Bitcoin: The Bear Market Is Here

Are we in a bear market? I asked that question when Bitcoin (BTC) dipped below $30,000 back in July last year. If so, it would have been the shortest bull market in Bitcoin’s history. It used to be you could tell by the four-year cycle. But according to the four-year cycle, the bull market should have lasted at least into September and maybe November.

Then between August and November, Bitcoin (BTC) rallied to a new all-time high (ATH) of $69,000 on November 10. Maybe the four-year cycle was back. Many experts thought it would go above 100K by the end of December. Instead, it dropped. At times it would rally but still not get anywhere near the high in November. It would drop again, and rally again. The timing, one could argue, followed the four-year cycle.

I wrote a post earlier explaining why I think the four-year cycle may be dead. If it’s not dead, it certainly does not look like anything in the past. That being said, from November on is when we would expect a bear market. It could also be because traditional markets are down, inflation, supply-chain issues, the war in Ukraine, and all of that together seems to be pointing to a recession.

I came into crypto in a bull market. Now, whatever the cause(s), it looks like I’m going through my first bear market. Strategies have to change. What do you do with your crypto in a bear market? Everyone’s situation is different, so I can’t tell you what to do. I’ll let you know what I’m doing.

Keep in mind, though, I am not a financial advisor. Everything in this article is for information or entertainment purposes only. Always do your own research.

The Bull Is in Hibernation

I’m going to skip over discussion of how the economy in general is struggling. We all know the reasons. It’s not just affecting the United States but the entire world. That obviously makes people less willing to invest in anything, so we should not be surprised at the recent downturns in traditional markets, Bitcoin, and Altcoins. Every market is affected. But there are some factors unique to Bitcoin that are affecting it on top of the general state of the economy. That is what I will focus on.

Opinions from experts vary on when the bear market started. If you believe the four-year cycle, it started on November 11. For me (in my amateur opinion), the moment I switched from “maybe” to “definitely” bear market was the recent crash of LUNA and UST. It totally wrecked some people.

But before I get into that, when people experience an extreme financial loss, their minds can go to a dark place. I don’t want to use the S-word, because some algorithms don’t like it, but it has happened with every stock market crash. If you are thinking of harming yourself, please talk to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. No matter how bad it looks, money can be replaced. Your life cannot. Don’t confuse your net worth with your self-worth.

I don’t mean to make anyone feel worse than they already do. But there are important lessons we can learn from this experience. I’ll talk about my experience with the Luna crash, and then get into lessons for moving forward. I think the most important lesson is you are not your money. You are not your investments. You are not your portfolio. You are a child of God, a unique human being. Don’t ever forget that.

The Fall of LUNA and UST

Terra Luna (LUNA), a recent top ten cryptocurrency, crashed. Its stablecoin, US Terra (UST), crashed with it. And when I say crashed, I mean they both went to nearly zero. Tens of billions of dollars in market capitalization just vanished in a few days. Quite a few people lost money from both LUNA and UST, because they worked in tandem. The fate of one was directly tied to the other. Some of my YouTubers are saying it was market manipulation. I can’t confirm that, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Now that big money is buying crypto, manipulation is always possible. There’s another reason never to invest more than you can afford to lose.

Some people invested way too much in it, and it wrecked their portfolios. Some even lost their life savings. In a way it is understandable. Stablecoins are supposed to be the safe play, and it was possible just a month ago to get 20% interest on UST. So naturally people thought this was a safe investment with a guaranteed return of 20%. Who wouldn’t take that?

But if your portfolio got wrecked, or you lost your life savings, that means you put much more into LUNA and/or UST than you should have. But don’t despair. Whatever you lost can be replaced. You can come back stronger if you take the lessons of this experience to heart.

My Experience with LUNA

I dipped my toes into LUNA and UST. I bought LUNA at about $52. Within two weeks it was up to $92. When it reached $104, I should have sold half of it to make back my investment. Then what happened to the other half wouldn’t have hurt. Of course, if I knew what was coming I would have sold all of it.

But I not only held, I bought more, because when you see it going up like that and everyone in the crypto community is high on the project, you think it will keep going up. There was a certain minimum I wanted to have for my portfolio, and I had it. Yay!

On May 9 LUNA started crashing, from a price of $64 to now less than a penny.

Chart showing Terra Luna from a value of $97.40 on April 21, 2022, to almost zero on May 20.
Chart for LUNA from coinmarketcap.com: Big dip happened around May 8-9.

It was a top 10 crypto in market capitalization. Now, I don’t know where it is in the rankings, and I don’t care. UST was put out by the same organization, Terra Luna Labs. I tried that, too.

My Experience with UST

I wanted to take advantage of the 20% return on UST, but I had to do some research to find out where and how to do it. UST is a stablecoin backed by LUNA. In case you don’t know, stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that are designed to keep their value at $1.00. They may fluctuate a fraction of a penny, or even a penny or two. But if it’s working properly, the price will always come back to $1.00. It should have been a safe play.

When I first saw LUNA and UST dropping, I did not realize how bad it was. I saw UST at $0.89, obviously much lower than it should have been.

Chart showing UST stablecoin keeping its dollar peg until May 9, 2022. It appeared to almost recover, then dropped again. Then a few more recoveries and drops. on May 29, it was less than $0.10.
TerraUSD (UST) chart from coinmarketcap.com: First drop on May 9, 2022, almost recovered on May 10 but did not. Trading at less than a dime as of May 20.

This has been known to happen occasionally with other stablecoins, but with them it was temporary. I bought a little, figuring when it got back to a dollar, I could make some profit. But a little more research showed me just how much trouble they were in, so I sold at $0.70. Even though it was a loss of 20%, it was the right move, because UST is now trading at less than a dime.

I wasn’t able to sell my LUNA. Every time I tried, the order would not go through. That can happen in a crash, because in order to sell you need a buyer. Who wants to buy something that is dying a quick death? Keep that in mind when you do your risk evaluation.

Many crypto experts are doing autopsies on it. To listen to them now, it should have been obvious this crash was coming. However, only a handful of experts predicted this would happen. Let this be an object lesson that investment always carries some risk, so NEVER INVEST MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD TO LOSE.

And the problem is bigger than LUNA and UST. In the same time LUNA dropped to zero, the whole crypto market lost over $300 billion, with Bitcoin dropping 15% from before the crash.

Bitcoin chart shows value of $41.5K on April 21, 2022, dropping to about $26K before recovering to almost $30K.
BTC chart from coinmarketcap.com: had been declining. May 9 and 11, 2022, showed drops along with LUNA and UST

A Little Hope

Do Kwon, the founder, is trying to fix LUNA and UST and bring it back, and he seems to want to find some way to help investors who got wrecked. That means there is still a chance people can recoup their losses and even make a profit if they are patient. But I don’t have the same confidence in him that I did before the crash. Whatever he comes up with, I will probably stay away from. But if he offers a way to reimburse some of my losses, I’ll take that. There is talk of a “new LUNA” that will include an airdrop to those held the “old LUNA” before the crash, so maybe we can still recover something.

Regulation Coming

There is one more issue I need to address. LUNA and UST may not recover, but the crypto market almost certainly will. It has survived much worse than this. What concerns me more is bad regulation that could come in the wake of this. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is calling for sweeping federal regulation of stablecoins. SEC Chairman Gary Ginsler wants to call almost every crypto a security, so he can regulate it. He has already said stablecoins are securities, which makes no sense. And of course he is in the spotlight with the SEC’s lawsuit against Ripple Labs, the creators of the XRP cryptocurrency. The uncertainty around what’s coming makes me nervous.

I am not an anarchist. I don’t mind regulation. Like most people in the crypto community, I just want clarity, fairness, and common sense. Given the track records of Yellen, Congress, and especially Ginsler, I don’t have much confidence that is what we’ll get.

An Ounce of Prevention

Before investing in anything, here are a few rules to remember.

First, recognize that is a risky game to begin with. Before you invest in anything, ask yourself, am I okay if this goes to zero? With each Altcoin, the chance of going to zero varies. I think Bitcoin has been around long enough that the chance of it going to zero is virtually nil. But even with Bitcoin I ask myself that before I buy. If the answer is no, that means I’m investing more than I can afford to lose. Either spend less or move on to something else.

Second, you can protect yourself by taking profit, meaning when you have a chance to sell at a decent profit, take it. Between September 2020 and April 2021, I was able to let my Altcoins double in value, then sell half. That way I recovered my investment, and whatever I could gain after that was gravy. That is pretty easy in a bull market. But in a bear market, you may need to think in terms of 10, 20, or 30% profit.

Third, use stop-losses. If you don’t know what that means, it means you need to educate yourself before you even think about investing.

Fourth, NEVER INVEST MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD TO LOSE.

Fifth, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Professionals tell you to diversify your portfolio, and that goes for crypto, too. Putting all your money into one or two Altcoins is like putting it all into lottery tickets.

Help! My Crypto Is Down!

Even if you take those steps, at some point your crypto will go down in value. You have three choices:

  1. Sell at a loss.
  2. Hold until the market goes up again.
  3. Trade for a better crypto.

Let’s talk about each of them.

Sell at a Loss

Sometimes that is your best option. For Bitcoin, I think holding is usually the right move, unless you need to pay some bills (not financial advice). But with Altcoins, you need to be ready to sell. I learned the hard way “hodling” is for Bitcoin, not Altcoins (with maybe a few exceptions). From now on, I’m taking profits when I can. And if that Altcoin turns out to be a Sh*tcoin, go ahead and take the loss.

It was no fun selling my UST at a 20% loss, but it was absolutely the right move, especially considering it’s trading at less than a dime now. I would gladly have sold my LUNA at any price, but now it’s totally worthless.  

Professional investors have this already built into their strategy. When they take a chance on a risky investment, they put in a stop-loss. That means you can set it up where if the price drops, say, 20%, it will sell automatically. That will keep you from getting wrecked.

Selling at a loss is no fun, but sometimes it is better to cut your losses than stay in a sinking ship.

Hold until the Market Goes up Again

There are nearly 20,000 Altcoins listed on coinmarketcap.com. Many if not most will not survive the bear market. The few that do, however, will gain more than BTC, simply because they are smaller and have more room to grow. Knowing that makes people sometimes hang on to losing Altcoins longer than they should. Myself included.

I am holding (or “hodling”) my Bitcoin no matter what happens. Except if the price goes above 100K, I might sell a small percentage, because you always need cash. I believe Bitcoin has the fundamentals to survive the bear market and take off again in the next bull market. That is also true of a few Altcoins. There are a few I’m holding on to, even though my investments currently are in the red. If I need the cash, I might sell to pay bills and wait to re-invest when I’m better situated financially. This bear market is likely to last for a while, so if it’s a good project, you will get another chance.

It’s okay to sell your Altcoins, whether to take profit or cut your losses. But if your research tells you the project is solid and a good long-term investment, it’s okay to hold too.

Trade for a Better Crypto (or Other Investment)

Everything in the crypto market went south between May and July of last year. It caught me by surprise. According to the four-year cycle, we should have still been in a bull market. I had small investments in probably twenty different Altcoins. Bitcoin dipped hard in May because of FUD from Elon Musk, and my Altcoins dipped shortly after. I was looking at selling everything at a loss.

With most of them, instead of selling I traded them for Bitcoin. All those investments had lost value relative to the dollar. But Bitcoin rose and fell in tandem with them, so their value relative to Bitcoin was still roughly the same. It didn’t feel like a loss because of that, and because when Bitcoin pumped again, I recovered those losses. Well, I would have if I had sold. More on that in another post.

That looks like the situation we’re in now as well. There is always some risk. But in a bear market, I’ll take my chances with Bitcoin over any Altcoin. It has been around for thirteen years, longer than any other crypto. It has seen multiple bull markets, bear markets, and black swan events, and it is still here. Even when it dumps, it dumps less than Altcoins. It is the most secure network anyone has ever built. No one who has ever bought and held for at least four years has lost money. How many investments can say that? In fact, I am almost to the point where I’ll take my chances with Bitcoin over any other investment period.

