[STUDY] PROSPERITY GOSPEL [most recent]
I have hesitated to include a separate section on this because so much of our teaching deals with this issue. So to get all the stuff on this subject, you really need to read all the stuff on this site. For a quick read, go to my book House of Prayer or Den of Thieves on this blog, it’s in the 2-2010 posts. Also read 1st Timothy chapter 6- it gives a good balance on how Christians should view money- something that the prosperity ‘gospel’ has distorted in many ways.
1892- WHAT A DEAL!
Well I finally sold the Mustang last night [a car- not horse].
I put it on Craigslist for about a week- geez- too many calls.
People would ask for directions- I’d give them the address and directions- then they would call back ‘well- I don’t speak English too good [lots of Mexicans buy the cars from this area and sell them in Mexico] – I’m still in the parking lot ‘[Wal mart].
Okay- would could I do?
I told a few people ‘look- I gave you the address- directions- part of this project is you need to be able to get here- if you can’t complete this part of the ‘mission’ then I guess you won’t be buying the car brother’.
Yeah- they need that type of tough love.
So anyway it sold for 700.
That was a steal to be honest.
1998 mustang- runs good- does need a starter.
Another one was selling for 1500- with a blown motor!
Okay- let’s do another verse from the prophet.
‘In all their affliction he was afflicted- and the angel of his presence saved them’ Isaiah 63:9
If you read the entire chapter you get a scene of someone treading the Winepress.
I spoke about this a while back- the imagery of a Winepress- a place where you crush the grapes and make the wine- is used by the prophets in the bible.
Jesus himself uses the same imagery in the gospels.
Here you have God saying ‘I looked for a man- someone to do this mission- and I found no one- so my own arm brought salvation’.
It is important to note that in this chapter we see God [Jesus] stained with the blood of those who are being trampled at the Winepress.
In the book of Revelation we this same thing.
Many modern prophecy teachers [another pet peeve of mine by the way] have an end time scenario all figured out- they see these things thru the ‘lens’ of modern warfare- which nation should get which piece of land [Israel- Palestine- etc.]
But they fail to see how the New Testament focuses on all ethnic groups- Jews, Palestinians- etc- as being One New Man in Christ [Ephesians].
So- this image of the winepress sometimes is associated with a final battle of Armageddon scenario- that makes me cringe when I hear it proclaimed- in an ethnic way- from the media pulpits.
‘John- how should we take it then’?
Look- I’m not saying ‘my way’ is the only way- or the right way.
But when we read the bible- we must also take into consideration the broader themes of the love and grace of God- yes- judgment too- I don’t deny that- but the mercy of God must be there as well.
So- in this imagery of Jesus being stained with the blood of sinners- at a Winepress- the ‘place of pressing’ [like the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus started to bleed- pouring out his blood].
We can also see this as a type of the Cross- the place where the judgment and wrath of God was poured out- on Christ himself.
Maybe the blood that the ‘treader’ is soaked in- maybe its redemptive- just maybe.
But the actual verse I wanted to hit on was that ‘in all our affliction- he is afflicted’ [which by the way fits in more with what I just said].
In 1st Peter 4 we read that we are partakers of Christ’s suffering.
The apostle Paul said ‘I fill up the sufferings of Christ’.
They saw their trials as being redemptive in nature- that is they felt like the things they were going thru in life were for a higher purpose.
They did not view the Christian experience thru a lens that was primarily seeking self benefit.
Many today see ‘church’ and Christianity as a means of self improvement- often times you hear the same thing from the pulpits as you hear on the weekend self help infomercials [or the ‘how to get rich’ guys].
Is this a right view?
We are on the earth to glorify God- and to finish the work he gave us to do.
If part of the cost is suffering- then so be it.
These verses I have quoted show us in no uncertain terms that we are called- at times- to suffer.
As a student of all types of scholars- I must confess that our Catholic brothers and sisters get this right- much more often than Protestants.
So- those of you who have been tracking this journey- you have seen some flat tires- some wrecked trucks- and yeah- some up’s and downs.
I’m not saying all of this is equal to the sufferings of the early apostles- but in a small way- we can identify- and gain comfort- to know that these are not ‘strange trials’ these are things we all go thru in life.
I just wish we could take turns!
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [Facebook] – I have posted lots.
I’ve been wanting to write on this for a few weeks now- but the opportunity never arose.
Yesterday me and my wife were driving to church- and I noticed they put up a new sign on the front.
We attend the only ‘mega church’ in the area- and they do all the things that mega churches do.
So- this sign is like the big marquis things you see while driving down the highway- I mean its big.
As we were right by the sign- ready to turn into the parking lot- I said ‘hey look- Bethany’s face is on the sign’.
Bethany is my oldest daughter- she’s a school teacher- and she helps out a lot at the church.
So- my wife looked- and was shocked- she thought I meant that Bethany girl [Soul Surfer] who lost her leg in a surfing accident.
That Bethany was at the church a few weeks ago- telling her story.
But no- the one on the sign was our daughter.
What’s it to ya?
Many years ago when I first started writing little books and stuff- I told one of my kids that I put a story about the cat in a book.
Wow- OUR cats are gonna be famous!
The other day when I got my new camera phone- I started asking all the street guys to pose for pics- so I could put them on the web site.
Hey- were gonna be famous!
Yeah- it’s in our nature- I mean we want it- deep down inside- to be the top dog.
A few posts back I posted about this thing popping up in the minds of the disciples [post was called GREAT].
Jesus quickly rebuked the idea.
I was going thru the book of Acts the other day- and in chapter 9 we read the ‘famous’ account of the conversion of the apostle Paul.
Paul is on the original Damascus road and he’s blinded ‘by the light’ and after 3 days God sends a disciple named Ananias to restore his sight and baptize him.
Jesus tells Ananias ‘I will show Paul the things HE MUST SUFFER for my names sake’.
If we use the criteria of the modern preaching of our day- we might say to Jesus [or Ananias].
‘Don’t listen to negative confessions- Jesus talking this way will bring you down’.
‘If you hang out too much with people who talk like this- you know- suffering stuff- then it will affect you’.
Yet- Jesus was simply telling the truth- that in order to be a true disciple- you must bear your cross.
This wasn’t a ‘negative confession’ or some type of thing that was denying our ‘covenant rights’.
It was simply teaching- from JESUS- about the cost of discipleship- nothing more- or less.
I have spent many years reading/learning from many different camps.
And verses like this- or the one in chapter 7 where Stephen is martyred for the faith.
These verses didn’t seem to fit in with the modern message of success.
I mean we view success as not suffering- or not being killed for the faith!
Yet- success in the kingdom is different than the world.
If we want to find our lives- we must lose them.
If we want to be first [fame] we must be last- the servant of all.
These are the things that Jesus taught.
I even remember how some of the teachers would do their best to say that the suffering Jesus spoke about was not ‘real’ suffering.
