Monday, May 31, 2010

"WHITE BOY!" (What the Bible has to say about the concept of "Race.")
































































I've been asked a couple of times if I would ever date a gal from a different "Race." I always say "NO...I could never date a Klingon or a Vulcan. Klingons tend to be way too temperamental, and Vulcans have no sense of humor at all!!!"

So why do I start with that personal joke of mine? Well, it's because the very idea/concept of "Race" itself is a joke...and a bad one at that.

There is a fellow I know, that I am trying to be a witness to, who is a "White Supremacist." I don't know exactly how far he is into the whole Neo-Nazi thing. But I know that he hangs out with a bunch of them. None of these guys are into the whole "Christian Identity Movement." (Which is also a racist movement that perverts the Bible for their own ends.) Instead, this whole bunch actually claims to worship Odin & Thor, the Norse pagan gods of the Vikings & Germans.

(Ya know, say what you will about other religious traditions. At least we have historical evidence of people like Moses, Mohammed, Buddha,...and a TON on Jesus, actually having existed in an actual historical time & place. Who has an ounce of evidence that Thor & Odin, or for that matter Zeus, Apollo, Annubis, Molech, Ba'al or any other of that lot ever having walked the Earth?)

ANYWAY, I will avoid making any jokes about racists...yet...because generally, when it comes to neo-nazis, the jokes just write themselves. I would rather be serious for the time being. I have known more than a few guys who are in to all of this, and they all seem to have some commonalities to them.

#1. First and foremost, every single one of them is lonely and in search of a "Family"/group to belong to. #2. They tend to be failures at most of life...High School drop outs, poorly educated, menial jobs, etc., and so seek to find a belief system that will justify (Make an excuse for) why they are in the state they are in. (I suppose it doesn't help that often a good deal of alcohol & drugs tend to be involved.) Like the bully on the playground who picks on others to make himself feel strong. #3. In the case of one guy I know, he will openly tell you that he wanted a strong male roll model to follow, since his biker dad got his mom knocked up and then split, so he picked Hitler...go figure.

Honestly, if you are looking for mass-murderers to model your life after, can't you pick one that that actually WON a war? I mean, Stalin killed twice as many people as Hitler did. Or for that matter, pick Chairman Mao. He is the greatest mass-murder in history...plus he never brushed his teeth and had a thing for little girls. (Those last two facts are based on the testimony of Mao's personal physician.)

The point being that the majority of these folks embrace this world view because they are unhappy, lonely people who seem to seek the lowest common denominator in life and others so as to find some type of meaning & purpose for their existence. And it's incredibly sad. Yes, it is really easy to joke about. Like I said, the jokes simply write themselves. But in the end, it is a sad, sad situation. Especially when you have a biblical world view.


Scientifically, there is no basis for the concept of "Race." In fact, the entire idea didn't come in to much use until Europeans began their colonial expansion around the world. The idea that an Englishman or Frenchman were superior was obvious to them, because they were conquering and dominating people in other lands. Needless to say, it gave them a healthy sense of self-satisfaction while they were doing so.


The Biblical view of "Race."

So what does Scripture have to say about different races? Actually, NOTHING!!!! You simply won't find the concept in the Bible. There is no verse, passage or text that speaks of human beings being broken up into different species. (Yes, I know that the Bible has been used for racist ends...and often still is. But this can only occur when people take passages out of context, either willingly or through laziness & ignorance.)

What the Bible does speak of are various tribes, tongues & nations. In fact, in the Old Testament, the Hebrew term is Goy or Goyim (גויים). It can be translated as either "Nations" or "Non-Jew." In the New Testament, the Greek term is Ethnos (εθνος). Again, it means "Nations," and it's where we get the word "Ethnic" from. I'll explore the concept of ethnicity and such in a bit. But for now, let's take a look at the Big Picture concept of ALL PEOPLE as spoken of in the Bible.

* For those of us who follow Jesus, the Bible says this: "You are ALL sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:26-29

(Wow! So apparently if you follow Jesus, you are now also part Jewish. No wonder neo-nazis have a hard time with Christianity.)

* "There is ONE BODY and one Spirit - one Lord, one faith, one baptism: one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Eph. 4:4 & 5

* "...God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean." Acts 10:28

Even if you are not a Believer, the Bible still has plenty to say:

* "Don't all of us have one Father? Didn't one God create us?" Malachi 2:10

* "From one man he made every nation of men...For in him we live and move and have our being. As one some of your own poets have said, "We are his offspring."" Acts 17:26 - 28

* "So God created man in his own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female." Gen. 1:27

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. ALL human beings bare the image of God, wether they know it or not, or choose to acknowledge it. If you claim to follow Jesus, then there is no place what so ever for the silly, non-sensical idea that humans are divided into separate species. Furthermore, I am convinced that those who use the Bible to further any type of racist ideology will incur a massive, heaping helping of judgement when they stand before God on judgement day.


The Bible and The Nations.

