Regarding Dreams…

Shame on the night/ for what I’ve done, and things I’ve seen/ for giving me the strangest dreams/ but you never ever tell me what they mean, and oh!/ shame on the night…

Ronnie James Dio (from the song ‘Shame on the Night’)

Dreams define who we are…

But the irony is, we never ADMIT that they do! Most people hold the memory of their dreams close to the chest, sharing them with no one. We almost never talk about them or reveal their contents, not even to our closest friends.

But still they haunt us, plaguing not only our nights but our waking hours as well. Dreams bring our fears to life, and tap into our most cherished fantasies. They are a blessing, for they bring us relief from the curse that is Living…

And yet they’re also a curse unto themselves, in that they confront us with the very things from which we seek relief. Dreams are spawned by terrors of which we dare not even speak, lest through having been given utterance they be brought to unholy life.

I… hate dreams.

And I also LOVE them, because they’ve defined my world since before I was old enough to understand the difference between Reality and Fantasy.

Dreams differ from person to person. According to my sleep specialist (poor, overworked bastard) your average person is a ‘passive dreamer’. In other words, to most people a dream is like a movie. You are a spectator watching a play, and nothing more.

But some people – not very many – are ‘cognitive dreamers’. Cognitive dreamers can make decisions, speak, and act during a dream, oftentimes even altering their outcomes.

That’s me. Always has been.

The problem with being a ‘cognitive dreamer’ is this: It’s a psychological problem. ‘Cognitive dreaming’ means that one’s brain is still mostly awake it’s SUPPOSED to be resting!

This… is bad. Very, VERY bad!

It’s especially troubling to me, because oftentimes my humdrum day segue-ways directly into a dream. So my mind actually creates memories of interactions with friends, co-workers, and family members that aren’t real. That’s embarrassing. Sometimes I’ll try to continue a conversation with someone, only to have them look at me in confusion… because that conversation never actually happened.

What REALLY disturbs me are my recurring nightmares. When I was a little, maybe four or five, I lived in an apartment building that was barely a hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean. I fell asleep to the sound of the breakers crashing onto the sandy shore, night after night…

Picturesque, huh? One would like to think so, anyway.

To this day (and I’m in my forties) I suffer from the same nightmare that I did back then: The ocean rising above its borders, and flooding my home. And with the flooding comes the SHARKS, who chase me from room to room eagerly seeking my bloody demise.

Another recurring nightmare that plagues me is this one: I’m looking in a mirror, and I see something in the mirror that I KNOW isn’t real. Am I going crazy, I wonder? Or is the mirror actually an occultic doorway into worlds that I don’t understand, and probably don’t WANT to?!

Trust me, those two nightmares are only the tip of the iceberg…

At the end of the day, I have to believe that God wired my brain the way He did for a reason. I resent the perpetual insomnia, for sure, and the crazy dreams. But what if my brain was ‘normal’…? Would I still be a writer? An artist? Or would I just be another drone, dutifully contributing to society but having nothing UNIQUE to offer it?

I’ll never know the answer to that question, at least in this life, because I’m ME and not someone else… so my maudlin night terrors will continue to define my reality, as they always have. I’ll never get a glimpse of the ‘other side’, because I was never hard-wired to SEE the other side.

Maybe that’s okay… or maybe it ain’t. Either way, I have no frame of reference.

But I DO trust that God knows what He’s doing. If my head’s a jumbled mess (and it is), then it’s that way for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is…

And you know what?

I don’t HAVE to! ‘Nuff said…

Regarding Lies…

‘For nothing that is hidden will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light…’Luke 8:17

‘But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire…’2 Peter 3:7

Does anyone besides me wonder how the world got so screwed up?!

It’s always been the tradition of rock singers and poets to blame ‘them’, the politicians and world leaders. But are they really the problem?

Is it really ‘them’… or is it us?

One in ten people that you meet, you will not like… for reasons that have nothing to do with them. One in ten people that you meet will also not like you. The usual subconscious reason is that they remind of someone that you already didn’t like, and vice versa.

But do you tell them that? Do they tell you that?

Nope. We hold our unspoken motives close to the chest, turning our day-to-day lives into a cloak-and-dagger game. Half the time, we aren’t even aware of our motives… but that doesn’t stop us from acting upon them.

We live in a world of shadows, a world of half-truths and outright lies. We can’t even begin to unravel it all because we’re telling ourselves the exact same lies that we tell others, often blissfully unaware that we’re being deceitful. Only fiction ever makes sense; only stories come with the blessing of tidy, fully-explained endings…

 In real life, decisions are made based almost entirely upon the Unseen.

I’m pretty sure that’s the reason that, in the end, God’s gonna burn this world to the ground.

We need a fresh start…

He is Risen!

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? – 1 Corinthians 15:55

We are living in a very, very dark time right now!

For those of you who live in a cave, a virus known as COVID-19 was recently unleashed from a laboratory in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Whether its release was deliberate or accidental, it has raged through the Western World like wildfire.

That ain’t the problem. The survival rate for COVID-19 is over ninety-nine percent.

The problem is that the Globalist New World Order unleashed their loyal servant – the Mainstream Media – to inflate and distort the breadth of this ‘pandemic’. Swiftly picking up the ball, governments (at nearly every level) followed by instituting totalitarian, unlawful ‘mitigation’ efforts to see just how far they can push ‘We the People’ before we revolt…

We’re not revolting; apparently, we’re bigger sissies than our forefathers were. How does that Green Day song go? ‘Don’t wanna be an American Idiot/ One nation controlled by the media/ Everybody do the propaganda/ and sing along with the age of paranoia…’

We are all going to wake up tomorrow to a world that will be more socialistic and despotic than it was yesterday… and it was pretty socialistic and despotic yesterday. As South Park’s Big Gay Al once rhetorically asked, ‘The whole world’s gone to hell, but how are you?

To which he replied, ‘I’m SUPER, thanks for asking!’

We may live in dark times right now, but as my man Dave Draiman once wrote: Sometimes darkness can show you the light!