Some said it was the affliction you go thru when you become rich- and then when the other Christians [like me] teach different- then you ‘suffer’ because you are rich- and people talk about you.
What about Stephen?
It doesn’t seem like that would fit his case- I mean the guy was killed for Christ.
Some taught that Stephen DID NOT HAVE TO DIE.
If he chose to believe- and have faith- he would have been delivered- but it was his choice- or lack of faith that brought him to martyrdom
I could go on- but why?
Yeah- I was glad to see my daughters face on the big screen- and it’s okay that she was on it.
But the faith is not about fame.
When Jesus said ‘let your light shine before men’.
He was not talking about talents- singing- preaching- etc.
If you finish the verse he said ‘so they may see your GOOD WORKS and glorify your Father in heaven’.
Once again- the good works of charity- giving to the poor- laying your rights down for the benefit of others.
That’s ‘the light’.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [Facebook] – I have posted lots.
I woke up early yesterday- prayed and blogged.
Then I went food shopping around 5:30 or so.
I like going early before the crowds get there.
Then I took one of my weekly drives around the area.
I drove over the JFK causeway bridge to the Island- took some pics.
Took the ride around the City of Corpus and drove thru Cal Allen- Robstown and back past the airport.
I’ll try and post the pics this morning or tonight.
A few weeks ago our city started stepping up the code enforcement for various stuff.
Lots of people park their cars on the grass- or let the grass grow too long- stuff like that.
The sub-division I live in is nice- because of that we get lots of solicitors- selling all types of stuff.
They think we must be rich because we live in a nice spot.
Yeah- my home is close to the bay- and the Gulf of Mexico.
But I bought it years ago- at around 60,000- I got it under the real value.
I used to buy and rent houses- so I knew how to spot a deal- and that’s how I got this house.
It’s worth at least double now- but as a retired firefighter- I am not rich.
Anyway- we get the snake oil salesman here all the time.
So- when the city stepped up the code enforcement- my neighbor told me that one of the ‘enforcers’ was asking about my mustang in the drive way.
I was like ‘what the heck are they asking about the car for’.
It’s parked on the grass- but it’s not the ‘yard’.
Lots of the homes here have an area for RV’s or boats- and my house has a spot with the double gate- that people park their boats and stuff in.
So the mustang sits in a parking spot in front of the double gate.
Anyway I was like ‘why don’t they worry about all the door knockers coming around all the time- I mean every week I have people trying to sell me stuff’.
So- as my nature is- I sent an email to the mayor- and yeah- I let him have it!
So- the next day or so I figured let me get the car ready for sale.
When my girls got their drivers licenses we bought them all their first cars.
This mustang- 1998- is a nice car- we bought it for Becky about 10 years ago- and then gave it to Debbie [my youngest].
They all have their own cars now- so I have the mustang here- with the van- my wife’s car, my truck- and my classic 66 mustang in the garage [and Christina’s car too- my daughter].
So- I do need to sell the car.
Plus- the morning I was going to work on it- my wife came home later that day and said ‘your truck has a flat’.
Darn it- I have to fix the flat and mess with the car.
So- I get the car ready for sale and tell my daughter to call her friend and let her know I’m selling it- the girl had stopped by a few times to ask.
So- the girl comes over with her dad and boyfriend- she wants the car- but will ‘come up with the money’ on August 9th.
So- I told them ‘well- I’m still gonna list it on Craig’s list- and keep the for sale sign on it’.
They tell me they will come back and put a down payment that night- they beg me to not list it.
So- what the heck- I told the girl ‘okay- don’t worry about the down payment- just come back in 10 days and I’ll hold it for you’.
So- after waiting for them all day- they never show.
I was mad because I had a few other people who wanted the car- and I told them it was sold.
So- after stewing a while- I’m catching the local news- and seeing all the stories of the code enforcement.
Which was what started this whole thing.
And I see some lady crying- ‘I’m an old disabled woman- and your here threatening me with a fine over some weeds’!
Yeah- the local news media are all over it.
So- I’m watching it- identifying with her pain ‘yeah- and what about all the darn solicitors who come by my house every week- why don’t you do something about them- instead of worrying about my daughters car in the driveway!’
All of a sudden I hear a knock on the door- when the girl who wanted to by the car came by- for some reason she knocks- I mean I do have a doorbell.
So I thought ‘well- maybe the day won’t be that bad after all’.
I rush to the door- and there are 2 people walking away.
Hmm- doesn’t look like them?
‘Can I help you’?
They go into this long story- there sister died of breast cancer [last night mind you].
And they’re out selling some stuff to raise money for the funeral.
Yeah- more solicitors.
Okay- I am up to my ears with these people.
So- I told them ‘I’m busy man’ and yeah- I made sure the door shut real good- you know- some people call that ‘slamming’.
All in all- what else can go wrong?
My wife walks in the door- she says ‘your truck has another flat’.
I kid you not [solicitor’s revenge?]
So- the chapter for the week was Exodus 16.
It’s the story of God’s people in the wilderness.
They are complaining about Moses taking them out of Egypt and bringing them into this wilderness place.
They said ‘why didn’t you let us stay in Egypt- we had all the food in the world- now we are starving out here’.
So God gave them a miracle- he rained bread from heaven.
In the morning when the people arose- there was this bread type wafer on the ground.
When they saw it- they said ‘what is it’- or the word- Manna- which means the same thing.
And Moses said ‘this is the bread that God gives to you- you are to eat it’.
I find it funny- they were used to the gluttony of Egypt- stuffing themselves to the brim- even though they were in bondage- they were slaves in Egypt.
Yet- God has freed them- and he is giving them food- maybe it doesn’t taste as good- but it will sustain them- it’s what they need to finish the mission- but they are not used to it.
See- they developed an appetite for ‘the abundance’ of Egypt- they were hooked on getting ‘all you can get- the God of more than enough’.
Yet- the real God said ‘this is what you need- it might look strange right now- but trust me- this is the bread I am giving you’.
The last few months- for whatever reason- I have been hitting on the themes of carrying our cross- denying ourselves- living for God- not cash.
All themes that I have spoken about lots over the years.
Yet- for some reason- I felt the lord wanted me to go over them again.
It often takes time to see this stuff- we- in the modern church- have been fed a ‘buffet’ of teaching that says ‘stuff yourselves to the full- get all you can- eat until it comes out your nose’.
And God says ‘look- this Manna- this ‘new’ bread- yeah- it might be strange at first- you might say ‘what is this’- but this is what you need’.
Sometimes we get caught up in Egypt- we don’t even realize we are slaves- we get used to it.
The apostle Paul wrote about his credentials- he said he was beaten- stranded- stressed out- people talked about him- he ran out of resources- he was hungry at times- he gave a long list of things that would seem to contradict the ‘abundance mentality’.