Let's explore the concept of Ethnicity for a while. The Bible does use this term, and it's interesting because it tends to be rather fluid. Ethnicity has a lot more involved in it than skin pigmentation or eye shape. Ethnicity has to do with the language you speak, the unconscious cultural values you hold to...AND your religious convictions.

Check this out: The book of Ruth in the Old Testament is the story of King David's great, great granny. Ruth was from the tribe of Moab. They were considered to be a very dirty people because they came about as a result of incest. Essentially, Lot's daughters got dad boozed up and then got pregnant by him. Hence the name, Moab. (It means "Son of my Father" in Hebrew.) ICK!

Long story short, Ruth decides to follow her mother-in-law back to Israel and makes the following statement to her. "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Ruth 1:16 So essentially, Ruth changes ethnic groups simply by making this decision to follow YHWH instead of Molech. (Good choice there.)

One thing I love about God is how he embraces the lowest of the low as his family. Ruth, a woman from a reviled, incestous people is now a part of the lineage of King David, and also Jesus himself.


Years ago I lived in Jerusalem for a year. I made some friends in the Armenian quarter of the Old City. What I noticed pretty quick was that all the merchants making a living off the tourists could spot an American from a German from a Frenchman from an Englishman at over 100 yards. How the heck did they do that? Turns out, all of these White People had a "Tell."

There were subtle differences in the way they combed their hair, what they wore, AND the way they walked that would give them away. I'm not making this up!!!! Over time & observation, I learned how to do it myself a little bit. It really didn't matter if the Americans were Asian, black, latino or white, they all had the same loping walk...and THAT, folks, is ethnicity.

(A point of pride for myself was that after a while I was normally mistaken for someone from Germany or Finland. Don't ask me how I accomplished that, because I haven't a clue.)


The Humor of Racism: Funny thoughts just for you.

O.K., I've been relatively well-behaved up to this point. So now lets have some fun.

There is a movie titled "Blood in the Face." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_in_the_Face_(1991_film) It's a documentary that takes place at a White Supremacist rally in Michigan. Among the topics discussed by the assorted morons gathered is exactly who is or is not white. Apparently, anyone who's ancestors came from above the European Alps are white. Italians, Spaniards & Greeks are not white. I find this amusing because a roommate in college by the name of Greg Rodriguez was blond haired and blue eyed, even though his folks came from Spain. While a guy at my store, who is 100% German, has dark brown hair, brown eyes and dark skin.

(What's a poor fellow from Switzerland supposed to do? He's actually IN the Alps, yet he might speak Italian. Dirty, little Dago grease-ball!)

Furthermore, the language of Finland (The whitest of white people) has Ugric roots. In other words, it's ASIAN!!!! Or what about sour kraut, the delight of all good germans? Sour kraut is directly related to Kimchee, which is Korea's national dish. (God bless the Mongol hordes and their road trips.)

Ooo, I almost forgot. Did you know that the Irish were not considered to be "White" until the election of JFK? It's true! Probably because so many of them were catholic. In fact, the earliest form of anti-immigrant discrimination in the U.S. took place in the 1840s by a organized group called the "Know Nothings." They wanted to keep the dirty, greasy, smelly, un-civilized, just plain vile Germans and Irish from polluting our Anglo-Saxon shores. Hence the following from the movie "Blazing Saddles."



I've often felt that most forms of racism could be cured in America if everyone was forced to sit down and watch both "Blazing Saddles" and "Undercover Brother" back to back for an entire weekend. So, in the interest of fairness...




Yes, I can stick it to Whitey too...








Last but not least, lets take a gander at the wisdom of Monty Python.






O.K., O.K., enough of that. All humor aside, there is no place for racist nonsense in the body of Christ. You wont find any grounds for it in the Bible. As the Holy Spirit transforms a person, he will point out just how vacuous those thoughts are. Besides, in the new heaven and earth we will all speak the same language that God does anyway...Swedish!


Peace, YO! Ya'll know am sayin?

Joe

P.S. I think my next post will be on anti-semitism. :)

P.S.S. Oh all right...one more.







Sunday, May 30, 2010

Zack, Damon and all the other puzzle pieces.


This past Monday was 93 degrees with about 176% humidity. Being the "Blonde" that I am, I decided to work in the yard for my folks for about 4 & 1/2 hours. (Brilliant, I know.) I felt like a piece of beef jerky soaked in oil after I was finished.

So later, after I regained consciousness & hydration, I met a friend at the Convention Grill in south Minneapolis. This place is a classic holdout from the 1930s & 40s. It's been there since my dad was a little kid growing up in that neighborhood. They also serve some mean malts...which I desperately needed.

Zack is a guy from Living Waters, and for a Red Head, he's actually a pretty decent guy. (He picked up the tab, so what can I say?) He and I got to know each other's stories a little better, and we talked about how we may or may not see God moving in our lives, and in the ways He might wish Living Waters to move & grow.