Today – illegally locked in our homes, or not – we celebrate the greatest event in all of human history: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The triumphant God-made-flesh demonstrated His power by dragging evil into a tomb and leaving it there, and this is the day upon which we celebrate His victory!

Most will, sadly, reject this truth. We still, after all, live in a world plagued by legions of empty, bogus belief systems.

But

Just because Satan hasn’t been done away with yet doesn’t mean that he isn’t still defeated. He’s already been condemned; now he’s just awaiting his sentence. In the meantime, anyone can choose the redemption offered so freely by Jesus Christ. All men and women now have a choice: Embrace these dark times as though that’s all there is, or embrace a bright future in which evil will be burned away and goodness will reign for all time.

We have this hope because Christ died to purge us of our guilt, but that death would have been an empty gesture had He not triumphantly defeated Death…

By His own grace, He did.

The whole world’s gone to hell, but how am I?

I’m SUPER, thanks for asking! HAPPY EASTER!!!

To read more on the subject of Christ: https://shaunmoser.com/2019/12/14/forsaken/

Fire and Blood: A Fable in Seven Parts

Author’s note: Fables are not my strong suit. Nor is writing in the present tense. But sometimes breaking one’s mold is satisfying, and more than a little cathartic…

Part I

In all the world, there is none so graceful, so beautiful, or so powerful as the Phoenix.

The awe-inspiring bird of ancient myth soars high above his world, transcending even Time itself. He soars in, out, and through all the ages of men, carried aloft by wings be-feathered with incandescent flame. He turns his piercing eye toward the doings of mankind with open scorn, his plumed head un-bowed. Un-bowed… before man, beast, and even the Almighty Himself.

For who is greater than the Phoenix? He is the dragon-bird of the Heavens, the Watchman of the Ages.

Perhaps he had a beginning, or perhaps he never did. Perhaps someone plucked him from the pyre of his birth. Or perhaps he is simply timeless, without beginning and certainly incapable of ever coming to an end.

In his travels the Phoenix gazes often upon the mountain of the Almighty. He finds it in odd places sometimes, the mountain, and always unexpectedly. Sometimes it rises from the desert, overlooking the heathen hordes of the Middle East. Sometimes it appears on lush isles, surrounded by the resort cities of America, the modern Roman Empire. But always it seems to follow the glorious Phoenix, the mountain, and always the great dragon-bird turns and sails disdainfully away from it, flicking his crimson tail feathers in irritation.

For the Almighty is really just a crutch for the weak, is He not? His worshippers grovel at the feet of their deity, their praise mixed always with barely concealed terror. They are addicts to religion, those weak-minded mortals who must need cling to the idea of a Greater Being. But not so the Phoenix… The Phoenix has sailed through all the ages alone, dependant on none, and will continue to do so.

The immortal Phoenix has no need of either the Almighty or His mortal servants. Do they love their master, really… or do they simply desire release from the fear of death?

Either way, the Phoenix is his own being, an entity apart.

As the sun rises over Eden, hits its zenith over the half-built Sphinx, and sets behind the crumbling Mount Rushmore, the Phoenix flies effortlessly across the fluid eonic winds – ageless, changeless, and proud beyond all measure.

For who, in the end, can be greater than the Phoenix?

Part II

The mammoth trumpets loudly, calling out in anguish as golden claws tear into its hide.

Crimson wings beat about its head, forcing it to the earth in unwilling surrender. It thrashes like a fish, a massive hulk of struggling sinew, fur and tusk. Its piteous cries tear into the frigid Siberian air, mingling with the vicious snarling of the hungry Phoenix.

At last the great mammoth dies, as everything must in the end. It settles into the snow, spreading a scarlet stain upon the pristine white blanket.

The Phoenix throws his head up in triumph, his chilling victory scream piercing the still, frozen night as blood drips from his razor-sharp beak.

While the Phoenix hunts here often, he disdains to actually eat here… For what union can a creature of fire and flame have with the never-ending ice? Grasping his kill in his curved talons, the Phoenix takes wing toward another age, another place.

The Phoenix drops his prey atop a high, lonely mountain, one whose peak pierces the cloud barrier. Here mankind will hinder him not; here, he may continue to remain the stuff of mystery, of myth.

Of course, every boon has it price…

For where mankind is not, the celestial becomes more tangible. Here there be the guardians and warriors, the protectors and killers of mankind; they flock about the Phoenix curiously, cherubim, seraphim, and nephilim all. The winged, ethereal creatures – male and female both – flit about the Phoenix as he feeds, the ghost-like tendrils of their clothing just brushing the great dragon-bird, their touch as light as a whisper.  

It is not long before their presence becomes odious; the Phoenix rises from his gorging, his tearing of flesh and cracking of bones, and snaps angrily at the celestial minions who come too close. This is his prey, his kill, and he is determined that they should hinder him not.

They eye him but coolly, completely unbothered by the rage of the mythical Phoenix. He is merely legend, their indifference seems to say… But they are the sort that pre-dates even legend. As such, they are beyond even the Phoenix’s reproach and retribution. They are as numb to his attempts at rebuttal as Death was to the mammoth’s frantic trumpeting.

The Phoenix will later tell himself that he’d eaten enough, that he was about to leave anyway. He takes wing furiously, leaving his gory, dismembered meal to sully the mountain’s craggy peak, and leaves this hell of angelic torment.

He’d eaten enough… really, and truly, and the celestials mattered no. They had nothing whatsoever to do with his leaving.

Really.

Part III

The Almighty is an elusive thing, easy to see, easy to identify but hard to follow, and impossible to pin down.

The Phoenix resents Him mightily for this.

Sometimes the Almighty is obvious but distant, a shining form that tops of the mountains from which he views the entirety of His creation. It is then that the Phoenix resents Him the most, for He is untouchable then, unfathomable and omnipotent; His very presence seems to scorn the mighty Phoenix.

The Almighty, in His untouchable, all-powerful form. How the Phoenix hates Him!

