Friday, June 9, 2017

Some thoughts on pain...


"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this life you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Rom. 5:3-5



I still haven't found a new church body to attend on Sunday nights.  Truthfully, I haven't been actively looking.  I'm still kind of taking the summer off.  In the mean time, "Church" for me is Friday mornings at the Perkin's in Lakeville, MN.  It's normally 4-5 guys that meet there for breakfast.  We talk, pray, discuss all of the world's problems, and so on.  We also talk a lot about Jesus and the bible.

One of the guys is a little, extroverted fellow names Shorty.  He's one of the most genuine people you could meet.  He's extremely friendly.  He's also a "Chatty Kathy" doll.  I love him.

Shorty also has cancer.  He's been living with in for a few years now.  It's terminal.  It's going to take his life sometime in the next 2-3 years.

At the same time it's slowly killing him, Shorty remains one of the most upbeat people you could ever meet.

____________________


When I attended Bethel Seminary, the professors would talk a lot about the christian approach to evil, pain and suffering.  Why does God allow tornados, earthquakes, fires and what not?

To be honest, I never saw those things as evil.  I saw them as simply natural events that take place.  They could be tragic, for sure.  But if no one was injured or killed, was it evil?

On the other hand, why does a good God allow for birth defects, cancer, etc.?  People have wrestled with that for years.

Scripture indicates that birth defects and such are a result of the Fall of Mankind into sin...at least in the New Testament. (It's not really extrapolated on in the O.T.) The Creation is under a curse of sorts. Certainly, the evil that humans do to each other is a clear indicator of the sinful nature of mankind.

Young Earth Creationists believe that all birth defects, even death are the result of Adam sinning, and then go even farther.  The Grand Canyon, the various rivers, mountains, and amazing scenic views around the world, are all a result of God's wrath towards sinful humanity during the flood of Noah's time...a mere 5000 years ago.

So much for the Psalmist's praising God for his natural beauty, or Paul declaring the beauty of God's good creation as evidence for this divine creator.

The big problem is that the creation stories and poems never say that people didn't die before the Fall.  In fact, why would there be a Tree of Eternal Life in the garden if no body died????



Atheists like to point to evil in the world, pain and suffering, as evidence that there is no God.  Also, IF there was a god, then it's an idiot and a failure, precisely because there is pain and suffering.

This always begs the comical question: If there is no higher power, and we are all random accidents of a heartless, empty cosmos with no purpose or meaning, what constitutes evil to begin with??? There may be things that we personally do not like, but that doesn't mean they are evil.

Heck, I might like and get great satisfaction out of hitting people in the back of the head with a 2x4.  Who are you to tell me it's "Wrong?"  You are just another random accident with no higher purpose.  What you think and believe is no better or worse than mine.  Remember, there IS no meaning to our existence.  We are all just worm food in the making.

Seriously, if you're gonna go Atheist, do it properly.  Don't settle for the "Pop Fad" Atheism of Seth MacFarlane.  Start boning up on your Albert Camus and John Paul Sartre.


____________________


As of late, I've been going through my own form of suffering.  I'm without a church body.  My family has been going through some serious physical and financial struggles.  I've been really struggling financially recently.  My dad is slowly but surely dying of neuropathy. (It's going to take a few more years.) I've really been down in the dumps for well over a year now.  Plenty O Stress.  😕


If "God is Love," then why all of this?!?!?!



For Christmas, I was given this book.  Francis Collins was the Director of the National Institute of Health under Obama, and the head of the Human Genome Project back in the 90s.  He'll go down as one of the world's greatest scientists.  He also love Jesus very much.

This book is pretty clear cut.  He tells his own story of his journey from Atheism to Christianity.  Then he sets out to give arguments for the existence of God.  Finally, he demonstrates why modern science...including evolution, are perfectly compatible with the bible and traditional, orthodox Christianity.

He admits that he was heavily influenced by C.S. Lewis and his book, "Mere Christianity."  There is a portion of the book where he quotes Lewis on the issue of pain and suffering.

I happened to had brought this book to breakfast this morning.  I was going to loan it to a guy who was eager to read it.  As Shorty and the rest of us talked about his cancer and suffering, I grabbed the book and read a portion.

For many thoughtful seekers, these rational explanations fall short of providing justification for the pain of human existence.  Why is our life more a vale of tears than a garden of delight?  Much has been written about this apparent paradox, and the conclusion is not an easy one; if God is loving and wishes the best for us, then perhaps His plan is not the same as our plan.  This is a hard concept, especially if we have been too regularly spoon-fed a version of God's benevolence that implies nothing more than a desire for us to be perpetually happy.  Again from Lewis; "We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a Grandfather in heaven - a senile benevolence who, as they say, 'likes to see young people enjoying themselves,' and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, 'a good time was had by all.'"

Judging by human experience, if one is to accept God's loving-kindness, He apparently desires more of us than this.  Is that not, in fact, your own experience?  Have you learned more about yourself when things were going well, or when you were faced with challenges, frustrations and suffering?  "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."  As much as we would like to avoid those experiences, without them would we not be shallow, self-centered creatures who would ultimately lose all sense of nobility or striving for the betterment of others?
Chp. 2 The War of the Worldviews


As much as a I hate to suffer and struggle, I think he's spot on.  Shorty liked the passages, too.


The thing is that if you have placed your faith in the faithfulness of Jesus, then you begin to understand that these trials are not the end in any way, shape or form.

We all agreed at breakfast that this life is merely a training ground.  If you read the last two chapters in the bible, you know what comes next.  Heaven and earth are restored.  God wins.  A whole new world for all of eternity begins.  Every tear is wiped away.  Everything bad becomes un-true.