Both of us are hungry to see God more active in our lives. Particularly, we both want to know God's desire & direction for our lives. What was interesting to me was that I slowly began to notice that there is a large number of people at Living Waters who are growing impatient to see God's desire for our church. A lot of folks want to see the church grow...not for the sake of a body count, but a desire to really make a difference for the kingdom in our area.

By impatient, I do not mean that word as a negative. I mean it as a positive. People are getting hungry to see what God has up his sleeve. And that thought is pretty exciting. It's fun to see people getting revved up about the ways Jesus can transform lives, places and circumstances.

And all of that got me thinking over the past week about "Stuff."

"Just as each of us has one body with many members,
and these members do not all have the same function,
so in Christ we who are many form one body,
and each member belongs to all the others."
Romans 12:4

Anyone who has ever tried to construct a puzzle knows how frustrating it can be to find the pieces that fit together properly. Normally, most folks will try to build the frame of the puzzle first, and work in from there. Even though you have a picture of the big scene to work from, it can be a real chore to complete. Then, you get the whole thing almost completed and discover that a piece or two are missing. "GAH!!!"

I often think that Believers are puzzle pieces. Paul describes all Believers as various parts of the body that makes up the church, with Jesus as the head. Some people are arms or legs, others are noses or eyeballs. (I'll leave it to those who know me to tell you what part of the body I most likely am. A sweat gland perhaps.) The point being that all Believers belong to one another, and that we all have a necessary function. If one of us is not doing our task, then the body is not functioning properly. In fact, if a Believer is coping out entirely, then it's as if that part were missing all together...and then you end up in the emergency ward for a transplant.


Well, lets go with my puzzle analogy for a while, because that is what I have been thinking about for over a week now.

The thing about puzzle pieces is how they connect with the various other pieces, because at first glance it is really hard to tell. However, once you find the right connection it makes perfect sense. However, there is also a big difference between a true puzzle and the life of a Believer. A puzzle game has a picture of the end result to work from. Believers do not. At least not in that freeze-frame kind of static way. A Believer works primarily from faith...which can be even more frustrating at times.

I spend a lot of time questioning and kicking myself for not being that man that I think Christ wants me to be. I mope over all the ways that I fall short. I would like to be a great man for God. To do incredible things for the kingdom. But instead, at the moment, I am stuck in a grocery store. I know a lot of Believers who have the same frustrations.

But you know what? That is totally and completely looking at my situation through my eyes, and NOT through the eyes of God. God never asks anyone to be a great or important person. All he asks is for us to be faithful, and to be a good steward of what he has given us.

I'll give an example: Billy Graham

Most people who call themselves "Christians" would say that Billy Graham is the greatest Evangelist who has ever lived since the time of the Apostle Paul. Billy would be considered a "Great man of God." (Although he would be the first to tell you to shut your pie hole if you said that to him.) However, where would he be if he hadn't heard the gospel preached at a revival led by Mordecai Ham in 1934? For that matter, where would Mordecai Ham be if someone had not shared the gospel with him? And the line goes back & back in time until it reaches the feet of Jesus preaching the good news on a mountain top in Galilee. Each piece of the puzzle touched the next piece, there by making the picture more and more complete.


So, Zack & I sit in the Convention Grill wondering about what God wants us to do, all the while we are actually doing it just but meeting together and talking. Zack is encouraging me, and I hope that I am doing the same for him. We are simply pieces of the puzzle connecting at the necessary time and place. We are living out ministry without even realizing it...not because we are gracious & faithful, but because Christ IS.

See, that's the thing. God puts so much opportunity in front of us every day, and so often we don't even see it. I've been told that every Believer is a missionary 24/7, our only choice is wether or not to be a good one. By the way we live our lives, and the way that we allow God to shine through us, we ARE the gospel. We are that living witness, that Living Sacrifice.


Damon

I have a friend I have never met. (At least not face to face) Many, many months ago Damon stumbled across this blog through someone else's blog. He liked something that I wrote so much that he plagierized it almost word for word and re-posted it as his own. Thanks to my weird personality, rather than being offended I thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. (Now if only a wealthy author would do the same.)

At any rate, I called him on it, he re-edited it, and since then he and I have become good friends over the internet. (You can read and compare our work by clicking the following links. When doing so, you will notice that mine is indeed truly brilliant.) http://trippingstumblingwhilefollowingjesus.blogspot.com/2009/09/god-only-hates-you-little-bit.html <----MINE



SO ANYWAY, Damon is going through a tough time at the moment and I have been praying a lot for him over the past two weeks. I even sent him a bunch of my favorite podcasts from some Christian Thinkers I really respect. I am hoping that they will give him some clarity as he seeks God's desire for his life. He is my spiritual brother. Jesus loves him. Therefor, I love him too.

Which is odd if you think about it. I mean, I've only talked with him over the internet. I've never even had a cup of coffee with the guy. Why should I care one way or the other? We met randomly and purely by accident, after all. Or did we?

God is full of surprises.

