Thursday, November 24, 2016

What Is...

He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does YHWH require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means; `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Matt. 9:12 & 13

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me."
Matt. 25:40


Ekklesia = "The Gathering"

What is the church?  Sometimes I really don't know.  It certainly isn't a building.

At it's root, the greek word "Ekklesia" does roughly translate as "The Gathering."  So ideally, the church is simply a bunch of people who follow Jesus.  After all, Jesus did say that where ever 2 or 3 are gathered in his name, he would be there.

Jesus also described the church as an offensive attack force.  Not in a violent way, of course.  But when he described the church prevailing over the gates of Hell, he meant that it/we were going to knock those walls down and take the city.

These days, the church in America feels a lot more like a castle with it's walls closed and it's drawbridge up, quaking in fear at the godless culture coming to take it's rights away.  Hopefully, if we dig that moat deeper, we'll be okay.

I haven't felt very connected to the church for at least a year now.  In particular, a willful misunderstanding on the part of someone who really doesn't know me at all at the body I normally attend, caused me to feel very disconnected to them...and it really hasn't gotten much better.

In fact, two Sundays ago, I showed up well before the service was about to begin.  For 10 to 15 minutes, no one even came over and talked to me.  Finally, an 11 year old from the youth group did, but that was it.  To be blunt, a friendly wave, nod of the head, or "Hi" as I walk in really doesn't count.  Not that I even got much of those.

I just left.

Last Sunday, I didn't even bother to show up.  My closest friend and his family weren't going to be there, so why bother?  I just wasn't feeling it.

So, is this just me throwing a pity party?  Maybe.  Probably.  Still, it's where I'm at currently.

Some back ground might be helpful: Back in the early to mid 90s, I was a youth director at a church in the Twin Cities metro area.  I lovingly refer to it as the "Church of Hell."  The pastor had been dismissed a few months before I got there for having a long term adulterous affair with a married woman in the church.  Apparently, he did everything in his power to tare the church down around him before he left.

They hired me to be a tap dancer in a mine field.

Myself and the the Junior High leader were the whipping boys for a congregation in pain.  I lasted about a year and a half.  I found out later that they had chewed up and spit out at least 6 pastors in 6 years after I left.

It was a painfully eye opening experience.  I thoroughly hated christianity and, in particular, Christians after that.  A rather understandable reaction, I feel.  To this day, I have a natural hesitation around people who call themselves christians.  So, what happened in the church body last winter, naturally caused me to fall back into massive amounts of self-doubt, wariness, skepticism, and so on as old wounds are reopened and scabs are torn off.

I earnestly long to trust my fellow believers.  I want to be open around them.  I make the mistake of doing just that...and then, once again, it's time for pain.  Rinse, wash, repeat...



The odd thing is that even when I hated christians, and ended up in a rebellious spiral, I couldn't escape Jesus.  Believe me, I wanted to.  I worked hard at it...really, REALLY hard.  I don't know what you want to call it.  Maybe I had too much "Head Knowledge" to escape the reality of Jesus being the God he claimed to be.  I simply couldn't deny it.  Maybe it was too much "Heart Knowledge."  I couldn't escape his pull on me. (Makes me wonder if Calvinists are on the something.) Like it or not, I couldn't escape him.

Eventually, I came back into the fold.  But the pain is still there.  I can assure you that I obviously have a very different outlook on life and the church than most do.  That's just the way it is.  It's who I am.  It's what it is...


____________________


God is weird.  I can't figure him out.  For the most part, I like it that he is this way.  I don't like a supreme being that can be reduced to a formula on a piece of paper.  Still, I don't "Get" him a majority of the time.

I've always been fairly contrarian.  I'm skeptical of any mass movement.  When it comes to the church in America, you can times that to the 25th power.  I see things differently.  I always have.  But as the result of something that happened to me about 6 years ago, it's much worse.

True story.  Read this at your own leisure and peril.

Yeah, that's right.  I actually heard God speak to me.  I'm not delusional, nor was I stoned.  I heard his voice.  And frankly, I don't care if you believe me or not.  I know what happened.  It was only one, single word, "See," and it changed my life in ways that I wish it hadn't a good deal of the time.

T.V. preachers claim to hear God's voice all the time.  Usually, God is telling them to get more money from their flocks, or that certain candidates are anointed, and so on.  To me, if you really hear God's voice, it will change your relationship with him and the way you view the world.  That's the difference.  That's what it does.  That's what it is.

Do I see the world the way God sees it now?  Unfortunately, a good deal of the time I do.  Not all the time.  It doesn't make me better than anyone, by any stretch.  In fact, a lot of the time I wish it had never happened.  Now I'm stuck getting a God's eye view of things I don't want to look at, including myself and my issues, much of the time.


On a side note; now I get why he doesn't do this very often.  God can communicate any way he desires.  I think he uses he voice minimally because it's just so bloody overwhelming.  It devastated me, that's for sure.  I can't imagine what it must have been like for guys like Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel back in the day.  They had to put up with hearing him all of the time.  No wonder they weren't very popular until after they were dead.

I recall going to an industrial rock show two Springs ago.  The grocery manager at our store is the lead guitar player for a band called Gabriel and the Apocalypse.  His wife is the singer and the drummer works in our produce department.

Even though the style of music is not really my cup of tea, I know talent when I see it.  Plus, it's funny to me to watch the reaction of a few hundred tattooed, leather clad, head banging, eye shadow wearing 20 somethings as I get to the front of the stage and gently nod my head.  "What's dad doing here?"

Anyhoooo, so I'm walking around the venue and I see this gal spinning her head around like a propellor to the music.  I thought that thing was going to come sailing off and bounce around the floor.  I had no idea you could spin that fast.

So I'm watching her, and here comes to vision.  The eyeballs start doing their thing, and I start crying.  I see her pain.  I see her emptiness.  I see her loneliness.  I see how lost she is.  I see her the way God sees her.  Thanks a lot!  Good thing the venue was dark.  Crying is probably inappropriate at such shows.

And that happens a lot.  It is what it is.


____________________

Euangelion = "Gospel"


What is the Gospel?  It means "Good News."  What is the good news?


Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  That passage is so easily misunderstood.  Most of the time, people think it's something you are supposed to work towards becoming.  That really isn't it at all.

Being poor in spirit is a condition that you find yourself in.  It it is NOT a good place.  The poor in spirit are losers.  They are failures.  They are everything our world tells us not to be.  If you are in that condition, you need to remedy and fix it.

But when Jesus uses the term "Blessed," he is saying that God is on the side of who ever is being blessed.  Basically, Jesus is congratulating people for being losers.  That doesn't make any sense at all.  But I can't deny that he said it.


Another true story...

My former student had a heroin problem.  He's been clean for a little over a year now.  The doctors told him that if he did it again he would die because he's damaged his heart.  I hadn't seen him since the day I wrote the post above.

Two Saturdays ago, I ran into his mother at our store.  I hadn't seen her since then, either.  I asked her how her son was doing.  She said that he was getting out of jail on Monday.  His been in, paying off his debts to society for almost a year.  I asked her to have him get in touch with me immediately.