Preachers today actually take verses- sentences- from his letters- and they teach the opposite of what he said.
They actually develop entire systems of thought- that go against the actual experiences of the apostle.
Where are you today?
Is the car still for sale- is the tire flat [mine is!]
Don’t judge things by stuff like this- sometimes we get the things that we need- the ‘Manna’ often looks strange at first- we have been fed the Egyptian buffet for so long- we don’t even recognize the real food when it comes.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [Facebook] – I have posted lots.
1886- DIVINE LOGOS
Okay- just read Isaiah 65- one chapter left.
These past few weeks I have been going thru the last 15 or so chapters of the book.
There are lots of great themes to do- maybe I’ll take a pic of the verses I wrote down and hung up here in my study.
I also wanted to engage in a conversation on the Divine Logos.
Well yeah- maybe a little scholarly sounding- but my goal has been to ‘upgrade’ our level of teaching.
When I say ‘our’ I’m talking generally about the present day church in America- and the obsession with ‘the now’.
That is ‘what do I get out of this- monetarily?’
Yeah- that’s the rave of the day.
So- every so often I do my best to walk the other road- to give the other side of the coin.
So- a few weeks ago I was at my daughter’s house- we usually have the whole family over for the b-days and stuff.
And my kids like playing those word games.
So they bought some game- don’t remember the whole name- but part of the name had LOGOS in it.
I just quipped ‘you do know what that means’?
Now- I kid around so much- sometimes they have a hard time believing me- like ‘sure- you’re making it up’.
No- for real!
Logos means WORD.
It’s the Greek language- which the New Testament was written in- and it simply means WORD.
My 2nd oldest said ‘I should have known that’.
My oldest daughter- Bethany- just turned 27- Becky is a couple of years younger.
They both have degrees from A&M University here in Texas- top notch school for sure.
So that’s why Becky ‘should have known it’.
Anyway- this word is a favorite in the writings of the apostle John.
In both the gospel and his 3 little letters [1st, 2nd and 3rd John] he uses this term to describe Jesus.
‘In the beginning was THE WORD and the word was with God…’
That’s the Greek word- Logos.
It should be noted that the early Greek philosophers had a concept much like this.
All the way back to the time of Plato- Socrates and Aristotle [around 500 years before Christ] the Greeks were speaking about a universal principle- some type of ‘unifying theory’ that would be the basis of all knowledge.
They spoke about this principle as THE LOGOS.
So- some of the critics of Christianity did use this as a criticism of the church- they say ‘see- the disciples were just making stuff up- borrowing themes that were already there’.
Do they have a point?
A point- maybe- but that’s all.
In the letters of John we also read him refuting a cult of the day- called Gnosticism [Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge. They believed that they had secret knowledge that the others did not have. A modern twist on this is sometimes referred to as Revelation Knowledge- it’s a form of this ‘special knowledge’ idea that existed in the early days of the church.]
An off shoot of this group were called the Docetists.
These guys were pseudo Christians- they held to some form of Christian belief- but denied the true faith of the church.
They taught that Jesus was ‘a phantom spirit’ that is- they denied what we refer to as the incarnation.
That God became man in the person of Christ.
John was one of the youngest disciples- and he also outlived the others.
His writings are probably the oldest in the N.T. [Revelation]
So- he was around long enough to refute the growing philosophical challenges to the church.
So- putting all this together- when John said Jesus was the Divine Logos- he was not ‘stealing’ that idea from the earlier Greek philosophers who were indeed looking for a Logos principle.
No- he was saying ‘look- we- the followers of Christ- have found the thing you were looking for all the time- he is the Wisdom- the Logos of God’.
Okay- I haven’t read John in a long time- nor have I ever studied Greek.
But- I do have a Greek lexicon [a book that gives you the Greek word before it was translated into English].
And back ‘in the day’ when we were young believers- seeking to learn the faith- these were the basic tools of the trade.
But today- well- the tools are motivation- success stuff.
Learning how to invest- make a buck [or 2] – how to ‘create your world’.
Yeah- we really don’t have time for all that silly stuff like the Logos.
After all- it’s all Greek to me.
Yeah- I know.
1885 WHO’S THE GREATEST?
Got with the street guys yesterday- will post a few pics right after this note [p.s. every morning that I post- I post to the blog and Facebook- these are not ‘generated’ posts- I write- post- and leave. So- if you’re reading this on the blog- the pics are on Facebook].
2 guys died this past week.
John- a nice brother- carried a staff- sort of like a prayer thing.
I didn’t know him well- but just spoke to him the other day.
The other death was a good friend- Donald D.
I met Donald 20 years ago- he was one of the first street guys from the Bluff.
He was a real nice guy- sure- problems- but nice.
Donald did not hang out at the mission- so I would maybe see him once every few years- for the past 20.
He always treated me like a brother- big hug- you know- like when you see a family member.
I was sad to hear that he died.
A few years ago I met his son- Eddie.
At first I didn’t realize it was his son.
Eddie told me they were originally from the Garden state [N.J.].
I was surprised- being I’m from there as well.
He told me they lived at Lake Hapactkon [spelling?]
Wow- I went there as a kid with my dad- a small world.
Okay- let’s finish the week with something spiritual.
I have had a few things I wanted to say this last week- but haven’t really had the time to cover them all.
So- let’s pick one.
In the gospels the mother of James and John [disciples] ask Jesus for a favor ‘can my 2 sons sit at your right hand and left in your kingdom’?
Jesus tells her that it is not his place to decide that- but God [the father] will make that decision.
The other disciples hear about the request- and they get mad.
They begin a debate about who will be the greatest.
Then Jesus says- in the world you measure greatness by how far up the ladder you go- how many people are under you.
But in his kingdom it’s not like that- but the least will be the greatest- the ones who serve- not the ones being served- are ‘great’.
This simple example covers a lot of ground.
I have friends in ministry- pastors- ministry leaders- etc.
And it’s often difficult to ‘explain’ the ministry to them.
Usually- we see ministry as setting up 501c3 nonprofit- raising money [usually lots] and then becoming- well- famous.
Often times what we call ‘pastors’ are really just motivational speakers who speak weekly- or travel to an event- all well meaning men- but that’s the category many of them fall into.
So- when I’m asked ‘to preach’ or ‘how are you funded’ it comes as a surprise that I never take money- ever.
Some of my pastor friends actually think that it is wrong to not take the cash.
I remind them that the apostle Paul left that option open in the N.T.
My purpose is not to debate this whole subject right now- I’ve taught it in depth many times over the years- but just to say that we usually judge ministry by criteria that Jesus himself said was wrong.
It’s not how many people are ‘under you’ or how much money you bring in- or how famous you are.
It’s a matter or serving others- laying down your life for others- not always seeking your own welfare- but the welfare of others.
