Heart-shaped cloud in blue sky

The Five Most Important Bible Verses about God’s Love

I used to have a pretty long list of things I thought I knew about God. I’d say now, I’m reduced to one certainty: God is love. What does that mean? Here’s what I think.

Heart-shaped cloud in blue sky
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

1.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 Jn 4:8)

If you go to church, hopefully you heard there that God is love. If you didn’t hear it there, then maybe you need to find another church. Even if you don’t subscribe to organized religion, you’ve probably heard it before. Have you ever really thought about the implications of that?

It doesn’t just say God loves us or God is loving. God is love. That means even if there were no people for God to love or to love each other, even if there were no living creatures capable of love in even its most primitive form, love would still exist because God is love.

The first part of this verse is just as important. Knowing God means knowing God is love. Knowing God is love should result in us loving one another. If we don’t love one another, then we don’t love God (cf. 1 Jn 4:7, 20).

2.  We love because [God] first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19)

This tells me all human love is possible because God first loved us. If you want proof of God’s existence, consider our capacity to love. Years ago, I went to the funeral of a Muslim friend’s father. The imam told a parable of a doctor who was going home from a thirty-six hour shift. On the way, he saw a man unconscious in a ditch. Even though he was exhausted, she pulled over, revived him, his wounds, and drove him home. And because the man was poor, he refused to take any payment for it.

How do you feel hearing a story like that? I’m guessing whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or whatever, you admire that doctor. The Imam said, “Anyone, even someone who doesn’t believe in God, would look at that and say the doctor did a beautiful thing. Why? Because God placed an appreciation of love and beauty in the human heart.”

To this day, I consider that the best argument for God’s existence I have ever heard. We love because God first loved us. How do we know God loved us? That brings me to the next verse.

3.  But God proves [God’s] love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

Tell me if you can relate to this. There were times in my life when I thought God hated me, abandoned me, gave up on me, or just did not care enough to be bothered with me. Sometimes I blamed God for it, but more often I blamed myself.

When Martin Luther was a monk, he tried harder than anyone to please God. One day, another monk asked if he loved God. “Love God? Sometimes I hate him!” Why did he hate God (sometimes)? Because he kept trying and trying to please God, and no matter how much he prayed, or how diligent he was in confessing and repenting of his sins, it was never enough. Let’s just say I can relate.

If you have ever felt that way, look at that verse again.

But I already know Christ died for me.

No, look at the whole verse. How does it start? God has already proved God’s love for us. You don’t have to prove how much you love God, because the point of what Christ did at the cross was to prove how much God loves us. What speaks to me most powerfully is that has already happened. That means you can never change it. God’s love and acceptance of you is not based on what you do or don’t do. It’s based on what Christ already did.

4. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

It’s easy to believe God loves us when things are going well. Life is good, and so is God. But what about when life isn’t so good?

The Prosperity Gospel taught me a life of faith would protect me from peril, poverty, death, things present, things to come, hardship, persecution, or sickness. If you want health, wealth, a perfect marriage, obedient children, and success in all your endeavors, you just have to believe God for it, and it will be so. If it doesn’t happen immediately, keep believing, keep being faithful to God, and it will happen. But what if it still doesn’t happen? Either you sinned or you didn’t have enough faith, whatever that means.

Read these verses again. Actually, let’s start a few verses before that.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Rom 8:35-39)

There is a lot in there that the Prosperity Gospel says will not happen if you are faithful to God and believe the Bible. But this passage does not say a life of faith will protect you from hardship, distress, hunger, poverty, peril, rulers, things present, things to come, or anything in all creation we don’t want in our lives. It only says none of that ever has or ever will separate us from the love of God in Christ.

Paul did not just preach this. He lived it. Everywhere he went to teach the Gospel, it seems they would throw him in prison, beat him, scourge him, stone him, or accuse him of all kinds of mischief he never did. Throw on top of that shipwrecks, illness, robbers, possible vision problems, people who opposed him in his own congregations, charlatans fleecing his people, and a mysterious “thorn in the flesh” that he could not pray away, according to the Prosperity Gospel, God just never favored him at all. Yet I cannot find anywhere in his letters or the book of Acts where Paul ever questioned God’s love for him.

You can’t separate yourself from the love of God in Christ. Other people can’t separate you from the love of God in Christ. Pain, distress, famine, prison, persecution, gossip, fire, flood … No! Nothing that ever has happened, is happening, or could happen to us can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Not even you can make God stop loving you, because God is love.

5.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Of course I had to include this one. If you grew up in the church, this was probably the first Bible verse you memorized. John’s attitude toward the world is usually negative. It is full of sin and corruption that only God can save us from. But even John had to acknowledge God loved the world in spite of that. God gave his only Son for us, to prove God’s love and offer us the gift of eternal life.

You might think that means going to heaven when we die. But in the truest sense, eternal life is life in relationship with God, who is love. When our lives reflect God’s love, that is eternal life. When a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, it turned out he already knew the answer: Love God and love your neighbor (Luk 10:26-29). Do this, Jesus said, and you will have eternal life, here and now, and whatever awaits us after death.


So those are my top five verses about God’s love. Which verses speak God’s love most powerfully to you? Do you think I missed any? Let me know in the comments. To sum things up, I will leave you with a few more words from John’s Epistle.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

(1 Jn 4:7)

Grace and peace to you.

{All scripture quotes come from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise noted.}

Mockup of imaginary physical bitcoin with BTC symbol in center: around the edge reads "Bitcoin Digital Decentralized Peer to Peer 1 Troy Oz Fine Copper MJB Monetary Metals"

Bitcoin and the Fed

A quick disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. Anything I say is for educational and/or entertainment purposes only. Any financial product or service, including particular crypto currencies, exchanges, stocks, experts, or whatever I use as examples do not constitute an endorsement. Always do your own research.

I am almost completely convinced the Four-Year Cycle for Bitcoin is dead. As more big money investors have jumped into the market, its price has become tied to their patterns of investing. I don’t claim to be an expert, but here is one thing I know. They have a hierarchy of investments.

  1. Traditional markets
  2. Bitcoin
  3. Altcoins

This means when traditional markets pump, Bitcoin will pump. When Bitcoin pumps, Altcoins will pump. It works the other way too. When traditional markets dump, Bitcoin will dump. When Bitcoin dumps, altcoins will dump.

We saw this on Friday, January 21. With professional investors expecting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, they sold off a lot of stocks and similar investments. That meant selling pressure on Bitcoin and Altcoins. If you looked at the charts that day, you could see all of them dropping together.