So if your Altcoins have lost their shine, I always think trading for Bitcoin is a good move (Again, not financial advice).

Moving from Risk-on to Risk-off

Also in a bear market, you need to be more conservative with your investments in general. Professional traders and investors use the terms risk-on and risk-off. Risk-on refers to assets that are new, speculative, and could bring either great gains or big losses. In other words, risky. Risk-off refers to assets that have been time-tested, are less volatile, and likely to bring smaller gains but also smaller losses if the market goes down. Ask your financial advisor what that means in practical terms.

In a bull market, you can make great profits with risk-on investments. But in a bear market, the professionals will move their money out of risk-on investments and into either risk-off or cash. More traditional investors are selling their Bitcoin than they have in recent months, because they consider it a risk-on investment. Personally, I would call BTC a risk-off investment (for reasons stated above), but I’m not a professional. Talk to a financial advisor about it first and do your own research.

But traditional investors moving away from BTC is another indication we have entered a bear market, so you may want to consider stocking up on more traditional investments for now. We are likely in for a rough few months. Crypto Jebb saw a bear flag formation on the charts that could mean BTC is going down to $20,000. You don’t have to know what that means.

Just know that it’s possible. In the past, BTC has dropped as much as 85% from previous highs during bear markets. We saw a high of $69,000 November. A drop of 85% would take it to $10,350. All of that to say even though the price has stabilized for now, we may not have seen the bottom yet. Add to that the challenges of inflation, the supply chain issues, whales possibly manipulating the markets, the war in Ukraine, regulatory uncertainty, and a natural bear market on top of that means, well, I don’t know what it means, but it won’t be good most likely. If nothing else, I think we can still count on another bull market after the next BTC halving, which is estimated to take place in May, 2024.

But just as bull markets present opportunities that don’t exist in bear markets, bear markets present opportunities that don’t exist in bull markets.

The Silver Lining

The silver lining of any bear market is that if you can identify good long-term investments, now is a time to buy the dip. Back in October and the beginning of November, people were saying, “I wish Bitcoin would dip, so I could buy some.” What do you think this is? Bitcoin is settled at about $30,000 for now. That is over 50% off from the previous high of $69,000. If that’s not a dip, what is? But remember, only buy if you are not going to need the money any time soon. It could be a while before the bull market returns.

But what if it goes down further?

Buy it again. (Not financial advice). As Warren Buffett says, “Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.” In other words, sell when most people are buying. Buy when most people are selling. Of course, that only applies to long-term investments. If you think BTC is a good long-term investment, now is a great time to accumulate.

My preferred strategy for buying is dollar cost averaging (DCA). This is like if your employer offers a 401K. The best way to invest is to have it deducted from your paycheck automatically. That way, you don’t miss it. DCA works the same way. You set up with an exchange to buy automatically on a regular schedule. Some weeks it is lower, some weeks it is higher, but on average I am getting a good price.

I started with $10/week of Bitcoin. Even on a tight budget, you can probably work that out. I don’t know your situation, but there is probably something you can sacrifice to get started purchasing something for your future. Coinbase and Gemini are two exchanges that let you set up recurring buys (same as DCA). Their transaction fees are pretty high, though.

There is a service called Deltabadger that will allow you to avoid most transaction fees on your DCA. You can go on their website to see which exchanges you can work with. I use Coinbase Pro, but there are several others. If you sign up with this link, you will save 10% off your first purchase. And you don’t have to pay at all until you buy $1200 worth.

Sign up for Delta Badger here.

If you want a more detailed account of what happened with LUNA and UST, you can watch this.

Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful. How are you feeling right now? Are you hodling or selling? Which projects do you think will survive the bear market? Which ones won’t? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Sheep with wolf's head

A Cult Checklist Got Nearly 13,000 Hits in One Day

Yesterday, one of my blog posts—published eight months ago—got nearly 13,000 views.

Screenshot of stats for views on this blog
That spike is from April 26. 13,062 views overall, 12,896 were for the one post “Word of Faith and a Cult Checklist.”

About 20% of that came from this post on Reddit, which showed a list of crazy rules at some church called the Word of Faith Fellowship.

r/awfuleverything - When you violate a “don’t”, you will be told “we don’t do that”.
https://www.reddit.com/r/awfuleverything/comments/ubuc8o/when_you_violate_a_dont_you_will_be_told_we_dont/

For some reason, it seems to have driven a lot of traffic to one blog post titled “Word of Faith and a Cult Checklist.” It was not about that church in particular. I was involved in a movement called the Word of Faith back in the 1980’s and 90’s. Today, it is more likely to be called the Prosperity Gospel. I have written a lot on my blog about the Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel. My sister once thought it was a cult, and I wanted to know myself. I found a cult checklist in an article called “Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups” from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). I edited it a little for clarification on some points.

The idea for the post was to go through the checklist and answer according to my experiences with the Word of Faith movement. I cannot comment on the Word of Faith Fellowship, because I have no experience with that particular church. But their “do and don’t” list above sounds very cult-like. Just saying.

Nonetheless, it seems people who are interested in cults or the Word of Faith Fellowship are finding their way to that post. If you are wondering if you or someone you know belongs to a cult, here is the checklist.

Number 1: The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

Number 2: Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

Number 3: Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

Number 4: The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

Number 5: The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

Number 6: The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

Number 7: The leader is not accountable to any authorities.

Number 8: The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before they joined the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

Number 9: The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

Number 10: Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and to radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before they joined the group.

Number 11: The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

Number 12: The group is preoccupied with making money.

Number 13: Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

Number 14: Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

Number 15: The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

If you want to see my answers and conclusions about the Word of Faith movement, here’s the link. https://davidandersontheauthor.com/2021/08/18/word-of-faith-and-a-cult-checklist/

I also recommend another post I mentioned, “My Sister Thought I Was in a Cult (And I’m Not Sure She Was Wrong).”

Finally, you can find more resources on recognizing and freeing yourself from cults from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).

International Women’s Day 2022: Ukraine Edition

March 9 is International Women’s Day. It is meant to honor the gifts and contributions of women around the world that too often go unnoticed. This year, however, Ukraine is on my mind more than most other places, as it probably is for you. Despite an army eight times the size of Ukraine and advanced technological weaponry, Putin’s army has so far only been able to take over a few cities. Perhaps he underestimated the difficulty of urban warfare, especially when the population is so united against you. Most of the army is made up of men, and I have mad respect for the resistance they are putting up. But let’s just take a moment to honor the many ways Ukrainian women are contributing to this resistance.

Proud Ukrainian-American Mila Kunis and husband Ashton Kutcher raising funds for Ukraine

Ukrainian Women on the Home Front and War Front

Ukrainian women are making protective gear and gathering supplies for fighters on the front lines, traveling hundreds of miles on foot to get their children to safety, giving birth in bomb shelters and refugee camps, and doing everything they can to support both the men who are fighting and the children left behind. Those are the traditional roles for women there and around the world, and it is vitally important work. Hats off to the women who are doing this under dire circumstances.

But that does not mean women cannot serve their country and families in nontraditional ways, including making and using Molotov cocktails, and even joining the fighting on the front line. One woman said while she was packing for her husband, she made the decision. If he is going to war, so is she. Another is reported to have taken down a drone with a jar of pickled tomatoes.

Russian women are also gathering in protest to pressure Putin to stop the war. One woman in Saint Petersburg was arrested while holding her baby. Other footage shows an elderly woman who survived the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War 2 not backing down from Russian police.

Trevor Noah of The Daily Show highlighted all of this in honor of both International Women’s Day and the resolve of Ukrainian and Russian women in the face of one of the worst dictators the world has ever seen.

Women of Ukraine Take On Russia – The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Video Clip) | Comedy Central US (cc.com)

GoFundMe with Mila Kunis

I always thought Mila Kunis was Greek. That’s how her name sounded to me. But it turns out she was born in Ukraine and immigrated to America in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. As you can imagine, the war is hitting a little closer to home for her than most Americans, and she is doing something about it. Along with husband Ashton Kutcher, she started a Gofundme campaign with a goal of raising $30 million for assistance in housing and supplies to Ukrainian refugees. They even committed to match the first $3 million in donations dollar for dollar. As of now they have raised almost $19 million. The campaign is still active, so if you want a tangible way to help, the link is below.

Fundraiser for GoFundMe.org by Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher : Stand With Ukraine

What Can the US and NATO Do?

This invasion never should have happened, yet it is totally in character for Putin. But I think he underestimated how far Ukrainians would go to defend their country. They are an independent, democratic, and sovereign nation, and they are determined to stay that way.

It remains to be seen how long Ukraine can hold out against Russia. The US and NATO are in a difficult position of supporting Ukraine while not wanting to start a nuclear war. It’s similar to when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1980. We did not want to engage the Russians directly, but we provided weapons, training, humanitarian assistance, and any other support we could short of direct confrontation with Russian forces. Like the Afghans then, if you give Ukrainians weapons, they will fight. And if the resolve of the Ukrainian people, both men and women, is any indication, even if Russia takes over the capital, the resistance will not stop until Russia goes back home.

Future Woman of Ukraine Inspires People Around the World

And to end on a high note, here is a future woman singing “Let It Go.”

“Oh, I’ve heard that song a million times. I don’t want to hear it again.”

You haven’t heard it like this. A little Ukrainian girl sings it in a bomb shelter in Kyiv. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, I guarantee it will melt your heart.

Ukrainian girl sings ‘Let It Go’ in Kyiv shelter (yahoo.com)

Happy International Women’s Day. Again, the link to Mila Kunis’s fundraiser is below.

Fundraiser for GoFundMe.org by Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher : Stand With Ukraine

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

Scene from Mission Impossible. Ethan Hunt trying to hack into super secure computer while hanging in midair.

How to Survive a Bitcoin Bear Market

Confession time: While we were in quarantine, a lot of people picked up new hobbies. My new hobby is Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. I was a skeptic for a long time, but now I’m a believer. The problem is I spent so much time learning and planning trades it consumed my writing time. I’m going to have to learn balance. But the best way I can justify that time I spent is to write about it.

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 have owned some Bitcoin for only a little more than a year, so I can’t say if we are in a bear market now. But the fact that we are having that debate at this time took me by surprise. If you don’t know, Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, meaning it is “a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend.” So it is an asset that exists completely on a vast computer network. Bitcoin was the first and is by far the biggest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalization. Coinmarketcap.com lists over 10,800 crypto currencies that can be bought, sold, and traded on exchanges, similar to stocks and commodities. Some of the more popular exchanges are Coinbase, Binance, Kucoin, Gemini, and Kraken.

Also like stocks and commodities, the value can go up or down depending on supply and demand. If more is being bought than sold, the value goes up, and vice-versa. While Bitcoin is the focus of this article, I may refer to other cryptocurrencies (a.k.a., cryptos) for comparison.

If you have heard anything about Bitcoin, it’s probably that the price is very volatile. It can go up very quickly and back down just as quickly. I already knew that, but I thought I had the market figured out. The Bitcoin (BTC) price normally moves on a four-year cycle because of an event called the halving. At set intervals, the amount of Bitcoin that can be mined (the term for creating new Bitcoin) drops in half. This diminishing supply coupled with greater demand makes the price go up for about 16 to 18 months before there is a bear market. The most recent halving was in May, 2020. Based on that, we should have had a bull market until at least mid-September, maybe even into October or November. Until May 12, it was playing out that way. Then Elon tweeted, and the price crashed.

We are now 50% down from an all-time high in April. This was supposed to be a bull market. How could one tweet break the cycle? Or maybe the cycle is not over, and this was just a much needed correction. But a 50% correction in a bull market? And we haven’t recovered yet? Should I hold on and hope the price goes up, or get out now to cut my losses?