Often the Almighty becomes Spirit, the sentient, changeless phantom. This form, also, the Phoenix dislikes. But he is not so afraid of Him then; he cannot see the Spirit of the Almighty, after all. But he can sense Him, and he finds him frightening nonetheless. The Spirit is separate from the God upon the mountains – but yet He is the same singular, sovereign entity that is the Almighty.

Some days, though, for brief, passing moments, the Almighty becomes simply… mortal. A perishable vessel of flesh. A man, much like any other.

The Phoenix cannot say why he even recognizes this incarnation of the Almighty, this Son of Man. Perhaps he can sense the Spirit within Him, or perhaps the tangible Almighty simply shines even more brightly upon Him.

The Son of Man, too – like the mountaintop Almighty, or the Spirit – is also the Almighty Himself, yet the Phoenix grasps this not. One thing, however, is certain; the Phoenix does not fear the Son of Man. He follows Him daily, floating effortlessly on astral winds, watching as the human Almighty does very human things with His time.

Some days the Son of Man works at mundane tasks, wielding hammer and saw as lustily as any carpenter. He sweats, bleeds, laughs and grunts like any other man intent on building the buildings that house his world.

Yet sometimes the Son of Man pulls away, to pray, to connect with the Almighty upon His mountaintop – this Almighty who is also the Son of Man. Sometimes He wanders the known world with those He has chosen, His select followers. The Phoenix, if he would follow, is forced to fly far and wide, watching from a distance as the Son of Man spreads whatever news He carries to the far corners of His humble nation.

Sometimes the Phoenix lingers within the age of the Son of Man for a time, and sometimes he travels to another, leaving the Almighty-made-flesh to His own devices.

Today, however, the Phoenix is earthbound, watching lazily, preening his crimson feathers disdainfully as the Son of Man stands at the foot of a tall mountain, speaking quietly to his closest friends. The Phoenix cannot hear His words, nor does he care to. He is simply here to observe, to find some new reason to cast scorn upon God and Man both.

The Phoenix raises his plumed head, suddenly intrigued.

The Son of Man has risen above his followers, hands outspread, moving aloft as though pulled by unseen strings.

Now, thinks the Phoenix with macabre humor, Man has learned to fly?! Smiling with his hooked, cruel beak, the Phoenix lunges from beneath his shade tree.

Far, far above the awestruck assemblage, the Almighty shines from His mountain. The Son of Man sails toward Him, as though somehow drawn by the majesty of the Frightfully Eternal.

Determined suddenly not to be denied a privilege handed to a mortal – even a wholly Divine, Immortal Mortal – the Phoenix flies upward, determined to follow the Son of Man into whatever heaven might await Him atop the mountain.

And who truly knows what really waits at the top of the mountain of the Almighty? Only the Almighty Himself, and His Spirit… and the Son of Man.

But soon, the Phoenix vows silently to himself, he too will know.

Part IV

Straining more with each flap of his thunderous wings, the Phoenix rises higher and higher, following the Son of Man as He ascends toward the mountaintop.

Flames lick at the tips of his wings the beat at the chilly air, but the Phoenix worries not. These are not the flames that consume, but the flames that illuminate, that the world may see the Phoenix and stand in awe.

The Phoenix breaks through the clouds and then through the atmosphere, breaking into the Eternal Night as he struggles to overtake the Son of Man. The Son looks serenely down at the Phoenix, shaking his head a little. Silly bird, He seems to be saying. You cannot seize my world for yourself, any more than you can seize the wind

The Phoenix pays Him little heed. He merely redoubles his efforts, determined not to be outdone by anyone, divine or otherwise.

Still the Son of Man rises, moving past star and planet, through the Endless Nothing toward the mountaintop heaven.

The Phoenix begins to tremble more and more with each passing stroke of his wings. Tarnished feathers fall from his aching wings every now and again, drifting slowly toward the atmosphere, where they disappear in flashes of flame and puffs of smoke.

The Phoenix is slowly overtaken by a dawning realization, the sinking feeling that he might actually be able to die.

Still the Son of Man rises serenely, paying the Phoenix little mind.

The ageless beast continues his ascent, but with increasing sluggishness. He hangs his head low, his plume all but gone now, diminished feather by missing feather until it is no more.

One… last… flap, one last desperate plunge toward the Son of Man – who is all but out of sight.

The bedraggled tail feathers that once pointed toward the earth point suddenly skyward, and the Phoenix begins to fall.

He resists, of course, managing a feeble movement of his twitching wings every now and then. But to no avail; he has reached the end of his strength, and he is utterly spent. There is no help for him now… For who would bother to aid him who has scorned all?

The Phoenix hits the atmosphere with a rush of searing pain, and a sudden stab of fear. Like the returning space capsules of the modern age, the force of re-entering the firmament causes massive heat.

As his body begins to simmer and scorch, the Phoenix realizes that this is not the sort of flame that illuminates…

This is the sort of flame that consumes.

The Phoenix stares downward with bulging eyes. Gone is the stunned crowd who watched the Son of Man ascend into heaven; gone is the lush valley of earlier, the tree beneath which the Phoenix preened his once-lovely feathers.

The earth opens up slowly, a hungry maw of flaming fissures, cracks that scar the face of the earth like veins on a dying man.

The Phoenix plunges down, down, exhausted beyond recovery. He looks upward painfully; the Son of Man is far beyond his gaze.

Gone is the crowd, the followers of the Son.

There is no one to listen, no one to hear as the Phoenix crashes into a fissure and begins to burn.

Part V

The Phoenix lifts his head wearily; exhausted, he lets it fall. The flames in which it lands are unbearably painful, yet he lacks the strength to fly away.

His wings crack ominously as he rolls over; his crimson feathers burn one by one, curling away from his blistering flesh in withering clumps of smoldering ash.

So this, then, is Death. To burn yet not be consumed, to suffer and yet not die.