The Fed had not yet raised interest rates, but just the announcement that they might was enough to send the markets crashing. As it turns out, they announced on January 26 that they were not raising interest rates yet, but they plan to do so in March. The markets recovered somewhat, but it has been a rough month all around. Bitcoin dropped to nearly $30,000 in the latest dip. It has recovered to almost $38,000 at the time of writing. Altcoins experienced a similar sharp dip with a partial recovery.

What Happened to 100K?

Many experts expected Bitcoin to reach a price of $100,000 by the end of 2021. Plan B famously made (or retweeted) predictions for Bitcoin’s price at the close of each month from August to December. And for a while, it looked downright prophetic.

Month (2021)Plan B PredictionBTC Price at Month Close
August$47,000$47,159.26
September$43,000$43,829.34
October$63,000$61,349.75
November$98,000$56,975.35
December$135,000$46,197.31
-Source: PlanB’s 2021 monthly price close prediction (buybitcoinworldwide.com)

If you needed a reminder that no one knows what is going to happen with Bitcoin in the future, look at the first three months, then the last two. August through October, he nailed it. At the beginning of November, the price kept going up, reaching a new all-time high of $69K. “98K this month! We break 100 in December!”

Smiley face emoji with dollar signs in eyes
BTC to the moon!!!

I almost tried a leverage trade in November. Good thing I didn’t. But I’ve learned an important lesson. When you think you know how high and how fast Bitcoin is going up, you really don’t. I’ll admit it was disappointing not to see those highs that looked like a sure thing back in early November. However, I still believe the fundamentals of Bitcoin are still strong. Price doesn’t always reflect fundamentals. Just because the price is volatile doesn’t mean the fundamentals have changed. When there is growing demand and limited supply, it has to go up sometime.

One move I made that did not work out was to put a little into some altcoins, expecting them to pump when Bitcoin pumped. Bitcoin did not pump like I expected, and neither did my altcoins. I was going to sell them for a profit. As it worked out, selling meant taking a loss. In that situation, I like to trade those losing alts for Bitcoin (or Ethereum). Bitcoin will come up in value again, so I have a chance to recoup my losses.

Lessons Learned

Assets that are considered “high risk” (mainly tech stocks, Bitcoin, and Altcoins) have done will in the last couple of years. That was in an environment of extremely low interest rates and quantitative easement (when the Fed sharply increases money supply). Those conditions might be good for investing, but they lead inevitably to inflation. The Fed will have to put a stop to this, so we could see that coming to an end in March. Between January 21-26, traditional markets, Bitcoin, and Altcoins all dropped together. I think this was a preview of what will happen when the Fed starts taking action to curb inflation.

The Fed has indicated they will take the actions they did not take last week—raising interest rates, reducing quantitative easement—in March. Instead of a market recovery, this feels more like delaying the inevitable. The market recovery we’re seeing now seems to be a sigh of relief from investors, but that is likely to change.

Between now and the next Fed announcement in March, I expect to see Bitcoin’s price go up again, maybe back above 40K. But no matter how high the price goes now, it will probably drop again when the Fed changes its policy.

I’m still optimistic about Bitcoin long-term, i.e., five to ten years. But short-term, we’re probably in for a bumpy ride. Again, this is not financial advice, but times like this I believe are the best to buy and hold. I’ve talked about dollar-cost averaging (DCA) before, and I believe that is the best way to do it.

Dollar-Cost Averaging: The Best Way to Buy

With dollar-cost averaging, you spread out your investment over weeks or months. Let’s say you like the price now and want to buy $1000 of Bitcoin. Theoretically, you could have bought close to the recent low, say $32K. But we only know that was the bottom with the luxury of hindsight. Say I did that, and then the price dropped to $25K? I would be kicking myself. “Missed that opportunity!” With DCA, I say instead, “Oh wait, I didn’t miss it. I’m still buying.”

That’s what I like about DCA. You can set any amount and frequency you want (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly). It saves you from having to time the market (which mostly comes down to dumb luck), and it saves you a lot of frustration. It is literally set it and forget it (unless you decide to change). You don’t worry when the price goes down. In fact, I’m happy when the price goes down. I’m not a professional investor, but I understand it’s better to buy low than high.

Do you still want to DCA if the price shoots up, say, 10 or 20K in two weeks? Personally, I might pause at a time like that and wait for the price to come down again. Some people might take profits then. You can sell using DCA as well. The process is the same. You just set it to sell on a schedule instead of buy. Some people just let their DCA keep going no matter what the price does. That means they buy the bottoms, tops, and everywhere in between. It still works out pretty well on average.

If you are interested in setting up DCA, I use Delta Badger. It works on several exchanges with no transaction fees. It’s free for up to $1200/year in transactions. There are paid options as well. If you use this link, you’ll get 10% off. Even if you use the free option, the discount is still good if you decide later to upgrade. I’m still on the free plan myself. And if someday I am in a position to crossover to a paid plan, what I would save in transaction and gas fees would be worth it.

{Disclaimer: It is an affiliate link. But it is the only link I have with the discount.}

Keep calm and hodl on.

earth with starry background and hands sheltering over and under

New Medium Blog Post: Created God the Heaven(s) and the Earth

I finished my translation of Genesis 1:1. Follow the link to see.

Created God the Heaven(s) and the Earth.

Or here is the conclusion.


Now for the moment of truth. How would I translate this verse if I were on some committee of translators? Here it is.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Incidentally, this is the same as the English Standard Version (ESV). You might be thinking, “Well, that was much ado about nothing.”

I know it might look that way. I ended up translating it almost the same as the King James, which has been around for over 400 years. The only change I made was to make heaven plural. Maybe you think Bible translation is like making sausage. Don’t show me the process. Just give me the end result. The thing is, we still need some people who know how to make sausage.

At an early age, I learned that there are some things in our English Bibles that were lost in translation, and I wanted to investigate them. In just this one verse, I found some things that could not be translated into English or even the ancient Septuagint.

  1. Created comes before God to show something God did for us before revealing God’s name.
  2. An untranslated word et reinforces important ideas: that the heavens and the earth are not deities but created by God, and that God created not only the heavens and the earth but everything in between and everything that exists in them.
  3. The heavens is preferable to heaven or the heaven, because it includes every possible meaning of the Hebrew word ha-shamayim.

And even though I ultimately did not agree with the Masoretic Text (Hebrew) which said, “When God began to create heaven and earth,” that reading needed to be considered, and the reasons for changing it needed to be compelling. When the scribes and Rabbis who copied, preserved, and taught these scriptures in their original language for thousands of years tell you what they think it means, you need to at least listen, even if you disagree.