This young man comes from a troubled family.  They were deeply involved in a local health & wealth prosperity cult in town.  It's a mega church.  They teach that every pimple is the result of sin.  If you have enough faith, God will shit his blessings on you in the form of money. (Must be working, cause the pastor is loaded.) If you don't get rich, or get sick, it's your own bloody fault.  God needs your money, because it's a sign of faith.  God won't like you if you don't have faith.

Cancer?  You dirty sinner!  
Epilepsy?  Stop shaking and write that check!  
Your mortgage is underwater?  Well, you just ain't livin' right!

I once knew a gal who was deep into this.  Once she prayed for a parking spot near the front of a Target store.  God answered her prayer and provided her with one.  Forsooth & anon!  Before she could get to it, someone else parked in it!  She was most vexed that this individual had thwarted the will of the Most High!!!

My former student attended this churches' private school for a time before ending up in my classroom.  Having observed this school and church for many years, I consider the school to be a stronghold of demonic power...and I'm not joking.  So, by the time he came to my class, he had more than a few bags to unpack.



A lot of people like to hand out tracts.  Some like to carry signs and shout on street corners.  Many people like to be busy for God.  Work, work, work.  "Look how religious I am!"  Gotta get out there and be a witness.  Busy, busy, busy.  "Honestly, God just can't seem to get it done.  We need to step up and do his job for him."

I suck at that.  I really do.  But I don't mind just being a wrench or a screw driver in God's hand.  I figure he knows what he's doing better than I do.  I'm fairly clueless most of the time anyway.

Be still, and know that I am YHWH; 
I will be exalted among the nations in the earth.
Psalm 46:10

Translation = "Hold still, would ya?  You make a lousy wrench jumping around in my hand!  I'll get the job done with or with out you.  Just hold still and be!"

I don't mind holding still and just being.  Sometimes, sometimes, I get to see the faintest glimpse of what the kingdom actually looks like when I do.



I don't know what is going to happen to my former student down the road.  He has choices that he has to make.  He's basically got to rebuild his life from scratch.  It's going to be an uphill battle for quite a while.  Ultimately, it's between him and Jesus.

But maybe I get to see something while it's happening.  Maybe.


After I spoke with his mother, I spoke with my boss.  The day after he got out of jail, we were in contact.  A day later I had him meet my boss.  The next day he was interviewed.  He told me, "Joe, they won't hire me with my past.  I'm an ex-con in recovery."  I told him, "No, that's exactly why they will hire you."

I got to work with him the past 2 days as we slogged out turkeys for he big Thanksgiving rush.

What is the Gospel?  
That is what it is...
and every once in a while, I get to see it.



Peace

Joe

P.S. If you're curious as to my friend, the grocery manager's band, here they are.  Jake, the manager, is the one holding the plate full of worms in the video.  It's particularly amusing to me, because he is one of the most gentle and soft spoken people you will ever meet.  😄

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Strange kind of Love...

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will disappear...Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face.  Now, I know in part; then I shall know full, even as I am fully known.
1. Cor. 13:9 & 12


No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Cor. 2:9

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old oder of things has passed away."
Rev. 21:3


And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.
Ken Ham  7/20/2014

____________________


I have an auto mechanic who is a part-time theologian and philosopher.  He tends to be a bit shy and soft spoken, but once he opens up it get's interesting.  The last time I was having some work done he told me about his theories of the God of the bible in relation to creation and existence.

"Think about it.  What is happening right now is all apart of God's plan, even though it often makes no sense to us at all.  God knew that this was the only way to get his job done.  If there had been a better way, He would have done it.  But, this, this was the best and most perfect way.  We simply have to have faith that He knows what He's doing.  In the end, it's gonna blow our minds."

I think he may be on to something.


____________________


Yesterday I went to see the new "Dr. Strange" movie.  It was really good.  While DC comics can't seem to ever get it right, Marvel never seems to get it wrong.  Nerd that I am, I also enjoying seeing a non-American try and pull off an American accent.  Well, when you have Benedict Cumberbatch as your actor, you know he's going to nail the role...which he did.

That actor amazes me in every role I've seen him in.  In fact, just for fun, take a gander at this...


That's funny!

So anyway, Dr. Strange.  Never bothered to pay much attention to him as a kid.  Spiderman was my guy.  I kick myself now for not hanging on to those originals!!!  Spidey rocked.  So I never paid much attention to the good Dr.  Plus, it had occult over tones.  Not something I've ever been a fan of.

Still, this is the Marvel universe.  It's not reality.  It's just fun.  Of course, with a movie, you get to do plenty of tweaking anyway.  In this case, it wasn't so much the occult as it was trans-dimensional stuff.  Different realities, different dimensions, different worlds and orders, etc.

I recall sitting in the theater and starting to ask myself, "What if they're on to something accidentally?  What if, by pure accident, they might be right about some of this?"

About 10 years ago, I heard String Theorists posit that they believed that there were at least 13 different dimensions, instead of the 3 or 4 that we are used to.  Funky! (And to be honest, I know Jack about String Theory.)



Western Christianity likes to think that our culture has a Judeo/Christian basis.  That's partially true.  However, at a deeper level we have a Grecco/Roman heritage.  The Greeks, thanks to Plato, thought that the physical world was largely bad.  You wanted to escape it into the spiritual world, where things were pure and unadulterated.  That's why, when Paul preached in Athens about a bodily resurrection, so many of the Greeks scoffed at him.  They didn't want to get a brand new, cleaned up body.  They wanted out of here.

Plenty of those Greek ideas crept into the church.  That's why we often see heaven as a a cloudy place, with us floating about playing harps.  Not my cup of tea, I can tell you that.

To the ancient Hebrews, the idea of heaven NOT being a physical reality, would have been ridiculous.  It would have been Greek to them. (Get it?  Funny!) Certainly, Scripture speaks very bluntly of a physical reality in heaven, and one here on earth when the old order is replaced with a new one.



Anyway, about Dr. Strange and alternate realities and what not; if you believe the bible, then you have to conclude that whatever scientists and philosophers come up with to explain how things work, God is intimately involved in it.  Since he created everything, when science explains something, all they are doing is showing one of the zillions of ways that God goes about his business.

In fact, I'll go farther.  Considering that every new scientific discovery demonstrates more and more how amazingly complex creation and how it works is, the idea that all of this is a complete accident and not the result of some great, cosmic mind behind it, becomes less and less viable and believable.  All of this amazing complexity through the universe is NOT an accident...

I'm never sure how or if science will ever be able to measure and explain the metaphysical/spiritual world, but talk about a totally different dimension.  I can barely begin to wrap my head around even an inch of that world.



In the mean time I often wonder about life on other planets.  I put the amusing quote by everyone's favorite Young Earth Creationist, Ken Ham up at the top for a couple of reasons.  #1. To show how clunky his writing is when compared to the artistic words of Paul and John.  #2. To demonstrate his poor understanding of the bible.  #3. To show what a lack of faith he really has.