Many who bought in March or April are asking the same thing. Again, I’m no expert, but I’ll tell you how and why I got in, and what I have learned in this crash.

How I Got Started with Bitcoin

When I first heard about Bitcoin in 2013, and it sounded like a pipe dream. I didn’t see how a currency, asset, or whatever you call it, could exist only on computers and have real value. Last year, I saw a presentation that explained what currency is and how it works. We are used to currencies having a physical form, for example, gold, bills, coins, etc. However, that is not really necessary. Anything people accept as a medium of exchange can be a currency, even if it is entirely digital. So yes, Bitcoin can be real money. El Salvador has even made it legal tender for the whole nation.

I also learned about the blockchain technology behind it. A blockchain network is the most secure network ever created. The first Bitcoin was mined, or created, on January 3, 2009. Since then, the Bitcoin network has never been hacked, because the blockchain it uses is so secure. Forget about cryptocurrency for a minute. Just think about an Internet that is virtually unhackable. Do you think there could be some other applications for that? Bitcoin and the whole crypto market is not even the tip of the iceberg of blockchain’s potential. That more than anything convinced me Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are here to stay.

My First Bitcoin

I bought my first Bitcoin in June last year, shortly after the halving. The price went up, slowly at first. Then on October 21, 2020, Paypal announced users could buy, sell, and spend Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies directly from their accounts. The price went up pretty steadily from then on. There were a few dips, but they were not deep, and they did not last long.

By the time Coinbase, one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, IPO’d on April 14, the price was up to an all-time high of about $63–65K (prices vary some between exchanges). In the next few days, there was a pull back, and the price hovered in the 50’s for a few weeks. That wasn’t so bad. Even a bull market will have corrections like that.

Then on May 12, Elon Musk tweeted concerns over its energy use and climate change. I care about climate change, but in this case I think the concern is overblown. I plan to write another article to explain that, but this chart will give you an idea.

Energy consumption for: The banking system: ~260 TeraWatt-hours per year; Gold mining, ~240 TeraWatt-hours per year; Bitcoin mining, ~110 TeraWatt-hours per year
The current financial system’s energy consumption vs. Bitcoin. Source: Galaxy Digital. https://docsend.com/view/adwmdeeyfvqwecj2

As you can see, the latter two use more than twice as much energy. Furthermore, the energy Bitcoin uses is more likely to come from clean, renewable sources. I wonder what would have happened to the banks if Elon had raised concerns about their carbon footprint. If people knew about how damaging gold mining is to the environment, would they stop buying it?

But Elon’s 56 million Twitter followers got the message. The price dropped about 15% in just one day and kept falling. At the bottom, it reached lows of about $29K, a more than 50% drop from its recent all-time high. Most experienced crypto investors know this kind of volatility is normal. But even many of them were surprised that such a drop happened when we are supposed to be in a bull market. Experiences like that create FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). You could also think of them as fear and greed, and they tend to move the markets more than one mercurial billionaire.

FOMO and FUD: How You Can Be Your Own Worst Enemy

What is the mantra of professional investors? Buy low, sell high. FOMO and FUD will make you do the opposite. Here’s how they work together.

You heard about Bitcoin a few years ago, and you thought it was silly. You haven’t thought about it in years. Then you hear it broke its previous all time high of $20K, and it’s going up, up, up. $30K, $40K, $50K, $60K. You don’t understand how it works, even at a “Bitcoin for Dummies” level. You don’t know any market fundamentals. You don’t know what makes the price go up or down. But you are afraid of missing out, so you rush to buy before it’s too late (FOMO). Then the price falls: down, down, down. Just when you think it can’t go lower, it does. You are afraid of losing everything you put in, sell at a loss, and promise never to do that again (FUD).

Experienced investors use this FOMO and FUD to enrich themselves. When everyone FOMO’s in, they sell. When everyone FUD’s out, they buy. The best protection against FOMO and FUD is to educate yourself. Learn the history of why Bitcoin was created. It’s a fascinating story. Learn how cryptocurrency compares with fiat currency (dollars, euros, etc.). Learn what blockchain is and how it works. You don’t have to get too technical, just enough to where it makes sense. Learn about the halving and the four year cycle. And most of all, listen to people who have held Bitcoin for four years or more. They have seen markets go way up, way down, and everywhere in between, and they are still in the game. That will give you the perspective you need.

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t invest in something just because the price is going up or some celebrity tweeted about it. Get at least a basic understanding of what it is, what value it brings to the market, why the world needs it, whether the business model is sound, how much investment it is attracting and from whom, and risks versus potential reward.

With Bitcoin, the four-year cycle has meant it reaches an all-time high about 16-18 months after the halving. Despite this downturn, there is still time for that to happen. Then it drops 85% before beginning to recover. If that happens again, will you beat yourself up or see it as a buying opportunity? 

It Is Not a Get Rich Quick Scheme

Of course, I knew that before I got started. But it is easy to forget when you see the price go parabolic. When the price skyrocketed to an all-time high of about $65,000, I started having visions of all the remodeling my wife and I want to do and retirement by the end of the summer. Then the price went into free fall, like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, when his assistants stopped him just before he hit the floor, but he’s just hanging there with his arms and legs up to keep from setting off the alarm.

Scene from Mission Impossible. Ethan Hunt trying to hack into super secure computer while hanging in midair.
You might have felt like this when Bitcoin crashed.

At first, I was scared. But as the price has settled in the 30,000’s, I realized this crash was the reality check I needed. There are some newer cryptocurrencies that saw over 1000% gains this year alone. Bitcoin is not that kind of investment. It is so big now, it takes much more to move the price up than for something like Polygon (MATIC), which currently sells at about $1.05.

Of course, with greater rewards come greater risks. Many of those with 1000% gains dropped back to pre-bull levels in the crash. Even though they’re not connected, most cryptocurrencies follow Bitcoin in the market. If Bitcoin pumps, they will pump more. If Bitcoin dumps, they will dump more, so the losses can be much greater as well. Some even went down to zero, so make sure you do your research before jumping in. Bitcoin has been around long enough that it’s highly unlikely that it will go to zero now. But if you expect to get rich with it, you have to think in terms of years, not weeks.

So what do you do when the price drops?

Buy the Dip

If you don’t believe in it as a long-term investment, the emotional roller coaster will drive you nuts. If you do believe in it as a long-term investment, you won’t get caught up in the hype when it goes up, and a price dip is a buying opportunity. Large investors have been buying even during this crash, which is the one reason I don’t believe this bull market is over. Who knows how long this opportunity will last?

How should you buy? You could try to time the market. When I think about how I bought at $9.7K, it’s tempting to think I could have sold at $63K. That would have been over a 600% gain. And then I could have bought back in at $29K to prepare for the next bull run. But I had no way of knowing where the top or the bottom was. Professional traders have very sophisticated market analysis tools, and even they get it wrong sometimes. That is why I believe the best strategy for buying is dollar cost averaging.

Dollar Cost Averaging

This is a way you can take advantage of an extended price dip without having to guess which way the market will go. On most exchanges, you can set up a recurring purchase, where you buy a set amount every day, week, or month. That is called dollar cost averaging. It’s a way to minimize your risk, because you’re not putting all your money in at once.

When I started out, I set up to buy $10 of Bitcoin per week on Coinbase. The price went up slowly from June to October, and I kept buying. When the price went up much more noticeably, I stopped my weekly buy and made bigger, less frequent purchases. But even when the price is going up, dollar cost averaging is not a bad strategy, because the price will come down at some point. On average, it still works out in the long run. The following chart shows what dollar cost averaging with $10/wk would have yielded today.

Dollar cost averaging chart from July 2017-2021. Value = $9448.62. Amount invested =
Dollar cost averaging $10/week from 7/12/2017-7/12/2021

$10/wk for four years equals $2090 invested. For July, 2021, that results in a value of $9448. That is a gain of about 352%. 

But no matter how I buy, I do not put in more than I can afford. I have heard of people losing their homes because they bought too much and at the wrong time. This market is much too volatile for you to spend the money for your rent, mortgage, groceries, water, electricity, children’s education, or any other essentials. I approach this like a retirement account. I do not put in money I need for daily or monthly expenses. I do not put in money I am likely to need in the next few years. I put in a little at a time, because I expect it to appreciate in the long run. If you are comfortable with that approach, the next strategy is for you.

Bonus Tip: Prices tend to be lowest on Friday mornings, so that is when I like to set weekly buys.

Hodl

That is not a typo. Thanks autocorrect for making me retype it. On December 18, 2013, someone with the username GameKyuubi posted on the Bitcoin Forum with the title “I AM HODLING.” Why? Because in his own words, “I’m a bad trader and I KNOW I’M A BAD TRADER.” The gist of it is good traders know when to buy and sell, but he doesn’t. Trying to time the market is a trap for most traders. You end up buying high and selling low, the opposite of a good trading strategy. But he has figured out that the overall trend is up. What do you do with an asset that is volatile but goes up in value over time? You buy and hold (or hodl). The crypto community still likes to use that term today.

One obvious advantage is you never say, “I should have sold or traded then.” Whenever you have that thought, you just remind yourself, “No, I am hodling.” I want to be clear, though, this not a good strategy for every cryptocurrency. I used to think I had to hodl at least some of everything. Now, I hodl Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). There are a few others that I don’t exactly hodl but am reluctant to sell. Any others I have no problem selling if the price goes up, or if it is time to cut my losses. There is no way I can keep up with every crypto that is supposed to be “the next Bitcoin,” so I am very selective about it.

Another advantage is holding onto any asset, including crypto, for at least a year will reduce your tax liability. So next I want to talk about taxable events for crypto currency.

Be Aware of Taxable Events

I am not an expert, so check with your accountant or tax advisor on this. If you don’t have one, you will probably need one once you get into crypto. I learned that buying crypto is not a taxable event. If all you do is buy and hold, you won’t have to worry about taxes on Bitcoin or other crypto. Good for you, hodlers. Selling or trading one crypto for another is taxable. For example, if you want to sell some of your Bitcoin to take profit, or exchange some of it for Ethereum (ETH), those are considered taxable events.

As I understand it, if you trade one asset for another, any profit on that trade becomes taxable. That might mean if you buy that Tesla with Bitcoin (assuming they bring that option back), you might have to pay extra taxes, because you swapped one asset for another. Unlike El Salvador, Bitcoin is not considered currency in the US, so using it to buy something could make you liable for capital gains or other taxes. Again, I am no expert, so don’t take my word for it. That’s just what I have heard.

But unless you are 100% hodling, you will likely have to pay taxes. There is some software available to help you navigate that, so I’ll tell you what that is like.

Daily Interest Payments on Crypto Might Not Be a Good Thing

There are many good opportunities to earn interest on crypto, and I encourage you to investigate them and find one or more that works for you. However, with what I know now about crypto tax software, I would avoid offers of daily interest payments on any cryptos for now. Let me explain. The programs I’ve seen are free up to a certain number of transactions. Once you cross that threshold, you will have to pay. How much depends on how many transactions you’ve made. That includes all transactions — buy, sell, swap, move, or gifts. Any transaction whatsoever.

When I joined Coinbase, I took advantage of their Earn program. They offer the chance to earn free crypto by learning about it. That was a good thing. I got between $3-$6 in several free cryptos just for learning, which I was happy to do. A few of them offered 4–6% APY in interest, which was much better than the 0.1% I was getting from my bank. I was like, Great. Not only do I get free crypto, I get interest on it. And on Coinbase it’s compounded daily, so it will gain faster. And if the crypto takes off, I will have just a little more boost to it. Each of those daily interest payments was another transaction. Do you see where this is going?

I had a couple hundred or so transactions that amounted to nothing but counted toward my transaction limit on the tax software. I know my dollar cost averaging creates more transactions, and I’m okay with that. I didn’t know each and every one of those miniscule interest payments would count towards the number of my transactions.

