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NO HIDING: Finding Faith & Freedom to walk out an authentic relationship with God, His Family, and His Word. Through: Biblical Studies | Stories | Scholarship

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Saturday, March 23, 2024

I saw Jesus once…

  I saw Jesus once… 

It was a warm summer day in southern California, somewhere near Arcadia or Bellflower I would guess. I have the impression it was near the Santa Anita race tracks, but that may not be correct. For some reason, that fact is just floating in my head near this story. 

I recall that it was a large public pool. I can see other kids laughing and playing, I am entertaining myself in the water, admiring the sun dancing on the ripples. I was young. I’m not quite sure how young, three, five? I feel like the water wasn’t very high, maybe one of those 1-foot pools for young kids. I know I was alone in my immediate area, I usually preferred to play alone. I didn’t know until my 40s that it was part of my autism.

There was a sudden feeling that I was no longer alone, and I glanced around and then up. 

Jesus was there, in the sky, on a throne, surrounded by beings in white. 

Then the beings were gone, and it was just Jesus and me. He was seated the whole time in the clouds, but somehow also face to face with me. It was like me being in the water miles from him, and me being face to face, both at the same time. 

Jesus smiled, I smiled. He never opened his mouth, but he smiled. It felt like he spoke words that don’t come in English to my soul-heart-mind, words that have taken on different tones over the years. 

There is a fiction book called Wheel of Time, and in it a character named Perrin Aybara speaks with wolves. The authors paint a picture that Wolves speak in images and not words, or feelings. That’s the best description of what it was like with Jesus as a small child. 

The closest I can come in words is: I AM

I am here. I am real. I am with you. I won’t leave you. It’s gonna be okay… Something in that general feeling.

It could have been an hour or ten minutes, I’m not sure. 

Kids take these things for granted, we haven’t been trained to overthink it. 

After a while, he nodded and I went back to playing. When I looked back up, he was gone. 

Some people tell me it was just the imagination of a child. Who knows, maybe. We’ve seen the mind do strange things as we study it in Neuroscience. What I can tell you, is that the memory of that moment is never far. I don’t think about it daily, but I have thought about it at least a few times a year, for close to 40 years now. 

In the years after that event, I’ve had many reasons to doubt the existence of “God” or “Jesus”. Yet, through disappointments, failures, shame, joy, wins, losses, family addiction issues, deaths, and the eventual “Deconstruction” from the ideas I grew up with in Churchianity, and Reconstruction thanks to Bible School, and great scholarship like Drs Michael Heiser, John Walton, Tim Mackie, NT Wright, Ben Witherington III, and so many others… Giving up “The Rapture” for a biblical vision of the returning King… becoming a Widower and raising two boys alone, with decades of church wounds… Through all of it, a small child, in a pool, with a Jesus far and near, ever present, never left me. 


I am with you. I am real. Hold on. Keep walking, I know you can’t see me right now, but I am right here………….. 

Was it a real vision? It was to me, it still is to me. It sticks with me. If I close my eyes I am right there in that moment all over again. 

I didn't do anything to earn it, and I don't think it's a theological flex, but it certainly grounded me on one key point of Theology. 

He is real, he is risen.

I used to believe in a “young earth” and now I think that Genesis 1-11 were always intended to only be a metaphor for the human condition. I’m not sure there ever was a literal historical Adam & Eve, if there were, they were probably taken from the early hominids. 

Does giving up the Rapture and Young Earth make me toss out everything else? That depends on how you look at it… 

Did I toss out modern Western Churchianity, with its megachurches and MAGA Christians? Absolutely. 

Did I toss out Augustine, Luther, and Calvin? You betcha, mostly at least. 

Did I toss out Jesus? No. Jesus lived as a Jewish Rabbi, gathered a bunch of rag-tag disciples, caused some of the religious establishment concern while gathering some to himself… he started a Jewish Messianic movement… he died on a cross, rose three days later, was seen by many witnesses, and his followers of The Way continued building Jesus communities all over Judea, Samaria, and to the known world at the time. 

Eventually, that movement turned Jewish + Gentile.