Ken's god is way to small for me.  His teeny little god is trapped in a cardboard box that prevents it from being supreme and omnipotent.  His little fella is very limited.  I don't like tiny gods.

The God that Scripture reveals is BIG.  Too big for us to wrap our finite noggins around.  I like that God.  He's interesting and full of surprises.


Years ago, I read "Out of the Silent Planet" and "Perelandra" by C.S. Lewis.  In short, both books deal with an Englishman going to Mars, and then to Venus back in the days of WW2.  It really changed the way I thought about the potential for alien life.  In the case of these stories, the aliens lived in a state of sinlessness.  They didn't understand the concept of right and wrong, and were therefor never tempted.

I should note that in these stories, the planets all have guardian angles.  Earth is referred to by them as the silent planet because our angel is Satan and therefor does not speak to the other angels. (Food for thought, huh?)


So, what if there is life on other planets?  Do they live in a state of sinlessness?  Are they still so primitive that they can't even think yet...like super un-evolved?  Did they have their own fall at one point, and if so, what did God do about it?

I don't recall the song, but back in the 70s, the hippie christian singer, Larry Norman, had a song that said that if there is intelligent life on other planets, and they have sinned, Jesus went over there are died for them, too.  I like that idea.  It wouldn't surprise me the least.



I dunno, I was just sitting there watching the movie and thinking how small I am, and how massively huge Jesus is.  He created everything that is, in his own way and time, according to a plan that I can't fully grasp and only he fully understands.  He did it out of love; love at simply being able to create, and love for the beings he knew would explore his works.  I'm not even a pimple on the world's butt in comparison to him.  But he says that he loves me.  He says he loves me a lot,

And someday, I'll have all of eternity for him to show me around all of the stuff he made for us...



Peace

Joe




Friday, November 11, 2016

"X"


“I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.”

Billy Graham, 1981

"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?"
Matt. 16:26

"If you listen to fools, the mob rules"
Ronnie James Dio

The bible fascinates me.  If you read it in context and for all it's worth, it will blow your mind.  These ancient authors, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, writing thousands of years ago still speak truth to the human condition.  "There is nothing new under the sun," says one in Proverbs.  And he's correct.  As far as the human condition is concerned, there really is nothing new.



So here's something you might know from the pages of the bible.

Samson.  You know the story.  Big, strong guy with long hair that couldn't keep his hands to himself.
Hero, right?  Not exactly.

The Book of Judges is perhaps the most disturbing book in the Old Testament.  Rape, murder, assassinations, Levites slicing and dicing  their concubines up and mailing chunks around Israel.  Pretty freaky deaky.  No wonder you don't get many sermons from that book.

The Book of Judges is not a book of heroes.  We think that it is because the way the author of Hebrews in the New Testament uses some of the characters in it.  And that's legit.  Hebrews is a pick-me-up sermon in the form of a letter.  However, the Book of Judges is not.

Compiled during the time of the exile in Babylon, the Book of Judges is an indictment.  It is helping to answer the question, "How did we end up in exile?"  The author's answer is, "Because we kept screwing up, that's why!"

Interesting side note:  There is only ONE good judge in the entire Book of Judges.  It happens to be the only woman judge...the Prophetess Deborah.  The rest are bums who go from bad to worse.  I doubt it's an accident that the author purposely shoved a woman in the face of a highly patriarchal and faithless Israel. (I told you the bible would blow your mind.)

In it's context, Samson is a mirror of Israel.  To the Jewish exiles in Babylon, the story of Samson was their own story.  A story of faithlessness in the face of a faithful God.  Samson was given every chance in the world, and he just couldn't stay faithful to God.  In the end, God does a form of mercy killing and allows Samson to commit suicide and take his enemies with him.

Samson is a terrible roll model, and not someone to be looked up to.
He is no hero what so ever.
Instead, he is a warning to Israel
...and all followers of the God of the Bible.

"Whatever you do, do NOT be like Samson."

So why do I bring up Samson?

You know this election we just had?  I have heard multiple pastors and "Christian" spokespeople, including the author, Eric Metaxas, whom I respect a lot, call Donald Trump "Our" modern day Samson, coming to aid America and the church in our hour of need.  I think to myself, "That's not exactly the kind of help I'm looking for, thank you very much."

(Still, the idea of seeing a blinded Donald Trump pushing the pillars of the capital rotunda down on his head would get plenty of views on YouTube.)


____________________


Apparently I'm really good at irritating people.  Everyone has their own unique skill set.  I guess that's mine.  Whatever.

This post will hopefully irritate people from all walks of life, right left and center.  So, let's roll...


When I woke up Wednesday morning, this was my reaction to the election.  I was absolutely stunned.  I didn't vote for either Trump or Clinton.  But I never thought in a million years that someone as uniquely and utterly unqualified to be President would actually get elected.

Americans never seem to understand how the rest of the world perceives us.  I suppose it's because we don't have to care, since we're on this giant island with the world's most powerful military.  Still, by and large, the rest of the world believes we just elected a Clown-in-Chief.  I'm very embarrassed to be an American at the moment.

Still, as curious as I am to see how long Trump can hold himself before he pops off and let's his true self come out, I'm not as terrified as I was two days ago.  Actually, it's more a source of amusement now.  I'm guessing that the White House staff will be dumping copious amounts of quaaludes into his food supply, or something along those lines, to keep that blithering fool under wraps.

The real source of amusement is going to come from the ardent Trump supporters, and the let down that is headed their way.  In no short order, you will see The Donald realize just how little he can get done just through force of his will.  He is most likely going to not follow through on the vast majority of his campaign promises.  Mostly, because they were simply pure fantasies to begin with.

In particular, I have no idea how he's going to bring back all of those manufacturing jobs.  Unless everyone wants to pay $50 for a pair of socks, no, those types of jobs are never coming back.  So, good luck with that.

If he or any other politician would talk about helping those folks transition into new jobs, in the new economy, with our new technology, that would be a fresh start...and one based in reality.  But what does Trump care?  He just wants to win.


____________________


I guess what breaks my heart the most about this election is how the church prostituted itself once again.  That never comes as a surprise to me anymore.  But it still breaks my heart.


Back in the day, Billy Graham used to have Richard Nixon speak at some of his crusades.  When Watergate happened, and Billy heard some of the Nixon tapes with Nixon rambling on with drunken profanities, he was stunned and shocked.  He realized that Nixon had used him for his own, selfish political purposes.

To his credit, Nixon refused to see Billy after that.  Billy reached out to him during that time, but Nixon refused.  He didn't want to taint Billy anymore than he already had.  He felt remorse.

Billy learned his lesson.  He stayed completely out of politics after that.  Hence the quote at the top of this post.  Billy fully understood the damage that politics can have on the church and the message of the Gospel.

Unfortunately, Billy's kids have yet to learn that lesson.  Franklin isn't the only dimwit in the family.  Billy's daughter, Ruth Graham Lotz said on the news this morning that Trump's election was a blessing from God.