How many other pieces of the puzzle have I touched without even realizing it at the time? How many have you touched without knowing it? How many more pieces will we all touch before the picture is complete? I know that over the past 2 years, as Jesus has been teaching me to see the world & people through his eyes, that I have become more conscious of it. And to be honest, it's rather cool.

I should state for the record that this in no way makes me anything other than who I am...a weak, very often hypocritical, finite human who needs Christ to help me make it through every day. But I am also a guy who is learning more and more about how much God loves me, wants me to partner with him in living out the gospel, and is learning to make the most of a least a few of the opportunities that he is presenting me with.

God never asks anyone to be a great person for him. He only asks us to be faithful, and to be good stewards of what he gives us. I really don't need to fret all that much because I don't have a handy picture of the box top to work from. All I need to know is that God knows what he's doing, and that I can trust him...and that I should seek to let him make me the best puzzle piece I can be.


Where does he want your piece to fit?

Peace

Joe
P.S. Do me a favor if you read this. Please pray for Damon over the next couple of weeks...even if you are not a Believer. (It's not like God is deaf, ya know.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why "Christians" Annoy Me.


Here is another example of why I love Jesus, believe that Christianity is the truth...but seem to develop a rash every time I am around most people who call themselves "Christians" and tend not to like to call myself by that word.

Sometimes I think that I must be a masochist. I will glance at something and then pursue it out of curiosity, knowing full well that I will hate what I find. Well I did it again, just about 45 minutes ago.

I was trying to find an article online as to why Rev. John Piper was taking a leave from his ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church. So I start typing in Google, and up pops a choice for "John Piper on Rob Bell." I knew I shouldn't have chosen that because it would only frustrate me, but I did it anyway.

Sure enough, there are all of these web sites that attack Bell for being a heretic because he doesn't subscribe to every jot & titel of their particular theology. Apparently, loving Jesus as the Way, the Truth & the Life, and turning your life over to him as your Savior is not enough. You also have to follow Reformed Theology. Oops, that's not good enough. You really need to be a Hyper-Calvinist. No, wait...you have to be a Dispensationalist. No, no, no...you need to follow John Wesley's ideas. CRAP! What I meant to say is that you need to be Baptized in the Spirit with the evidence being that you speak in tongues. (It just gets so darn confusing, you know? Trying to make sure that I have the Infinite God of the Bible crammed neatly into my little box, so I can tote him around with me as I bash other Believers.)

"We'lllllllllllllllllll, Preach it now!"


I'm going to post a video that seemed to be focus of all the rage towards the end here. I'll spoil it a bit by saying that all of the rage was focused on one sentence spoken by Rob Bell at very end of an 11 minute presentation. Apparently, one sentence...yanked out of context from the other 10 & 1/2 minutes, negates the entire thing.

The odd thing was that the websites that I jumped around on never had any decent info on what Piper might have been saying about Bell. However, I also found plenty of web sites that have judged John Piper to be a heretic bound for eternal damnation. (That was interesting.) Wether it's Bell or Piper who are being called a heretic, what these sites all seem to have in common is an almost willful desire to yank people's words out of context, to seek out any minute wording that they disagree with, and an undercurrent of self-righteousness that wants to show the whole world "Look at MEeeeeeeeee! I'm protecting God."

As I stated at the beginning, I don't like most people who call themselves "Christians." (At least in the U.S. My experience with Believers in other countries has been very positive...which is also interesting.) I've been burned, judged, scorned, lectured and bored to death by most of them at one point or another. Now mind you, this is only my opinion. Feel free to disagree. But IN my opinion, Americans who call themselves "Christians" tend to be #1. A people saved by grace, who then refuse to extend it to others. #2. The most judgmental people in any given room. #3. The most picky, opinionated & anal-retentive whiners you will meet. Essentially, too many of us are a bunch of jerks...and I'm probably as guilty as any.


I have a serious weakness, though. I really, really, really like Jesus and I am constantly amazed at everything he has done and is still doing for me of all people. So I trip, and I stumble, and I follow...and as a result, he makes me hang out with a lot people who call themselves "Christians."


So anyway, why all the venting tonight? Well, I am really sick of "Christians" who truly seem to love Jesus, bash other "Christians" who truly seem to love Jesus. I am truly so damn sick and tired of it. It always seems to be over issues that one side or the other has elevated from third & forth level importance, too. Jesus death & resurrection, and you placing your faith in that/him are what is central to the faith. NOT, how well you think you understand how God gets the job done.

I will state for the record my opinion of the following famous & semi-famous pastors & teachers: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Rob Bell, John Piper, Mark Driscol, Johh Stott, Erasmus.

I have never fully agreed 100% with any one of them, yet I desperately need every single one of them...and so does the church! We are finite beings trying to wrap our brains around the Infinite God of the universe. Each one of us brings our own baggage, perspectives, opinions, etc. to the table of ideas. Each one brings another piece of the puzzle to help the rest see different aspects of Jesus. With out that, we would be poorer for sure.

