Friday, August 19, 2016

Making Mud Bricks and Pharoah's Hardened Heart

Have you ever mixed cement at home? You put the powdery mix in a bucket, pour in some water to make mud and stir it up. When you stop stirring, it slowly hardens. Whether you're setting a tether-ball pole or a fence post, or fixing a sidewalk, when you stop stirring, the cement mud hardens into concrete. This is why cement mixers constantly turn over and over, to keep it from hardening. What does this have to do with the Bible? This process is very similar to the process the Hebrew slaves used when making bricks and it is critical to understanding the story found in the text of Exodus 6:28 to 12:42 and Exodus 14:

One of the most difficult and misinterpreted incidents in Scripture occurs in this passage from Exodus and centers around Pharoah's hard headedness and hard heartedness in refusing to let God's people go. Let's start by understanding the context of this story. It is 1440 B.C. and if you are a Hebrew slave, your job is to make bricks. You make bricks by stirring up a mud mixture together with straw. The first time Moses and Aaron went to Pharoah to ask him to allow God's people go, so they could worship Him in the wilderness, he took away their straw, making it impossible to make bricks and then all of his men yelled at them for not getting the work done and accused them of being lazy. Sometimes a bad boss doesn't know what an appropriate amount of work is, but this was different. This was deliberate. Pharoah forced the people to fail and then blamed them for it. Pharoah is a cruel, power hungry sociopath who has no morals or conscience. The people then began gathering stubble, the chaff left over from harvest instead of straw. 

I. Pharoah's Choice
When Moses and Aaron went back to deliver God's command to let His people go, Pharoah consorted with all sorts of sorcerors. Exodus 7:13 reports: And Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them.  Then the 1st plague happened and he consorted with magicians and enchanters and yet again, Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them. Verse 23 reports that his heart, his emotions, were not affected at all. God sent 3 more plagues and 3 more times Pharoah hardened his own heart, verse 8:32 reports Pharoah hardened his heart again... He participated in witchcraft, consulting with Satan's priests, opening himself up to demonic influence and corruption and hardened his heart toward God. He made a clear choice. 

II. Clear As Mud
Now, we get to the hard part. After the 6th plague, verse 9:12 reports, The Lord hardened the heart of Pharoah. I have come across people who teach this as if God supernaturally reached down from heaven, took away Pharoah's free will, forced him to do evil, used him like a puppet and then punished him for it. This is utterly and completely ridiculous. Would God really order Pharoah to let His people go and then force him NOT to let them go? Of course not. This is exactly the type of unjust action Pharoah committed against God's people, but God is not like that. Psalm 89:14 says "Righteousness and Justice are the foundation of Your throne." God does not act unjustly. Here's the rest of the story:

The term "hardened" would have been clearly and easily understood by the original audience of this story. Pharoah's heart was like MUD. Every single Hebrew alive in that day upon hearing the word "hardened," would have IMMEDIATELY thought about the process of making bricks, which is what their days consisted of. This is precisely the reference that was intended for the original audience. They would have understood that if God "hardened," Pharoah's heart, it meant that he STOPPED STIRRING it and allowed it to turn hard. Pharoah had resisted God's words and His commands to the point that he no longer had a conscience and no longer heard God's voice. He was entirely responsible and accountable for his own actions and decisions. 

III. The Brick Oven
But there is even more to this story. Five more times, Pharoah's heart is hardened in response to a plague and this action is attributed to God. This is Pharoah's fiery trial. This summer I was fortunate to see "Moses" at the Sight and Sound Theater in Branson. I had never really thought about the brick making process before, but large brick ovens were a prominent feature of the set. When the bricks were baked in the oven, they became permanently and irrevocably hardened. These mud bricks were hardened and the chaff that had been mixed in became a permanent part of them. Chaff is used in the Bible as a metaphor for unbelievers who will ultimately be destroyed in unquenchable fire. (Luke 3:17) Pharoah's trial foreshadows the ultimate judgement. He could not pass his trial because his heart was full of chaff, full of evil. God's efforts to reach him only caused him to become harder and harder the more he resisted. Each time God applied the fire of judgement, Pharoah proved himself unworthy, refused to repent and became even more set in his ways, more hardened. 

This should remind us of some other boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into a fiery furnace and came out unscathed. Many places in Scripture refer to believers as being refined through the fire. The term fire is used metaphorically in the Old Testament to refer to trials (Psalm 66:10-12, Zechariah 13:9). It is also used in the New Testament to refer to the Holy Spirit who refines us (Matthew 3:11) and it refers to a literal fire that only the righteous will pass through (Isaiah 43:2, 2 Peter 3:10). Here is the simple application for today. When believers go through a fiery trial, we come out more like Jesus. God takes us through them and is with us every step of the way. Jesus has already been tested for us, we are pure because of Him. But Satan will often test us to try to break us. When this happens, we are honored and trusted to share in the sufferings of Christ. We can either allow our trials to harden us in our wrong ways, or we can allow God to build our faith through them. We are meant to become like silver or gold that has been melted by the fire to have the impurities removed and can be molded into something beautiful. It's all about the softening. 