It's true that God has a hand in everything that happens. (I say that, and I'm not even a Calvinist.) However, I would highly doubt this to be a blessing.  Maybe God is giving us the divine middle finger.

____________________


From what I hear, 80% of "Evangelicals" voted for Trump.  These people who claim to love and follow Jesus, voted for a man whose entire existence has been one diametrically opposed to everything Jesus taught and stood for.  That's fascinating to me.  I guess it just goes to show what fear can do.

Why did these godly, faithful, god-fearing, bible-believing folks vote for a man who is a black hole, vortex of character?  Why did these lovers of Jesus vote for a man whose life is a mirror of everything that a Christian must never do or be?  Why did these faithful followers of the God of the bible vote for a man who many of these folks consider to be America's Samson? (And we know how that worked out now, don't we?)


From what I've heard, the court system was the #1 reason.


We gotta keep the Supreme Court "Conservative."  If we don't, Christianity will soon be illegal.  Then, they'll take away our guns so we can't overthrow the government when we need to.  Then, they'll make abortion mandatory for all unless your baby is gay.  THEN, when your gay baby grows up, you'll have to bake a cake for it's wedding.


The Supreme Court, particularly under John Roberts, has had a conservative majority since the 80s.  Guess what having a "Conservative" court got us?  Citizens United, voter suppression, gay marriage and yes, Yes, YES, best of all...OBAMACARE!!!!!

If you place your faith and protection in the vain hope of a friendly court, you are worshipping the wrong god.



Here's what gets me about the extremely narrow issues that so-called Christians fixate on.  They are not truly issues.  They are litmus tests to prove how religious you are as compared to someone else.  They are nothing more than windmills to be tilted at, so as to show that you are a good, "Religious" person.

But they have little to do with either reality or Christianity.

Let's have some fun...and here is where I get to be an equal opportunity irritator.

#1. Abortion: I'm going to tell you a truth that you won't like.  It's a not so well kept secret that politicians on the Right and Left know, but won't speak openly about.  Here it is; Abortion...will NEVER, EVER be illegal in the U.S!!!!  It might be limited in one form or the other, but it's never going away, folks.

You don't have to like that fact, but it's still a fact.  Politicians on the Right and Left know this in their hearts.  But they bring it out ever few years, shake it in the face of people, and get them all worked up.  It's a NON-issue that goes nowhere, but it plays really well to the base...and ya gotta get them votes.

For the record, I HATE abortion!

But I understand reality.  The term is called "Stare Decisis."  It's been the law of the land since 1973.  It isn't going away.  If you want to fight abortion, there are better and more effective ways to go about it than voting for something that will never happen.

https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide?gclid=CKmH1Ib-oNACFZWCaQodYw4Kyw

The link above is to the World Health Organization's study on abortion world wide.  One interesting fact was that the more restrictive a society is with abortion, the more there are.  The more advanced a society is, the less there are.

It would seem to me that if Christians are so "Pro-Life," then they ought to screaming at politicians to fight world poverty.  But then again, I'm a terrible Christian, so what do I know?


#2. Gay Marriage.  Allow me to irritate my lefty friends first.  Unless you play fast and loose with Scripture, you cannot conclude that anything other than sexual purity until heterosexual marriage for LIFE (Minimal wiggle room for divorce) is the order of the day.  Let me go farther.  Defining yourself by who you get aroused by is a form of idolatry.  I don't know how you could come to any other conclusion after reading Romans 1:18-32.

In fact, let me push a few more buttons in an unusual way.  I don't view being "Gay" as a sin. (I don't like to define anyone that way to begin with, since human sexuality is much more complicated that we want to admit.) No, being Gay, Bisexual or Straight it NOT a sin...it's a TEMPTATION!

I used to have substance abuse issues.   That's a temptation for me.  You want me to define myself by that?  I won't!  It's a temptation...it's not the center of who I am  And every time it comes looking for me, I have to turn it over to Jesus.  So that's the question.  Are you going to turn your sexuality over to Jesus?  Yes or no?

And now I get to irritate my righty friends.  

I don't care if a guy wants to marry another guy.  Do they pay taxes?  Then let them have their rights.  I'm never going to defend it biblically, but then I understand that not everyone sees eye to eye on this issue with me.  I'm not going to compel anyone into my belief system. (Although I certainly don't object to a friendly debate.) I just don't see any upside to people living in the shadows.

In the mean time, this whole issue has very little to do with me.  I never planed on marrying another man.  So...

Would I go to a gay wedding?  I dunno.  Haven't been invited yet. (Bet the food would be pretty good and the outfits simply smashing!)

Been to a Atheist wedding once.  That was a weird one.  Still, neither of them knew Jesus, (DUH) and being friends with them was important to me.  It's hard to live out the Gospel if you're not in a relationship with folks.  And that's what matters to me.

#3. Religious Liberty. I've spoken to plenty of folks from countries where Christianity is illegal.  They have a better understanding of freedom than we do, I can promise you that.  Just because a Christian can't force his will on another person does not mean that we are losing our freedom.  Again, if you place your faith and security in the courts or politicians, you are worshipping the wrong god.


So why do I bring all of that up?  Because they are essentially non-issues for me.  I don't base my vote on them because they ultimately go nowhere.  I prefer to base my vote on what anyone says they will do for the weak and vulnerable...you know, "The Least of These."  Unfortunately, I rarely hear anything from any party about that.


But because Trump made vague promises to gullible "Christians," they drank the kool aid and now he will be in office.  The bright side is that the very folks who use to scream that "Character Matters" have now forfeited to right to ever use that phrase for the rest of their lives.


____________________


I've struggled for a long time with my label, "Christian," or "Evangelical."  Over the years, these labels have compiled more and more negative connotations.

When I tell people I'm a Christian, they think of quack-tastic science, Adam and Eve riding vegetarian dinosaurs and their kids banging each other.  When I say I'm an Evangelical, people think of politics moving further and further to the far Right.  Again and again and again, I have to use the phrase, "We're not all like that."  But I could be wrong...maybe we are.

So, what to do?

I've been trying to find a term that throws people off.  That way, they have to ask me what I'm for, not for what I'm against.

I think I may have found it.  I heard a news story on NPR last week about Christian women who were revolted by Trump.  They used the term "Xvangelical" to describe themselves.  I like that.  I like that a lot.

I'm sick to death of politics.  I'm sick to death of Christians letting themselves be used and conned so easily.  I'm sick to death of the fear in the American church.  I'm sick to death of Christians being sluts to their narrow desires for political positions.  I'm sick to death of power hungry pastors.  I'm sick to death of quack theologians and their fear of scientific facts. ("How DARE God create things in a manner that I don't approve of?!?!?!") I'm sick to death of the health and wealth Prosperity cult.  I'm just sick to death.



Please understand, someday, someday, Jesus' kingdom will bet here in full and America and all other nations will disappear completely.

All I want to do is follow Jesus into his kingdom...
and other than Him, it feels very lonely.



I'm an Xvangelical.