And every bit of the struggle will be recycled into something beautiful.



That's not such a bad thought.



Peace.

Joe

Friday, May 19, 2017

"P.A.B."


"He did everything wrong, offended almost every people group, but I believe he won because of God.  He wanted him in that position and (Trump's) going to stay in that position until (God's) vision is complete."
Franklin Graham

"Just as I raised up Cyrus to fulfill My purposes and plans, so have I raised up Trump to fulfill my purposes and plans prior to the 2016 election. You must listen to the trumpet very closely for he will sound the alarm and many will be blessed because of his compassion and mercy. Though many see the outward pride and arrogance, I have given him the tender heart of a father that wants to lend a helping hand to the poor and the needy, to the foreigner and the stranger.”
Jeremiah Johnson

http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/religion/2017/05/16/franklin-graham-christianity-under-attack-believers-should-engage-politics/325667001/

http://beholdthemanministries.com/prophesy-donald-trump-shall-become-the-trumpet/

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
1 Tim 4:1&2

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



Have you ever heard someone called a P.A.B. before?  You probably have, just not in that abbreviated form.  If you don't know what a PAB is, I'll give you a hint.  It's a shortened descriptor.  The P stands for "Punk."  I'll let you guess the rest.  😏😏😏


____________________



This post will be kind of an easy one.  I get to post plenty of pictures to illustrate my points.  This one you see here is from Pres. Voldemort's speech at the Coast Guard Academies' graduation a few days ago.

If you didn't hear the speech, you should try to at least listen to some snippets.  It was pure Trump at his best.  Most commencement speeches talk about the future and encourage the graduates to go out and make a difference.  Voldemort did that...just in his own special way.

It was ALL about him.

Basically, he used himself as the example of one who can preserve, so they should too.  If he an do it, despite all of the terrible persecution he has faced, they can do it!!!!  Hurray.

At the top of this post, I put in two quotes, with links underneath them to original sources.  The first was of Franklin Graham opining that God's hand is upon the anointed God Emperor Trump.  which is what Franklin has believed from the beginning.

The second is from Jeremiah Johnson, a Prophet of God. (Okay.) I don't know much about him.  He doesn't seem like a nut-bag. (Although I do know that there are a lot of ministries down there in Lakeland, FL. that cater to the craziest of crazies.) I guess he was right in one respect.  Voldemort got elected.

I think he might be on to something, just not in the way he expected. (More on that later.)

What I DID find interesting in his "Prophecy" was this part of the quote, "Though many see the outward pride and arrogance, I have given him the tender heart of a father that wants to lend a helping hand to the poor and the needy, to the foreigner and the stranger.”

Really?  A helping hand to the poor, needy and strangers?!?!?!  Really?

I take it that God didn't bother listening to Trump's comments about immigrants, Muslims or refugees.  Perhaps even the divine can develop hearing loss after a period of eternal existence.

As far as the poor and needy go, has anyone bothered to look at Trump's budget proposal???

I fully believe that the Spiritual Gifts are alive and well.  But I'm not sure that Jeremiah has them.





Okay, I put this picture in here just because it's hysterical.  This is a photo from Trump's speech at Liberty University.  I think the expression on the NON-White fellow's face says all you need to know.
____________________


Franklin Graham backs Voldemort because he is convinced that Christianity is under attack in this country.

DUHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!  When has Christianity NOT been under attack????  Christians have been in a minority in every single society it has ever existed in.  It was also been at war with the dark forces of this world from the get go.  Do you read the bible or not?!?!?!

The problem with Franklin and many, many other folks is that they believe the idolatrous lie that at some point, America (England, France, Germany...western Europe in general, too.) was a "Christian" country.  Biblically and theologically, there is no such thing...other Jesus' kingdom. You know, the one that he said was "Not of this world." (John 18:36)

BTW: That doesn't mean that America is a bad place by any stretch.  It just means that I'm not confusing it with being Jesus' favorite.

Franklin and many others believe that the rights of Christians are being taken away by secular Liberals and what not.  Voldemort said he would protect our liberties, so he is clearly God's anointed.

Voldemort did issue and Executive Order to not fully enforce the Johnson Amendment.  That made Franklin smile. (It is also such a toothless amendment that the ACLU didn't even bother sniffing about it.)

Also, Voldemort appointed Neal Gorsuch (Sp.) to the Supreme Court (I actually like him.) to keep a Conservative majority.  I've said it before, but I'll say it again; the previous conservative court majority gave us Obamacare and gay marriage.  I can't wait to see what this conservative majority does for us.

The problem with Franklin and other "Persecuted" Alt-Right Evangelicals is that the live under a lie...a delusion of their own enjoyment.  It has more to do with "White Privilege" than anything else.  Think of it as "Cultural Christian Privilege."  We've had it our way for so long, to see anything different is a threat.

If I have to stand next to a man in a dress, with false boobs, while I take a leak, I'M OPPRESSED!!!  If two mannish looking women ask me to bake a cake for their wedding, I'M OPPRESSED!!!!  If a muslim student at the local high school gets a day off for Ramadan, I'M OPPRESSED!!!

Extending equal rights in a pluralistic society is not oppression.

It's not that I see eye to eye with these folks.  I just don't see any advantage to them hiding in the shadows.  Please explain to me how keeping others down, and living in secret, benefits me or anyone else?


The fact of the matter is that I doubt Franklin or his kind even know many muslims, or Trans people, or what EVER. (I've been trying to get to know some trans folks, because I don't get it at ALL.)  Odds are, these folks don't know the real resurrected Jesus.  If they did, they would let him help and heal them with these issues.

It's pretty obvious that Muslims don't know the true Jesus.  It's a heck of a lot easier to befriend, help and talk to them about Christ over here than it is there.