IV. The Choice
Pharoah wasn't the only one on trial. Moses went through a trial also, yet he came out with a special relationship with God and a face shining radiantly. Israel, as a nation was going through a fiery trial. Deuteronomy 4:20 records But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt to be the people of His inheritance, as you are today. The sojourn in Egypt was a refining process for Israel. We have it easy compared to them. The major part of our refining comes directly through the Holy Spirit's counsel and renewing work in our lives. Jesus can fix a broken, hardened heart, but it all begins by making a choice. John 16:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgement. He stirs our hearts, calling us into a restored relationship with God. The question is, will you listen? Hebrews 3:15 calls us to the choice. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion. The choice is simple. Will you harden your heart to God? Or will you open your heart to Him?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Escaping Polygamy: An Open Letter To The Courageous Cast

To the Courageous Cast of "Escaping Polygamy,"

I want to thank-you and to tell you how much I respect your bravery and appreciate the work you are doing in helping others to escape from polygamist religious groups. I can't even begin to imagine how you feel or what you have gone through and part of the reason I can't imagine it is because my maternal grandfather and his mother got out, or were thrown out. While the Latter Day Saints (LDS) group his family was a part of had stopped publicly sanctioning and performing plural marriages about 40 years before he was born, they were very pushy and aggressive toward him and they still tried to control their members with the fear that if they left the group they would be condemned or could never enter heaven. The night before my grandmother's funeral, my aunt pulled a book off the shelf and a letter fell out. It was an excommunication letter from the LDS church, which I believed to be meant for my grandmother, though I learned much later, it was probably sent to my great grandmother. It was sickening to find something like that in a moment of grief, even though I knew it was full of lies. That night, I learned that my late grandfather had received a similar letter when he chose to attend a Methodist church. I can't remember if my aunt allowed me to see the letter, but I have read similar letters and they tell people they will never enter the Celestial Kingdom unless they return to their group. They were considered apostate. It's heartbreaking to know that a church could be so callous and a leader so cruel as to send a letter like that to someone. I can not even fathom what it must be like to receive such a letter or to feel like you were risking hell by leaving such a group. I am so grateful that they never went back. I admire your bravery and your integrity. The decision you have made will benefit and protect your family for generations to come and you are rescuing people from situations that are far worse, much more traumatic and more frightening than what my relatives faced. I have three reasons for writing this letter. The first is to encourage you and give you peace of mind. The second is to give you powerful, Scriptural ammunition to use to bring the enemy down and set people free. The third is to raise awareness and prevent others from being deceived by similar leaders and their teachings. 

Anytime we see a powerful, controlling and manipulative leader with such frightening sway and influence, there is a dark spiritual force at work and the most powerful tool we have in our belt is the Bible. It can be difficult for a person who has been brainwashed to understand logic or listen to reason, especially when their faith has been used against them to keep them under control by fear. It's time to turn the tables on these pharisaical frauds. I sincerely believe that if you show people in the Bible exactly where their leaders have lied to them, you will be able to set more of them free. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that: 

The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing right through to a division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

This means that God's word can separate people from harmful spiritual influences and can break the chains of fear and uncertainty that keep them bound up and afraid to leave. The truth found in the pages of the Bible will reveal phony prophets, lying leaders and corrupt clergymen. Scripture can shatter deceptive doctrines, expose misleading interpretations and set people free from brainwashing. Below, I have addressed some of the issues I have watched you deal with on your show. I hope you will find this information helpful in your fight to free your friends and family. 


A. What the Old Testament Teaches:
2 Samuel 5:13 records that King David took multiple wives and concubines. 1 Kings 11:3 records that his son, King Solomon was much worse, taking 700 wives and 300 concubines. There are many situations in the Old Testament where the Bible is DEscriptive, not PREscriptive. It accurately reports the historical actions of certain persons, which are often sinful and wrong and should not be imitated. These are two such situations. It would be easy for someone to take these verses out of context and claim that polygamy is acceptable and even encouraged by the Bible and I have witnessed people try to do this, BUT Deuteronomy 17 contains a list of instructions for the Kings of Israel. Look what verse 17 says: He shall not multiply wives for himself. God's covenant with Israel FORBID their leaders from practicing polygamy!!! David and Solomon broke God's covenant and sinned by taking multiple wives. 