I had to shop around, and the cheapest software I found was koinly.io. Even with that, I was going to have to pay $99. Fortunately, I was able to get a summary report for free. This year, I probably will have to pay for a full report. But I will try to do it without all those negligible interest payments, maybe putting all of it into one total transaction if possible. The only way I would take daily interest payments now is if I had a large enough balance to where the payments actually amount to something. I mean, if you’re getting 6% interest on one million dollars, that would give you daily payments of $164.38. I could live decently on that. Otherwise, to save on your tax software, you might want to look for weekly or monthly payments.

Despite tax liabilities, you might want to take some profit if the market goes up again. I’ll talk about that next.

Taking Profits

You could adopt a “modified hodl” strategy, where you take profit when the price is going up. My ideal strategy is when the price doubles, sell half. Then you will make back your investment, and you can hodl the rest. I was fortunate to be able to do that not only with Bitcoin but some of the other cryptos I had invested in last year. Of course, that only works if you buy at a time when the price can still double or more. That is why you want to buy the dip. Whether it’s a temporary correction or a bear market, buying when the price is down sets you up to take profit during a bull market.

What should you do after selling? Paying off some high interest debt is always a good thing. If you have that taken care of, experienced investors set aside part or all of their profits and wait to buy the next dip. Then when the price goes up again, they take some profit so they can buy the next dip. Rinse and repeat. That is how crypto fortunes are made.

“Corrections”

When I bought my first Bitcoin, the price was about $9700. As I write this, the price is now just under $35K. That’s a gain of over 200%, even with the recent crash. I understand, though, if you bought in at 40K, 50K, or 60K, you’re not feeling great about your decision now.

Though I don’t have any gift of prophecy or crystal ball, I feel confident in saying the bull market will return. The question is when and for how long. Will we have to wait four years to see any gains, or will the market come back in the next few weeks? Again, history says a bear market will come, if it’s not here already. I just don’t believe this is it.

But one more thing that surprised me. One of the reasons cryptocurrency was created was to eliminate the need for a “middle man” in financial transactions. Third parties like banks, credit cards, Western Union, and Paypal take fees for facilitating transactions. Cryptocurrency, theoretically, should reduce those fees significantly, but in practice that is not always the case. Ethereum’s ERC-20 network especially has seen fees go up a lot in the last several months. Bitcoin (BTC) has nothing to do with ERC-20, but sometimes its fees are too high as well. One thing you can do is convert BTC to Litecoin (LTC), which has much lower fees, and then trade, sell, or withdraw it.

What Comes Down Must Go Up?

For now, I want to leave you with this. If you bought for the first time at the top of this market, that doesn’t mean you made a bad decision. There is a saying in the Bitcoin community: “When in doubt, zoom out.” That means when the chart looks bad for a month or two, look back a year or two, or even going back from the beginning to now.

Chart shows daily close price action from 2012 to July, 2021
This chart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

You might be wondering if it’s too late to get in. If you believe in Bitcoin long-term, then this price dip is a great time to buy. If you don’t believe in it long-term, then it is probably not for you.

Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. It is an extremely volatile asset. Parabolic gains and crashes come with the territory. But there is enough history to be optimistic in the long run. It’s hard to see this on the chart, but in 2013, the price dropped 80%, then rose 2300%. Will we see a similar bounce in the coming weeks? I don’t know, but anyone who has bought and held for at least four years has come out ahead. In July, 2017, the price averaged around $2600. If you bought four years ago and held, while people are complaining about a price hovering between $33–37K, you would be up over 1200%. Where do you want to be four years from now?

Just understand there is still some risk to it. I think in the next two or three months, the price could go to six figures. But if this really is the end of the latest bull market, the price could drop to $20K or even lower, and we will either have to hodl or wait for the next bull market to take profits.

Conclusion

So if you are just getting started, or considering getting started, here are the important lessons I’ve learned in my first year:

  • “When in doubt, zoom out.”
  • Dollar cost averaging is the easiest, lowest risk, and most stress-free way to get into this (or any) market.
  • Consider hodling or modified hodling.
  • It’s okay to take profit in a bull market. Have a strategy for when and how to do that.
  • If you are looking to get rich quick, look elsewhere.
  • For tax calculations, daily interest payments might not be worth it. Weekly or monthly payments might work better for you, depending on how many transactions you want to do.
  • Watch out for high transaction fees. Converting BTC to LTC can help with that on some exchanges.
  • You don’t need expensive programs to learn how to do this. There is plenty of good information available for free.
  • Seek advice from people who have been in for at least four years. That way, they have seen at least one complete bull and bear market.
  • Don’t rely on one source to tell you what to do. You should have three or more different sources. Look for people who have a lot of experience and a track record of putting out good information.
  • Certainly do not listen to people who are either always positive or always negative. The always negative ones are just pushing FUD, maybe even hoping to convince you to sell to them at a discount. The always positive ones will miss the signs that a bear market is beginning. 
  • Look for experts who are positive long term but aren’t afraid to tell you when we are headed for a downturn.
  • FOMO + FUD = consistent losing.

For more information on what Bitcoin is, how it works, and how to get started, I can recommend a site and YouTube channel called 99bitcoins. Have you had any experience with Bitcoin? What do you think of it? What hobbies did you pick up while quarantining? Let me know in the comments.

International Women’s Day: Thank you, Dr. B.J. Seymour

In case you did not know, March 8 of each year is designated as International Women’s Day. The purpose is not to denigrate men but to honor women and promote gender equality. As the website says,

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality.

About page

Studies have shown countries that do best on women’s rights and equality do best on human rights. It seems a good thing for me to do for IWD is to honor a woman who had a profound impact on my life. Of course, there are several I could name. Since I dedicated my book Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain to Dr. Betty Jean “B.J.” Seymour, my favorite professor in college, this is my International Women’s Day tribute.

Book on display with candle behind
My book, Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain

Trailblazer

Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, is a small college with a long history. When I attended, there were just a few more than 1,000 students, and it was about 60% male, 40% female (I didn’t like those odds). It used to be men’s only college, but it went co-ed in 1971. In the same year, Dr. Seymour became the first female faculty member as a professor of religion. She is still known for that and a few more firsts: First female professor to receive tenure, first female department head (Religious Studies), and first female to attain the rank of full professor. Needless to say, she played a significant role not only for the Religion department, but for paving the way for full inclusion of women as students and faculty.

Dr. Betty Jean "B. J." Seymour, at her office in Randolph-Macon College, 1973

Women at R-MC :: Randolph-Macon College

She was also an ordained Baptist minister at a time when most denominations (including Baptists) forbade ordaining women to pastoral ministry. How could that be? The Baptist church was more of a congregationalist church than, say, the Roman Catholic Church. Even though there was a national governing body that made rules technically for everyone, in practice each congregation mostly governed itself. She found a congregation that was open to ordaining her, even though she was a woman.

In my sophomore year, I took two courses from her: Survey of the Old Testament, and Survey of the New Testament. It wasn’t like studying the Bible in Sunday School, and not like the Word of Faith preachers I listened to. At that time, I started getting disillusioned with the Word of Faith. It wasn’t working the way those preachers said it would, but I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I still thought it wasn’t working because I needed to get “more faith.” By the end of the year, I changed my major to Religious Studies. Not the best financial decision I ever made.

Revelation

But I learned things from her that neither my church nor my favorite televangelists taught. She taught us the historical background behind the Bible, which changed the way I read it. It’s called reading in context, by the way. That whole thing about man being made in God’s image, and woman was made to serve man, or the Bible forbids women from serving in ministry, she totally debunked—get this—by using the Bible. I was like, “The Bible says God made man in his image, and then made woman to serve him. The Bible says women should keep silent in church for they are not permitted to speak. Show me in the Bible how that’s wrong.”

And it was like she opened up the Bible and said, “Here. Here. Here. Here. Shall I go on?”

And I was like, “Damn, we were wrong!”

If she couldn’t have shown me from the Bible, I never would have listened to her. But she did, so I did. If we were wrong about that, could we have been wrong about other things?

I know some of you are terrified of going there, but if your standard is to do what the Bible says, and what we’ve been taught about the Bible is wrong, don’t we need to know that? She gave me the tools to discover what the Bible meant in its original languages and its original context, something neither church nor my televangelists did. “Just read the Bible and do what it says.” If that is how you approach the Bible, I guarantee you are reading it out of context, just like I was. I had heard people say you have to read the Bible in context to understand it, but she was the first person, along with the college chaplain, to teach me how to do just that.

Faithful doubt

My church did not talk about doubt much. The Word of Faith preachers taught doubt was something to crush with the Word of God and faith. But Dr. Seymour pointed out places in the Bible where the authors openly expressed doubt. Some of the Psalms address that doubt directly to God. Job had no problem telling God what was wrong with the way God ran the universe. And God included all that in the Bible. This is going to sound funny, but learning to accept doubt was crucial to saving my faith.

And I learned from her that critical thinking is not the enemy of faith. John Wesley had a slogan, “Unite the two so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety.” Dr. Seymour embodied both those disjoined qualities. Without her example as a woman of faith who refused to compromise her honesty and integrity for any God or religious doctrine, I don’t think I would have any faith to speak of today. By dedicating my book to her, and writing this tribute, I wanted to do what I could to keep that legacy she passed on to me alive.

And I’m happy to say her legacy does live on at my alma mater with the B.J. Seymour Award, which is given each year to “an alumna of Randolph-Macon College who has consistently worked on behalf of issues important to women and/ or girls, and who demonstrates vitality, integrity and leadership.”

Dedication

When I got my book ready to publish, and I decided to dedicate it to Dr. Seymour, I knew she had died in 2010, but I did not know when she was born. Through the site Legacy.com, I was able to find her obituary. It gave the date of her baptism, but not her birth date. And since she was a Baptist, her baptism probably was not even the same year she was born. I couldn’t believe it. I had never heard of an obituary that did not include the person’s birth date, or even the year of her birth. The obit listed the name and address of the executor of her estate. I called and explained my situation. They told me they knew her birth date. She had to tell them for legal purposes. But she did not want it to be made public. So only a select few know the year she was born. That was why it was not published in the obit. The year of her birth is not even on her headstone.

Most women don’t like to tell their age, but I had never heard of any other woman going to these lengths to hide it. It had been about twenty-five years since I last saw her, and she was still full of surprises. They told me they could tell me if I really needed to know. My first impulse was to say, “Yeah, of course I want to know.” My next impulse was to say, “Shame on you for offering to go against her last wishes.”

So I told them not to tell me, and I would figure out how to work with it. The dedication reads

To Dr. B.J. Seymour, d. 2010

That was what The Chicago Manual of Style said to do in a situation like this. It does not include the year she was born, and even if I knew it, I would not tell you. Maybe in heaven, I will be able to ask her. Dr. B.J. Seymour is now among that great cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 12:1, the faithful ones who have gone before me and on whose shoulders I stand. And so B.J., if you are listening, happy International Women’s Day.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

 (Heb 12:1 NRS)
Super Bowl 54, Kansas City Chiefs victory celebration, Patrick Mahomes holding up the Lombardi trophy surrounded by teammates.

The 49ers “Won” Super Bowl LIV

Would you like to take a little stroll down Memory Lane to a time before the Covid lockdowns? I thought so. Super Bowl LIV was exciting because the Chiefs struggled for three and a half quarters. The odds against them were staggering, but they did not give up. And in the last seven-and-a-half minutes, we finally got to see Patrick Mahomes going all Patrick Mahomes. They went on a tear and won 31-20. That kind of never-give-up attitude was admirable, and they could not have won without it. In football, as in politics, it is admirable to never give up while there is still time on the clock. But when the game is over, it’s over.