These principles are the main principles of leadership- and Christianity in general- but they are often over looked because we simply have substituted the modern corporation for ‘the local church’ and we basically run ‘the church’ along the same lines of the corporate world.
I am not one of those critics who hates going ‘to church’ [the building].
There are many who don’t go- because of the things I just shared with you.
I’m not in that camp.
But- the things I did just share- they are very important to get a grasp on- for those who see themselves in ministry- or as pastors.
On the blog- if you look to the left you’ll see a few short books I wrote years ago.
The one called Further talks on Church and Ministry deals with this subject a little more in depth.
Also- under the Feb. posts of each year- there’s a category called ‘what in the world is the church’. There are posts about this there as well.
Okay- the point today is we [leaders- believers- the whole bunch] are not to measure success in ministry as attaining some type of material success.
We should not view Christianity thru the lens of ‘what can I get out of this’.
These are usually the main themes that you see from the TV preachers of our day- and I know they mean well- but that’s simply not the heart of Christianity.
The writer to the Hebrews said ‘you took joyfully the spoiling of your goods- knowing that in heaven you have an enduring substance’.
He was talking about the persecution they went thru- they were robbed of their stuff.
In today’s world the average preacher would say ‘get back what the devil stole’.
The writer of Hebrews says ‘praise God- you have a better inheritance in heaven’.
The apostle John wrote ‘if you have this worlds goods [see- he does not call material stuff ‘true riches’] and you see your brother in need- and don’t help him- then how does Gods love dwell in you’.
The apostle Peter says ‘you were not redeemed by corruptible things- like silver and gold- but with the precious blood of Christ’.
I could go on- but just want you to see that we in the modern church really don’t focus on these themes any more.
Sure- most well meaning preachers will say ‘yeah- I believe that’.
But we often [if ever?] actually teach it.
The bible says we should listen to the WHOLE counsel of God- not just to the ‘bless me’ verses.
Okay- that’s it for now- I know some of this stuff rubs some of you the wrong way- in the past I have had friends ‘un-friend’ over stuff like this- so whatever will be will be.
If you want more about this subject- also on the blog- you will see another little book ‘House of Prayer or Den of Thieves’ I wrote that years ago- at the fire house- but it gives you some verses that might help.
Okay- have a good weekend- and don’t worry- I’ll be back to politics soon- I know how much you guys love it!
1882- IS GAIN GODLY?
As we close the week- lets re-cap a few things.
As an avid news watcher- once again the media over covered a very tragic event.
There were numerous days of nonstop coverage on all the news networks- of the tragic killing of 12 people in Aurora- Colorado.
While we don’t know all the motives of the sick person who did this- yet it is possible that one of the motives is attention.
And if we give a person nonstop coverage- then in a way we are playing into his distorted mind game.
The next day or 2 after the shooting [or the same day? I forget] we had 15 people killed right here in South Texas in a truck crash.
It was another case of a bunch of illegal aliens in a truck- coming into Texas.
The tire blew out- and 15 died.
Now- we also have had a string of murders going on in Chicago- it is really strange.
Ever since the former White House chief of staff- Rahm Emanuel- became mayor of the city- the death rate has sky rocketed.
I don’t know why this is- but it is a fact.
So- the real danger in the country is not the lone psycho who will walk into a theatre and open fire.
But it’s the regular gun violence taking place in Camden [N.J.] or Chicago- or any other inner city USA.
We have a terrible culture that exists in the gang lifestyle- and these are the real stories that if not dealt with will eventually kill tens of thousands more each year.
So- don’t want to lessen the horrendous act of Holmes- but just want to keep things in perspective.
The other week I caught an interview with David Brody- a reporter for CBN [Pat Robertson’s ministry].
He put out a book- Teavangelicals- and was talking about the ‘religious right’ and stuff.
The interviewer brought out some very good points- he challenged some of the ideas of the so called right.
Brody said many identify their faith with capitalism- he used a famous verse form the Old Testament ‘a good man leaves an inheritance to his kids, kids’.
I have heard [and read] this many times over my life.
So- Brody said that’s why the religious right identify with ‘right wing’ politics.
The interviewer quipped back ‘yes- but that’s one Old Testament verse- and all thru the New Testament Jesus railed against riches’.
Wow- I was surprised that the guy new his stuff.
Was he right?
This is what I talk about a lot- keeping things in context.
Avoiding what we call ‘proof texting’ which means you pick one verse out of the bible- and then build an entire belief system from that verse.
Jesus did say stuff like ‘What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?’
‘You cannot serve God and money’.
‘It is easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven’.
Now- I can go on- and in the past I have.
But the point I wanted to make was the news guy was right.
We need to see the Christian life primarily thru the ‘lens’ of the teachings of Christ- and emphasize the things he taught the most.
Now- this does not mean we should ignore a verse like ‘leave an inheritance for your kids’.
But we should absolutely avoid making stuff like that the main thing- I mean we- in the modern evangelical church have seemed to have fallen into the whole trap of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.
Years ago one of the prosperity preachers of the day put out a little book- the title was ‘righteousness is profitable’.
Of course the title told it all.
It was a short- and all consuming teaching that comes from this camp- and it basically taught that if you are a child of God- you will make lots of money [profitable].
Once again- the verse comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy [1st Timothy chapter 4].
And in context it does not mean what the author said it meant.
2 chapters later Paul will actually write ‘the love of money is the root of all evil- some say gain [profit] is godliness [righteousness] avoid them’.
The point is- the author took Paul’s words- from the bible- and ‘made’ them say the opposite of what he said.
Then taught ‘see- that’s in the bible’.
Actually ‘that’ was not in the bible- at least not the way the author made it sound.
So- at the end of the day- we need to keep ‘first things first’.
Yes- there are many people who live day by day- lives without purpose or meaning.
And we- the church- don’t want to tell them that the purpose is more material stuff.
That’s not the message Jesus gave.
Sure- we can find a good verse about leaving money to your kid when you die.
But read the WHOLE bible in context.
Jesus put much more emphasis on warning people that if they ‘gain the whole world- and lose their soul- it profits nothing’.
The Kingdom of God is not about making a fortune- it’s about living your life for a higher purpose- a more noble goal- give your life away- that’s what the Master said.
1879- GOAT MAN [or Fire Walkers]
I have a couple of news articles I clipped last week.
The first ‘Goat man spotted in mountains of Utah’.
The first paragraph says the authorities are worried that a man- dressed like a goat- living with a bunch of other goats- might be in danger as ‘hunting season approaches’.
I refuse to read the rest of the article- why ruin the fun?
The second- ‘21 people treated for burns at fire walk’.
The story is that Tony Robbins [success guru] did one of his ‘unleash the power within’ seminars- and 21 people received 2nd and 3rd degree burns while trying to ‘unleash the power’.
The other day I was going to mention the death of Stephen Covey.
I was a fan of Covey’s stuff- I actually pulled out his book from my shelf the other day- to make sure I spelled the name right if I did a post.