Squawking weakly, the Phoenix struggles to his knees. His golden claws melt and drip away, and his toes dig into the softened earth. Looking skyward with smoke-blurred eyes, the Phoenix looks skyward at the stars, toward the sky that was once his playground.

The Son of Man is up there somewhere, while he – the great Phoenix, the timeless demon-bird – wallows here, in the flames of his own making. All that he ever knew, all that he ever wanted although he’d taken it for granted, is up there… nearly within the grasp of his twisted talons.

So close… and so far that it may as well be on another planet. Life, liberty and all that is good are just out reach but within easy eyeshot, tormenting, mocking.

The Phoenix flops painfully toward a shadow at the edge of the fissure, dragging his broken wings painfully behind them. Maybe it is cooler here; maybe, he thinks, the fire is not quite so hot.

He curls up in the crack, covering his de-plumed head with his spindly, tattered wings. Gone is the glorious creature of ages both past and future; gone is the Watchman of the Ages. Only this tormented beast remains, worse off than any creature who ever perished beneath his grasp.

The Phoenix lays his head down. Groaning, his breath coming in short, ragged gasps.

He feels something beneath his head, something that shouldn’t be here, something that should not have survived the flames.

Ever curious even in his agony, the Phoenix blinks the smoke from his eyes and peers through the darkness.

A scroll. He’d lain his head upon a scroll, something perishable, a creation forged of parchment and ink. Something easily destroyed by flame and heat… yet here it is.

Bits of his burnt and melted feathers cling to the scroll as he unfurls it, his need for distraction overcoming even his pain.

He reads the first few words aloud, mouthing the words with a smoke-blackened beak. In the beginning

‘In the beginning’, here at the end of all that is worthwhile, the end of all joy…

But he can sit out there, wallowing in the flames… or he can hide here in this crack that barely hides him, where even the flames lick inward every once in a moment, and read.

In the beginning…

Part VI

The Son of Man stands at the edge of the fissure, looking down upon the Phoenix.

The Phoenix looks up, knowing what he must do. He knows why the Son is here, and what he came to do. He knows for what purpose he has been given the scroll…

But such a loss of pride! Such a humiliation, to do what the Son expects of him!

The Phoenix groans as he looks around. He had once lived for his pride, valued it above all else. But now he knew better.

For as long as he clings to his pride… he will burn. It was not the Son of Man who threw him into this furnace, but he himself, and by virtue of his own pride, his own sin. And there was no help for him, by his own effort; he could only, by his own effort, do nothing but sit here and burn.

Giving in at last, the Phoenix raises his voice and cries out to the Son of Man, begging for mercy, for redemption. Screeching, he recants his pride and his rebellion; he wails out a raucous song of repentance and supplication.

As though He had been waiting for just such a cry, the Son of Man readily raises His arm.

His sleeve falls down His arm, revealing a gaping hole in his wrist. Blood pours from the wound, as though the wound is yet fresh, and deliberately un-bandaged. The Phoenix stares in disbelief, wondering what on earth this has to do with his cries for mercy.  

The blood gushes into the fissure like a flood, slowly beginning to fill it. The Phoenix thrashes about in alarm, frightened. He is burnt nearly beyond recognition, still in terrible agony… but what good is this blood going to do him?!

The blood pours in, filling the fissure, rising like a flood…

The Phoenix raises his beak above the rising tide, squawking in terror… But his cries are cut short by an abrupt gurgle. The blood covers even his head now, and there is utter silence.

There is only the Son of Man…

And the fissure full of blood, the sanguine pit that once held an eternally dying Phoenix.

Part VII

The Phoenix stands up, flexing his golden claws… claws that, moments ago, had been melted beyond recognition.

He raises his head slowly, the head once crushed in defeat, the head whose plume had been burned to ash. He clicks his once-scorched beak and surveys the dusky-gray sky above with piercing eyes, eyes undimmed by neither smoke nor tears.

He looks to his left, to his right as he spreads his wings. His crimson feathers gleam wonderfully even beneath the slate-colored dawn, and his shoulders and breath ripple with fluid strength and renewed resilience.

The Phoenix looks over his shoulders and eyes his tail, a glorious thing meant to flow behind him like a trail from a comet.

Awed by his new being, the Phoenix looks around. The blood soaks the fissure yet, the Pit that had once been his Hell. The Pit in which he burned and died a death of sorts, the Pit in which he lay feeble and wounded and tormented by Death that refused to become something final, and clean.

The blood boils yet, but only a little as the heat dies; already it is cooler here. The Phoenix cocks his head, listening to the dead leaves scattering in the breeze above. They make a rasping sound, pleasantly reminiscent of trees limbs, scratching gently on a windowpane on a cold, windy night.

Smiling, the Phoenix crouches a little, holding his wings behind him…

Shrieking like a resurrected banshee, the triumphant Watchman of the Ages lunges from the Pit, soaring toward the clouds in a geyser of color and flame… The sort of flame that glorifies, that illuminates; the flame that consumes is dead now, extinguished once and for all by the outpouring of blood.

Ah, the Blood…

Confused – suddenly unsure of himself – the Phoenix looks downward, gliding for a moment upon a convenient breeze.

The Son of Man stands by the edge of the fissure yet, watching the Phoenix circle the sky, His wrists bleeding yet. Yet the Son of Man seems unconcerned about this, as though He doesn’t mind bleeding. As though He was so eager to watch the flames die that the blood bothers Him not; He seems in no rush to seek a bandage, or healing.

The Phoenix looks up, peering beyond the veil of time…

He looks out across the courtyard, toward the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The great works of man, from Colossus to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon…

He stares across the golden bridge into the New Sodom, imagining it falling into the bay when the Father’s vengeance comes to the city at last…

He watches with growing hunger the migrating mammoth herds of Siberia, and the hustle and bustle of the glory that was once Rome…

And he suddenly realizes that none of it matters. Vanity, meaningless…

Empty.  

The Phoenix circles a little, and looks down upon the one thing in his life of arrogance, death, and re-birth that ever did matter.

Making his decision, the great dragon-bird abandons the skies that he once so loved, and plunges toward the earth.