Why would I want to keep these folks hidden?  It's hard to develop a proper relationship in which to share the Gospel with someone who is kept in a box.

____________________

The truth of the matter is that we ultimately wrestle with spiritual forces.  Politicians aren't much help in this area.  Only the resurrected Jesus is.

I figured out a long time ago that I am a minority where ever I go.  AND, whether I am in the U.S., Canada, Norway, China or Bangladesh, I am ultimately in Rome and Babylon.  I am a stranger in a strange land.  The church has always been at it's best when it understood it's minority and prosecuted status.

We live in a world that is hostile to God, and hostile to the Gospel.  It has always been that way.  Get used to that!  Rejoice in it!  Once you free yourself from the illusions, it's much easier to follow Jesus into his true kingdom.  He is the only one to put your hope in.  The ONLY one!  Certainly not some gutter level politician who gives you hollow promises.

____________________


Back to the "Prophet," Jeremiah Johnson.  He said that God raised up Trump to be his "Trumpet" in America.  As I said before, I think he may be onto something...but not exactly what "The Prophet" is expecting.

Maybe, just maybe, God did raise Trump up.  After all God is intimately involved with every raindrop that falls, so why not politics?

So the question is; Why?

Is it possible that God raised this man up, simply to let him fall on his face?  The man appears to be doing exactly that on a daily basis.

Did God raise this man up simply to use him to humiliate the "Americanized" church?  I hope so.

Perhaps, the coming fall of Trump will be the bitch-slap in the face to a church that has largely sold it's soul to secular politics.  I think that God must be mighty tired of so many of his followers putting their faith in politics of any kind, let alone Alt-Right kookery.  Perhaps, Trump is the very tool that God uses to smack to the ground  the very people who profess to love him, yet put their faith in idols

God's done it before....many, many times.  I see no reason why he can't do it again.

The final question is; Will the church listen?

Or will it remain, just like it's current idol, a...

P.A.B!


Peace...I hope.

Joe





Friday, April 28, 2017

Babel-ON



Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.  And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.  And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” 
But YHWH came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And YHWH said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.  Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”  SoYHWH scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.  Therefore its name is called Babel, because there YHWH confused the language of all the earth; and from there  YHWH scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Gen. 11:1-9


That picture at the top is a Ziggurat...an ancient staircase of sorts.  This here is another picture of a Ziggurat with U.S. soldiers on a sight seeing tour.  They are fairly common in the Syria, Iraq and Iran.

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  But they all have in common is that back in the day, the ancients were trying to create a "Sacred Space" for their gods.  All Ziggurats were next to or on top of temples.  There is a debate as to wether the staircase was for folks to go up to the gods, or for the gods to come down. (Most are pretty sure it was for the local god to come down)


____________________


It's been a tough week for my Dad.  He had knee surgery on Monday, and has been in a lot of pain ever since.  I had to go to my folk's place after work on Monday to help lift him out of a chair and into his walker.  I've never seen him look so week.

Yesterday and the day before, I had to babysit him while my Mom and sister were out.  He's getting better fast, but is still in pain.  He also hasn't pooped in 7 days now. (TMI!!!!!) I'm concerned that when he does, we'll need to have him squatting in the garden, due to the amount of compost he is sure to expel.

At any rate, since I had to babysit, I brought along my Jewish study bible to read.  I'm determined to read through the entire Old Testament eventually.  I can't wait until I hit Leviticus and Numbers.  That's sure to be a hoot. 😑😑😑

What I like about this study bible is how much thorough commentary there is in it.  My NIV study bible is fairly watered down for my tastes.  They don't want to say anything controversial, and it's clear that they try to find an uncomfortable consensus.  It ends up being like Garth Brooks' music.  Finding solace in the lowest common denominator, and all wishy-washy.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading about the Tower of Babel, and the Rabbinic commentary on it.  Supposedly, all humans spoke the same language at that time...or at least in this area. (Depends on how much of a Fundie you are.) But what's interesting if you are paying any attention at all, is that only 2 sentences before the beginning of this story, in the account of the Table of Nations from Noah's family line it clearly says, "These are the descendants of Shem according to their clans and languages, by their lands, according to their nations." (Get. 10:31) In fact, jump back to 10:5, and it says, "each with it's language."

So right before the beginning of the story of the Tower of Bable, the bible says that their were all these other languages being spoken.  Someone hostile to Scripture would point out this glaring contradiction and laugh.  Actually, they should laugh...and I'll tell you why in a minute.

So, blatant contradiction????  I mean, it's a bit unlikely that whoever was writing this down didn't notice those other sentences.  So what's going on?!?!?



This is one of those instances 
where linguistic and culture context 
need to be reaffirmed as being of central performance.  


In other words, the bible doesn't get it wrong.  
It's WE who so often get the bible wrong.

For starters, we have to remember who the Old Testament was written to, and why.  The O.T.s final form was completed during the time of Israel's exile in Babylon and within a few generations after that.  It was NOT written to 21st Century Americans any more than it was written to 18th Century Japan.

It was written for us, because it's God's word.  But it wasn't written to us.  So what ever you do, don't try and read our modern concepts of science, history, journalism and what not, into a culture that had no knowledge of or cared about those sorts of things.

If you try and read our concepts into this ancient text, you'll end up with "Name it & claim it" prosperity preaching or Young Earth Creationism.



Okay, so here's why you should laugh at this story.  It was meant to be funny.  Near as I can tell this is a satire of the Babylonians...an ancient version, anyway.