There was a notable difference between Covey’s approach and the other so called ‘motivational speakers’ of the day.
Covey took a more biblically oriented approach- he said success was not so much a technique thing [Robbins- he even taught the way you look- if you look in a certain direction while thinking- or posture yourself a certain way- that this too bread success].
Covey taught 7 basic principles [when they played the clips of his stuff- I knew it by heart- I listened to his c.d.’s many times].
They focused you on trying to work on the most important things- the things that you do have some influence on.
The things you can’t change- leave them be.
And ‘begin with the end in mind’.
Basically think ‘legacy’ don’t live for pure hedonism- but make something of your life that’s worthwhile.
I liked Covey- sad to see him go.
These few stories got me to thinking about the goal of faith.
I throw the word ‘metaphysical’ around a lot in my posts- usually talking about physics.
But there are what people refer to as ‘metaphysical cults’.
I don’t like the word cult- to be honest.
I have friends who are in groups that other Christians call cults.
I prefer to be honest and open with these friends [Mormon friends and Jehovah Witness friends].
Covey himself was Mormon.
And I have had really good- nonjudgmental talks with both of these groups many- many times.
When they come over- I talk to them as friends.
I’m not trying to continually persuade them to think my way.
I also realize that for someone that has studied church history- theology- various religious movements.
That it’s not very hard for me to throw out the standard talking points that most people use when trying to prove their side is right.
These types of ‘talking point’ debates usually lead nowhere.
So- I see the various guys who come and knock over the years- as well meaning people who wake up every day- and with a sincere heart are going out to do what they feel is God’s will.
Upfront with them?
At the same time understanding where they too are coming from.
Okay- said all that to say this.
The metaphysical ‘cults’ are groups that view the ‘real world’ as the non material realm.
‘Geez John- don’t we too walk by faith’?
Yeah- but walking by faith- and not by sight- is different from what these groups do.
Many in the Christian world have embraced lots of these ‘positive confession’ type beliefs- not realizing that they do fall into this category.
A few years ago I heard very popular preacher from this genre talking about an incident where a man ‘froze’ to death in a freezer.
The preacher said that they later found out that the freezer was unplugged- yet in his mind- what he thought ‘created’ an environment where he froze to death.
Okay- did this man freeze to death?
He more than likely died of a heart attack.
Now- the mind does play a role in things.
So- I saw the point.
But New Testament Christianity does not see the key to the Christian life as someone who masters certain principles like this.
Often times the letter to the Romans is used.
Paul says ‘we look not at the things that appear- but that do not appear’.
This is in Hebrews as well.
These examples come from the life of Abraham- when he walked by faith- not by sight.
Many times he rejected the evidence that said ‘this will never happen’.
Instead he trusted in God- and God did what seemed impossible.
Okay- that’s faith.
But Abraham lived quite the life.
He failed many times thru out the journey [too many to recount now].
He struggled with doubt too.
But in the end- faith was him believing God’s promise- not mastering some type of technique that denied physical reality.
So that’s the difference between biblical faith- and ‘positive confession- motivational’ type faith.
Be careful- if you confuse these 2- you might just get burned in the end.
1870- THE PRAIRIE PROPHET
This week I read the book of Amos.
Amos was a prophet to the northern nation of Israel- 750-790 b.c. [though he had a few prophecies for Judah- the southern nation].
He was unlike the other Old Testament prophets- in that he was an ‘uneducated’ shepherd that came from a little village [Tekoa] about 5 miles south of Bethlehem.
Yet- Amos knew history.
He railed against the political leadership of the nation- he spoke up for the poor ‘in the gate’ and condemned the ‘church’ of his day.
He said they were spending all their time and money on religious celebration- on their own ideas of what they felt God wanted [Amos says they worshipped the ‘gods that they made’].
And yet justice was falling down in the street.
Yeah- Amos was a prophet sent from God- and the people knew it.
I watched [re watched] a documentary this week on the failed run for the presidency by George McGovern.
Now- as a news buff- I never really studied McGovern- but have heard so much about the guy [usually negative] that my view of him was formed by these little clips of his life.
McGovern is famous because his loss to Nixon in 1972 was one of the biggest landslides in presidential history.
As I watched the documentary- and read Amos- I began seeing a type of Amos in McGovern.
McGovern was from South Dakota- outside of the mainstream ‘machine’ of the Democratic Party.
He was raised in a preacher’s home- and dabbled at becoming one himself.
He would eventually enter politics- and also had a background as an historian [Amos].
They called him ‘the prairie prophet’.
He was not the favored candidate for his party’s nomination.
At first it looked like Muskie would be their man.
But old Ed didn’t seem to have the temperament for the job.
At one campaign stop he was picketed by some gay rights group.
He said- quote ‘If I have to be nice to a bunch of Soddomites to get elected- then fuck it’.
McGovern would eventually win his party’s nomination- and lose in the general election.
As I watched the rise of McGovern- the animosity- and outright hatred- from his own party.
I also saw that he indeed was a voice in the wilderness at times.
McGovern is most famous for his opposition to the Vietnam War.
It was said that just the name of McGovern being said would send Lyndon Johnson into a rage.
McGovern stood steady in his opposition- and as an historian he had read that other world watchers had predicted that there would be an uprising in Indo China and South East Asia.
They said the people groups were growing tired of colonialism- and they would eventually rebel.
So McGovern did not see the Vietnamese as a communist threat- that left unchecked would have a domino effect.
After the assassination of Bobby Kennedy he was convinced to briefly throw his hat into the ring and run for the 68 nomination.
But the 1972 nomination was his big achievement.
In the book of Amos there are some choice quotes [not like Musky].
‘Hate evil and love good- establish judgment in the land’
‘Let judgment run down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream’ [MLK’s famous line too]
‘Woe to them that are at ease in Zion’ [the present day church]
The one that caught my eye the most-
‘He strengthens the spoiled against the strong so that they come against the fortress’.
At times in history there are voices that rise- sometimes they are Prairie Prophets.
Sometimes we don’t realize the importance of what they are saying- until after they are gone.
Rulers- people in power- they are not all corrupt- but many are.
LBJ referred to Vietnam as a ‘little piss ant of a country’.
He [and Nixon] bombed the hell out of the land- not wanting to be seen as week.
A small- little ‘piss ant’ country in South East Asia.
Hundreds of thousands would die needlessly.
Men like McGovern- for all their critics- saw the writing on the wall.
At the present day- as I write- we have been at war in Afghanistan for around 11 years now.
We just reopened a key ground [truck] route thru Pakistan- it has been shut for 7 months because we killed around 30 Pakistani soldiers in a mistaken identity case.
NATO was flying over the border- we were fired upon from the ground- and we bombed them.
We thought they were Taliban- they were Pakistani.