B. What the New Testament Teaches:
In 1 Peter 2:9, Christians are called a Royal Priesthood. Romans 8:17 tells us that we are Heirs with Christ. Revelation 5:10 and 1:6 say that  He has made us Kings and Priests to God. The instruction from the Old Testament for the Kings of God's people not to take multiple wives now applies to every Christian and even more so to those in positions of leadership. 1 Timothy 3:2 says of the church's leaders that: 

An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of ONE wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable and able to teach.  

According to this verse, a man who practices polygamy is not eligible to hold any position of leadership in the church. He is disqualified from leading God's people. 

Speaking on marriage, Jesus quoted Genesis 2 when He said: 

From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his WIFE and the TWO will become ONE flesh, so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate. (Mark 10:6-8) 

From the very beginning, the Biblical view of marriage has been a couple, two people only, one man and one woman in a loving relationship. 1 Thessalonians 4:5 teaches that no one should ever defraud, manipulate, coerce, force, pressure or otherwise trick a person into any type of sexual relationship. Marriage is about love. Jesus said a man shall cleave to his WIFE, singular, not wiveS, plural. He says the two shall become one. There is no room in this description for any more wives. The word "cleave" means to be glued together, to cling to each other. When a husband takes another wife, he has abandoned his first wife and committed adultery. He has broken his marriage covenant. Abuse and neglect are also violations of the sacred bond of marriage. In a Hebrew marriage, a husband was never allowed to reduce or withold provision such as food or clothing from his wife, nor was he to deny her marital rights. The marriage covenant and the betrothal process were meant to protect women from fraudulent men who aren't what they seem to be. These men who take multiple wives, show favoritism, neglect, abuse, ignore and lie to their families are openly defying God by mocking the institute of marriage. They are not preachers, prophets or pastors at all. They are phonies, fakes and frauds and God's word exposes them for the wolves that they are by revealing the evil intentions of their darkend hearts. 


A. What the Old Testament Teaches:
Genesis 28-31 records the story of how Jacob was tricked by Laban into marrying Leah instead of Rachel and how he ended up with two sisters as wives who became bitter rivals to each other, competing to give him more children and to receive his affection. It is obvious that the men in the Kingston group and other such groups show favoritism to wives that please them, while neglecting or punishing others. Such behavior is highly manipulative and really twisted. The rivalry between these two sister-wives had a terrible effect on their children and this is not something God desires. To prevent their descendants from continuing such behavior, the Old Covenant in Leviticus 18:18 instructs: 

You are not to marry a woman as a rival to her sister and have sexual intercourse with her during her sister's lifetime. 

God's covenant with His chosen people, FORBID them from taking sister wives.

B. What the New Testament Teaches:
Under the New Covenant, Christians are considered brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1). In the same way that it was and is wrong to marry a woman's biological sister as a rival to her, it is equally wrong to marry a woman's sister in Christ as a plural wife and a rival to her. 


A. What the Old Testament Teaches:
Leviticus 18 forbids sexual relationships between parents and their children and step-children. It forbids sex between aunts and uncles and their nieces and nephews. It forbids grandparents from having sex with grandchildren or step-grandchildren. It forbids sex between full blood siblings and also between half brothers and sisters and it forbids sex with your daughter-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law. Any man who promotes and practices these things is not a man of God. I want to communicate very clearly, that a person who has been the victim of incest is not at fault, is not to be blamed and even for those who have participated willingly, there is unconditional forgiveness for anyone who has been manipulated, deceived or otherwise tricked by their deceptive leaders into participating in it if they will repent and get out of it. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) It is also really important to remember that any child who is the product of incest is still a precious child of God, created in His image and worthy of dignity, honor, compassion and respect. Only God can create a human soul. The Bible says that children are a gift from the Lord, and they are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14, 127:3)

B. What the New Testament Teaches:
Under the New Covenant, Christians are the sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18). It is nonsense to teach that people need to maintain some sort of "pure" bloodline through incest in order to be God's chosen people. Galatians 3:7 declares that those who have faith are the children of Abraham. Romans 4:16 also teaches that those who have placed their faith in God are the true children of Abraham regardless of ethnicity, family background or the color of their skin. Galatians 3:28 teaches that There is neither Jew nor are all one in Christ Jesus. Colossians 3:10-12 describes those who turned away from their sinful ways placed their faith in Jesus as being God's chosen people. 