Feb 2, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What if the 49ers were clamoring for two and a half months after the game that they really won, and the only reason they lost was that the Chiefs cheated, the game was rigged, and the referees were biased against them, because the whole NFL was a secret child trafficking cabal of Satanic pedophile cannibals that their coach and only their coach threatened to expose. I don’t think anyone believes the NFL owners and commissioner are saints. But if you make an accusation that they are Satan worshipping child traffickers, pedophiles, and cannibals, you’d better have proof. And I mean a lot of proof, way beyond a reasonable doubt. Repeating an accusation 100 times or even 1,000 times doesn’t make it true. Any courtroom would say that’s hearsay, not evidence. Show us the evidence.

“Here is the evidence. The game was almost over. Seven and a half minutes left in the game, and we were ahead by a lot. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas calculated the Chiefs had a one in one thousand chance of winning at that point. And then, all of a sudden, the Chiefs score twenty-one points in the last seven-and-a-half minutes? When they had only scored ten points before that? And look at that, a helmet-to-helmet hit on our quarterback, and the referees did not call it. There is no way the NFL did not rig that game.”

You would say that is ridiculous. The game is over. They lost. They need to accept it and move on, and I don’t know, maybe work harder to get to the next Super Bowl and win that one?

But instead, when the NFL commissioner refuses to change the final score—because one, he does not have the authority to change the outcome of any game, and two, he doesn’t have the power of time travel to give the 49ers the chance to play those last seven-and-a-half minutes differently—instead of accepting the loss, he calls the commissioner and says, “We won by hundreds. I’m only looking for 12 more points. That’s all I need. You know, 49ers’ fans all over the country are angry. They’re saying they were cheated out of their victory, and they’re not gonna stand for it. Just 12 more points. That’s all I’m asking. Or even 11 points. Then we can have another game, or just play overtime, and let our season ticket holders choose the referees. Or even better, let our season ticket holders be the referees. That way we know the game is not rigged. I think that’s more than fair, considering we won by hundreds.”

The commissioner again refuses, because again, he can’t do that. The game is over. Even if you do find a couple of penalties that should have been called, you still can’t change the outcome of the game. But instead of accepting the rules that every team in the NFL has agreed to accept ever since the players wore leather helmets, a bunch of 49ers’ fans, who have been told for two and a half months that the game was stolen from them, storm the NFL headquarters, take all the owners hostage, and tell the commissioner at gunpoint that he’d better declare them the winner, take the Lombardi trophy away from the Chiefs and give it to them, or he’s dead.

The game is over. Do you get that? It’s over. I’m not saying the result is good or bad. I’m saying that’s the way it is.

“The Election Was Stolen!”

Maybe you keep thinking God has to overturn the election because your vote was stolen. No, your vote was counted along with 155 million other votes. You voted for the candidate who got fewer votes. He lost. That’s how democracy works. Even if it was stolen, you can’t change the results at this point any more than the 49ers can change the results of the Super Bowl.

That is why I always accepted the results of our elections, no matter how upset I was that my candidate did not win. I’m not saying I didn’t complain. But I didn’t try to overthrow the government either. In the end, when the candidate was sworn in, I accepted that he was the President each and every time.

Why did you accept a president that you voted against?

Because I understood no one is guaranteed they will get the candidate they voted for. You can try again in four years. That system has worked since 1789. No, it’s not perfect, but more than anything it is what makes this nation great. You accepted the win in 2016. Now you have to accept the loss.

Look, we’ve all got an extended case of cabin fever. The stress and anxiety of living in a Covid world are getting to us all. We’ve been watching a lot more social media where conspiracy theorists and false prophets run amok. They said God promised to give Trump the victory. Trump was God’s candidate, and Biden was Satan’s candidate, and there is no way God is going to allow Satan into the White House. Hollywood, the liberal elite, the Democrats, and antifa are all in some deep state underground sex trafficking ring run by the Devil, to whom they have all sold their souls. If I believed that, I’d think it was the end of the world too.

Gif: Saturday Night Live, Church Lady, http://satan.com

The Promises of God Are Sure. But …

There have been many times over the years that I felt God betrayed me, because God would make promises that did not come true. Of course, it was my fault they did not come true, because I didn’t pray enough, or I didn’t have enough faith, or some other reason that sounded biblical. It only works if you believe in it, so doubt was the enemy. I would censor any reports, any facts, that did not agree with “the promise of God,” or “the word of God.” I had a lot to learn about what those phrases really meant. But for a long time, false prophets spoke promises to me that did not come true, and I always assumed I must have messed it up some how. I assumed because they told me the word of God can never fail, so I must have failed. God wanted to bless me with health, wealth, and success, but because I had a mustard seed of doubt, I stopped God from doing what God wanted to do. At one point, I got so frustrated, I prayed, “God, stop making promises I can’t keep.”

So I understand why you refuse to believe the vote counts are real. Once God has spoken, you can’t allow for any doubt. If facts cause doubt, you must squash them. But what is the word of God, what the prophets on YouTube said or what the Bible says? It’s both? Okay, but the Bible says you will know false prophets when what they say does not come true.

It took a long time before I realized if God makes a promise, it will come true. You can’t stop it. I can’t stop it. The deep state can’t stop it. Antifa can’t stop it. The Democratic party can’t stop it. The electoral college can’t stop it. Congress can’t stop it. And even the agents of Satan on earth can’t stop it. No amount of doubt can stop it. So if it did not come true, God did not promise it. Or as Deuteronomy 18:22 says, that is a word that the LORD did not speak.

If the Facts and the Prophets Do Not Agree, What Should We Believe?

If the facts do not agree with what the prophet said, that is a word the LORD did not speak. The prophet spoke presumptuously. They presumed to think their own imagination or wishful thinking came directly from God. And I made that same mistake many times. When the facts do not agree with what the prophet said, believe the facts, not the false prophets.

Remember Micaiah said exactly that. If what he said did not come true, the LORD did not speak through him. But what he said did come true. He told the people of Israel that is how you will recognize a false prophet. Just look at the facts. If what they said did not come true, that is a word the LORD did not speak. They said Trump would win, but who got more electoral votes? The official count was 306 to 232. The one who got 306 won. Who is that? Not Trump. It was Joe Biden. This is 2021, not 2017. What the prophets said did not come true. Therefore, it is a word the LORD did not speak.

See, that’s the problem with believing “the Word of God” over the facts. The false prophets say, “Don’t believe the facts. Believe me because I speak for God.” The Word of God says the facts will tell you if the prophet is false. Therefore, God says they do not speak for God. And if their prophecies about the election did not come true, I guarantee it was not the first time. In a previous post, I tell you about 62 prophets who prophesied what God would do in 2020, and none of them got it right. Do they speak for God? No. So stop believing them, and start believing the facts. Joe Biden is the president-elect. You don’t have to like it, but those are the facts. As long as we have our democracy and constitution, you will get another chance in four years.

I’m Not Prophesying, But …

Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20. God didn’t tell me that. The constitution did. If somehow that doesn’t happen, I will take back everything I said in this post. But if it does, will you finally accept the results of our democratic election? And will you stop listening to the king’s prophets who over and over again have proven themselves false? Trust me, there is a lot better content on social media if you look for it. I’d like to leave you with a message from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a video where I share my “Confessions of an Ex-Prophet.”

Meme: Jack Nicholson, courtroom scene from A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!"

400 Prophets Can’t Be Wrong! Or Can They? Part 2

In the last post, we began a story about Ahab, King of Israel, in 1 Kings 22. At some point, the Arameans had taken a city called Ramoth-gilead from Israel, but the two kings reached a truce. They were at peace for three years, but Ahab wanted to take that city back. Of course, if the king of Aram defeated him before, it would not be easy, so he enlisted the help of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. As kings would normally do before going into battle, they inquired for a word of Yahweh. Ahab brought in 400 prophets of Yahweh, and every one of them said, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king” (1 Ki 22:12).

But Jehoshaphat did not trust those prophets, because they seemed more concerned with saying what the king wanted to hear rather than speaking the word of the LORD. He asked for another prophet of the LORD. There was only one the king could call, Micaiah son of Imlah. Ahab summoned him, though he really did not want to, because he never spoke favorably of him but only disaster. But Jehoshaphat insisted. Micaiah has been coy with Ahab up to this point, but Ahab commanded him to drop the sarcasm and tell him the truth. We pick up there, verses 19-23.

Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing beside him to the right and to the left of him. And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’

Then one said one thing, and another said another, until a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’

‘How?’ the LORD asked him.

He replied, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’

Then the LORD said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.’

So you see, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has decreed disaster for you.”

(1Ki 22:19-23 NRSV)

Micaiah received the word from Yahweh and told him. So of course, Ahab was grateful. He said, “Boy, Micaiah, I’m sure glad we asked you. Thanks for warning me. I almost started a fight that would have killed me. I wanted to get that city back, but I know better than to go into a battle where the LORD is against me. Why is the LORD so bound and determined to destroy me? Maybe it’s because I haven’t been living up to God’s standard of justice and righteousness. What I did to Naboth proves that. In fact, I wonder if he was the one who volunteered to put a lying spirit in my prophets. He is there before the throne of the LORD still seeking justice for what I did to him. Oh, Naboth, please forgive me. LORD, I repent, and I promise from now on to uphold the rights of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the alien, and to honor our laws that protect family farms and release people from slavery every sabbatical year.

“Micaiah, I’m sorry I treated you the way I did. From now on, you will be my chief advisor, because I need a prophet who will speak the truth to me.

“And as for all of you, you lied to me. You succumbed to a lying spirit, and this is not the first time. You have never spoken the truth to me. You do not even know how to speak the truth because of the lying spirit the LORD has put on you. Micaiah son of Imlah is the only one who hears the word of the LORD and the only one who speaks the truth. What do I need 400 false prophets for when I have Micaiah son of Imlah? Can anyone find such a one as this, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? I want all of you gone from my palace by sundown, and I order all your schools of prophecy to be closed. Your license to prophesy in my kingdom is revoked. Micaiah and only Micaiah will speak the word of the LORD to me.”

By the way, in case you were wondering, that was sarcasm. Here’s what really happened. Verses 24-25.

Then Zedekiah son of Chenaanah came up to Micaiah, slapped him on the cheek, and said, “Which way did the spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?”

Micaiah replied, “You will find out on that day when you go in to hide in an inner chamber.”

(1Ki 22:24-25 NRSV)

Zedekiah was the only one of the 400 court prophets mentioned by name, because he stood out by taking iron horns and charging like a bull and saying, “Thus says the LORD: With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed” (1Ki 22:11 NRS). He knows this doesn’t make him look good. So he slapped Micaiah on the cheek, and he’s like, “I don’t have a lying spirit. You have a lying spirit!” So here’s a classic he said-he said between two competing prophets.

“He’s a false prophet.”

“No, he’s a false prophet.”

How do we know who’s telling the truth? One says (along with 399 others) the king will be victorious in battle. The other says the king will meet with disaster if he goes into battle. In King Ahab’s mind, the prophet(s) who speaks favorably of him is always right. So who do you think he believes? Verses 26-27.

The king of Israel then ordered, “Take Micaiah, and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son, and say, ‘Thus says the king: Put this fellow in prison, and feed him on reduced rations of bread and water until I come in peace.’”

(1Ki 22:26-27 NRSV)

Ahab throws him in prison for daring to speak against him. And just for spite, he orders reduced rations of bread and water, just enough to keep him alive until he comes in peace. Micaiah’s answer to this is my favorite line in the story.

Micaiah Sums It Up

Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, you peoples, all of you!”

(1Ki 22:28 NRSV)

Micaiah knows the rules. He prophesied something in the name of Yahweh. If it does not come true, that is a word that Yahweh did NOT speak. According to the law of Moses, that means he should be put to death (Deu 18:20-22). Some of the most powerful statements are not in what someone says but in what they leave unsaid. If you return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me. That’s what he said. But what is left unsaid there? “If the LORD has spoken by me, you will not return in peace.” More like, “You will return in pieces.”