Pakistan got pissed off- and they forbid us to use the key supply route until we apologized.
We just did.
We are now having talks with the Taliban- to come to some type of Peace Terms with them.
Our goal at the start was to remove them from power because they gave Al Qaida a place to operate from.
At the start we were warned that the Taliban [and the Afghanis in general] are a resilient people.
That to enter into a ground war- in some ‘piss ant’ part of the Arab world would be foolish.
We are now trying to find a way to untangle ourselves from this mess.
Yeah- after 11 years- our guys coming home without their body parts.
Thousands dead- many of them women and children.
Yeah- after 11 years our only response is.
Well- in the immortal words of Ed Muskie #$@^%$
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to ‘click’ the note App on my Facebook Profile- I have posted lots.
1867- DID JESUS WHERE AN ARMANI SUIT?
I was debating on what to talk about this morning- I want to do a little more on Leaks and the freedom of the press.
But I think instead we’ll cover some more about the nature of the church.
I read an article yesterday- it was about a church in Singapore whose pastor was arrested because he ‘funneled’ 19 million dollars from the Charity Chest- and he used it to support his wife’s ‘international singing ministry’.
They showed the picture of the wife- she was supposedly trying to break into the ‘secular’ industry [non Christian music] and she simply looked like any other rock/pop star.
I don’t say this to be critical- and whenever I deal with these issues- people get mad.
Most of you see stuff like this and right from the start see it as wrong- and you should.
But there are many people- good people- who head up big ministries- who actually think this type of stuff is okay.
It takes a long time to explain it- but over the past 40 years the Evangelical church has developed a type of theology- usually called The Prosperity Gospel- and many good people have been inundated with all types of arguments- even from the bible- that seem to teach that fame and fortune are actually Gods plan.
Often times these people think- sincerely- that any rebuke of this type of stuff is simply a rebuke from those ‘old time traditional churches- those religious folk’.
But in reality- a proper reading of the bible- and especially the life and teachings of Jesus- show us that this type of idea- the fame and wealth thing- is not really a right biblical understanding.
Let’s do a few examples.
A few years ago I read an article in the San Antonio paper- to my surprise it was about a church in the city that was embroiled in a controversy.
I knew the pastor- used to listen to his teachings [years ago] and read a couple of his books [sitting here on my shelf right now].
The controversy was some board member from the church took the church to court- because the pastor publicly exposed him as a trouble maker from the pulpit on a Sunday morning.
This board member was a ‘trouble maker’ because he revealed to the church that at a time when the church was going thru this huge money raising campaign- encouraging people to give sacrificially- the Pastor bought a 4 thousand dollar Armani suit for another board member- as a gift [with church funds].
Yet- at the same time- there were lots of poor people who were giving there measly widows mite- to whom 4 thousand dollars is not a drop in the bucket.
So the board member exposed the thing- they went to court- and the whole thing was a mess.
Now- as I read the story- at one point the Pastor defended his buying of the suit by quoting the story of Jesus in the bible- when the lady pours expensive perfume on Jesus.
The Pastor basically said ‘see- its okay to waste lots of money’.
This story is often used to defend a lavish ‘ministry’ lifestyle- and innocent people- people who hear these types of so called ‘biblical arguments’ do become convinced over time.
Needless to say the story in no way defends wealth and fame- but simply shows us that it’s okay to worship THE LORD extravagantly- not man.
Another bible story is often used in these churches to defend wealth- wealth as being Gods primary will for his people that is [it’s okay to be successful- and have money- but I’m dealing with the abuse of it- the 19 million dollars from the Poor Fund being spent on the singing career of the pastors wife type of thing].
In the gospels we read about the Crucifixion of Jesus.
At the foot of the Cross the soldiers gambled for the robe of Jesus.
There actually is an Old Testament prophecy that said this would happen- it was written hundreds of years before.
The prophecy says ‘they will cast lots for my vesture’.
Okay- why did they gamble for it- instead of just ripping the thing in half?
Because this coat was an expensive coat- sort of like the coat that the patriarch Joseph had from his father [Genesis].
The bible says Joseph’s coat ‘of many colors’ was a source of jealousy for his other brothers.
When you have a seamless coat- in bible days- that’s a lot of work- so these types of coats are indeed the Armani’s of the day.
‘So John- the Armani thing is good- to spend 4 grand for the board member’?
Actually- no it’s not.
Some- many- have argued that Jesus was indeed rich- owned his own home- and was one of the richest men of his day.
Years ago when I was on the radio- I used to preach against this a lot.
I had an older listener- he was steeped in this doctrine- I mean he would write me very long letters- over many years- and I knew he read the bible a lot.
After years of hearing these arguments- he became one of the innocent victims of false teaching.
He really did thank me for my teachings- and every so often if he missed the program I would send him the tape- but this person was not an outright con artist- he was convinced of this belief.
He had a very long justification for why he thought Jesus was the richest man of his day.
I know it’s hard for the casual observer to understand how people can be duped like this- but trust me- this is no isolated case.
Okay- back to the coat.
Did the fact that Jesus had an expensive coat mean he was rich?
How did he get the coat then?
The bible does not say- but the first story I told you- the perfume- gives us a hint.
People did do extravagant acts of worship on/for Jesus.
And it’s quite possible that some person gave their expensive Armani to the Lord.
One day I was watching Larry King- you know some think he actually lived at the time of Christ [sorry].
He had on a very popular prosperity preacher.
King was open and honest- he always was a good interviewer.
King asked the man ‘how can you actually think Jesus was rich- I mean even the New Testament speaks about him as not being a millionaire’.
And the preacher- he sincerely believed that these types of verses I just talked about proved King wrong.
Now- this preacher- like many others- have a huge influence in the modern church.
They often have very large audiences and they do reach entire continents with this message [Africa].
Yet- at the end of the day- even though they mean well [for the most part] they teach a tragically flawed gospel.
I mean there’s no other way for me to say this- in a way it’s nothing less than ministerial mal practice- on a huge scale.
Let’s end with this- many times people will never listen to reason- even if you give them biblical arguments- they become fixed in their view- and that’s that.
I simply recommend people read 1st Timothy chapter 6.
The apostle Paul warns his young protégé to avoid this type of thing.
He says ‘we came into this world without material wealth- when we leave we can’t take it with us- so be content with what you have’.
Notice- Paul does not say ‘Timothy- you must believe for great wealth so you can reach the world with the gospel’
‘You must get rich- so you can fulfill the promise that Jesus told us- that he came to give us abundant life’.
No- the apostle does not use any of the reasoning of the many who are preaching this gospel today.
In fact- many of the modern preachers say Paul’s idea was wrong- they say ‘if your happy with the little you have- you’re in sin’.
Who you gonna believe?
I’ll go with Paul.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to ‘click’ the note App on my Facebook Profile- I have posted lots.