Also, the idea behind that reading is that creation did not happen all at once. It was a process of bringing order to chaos. That idea is important not only for the Bible but for life. God ordered everything about this world—light, darkness, water, land, sky, plants, and animals—just by commanding their patterns of organization, and I can’t even bring order to my office. But if God is so good at ordering chaos, maybe somehow God can impart just a little of that to me.

In the end, though, I think what is most important about this verse is it declares boldly that God not only created the heavens and the earth, but everything in between and everything that exists in them. The entire universe and all that is in it. That is why—with all due respect to Rashi and the Masoretes—I have to part ways with them here. But they took me on a fascinating journey, and I hope to have many more opportunities to explore with them on this wild, wild world of Hebrew scriptures.

Map of earth painted on two hands with blue sky and white clouds in background

Two New Posts on Medium: How to Translate the First Word of the Bible

This may sound weird, but one of my favorite hobbies is Bible translation. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to translate Hebrew to English, you can check out these posts on my Medium blog. I just did the first word, bereishit, and it took two posts. All that just for the first word? Yep. If you have a modern study Bible, you might see the verse read, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” But there might be a footnote saying, “Hebrew reads, ‘When God began to create the heaven and the earth'”.

In the Beginning … Or Not? This post will be enough for you to understand why this controversy exists.

In the Beginning, Part 2, and Justice for the Aleph. I get into some of the more technical aspects of translating bereishit. Then you can get some insight into the Rabbis who preserved and taught these scriptures over the millennia through a story of why they say creation begins with the second letter of the alphabet and not the first.

If you are following my blog on Medium, let me know in the comments if you like having a blog dedicated to religious topics. I will start posting some of my ideas on writing soon. After all, this is supposed to be an author’s blog.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, remember these words from Matthew 7:12. “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (NRSV).

Mockup of imaginary physical bitcoin with BTC symbol in center: around the edge reads "Bitcoin Digital Decentralized Peer to Peer 1 Troy Oz Fine Copper MJB Monetary Metals"

Bitcoin Update: What Happened to the Four-Year Cycle?

I wrote a post about Bitcoin a few months back. It was intended to be a primer for those who want to understand it better. If you are new to Bitcoin (BTC), you might want to read it to understand some of the terms I’ll be using here. While I talked about some of my strategies for investing, it was not intended as financial advice. And here I am again making the same disclaimer. I am not a financial adviser. This article is for information and entertainment purposes only. There is inherent risk in all investing, so do your own research.

Mockup of imaginary physical bitcoin with BTC symbol in center: around the edge reads "Bitcoin Digital Decentralized Peer to Peer 1 Troy Oz Fine Copper MJB Monetary Metals"
Digital Gold

Back in July, I believed Bitcoin could either drop below $20K or go to six figures by the end of November. Neither scenario played out. While it did reach new all-time highs in November, it then fell about 30% and is now moving sideways between $40-50K. That’s not bad in the grand scheme of things, and I still believe the long-term future for Bitcoin is very bright. But it’s a far cry from breaking $100K, as most of the experts I listened to believed it would do by the end of the year. Their belief, and hence mine, was based on what is called the Four-Year Cycle. I explained that in my previous Bitcoin article.

The Four-Year Cycle should have given us a bull market that should have ended sometime between September and November. Then there would have been a crash, and a long bear market would have followed, though the price would recover to some degree before the next Four-Year Cycle. If the all-time high of $68K we saw in November really was the end of the bull market, the price should have crashed down to about $10K. We have not seen the kind of price run-up or crash we should have according to the Four-Year Cycle, and I think I know why.

Whale Manipulation

On August 20, 2020, Microstrategy became the first listed company to buy Bitcoin. Since then, the company’s CEO Michael Saylor has become one of the most outspoken advocates for Bitcoin, singing its praises as a prime store of value, a hedge against inflation, and key to the company’s long-term financial strategy. Since then, many other corporations and institutional investors have jumped in, notably Paypal, Tesla, Square, ARK Invest, and Pantera Capital, just to name a few. The big money they brought to the market helped propel the price of Bitcoin from $29K on January 1 to a then all-time high (ATH) of $64K on April 14.

While it was exciting to see the price climb and Elon Musk tweet that Tesla added $1.5 billion of Bitcoin to its balance sheet and would accept it as payment, in the back of my mind there was this nagging thought. If anything could change the Four-Year Cycle, this would be it. If whales—big money investors—have the power to move the price up, they also have the power to move the price down.

After April 14, the price dropped some, settling into the $50,000’s, but no one who knew about the Four-Year Cycle was freaking out. It looked like a normal price correction, but according to the Four-Year Cycle, we were still in a bull market. Then in May, a flurry of negative press came out, including Elon Musk reversing his position and saying Tesla would no longer take Bitcoin as payment, citing concerns over its carbon footprint. After that, the price did not just drop. It plummeted as low as $29K before the end of the month, more than 50% off its recent ATH. That is not normal in a bull market. I don’t think it’s normal in any market. One billionaire tweets an endorsement, and the price immediately pumps. A couple months later, same billionaire tweets something negative, and the price immediately dumps. And how many people do you think were really interested in buying a Tesla specifically with Bitcoin? How many people really said, “What? I can’t buy a Tesla with Bitcoin? That’s the only reason I bought it in the first place. I’m selling!” This reeks of manipulation.

What Does Market Manipulation Look Like?

Sometimes markets move. Sometimes markets are moved. Whales are people or entities that have enough money to manipulate the market. They want to buy low and sell high, but they don’t always wait for the price to go up or down. Through strategic buying and selling, they can make the price go up and down.

In the 1930’s, a man named Richard Wyckoff found that market manipulation follows consistent patterns. The big investors who manipulate the markets all act the same way, so he referred to them collectively as “the Composite Man.” When you see signs of manipulation, ask yourself, “What does the Composite Man want, short-term and long-term?” Long term, it’s pretty simple. If it’s an asset they want and believe will go up a lot in value over time, they want to acquire as much of it as possible at the lowest price possible. Short-term, they either want to drive the price down, so they can buy at a discount, or drive the price up to take profit. This goes in cycles. Wyckoff created very detailed charts that show how to recognize what the Composite Man is doing, and the price action of Bitcoin this year has followed those patterns.

Without getting too technical, a Wyckoff pattern occurs in two stages called Accumulation and Distribution. During the Accumulation stage, the Composite Man is buying but careful not to buy too much too quickly. This is when he wants to keep the price low, so he can accumulate a sizable chunk of the asset. When the Composite Man (I’ll call him “the Man”) is ready, he buys more aggressively to drive the price up. The Man wants to tie this to some story or series of stories in the media, so when smaller investors see the price go up, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) will kick in, and they will rush to buy, driving the price up even further. It works even better if the Man has access to those media channels (or 55 million followers on Twitter) and can push positive stories at the right time.