The last thing he says as he’s being taken away is, Hear, you peoples, all of you! Remember, this is not happening within the walls of a palace. This is happening out in the open at the city gate. A spectacle like this was sure to attract a crowd. He’s telling the people to remember what the prophets of the king said versus what he said and watch to see which one comes true. That is how they will know who the true prophet of the LORD is.

Now, remember, Ahab does not have to do this. He can take Micaiah’s counsel and not go to battle. But he is bound and determined to get this city back and prove Micaiah is “fake news.” The problem with kings and others who have a lot of power and are used to getting what they want is when they can’t get what they want, they often do not take it well. Continuing with Verse 29.

So the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead.

(1Ki 22:29 NRSV)

Wow, Jehoshaphat went with Ahab after what the prophet of Yahweh, that he asked for, said? Oh yeah. He must have been thinking, “He said it would be a disaster for you, not me. If you still want to do this, it’s your funeral.” Literally.

“I Will Disguise Myself and Go into Battle”

The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.

(1Ki 22:30 NRSV)

So he called Micaiah fake news, but now he’s not so sure? I guess I can’t blame him for wanting to hedge his bet. But does he really think he can disguise himself from Yahweh? It’s worth a try, I guess.

Now the king of Aram had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, “Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel.”

(1Ki 22:31 NRSV)

The king of Aram must really be pissed. “I made a truce with that fool, and now he wants to break it? He thinks he can beat me because he’s got a friend with him? We’ll see about that.” Chariots were one of the most powerful weapons in the ancient world. The king of Aram could do some damage to the flanks of Israel with them. He could maybe send half against the armies and half against Ahab, but no. He wants all of his chariots to hunt down one man, the king of Israel. You’ve really gotta hate someone to do that.

Imagine you’re going into battle. You are one of thirty-two Apache helicopter pilots. And your general says, “Forget about everyone else. Forget their tanks, infantry, planes, helicopters, and artillery. I want every one of you to target their general. Seek and destroy him.”

Now Verse 32.

I’m Not the King of Israel!

When the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is surely the king of Israel.” So they turned to fight against him; and Jehoshaphat cried out.

(1Ki 22:32 NRSV)

Ahab told Jehoshaphat to wear his own robes (v. 30), but he still looked like the king of Israel. I guess Ahab and Jehoshaphat’s robes looked similar, because they saw him and thought, “That’s our guy! Get him!”

Jehoshaphat cried out. What did he cry out, I wonder? Did he say, “It’s not me! It’s him!” Did he know the orders the king of Aram gave them?

I guess they look similar.

"Coin" image, black and white, inscribed R(ex) Israel Achab
Rex Achab Israel (Ahab, King of Israel). Published by Guillaume Rouille (1518?-1589). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Coin-like image, black and white, incribed Iosaphat Rex Iud(ea)
Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. By Guillaume Rouille – Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85736029

When the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.

(1Ki 22:33 NRSV)

So the king of Aram was serious. He does not want them going after anyone but the king of Israel. Even the king of Judah gets a pass from them. Fortunately, for Jehoshaphat, they knew the king of Israel well enough to see this was not him. Verse 34.

But a certain man drew his bow and unknowingly struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate; so he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around, and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.”

(1Ki 22:34 NRSV)

A certain man? They don’t even tell us which side he was on. For all we know, he could have been an Israelite soldier. They make it sound like it was an accident, like the confederate soldier who shot Stonewall Jackson. Maybe he was fooled by the king’s disguise. Wouldn’t that be ironic? In trying to fool God, he outsmarted himself. It could have been one of the Aramean soldiers, but then it wouldn’t have been an accident, would it?

Verses 35-37.

Ahab, King of Israel, Dies

The battle grew hot that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans, until at evening he died; the blood from the wound had flowed into the bottom of the chariot. Then about sunset a shout went through the army, “Every man to his city, and every man to his country!”

So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; they buried the king in Samaria.

(1Ki 22:35-37 NRSV)

The driver of the chariot must have been getting more and more worried as the floor of the chariot got ankle deep in blood. Kings often rode chariots with a driver, so they could shoot arrows. They often got very accurate, hitting targets at full speed while making it difficult for the enemy to shoot them. Ahab must have survived many battles that way.

Kurkh stela of Shalmaneser III that reports battle of Karkar, 853 BC.
Kurkh stela of Shalmaneser III that reports battle of Karkar, 853 BC, names King Ahab

In the ancient world, you couldn’t continue a battle after sundown, so they declared an end for that day. The king died. So who was the true prophet, Micaiah or the 400?

The epitaph of king Ahab in the Bible would not be kind. If you can say anything good about him, it was that he was courageous in battle. The Spartans would say he went down on his shield. The next verse describes what happened after he was brought home. It’s pretty graphic, so for sensitive listeners, I won’t read that.

But it did say that it happened according to the word of the LORD that [Elijah] had spoken. (1Ki 22:38 NRSV). This refers to an incident from the previous chapter. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, had a man named Naboth murdered, so they could take his vineyard from him and his family. Again, this is exactly what Samuel warned the people kings would do to them. Here is what Elijah told him was the judgment from the LORD.

You shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.” (1Ki 21:19 NRSV)

In the minds of the Israelites, this was poetic justice. Just as he did to Naboth, it was done to him. I don’t want to encourage vengefulness, but for the ancient Israelites, this was like the Wicked Witch of the West melting.

Gif: Wicked Witch of the West, "I'm melting!"
“A certain girl” threw water on her.

(sing) “Ding, Dong, the witch is dead. Da da, da daa. Da da, da daa.”

An ignominious end to a controversial ruler (1Ki 22:38-40). Jehoshaphat, not surprisingly, gets a much more favorable assessment of his rule (1 Ki 22:41-46).

How Do We Know the Prophet Is False?

Some of you may ask, how was Ahab supposed to know who to believe? Many prophets spoke in the name of Yahweh, but only one got it right. The only way to know for sure was to go into battle. I used to think that with all the competing prophets and schools of prophets back then, how was anyone supposed to know which one to believe? If he was victorious, the 400 were right. If he died, Micaiah was right. So the only way Ahab could know was to die.

But now, I am convinced this was not the first time Ahab’s court prophets got it wrong. He saw them prophesy things that did not come true, but he continued to believe them anyway. Why? Because they only spoke what was favorable to him. They learned quickly he could not handle any truth that was not what he wanted to hear.

Meme: Jack Nicholson, courtroom scene from A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!"

Now let’s imagine we are there at the city gate, watching all the prophets competing to be heard not just to say that the king will win, but how big a landslide victory it will be. “You will defeat them, for God is with you.” “You will annihilate them, for God is with you.” “With these horns, you will gore your enemies until they are no more, for God is with you.”

And then Micaiah son of Imlah comes along and says in effect, “God has decreed disaster for you if you go.” Who should we believe? Without the benefit of hindsight, how can we know? Micaiah actually gave the answer to that. If you return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me. Ahab might not know which one is correct before he goes into battle. But we are not going into battle. All we have to do is wait and see. At sundown, does the king return in peace or not?

The driver of the chariot brings him back and shows his body to everyone. Can you tell the difference between a live and a dead body? That’s all you have to do to know who spoke the word of the LORD. You don’t need to be a prophet yourself. You don’t need any gift of discerning of spirits. You don’t need a vision from angels. You don’t need to go off into the wilderness and fast for forty days until you are so near death you can hear God. And you don’t need any propaganda from false prophets and Ahab’s supporters saying he really won when he lost. Just answer that one question. Is Ahab alive or dead? He is dead. There’s your answer. Every prophet who promised victory for the king is false. You don’t need supernatural or spiritual vision. You just need to see the facts. The two eyes and the brain God gave you will do just fine.

“But the prophets had to be right. They speak the word of the LORD.” That’s probably what Ahab thought. “My prophets have to be right!”

Remember, Micaiah reminded us of the rules. If the king returns in peace, the LORD did not speak through him. The other 400 prophets could then claim the LORD spoke through them, and no one could prove them wrong. Did the king return in peace? No. The king did not have the victory the false prophets promised. Micaiah knew the rules, and he was the only prophet willing to play by them. Because even though Micaiah knew he could die if he was wrong, I guarantee not one of the king’s prophets was put to death for speaking falsely in the name of the LORD.

If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; 

(Deu 18:22 NRSV)

So you’ve seen the king’s dead body. He’s dead. The chariot driver is washing the blood out of the bottom of the chariot. But a mob pushes the driver of the chariot away, props the king up and says, “Look! The king is alive! He returned in peace! Victory is ours!”

Then the corpse slips out of their hands and collapses. They pick him up again and say, “Victory is ours, just like the prophets said.” And it happens again and again, and each time they claim the king won

No, the king is dead, just like the prophet Micaiah said. What Micaiah said proved true. What the false prophets said did not come true. Yes, every prophet who promised victory for the king was false. It doesn’t matter how many times you prop him up. You can’t bring him back to life. You can’t have a do-over of the battle. It’s over.

God Told Me the King Is Not Dead

At what point do we admit the Trump prophets were false? When the votes are counted and Biden is the winner? When every legal challenge to the results has failed? When the electoral college casts their votes and Biden is the winner? When Congress certifies the results, despite an attempted coup, and Biden is still the winner? The king is dead. No matter how many times you prop Trump up in the chariot and decree, declare, or prophesy that he is the winner, he lost. I’m not saying whether that’s good or bad. I’m saying those are the facts. And the facts are how you know if the prophet is false.

What about when he is inaugurated? If Biden is inaugurated (which any other time in history was never even questioned), should we accept then that the prophets were false?

The prophets are not false! The election was stolen!

The “400 prophets” (I think that’s what I’ll call them from now on) didn’t say he would really win, but the election would be stolen. They said Donald Trump would win. The facts do not match the prophecy. And no, the election was not stolen. Your vote was counted along with 155 million other votes. You voted for the candidate who got fewer votes. He lost. That’s how democracy works. The votes have been counted, the electoral college has cast its votes, and Congress has certified the results, all in keeping with the Constitution. Biden won, Trump lost. You can try again in four years. That system has worked since 1789. No, it’s not perfect, but more than anything it is what makes this nation great. I know the prophets promised he would win, but he lost.

But we walk by faith, not by sight (2Co 5:7 KJV). You can’t see it now except through the eyes of faith. But Donald Trump won, and God will reveal it, and God will defeat every plan of Satan to put Joe Biden in the White House.

Gif: Saturday Night Live, Church Lady to Colin Jost, "Satan!"

2 Corinthians 5:7 was never meant to be an excuse for denying the facts. How did the Bible say to identify false prophets?

If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; 

(Deu 18:22 NRSV)

If it does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. I know I keep repeating that, but you seem to have a hard time accepting it. Micaiah told the people to watch what happens and see which prophet’s word comes true. That’s how you will know which prophet is true, and which prophet is false. You don’t need to “walk by faith not by sight” to know if the 400 prophets are false. Just compare what they said with the facts. The king is dead, and  306 electoral votes is still more than 232. At this point, no one can change the results of the election without overturning the Constitution.

All the prophets said Trump would win. How could all those prophets have been wrong?

All 400 of Ahab’s prophets were wrong. How did that happen? According to Micaiah, the LORD sent a lying spirit to them because he was sick of King Ahab’s injustice and unrighteousness. Did the LORD send a lying spirit to the false prophets of Trump? Or did the prophets simply speak presumptuously, as Deuteronomy 18:22 says? Did they presume to think their own wishful thinking was “the word of the LORD”? I don’t know. All I know is what they spoke did not come true, and Deuteronomy 18:22 and Micaiah both say that means God did not promise any victory to Trump, no matter what the 400 prophets said.

God shouldn’t even have had to put that in the Bible. Just use the brain God gave you. A prophet whose prophecies don’t come true is literally the definition of a false prophet. Simple common sense should tell you that. When God, the Bible, and common sense all agree, you’d better pay attention. You may even need to repent, like I did years ago.