There's actually a LOT of humor in the bible.  It's easy for it to get lost in translation.  So that's another reason to stick to as much cultural context as possible.  Here's one for ya.  Most people don't know it, but the book of Jonah is actually a comedy...a bit like Alice down the Rabbit hole.  Try reading it that way some time, and you will pick up on the comedy themes in it.


If you've ever watched a skit on SNL or Key & Peele, you know what a satire is.  Are those skits meant to be an actual historical account?  Of course not.  But they're REAL!

There are a whole lot of digs at the Babylonians in the O.T.  Starting with the ancient Hebrew's alternative creation story.  Remember, the Babylonians conquered and exiled the Jews.  Now, this conquered people are getting a little payback.

The center of this story is the motivation for the building of this tower.  It wasn't to honor any god or gods.  It was meant to honor the people building it!  "To make a name for ourselves." A major no-no!

The humor comes when YHWH actually takes a look to see what's going on.  He actually has to come down out of heaven to even see this thing.  "Oooooh, look eeeeeeeeet's so tiny." (Say that with a high pitched voice.) Then he even brings the sarcasm about how if these folks can pull this off, YHWH is in big trouble.  So he grabs his divine council, heads on down and drops a bomb on their tongues using only his thought.

It's essentially the ancient near-eastern equivalent of someone pointing out to a big, buff muscle guy that his schwanzstucker is barely 3 inches of swinging death. (Okay, crude I know.  But you get the point.)  And that IS funny!

This is why I love the bible so much, especially in it's ancient context.  Sure, they didn't have iPods and what not, but it's the same old same old when it comes to human nature.  We really love to think that we're all that and a bag of chips.  There really is nothing new under the sun.  We have the very same issues today that they had thousands of years ago.

I mean, look at our current President.  A living, breathing pile of anti-social narcissism. "I alone can fix it."  He thinks he's God's gift to America, and far, far too many so-called "Leaders" in the church think so too.  All this from a man who said recently, "Who knew fixing health care would be so difficult?" Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh........

None of us should be all that enamored over our ability to successfully tie our own shoes.  God is no respecter of persons.  He isn't impressed by our ability to build a tall building or create one of those new fangled wireless devices.

Through his creative and sustaining will, this God holds the vastness of the universe together.  Every drop of rain that falls, ever blade of grass that grows, does so by his will.  Building a tower out of bricks isn't going to win you any gold stars next to your name.  Nor is your ability to repeatedly cheat on your wife and get away with it.

I wasn't much into science as a kid.  Now that I'm older and NPR has the podcast and radio show, "Radio Lab," I'm getting more and more into it.  Still, with every scientific discovery of how God goes about his business in the natural world, I realize how much we still don't know.  It makes me wonder if God is sitting on his throne saying something along the lines of, "Well, that took you long enough."

Here, now you can get your "Nerd" on along with me...
http://www.radiolab.org

____________________

The ancient Hebrews were a gutsy bunch.  They were an exiled minority in an Empire that thought it was the baddest boy on the block.  Yet, these ancient Hebrews compiled a library of books that said, A) We are still God's chosen people.  He still loves us. B) This isn't over.  Our God isn't done with us yet.  C) Your tiny little gods are a true joke!  They didn't do anything.  Our God is the real one who created everything.  And D) In fact, you Babylonians are kind of a joke, too.  You might be big and buff, but that tiny schwanzstucker of yours is not impressive!

You have to admit, that's pretty gutsy.
(I suppose it helps when you have the Holy Spirit guiding your writing.)



I guess the ultimate moral of this satire is this; never be arrogant in front of anyone, especially not YHWH.  He might just teach you a lesson.  And apparently, he has no problem using humor to do it.


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


Good advice, that.  
Certainly beats trying to build a stairway to heaven.


Peace

Joe




P.S. For more resources on these sorts of things, recommend this video.  I also HIGHLY recommend John Walton's books, "The Lost World of Adam and Eve," and "The Lost World of Genesis One."  Finally, Dr. Peter Enn's "Genesis for Normal People."




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter & Reality; a Semi-Lament.


"Precious and fragile things, need special handling.  My God, what have we done to you?

We always tried to share, the tenderest of care.  Now look what we have put you through.

Angels with silver wings, shouldn't know suffering.  I wish I could take the pain for you.

If God has a master plan, that only He understands, I hope it's your eyes He's seeing through.

Things get damaged.  Things get broken.  I thought we'd manage.  But words left unspoken, left us so brittle, there was so little left to give."
Depeche Mode

I'm pretty sure that this is the first & only time I've begun a blog post without any Scripture verses.  Hmmmm...

And today is Easter...
and, yes, he HAS risen.


Also, I know I haven't posted in a LONG time.  I had some problems with Blogger, and I am far from being the most technologically proficient guy.  I had a friend help me out.  Thanks to him, things should be running fairly smoothly for me from here on out...at least as far as this online thing goes.

The rest of my life, not so much...

____________________


Let me state for the record that I am a truly terrible Christian.  
In fact, at best I am a "Second Class Christian."

#1. I have been told by certain Charismatic friends that I am disobedient because I have not been "Baptized in the Spirit," with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
#2. I have been told by some Catholics I know that I am in danger of the fires of hell...or at least purgatory, because I have not embraced the true church.
#3. I can be a christian, but I will walk with a spiritual limp because I am not a Calvinist.
#4. I am in error, because I am not a Dispensationalist.
#5. I am a Compromiser & False Teacher, because I have no problem what-so-ever with Evolution and the rest of modern science.

Recently, I've run into more than a few people who are Eastern Orthodox.  In one form or another, they have implied that I am not a part of the true apostolic faith.

It really stinks when you just want to put your faith in the faithfulness of Jesus.
I mean, what kind of Christian does that?