You would think that the same Holy Spirit that indwells each Believer would be enough. You would think that having the resurrected Christ in common would be enough. You would think that loving Jesus with all your heart, soul mind & strength...and your neighbor as yourself would be enough. But I guess it's not for some folks who call themselves "Christians." It's to the point now...and I can't prove it scripturally, that I believe once Christ returns, he will force all of these people to apologize to their fellow Believers for saying all of this nonsense about them. Folks, I am just so tired of the infighting.

ANYWAY, here is the big, huge, controversial video that shows that Rob Bell is preaching a false Gospel, and that he will spend eternity as a human marsh mellow being roasted to perfection for a cosmic S'more. (Do yourself & ME a favor, and at least try to look at the whole thing in the larger context.)

Seriously, take a GOOD look at it. Listen to what he is trying to get across in it's CONTEXT. See the BIG picture. You tell me. Is this guy preaching some foul, evil, false Gospel? Or is he merely using different phrases and words to get the point across that Jesus is the only hope that this fallen world has? You tell me.



Any thoughts?

Peace

Joe



Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meeting Jesus at the Singles Bar



A few weeks back Pastor Scott asked me if I would be willing to be on a "Single's Panel" and speak at Living Waters for this next Sunday. I said "OK," and know I have to think about the questions I will be asked. They are the following:

#1. What does the church need to understand about being single?

#2. How has God met you in your singleness?

#3. How has God called or equipped you for being single and for serving Him as a single?

I should probably start off by saying that I never planned on being single. Back in High School I thought for sure that I would have been married with kids by now, but it didn't work out that way. To be honest, the way my life has been the last 15 years, it's a good thing I'm single. Some of the stuff I had to go through would have been devastating for a family. And that certainly would not have been fair to them. Also, now that my teaching career is stalled, the financial stability that I feel is very important to a family is pretty minimal.

In 1st Corinthians, chapter 7, Paul goes on in detail about married and unmarried folks, and their places in the body of Christ. At one point he kind of sums it up like this; "Never the less, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him."

A little earlier, Paul was explaining why it was so handy to be unmarried as a Believer. Essentially, single folks can get a lot more done for the kingdom because they have less obligations & responsibilities than married people. While that's all true, now that I have had time to think about it for a few weeks, I've noticed that there are some downsides to being single...and I ain't talking about the obvious.

So, to the questions:
#1. What does the church need to understand about being single?
Well, my gut reaction is to say that single people are not contagious. It's true that we are often a Third-Wheel when it comes to other couples, but most of us are pretty fun to be around...myself in particular. (I'm so cool that can make water freeze on contact...and funny too.) The point is that you will not become single simply by hanging around with us.

A couple of other things...
* I do actually like to be asked out to lunch after the worship service.
* Yes, I am flattered when someone tries to set me up with their single friends...even if the best I can say about her is along the following lines; "Well, she certainly has a great personality."
* We don't like to sit alone, but are often too embarrassed to ask if we can sit with someone else.
* YES! We do get lonely.
* I could go on, but I won't.

#2. How has God met you in your singleness?
This was a hard one for me. As I have been thinking over all of this for 2 weeks now I have come to realize what a selfish jerk I am. Single people have a lot of time for themselves, so I think it is natural to become rather insular & inward looking. However, it's dawning on me how much time I waste when I could be spending it to get to know God better.

I was reading an intro to a Brennan Manning book called Ruthless Trust. The intro is written by Larry Crab, and he recalls talking to Manning about a retreat that he was going to go on. I guess it was some kind of "Weekend of Silence" thing. Anyway, Crab asks Manning what he expected to get out of such a thing. Manning replies, "Well, I'm not totally sure. But I think that ABBA is just happy that I will show up." (ABBA is the very affectionate term for God. Essentially it means "Daddy" in Hebrew.)

I should have more of a mindset like that. Seriously, I have more so-called "Free Time" than most, but I don't spend it with God. Frankly, my prayer & devotional life sucks. I find myself thinking about Jesus A LOT, but not much in the way of just sitting down and talking with him. Definitely an area for improvement. (For Pete's sake, I have a stack of really great books on Christian spirituality, and I haven't thoroughly dove into any of them since Christmas time.)

I wouldn't & won't do this as a way to earn brownie points with God. It doesn't work like that. I would & will do it out of a desire for a true and loving relationship with Jesus. The God of the Bible is deeply relational at his core, and that is what he wants with people. So...

#3. How has God called or equipped you for being single and for serving Him as a single?
Honestly, there are those "DUH!" moments when you feel the need to smack yourself in the head because of the obvious. Because I have more free time, I HAVE been able to spend a bit more time with others doing this or that. I don't have to rush off to get the kids in bed.

Tonight at work, there was a young man that I ran into that I am very concerned about. In fact, this whole past week God has really had him on my heart because of some of the stuff he is involved in. I had burned him some copies of some sermons & stuff that I really like. I'm trying in my extremely imperfect way to be some type of positive witness to him. Well, it dawned on me that if I was married and had family responsibilities, I probably wouldn't think much about him one way or the other. But I don't, so I can, and I do...gonna be praying a lot for him over the next few weeks.