“Hear, you peoples, all of you!”

I’m spending so much time on this, because even after the horrific events of January 6, there are reports that some people are planning even more violence on Inauguration day. If you are considering that, let me ask you. Even if by some crazy turn of events you are successful in stopping the inauguration and overturning the election by force, is that really a win? If that happens, we lose much more than one presidential election. We lose the greatest legacy of the Constitution, the peaceful transfer of power. And with that, we lose the world’s longest running constitutional democracy. That is not how you make America great again. That is how you become a fascist state.

Meme: Tom Cruise, courtroom scene from A Few Good Men, "I want the truth!"

400 Prophets Can’t Be Wrong! Or Can They? Part 1

I had written this post before the incidents of January 6. Ironically, that is Epiphany, the day many churches celebrate the visit of the wise men. But it looked like wisdom decided to take a holiday from Washington, D.C. I don’t have a lot to say that hasn’t already been said. But I will say my goal as a Christian is to follow Jesus’ commands, specifically, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, “Do unto others as you would have them to do you”, “Love one another as I have loved you”, “Love your enemies”, and “Turn the other cheek.” I don’t see any way to reconcile that with insurrection, terrorism, and storming the Capitol to stop our democracy from doing what it has done since 1789. But what do I know? I’m just a Bible scholar.

The House and Senate did their duty in spite of it, and for that, I commend them. Maybe some people need to take a lesson from how God handled losing an election, as I talked about in my last post.

I know for some of you, the idea of Trump leaving the white house without a second term is very upsetting. You think it’s the end of the world. But let me ask, does the reason you are so upset about losing an election (welcome to democracy, by the way) have anything to do with the prophets who promised God would give Trump the victory? If so, then there is a story from the Bible I want to point to you. You thought so many prophets all saying the same thing could not possibly fail. What if I told you one time 400 prophets all prophesied the exact same thing and got it wrong? That is the story I’ll bring you today.

Quick Background: A United Kingdom Now Divided

In the previous episode, I told you that while Samuel was judge, priest, and prophet in Israel, the people demanded a king. God did not like it, but God told Samuel, if the people voted for a king, give them a king. You see there? God did not agree with the results of the election, but God accepted them. When you finish this, maybe you’ll want to go back and read my post on that.

This story takes place about 160 or 170 years later. The people got their king. David ruled from about 1000-960 BC, and at first it worked out like the people hoped. He succeeded in uniting the twelve tribes into one nation and beating all of Israel’s enemies into submission. With stability within and peace with the surrounding nations, his son Solomon built on David’s success, and the nation enjoyed peace and prosperity under him (ca. 960-920 BC). Hail to the king!

But it came with a cost. Solomon used forced labor for his many building projects, one of several things Samuel warned the people a king would do to them. It is a testament to Solomon’s popularity that the people did not complain too much while he was king. But when Solomon died, they asked his successor, Rehoboam, to ease up on the forced labor. Rehoboam responded by telling the people in effect, “You thought my father was tough? I will be ten times tougher!”

The people rebelled, particularly the northern tribes, and the end result was the nation split into a northern and southern kingdom (ca. 920 BC). Rehoboam remained king in the south, but Jeroboam, the leader of the rebellion, became king in the north. From then on, the name Israel referred to the northern kingdom, and Judah referred to the southern kingdom.

As two nations instead of one, each of them became more vulnerable to enemy invasion.

The Relationship Between the Kings of Israel and Judah

Ahab was one of the northern kings from about 871-852 BC. He is perhaps best known for being married to Jezebel and being the king at the time of Elijah’s duel with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Ki 16:29-34; 18:1-46). He had been in conflict with the king of Aram (modern day Syria), but they came to a truce. For three years, he was at peace with the Arameans. But he still had an axe to grind with them, so he called Jehoshaphat, the king of the south (ca. 870-849 BC), to his capital city of Samaria. We’ll pick up the story in 1 Kings 22.

For three years Aram and Israel continued without war. But in the third year King Jehoshaphat of Judah came down to the king of Israel. The king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, yet we are doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?”

(1Ki 22:1-3 NRSV)
"Coin" image, black and white, inscribed R(ex) Israel Achab
Rex Achab Israel (Ahab, King of Israel). Published by Guillaume Rouille (1518?-1589). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Coin-like image, black and white, incribed Iosaphat Rex Iud(ea)
Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. By Guillaume Rouille – Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85736029

The notes in my study Bible say Ramoth-gilead had been a tax center for Israel before the Arameans took it from them. Back then, certain cities were designated for collecting taxes, most of which came in the form of agricultural products like grain, wine, and olive oil. These cities had the main storehouses for all of that, so this was a significant loss for Ahab’s kingdom. He wanted it back. Verse 4.

He said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?”

Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are; my people are your people, my horses are your horses.”

(1Ki 22:4 NRSV)

The study notes say Jehoshaphat’s response indicates he was a vassal of Ahab, so the northern kingdom was more powerful than the south at that time. Ahab wants to take Ramoth-gilead back from the Arameans. But if they took it from him before, he does not want to fight them again without an ally. If Jehoshaphat was his vassal, did he have the right to say no or not? Ahab asks as if he does, but maybe this was a formality. Still, Jehoshaphat did at least have some wiggle room, if not a right of refusal, as we see in the next verse. Also, you’ll note that in this story, the narrator never calls king Ahab by name. He only refers to him as “the king of Israel,” indicating he does not have a high opinion of this king.

Inquire First for the Word of Yahweh

In the ancient world, you always wanted to inquire of your gods before a major undertaking, like war. King Leonidas of Sparta went to the oracle of Delphi, and Jehoshaphat wants to ask the prophets of the LORD before he commits to this. Verse 5.

But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the LORD.”

(1Ki 22:5 NRSV)

It’s important to note in this verse that LORD is in all capital letters. In the NRSV that I use, and most English translations, when LORD is in all caps like this, it refers specifically to Yahweh, the God of Israel and Judah. This is key because at that time, the Canaanite god Baal was also called “the Lord.” The prophets frequently denounced the kings and the people for worshipping Baal along with Yahweh. You cannot serve two lords, to paraphrase Jesus. What was the first commandment?

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

(Exo 20:2-3 NRSV)

The prophets constantly reminded them Baal did not bring you out of slavery. Yahweh did. Baal did not give them this land. Yahweh did. Baal is not your God. Yahweh is. But both Israelites and Jews wanted to have it both ways. They thought Yahweh was good for some things, but Baal was more reliable for other things. So it was not uncommon for there to be shrines both to Yahweh and Baal, even in the same city. So when they ask for “a word of the LORD,” do they mean Yahweh or Baal? If “lord” is in all caps, as it is throughout this story, that means the original text says Yahweh. Verses 6-7.

Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred of them, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?”

They said, “Go up; for the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”

But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no other prophet of the LORD here of whom we may inquire?”

 (1Ki 22:6-7 NRSV)

LORD is in all caps in both cases, so Ahab brought in prophets of Yahweh, not Baal. But Jehoshaphat still doesn’t trust them. He wants to hear from another prophet of Yahweh.

Jehoshaphat Dares to Question the Prophets

What’s your problem, Jehoshaphat? You asked to inquire of a prophet of Yahweh, and Ahab brought you 400 of them. And you still want to inquire of another prophet of Yahweh? Why do you need one more? Every prophet is in perfect agreement. Doesn’t that tell you this has to be the word of Yahweh?

For some reason, this does not pass the “smell test” for Jehoshaphat. The reason becomes clearer a few verses later, so I’m going to skip ahead to verse 10.

Now the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them.

(1Ki 22:10 NRS)

Two Thrones at the City Gate

You might have assumed, as I did at first, that if one king is in his capital city (Samaria) and receiving another, they would discuss their business in the palace. But they were actually at the entrance of the gate. A lot of important business took place at the gate of a city back then. The elders would usually gather there to counsel people, settle disputes to avoid going to court, or be witness to some official transaction. Here, it says both kings were sitting on their thrones. Remember, this is Ahab’s capital. He has a throne here, presumably in addition to the one in the palace. But there is a throne for the king of Judah as well. I don’t know if it was for him specifically, or if it was for any king who had come to negotiate with the king of Israel. But if Ahab had a throne for the king of Judah, I think it speaks to the fact that even though they were no longer one nation, they were on friendly terms. The two kingdoms had a shared history and, for the most part, a shared religion. True, they had been through a pretty nasty divorce, and they were “never ever getting back together” (as Taylor Swift would say), relations at that time were amicable.

This is a different scene than what I pictured at first. If you don’t read the Bible regularly, just know that this will happen sometimes. Continuing with verses 11-12.

Writer’s Tip: Don’t do what this writer did here. If you realize halfway into a scene you have to add details to make it clear, that’s jarring for the reader. They had pictured the scene one way, but then they have to tear that down and rebuild it, and then reimagine what has already happened in order to catch up.

Prophecy or an Echo Chamber?

Zedekiah son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron, and he said, “Thus says the LORD: With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.”

All the prophets were prophesying the same and saying, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”

(1Ki 22:11-12 NRS)

Before, it sounded like the king asked if he should go and attack the Arameans at Ramoth-gilead, the prophets said yes, and that was it. Why would that look suspicious? But in these verses, we see the prophets had been speaking the whole time. And not just speaking either. In true prophetic fashion, they were all dramatizing how the king would utterly defeat the Arameans, each one trying to make their voices heard over all the others. One called Zedekiah son of Chenaanah stood out by making himself horns of iron, probably so he could charge like a bull and trample and gore imaginary enemies. And this is all happening by the gates of the city for everyone to see.

Now are you starting to see why Jehoshaphat did not trust these prophets? This was not 400 prophets who each heard the word of the LORD independently, and lo and behold, they all agree! This was an echo chamber of 400 clamoring sycophants who have learned that when they prophesy, “the word of the LORD” had better be favorable to the king and whatever he wants to do. So with 400 prophets each trying to be the most enthusiastic supporter of the king, Jehoshaphat leans over to Ahab so he can hear him speak. Now, we go back to verses 7-9.

Is There No Prophet of Yahweh Here?

But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no other prophet of the LORD here of whom we may inquire?”

The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.”

Jehoshaphat said, “Let the king not say such a thing.”

Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.”

(1Ki 22:7-9 NRSV)

Jehoshaphat wants a prophet who will actually inquire of the LORD and tell the truth, whether it is favorable to the king or not. Ahab says, “Yeah, there is one, but he is fake news.” Why is he fake news? Because his prophecies do not come true? No, because he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.

So he is “fake news” because he knows God is under no obligation to speak favorably of the king. Jehoshaphat is like, “That’s the one I want to hear from.”

One of the responsibilities of a prophet was to speak truth to power, whether they liked hearing it or not. Jehoshaphat understood that, but Ahab did not. He only wanted to hear from prophets who would tell his itching ears what he wanted to hear. He demanded loyalty. Micaiah gave him honesty. He did not want to hear the minority report, but he knew Jehoshaphat would not agree to anything without it. Reluctantly, he sent for the prophet, Micaiah son of Imlah.

Micaiah: Not a Team Player

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king; let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.”

But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak.”

(1Ki 22:13-14 NRSV)

Come on, Micaiah. All the other prophets have already spoken favorably to the king. Just go along with them. Can’t you be a team player for once?

And Micaiah is like, “That’s not how it works. I don’t speak favorably or unfavorably to the king. I only speak what the LORD tells me.”

When he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?”

He answered him, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”

But the king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”

(1Ki 22:15-16 NRSV)

I think Jehoshaphat must have got a good laugh out of this. I mean, technically, he said what the king wanted to hear. So why did the king get angry and tell him to say nothing but the truth?

Meme: Tom Cruise, courtroom scene from A Few Good Men, "I want the truth!"