If I am lucky enough that God's grace is actually powerful enough to redeem a loser like me, I guess I'll be sitting at the little kid's table in heaven. (That's not such a bad thing.  I'm pretty sure C.S. Lewis will be there with me.)



If I took off my subconscious/emotional/spiritual/"whatever" shirt and showed you my chest and back, you would not see a sculpted work of "buffetude" from some gym work out.  No, what you would see are scars.  Lots and lots of scars. (My Dad told me a month or so ago, that I've seen a lot of pain in this life.  I hadn't thought about it all that much, but he's right.  Mostly in others, but plenty on my own.)

The ugliest and most painful scars that you would see on me are the ones I've been given by my fellow believers.  And they are all over the place on me.


We all have scars.  That's a part of life.  We all carry them in various ways.  Many of us just put on a long sleeve turtleneck sweater in the summer.  Personally, I try to stamp mine into the ground.  It never works.  They're still there.

____________________


As of late, I've been looking for a new church to attend.  Specifically, I'm looking for a church that has a Sunday night service.  I have to work Sunday mornings now, so I don't have a lot of options.  I'm not interested in a Saturday evening service.  I get off really early on Saturdays, so I'd like to fish with my dad or go ride my bicycle.

It's pretty meager pickings trying to find a Sunday night service.

Then there is the problem of ME.  I am a walking, talking, living breathing difficulty.  I've never felt like I truly fit in anywhere.  I'm way too "Contrarian" for my own good.  I'm drawn to controversy, and I love to ask questions. (Christians HATE it when you ask questions!) I thrive on the weird stuff in the bible, and love it when there is stuff there that is either difficult, or impossible to explain.

I HATE simple minded answers!  Towing the party line does not impress me.  All it does is tell me that you are to lazy to think for yourself.  Worse, that you will be completely unprepared to answer the questions of someone who is truly hostile to the bible and the Gospel.  Worst of all, if you are a parent, and you push this nonsense on your kids, don't be surprised when they leave the faith after being confronted with well thought out alternatives, and your simpleminded answers don't have much traction.


Actually, while I'm on this subject, here are two "Easter" themed videos that I really, truly love.  I've read most of Rob Bell's books, and a few by Peter Rollins.  Don't get me wrong, I have some extremely profound differences & disagreements with these guys!!!

But at the same time, I like to get their perspective on things.  They are both thoughtful and highly intelligent.  Plus, I don't really believe that you can know your own opinions properly unless you see it from as many angles as possible, including those you don't see eye to eye with. (And if American christians would stop being so afraid all the time, they might just try that.) Honestly, there is no counter idea/philosophy that has caused my faith in the resurrected Christ to be shaken.

Resurrection: Rob Bell from Rob Bell on Vimeo.



I Deny the Resurrection from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

The last one there, in particular, makes me think about the general lack of any type of social justice movement among American Evangelicals.  Near as I can tell, Jesus put a high premium on how we treat "The Least of These."  But you almost never hear anything from any of the big Evangelical leaders on these issues.  Not much about poverty, racism, sexism, pollution and creation care, and in some cases being down right anti-emigrant & anti-refugee.  They are "Pro-Birth" to be sure, but after that, they give the whole idea over to the Left, and what is more often than not, watered down Liberal theology.

Rob Bell asked WAY too many questions.  We pushed, shoved and kicked him to the door of standard  Evangelicalism.  When he walked out the door, we all stood back and said, "SEE, I told you so."

A friend of mine once noted to me that she had "Kicked him to the curb a long time ago."  My response was, "Yeah, we Christians are known for kicking people to the curb..."


So, with an attitude like mine,
it makes me a bad fit in most American church bodies... 



At the church I used to attend, I had an incident over a year ago.  Apparently, I am amazingly good at offending the feelings of people who have never bothered to even try to get to know me.  Through a truly stupid, yet innocently intended, comment on social media, I really angered a person at my church body.

Again, this person has never, EVER tried to get to know me, even though I went there for 10 years.  They had never said more than a passing "Hi" to me in all that time.  Yet, my comment, which was NOT directed at them, got them so riled that I was tossed out of a position I was in.

Personally, I would have worked for instant reconciliation if I had been a pastor.  Get the two sides together and find understanding and healing.  But that didn't happen.  I got the boot instead.  So I felt humiliated...still do.  And now I have a brand new scar.

I left the church for a while, feeling completely embarrassed.  I started going back a few months later, but it was never the same.  Every time I see this individual, I feel finger nails pulling at the scab.

The best...or worst part, of being gone was the reaction of people who I thought were my friends at this church.  I invested at least 10 years there, trying to develop relationships...and I really, truly tired my best.  I can count on less than one hand, the number of people who tried to call or get in touch with me.

When I did start going back, most seemed to not notice that I had been gone.  A few did and said things a long the line of, "I was wondering where you were."  Hardly the stuff that gives you confidence and enthusiasm to want to get involved again.


This time around, I told a select handful of people that I wouldn't be coming back due to work.  I told a friend I wanted to see how many people noticed or cared.  So far, nothing.  One pastor, on my last day, said that he wanted to get together and talk about weird stuff in the bible, because he knows I love that stuff.  I told him I would love that and to call me any time, and we could set it up.  He hasn't called.  He won't.



Today, I told a friend that I was looking for in a different church.  I also informed him that unless God told me directly to ever get involved in any kind of formal ministry again, and I did it anyway, I should be confined to the mental ward at HCMC downtown.

I don't know how many decades I have left on the planet, but I would like them to be relatively peaceful.  Working with Christians in a formal capacity is anything but peaceful.  At least that's been my experience.

Of course, all of this could be my fault.  I know I'm wired differently than most folks.  I get that.  I wish that God hadn't designed me to be a Square Peg.  But it's what I am.  I didn't think being a pain in the ass was a spiritual gift.