The Son of Man raises his arms, smiling His gentle smile, as though He’d been waiting. His wrists bleed yet, but perhaps they must; perhaps there are other flames that need snuffed, other victims that need re-birth.

The Phoenix skids to the earth at the feet of the Son, bowing his head in a gesture never before known to him… And there he remains. He spreads his wings, lowering them humbly to the ground, waiting.

Come with me, the Phoenix seems to stay. Let me be your beast of burden; let me be that which bears through all time, to do the work which you came to do. Let me be that which carries you across the sky, in all your glory.

The Son of Man lays a gentle hand on the feathered head before Him, spilling a few more drops of blood as He does.

Let me do this for you, the Phoenix seems to say. Please, not because you need my help…

But because it would be my honor, for I love you.

FINIS

Forsaken

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

                                                                                                                         John 1:14

            Yeshua Bar-Joses.

            If indeed they had birth certificates in Bethlehem, that would’ve been the name on one filed at the town clerk’s office about two thousand years ago.

            There would’ve been nothing odd about it, either. ‘Yeshua’ – a Hebrew name derived from the name we translate as ‘Joshua’ – was quite common. ‘Bar’ means ‘the son of’, and Joses (or Joseph) was quite commonplace as well. If little Yeshua went to school, his teacher probably called him something like ‘Yeshua J.’ to distinguish him from all the other little Yeshuas.

            Of course, that was before his thirtieth birthday, when he came to be known as Yeshua Mi’Nazareth, or ‘Yeshua from Nazareth’. Bear in mind that this didn’t necessarily separate him from the other Yeshuas from Nazareth. When the twenty-something Yeshua filled out building permits for his father Joseph’s carpentry business, I bet he signed his name ‘Yeshua Bar-Joses Mi’Nazareth’, just to avoid confusion.

            But at the age of thirty-three, right around the time of the Jewish Passover, Yeshua Bar-Joses Mi’Nazareth picked up a name that was all his own, a name that would forever separate him from the hodge-podge plethora of Yeshuas that wandered the width and breadth of Israel.

            Yeshua Mashiakh.

            Translated in Greek as ‘Yesous Christos’.

            In English, ‘Jesus the Messiah’… or ‘Jesus Christ’.

            Referred to by numerous titles ranging from Emmanuel to the Son of Man to simply ‘The Lord’, Jesus Christ was, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the fulfillment of God’s promise made to Abraham: ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations’. Through Jesus all men – men of ‘many nations’ – can come into the covenant that God made with Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people.

            In the beginning – as in around 4000 or so B.C. – God’s relationship with man was imperfect. This was not because God is imperfect; far from it. It was because that through Adam sin entered the world, and sin absolutely cannot stand before God.

            Under the Law of Moses – God’s first formal law for the nation of Israel – this was dealt with through sacrifice. Since the beginning of time, transgression could be atoned for only by blood. Thus, under Judaic law, hapless sheep, cattle and the like paid the toll for men’s misdeeds.

            But such sacrifices were imperfect, and served only to delay punishment; they did not completely cancel the debt that man owed to the Living God, a debt created by the enormity of his own sin. While the full wrath of God may have been appeased temporarily by such sacrifices, such a lopsided relationship between the mundane and the Divine could still only end one way: in the eternal destruction of all that is mortal.

            But God never desired such a relationship, and it was God who worked out a plan to free us all from that debt. It was God the Father – whom the unbelievers like to paint as a cruel tyrant, bent upon damning mankind – who set events into motion that would forever cleanse sin from those who choose His redemption.

            ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.’ I’m not sure what ‘the Word’ was, although He was certainly a part of God, one of His mysterious facets – much like ‘God the Father’ and ‘the Holy Spirit’ are unique faces of the multiple-yet-wholly-singular Deity.

            What is more certain is this: ‘the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us’. The Word, whatever His holy nature may have been before, was born sometime between 4 and 6 BC, and given the name Yeshua Bar-Joses. And while He was indeed still God, He was born in the humble body of a human child.

            I often wonder what Jesus was like as a baby. He was, being fully God as well as fully man, completely without sin. But did he cry a lot when he was sleepy, or was he a perfect angel of a baby? Was he fully cognizant as a child, being God, or did he – being also man – come into a knowledge of Himself only slowly, as we do? Did He torment the family cat because He didn’t know any better – or did he know better, because He was God even if he was a toddler, and therefore left the cat in peace?

            I don’t know the answers to those questions; neither does anyone else, and anyone who says he does is lying. Scripture is silent about such things because we don’t need to know them; they are peripheral curiosities, and nothing more. Jesus didn’t come to torment the cat, or for that matter to spare the cat; He came for a much more noble reason.

            Not much is said about Jesus’ actions until He was twelve years old. He was already wise and full of God’s grace; scripture says that His teachings amazed even the teachers at the temple. He was quite aware that He was the Son of God, too, for he told his mother that He had to be ‘in his Father’s house’.

            (Some ascribe to Jesus’ mother Mary the nature of a goddess, and she is often the favored recipient of prayers. But scripture makes it quite clear that Mary was most ordinary, and somewhat befuddled regarding her task of raising the Son of God. She was – just like me, and any other believer – just a flawed human being, whom God chose for His own reasons to use for great things.)

            Nothing else of significance is written about Jesus until He was baptized at the age of thirty, the Jewish age of manhood. While ordinary men are (or should be) baptized for the remission of sin, which makes them pure in order that they might receive the Holy Spirit, Jesus had no need of this. He was just as sinless – just as pure – going into the water as He was coming out of it. What was accomplished, though, was that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, so that He might begin His ministry. The Spirit took the form of a dove, the traditional symbol of peace. (Remember that one of Jesus’ names is ‘the Prince of Peace’.)  

            While scripture – as it should – focuses on Jesus’ ministry and deity more than anything else, I wonder what His mundane life was like. He was baptized at thirty years of age, which means he’d already lived through his teens and twenties; His personality, habits, and hobbies were already pretty well established. (I, for instance, am forty-one and I have a great many quirks; I imagine that Jesus was much the same.)