When I was in the Word of Faith, they placed so much emphasis on being careful with your words. Never say something you don’t mean or that you don’t want to come to pass, so sarcasm was out. God doesn’t understand sarcasm. God only understands the literal meaning of the words you speak. But here we have a prophet speaking the word of the LORD with sarcasm. The problem with sarcasm is it doesn’t always come across on the written page. But there is no other reason for Ahab to think he doesn’t really mean what he’s saying. I picture him giving a smirk before he speaks and mimicking the enthusiasm of Ahab’s prophets.

How ironic is it that Ahab orders him to tell nothing but the truth in the name of Yahweh, but he told Jehoshaphat he did not want to bring in Micaiah because he spoke the truth. Okay, Ahab. You want to hear the truth? Micaiah son of Imlah is about to lay it on you. Verse 17.

Then Micaiah said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep that have no shepherd; and the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each one go home in peace.’”

(1Ki 22:17 NRSV)

It’s kind of a roundabout way of saying, “Don’t go up to Ramoth-gilead.” But the message is still clear to Ahab. In Biblical language, saying all Israel is like sheep that have no shepherd is a critique of his leadership, which someone like Ahab hates. And if he says everyone should go home in peace, that doesn’t sound like getting ready for battle, does it? Verse 18.

The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favorable about me, but only disaster?”

(1Ki 22:18 NRSV)

Disaster? He said let each one go home in peace. You haven’t heard disaster yet. He says he wants the truth. Can he handle it?

This post is getting pretty long, so I’ll stop here and continue it in the next post. In the meantime, enjoy this classic clip from the movie, A Few Good Men.

Police in helmets and riot gear downtown Washington, DC

What Happened When God Lost an Election?

Some of my Christian brothers and sisters are disappointed with the results of the election. Well, disappointed is an understatement. To be honest, I’ve been disturbed at their inability to accept reality. I mean, the electoral college has met, and Biden has 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 228. That’s about the same margin of victory as Trump had over Clinton in 2016. I know denial is one of the stages of grief, but at some point you have to move on to acceptance. You will never recover from this if you don’t accept reality. That’s the price you pay for living in a democracy.

Police in helmets and riot gear downtown Washington, DC

But I understand. All the self-proclaimed prophets told you Trump was going to win. You think Trump is God’s anointed, and you can’t accept that God could possibly lose an election. But what if I told you the Bible records an instance where that actually happened? If you believe the Bible, this is not the first time God lost an election. If you want to know how God got over it, this post is for you.

For this episode, we’re going back to the time of the Judges. If you don’t know, this is the period of Israel’s history following the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. They divided up the land, setting boundaries for each of the twelve tribes. It was a difficult time for them in a number of ways. Though they were technically one nation, they functioned more like twelve individual tribes. Despite claims in the book of Joshua that they annihilated all the Canaanites and other peoples native to the land, they still lived among them. The neighboring nations frequently raided them, killing some, enslaving others, and plundering their food and goods. Nowhere was safe.

In the book of Judges, God raised up leaders when crises arose who would unite a few tribes to team up against a particularly bad enemy, like the Philistines. They would defeat the enemy and be safe for a while. But they would slip back into apostasy, worshipping the gods of other nations, God would hand them over to their enemies, they would cry out for deliverance, God would raise up another leader (called a judge) to lead an army to defeat the enemy, and they were safe again. Until they slipped back into apostasy, and the cycle would repeat. By the end of Judges, the people of Israel were behaving even worse toward each other than their enemies were. To answer the unspoken question, “Why?” the author says,

In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.

(Jdg 21:25 NRS)

Obviously, a system like this wasn’t sustainable. But a light of hope came not in a military commander but rather a spiritual leader. His name was Samuel, and in the years from about 1040-1020 BC, he became something like a Wesleyan circuit rider, traveling from one shrine of Yahweh to another. He reformed the worship and helped settle disputes, so they wouldn’t slip into the kind of depravity we see in chapters 17-21 of Judges. He reminded them of the sacred traditions about Yahweh, the God who had sent Moses to call them out of Egypt and be his people, who had given this land to them and the law of Moses, so they could learn the ways of justice and righteousness.

When I say the purpose of the law of Moses was to teach justice and righteousness, some of you are skeptical. You say there is a lot of the law of Moses that does not look just and righteous to you. I understand. I plan on doing a full explanation in a later post. For now, I will refer you to Genesis 18:19.

“… for I have chosen [Abraham], that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

(NRSV)

God says here the way of the LORD is righteousness and justice, and God wants Abraham to teach his children and his household after him to learn and practice this. I know not everything Abraham did was righteous and just, and the same is true of the law of Moses. But that was always the goal, and Samuel not only taught it but lived it to the best of his knowledge.

Not the P.K.’s

The people loved and respected Samuel, so they listened to him. But they saw a problem down the road. Samuel’s sons did not have his integrity. Do you know what a P.K. is? A “preacher’s kid.” There is a stereotype of them being wild and rebellious. Samuel’s two sons were “P.K.’s” in the worst sense of the word. Samuel had done a lot to root out corruption in their religious institutions, but he was getting old. He made his two sons judges to take over some of his duties, and they threatened to undo all the good Samuel had done.

Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.

(1Sa 8:3 NRSV)

Whereas Samuel administered justice, his sons perverted justice (1 Sam 7:14-8:3). The most discouraging part was Samuel did nothing to correct them. They came to Samuel with a solution. So now, I’ll read from 1 Sam 8, starting with verse 4.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.”

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the LORD,

 (1Sa 8:4-6 NRS)

Ramah was Samuel’s home, where he would rest between circuits. The elders come to him on behalf of the people and tell him they do not trust his sons like they trust him. They like him, but they don’t want his sons governing them. And to be fair, their concerns are legitimate. This is one more failure of a hereditary-based system of rule. But their solution is to set up another hereditary-based rule. They want a king to govern them, like other nations.

The last sentence of the book of Judges, quoted above, makes it sound like this is the solution they need. When there was no king, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Samuel at first takes it personally. He sees it as a rejection of himself.

It’s not you, Samuel, it’s me

… and the LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only–you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”  

(1Sa 8:7-9 NRS)

So to paraphrase, God tells Samuel, “They are not rejecting you. They are rejecting me.” Their history toward God, ever since they came out of Egypt, has been, rejecting him, “Please take me back,” rejecting him, “Please take me back,” and this is just another chapter in that story. If you are in a relationship like that, you have my sympathies.

But God says something specific about this episode. They have rejected me from being king over them. I see God saying here, “If you want a king, fine. I’ll be your king.” God is literally offering them the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, but once again they will reject it. As much as God must be getting sick of this cycle of rejection and reconciliation, God tells Samuel twice, Listen to the voice of the people. So God is saying he will accept the results of the election, but first God wants Samuel to warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them. Let’s see what that means.

Be careful what you pray for

So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers”

(1Sa 8:10-13 NRSV).

Let’s stop for a minute and see what this means. You want a king like the other nations? Well, here is what the kings of other nations do to their people.

He will take your sons. Right away, this suggests slavery. Chariots, horsemen, and commanders point to conscripted military service. Instead of plowing their own fields and reaping their own harvests, the king will force your sons to do that for him. They will be forced to make implements of war and chariots. Taking their daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers doesn’t sound that bad, but again, it won’t be for themselves or their households. They will be taken from their families and forced to do this for the king and his court. Apparently, under Samuel, service to the state was voluntary. A king will make it mandatory, just like other nations.

The most puzzling thing for me is when he says he will make your sons run before his chariots. Why did kings do that? I don’t know, but what happens to you if you are running in front of a chariot, and you can’t run as fast as the horses? Have you seen Ben-Hur? Let’s continue.

“He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers.”

(1Sa 8:14-15 NRSV)

There was a tithe of grain and vineyards and olive orchards under Mosaic law, but it was meant to feed people who did not have the means to grow their own food, i.e., priests, Levites, and the poor. A king, who is already rich, will take your tithe for himself and his courtiers.

“He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.”

(1Sa 8:16-17 NRSV)

Again, he will take the best or your hard-earned labor for himself, and leave you with the least. And God saved the worst for last. You shall be his slaves. Remember, this was a nation founded on deliverance from slavery. They were allowed to own slaves, as noted in this passage. That is one of those things critics say make the Bible irrelevant or immoral. I understand. I don’t want anyone to think I’m advocating for slavery. But it was a different time. Every period of history has its moral blind spots, and slavery was so much a part of the social fabric I don’t think they could imagine a world without it. But the memory of slavery was supposed to temper their treatment of slaves. A king will make you slaves once again, and he would not have any of the restraints toward his slaves that they had.

The LORD will not answer you in that day

“And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

(1Sa 8:18 NRSV)

Now that warning is about as stark as you can get. God called Moses back to Egypt, because they cried out from the harsh treatment of Pharaoh and his taskmasters. But when they cry out again because of their king, the LORD will not answer you in that day. Why? Because this is your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves. You made your bed, and you will lie in it.

Even God can’t change the election results

Protesters with signs "Count the Votes," "Count every vote," "Democracy means count all the votes."
The votes were counted, and God accepted the results.

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”  

(1Sa 8:19-20 NRSV)

So God tried to be elected king by will of the people, and lost! They didn’t even have a candidate to run against God. They didn’t have anyone to vote for. Their only purpose was to vote against God. And then, they wanted God to pick who would be king. “We voted against you. Now, we want to you to pick the person to fill the office we rejected you for.”

If anyone had a right to complain about an unfair election, God did. But did God complain?

When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD.

The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and set a king over them.”

(1Sa 8:21-22a NRSV)

“But a king is going to oppress them! A king is going to do all the evil to them they want to be saved from, and worse! This is a fraudulent election! They didn’t even have a candidate! How can you have an election without an opposing candidate? This is the greatest fraud in history! And look at this chart! I was ahead in the vote count at sundown! That means I won! Samuel, if you don’t overturn the results of this election, you’re fired!”

No, one thing God is not is a sore loser or a snowflake. Listen to their voice and set a king over them. God accepted the results of the election and the will of the people, even though God knew it would not give them what they wanted.

Why was God opposed to a king?

There were actually a number of good reasons for a king, and I’ve already mentioned most of them. I don’t think God had a problem with a desire for a king. In fact, after David took the throne, God blessed him and his dynasty beyond anything even David had imagined. I think the problem was their reasons for wanting a king. Three reasons:

1. They wanted a king to govern.

No problem there. They had to have some sort of government. The law of Moses even commanded them to set up a government, though it did not include a king. Still, for the time, it was not an unreasonable request. A monarchy can work pretty well if the king is wise and benevolent. Remember, the author of Judges advocated for a king to establish order and justice. By having a king to govern all twelve tribes, it would unite them and make them into a nation powerful enough to defend itself against its enemies.

2. They wanted a king to go out before us and fight our battles.

God did not call them to be a military nation. They were not even allowed to have a standing army. It’s true they needed to be able to defend themselves against the hostile nations surrounding them, who constantly invaded, raided and oppressed them. But when you talk about a king to go out before you into battle, you’re not talking about defense. You’re talking about doing some invading and raiding yourself. In a dog eat dog world, they did not just want to be safe. They wanted to be the alpha dog.

3. They wanted to be like other nations.

Remember that verse I showed about how God wanted Abraham’s descendants to be the vessels through which God would bring righteousness and justice into a dark and unjust world? The children of Israel were those descendants of Abraham. The desire to be like other nations would lead them to copy their ways, not only in having a king. It would mean copying their injustice and unrighteousness. Their kings would copy the kings of other nations in oppressing their own people.

The author of Judges thought a king would be the answer, not only to oppression from their enemies but to the injustice that Israelites did to each other. Isn’t it ironic that the very thing Judges said would save them from injustice, God said would become an instrument of injustice that they would be powerless to stop. And as you watch the history of Israel unfold from the Judges to the Exile, everything God said the kings would do to them, they did.

And even knowing all this, God accepted the results of the election. My brothers and sisters in Christ, could it be time for you to do the same, and stop demonizing those who simply counted the votes?