When the price is as high as the Man thinks he can make it go, he switches to the Distribution stage. This is when he sells off, not all of it, but enough to make the price dip 10, 20, maybe 30% very quickly. Again, they like to time it with some negative story (or stories) in the news. Retail investors who FOMO’ed in now experience FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) and sell to cut their losses, driving the price even lower. When they sell, who buys? That’s right. The Man, the people who created the FUD in the first place. Now the Man is back to Accumulation, and the whole cycle repeats. If you want more detail, here is a video that explains it well.

The End of the Four-Year Cycle?

I’m not saying Elon alone is responsible for this. Remember, the Man here is not one individual but a composite of big money investors. I think the Man had this planned all along, and Elon (wittingly or unwittingly) gave them cover first for Accumulation, then for Distribution. After revisiting its annual low of $29K on July 19, it appeared the Man had accumulated what he wanted, because Bitcoin started going up again. It reached another all-time high of $68K on November 10 before going down again. For the past two weeks, the price has been fluctuating between $42-49K.

The Four-Year Cycle has pretty well-established patterns of bull and bear markets. This kind of movement looks like neither. If $68K in November was the top of this bull market (which is when it should have ended), the price should have dropped about 85%, which would put it around $10K. We would know then the switch from bull to bear market has happened. Why isn’t Bitcoin behaving like it has in the past? I think it’s because this is the first Four-Year Cycle we have seen where “the Composite Man” is going after Bitcoin. Even experts who have followed Bitcoin for five years or more are at a loss to say whether it’s time to take some profit in anticipation of the bear market, or whether the Man will drive the price up one more time.

I’m beginning to think we need to stop thinking in terms of the four-year cycle and start thinking in terms of Wyckoff’s Accumulation and Distribution.

There is one more thing you need to know about the Man. They have a hierarchy of investment priorities for different levels based on risks.

  1. Traditional markets (stocks and commodities)
  2. Bitcoin
  3. Altcoins (any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin)

1 is less risky than 2, which is less risky than 3. When the traditional markets are down, they tend to move money out of riskier investments. That means when the traditional markets drop, Bitcoin drops. When Bitcoin drops, altcoins drop. It works the same in reverse. When the traditional markets are up, Bitcoin is up. When Bitcoin is up, altcoins are up. I saw this happen in May. When Bitcoin dumped, my altcoins followed. I traded most of them for Bitcoin and Ethereum (ETH) to wait for the next upturn.

Earlier this month, the traditional markets dropped, so the latest drop in Bitcoin and altcoins can be somewhat attributed to that. But considering that a normal cycle would have had the price down to $10K, a price hovering in the 40’s isn’t so bad. Furthermore, there are indications that a new bottom might be in.

Retail Investors Wising Up

Data shows that the amount of Bitcoin on exchanges is the lowest it has been in a long time. What does that mean? People buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies on exchanges like Coinbase, Binance, and Crypto.com. However, most people don’t keep them there. They will keep most of their crypto on a digital wallet because it is more secure. Some popular wallets include Exodus, Coinbase Wallet, and Trust Wallet. These are sites on a blockchain network where you can deposit BTC and other crypto, and you are given encrypted keys to access it when you want.

While there are many factors to consider when trying to determine where the price is going to go, one factor is the amount of BTC on exchanges. When there is a lot of BTC moving from wallets to exchanges, that means people are looking to sell. But when a lot of BTC is moving off exchanges to wallets, that means people are planning to hold for a while. With BTC on exchanges at such a low level as it is now (at the time of writing), the chances of a huge sell-off driving the price down much further are very low.

Furthermore, two of my favorite crypto analysts (Crypto Jebb and Satoshi Stacker on YouTube) showed data that says of the BTC that moved onto exchanges recently, around 5% came from wallets holding less than one BTC. That means despite the recent drop of 25-30% in just the last few weeks, retail (or small) investors are not selling. That also proves while the Man has great power to manipulate the market, that power is limited. If they are trying to scare small (and probably inexperienced) investors into selling at a discount, it is not working. When retail investors see through the FUD and Hodl (not a typo), the game of shaking BTC out of weak hands becomes pointless. I hate that this is part of the game, but if you want to invest in BTC, you have to be wise to the Man’s manipulations. But I am encouraged that other retail investors like me are catching on.

Again, this is not financial advice, but this is why I’m not selling yet. There probably will be a bear market at some time in the future, but this looks more like Wyckoff Distribution at the moment. While I don’t know when or even if it will happen, I think the price has to go up again before another bear market. If it does, that will confirm to me that the Four-Year Cycle is dead, and anyone investing in BTC will need to study Wyckoff in more depth.

I can’t help but think that once the Man sees he has gotten the price as low as he can, he will send the price up again for another round of profit taking. He might spend a few more weeks keeping the price below $50K so he can accumulate more. But his M.O is to drive the price down to accumulate, then drive the price up to take profits, and repeat. I look at the fundamentals of Bitcoin, and they are still strong no matter what the Man says. No one has ever lost money holding BTC for at least four years. Therefore, the only time to sell for me is just before a bear market. That way, when the price drops, I can buy back at a discount, just like the Man. But until then, I intend to keep calm and HODL on.

BTCUSD history — Timeline of major events — TradingView

New Post on Medium: “Advent Reflections: The Seed of Abraham”

Advent Reflections: The Seed of Abraham

Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac
“Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?”

Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac, when they were both “as good as dead.” What does that tell us about Jesus? My latest blog post continues the seed motif I began with “On Snakes and Advent.” As subscribers to this blog, I am giving you free links to my Medium articles. FYI, Medium offers three free articles per month. But my free links will not count toward that three.

New Post on Medium: On Snakes and Advent

hand grasping golden apple
Photo by Alan Cabello from Pexels;

For a while now I’ve been posting here first and then importing it to my publication on Medium. I’ve been posting about religious topics, which I love. But since this is my author blog, I think this site should be focused on writing and publishing. From now on, religious posts will be exclusively on my Medium page called Almost Ordained. However, I will post links to new posts starting with the one below. Medium is a paid subscription service. But as my subscribers, I will provide free links from this webpage. The latest post is for Advent. It is a reflection on this verse and how it foretold the coming of the Messiah.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Gen 3:15 KJV).

https://almostordained.medium.com/on-snakes-and-advent-e96197c50fb6?sk=72956a853f7c64d17a0449de83cd6ef7

Photo two faces obscured, eyes closed, text reads "Love your neighbor as Yourself"

Why Won’t God Speak to Me?