Eventually, the Gentile factions took over and got a lot of it twisted, each generation having to struggle with it over and over, starting a fresh struggle. But that’s now new. Israel’s name was changed to Jacob because he “wrestled with God”. One Rabbi said that the nature of the people of Israel has been to wrestle with God ever since. I believe that is true of his Gentile followers as well. 

Did Augustine get more wrong than right? Probably. Was Luther a brutal antisemite who also had some things about God right while others he got wrong? Yes. Did Calvin get almost everything wrong while wrestling with God in a medieval Catholic context? Yes. Does that make him evil? No, we each wrestle. Am I still “wrong” about probably half or more of my positions? Sure, why not. 

I no longer care about getting the right answers on a theology test, the longer I study the Rabbis the more I realize that my Orthopraxy (how I live The Way) matters more than my Orthodoxy (the doctrines I hold).

I know that Jesus is real, he was in the beginning with God and is God. I am comfortable with the ambiguity of the biblical author's language and feel no need to get technical with doctrines about those words from years after-the-fact. 

He is real. 

He is risen. 

He is with me.

He has not abandoned me. 

He is coming back, physically, to reign on this planet.

I am living The Way of Jesus, in community, and working pockets of New Creation in there here and now while I wait for the then and there.

He IS. 

That’s what it left me with, that’s what it still leaves me with. And that will matter as I write more about my story.

Shalom, Darrell. שלום

Darrell Wolfe, Storyteller at NoHiding.Faith

Monday, March 18, 2024

Rough Draft - NoHiding Manifesto - Disclaimers - Extremes back to the messy middle.


Introduction: Questioning the Foundations

What if you suddenly had to re-learn everything you thought you knew about Jesus, the Bible, Church, Christianity, Theological terms, all of it? I think you could summarize this book and my journey with a simple set of questions: 

  • Am I committed to the traditions of my faith of origin, or am I committed to understanding what the biblical authors actually intended to communicate to their original audience? 
  • If those conflict, which will I choose?
  • How will changing my attitudes, ideas, theological positions, doctrines, orthodoxy, and/or orthopraxy affect my daily living?
  • What, if anything, does the secular idea of “mental health” have to do with these things? 
  • What if pulling just one thread leads to unraveling all of them? What if deciding there is no rapture leads me to changes in my mental health, community, and day-to-day living that were completely unexpected? Hint: I did, they did.

Personal Journey and Identity

However, this book is about more than an intellectual exercise in theology, this is my story. 

It is my life, my journey; every step earned painfully. 

This book is about re-discovering spirituality, the Bible, Jesus, all while working through my journey with Autism and ADHD, sexual dysfunction, mental health, grief, recovery, restoration, deconstruction, reconstruction, and coming to terms with a life that is Pro-Jesus, Pro-Bible, and maybe just a little more than a little Post-Churchianity. 

It’s about finding The Way of Jesus outside the walls of the Sunday morning experience, the concert followed by a public speaker, where we go to learn “what to think”, aka the “Church”. Then coming to terms with how (if at all) I can continue to have “Church” (at least its modern western American expressions) as part of my life. Or do I need a Fresh Expression (cite them here)? 

Where do I start to unravel a lifetime of journey with Jesus, one that will continue to the day I die or he returns? 

There's no conclusion to provide you, because I learn something new, and unlearn something old almost daily. But I think I can share my experiences, what I think I’ve learned, and some changes to my approach that I intend to carry forward. 

It less about a change of thoughts, and more about a change in my way of thinking (See Bob Hamp for more on that). 

ADHD, Autism, Sexual Dysfunction, Mental Health, Grief

I grew up as a Pastor’s Kid and spent most of my adult life deeply involved in various expressions of modern western American Churchianity. 

As a result, almost all of my struggles have been filtered through my Biblical and/or Christian experience. That is why so much of this text will revolve around a changing worldview and better understanding the Bible. Ironically, it was after rejecting Churchianity that I found the Bible (as a Jewish text) held many of the answers I needed about the nature of the human condition. The biblical author’s worldview looks almost nothing like modern western American Churchianity.

That being said, this book will be just as much about my personal life experiences, and the attitudes, mindsets, worldview shifts, and personal growth I experienced along the way. 