I need to realize & embrace these opportunities that God puts before me. We have roughly 80 or so years on earth. But then we face eternity. This life is pretty temporal and finite. Eternity tends to be a bit longer than that. I'm still convinced that everything that happens to a Believer here in this world will be recycled & reused in the next in some form. So, single, married, widowed, what ever, ultimately it is still about God and you.


So why me?
See, I know what you're thinking. "Why? Why is this awesome specimen of manhood still single?" OK, so here is some background on me. (Although, this might be kind of a shotgun approach as far as explanations go.)

* I have never been "In Love" before. Yeah, I've had my infatuations, and I've certainly been "In Lust," but I can honestly say that I have never had that kind of deep affection for anyone.

* As a "Guy," I will admit that I am deathly afraid of commitment. Honestly, anytime I start dating someone, I get this feeling in the back of my mind that my freedom is being taken away. It's not an easy thing to shake.

* Back at seminary, I had my personality tested. It turns out that I am a Functional Extrovert. Essentially, this means that at my core I am a very private, introverted person, but that when a situation arises where someone needs to step up, take charge or whatever, it's game time for me. (Maybe it was just a polite way of saying that I'm bi-polar.)

Anyway, that would explain why I can be so outgoing in most situations, but need to recharge my batteries by going on mini, or day long road trips. Honestly, I get all itchy if I can't get out and see the sites by myself for long periods of time. It's funny now that I think about it. I feel very close to God when I do this. It actually feels like he is in the passenger seat from time to time.

* Finally, I had a serious Fall From Grace many years ago...at the hands of people who called themselves "Christians." It sparked a rebellious phase in me that I am still healing from. I would have been a horrible husband & father during that time. So I view it as God sparing me and others from a train wreck.


So, do I want to take the plunge?
* Yeah, while I have come to terms with being single, a part of me would still like to get married someday. The fact is that any woman who would put up with me would be someone that I would adore to my dying day. I could very well be quite a handful.

* On the one hand, I am extremely "Low Maintenance"...I could care less about all the fancy-shmancy stuff. I am a great cook. I actually LIKE yard work. I am a good conversationalist AND a good listener. (Chicks dig that.) Plus, I'm a great kisser...seriously!

I'm also great with kids. (Perhaps because I still am one on many levels) I love teenagers! Seriously, they are just so cluelessly goofy & entertaining. How could anyone not like teens?

* On the other hand, my brain is very complicated & complex. So the inside person would be tough to deal with I think. Plus, it seems that when I AM interested in someone, they have no interest in me what so ever...and visa versa. Also, it seems that when I see a woman that I am attracted to, I immediately insert both feet in my mouth, become racked with self-doubt, sweat profusely and develop a strange desire to pass out.

* In case you are curious about what I look for in a woman...just in case you are interested in applying, ya know. Well, my ideal woman would be a cross between Jessica Alba, Cate Blanchett and an encyclopedia of Biblical & World History. (I hardly think that is too much to ask for.)


In the mean time, this is where I am. Whatever my circumstances, the choice I have is whether or not to use my life to grow closer to Christ and to advance his kingdom, or to stay a selfish jerk. Struggling with my sinful nature sucks, because the time that I do spend with Jesus feels really good.


Well, anyway, thinking about my weird mind, the things that run around inside of it (I'm REALLY good at over-thinking things), and some of my mistakes from the past caused me to recall an old song I liked. Like I stated before, if I ever do find a woman who is willing to put up with me, I will treat her like a deity. And this would be the song I would sing to her...



Peace

Joe

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mommy of Noble Character


Today is "Mother's Day" in the U.S. I don't know if or when other countries might celebrate something like this, but they probably should.

At any rate, my birthday seems to fall on Mother's Day about ever 3 years, so I've always felt a little cheated by having to share the attention that I am so starved for on this day. I have since learned that I share the same birthday as the State of Minnesota (Which I live in & adore...from May through October), so my bruised ego has since been restored.

This morning at Living Waters, Pastor Scott preached from Proverbs 31, "The Wife of Noble Character." He pointed out that this chapter was written entirely by a fellow named King Lemuel (Probably a member of the royal family) and that ALL of it was taught to him by his mother. It is actually a poem...which gets lost when translated into English.

Lemuel's mom wanted him to know what to look for in a woman, and the traits she set before him had little to with the way the chick should look. Instead, the traits she set before her boy had everything to do with the future Mrs.' character. I won't bother writing down the whole thing, but here area few highlights.

"A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Her children arise and call her "Blessed;"
her husband also, and he praises her:
Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceptive,
and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord
is to be praised."

That is the type of woman who was "Good Enough" for Momma Lemuel's little boy.

I'm adopted. It's never been an issue for me, and in fact, has actually been an odd blessing. I found out I was adopted when I was about 7 or 8. One of my friends at the time was also adopted. We thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread, AND that we were BETTER then everyone else because of it.