In my last post, I talked about why I believe there are no more apostles and prophets in the church. That was actually to lay the groundwork of a much bigger issue for me. Why won’t God speak to me? The answer appears to be the same as why God doesn’t call apostles and prophets anymore. God has already spoken, and the apostles and prophets of old wrote down God’s word in the Bible. Great. So they got to hear God speak to them directly, and we get a book that’s full of contradictions.

What? How can I say the Bible is full of contradictions? Because of passages like this.

Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself.

Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.

(Prov 26:4-5).

See, one verse says don’t answer fools according to their folly, and the very next verse says answer fools according to their folly. Which is it? This is one of many examples where it says one thing and then later the opposite. And that is supposed to guide us every step of the way in God’s plan for our lives. Why can’t God just tell me what God wants from me?

I wanted to hear from God directly, and some televangelists convinced me I not only could but should hear God. Once I was saved, I had the Holy Spirit dwelling in me. Oh wait, I have to be filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. So I had someone pray over me and started speaking the way they told me. After a few weeks practice I got pretty comfortable with it. So I should have been able to hear God speak to me directly, a rhema word they called it. Almost ironic. If I pray in tongues, I will hear God in my own language. That was how it was supposed to work.

Regarding the rhema word, they made a distinction between the Greek words logos and rhema. I was taught that the logos is the written word, i.e., the Bible, and a rhema word is a word from God that speaks to your specific situation. For example, where does God want me to go to seminary? I can’t look that up in the Bible and see, “David, listen to your mother and go to Duke Divinity School.” That’s the kind of situation where I needed a rhema word. From what they told me, I should have heard it clearly. But it was like trying to tune in to a radio station at the edge of reception, where you only get static with a few words breaking through here and there. And just when you think you’ve got enough to go on, a few minutes later you hear the opposite.

The Word of Faith vs. the Word of God

The Word of Faith really raised that expectation in me. Some preachers would describe conversations with God like, “I said… and God said… and I said… and God said…” just like God was standing right in the room with them. Why can they hear God, but I can’t? When they say, “God told me this,” or “God said that,” how do they know it’s God and not their own imagination?

They gave a few guidelines that were somewhat helpful. For one, they said a rhema word would never contradict the logos, i.e., the Bible. I’ve already mentioned how that can be confusing. Even so, they made some pronouncements so unbiblical, even at my most confused I knew they could not be from God. And even when they are proven wrong, they do not repent. They keep on speaking for God. That seems to have been happening more and more in recent years. Some of them openly say a rhema word has more authority than the Bible. So if they say “Thus says the Lord,” or anything along those lines, you have to believe it, even if it contradicts the written word of God.

Despite my claims that the Bible confused me for some time, in one area it could not have been clearer: Identifying false prophets and the false words they speak. The Bible is helpful if you remember this. The Bible never says if they claim God is speaking through them, you must believe everything they say without question. Quite the opposite, it says do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see if they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 Jn 4:1). The Bible gives two specific tests for this.

  1. If what they say in the name of the Lord does not come true, the Lord did not speak it (Deu 18:20-22).
  2. If what they say comes true, but they tell us to follow gods that neither we nor our ancestors have known, again, the Lord did not speak it (Deu 13:1-4).

That is how I knew what they were saying was not from God. Their prophecies did not come true, and they had God saying things that the God of my ancestors would never have said.

A God I and My Ancestors Have Never Known

The God I and my ancestors have known is indefinable, which is why I believe the Bible contradicts itself sometimes. There was not one author but many different authors, each trying to understand God the best they could. But at the end of the day, they were finite creatures trying to understand an infinite God. In a collection of writings like that, some apparent contradictions are inevitable.

That being said, when I think of the God of my ancestors, I have found the Apostle’s Creed to be helpful as a starting point. There is God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. There is Jesus Christ, his only son—only son—our Lord. There is the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit speaks and acts, it will glorify Jesus Christ, not another (Jn 16:14). If you are not a Christian, what I’m saying may or may not mean anything to you. But if you are a Christian, whenever someone claims to speak in the name of God, God not only expects us to test them before we believe. God commanded it. With that in mind, should we believe something like this?

“Nothing is going to stop me from putting my Son, Donald Trump, back in that White House … says your God!”

Say what???? My God would never say that. I don’t care what you think of Trump. Love him, hate him, indifferent to him, whatever. This fails both tests. It did not come true. Donald Trump is not in the white house. And it has God saying something our God and the God of our ancestors would never say. Again, if you are not a Christian, you can take this or leave it. But if you are a Christian, there is only one person we are allowed to call the Son of God, and it ain’t Trump. She can say, “Says your God” all day. I’m going to keep saying, “No. He. DON’T!”

Prophecy as Wish Fulfillment

In a way, I get it. We want God to speak to us, not just from a book but in an actual voice. When God spoke to people in the Bible, they seemed to have no problem knowing it was God. I don’t know how, but somehow they knew. We think if God spoke directly to people back then, God would continue to do it now. We might even start imagining we hear God speak. Maybe the philosophy of cessationism I explained in the last post applies here as well. If God does not speak in such direct fashion anymore, it must be because the Bible is already written. We are not supposed to write the Bible. God has already told us what God wants us to do in the Bible.

But you already said the Bible is full of contradictions. How can it tell us what to do?

A lot of the confusion I had earlier is clearing up for me. In that example I gave of answering or not answering a fool, it takes wisdom to know which to apply in any given situation.

You mean God doesn’t want us to just read the Bible and do what it says without thinking? We might have to use wisdom in applying it? Yes. If you are looking for a book that will just spoon-feed all the answers to you, the Bible is not it.

The Bible is God’s word, but we need wisdom in applying it, and we need context. That is why I will probably say this a thousand times if the Lord lets me live long enough. Just because they are quoting scripture, or they say “Thus says the Lord,” does not mean they are speaking the word of God. The Bible is only the word of God when it is rightly interpreted, rightly read, and rightly applied. And rightly doing all of that begins with three things: context, context, and context. And as for that “prophecy” I mentioned about Donald Trump, when you read the Bible in context, there is no way you can call anyone other than Jesus the Son of God.

What Has God Already Told Us?

If you are wondering what God wants you to do with your life, here are a couple of verses that have become anchors to my soul.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

(Mic 6:8)

Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God. Is that enough for you to do? How about this.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

(Mat 22:37-40)

In Matthew’s Gospel, when they talk about the law and the prophets, they mean all of scripture. Remember, at the time the New Testament had not been written, so their Bible was the law and the prophets. Jesus said all of scripture comes down to two commandments: love God and love your neighbor. So that is another way to know whether what they say agrees with the word of God. Does it encourage loving your neighbor, or discourage it?