I will discuss ADHD, Autism, Sexual Dysfunction, Relationship Addiction, Mental Health, Loss, Grief, Codependency, Boundaries, and finding a new balance in my own mental health journey. These stories will be weaved into the larger questions about the Bible, God, and religion. However, many of my most profound changes came from understanding the Bible as a completely different book than the one I thought it was. So these stories will be mixed throughout the book as I touch on various Bible related topics.

Commitment to Original Biblical Intent

I can start by telling you that I am more loyal to Yeshua HaMashiach (Iesus Christos, Jesus the Messiah (Christ)), than I ever was before. 

I can also say I have more reverence, awe, and respect for the texts we've come to call 'The Bible' than ever before... 

I am still “Spirit-Filled”, though my understanding of that experience and the gifts have changed dramatically since becoming an ex-Pentecostal/Charismatic.

However, I have lost many of the doctrines, ideas, mental frameworks, and theological positions from the two thousand years of traditions that I have come to call Churchianity. 

There are almost no theological terms or “doctrines” that I haven't had to redefine and re-contextualize as I've come to understand the biblical authors better. 

I still believe that Jesus was with God and was God (John 1), that Ha’Ruach Ha’Kodesh (The Holy Spirit) is also God; that Jesus lived as a man on earth, died, rose again, and reigns as king of the universe at his Father’s right hand as I write this text, and that he will return to this earth (bodily) to reign here at a future point in time. 

Beyond that, the biblical authors worldview provides layers of context and meaning we’ve lost in western Churchianity. 

Contrary to one pastor who said, “We must unhook from the Old Testament”, we must dive much deeper into the Hebrew Bible if we have any hope of understanding the “New Testament” authors, who were mostly (or my opinion, entirely) Jewish authors, speaking in Greek to a Greek world, but from a Jewish worldview.

Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, and if you don’t understand, deeply, the story the biblical authors are telling in the Hebrew scriptures, including the Divine Council Worldview, you will not properly understand the mission of Jesus, the “good news” of Jesus, the mission of Paul, or what kind of community we are called to join today in the modern era.

I’ve come to redefine almost every term I was taught growing up in Church, while I’ve outright rejected some terms entirely. We’ll get into all that later in this text.

Historical and Cultural Context

At various points throughout this text, I will use terms that you may or may not be familiar with, for example: Ha’Ruach Ha’Kodesh (The Holy Spirit). That is because I found that I was at a disadvantage from understanding the biblical authors correctly until I began understanding the Jewish cultural origins and Hebrew language origins of the Messianic Jewish Jesus Movement called The Way, which eventually expanded to include Gentiles, before it unfortunately rejected its eldest brothers of Jewish heritage becoming an entirely different beast called 'Christianity' in the 100-300s AD. 

We’ll get into details later, but it comes to this: studying the biblical authors in light of all other available contemporary evidence (texts that existed at the same time the biblical authors were writing) will have more fruit in our sincerely understanding what they wanted to say, than anything said by anyone after-the-fact, even if it was just 50-100 years after. The further afterward, the less weight those writers and thinkers have on the discussion. 

Therefore, studying 1 Enoch or Maccabees or texts from the Qumran caves, or the Ugaritic textual discoveries, will carry more weight than something said by Augustine, Luther, or Calvin, who wrote well after-the-fact.

Deconstruction and Reconstruction

I have come to accept that each generation of Yahweh's people have had to 'wrestle with God' in their own time and their own contexts. I am able to honor and respect that wrestling, without accepting their perspectives or conclusions.

One rabbi said that Jacob’s name means “to wrestle with God” and we Jews have been wrestling with Adonai ever since (correct this quote and cite it?? Xxxxx).

While I still mostly own the term “Christian” as it was used historically, I have lost much respect for many of the teachings by those using that title throughout most of its history. 

To clarify, I respect their journey, their struggles, their attempts to “wrestle with God”; but I do not accept many of their teachings, theological positions, or doctrines. I feel no loyalty to any “creed”, tradition, or the claim of any theologian, regardless of how long that position has been held by the establishment(s), unless I can verify for myself, through the use of scholarship and primary textual evidence, that position aligns with the worldview of the biblical authors. 