Peace

Joe

Ladies and gentlemen, America's new national anthem.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Disillusionment, Rage, and how the "Church" let me down...once again.


CAUTION: This post will have some rather blunt and crude language in it.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
1 Tim. 4:1

For a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2 Tim. 4: 3 & 4

"I'm automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them.  It's like a magnet.  Just kiss.  I don't even wait.  And when you're a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything.  Grab them by the pussy."
Donald Trump


Yesterday I was up early.  I drove up to Duluth to see an old friend that I hadn't seen in a number of years.  I'm on vacation...the first since 2008, so why not take a little road trip and have some fun?

And then the news of Donald Trump and his rape tape came on the radio.

To be honest, I wasn't shocked by any of it.  To be more honest, my only shock would be that anyone couldn't have seen that one coming.  I was wrong about that.  I was shocked.  But not by any revelation or the fact that some people could be so clueless as to not see predatory behavior in the character of a man like Trump.  No.  My shock came from the reaction of so many people of faith, and their "So-Called" leaders.


Before I go on, let me be very, very crystal clear about something.  Now, what I am about to say should frankly be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense.  When a man forces himself on a woman, it's called rape.  When a very wealthy and powerful man grabs a woman by the pussy, gropes her, kisses her without being asked or permitted, it is still a form of rape. (At best, you could call it attempted rape.) Just think Bill Cosby.

But you can get away with it when you are rich and powerful.

But it IS still rape.

Donald Trump is a predatory, adulterous, wealthy and powerful rapist!!!

You cannot deny that anymore than you can deny the nose on your face.


____________________



Full Disclosure: I am not a Clinton fan.  Never really have been.  I'll either be voting Green or Libertarian in the Presidential election.  So I don't want anyone thinking for one second that this is a "Pro-Hillary" post.  It is not.


This morning, this image has been popping up on internet all over the place.  Clearly, it is a defense of Trump.  So let's parse this sentence, shall we?

"...than by what Trump has said."

And what exactly has Trump said?  He said that he cheats on his wife...while she was pregnant, no less, on a regular basis.  He says that he doesn't wait for permission.  He just starts kissing, groping and grabbing women by the pussy.

THAT is what he says he did, do and does!  This sentence is not about the past tense.  Donald Trump freely admits that this form of behavior is ongoing.  You cannot deny it.


But apparently you can...



The story that came on the radio after the news of Trump and his grabby hands was of this man, Ralph Reed.  Feel free to listen or read it for yourself.

http://www.npr.org/2016/10/08/497164715/faith-leaders-are-still-backing-trump-in-the-wake-of-his-lewd-comments-about-wom

If you read it, do you feel like you need to take a bath now?  It was pure, sycophantic drivel.  He says that Trump "apologized profusely."  Really???  He gave a brief remark and then tried to turn it on Bill Clinton.

Also, someone needs to explain to me how opposing the nuclear deal with Iran has anything to do with my Christian faith one way or the other.


This man, and the rest of what's left of the Religious Right have had their tongues down the back of Trump's trousers the entire campaign.  Jame's Dobson, Jerry Fallwell Jr. and guys like Ralph Reed have exposed themselves for what they really are...power hungry fakes.

I've always been skeptical of the Religious Right.  I sympathize with their goals.  I believe in traditional marriage...with little wiggle room for divorce, and I don't like abortion at all.  Shoot, I'm so biblically Old School that I actually believe in sexual purity before marriage.  But the methodology of these people scares me.  I've doubted for years if they truly trusted that Jesus knows what he's doing.  It would appear that they think they can do a better job.  And power is they way to do it.

They have lost any and all credibility.  
And that is probably for the best.


____________________

Last night, a friend put up a rant about Trump and stated that he wanted Mike Pence to take over.  A friend of his posted that "What Trump has Said" image.  I responded as I did earlier in this post that Trump is essentially a rapist, and asked when the church would wake up to that.  This was a response that I got...with my reply to it underneath.

Anonymous:  "The church is responsible for reaching the world with the Gospel....Not the president. I'm just as sad as any Christian that our candidate is someone who's had a foul mouth. But he is our Republican candidate and just like the election years with McCain and Romney, I will march myself to my voting station and I will vote for the Republican candidate. My question to you is which president in the last 20 years do you think your 'Christian friends' should have voted for with a clean conscience? Or I'll ask this way...which candidate on the ballot (either party) in the last 20 years was a Christian conservative according to your standards ?
I hope you realize what you really are saying about me and other Christians who ARE voting for Trump. It's actually quite hurtful and judgmental"



Me: This will be my one and only response to what I/you said: 1) You equate "The Church" with being Republican and being Conservative..."Our candidate." Interesting. Not sure where in the Gospels Jesus chooses to side with any given political party or ideology anywhere or in any country at any time. 2) I don't expect perfection out of any politician, so that's not my issue. But Republicans used to say that character mattered. Now they have chosen one that is a black hole, devoid of any character at all. Proving that what they really want is simply power for the sake of power...and that would include the Religious Right.

3) As far as being hurtful and what not, that's probably your conscience talking to you, because, and let me be very, very crystal clear about this...a man that readily admits that he likes to force himself on women is what society calls a rapist...or at best an attempted rapist. Donald Trump is in the same boat as Bill Cosby. He is a rapist! You might agree with whatever policy he has propped up at the moment to get your vote, but he is still a rapist. You need to understand that. You need to take a good long look in the mirror before you cast your ballot and tell yourself that "I agree with the issues of this man, so I will vote for him even though he tries to rape women."

If that truth is hurtful, it is ultimately & truly not MY problem...


I stand by everything I wrote!


I really am curious.  When did the Republican Party...or any other, for that matter, become Jesus' party?  When did "Conservative" become the "Ism" of Jesus?  When did Capitalism, Marxism, Liberalism, Fascism or any other "Ism" become Jesus' favorite?

I really want to know????


____________________


The irony of this entire post is that initially, it was not going to have anything to do with Trump.  I was driving up to see my old friend because I needed a pep talk about Christianity.

Don't get me wrong.  I have no doubts about Jesus what so ever.  There is nothing you can throw at me at this point that will cause me to doubt that he is exactly who and what he claimed to be; the resurrected King, creator God of the universe, and the only hope of salvation for fallen humanity.

But I have been having severe issues with christians and the church in America.

Friday morning, I was having breakfast with guys from my church.  As of late, I get more out of that than I do attending Sunday worship.  A guy we hadn't seen for a while showed up.  He's nice enough guy, but then he started casually joking about his recent divorce.  Huh?!?!

At work, one of the few other christians there readily admitted to me that he is now having sex with his non-christian girlfriend.  When I pointed out to him that "Fornication" (Pre-marital sex) is a sin, he just shrugged his shoulders.

At the church I attend, there are a few people who apparently hate me for a variety of reasons...even though they have never bothered to even say "Hi" to me in all the years I have attended.  Furthermore, a large chunk of the elders are fairly die hard Fundamentalists who think the universe is only 6000 years old, and modern science is therefor evil.  It is greatly frowned upon if I begin to ask questions. (Christians hate questions.  It's much better to be completely unprepared for the real world.)