I simply am a bad fit for most American Christians.
I have to live with that.

____________________


For the past few months, I've been thinking a lot about wether or not you can lose your salvation.  I've also been wondering about all the people I've known over my life, and if they really are Believers.

For most of my life, I've believed in the concept of "Eternal Security."  I.e. "Once saved, always saved," based on the first chapter of Ephesians.  Another way of putting it is that if you leave the faith in one form or another, you were never truly a Believer saved by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the first place.

But I question that now.

I've watched many people walk away from the faith.  But I often wonder about those who claim to follow Jesus, yet hold to some of the weirdest shit possible when it comes to the bible and Christianity.

I know one guy...known him since he was a kid.  He grew up in a Christian home, went to  a Christian High School and college.  Talked the talk, etc.

 I don't know what he's up to now, other than being an Air Force officer.  But the last few correspondences that we shared, he was following some crack pot, far-right preacher.  He sent me a 6 page screed on why Jesus wants us to own assault rifles in case we need to overthrow the federal government. (Alrighty then...) Nice to know he's in the military, isn't it?


I also know of others who have really twisted the bible so that they think it's perfectly fine for a man to surgically remove his penis and get falsies implanted.  God clearly made a huge mistake and put him/her in the wrong body...and if you torture the bible long enough, it will agree with you.

For the record, I can totally identify with this impulse.  I might not look it on the outside, but on the inside I am 6'3, with a full head of blonde hair, and rippled abs.  I'm also of Japanese decent.  THE PAIN IS REAL, PEOPLE!!!!

And I could go on and on and on and on and on...

Friends and associates I've known, who have now wandered into some extremely weird corners of the faith.  They are so far out there that I have no idea what they really want other than to have their own thoughts and ideas tickled and affirmed.

It's like Jesus isn't good enough anymore.

We need to have something else.  Something "Religious" to prove our position and make us feel better.  Faith isn't enough!  We need to have some sort of "Works" to live by.

Maybe it's voting for a certain party.  Maybe it's owing guns for Jesus.  Maybe it's encouraging men to wear dresses...even if it doesn't flatter their hips.  Maybe it's telling Jesus that all religions are his equal.  Maybe it's telling Jesus that sin isn't so bad that he shouldn't take it seriously.

WHAT EVER!

And maybe simply isn't me or anyone else being very merciful.

____________________

After all of that, you may be right to ask, "DUDE, why do you even BOTHER with Christians and Christianity?!?!?!?!?!"

A fair question, to be sure.

And I ask myself that A LOT!


What it comes down to has everything to do with Easter.  The reality is that I simply cannot deny the resurrection.  I can't.  It's been almost 2000 years since the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That is LONG before the advent of modern science.

No one can prove it in a test tube or laboratory.  No one can produce a body after all this time.  But I simply cannot deny the resurrection of Jesus.

Why?

Despite the average Christian being an asshole, myself included, the church has survived in spite of itself.  In fact, as religious movements go, the early church should have died off within a generation.  To my knowledge, the early Christians were the only group of people I know of who got absolutely nothing for their troubles.  No wealth, fame or power.  Only torture and death.  Yet they believed in the impossible.  A man, their king, resurrected from the dead.  And they were willing to die for that belief.

The fact also remains, that despite me being a pain in the ass, I have seen over and over and over again the solid evidence in my own life, that this man/king has taken care of me even when/especially when, I really didn't deserve it.



I have my struggles...particularly when it comes to other American Christians.  I get very, very angry and frustrated.  But I haven't lost hope.  Mostly because my hope is NOT in other Christians.  My hope is in Christ.

Every day, I try to keep my faith
in the faithfulness of Christ.

I hope that's good enough.


Why?

Because he HAS risen.


Peace

Joe






Saturday, February 11, 2017

There's no other way...

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

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

Yesterday I had lunch with a kid from church.  I really enjoy him, his brothers and their parents.  They're one of those families that is down to earth, "Gets it," and doesn't seem to fear the big, bad world.    They take their faith seriously, too.  But not in that weird hyper-religious, "I'm more pious than you" kind of way that many christian families do.  They also seem to have some kind of intellectually gifted gene that runs through the lot of them.  This kid is the youngest, yet started college at 16.  I've been trying to encourage him and his siblings to consider going into academics, because the church in America desperately, desperately needs more down to earth intellectuals.  In my opinion, we're a virtual vacuum.

Anyway, we headed over to the new Giordano's Pizza in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.  I'm admittedly a pizza snob.  I had Giordano's pizza in Chicago, down by the famous water tower ages ago.  I learned the hard way that there simply is no point in trying to find Chicago style, deep dish pizza anywhere but Chicago.  Now I can!  They just had to import the chain up to the Twin Cities.

Since that style of pizza takes A LONG time to cook, we had plenty of time to talk.  Jared, (That's his name) is a smart kid...and more than a bit of a brainiac.  We talked a lot about Jesus and the bible.  And I do mean A LOT.

I'm a big believer in tolerance and coexistence.  I've had Atheist friends, Jewish friends, agnostic friends, a couple that dabbled in Wicca/Witchcraft, and now I'm working on getting some Muslim friends.

(Never had a Buddhist friend.  Gotta try and do something about that.)

I'm desperately hoping that President Voldemort's Muslim ban get's flushed down the toilet, and that this country gets a ton of Muslims.  I'll tell you why in a bit.


____________________


But first, a side note; TOLERANCE = Essentially, to put up with things you might very well find disagreeable, or even possibly offensive.

Honestly, if I took a swing at anyone I found myself in disagreement with, or was doing something that offended my sensibilities, I wouldn't be able to walk 50 yards in the mall.  And that would suck, because I have to go over there today to get some birthday cards.