You have taken off the old self with its practices and put on the new self which is being renewed in the knowledge and image of of its Creator. Here there is no Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free but Christ is all and is in all. Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 

Being God's chosen people is based on faith, not genetics because there is only one race, the human race. The only blood that matters is the blood that Jesus shed for us, as Revelation 5:9 praises: 

And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God, persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 

Purity is based on our relationship with Jesus, not our ethnic background or family lineage. Believers are grafted into Abraham's family tree through faith. (Romans 11:17) We are all part of God's family. 

Our salvation is not based on church membership, a perfect understanding of theology, or following the arbitrary rules of a certain religious leader or sect. It is based entirely on our relationship with Jesus Christ. 

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2;8-9)

Once, I was speaking about Jesus with a friend who had been disfellowshipped from an LDS church. Despite his best and most sincere efforts, the leaders of that church refused to restore him, though Galatians 6:1 clearly requires them to do so. He told me that he believed Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for MY sins and that I would go to heaven. He then explained that he believed Jesus did not die for his sins, that he was something called "reprobate," or "apostate," and could never enter the "Celestial Kingdom," his version of heaven. This heretical belief, that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world is a big problem in various evangelical denominations as well. Fortunately, 1 John 2:2 contradicts this lie by teaching this about Jesus: 

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world. 

2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not wanting anyone to perish but all to come to repentance. 1 Timothy 2:4 describes God as He who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 

Unquestionably, God wants all people to be saved, but it is also true that He gives us a choice. He does not force us into a relationship. Hebrews 3:15 says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion. Men like Paul and Daniel Kingston and Warren and Lyle Jeffs have hardened their hearts against God's voice and have chosen to lead others astray. 

Our salvation is a matter of choice. 1 John 1:9 gives us the assurance that: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God will forgive us and restore us even if others will not. Our righteousness, our right standing with God, is a gift that we receive through faith because of what Jesus has done. Righteousness is not something we earn or accomplish through our own efforts. We receive it by faith and are brought into a right relationship with God in spite of what we have done. Then the Holy Spirit works in us to produce fruit: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) God empowers us through His Spirit. The words "patience," and "faithfulness" also describe perserverance, the type of strength and determination that you have shown to keep fighting the good fight to open people's eyes to the Truth. As Luke 4:18 says: 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed. 

Here is the truth that sets people free. Romans 10:9 promises: If you declare with your mouth "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you WILL be saved. 

Ephesians 3:16-17 teaches us that when we place our faith in Jesus, His Spirit comes to live in our hearts. That is why we ask Jesus to come in and restore, renew and heal our broken hearts. 

John 3:16 declares: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have EVERLASTING LIFE. 

Jesus is God's one and only Son. Anyone who places their trust and faith in Jesus will live in heaven forever. No person, church or entity can deny us salvation or separate us from God's love. 

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

Absolutely no one and nothing can separate us from God's love once we place our trust in Him. Our salvation is not based on what we do, it is based on who we are as God's children. It is based on faith. The good works we do are not to earn salvation, they are the response of a grateful heart to what God has already done for us. In John 28, God's word promises: 

I give them eternal life and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 

Our relationship with God and our place in heaven are absolutely assured once we put our trust in Jesus. No authority figure or religious institution can take our salvation away from us. I assure you that every person can have absolute confidence, peace and security in their salvation and future with God. 

It is very clear that these polygamist leaders are liars who are attempting to build an empire through deceit, fear, coercion and manipulation. The Bible proves that they are liars. Here is what the Bible says about them: 

You are of your father, the devil and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

The true children of God are those who walk in the truth. Jesus said: 

I am the way, the TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) 

You chose the truth over lies. You were right to leave and to help others. You havn't abandoned your family, you are protecting them and shining a bright beacon of hope to lead them out. We live in a day where the federal government has attempted to change God's definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Shows such as "Sister Wives," are already trying to make polygamy seem acceptable and even desirable to our society. Your work in bringing the truth into the light is tremendously important. You are changing the way people think inside and outside of polygamy and your impact is much further and deeper than you can imagine. I don't know where each of you stands with your faith and your relationship to Jesus right now, especially after all you have been put through, but you are doing good work, God's work. I feel that these words from 3 John 1 read like a love letter from a Father to His children and they are important for you to hear. I've taken the liberty of translating "Beloved," as "Dearly Loved Ones," because that is what the word means. It comes from the Greek word agapetos. It describes someone who God is well pleased with, someone who is is dear to Him and truly loved, highly thought of, esteemed, favored and worthy of love. 

Dearly Loved Ones, 

I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, even as it goes well with your soul. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the TRUTH, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the TRUTH. Dearly Loved Ones, you are showing faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers and sisters, especially when they are strangers.

Please feel welcome to contact me if I can answer any questions or be of any help. I wish you the very best and may God bless your efforts.


Jerry Schultz