            For instance, while Jesus is generally called ‘the carpenter’s son’, He was almost certainly a carpenter Himself. One can just about take that for granted; it was the family duty of boys to pitch in and help their fathers, much like the girls were expected to shoulder some domestic responsibility. I picture Jesus looking much like I do some days, wandering across the jobsite, clutching His hammer and scratching his Head, because Joseph told him to hang all the doors but neglected to tell him that the doors were still ‘back at the shop’. (‘Back at the shop, by the way, is always where something is when you can’t find it on the jobsite!)

            I work construction; I know how these things work. And Jesus would have been scratching His head, too, and unable to locate the doors. Because although He was God, Jesus seemed to have accepted certain limitations, perhaps so that He could fully relate to us. To wit: He wasn’t completely omniscient. While He could read the thoughts of all men – at least while in their presence – He wasn’t immediately aware of John the Baptist’s death; He had to be told. Neither did He know that it was the bleeding woman who’d touched Him so that her affliction would be healed.

            I also find it amazing the Jesus could be a carpenter without ever breaking something, but even in death He was kept whole. Not a single one of his bones was broken. How did He manage to avoid smashing his thumb? Falling off a scaffold and breaking a rib? Dropping a board on his toe? Somehow, He did. I find this to be a miracle in and of itself, which pre-dates even His turning of water into wine.

            I see a twofold purpose in Jesus’ three-year ministry on earth. First and foremost, it was ministry of wisdom and compassion. Jesus cared deeply for the poor, for the sick. He also selflessly gave His time, even when He was exhausted, to the masses who’d come to listen to Him. He was defined by (or perhaps tormented by) deep emotion. What is the shortest verse in the Bible? ‘Jesus wept’. (The italics are mine.)

            Secondly, Jesus began an arduous task which continued on with His apostles, and indeed plagues the true believer to this day: He went head-to-head with the hypocritical and heretical religious orders of his era. Just as King David’s nemesis were the Philistines, Jesus’ archenemies were the Pharisees, the most prominent body among the Judaic religious orders.

            We see this today in our own lives. The true Christian, with a decent understanding of scripture, must understand and combat a wide spectrum of denominational bull-hockey when trying to win converts. Modern faith is endlessly tainted by modern heresy, and so it was in Jesus’ day as well.

            Jesus worked a fair few miracles…

            He healed a great many sick…

            He raised a couple of dead people…

            He preached…

            He took vengeance upon those who made a mockery of His Father’s house. He ate, drank, laughed, loved, cried, and lived.

            And when he’d done enough, enough to fill all the books that have ever been written, He finally did that which He’d really come to do.

            He died.

            The perfect sin offering come at last, the sacrificial lamb that could wipe away all sin, once and for all. Despite all the fire that he showed in life, despite all the sternness with which he could rebuke and chastise, Jesus Christ died with absolute meekness.

            The last prayer Jesus prayed before Judas Iscariot betrayed Him was a twofold supplication: He prayed first for His disciples… and then he prayed for us. Past, present and future, to the Father He referred to us as ‘those you have given me’. And we ‘who have been given’ are many and timeless; Peter refers to us, saying ‘you, your children, and those who are far off.

            Here we see a man going to the worst possible death – and the last thing He prayed for… was us, even thoughit was we who crucified Him, each and every one of us. You and I may as well have picked up the hammer and nailed Him to cross personally.

            I could go on and on about what a physically horrifying death Jesus suffered. I could write about how traumatic it was to have the flesh scourged from one’s back, to have been beaten, to have had a crown of razor-sharp thorns forced into one’s head.

            I could impress upon you, my unknown reader, the feeling of having a nail the size of a railroad tie pounded in between the bones of your wrist. I could go on about how much it hurts to have your feet impaled, too, and how agonizing it is to push up on those nails just so that you can breathe.

            I could do all of that, with style and aplomb; I was once an expert writer of horror and dark fantasy, and I challenge anyone – even Clive Barker himself – to write as sadistically as I once did. I could make your skin crawl if I wanted to, and the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

            But I won’t.

            I won’t, because I don’t believe the physical torment was what hurt Jesus the most, nor was it what worried Him most as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. No, I believe what hurt Him the most was the state in which He died.

            In all the history of the world, there is no man who has ever died knowing that he was separated from God. No one, with no exceptions. Some may not believe in Him. Some may have placed their faith in pagan ‘gods’, or in denominational teachings that make a mockery of God. Some may not know about Him. But the simple fact of the matter is, that anyone who has ever come into the full knowledge of God will run screaming to Him, entering into the Kingdom through the blood of the Son. Such men may even fall away later… but they do so making excuses for themselves, and not really believing that Eternity will be denied them.

            Any man who knows, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he is separated from God will move to repair that oversight. No man has ever deliberately died cut off from the Creator.

            Except Jesus.

            The last sound He made was an inarticulate cry, but His last coherent words were ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ (‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?’).

            What do we know about God the Father? First and foremost, He cannot look upon sin. That was why the Levitical priests had to go through massive purification rites before entering the temple area known as the ‘Holy of Holies’. It’s why sacrifices were constantly required from the Israelites.

            In the moments approaching death, Jesus Christ of Nazareth became the filthiest flesh-and-blood being ever to have lived; only demons were more impure than He. He took upon Himself all the sin that had been – or ever would be – committed, and nailed it to the cross.

            Somehow during the course of that process, Christ did exactly what we fear to do; He cut Himself off from God, from Himself. And then He did what no man has ever knowingly done; he perished in that state. He gagged on His last breath, keenly aware that the God whom He’d known – who He was – since the beginning of time had forsaken Him. Not by choice, but by a self-imposed limitation. God must, by His very definition, be kept holy. Yet Christ, in dying stained by our sin, became most unholy. 

            I’m sure Jesus didn’t like being scourged, beaten, or pierced by thorns and nails.