So I've just been feeling rather let down by my fellow christians as of late.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't expect perfection out of anyone.  I'm a horrible sinner.  It's true.  But I at least expect a bit of effort on people's part.


So I headed up to Duluth for a pep talk...which I did get.  Unfortunately, I also got an earful of Trump and his "Evangelical" sycophantic minions on the radio.

So much of the church in America just makes me want to vomit!


Peace...I guess.

Joe

Perfect song for the dirty whore that so much of the so-called "Bride of Christ" actually is...

Friday, September 9, 2016

Hearts of Darkness


The heart is deceitful above ALL things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
Jer. 17:9

There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
Ecc. 7:20

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:22-24

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in everyway, just as we are - yet was without sin.  So let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Heb. 4:15 & 16


It's been almost a year now, and I remember it well.  It was still very early in the morning, and I was driving into town from our families' cabin to buy a newspaper.  Our cabin is about 7 miles away from the town of Annandale, MN.  I was listening to MPR and they were announcing that a Person of Interest had been arrested in the Jacob Wetterling abduction case from almost 30 years ago.  I recall pulling up to the local Super America gas station.  They announced that they had found a man, and his house was full of child pornography and other items of guilt.  The police had caught him at his house in Annandale...

I remember stepping out of my car and realizing that I was roughly 2 blocks from his house.  Talk about the hair on the back of your neck standing on end.




If you lived in Minnesota for any time at all, you are most likely familiar with this case.  Jacob was a pre-teen boy.  He was heading home in the dark with two of his friends.  Someone drove up to them and pulled a gun on the kids.  He made Jacob get it, and then he drove off.


No one has seen Jacob since.


If you've been paying attention at all, you might know that this man, Danny Heinrich, has confessed to the abduction, rape and murder of Jacob in the last few days.  He did so to plead out his case.  He will receive 20 years in prison for a lesser charge.

Jacob's family signed off on the deal.  In return, Heinrich took them to the place where he had buried Jacob's body.  In court, Heinrich explained that he sexually assaulted and then murdered little Jacob the very night he abducted him.

Apparently, Jacob's last words were, "Mister, what did I do wrong?"

(It should be noted for the record that a 20 year sentence for this crime is not what it seems.  If he is still alive after 20 years, this man will be committed by the State of Minnesota to a perpetual commitment & confinement for public safety.  He will never be a free man. 

Naturally, there is also the question of where he will be imprisoned.  His life could very well be short, indeed, thanks to other inmates.)



Today I drove home from the cabin and listened to the radio.  Two local reporters who investigated the case on Jacob were being interviewed.  One of them actually got into Heinrich's car and secretly recorded him for a few minutes. (This was a LONG time ago, when Heinrich was one of a number of suspects.)

What became clear in no short order was the the investigation was botched from the beginning.  The local police didn't even seal off the abduction site.  Evidence was trampled and polluted.  It turns out that the main reason Heinrich murdered Jacob was that he heard a police car with it's siren pass by.

I'm still shaking and even tearing up a bit as I right this...



I think it was when I entered the town of Delano that I began to feel true hatred wash over me.  I was getting angry and griping the wheel of my car.  I wanted the drivers ahead of me to get the *&%$ out of the way so I could just drive.

I'm not a believer in the death penalty, but I began to think of fantasy situations where I could take Mr. Heinrich away and deal with him myself.  Without going into detail, I thought up multiple ways to make him suffer for days and days.

I've seen enough movies and what not.  I'm also a fairly creative person.  Believe me, I could come up with over a dozen torture scenarios in no short order for that man.  My goal would be to hear him beg God to reverse time so that he had never been born.  That thought made me happy...very, very happy.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; 
who can know it?

Then it dawned on me as I stewed in my anger.  
I am no better than Danny Heinrich.


____________________


I'm a very introspective guy.  Maybe a bit too much.  I can think back to elementary school and still feel guilty for calling someone a name on the playground, or bullying a kid smaller than me.

I also know most...not all yet, but most of the evil that lives in my heart.  I have had some truly sick thoughts float around in the rusting walnut between my ears.  Just because I have't acted on something, in no way frees me from the fact that I've figured out a fool proof way to commit certain crimes. (Feel free to take a guess.)

Jesus said that if you even look at a woman in lust, you're guilty of adultery.  Wellllllll, I should have been stoned to death a couple thousand times by now.  I also wreak of vanity, arrogance, willfulness, demeaning behavior and simply being a down right ass-hole!


So there I was, fantasizing about slowly killing another human being...

I am no different than Danny Heinrich.


Now, lest you think ill of me and better about yourself, you had better take a good look into your own heart.  Unless you are a complete narcissist on the level of Donald Trump, or you are so clueless that you can't even approach a healthy form of introspection, you know...you know the potential for wickedness lurking deep inside you.

You can willfully fool yourself if you want to.  You can deny it.  But you're not fooling me, nor will I believe you when you argue otherwise


____________________



I spend a lot of time thinking about God in my conscious moments.  Only He knows how much my subconscious does when I'm asleep.  A good chunk of my thoughts revolve around the fact that the more I try to learn about Him, the less I seem to know.  He just keeps getting bigger, and I have a hard time "Getting" Him.

Forgiveness is a prime example of this.  I don't like saying "I'm sorry" when I do something stupid.  The irony is that I generally feel better when I do.  I can forgive others somewhat easily, depending on what they've done.  And I think that's the issue.

It depends on what they've done.


This is something that separates the God of the bible from humans.  Our forgiveness tends to be conditional and rated on a scale.  Not so with Christ.  He doesn't care.  I suppose that is what Grace is all about.  We don't and can't EARN his forgiveness.  Leaping about, offering sacrifices and promises fall on deaf ears with him.

He doesn't care.
His grace is his to give to whom he wishes.
And he offers it to all...

...even a man like Danny Heinrich.



I DON'T GET THAT AT ALL!!!  

I wouldn't do that!  But I cannot deny the reality that Christ grieves for Danny and his wicked heart.  He wants to redeem him as much as anyone else.  You'll have to work really hard to prove that otherwise, based on the character displayed by Jesus in the Gospels.

You might as well not waste your time, because I doubt you can do it...even if you're a Calvinist!

Jesus died for men like Mr. Heinrich.  He also died for Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and even someone as evil as Donald Trump.  I am unfit to judge them because I have enough of my own #@!* on my plate to deal with.  I struggle every single day to hand my stuff over to Jesus.

Forgiveness?  I sort of get it.

The forgiveness that Jesus offers?  I guess I still have a lot to learn.



Normally, I try to find a song or video that illustrates what I just wrote.  I can't think of anything appropriate.  Plus, I'm still worked up emotionally and trying to process this mornings events.  Guess I'll just stop here.

Peace

Joe

Thursday, July 14, 2016

He doesn't give you that option.