Seriously, we were "Hand Picked!" Look what your folks got. Ha!

So anyway, I shall now speak of my mom and give her praise. Why? Well, not simply because it is Mother's Day, but also because my mom is simply so much Cooler than yours. Seriously, that is not a biased opinion. It is merely a fact...so get over it.


My mother has the Spiritual Gifts of Hospitality & Service. She is amazing in the ways that she can entertain others...even strangers. It helps that she is a phenomenal cook, too. She has turned our cabin into a spiritual retreat for the members of her church over and over again.

She also happens to be one of the most down-to-earth people you will ever meet. I have never seen her put on airs or think that something was beneath her. Both my parents have minimal post high school educations, yet they possess a common sense education that gives them wisdom that you simply do not get from books.

Most importantly, my mom loves Jesus. And I have seen Christ move through her to touch others. I have never seen her think that she has God all figured out. No. Instead, I have watched her to be open & willing to learn from the Holy Spirit. She has set an example for me, and I am thankful for it. She is a humble person, and I can learn from her wisdom.

We live in a society where half of the homes are broken. I have worked with kids who come from unstable homes. Even in many of the homes where both parents are around, to often the parents treat their kids like they were a hobby.

There is a woman who shops in our store who will yell at her daughter in public and loudly. One day I heard her tell her daughter, who must be no more than 10, "Listen you little SHIT! You better stop that right now, or when we get home I'll kill you." I am very thankful for the mom I have.

(Sad to say, that above quote is heard in one form or another more often than I care to think.)

Since I lost my teaching job, I now have a lot more time on my hands than I wish. However, it has allowed me to spend a lot more time with my parents than I could before. Tuesdays are "Mom Dates" for me. Mom & I will go out to lunch, and then we will go shopping at the organic grocery store. The one that we used to go to was in downtown Minneapolis. So It was full of people with various body parts pierced & poked, and plenty of blue or red Mohawks. I always found it so funny to watch my conservative, republican mom interacting with these folks like it was no big deal. My mom just can't seem to grasp the necessity of being a mean-spirited, judgmental person. (To be fair, I think she would be classified as a "Crunchy Conservative.")

I don't know how many years my folks have left on the planet, but I find myself more & more thankful for these Tuesdays with mom. Who knows how much longer I'll have them? So I enjoy them to the fullest.


One of my favorite memories from my teen years will be of mom vacuuming outside my bedroom. As was par for the course, my stereo was LOUD. (I didn't even know she was outside the door vacuuming.) So I open the door and there's mom, vacuuming while dancing to Dire Straights.

I know that I am a very fortunate guy to end up in a good home, where there is grace, love & security. Many people don't have that. On this Mother's Day, I want to thank my heavenly father from blessing me with a Mommy of Noble Character. (I am a Momma's Boy, and proud of it.) I couldn't ask for a better one. I hope that you can say the same.

Peace

Joe

Monday, May 3, 2010

"SEE"


This post is dedicated to Yvonne, who was the first person I told this true story to, and to Mick, because she thought it was beautiful.


I've resisted writing about this for a long time now. Mostly because I didn't want people to think I'm crazy. (Or in Mick's words, "Crazy-ER.") But the fact of the matter is that what I am about to write really & truly did happen to me.

Like I said, I've resisted writing about this. People already know that I am a bit of a loose cannon anyway, so being perceived as crazier isn't such a bad thing. I just hope that you will believe me.

That having been said, before I proceed I have a question for you...and I really want you to think about it. When you think of God, whether you believe he exists or not, what image pops into your head? Specifically, what KIND of God pops into your head? Is this God caring or uncaring? Does this God interact with human beings, or did he just get the whole thing wound up, and now he is off bowling or something like that? Is he in a bad mood and standing there with a club ready to bring on the punishment? What pops into your head?


I've just begun reading a book by John Eldredge called Walking with God. http://www.walkingwithgod.net/ Pastor Scott loaned it to me about a week ago. Now that I am back to working only one job, maybe I'll finally have the time to read it. Eldredge insists that ordinary people CAN speak with God AND that God is more than happy to have a real & true conversation with us...infact, that type of tangible relationship is exactly what God desires to have with all people.

(The God that is presented in the Bible is extremely relational, so it does make sense to assert this. Do your homework, and you'll see for yourself.)

It was Wednesday, March 10th, and I was working at the store. It was about 6pm. For some reason, I have been designated the "Go-To" guy when ever something weird & such happens with a customer, or the cops need to be called. (Which might say a bit about me and my weird personality.) At any rate, a situation had come up. We had a homeless guy distributing political leaflets in the parking lot, and some customers were bothered by his presence. (Honestly, the guy was harmless. I had spoken with him earlier. But he has rather large, and the customer is always right...NOT!) It turns out that this fellow had slept in our toilets the previous night. So I had to figure out a way to make sure the cops could get him to a homeless shelter if he tried it again.

