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