So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

(Mar 10:42-45)

In the world, people like Alexander and Caesar were called great because they conquered and lorded over many people. In God’s kingdom, greatness comes from serving others.

Do you want to know what God requires of you? God has already told you. Love God, and love your neighbor. Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. Be the servant of everyone, just as Christ came not to be served but to serve. That was the foundation for the Christian community, and it still is. That does not answer questions like, “Where should I go to seminary?” But it does tell you where to focus your attention once you get there. So maybe you’re not hearing God because God is leaving that choice up to you.

How I Stopped Worrying about Missing God

But you say, “I want something more specific? Doesn’t God have a plan for my life? What if I miss it because I can’t find it in the Bible, and I can’t hear God’s rhema word for me?”

I know what you mean. I was anxious for many years because I thought God had a plan for my life, and I was missing it because I couldn’t hear God. I’ve decided to stop listening for rhema words, because more often than not, they led me astray. That tells me it was my imagination, not God. I haven’t prayed in tongues in years, and I haven’t missed it. That makes me think maybe what I spoke wasn’t tongues but gibberish. That’s what most of it amounts to when you look into it. And I feel much more within God’s plan now than I ever have, even though I don’t quite understand it.

I’m not saying you can’t pray for God to direct your paths. But the answers probably won’t come in a voice like you expect. And they definitely won’t come from false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing. I believe the best way to find your calling is first commit to what God has already shown you: Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God, love God and love your neighbor. Then pray for opportunities to use whatever gifts God has given you to serve others. Do that and see where it leads. Don’t worry that God is going to tell you something, and you’re going to miss it. You will never miss God by loving your neighbor.


Unless otherwise noted, Biblical quotes come from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Photo credit: Rich Anderson on Visualhunt.com
Heavy construction equipment digging a foundation

No More Apostles and Prophets

When I hear someone call themselves or someone else an apostle or prophet, I’m skeptical. I think we all should be. I accept that apostles and prophets were once part of the church. However, I don’t think God calls people to those roles anymore. God may call people to other roles—pastors, evangelists, teachers, deacons, or bishops, to name a few—but there are no more apostles and prophets today. I think this is best illustrated by comparing two passages from Ephesians.

 Some Apostles, Some Prophets?

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,

(Eph 4:11)

Five church offices are listed here, prophets and apostles being among them. I remember a demonstration from one of my former pastors. He used the fingers of his left hand to demonstrate. The thumb is like the apostles. They can touch each of the other fingers. The index finger is like the prophets. They point where to go. The middle finger (please do not make any jokes) is like the evangelists. They reach out farther than any other finger. The ring finger is like pastors. They are married to the church. And the pinky is like the teachers. They get in your ear. (Imagine putting your pinky finger in your ear to clear it out).

This would have been a good demonstration for the church at Ephesus in the first century. The problem I have is I can’t find any credible references to apostles and prophets in the church after the first century. Earlier in the same letter, we have this.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

(Eph 2:19-20)

There are plenty of references to evangelists, pastors, and teachers throughout church history. They have been with us all along and are still with us today. Not so with apostles and prophets. And yet, the author of Ephesians says they are the foundation of the Christian community. Why then are there no references to apostles and prophets after the first century? How could the church have continued without its foundation?

I think I’ve found an answer for it. It was not the answer I wanted, but it’s the only one that makes sense to me. In Ephesians 4:11, the author is clearly referring to apostles and prophets as officers of the church. But 2:20 says the Christian community is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Maybe in 2:20, apostles and prophets do not refer to offices in the church.

Think about it. If God is still calling apostles and prophets and speaking to them, that means the Bible is still being written. We need to add what they are saying on behalf of God to the Bible. So far, we have the Old Testament and the New Testament. If God is adding to the Bible, what testament would that be? The Post-New Testament? The Bible is finished. The Old Testament tells about the promise of a Messiah. The New Testament tells about its fulfillment in Christ Jesus. That is why he is the cornerstone that joins the two together. The Bible, with Christ Jesus as our Messiah, is the foundation of the Christian community.

Heavy construction equipment digging a foundation
A solid foundation ensures the building will endure.
Photo credit: timn.eu on Visualhunt.com

The Church’s One Foundation

Here is another possibility to consider. Who gave us the Old Testament? The prophets. Who gave us the New Testament? The apostles. Our foundation is the Old and New Testaments, and Christ Jesus is the cornerstone that joins them together. Of the offices listed, they were the only ones directly involved in writing the Bible. Once the Bible was written, the apostles and prophets had served their purpose.

In the same way, the temple once served the purpose of atoning for sins and giving access to God. But after Christ, the temple was no longer necessary. The office of priests in the temple was no longer necessary. I believe the same thing happened with the offices of apostle and prophet. They served their purpose in writing the Bible. They received the word of God directly from the Holy Spirit. We receive it now in what they wrote.

I admit that answer does not satisfy me completely. It sounds so complicated. I mean, why can’t apostles and prophets just mean apostles and prophets, as in the people God calls to serve in those offices? But again, I have never seen any credible references to apostles and prophets after the first century. If this theory is correct, we still have our foundation, even if God is not calling apostles and prophets anymore. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized this is the way it had to be, because the canon is closed.

Who Is Writing the Bible?

Think about it. If God is still calling apostles and prophets and speaking to them, that means the Bible is still being written. We need to add what they are saying on behalf of God to the Bible. So far, we have the Old Testament and the New Testament. If God is adding to the Bible, what testament would that be? The Post-New Testament? The Bible is finished. The Old Testament tells about the promise of a Messiah. The New Testament tells about its fulfillment in Christ Jesus. That is why he is the cornerstone that joins the two together. The Bible, with Christ Jesus as our Messiah, is the foundation of the Christian community.

Sometime around the end of the first century, God determined that the foundation was finished. After you finish a foundation, do you keep building it? No, you build your structure on top of the foundation. How many times do you lay a foundation? Once. When a foundation is finished, it is finished. Time to start building your structure. The author of Ephesians says the Christian community is that structure. Everything we have built since then has been on that foundation. If we remember Jesus’ commands to love one another, that foundation will be “Solid” as a rock.

Cessationism vs. Continuationism

This is a prime example of a debate between two philosophies, cessationism and continuationism. Cessationism is the belief that some things we read about in the Bible were for that time only. They have ceased, hence the term cessationism. Continuationism believes that everything in the Bible is or should have continued from the beginnings of the church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) to the still-awaited return of Christ. This has mainly to do with supernatural gifts and activities mentioned in the Bible, e.g., miracles, healings, prophecies, speaking in tongues and such. The argument extends also to whether or not we should expect God to call people to be apostles and prophets anymore. You can probably guess I am on the cessationist side. However, that is a recent development.