"Jesus went around saying he was the Messiah. That's why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God or he was nuts. Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes, I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium. And I find it hard to accept that whole millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for 2,000 years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter. I just... I don't believe it."

"Christians are hard to tolerate, I don't know how Jesus does it...I'm one of them."
Bono


That's a funny picture...Jesus as Bono.  Bono tends to be a lightning rod for folks.  They either love him or hate him.  Whatever.  As far as rock stars go, he isn't out there doing what most of them tend to do.  At least he's using his fame to try and make a dent in world poverty & such.  Mick Jagger doesn't do that.  Neither does Robert Plant. (Both of whom I enjoy.) What are you doing with your fame?

This is not a post about Bono...

____________________

A few years back, an old family friend came to town.  He was more of a friend to my folks.  I hadn't seen him since I was a little kid still living in Sacramento.  He was in town to go to a treatment center for an addiction of sorts.  It wasn't drugs.  It was something else that I won't mention.

He wanted to see Minneapolis.  So he and I took the light rail downtown to walk around.  He and I clicked pretty fast.  I like people in recovery.  Everyone needs a good old fashioned breakdown and/or humiliation once or twice in their lives.  Nothing like seeing reality when you're looking at it from the mud.  Nothing puts the concept of "Grace" in better perspective.

Actually, the truth is that I simply don't trust people that haven't been broken...
to the 25th power when it comes to "Christians."

Anyway, we had a great conversation.  He and I both have a healthy sense of skepticism when it comes to modern culture, politics and the church.  We both question the black & white certainty of politicians & theologians, AND to the blind worship of many of their followers.  We both prefer to wander the fields of gray and swim in the waters of nuance & questions.

We both follow Jesus in our own exceptionally imperfect way... 


At least We did...


While I haven't confirmed it for myself, family members are now telling me that my friend has rejected Jesus.  Like I said, I haven't confirmed it for myself because I simply don't know how to bring such a delicate subject up with him.  Currently, I'm simply at a loss for words.

Apparently, while he, like most people, believe that Jesus existed, he was a just a good moral teacher. You know, just a really nice guy.

I have a problem with that.


____________________

"Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession."
Eph. 1:13&14

On most days, I'm not a Calvinist.  It kind of depends on what mood I'm in.  Even so, I do believe in the concept of "Eternal Security." (The idea that once you give your life to Jesus, you can never lose your salvation, no matter what dumb stuff you do after that.) When I read that passage from Ephesians, I can't come to any other conclusion.  I mean, how can I, a fairly dimwitted mortal, possibly snatch my salvation out of the hand of the supreme being of all creation?

I also take a lot of comfort in that thought, 
considering the stupid things that I am so incredibly good at doing...

Now their are others from the Wesleyan traditions who believe that you can lose your salvation.  Some believe that you lose your salvation every time you sin. (If this is the case, I must lose my salvation every few minutes or so.) However, most believe that you only lose your salvation if you do something dramatic & obvious, like converting to Islam, Buddhism, or simply overtly rejecting Jesus.

It's hard to say, really.  The best we can do is come up with some good arguments & theories for both sides.  As I mentioned earlier, I'm skeptical of those who have absolute certainty on matters such as this.  The God of the bible is a rather large fellow.  I'm not even a pimple on his butt.  So how am I to ascertain all of his ways?

What I will say is that these theories could be two sides of the same coin.


Growing up, I saw people in my church who seemed to talk the talk and walk the walk.  But I always got a weird vibe off of them.  Years latter, I would see that they have nothing to do with Jesus, and it came as no surprise to me.  Sometimes I'll get a reverse vibe off of people.  I'll see an unbeliever, and I'll get this weird feeling.  Sure enough, years latter they are happily following Jesus.

Is this "Discernment" in action?  Is it some form of creeping Calvinism in me?  I don't know.  What
ever God "Predestined" me to do before the beginning of time I guess. (Snicker.)

Maybe someone thought they were following Jesus, but their heart wasn't really in it.  Maybe they thought they were following Jesus, but it was a false Jesus of their own construction.  Lordy, Lordy, I see that everyday, all the time.  Jesus himself even warned about that repeatedly.  Maybe it was just a watered down, squishy Jesus that saves everyone even if they don't want to be, and repeatedly spit in his face.

I just don't know for certain about these sorts of things.  I worry about my friend though.  It's one of those situations where I simply have to "lean not on my own understanding," but simply trust that God knows what he's doing.


I'll tell you what I do know for certain...


____________________


"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Matt. 16:15&16

"But what about you?" he asked.  "Who do you say I am?"  Peter answered, "You are the Messiah."
Mark 8:29

"But what about you?" he asked.  "Who do you say I am?"  Peter answered, "The Messiah of God."
Luke 9:20 

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
John 8:54

"I and the Father are one."
John 10:30

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?"  "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
John 11:25-27

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
Acts 4:12

That's a whole lotta scripture of Jesus talking about himself, and of his followers talking about him.  I dropped all that for a reason.

Remember earlier on when I mentioned that my friend, like most people, believe in a historical Jesus, but that he was just a good moral teacher and a really nice guy?

Jesus doesn't give you that option.

You may have heard of the old argument; Jesus: Lunatic, liar or Lord.

He doesn't give you those options.


A few years back, this book came out.  The author, Reza Aslan, asserts that Jesus had the term, "Messiah," essentially forced on himself.  He never really claimed that title for himself.

I respect the author, but I question his scholarship.  Even more so, I question the obvious that every single interviewer of the author seemed to miss.  The most common reference that Jesus used for himself was "the Son of Man."

THAT IS THE MOST MESSIANIC TERM IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE!!!!

I should also add that every time either the disciples or other followers referred to Jesus as the Messiah, he never, ever corrected them...and it's fairly obvious that Jesus had no problem, what so ever, with getting in people's faces when he knew they were wrong.

To claim that Jesus didn't think he was the Messiah?

He doesn't give you that option.


Jesus?  He was a great moral teacher.  To bad we can't live up to his teachings.  He was such a nice guy.  We need more nice guys like that.

Really?  A nice guy?  He went around claiming to be the Messiah.  He claimed the most central, theological name of God for himself. ("I am.")  He claimed to be the only hope for human salvation.


I understand the frustration with much of what passes for Christianity in America.  I've been hurt more by "Christians" than any other type of people in this nation.  I look at what passes for importance in the American church and just shake my head.  From Right-wing politics to Fundamentalist science quackery and horrible exegesis, I give a face palm.  Squishy, Left-wing watering down of orthodoxy so as not to offend the delicate feelings of a man who wants to wear a girl scout uniform while at the grocery store, or the lack of taking sin seriously, makes me grieve to my core.

So called "Christians" can make me itch like I'd just run through a briar patch clothed only in road tar on a July day.  But at the end of the day, you, me, WE, do NOT follow other Christians.  We follow Jesus.  So, blaming other "Christians" for why you reject Jesus?  I get it.  I do.  I understand it more than you can know.  But to use that as an excuse?

He doesn't give you that option.