What Tolerance does NOT mean is endorsement, agreement or condoning.

That's what so often drives me insane from the Lefties I know.  I'll tolerate plenty of stuff.  That in no way means I see eye to eye with it.

A while back, one of my gay friends got mad at me because I thought that the cross dressing man in our store was amusing.  I told him that the dude could dress anyway he wanted to.  It was his business.  But I was still going to find it funny.  I grew up on Monty Python.  Seeing a grown man cavorting around in a dress is funny to me...and 99% of the rest of the world.

My lefty friend didn't like that.  It wasn't good enough for me to "Tolerate" the man in the dress.  It wasn't good enough for me to let the man in the dress live his life the way he wanted to.  (It wasn't a particularly flattering dress.  It did nothing to accentuate his hips.) My friend wanted me to give it my blessing.  That's the hypocrisy of the true Left.

Not gonna happen, buddy.


Question: How come cross dressers never wear full-on Burkas, 
Hijabs or Amish gowns with bonnets?
Hhhhmmmmm....

Food for thought, anyway.

_____________________


So, why do I want a whole bunch of Muslims to be allowed in as refugees?  Well, the basic reason is simply out of mercy.  Jeez Louise, people are dying by the thousands over there.  Have a little compassion!

But more importantly, they don't know Jesus.

That's why I want them here.

It's rather difficult to share the Gospel in Islamic countries.  You generally get killed if you do.  Any convert is instantly marked for death.  I am convinced that God is using these man made disasters to bring them into the free world, where they can hear the Gospel without fear of death.

____________________



As Jared and I waited for the pizza, I told him a thought that I've had in my head and have begun to state repeatedly.  It's what I believe in the center of my very soul.

"Jesus is who he claimed to be.  He is the crucified and resurrected King.  The creator God of the universe, and the only, single hope for fallen humanity.  There is no other way."

After that, we can have a discussion on other, less central things over a cup of coffee or whatever.


Here's something that fascinates me about Jesus.  He made the claim that he is God, and that it was his way or the highway.  He was completely & utterly exclusive...which doesn't sound very tolerant, now does it?

I've seen Liberal theologians (Liberal theologically, not politically) fart around with Scripture and argue that Jesus didn't really mean that.  But a plain, basic reading of the text can lead to nothing else.  Jesus said that he was it!

That leaves you with minimal options.  Either Jesus is right, or he's a complete nut job.  You certainly can't conclude that he was a "nice guy."



I have a deep respect for other religions.  I try never to disrespect them.  However, I fully believe them to be dead wrong.  But something that fascinates me about other world religions is that they ALL, and I do mean ALL, make room for Jesus!!!

The earliest world religions that we know of seem to be Hinduism, and then perhaps Buddhism. (The earliest form of Judaism started way back when, but didn't do much in the way of evangelizing.) They were well developed by the time Jesus came along.  Yet, both Hinduism and Buddhism make room for Jesus as an enlightened soul and/or an avatar of higher consciousness.

This morning, I was poking around the internet on Jewish references to Jesus.  Sure enough, he's in some of their sacred texts.  How many references in the Talmud are up for debate, but he's there.  A nice Jewish boy gone bad.  Sure he performed miracles, but he did it using witchcraft and the power of Satan.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_the_Talmud


The other thing that is interesting about world religions is that every single one that came along after Jesus has claimed him as one of their own.

Islam, in particular, is interesting.  Jesus (Isa) is mentioned far more than Mohamed is!  In fact, when Islam first came into being, the church treated it as a heretical form of Christianity.  Islam teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin, will come back to judge people, but that he was not God, nor was he ever crucified...and therefore, never resurrected.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_Islam

I've studied Islamic history long enough to know what a beautiful history it's had.  Heck, they invented Algebra, the modern compass, and were doing cataract surgery when my ancestors were still raiding medieval monasteries on the English coast.

But that doesn't mean it's true.  
Without the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Christianity collapses.

The other thing that's interesting about the religions of the world, is that they all ultimately contradict each other.  I've heard people argue that at their core, they all teach "Love." (Not all of them, but the majority do.)  So what?  The various means of the ultimate goal, salvation, blatantly contradict each other.

Hinduism is massively polytheistic, with essentially eternal chances through reincarnation to become one with Brahmin.  Buddhism is rather agnostic.  You get unlimited chances through reincarnation, until you just sort of disappear.  Satanists, and those who practice black magic believe they will rule in hell with Satan. (Not sure where they get that, exactly.)

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all brutally monotheistic, and you only get one chance.  In Judaism, you gotta do enough good works and keep the law of Moses.  In Islam, there is no sure guarantee, but you better be good.

Jesus said, "Just trust me.  
Put your faith in my faithfulness.  
I've taken care of everything."

I like that.



I'm all for tolerance.  But that does not equal endorsement.  I believe strongly coexistence.  But that doesn't mean that it's all the same.  That's not even logical.  I believe that a diverse society is a beautiful thing.  But at the end of the day, truth is not relative.  There can be only one.

Jesus

There's no other way.

Peace

Joe


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Unbelievable...


"No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money."
Matt. 6:24

"Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them."
Matt. 7:15&16

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'  He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do to me."
Matt. 25:44&45

And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.
Deut. 10:19

When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.  The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born.  Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.  I an YHWH your God.
Lev. 19:33&34


I realized the other day that I hadn't written anything in over 2 months.  Mostly due to the Holidays, then the gloom of January and what not.  But also because I was waiting for something hopeful and inspiring.  Most of my last few post have been negative.  Especially since the election of President Voldemort.