The Word of Faith folks are among the continuationists. When I was in that movement, I was definitely a continuationist. Even after I left, I still expected to be able to perform at least some of the miracles I read about in the Bible. I expected God to speak to me directly, even if I wasn’t a prophet or apostle. I expected some people would flow in the gift of prophecy. I thought every believer was supposed to speak in tongues to give evidence that the Holy Spirit dwelt in them. After decades of disappointment, I finally had to admit that cessationism made a whole lot more sense.

Continuationists or Restorationists?

Even continuationists admit the church went without apostles and prophets after the first century. They claim those offices are being restored in this generation, because we are in the last days. If you ask them when the restoration began, they might point to the Azusa Street revivals of 1906, or maybe one the Great Awakenings in America. But that still begs the question, why is there such a big gap in our history with no apostles or prophets? I never heard them give a satisfactory answer to that.

So they actually admit the offices of apostle and prophet were discontinued. If they believe apostles and prophets are being restored now, that means they ceased at some point. Instead of continuationists, they should call themselves restorationists. But putting that inaccuracy aside, I suppose it is possible. If God wants to restore living apostles and prophets to the church, who am I to tell God, “You can’t do that”? But by the same token, if God has decided the apostles and prophets have fulfilled their purpose and are no longer needed, you can’t tell God to bring them back.

In the Bible, you will find when God called apostles and prophets, God did not expect people to believe them just because they said so. God gave signs to prove what they spoke really was the word of God. The prophets prophesied in the name of the Lord, and their prophecies came true. The apostles performed miracles and healings that only God could do. Do we see that from so-called apostles and prophets today? All I’ve seen are prophecies that don’t come true, false signs, lying wonders, healings that are nothing more than the placebo effect, and parlor tricks they claim are miracles, but even they have to know they are not. Has any one of them healed one case of Covid-19? Of course not. That should tell you everything you need to know.

Their whole shtick is getting back to the Bible. “Forget about your dead traditions. Forget about history. Just read the Bible and do it. You don’t have your proof, because you don’t believe the Bible.”

Well, the Bible says real prophets and apostles showed proof they were sent from God. The Bible says,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

(1 Jn 4:1)

It does not tell us, “If they say, ‘Thus says the Lord,’ believe every word they say and don’t ask for any proof.” Test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Why do we need to test them? Because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Even when there were legitimate prophets, there were also many false prophets. How much more do we need to test them today? If they claim to speak for God, you are not being unfaithful by asking for proof. You are just doing what the Bible says.

Dollar at the end of long Pinocchio nose with people running to it, reaching, and falling off a cliff

It Only Works if You Believe in It. And That Is the Problem.

The Prosperity Gospel makes big promises of health, wealth, great relationships, and success in all your endeavors. The promises often don’t come true. When they don’t come true, the most common answer to why is you didn’t have enough faith. But the good news is you can exercise your faith and make it stronger. How do you build your faith? Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (KJV). What you hear over and over again, you will eventually believe. They combine this with a belief that what you believe and speak will come to pass (Mar 11:23-24). So don’t give up. Keep listening to positive, faith building messages. Stay away from negative, “It will never happen” messages. Keep believing you received your blessings, keep speaking as if they have already come, and they will come. So if I keep listening to and believing the promises of prosperity in the Bible, I will become prosperous. I will get that book deal. I will write that bestseller. In the meantime, I will have a day job that pays the bills, leaves enough leftover the give to my church and the poor, and includes full benefits. All of that can be mine if I believe and do not doubt.

After several years of believing and (not) receiving, I realized the problem with this is it only works if you believe in it. No matter how many messages I listened to that God promised to both meet all my needs according to God’s riches in glory, and give me all the desires of my heart, when month after month, year after year, it came time to pay the bills, and I had nothing leftover, how was I supposed to keep believing? I tried. I kept meditating on the scriptures that promised health, wealth, and success. I kept listening to them on tapes, CDs, and TV. I kept confessing prosperity, not poverty. But it was like this guy I heard of who showed up to work one day with his hand in a cast.

“I was in my karate class and about to break bricks for the first time. I meditated to get my ki going. I knew I could break those bricks. I raised my hand up. I knew I could break those bricks. I brought my hand down with all my might. I knew I could break those bricks. My hand was about to make contact. I wasn’t sure I could break those bricks.”

That is what “believing and receiving” all those promises of health, wealth, and success year after year did to me. Much as I wanted to, I could not force myself to believe I had money that I didn’t have. The only way this could ever work for me was if I could found some promise in the Bible that did not depend on my belief, and my doubt could not stop. It could not be like a placebo, where it only works if you believe in it. It had to be like gravity, where it works whether you believe in it or not.

Just Obey. No Belief Required.

Well, I found it. There is a scripture on tithing that appears to promise prosperity whether you believe in it or not.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.

(Mal 3:10-11 KJV)

God is saying, prove me. See if I will not open the windows of heaven for you. See if I will not pour you out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. See if I will not rebuke the devourer for your sake. None of that “first believe, then you’ll see” nonsense. God told the nation of Israel here, just obey, and you will see. So if I give at least 10% of my income, no matter how small, to a “Bible preaching, Bible believing church,” I should see more money roll in for me than I have room to receive.

So here is a promise in the Bible that does not require you to believe, only obey.

Now in case you’re thinking this verse did not promise money, it promised “a blessing,” there are many ways God can bless you, money is only one way, and the blessing might come in a different form, that is not the way the Prosperity Gospel reads it. The Prosperity Gospel says this promises wealth to those who tithe. For the Israelites, wealth was in land and crops. God promised to make their land produce crops in abundance if they tithe their harvests. Wealth for us today is in money. Therefore, God will bless you with an abundance of money if you tithe 10% to a “Bible preaching, Bible believing church or ministry.” By that, they mean it has to be a church or ministry that preaches the Prosperity Gospel.

It makes perfect sense. It serves God’s interests as well as yours. You give God 10% of your income, and God will grow your income so that the 90% you keep is greater than the 100% you would have made without God’s blessing. 10% of more means your tithes will get bigger as your income gets bigger. As your tithes get bigger, God will bless you with more money. 10% of more means your tithes will get even bigger. And that cycle will just keep repeating until you don’t have to be concerned about money anymore.

How will the money come? It’s not going to just fall out of the sky or magically appear in your bank account. It might come through raises or promotions at work, that big contract that seemed out of reach before, the book you write that becomes a bestseller, or people might just give money to you. Why? Because God told them to. Prosperity preachers say that last one happens to them all the time. I wonder why people do that? Maybe because they tell people by giving to them, you are giving to God, so God will give to them in return. After all, their books become bestsellers by telling you how to get rich by giving to them. Isn’t that wonderful? God is so good.