One man on social media responded to me by saying, “You just reject two thousand years of church history because all of a sudden you know better now?” 

Plainly, Yes. 

I firmly believe we have better tools, more research, more textual documents, better scholarship, and a better ability to understand the original biblical authors than even the early patristics did just 50-100 years after the fact. I respect each generations attempts to wrestle with the texts, but I choose to accept only those conclusions that I find agreement with as I study the historical contexts. 

If a text of any kind was available to the biblical authors to read and reflect upon, that text will have more meaning for me in understanding the message the biblical authors is trying to communicate to their own original audience, than anything said after the fact, no matter how sincerely or piously it was said.

In the last 50-100 years, the scholarly debates between a traditional understanding of Paul, the New Perspective on Paul (NPP), and the Paul within Judaism perspective (sometimes called the Radical Perspective on Paul), are just one example of how we must re-align our understanding of everything based on the best textual evidence available from all contemporary resources.

While a text of this nature, which includes my personal story and journey, cannot be comprehensive; and this is in no way an academic treatise or Thesis paper, I do want to cover enough of the most important terms that came from my own journey to provide some idea about what I mean by redefining and recontextualizing. 

Some of the terms we’ll discuss, briefly:

  • The Gospel 
  • The Cross/Importance of the Cross
  • Law
  • Sin
  • Justification
  • Rapture / 7-Year Tribulation (which are not biblical concepts at all)
  • The Second Coming (which is a biblical concept)
  • TBD… I’ll finish this list when I finish writing.

Warning: Modern Interpretations and Biases

If you are committed to the traditional views and do not want them challenged, this book isn't for you. 

If you are committed to either an American Right or American Left view, either extreme, this book isn't for you. Example: You are fully against or fully for the statement “Marriage is between one man and one woman” and incapable of discussing any nuance in the biblical texts around this topic, this text isn’t for you.

I will be challenging views from every side, agnostics, atheists, Jews, Christians, Left, and Right equally. I also admit my own biases. There are no possibilities that I will ever stop loving and serving Jesus as Yahweh come among men, died, risen, and coming again bodily in the future. That is central to what I understand of the biblical witnesses.

However, there are almost no positions that I once held deeply that I haven’t at least reconsidered, if not fully changed my position. I expect many more will come in the future. My future self may even contradict myself in this text, which is why it will be focused on my journey toward a way of approaching life and Bible, and not on specific conclusions. 

So this is less about getting the “right answers” and more about learning how to ask the right questions, and being willing to allow the messy middle to be unclear or nuanced. God has to be right, but I don’t.

Engagement with Diverse Perspectives

Augustine wrestled with God, and wrote many things as he wrestled, and for reasons beyond me, Churchianity has placed him on a pedestal in Church history. Augustine was also a brutal antisemite, who would be in jail today for some of his rhetoric, and rightfully so. I am completely free to reject up to and including 100% of his ideas while I can still respect that he had his own journey and I have mine, and we are each responsible for our own journey. I’m also free to admit where he may have gotten something right, while holding evil and despicable views about the Jewish people (our eldest brothers in Yahweh’s kingdom). 

I do reject much from the patristics and I think we've gradually got it more and more wrong throughout the centuries after they wrote. We’re beginning to correct many of our errors, and it is our duty, with access to modern scholarship and loads of ancient texts (that were not available to those theologians in centuries past), to ask what the biblical authors intended to communicate to their original audience, even if we end up deciding that we have to reject the interpretation we collectively held or had imposed onto the text in some prior century.

Conclusion: A Living Faith

I am not asking you to change your theology or doctrinal positions, although I think you may if you take this journey with me. 

I am asking you to be open to the possibility that we could understand the biblical authors better than we have. 

I am asking that you be open to changing the way you approach the Bible, and consider how that might impact every other area of your life.

I’m asking you to rethink how you engage life, community, mental health, politics, religion and religious establishments, all as part of adopting The Way of Jesus.

Note: If you’re familiar with Donald Miller, this is my journey inspired by Blue Like Jazz (read that book if you haven’t yet).

A Call to the Reader

If you're brave enough to keep reading, let's begin.

Darrell Wolfe, Storyteller at NoHiding.Faith,, and Topos Creative LLC