I was hoping for something uplifting, but instead I got a news full of more Debbie Downer.  Once again, it was from "Christian" leaders.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/frankling-graham-refugees_us_5889049ce4b061cf898c6c42

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/franklin.graham.defends.trumps.ban.on.refugees.its.not.a.bible.issue/104182.htm


I've had growing issues with Franklin Graham for a lonnnnnnnng time.  When he first took over for his father, I thought he was the coolest thing since sliced bread.  He had always been a bit of a rebel, and I liked that.  Also, his charity, Samaritan's Purse really does some good work.  So I was extremely hopeful that he would continue his father's work of simply helping the needy and preaching the Good News of Jesus' kingdom.

Unfortunately, it didn't take too long for the polish to start coming off.  It was many years ago, but it was during the time of the elder Graham's retirement.  Franklin and others wanted to build a museum to chronicle the history of Billy's ministry.  Nothing wrong with that.

However, Billy didn't want anything ostentatious or too fancy.  In fact, he had a very simply museum planned.  Franklin didn't want to go along with that.  Instead, he built a rather fancy museum on land that Billy had no interest in.  I thought that was a little weird.

Then, there came the issue of money.  Billy isn't poor by any means.  He was a paid a basic salary for his work in the ministry, with the vast majority of his income coming from sales of his books.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  You make something yourself, and someone buys it.  Good for you!  That's how basic economics works.

Franklin, on the other hand...
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/why-franklin-grahams-salary-raises-eyebrows-among-christian-nonprofits/2015/08/18/023ce940-45f2-11e5-9f53-d1e3ddfd0cda_story.html?utm_term=.f00d12b941ba

$880,000 a year for running a "Christian" charity?!?!?!?!?

I'm all in favor of paying a guy for a good job, but that seems more than a bit excessive for a "Christian" charity that is supposedly set up to help the most vulnerable people on the planet.  It just seems that you could take some of that salary and spend it on people who could really use it...like the people that charity is supposed to help.

Now, if this information disturbs you a tad, take a gander at this next link.  Please pay careful attention to the very bottom of the list and a guy named Rick Warren...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paperbacktheology/2012/01/fleecing-the-flock-a-snapshot-of-americas-richest-pastors.html

Rick is an interesting guy.  He make's his living off his writings and has paid back his church every penny they paid him for the years of his preacher salary.  Now, he preaches for free and STILL donates most of his money away.

That's what I call a "Testimony."

Rick isn't alone in giving most of his money away.  Francis Chan has the same nasty habit.  A few years back, he sold his house to buy a smaller one for his family...all the while hosting young men that he was mentoring with his family.

That's what I call a "Testimony."

There are others.  Rick McKinley of the Imago Dei Community in Portland.  Dan Kimball in S.Cal.  They have very successful ministries, but keep money at arm's length.

That's what I call a "Testimony."


Franklin has stated publicly that he wants to make enough money so that he can work for free once he hits 70.  Billy is worth an estimated $25 million.  Franklin is a multi-multi millionaire.  Don't know about you, but if I had a couple million in the bank, I might just quit my job as a butcher and go volunteer in a soup kitchen for a few years.

How much more money do you need before you can work for free?


On a side note; this past year saw the completion of Ken Ham's ministry,  "Wrong-Answers in Genesis'" Arc Encounter.  A $100 million theme park set up to to amuse people with some of the worst exegesis of Scripture around. ($18 million from the tax payers of Kentucky.)

I know that roughly 1 billion people on the globe lack access to clean drinking water.  Wells to gain access to clean drinking water only cost a few hundred dollars.  Seems to me that there was a better way to spend a hundred million dollars to proclaim the Gospel.

But what do I know?


Christians and money.  
A dangerous combination...


____________________

In the past few days, President Voldemort has issued a ban on immigrants from Muslim Majority countries...unless they are not Muslims.

Not ALL Muslim majority countries.  Just certain ones. (The chart on the left is from the Libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute.)

I'm not much into conspiracy theories, but you have to admit that this choice of countries is a bit odd.



Franklin Graham has come out and publicly backed Voldemort in this ban over the past few days.  Why?  Because Muslims are dangerous...as demonstrated by the chart to the left.

Now the ban does allow for non-Muslim, minority folks...like "Christians" to come as refugees (Nice double standard there.) from these Muslim majority countries.

Franklin says that helping these refugees is not a biblical issue.  Oh????

This from the same man that has been touting the March for Life in Washington D.C. this past week.  This from the man who claims to be "Pro-Life" and getting a Supreme Court Justice that will "Hopefully" overturn Roe V. Wade.  "Life" is precious to this man...so long as it's in an American woman's womb.

Words are cheap.
Deeds say more.

It seems to me that people fleeing the slaughter in Syria, and the misery of other trouble Muslim countries are alive.  Do their lives not count?

Please do NOT tell me that you are "Pro-Life" unless you truly mean it.

Franklin Graham truly does NOT mean it.  
And he's proved it over the past few days.

I don't get it.  I really don't.


I live about a mile from a mosque.  I like to shop at the Halal market next to it. (Halal is to Muslims what Kosher is to Jews.) I buy my gas at a station run by a Shiite from Lebanon.  I don't find them to be particularly dangerous.



I have heard Pastor after Pastor, and Missionary after Missionary saying that God is bringing these Muslim refugees to our country so that they can hear the Gospel without fear of death.  I believe that! I believe in a God that can create something beautiful out of even the worst of human caused misery.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, anything can be made beautiful.

I just wish that guys like Franklin Graham believed it, too.

To him and others that live in fear, and have sold their ministries to politicians and the all-mighty dollar, I would simply say to them what Jesus said to certain religious leaders in his time; "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God."
Matt. 22:29


Peace

Joe