Smiley face emoji with dollar signs in eyes
God will bless you if you give me your money.

My Tithe Check Bounced

There’s the punchline of the joke of the Prosperity Gospel. My tithe check bounced. I don’t mean when I was just starting out, and there had not been time for money to reach me. I had been diligently setting aside 10% of any income I made, no matter how small. Even if it was $10, I would set aside $1 for the tithe. Thirty years I had been tithing faithfully, and finally there was not enough money to cover it.

And it wasn’t a faith check. You know what a faith check is? That’s when you write a check and believe God for the money to cover it before it gets cashed, because you don’t have the money in your account at the moment. Very bad idea, and even Prosperity preachers will discourage it. I never did that, or at least I thought I didn’t. When I wrote that check, I honestly thought I had the money in my account to cover it. But this was one of those instances where I had missed my payment the month before, so I put two month’s tithe on that one check. You know how much it was? $200. After thirty years of tithing, I did not have enough money to cover a $200 check. How much was I making? 10% = $100. Do the math, and you’ll see I was not even close to “a blessing for which you do not have room to receive.” And again, the Prosperity Gospel is clear. The blessing in this verse is supposed to be money. It’s been thirty years. Where is my money?

It didn’t work for you because you don’t have enough faith.

Oh no! You don’t get off the hook with that excuse this time. This verse says it will work whether you believe in it or not. “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” God said, “Prove me now,” not “It only works if you believe in it.” The only thing required was obedience, not belief. I gave God thirty years to prove himself. What happened?

Context, Context, Context

If you read my last post, you know what happened. The Prosperity Gospel takes that verse completely out of context. I listened to people who told me that God promised me things that God never promised me—or you. In that post, I give a detailed explanation of why this Malachi scripture has nothing to do with making us rich. I won’t rehash the whole thing here, but here are the main points.

  1. The promise was made to the nation of Israel, not to the church, not to any other nation, and not to you and me as individual believers.
  2. The tithes in Israel were taxes, not the voluntary offerings we give to the church.
  3. The tithes were food, not income. The purpose was to ensure there was food for everyone, even the poor and those who had no land.
  4. God was telling people who were already rich to pay their tithes, i.e., taxes, not telling people who were poor how to get rich.
  5. God did not tell the rich they will be richer if they tithe. The metaphors of opening the windows of heaven, and a blessing that they will not have room to receive only meant that they would have more than enough for themselves and their families. It was not an investment with guaranteed positive ROI (Return on Investment).

So if you are tithing because you think God will give you back more than you give, just remember God never promised that. That was the trap I fell into, believing God promised me things that God never promised me. And how did I fall into that trap? By listening to people who profited by reading the Bible out of context. Think about it. If your preacher says, “Look how rich I am. It’s because God blessed me. God blessed me because I tithe. And God will bless you if you tithe,” who receives those tithes you pay? Who receives those tithes everyone pays?

They might say, “It doesn’t go to me. It goes to the church.” But who controls the purse-strings of that church? Do they tell you how they spend all that money they receive? My church shows the budget to all the members, and we vote to approve it. So we know how much our pastor makes. If he showed up to church driving a Mercedes or a Lambo, you’d better believe we would ask him where he got the money for it.

Where Do We Go from Here?

It may sound funny to say this, but I am grateful for that bounced check (with apologies for whatever inconvenience it caused my church). Because any time my prayers for healing, income, a job, protection, or building a career as a writer were not answered, prosperity preachers could it was my fault for doubting too much or not having enough faith. But when it came to this scripture, they could not say that. The deal here is, if I obey this one commandment, God will bless me financially. There is no other requirement. I obeyed. How can it possibly be my fault? What should I conclude from that?

One thing I love about Jesus is when his enemies would try to trap him by presenting him with two options, both of which were bad, he would catch them in their own trap. For example, should we pay taxes to Caesar or not? If he says yes, he will be discredited to those who believe he is the Messiah. If he says no, he will be in trouble with Rome. Which is it, A or B? In situations like this, he would choose C. He held up a coin and said, “Whose image is on this?”

“Caesar’s.”

“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mat 22:21 NRS).

They gave him two choices, thinking “Heads we win, tails he loses,” and he chose a third option they had never even considered.

So back to the question of why God wasn’t filling his end of the bargain when I tithed, it seems we only have two choices here. A., the Bible is wrong. Or B., God wants to bless me financially, but somehow I keep screwing it up. It can’t be A, so it must be B, right? That’s why I fell into the trap of always trying to get more faith. But I never seemed to have “enough faith” to make it happen. But this promise specifically says it does not depend on my faith. God was practically daring Israel to tithe and see if they receive more wealth as a result. Could it be that there is a C that I had never considered?

C. They are reading the Bible out of context.

You think what they say has to be true because it comes from the Bible. I will say this a thousand times if the Lord lets me live long enough. Just because they are quoting scripture does not mean they are speaking the Word of God. The Bible is only the Word of God when it is rightly read, rightly interpreted, and rightly applied. And rightly doing all of that begins with three things: Context, context, and context.

By now, I think I have shown that in context, this is not a promise of positive ROI if you give 10% of your income to your church. It is not a way for the poor to get rich, and the rich to get richer. It was a message to the rich that if they paid the tithes God commanded, they would still have plenty for themselves and their families. Not more than before, but more than enough. If you still don’t see that, again I will refer you to my previous article where I explain in depth the tithe Malachi was referring to. The tithes were meant to help the poor, not bring more hardship to them.

And in the New Testament, there is no minimum amount we are required to give to the church. Not 10%, not even 0.1%. We give not under compulsion, not under the threat of a curse if we don’t, or expecting a return as if we are investing in stocks or cryptocurrency. If you have a heart to give to your church, then by all means give. The church needs money to operate, just like any other organization. Give as you are able, and give with a willing heart, because God loves a cheerful giver. And remember, money is not the only thing you have to offer. You can give of your time by volunteering, serving on a committee, visiting sick church members, teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, or ask your pastor where they need help. And never let them bully you into giving more than you can afford.

The lesson I learned was much bigger than the purpose of tithing or even the right way to give to the church. It taught me something about the true nature of faith. Faith is not something to manipulate God into giving you what you want. It is a relationship with God based on trust. You can ask God for what you want, and whether God gives it to you or not, you trust that God always loves you and will work whatever happens for good. When understood like that, faith is not something you use as a means to an end. It is an end in itself.


Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave a question or comment below. No trolling, but I am happy to engage in honest discussion and debate. As always, remember these words from Matthew 7:12.

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

(NRSV)

Grace and peace to you.