            But I am also sure that those became a small matter, overshadowed by the horror of being abandoned. Of being left to die as something foul, something unclean. I don’t know at which point God became unable to look upon His Son, upon the part of Himself that He’d sent to redeem His creation. I suspect it was right after Gethsemane, for Christ told those who arrested Him that ‘this is your hour, when darkness reigns’, and I think that his anguished cry of ‘Eloi, Eloi’ simply came out when He was unable to bear the separation any longer.

            I could be wrong. Just as I cannot see Salvation (yet), I cannot read Damnation. Only God knows when His own being became fragmented. But beyond any shadow of a doubt, that agony tore apart God’s heart just as surely as it did Jesus’.

            We love so much to talk about the courageous men of our world, the George Washingtons and the William Wallaces and the Robert E. Lees. They were great men, too, and worthy of honor. But human courage always shares one element, one that subtly robs it of its grandeur, and that is this: human bravery is simply a virtue born of necessity. Courage only blossoms as a last resort, the alternative to the unthinkable.

            No one ever chooses to be courageous, any more than he chooses to die separated from God.

            Yet God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit all suffered the unbearable agony of having His inner being ripped apart, and He chose it. He always had the option of walking away – for He is God, after all. He could’ve turned around and made another world, a better one, instead of hurting so badly for this one.

            But He didn’t. He willfully chose to suffer the single worst torment of all time, and He chose it because He loves us so very, very much. 

            Christ was resurrected by the Father in whom He’d placed perfect trust; after three days, He emerged from His borrowed grave…

            But sin didn’t. It can come out of that grave only when we willfully pull it out. Otherwise it just lies there, inert, made a silly thing by Christ. But as quickly as we can repent and be baptized, all the sins that we’ve retrieved can be forced right back into that grave, and they will stay there for as long as we remain faithful.

            Under Moses, the blood of sheep and cattle was sprinkled upon altars of stone, so that men’s sins might find some measure of imperfect mercy.

            Under Christ, His perfect and blameless blood is sprinkled upon our hearts, splashed freely across an altar of flesh, so that we might come into perfect mercy. Pagans will reject this truth. Atheists will scorn it. Denominationalists will flirt with it and, ultimately, miss its point entirely.

            But for those of us who know, who understand what was done for us and what we must do to claim that Gift, there is eternal life. Life lived out side-by-side with the Son of Man, who sits at the right hand of God, filled with the Holy Spirit.

            ‘Repent and be baptized,’ said the Apostle Peter, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…’

That’s great news. But Peter didn’t stop there. ‘The promise is for you and your children,’ he continues, ‘and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.

            Christ died for all. For those to whom the Apostles spoke, and those before them. For their children…

            And for those who are far off.

            In case you need further clarification… that would be us!

Angels We Have Heard on High…

Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord.

   2 Peter 2:11

            Angels are fascinating pop-culture icons.

            In storytelling, they can be frightening (Gabriel, in the film The Prophecy). They can be somber, and sad (Seth in City of Angels). They can be whimsical (Gabriel again, but this time in Constantine). They can even be sarcastic and a little belligerent (‘Cash Money’ in The Family Man).

            To the artist, of course, angels are the perfect, anthromorphic and mold-able subject. Their long, flowing robes and hair, their expansive feathered wings… They are much more fun to draw than demons. Demons, by contrast, have those drab ol’ bat wings, and they’re generally bald so that you can clearly see their horns. Quite boring, demons.

            But what are angels, really?

            Well, they are spiritual in nature. And they work for God. By virtue of this, I think, they are very beloved of those who cling to something I refer to as ‘Oprah spirituality’. While soccer-mom demagogue Oprah Winfrey is not solely responsible for this mentality, she is one of it major proponents.

            ‘Oprah spirituality’ gives one an illusionary peace of mind born of some vague, ephemeral belief in a ‘higher power’. It allows one to seize both false hope and vainglorious moral superiority, all the while conveniently ducking accountability and obedience to any one doctrine.

            God doesn’t honor Oprah Spirituality. Oprah does, but that doesn’t make her godly.

            But I digress…

            One thing that we know about angels is that they are usually really, really scary. The only exception to this may be Gabriel, whom Zechariah had the gall to question, and the Virgin Mary seemed to find comforting.

            They are also flagrantly zealous, too. On the occasions upon which God unleashed one to torment someone, He usually has to call him off rather vehemently. ‘ENOUGH!!! Withdraw your hand!’ I picture the hacking, slashing angel lowering his sword with a disappointment on his face, and reluctantly trudging off to find something else to do.

            A myth common to Christianity is that angels are led by ‘archangels’, angelic commanders of other angels. There were once three, said the legends – Michael, who leads the angels called as warriors, or killers, Gabriel the messenger, and Lucifer.

             However, Scripture only actually uses the word ‘archangel’ in reference to Michael. Elsewhere it uses the phrase ‘with the voice of the archangel’ – which may imply that there is only one, which would be Michael. However, it doesn’t say that there’s only one; it may just be referring to the archangel present in that particular situation.

            Gabriel is mentioned by name on several occasions. His first appearance (at least in which he is mentioned by name) comes in the Old Testament, when he explains – upon God’s order – a vision to the prophet Daniel. He also appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.

            Of course, we know him best as the angel who spoke these legendary words:  “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

            Michael is mentioned less often, and in less detail. He ‘disputed with the Devil over the body of Moses’, whatever that may have entailed. He also led the battle against ‘the dragon’ during a ‘war in Heaven’, which could mean that he fought Lucifer when Lucifer rebelled against God. (However, I don’t know that. That passage is in the Book of Revelation, the greatest mystery of the Bible. Any man who says that he does know what Revelation is talking about is a liar. We all have a theory, but no one knows for sure. Even John, its author, didn’t try to make head nor tails of it. He just recorded what he was told to.)

            Then there’s Lucifer.

            Isaiah, one of the greatest prophets of all time, wrote regarding Lucifer: ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.’