1866- MARY- THE MOTHER OF GOD- WHAT DID SHE SAY? [or- I am the Egg Man]
As we close the week- lets recap a few highlights.
Of course the SCOTUS ruling was the biggest news- and we also had congress vote- and pass- the contempt of congress charge against Holder.
But there were a few other ‘lesser’ stories that in a slower news week would have gotten more attention.
The enemy of all conservatives- yes- the peanut farmer from Georgia- Jimmy Carter- got some heat over his criticism of Obama.
What did he say?
He made some comments about our Drone war tactics- and said there is no doubt that the U.S. is violating human rights.
The drone planes are remote controlled unmanned planes- Bush was the first to ‘arm’ them- and Obama followed his lead.
We used to use them as surveillance planes- but when we stuck bombs on them we started using them to go after the enemy.
Being we don’t have pilots in the planes- we are basically doing our best to hit the target by remote control- and we often kill civilians in these strikes.
We are doing this in Yemen and Pakistan as I speak.
So- after years of killing lots of the wrong folk- these people are outright pissed off.
In Pakistan- there is some lawyer representing the families of the victims- and they have been saving the debris from the bombs- writing down the serial numbers and all- and using them for evidence on some future court case against the U.S.
We recently found out [thru leaks?] That the way the U.S. counts the amount of terrorists that are killed in the strikes is ‘every adult male killed in the vicinity is considered to be a terrorist’.
Yup- that’s the rule.
So if we accidently kill- let’s say 15 men- and even if the remote control operator messed up- and hit the wrong spot- we count this as ‘15 bad guys dead’.
Geez- with scoring like this- how can you lose?
So- Carter came out and said this type of killing is wrong.
Was he right?
Of course he was- we have killed a lot of women and kids- that’s wrong- in everyone’s book.
Then why don’t we stop it?
The newly elected president of Egypt- the Muslim Brotherhood guy- he has already given signs to Iran that he wants to form some sort of an alliance with them.
He has also told the U.S. that he wants us to turn over the Blind Sheik.
If you remember- years before 911- we had another attempted bombing of the World Trade Towers.
They traced the original plot to some Muslim radical who was based in New Jersey.
I remember the case because as I watched the story- the guy had his office/mosque set up right on a storefront street- and when I saw the spot- I recognized the street as one of the places I walked passed as a kid [I think one time I illegally rode my dirt bike right passed the area- you know- one of those late night street rides when the cops chase you].
So- the new Egyptian president wants the guy released and sent back to Egypt.
And we have hailed this election as a great thing- we forced a former leader out- who we were actually allies with- and we [Obama] publicly supported the Brotherhood.
This is sad.
And last but not least- I told you the other day that Holder sued Florida [man- he needs to stop suing cities/states- this guy is out of control].
He sued the Repub governor- Rick Scott- because Scott ‘purged’ the voter rolls of non citizens.
Yeah- Scott actually identified real non citizens who were on the roles- and he tried to take them off.
It is against the law to vote if you’re not a citizen.
Why the suit?
Holder believes that the states that are doing this are really trying to hurt the Dems by going after minorities.
Okay- but say if we know- for a fact- that the people he’s removing are only non citizens- would that be okay?
According to Holder- no.
Yes- Holder said the state does not have the right to remove NON CITIZENS from the rolls- because it is within 90 days of an election- and darn it- those non citizens have rights too!
So- the case went to a federal judge- and the judge said- in so many words ‘are you nuts man- it’s against the law for non citizens to vote. The state and governor can actually be held liable if they don’t purge the voter rolls- of course Scott can do this- it’s required by law’.
I mean even the judge- a Dem appointed judge- thought Holder must be delusional – because they were upholding federal law.
As a side note- Holder has also sued some Egg farm.
Because he said they were requiring too much proof- from non citizens- to prove they were not illegal’s.
Yes- he sued this private business- not because they were requiring the proof from citizens- but from non citizens.
Why did the egg company do this?
If you get caught hiring an illegal- you pay a fine or go to jail.
They just raided a pizza place here in Corpus for this.
So- if the Egg man actually got caught hiring an illegal- then off to jail he goes.
So- he simply tried to make sure that the people he was hiring were in fact citizens- Holder sued him for this.
These are the things that have really riled up some on the other side.
I mean who cares if your Black, White or Green- this guy is absolutely off his rocker.
Okay- lets end with a bible thing here.
I mentioned the other day that I read some chapters about John the Baptist this week.
One of the big [and long] chapters was Luke 1.
In the chapter we read about the angel Gabriel appearing to both Mary- the Mother of Jesus- and Elisabeth- Mary’s cousin.
Elisabeth and her husband Zacharias were older folk and were never able to have a baby.
Then one day God does a miracle and Elisabeth gets pregnant and has John the Baptist.
The miracle was not the same as when Mary gets pregnant- but the miracle was they were older now- past the normal time to have kids.
Mary is told about this and when she gets pregnant with Jesus she visits Elisabeth and when Mary- who is carrying Jesus in her womb- sees Elisabeth- who is pregnant with John- the bible says the ‘baby leaped in her womb’.
It was John the Baptists purpose in life to be the fore runner of Jesus.
And even before he was born- he still responded this way as Christ showed up in the womb of Mary.
When the angel reveals to Mary that she will bare Christ- she bursts into this prayer/proclamation of praise.
Scholars call this Mary’s Magnificat [her magnifying of God].
If you have time- read this prayer in Luke one.
It does not sound like the prayer of some humble- quiet little lady.
It’s more like a prophetic blast of Gods rule.
Mary says things like ‘He hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree’ ‘He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich hath he sent away empty’.
I mean these are some of the same themes we see in the teachings of Christ.
As I write and blog about politics- I do try to be fair.
I know it must have been hard these last few months for my friends on the left side of the aisle.
Trust me- about a year or 2 ago my friends on the right went thru the same thing.
My ‘job’ is to not simply pick a side- and then defend that side at all costs.
I think that’s the mistake many in the church have made.
We have really lost our prophetic voice as the people of God.
The modern Evangelical church [and the televangelist world] has lost the true social justice message of the church.
They [we] have traded that message in for one of self help- how to become wealthy- how to be happier- how to have a better life.
We have lost the prophetic voice of the church- the one that speaks out against the murder of the innocents [drones] or the lying about killing terrorists- just because we count ‘all adults in the area’ as the enemy.
Yes- the ‘church’ is supposed to have a voice for the defenseless in society.
No- we are too busy having an American party.
Beware- Mary said ‘the high he will bring down- the rich he hath sent away empty- the famous/proud will be bring low’.
I can’t think of a better description of the church today- can you?
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to ‘click’ the note App on my Facebook Profile- I have posted lots.
1859- NOT A CHANCE
Went Down to the mission yesterday- saw the guys.
Dirk has his van running good- put the new radiator in [a few posts ago].
