoughtfulness for his own position, and his attempt to make some things right. For those of you who do not follow me are quite shrewd in the way you conduct your business. Maybe you should take a look at those you do business with and make friends with them and see they are just like those who have gathered. For with your mind on your money, you worship only Mammon.

Those who are faithful with little will also be faithful with a lot. But, also, those who lie about a little will certainly lie about a lot. So when you lie about a little with your business dealings and worship of mammon, who will gather around you to help you? If you have lied about other’s business as well, who will give you what is your own? Nobody can serve two desires; either they will hate one and love the other, or they will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both the Divine and Mammon.”

Those who were scornful at the beginning scoffed at this. But she said to them, “You are those who make yourselves look good in front of people, but the Divine knows your hearts; those who are praised for their good appearances before others look horrific to the Divine.”

<  Chapter 14 Chapter 16  >

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