I have to agree with Bono on this matter.  Jesus was either who he claimed to be or he was the biggest nut job that has ever existed.  "Nice guys" do not run around claiming to be God.  "Nice guys" do not claim to be the Messiah.  Great moral teachers do not make the claim that they are the only hope for human salvation.

Jesus was not a "nice guy."


Jesus was either God in the flesh, mingling with the fallen humanity that he loves and wants to redeem, or he was craziest "(Bleeeeeeeep)" to ever walk the earth!!!

To consider & entertain any other thoughts?

He doesn't give you that option.



Peace

Joe


Friday, July 8, 2016

To live in Babylon...


Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place."
John 18:36

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
Rev. 4:8

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there we're load voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he will reign for ever and every."
Rev. 11:15



You ever had a premonition?  You know, where you look at a person and you think to yourself, "Boy, I know exactly how this movie's gonna end."?

I can't say that I have those with crystal clarity, knowing every jot & tittle of detail.  But I do get a version of premonitions from time to time.  Maybe it's simply from having lived long enough to see various patterns and choices, and where this will get a person over time.

I had one many years ago about a kid I knew.  He worked for me while in high school.  He was a decent worker.  No problem there.  He didn't do drugs or party.  In fact, he was a part-time body builder, so that kept him out of trouble.

The problem was that he was an unapologetic racist.  He didn't mind getting physical pleasure from non-white girls, but he wouldn't "date" them...just get in the back seat with them.

He wanted to become a cop. (Not the best idea, I thought.) I kept in touch through social media, until I simply couldn't handle the extreme right-wing tripe that he would post.  Like anyone on the extremes of Left or Right, logic gets thrown out the window, and seething emotion rules the day.  "I want it to be true, so I'll believe that it is!!!"

One day, I politely called him on that.  I asked if he really believed what he was saying, or if he just hoped it was so?  I got a less-than polite, "Fuck you!" from him and his friends.  Needless to say, I let him go.  I remember thinking to myself, "A racist, far-right guy who openly dislikes anyone different from him, and is now a COP?  I know how this is going to end."



Roughly 36 hours ago, a black man was killed in the suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota. (That's where our State Fair is.) I won't bother posting the link of the aftermath.  It's all over the internet, and I don't want to hear it again.

The man complied with the officer to get his I.D., then tells the officer that he has a conceal & carry permit and has a gun in his car.  The officer freaks out and shoots the man in arm at least four time.  If you DO bother watching the video, listen to the officer screaming after the shooting.  The anguish and guilt in his voice tells you everything.

The result is that a (Black) man is dead, and the two officers involved will almost certainly be prosecuted.  Take a wild guess who one of the officers was??????????

How in HELL did that guy get hired by a police department when everyone who worked with him in the past knew he was a far-right racist?!?!?!?!  BTW: I checked this morning.  It would appear that the only smart thing he's done in ages was to delete his Facebook page after this incident. (Trust me.  That would have damned him for good.)

I've seen this movie before.
I know how it's going to end.

I've seen this movie before.
I know how it's going to end.

I've seen this movie before.
I know how it's going to end.

____________________


As of late, "Church" for me has been Friday mornings with some of the guys from Living Waters in Lakeville.  We have breakfast at a Perkins down there.

We were talking about the tragedy in Falcon Heights, and then the news of the sniper attacks on police in Dallas.  We talked about the shootings in Orlando.  We talked about the Black Lives Matter movement.  We talked about the fact there there is some type of mass shooting every single day in America. (Most are simply the boring old, humdrum variety of a spouse or lover shooting the other, then maybe the kids and then themselves.  Why bother the papers with that?)

 Whether you like it or not, racism is far from dead in this country.

We also talked about the election and how embarrassing it is.  Let's be honest, it's very embarrassing to be an American at the moment.  We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and yet we have entrenched poverty.  We are the most technologically advanced country in the history of the world, and yet we still can't seem to find away to cover all of our citizens with health care. (How does it feel to be laughed at by Denmark?) We are the strongest country, with the mightiest military the planet has ever seen...yet we have the highest incarceration rate of the free world.


I told the guys that what we are seeing might just be for the best.  It might just be God's way of pulling our blinders off.

____________________

For our struggle our struggle is not against flesh & blood, 
but against the rulers, against the authorities, 
against the powers of this dark world and 
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
Eph. 6:12

If I were somehow able to go back in time and grab a Jew in exile during the time of Daniel & Jeremiah, and bring him here to America in the 21st century...or for that matter, from the time of Jesus and the Roman occupation, what do you think he'd see and say?

He'd most likely be impressed with the level of technology, for sure.  He'd probably like cars a lot...and deodorant and showers.  Then he very well might say something along these lines, "Wow, Babylon and Rome certainly have progressed with their material possessions, but they haven't fixed their pagan idolatry at all.  In fact, it looks like it's only gotten worse.  Meshuga!!!"


Americans like to pretend that we live in a "Christian" nation.  During this past 4th of July, there was a giant one page advertisement in the Star/Tribune talking about Jesus being America's god. (And I used a little "g" on purpose.) It was full of the various founders talking about the importance of religion to a society...as they were enshrining slavery into the Constitution.  There was also all manner of scripture taken out of context to prove the point that this advertisement was trying to make.

I think that if one of Jesus followers could see that, their reaction might be, "What are they talking about?  Americans worship Asherrah, Ba'al and Molech.  Can't you people see that?!?!?"



I love this country.  I believe it to be a force for good in the world.  However, I pray for it's repentance...although I'm not holding my breath.  This nation has a deep sickness to it's culture.  Our selfishness, sexual depravity, hedonism and gluttony, is no different what so ever than that of ancient Rome or Babylon.  We love our guns more than our neighbors.  We love our rights, but not our responsibilities.  We love our our individuality, but don't give a damn about "the least of these."

If you have the time, do a little research on the three gods above that were mentioned.  They were the ones that always led ancient Israel away from YHWH.  They're not dead & gone.  They are still very much alive.

It's been asked by others, "We live in the most progressive & enlightened society ever...or do we?  Do we still have the same old angry, demanding gods.  We just call them by different names?"



I often envy my friend Bobby.  He's a missionary in Nepal who works with Tibetan refugees.  Basically, he lives at a 1st century technological level.  No bells & whistles to blind him and the people he works with.  Hand to mouth every day, and he sees it.  He sees it.  He sees the spiritual warfare.  He can see the powers & authorities in action...and he can also see the power of Jesus...and his grace and mercy.


Maybe someday the church in America will take off it's blinders.  Our election this year is a joke.  I personally think it's a national embarrassment to the entire country.  Thankfully though, ultimately a "Believer" doesn't  follow a president.  We follow a King. (And he doesn't have to run those insipid campaign commercials!)


It was often noted of the early church that they were rather apolitical.  They prayed for their leaders as they were told to by Jesus.  But at the end of the day, they didn't care who was Caesar at the time.  They simply lived their lives as if Jesus was Lord, and was on his throne


The American church should be more like that.  
WE should be more like that.

Why?

Because that's what it is to live in Babylon.


Peace
Joe