            I don’t know what that means, exactly. Was Lucifer just a Joe Schmoe angel? Or did he, since Isaiah refers to him as ‘Son of the Morning’, hold some sort of special favor with God? It would seem so, and perhaps Lucifer – much like a spoiled child – chose to rebel to gain even more than that with which he was already blessed. Or maybe I’m reading more into that passage than Isaiah really meant.

            Was Lucifer perhaps just a man, much like Adam in his Garden of Eden, and not an angel at all?  I wonder if he didn’t desire to be like an angel, coveting an ‘ascent into Heaven’ like Isaiah wrote. I wonder if his world wasn’t flooded with water like ours was in Genesis, which would explain why, ‘In the Beginning’, the Spirit moved across the face of the waters. I wonder if Lucifer’s world of eons past wasn’t just flat-out destroyed for his sin, for his leading even of angels astray, while Adam and his world were made with the foreknowledge of Adam’s sin and Christ’s redemption – for Adam, after all, didn’t invent sin. He was just seduced by it.

            All theory. I don’t know. Nobody does.

            To further muddy the waters, the name ‘Lucifer’ does not appear in Isaiah’s writings. Jerome added the Italian name to the text in order to differentiate the ‘son of the morning’ (who was clearly an evil entity) from the ‘Son of Man’ (a name for Christ).

            One thing is for certain, Lucifer, son of the morning – whoever he was – is now dead and gone. His name was probably granted by God himself, and I am guessing that he probably rejected the moniker. We know him now as Satan, which is from the ancient Hebrew word for ‘adversary’. His first biblical appearance may have been in the Garden of Eden, when he tempted Eve into sin. Or not… perhaps the snake was just that, a snake, and he himself listened to Satan’s temptation.

            Satan is known by many names, much like Christ, whom he hates. Apollyon, Beelzebub, Belial, Lord of this World, Son of Perdition… But generally, we just call him ‘the Devil’.

            One thing that makes me unsure about whether Satan is a fallen angel or an ascended mortal is his manifested nature. He displays many characteristics unique to celestial beings, but yet he displays many weaknesses common to men.

            For instance, Satan is fairly omniscient. He, like God, knows the hearts of all men. That’s how he tempts us, whispering things in our innermost natures that appeal to our various unspoken depravities. His omnipresence is part of what makes him so dangerous.

            Yet for all his power, he seems flat-out shortsighted and more than a little stupid sometimes. For instance, unlike God, he cannot see the future. Nor is he bright enough, apparently, to see that God plays him like a fiddle. To wit: God clearly used Satan – and those he influenced – to facilitate the crucifixion of Christ, thereby bringing salvation to all who accept it. Yet Satan apparently had no clue that this may have been the case. He cheerfully watched the Messiah die, thinking in his childish vanity that he’d won his war with the Almighty.

            Satan’s influence is apparently limited; he had to ask God for explicit permission to torment Job. Also, even now, God allows Satan to torment those ‘dis-fellowshipped’ from His church to teach them a lesson, to help lead them away from sin and back to the fold – but He must allow it.

            For all I don’t know about Satan, though, I do know one thing: He is the alternative to God, just as good is the alternative to evil, and because we could have chosen him, we have the knowledge that we have instead chosen God. Free will, after all, is the divine characteristic by which we choose salvation. Of course, as the rock band Rush put it, ‘if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice’ – which is the unfortunate-if-passive decision that most of the world makes.

            However, while Satan – inasmuch as he represents the cause of Evil – is the opposite of God, he is not His equal. In regards to who and what he is, I agree with C. S. Lewis’ opinion: that Satan is not the equivalent to God, but instead a corrupted version of Michael – an angel (or some other created being) gone bad.

            Most theologians paint angels as ‘neutered’ beings, mere creatures of service with no real gender. I passionately disagree, although I have no solid ground whatsoever to base my assertion, save my own idle ponderings.

            In Genesis, Moses writes (regarding Adam and Eve) that ‘male and female he created them’. Most of us, I think, take for granted that this was the first time that the idea of gender – not the anatomical man and woman, but the roles associated therewith – occurred to God.

            While only God knows for sure, I disagree. I think the concept is as old as God himself, and inherently intrinsic to beings of any sort. God, for instance, portrays characteristics of both. While the strong, occasionally-vengeful God of the Old Testament is indisputably masculine (if not male, per se), Jesus said ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.’ Which to me, reveals a nurturing, loving side to God that could be interpreted as distinctly feminine.

            I think angels – while most likely not ‘anatomically correct’ – reflect their Creator’s nature, in regards to their assigned gender roles. But I think that angels, unlike God, were made in one ‘gender’ or the other, whereas God Himself reflects both sides of the spectrum.

            For instance, Michael, Gabriel, and Lucifer (if indeed he was an angel) are indisputably male, as divinely-inspired Prophets and Apostles refer to them as ‘He’. However, Scripture also refers to angels whose job it is to guard and protect us – and it my firm belief that such beings are female, as this strikes me as the sacred duty of a nurturer, a mother of sorts. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, an angel appeared and ‘strengthened him’. This also seems a motherly sort of thing to me.  

            On the other hand, we often see angels used as the agents of vengeance. This would, to me, seem a role fitting for a male. I just can’t see a woman – unless maybe it was Lizzie Borden – gleefully hacking her way through Egypt, doing in all the firstborn.

            But virtually all of these points are merely my pondering, pointless speculation, and I – like all men – must never forget this. Peripheral curiosities should never distract us from the most important facets of doctrine – lest we, like the Pharisees of days past – ‘strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel’.

            We aren’t told much about angels because angels matter not whit regarding our salvation. What is explained to us in great length, however, is God and Christ and the Holy Spirit.

            Angels are amusing to wonder about, to attempt to understand. But it’s okay if we don’t figure out one daggone thing that’s worth knowing about them.

            Where we absolutely cannot make such a mistake is in coming into an understanding of the God whom the angels serve. Pondering is just that, pondering…. But we should never ponder at the expense of learning!

            Even Gabriel himself, I am certain, would tell you that.