No sooner had I dealt with that then I got a call that an elderly woman had toppled over, and now we had to get an ambulance. Turns out she was 95, and had merely ran out of gas and fainted. Her grandson was with her, and he was understandably worked up. So the cops and the paramedics came. There was plenty of gaping & staring, but she turned out to be fine. I ended up wheeling her out to their car and getting them both situated. (I adored my grandma who died at 97, so I could feel what the grandson was going through.) But no sooner had I helped get her buckled in to her seat then something happened.


Anyone who knows me, especially over these past 2 years, or has read my posts over this past winter, knows that I argue AT God a lot. I am constantly yelling at him to answer me in some form or another...give me a dream, talk to me, what ever. I desperately want to know what his desire and direction are for my life. Well, be careful what you ask for...

As I was buckling that elderly lady into her seat I heard a voice. No, I am NOT joking! I only heard one word, "SEE." I know it sounds nuts, but that IS what I heard. God talked to me! (Oddly enough, it wasn't with a British accent, nor did it sound like Darth Vader. I was a little bummed about that.) It didn't sound like a demand or a question. It sounded like an invitation. What happened after that probably is a little nuts.

All of a sudden, I saw that old lady & her grandson, the homeless guy, everyone in that parking lot and everyone at the store the way that God sees them. Yeah, I know, it is ridiculous to say such a thing. It's crazy. Only nut jobs hear THOSE kinds of voices...usually in conjunction with a desire to clean their guns before going to the mall. But I'm telling you, this is exactly what happened to me. "See" is what I heard, and that is what I saw.


Remember the question I asked you earlier about how you view God? Well, if you viewed God as a being who doesn't care much one way or the other, or that God is perpetually ticked-off, you are wrong. What I saw when he gave me his eyeballs...and the whole thing only lasted about 10 minutes, was pain, sorrow, longing, and an aching deep in the bones.

There is a Greek word for God's wrath that is used in Ephesians 5:6, Orge. (It's where we get the term "Orgy" from.) Aristotle explained the use of the word as "Desire mixed with Grief." The best example of this that I can think of is when a parent watches their child willfully go out and do something stupid after being warned not to. Is that parent upset...even "Wrathful?" Naturally. But it isn't the kind of wrath that causes them to grab a switch and whoop that child? No. It is a pain that tares into that parent's stomach like a rusty knife, because they know the terrible consequences of that child's choices. That child's choices causes a disruption in the relationship with the parent. THAT IS WHAT I SAW!

I've heard a couple of pastors say that God hates sinners. (Which means he must really hate me.) I've said this before, and I'll say it again, they are wrong!!! God doesn't hate sinners. He loves them. He grieves for them. God knows the way that things could be if we repented and lived in a proper, loving relationship with him. He desires that, and it grieves him to see it otherwise.

Believers are told to try and see the world through the eyes of Jesus. While that's true, and it is something to strive for, I would also say to be careful with that. Honestly, I don't know how Jesus can stand doing that for more than a few minutes. I felt so overwhelmed that I had to go home soon after that. I was balling my eyes out. If you don't believe me, you can go and ask Mick and some of the others who worked that night. They were all wondering what the Hell was going on with me. I was rapidly becoming a human puddle.


Yeah, yeah, how do I know it was God who talked to me? Well, maybe I was just hallucinating, but I highly doubt it. The thing that convinces me it was God who spoke to me, was because HE DIDN'T ANSWER MY QUESTION! I asked for some type of clarity for my life's purpose. Instead, he forced me to see the world the way he sees it.

That's actually a fairly common prank that he plays on people. Go back and take a look through the Bible...especially the prophets. When God talks to them, at least half of the time he tells them something completely off topic. Also, every time God does this, he reveals something about himself that they/we need to see & understand about him. (Seriously, if I had heard a voice telling me that I would be a millionaire if I just gave the pastor more money, or to run down Hwy. 494 in only my boxers, carrying a butterfly net and screaming about socialism, I would have some serious doubts.) This is something I simply can't doubt, and all these weeks later it still is a powerful memory.

And what did I learn from this single word I heard? God likes you. He loves you...enough to have himself killed for you. He wants a real & true relationship with every human...and it tares through his guts that most people will reject that.

I didn't want to tell anyone about this for about a week. I told Yvonne first. She believed me. I told a few others gradually. I finally told Mick about it after she pestered me a bit. Mick is not a Believer. I told her the story up in the office one night. She said it was beautiful. Maybe that is why God did what he did...so that Mick could hear about him. I don't know. Anyway, now I'm telling all of you.

I am more and more convinced that God not only CAN, but WILL talk to anyone who asks. (Even non-Believers.) The question is wether or not we will listen. I'll tell this right now, if you do ask...and I would encourage you to do so, be willing to listen on his terms and not your own.


You can think I'm nuts. It's O.K. Do me a favor though, before you call HCMC to have me committed, talk to me, alright? You can call me crazy, but I'm telling you this is exactly what happened to me, folks.

"See"

Joe