Gave Henry a ride back to the boat dock where he works- there were these beautiful Pelicans all lined up along the dock- never saw so many in a row like that.
On my way back to the house I saw a few cars in front of me make a detour- I realized there was a cop car with his flashing lights parked in the local speed trap.
Of course they’ll stop you for anything- I had gotten a ticket for driving without my license in the same spot a while back.
My inspection sticker has been expired since around May- of last year.
Yeah- I know.
I took it to the inspection guy a couple of month’s back- it failed for the tires.
So- as I saw the cop- I did a detour too- and went to another shop [yeah- I know].
I figured ‘Lord- I just helped the guys out- maybe I can get a break’.
So as I sat in the waiting room- doing one of those silent prayers ‘Lord- blind his eyes to the tires’.
You say ‘John- I thought you weren’t one of those positive confession type guys’.
I’m not- but when you’re in a bind you do what you have to.
The kid comes back ‘sir- your tire failed- your brake light is out- and you have a hole in the catalytic convertor’.
The plan didn’t work out too well.
Okay- let me finish a few more comments on proofs for the existence of God.
Yesterday I got into it a little with Dirk- and the other week I mentioned my friend Mike.
I have known Mike for a long time [the homeless artist] and I never knew he was really into the science shows and all.
As we talked Mike told me how over the years he has spoken with Christians/preachers and he has said ‘why do you think God created everything- Fungus and bacteria seem to produce on their own- maybe the cause for all things is that’.
Now- this was a good question- Mike told me that the only response he ever got was ‘the bible says God made everything’.
Okay- I got the point.
I told Mike that what he has observed over the years- the shows he has seen- that these things are good- they are true- science and God do not contradict.
I simply explained to Mike that fungus is part of the material world- and science teaches us that the material world did not always exist.
Therefore- if fungus did not always exist- it could not be the ‘creator’ of everything else.
Mike never heard this simple truth.
He actually thought about it- kind of in a way- a look on his face- like ‘geez- I just lost the last thing I clung to’ type expression.
He thought it through- understood what I said [I went a little more in depth] and then responded ‘well- maybe some other non physical being did it- instead of God’.
I simply gave him the argument I posted around 2 posts ago.
Okay- what was Mike seeing in the fungus?
He saw what we call Secondary causes.
That is there are many things in the natural world that do indeed re produce on their own.
Things grow and develop.
God made the creation to be self sustaining in a way.
Yet- many good people have heard ‘bad’ arguments- things that are false on its face- and don’t really know it.
The most popular ‘misstatement’ today is ‘everything was made by CHANCE’.
Now- I’m not a physicist- but this statement- on its face- is not true.
Look carefully- chance is NOT A THING.
Okay- chance is NO THING.
Chance is NOTHING.
When people make this statement they do not realize what they are actually saying.
This statement says ‘chance is the actual cause of creation’.
They are giving what we call Ontological status to the word Chance.
They are treating it as in if chance was a living thing- a real thing- not simply a word that describes the odds of something.
Okay- the other misconception is ‘Given enough time- anything can happen’.
Is this true?
If you took a room- were able to seal it- nothing gets in- nothing gets out.
And you have nothing in the room.
How many years would it take for you to open the door- and find a functioning world?
People- planets- stars- parades- horses- stores- etc.
I mean- is it possible- over a long period of time- for this to happen?
No- this is simply not possible- not scientifically possible.
But if you knew there were some being who had control over the room- who did have access to it- and had the power to create.
Well then it would be possible for the room to contain things.
When it comes down to it- there are really only 2 choices.
Either everything popped into existence from nothing [this is impossible].
Or something caused everything to be here [the Christian view].
When people realize this- that this debate is not about ‘well- you believe in faith and the bible and fairy tales- and I believe in fact’.
Actually no you don’t [you being the atheist- unbeliever].
No- in this debate there really is only one rational conclusion- that someone is responsible for ‘everything in the room’.
The other explanation ‘everything in the room came from chance- given enough time’ is not an option- at least not a logical one.
1835- PREACHERS AND MONEY- WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Let’s try and cover a few basic principles today.
For some reason the past few weeks I have kind of hit on the money/prosperity gospel somewhat.
I really did not plan this- but it is such a major part of today’s church that the issue comes up a lot.
When I covered the verses in 1st Peter the other day- one of the ‘suffering’ verses went on to say ‘the elders [church leaders] that are among you I exhort… take oversight of the flock among you…not for filthy lucre [money] but of a ready mind’.
You see this theme all thru out the New and Old testaments.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church and said ‘he that does not have a job- get one- so you can have to give to those in need’.
Now- he applies this principle to the leaders as well.
In the book of Acts- chapter 20- he calls the church leaders from the city of Ephesus to give them some final words before he departs.
He tells them ‘the whole time I was with you- I worked to provide for my needs- and the needs of those who were with me- I coveted no mans money’.
He said he did this to leave THEM [the church leaders- ministers] an example that they would follow.
The basic principle is church leaders were not to ‘go into ministry’ with the idea [goal] of ‘reaping a financial harvest’.
Now- this teaching runs all thru out the bible.
So how come so many modern themes violate this teaching?
We all have a tendency to ‘see’ what we want to see- and throw the rest out.
You can find verses that speak about providing for the needs of those who are feeding us the word of God.
The apostle Paul said ‘don’t muzzle the ox that treads out the corn’.
Support those who are feeding you the word.
Okay- got it.
Jesus said to his men ‘when you go into a city and they give you a place to stay [for the night!] and feed you- then take it- the worker is worthy of his hire’.
So we see the basic principle of helping those out who are teaching us Gods word- while at the same time the warning- and example that the Apostle Paul gave us- that you are not doing this for the money.
Paul told the Corinthian church that when he was with them he preached the gospel free of charge.
In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah- he was used of God to restore the city of Jerusalem that was broken down and he became the governor during the rebuilding.
He asks God to look upon him and bless him because he did not take the regular salary- that he had the right to take- but was giving the other leaders an example that they are not in this for the cash.
The same type of thing that Paul did.
So if we take a balanced view- from the whole bible- we come up with a teaching that says ‘yes- it’s fine to support your teachers/preachers- but- they are not to become rich from this support- and we also need some of them to do it for free- to work a regular job as well- to give an example to others that they too should work- and not see ministry as a career choice- from which you become wealthy’.
Now- this type of teaching will simply be rejected by those who don’t like it- they will continue to justify a ‘I’m in this for a financial harvest’ type thing- and simply by pass all the scriptures that seem to be contrary to their personal desire.
When we recently overviewed the book of James I showed you how one of the main themes from James is the warning [rebuke] of the rich and his praise for the poor.
Many years ago- when I used to listen and get into the Prosperity gospel- I remember one of the main teachings came from the letter of James.
It focused on James’ writing about the tongue- a good confession.
As well as his exhortation to not be double minded.
But these verses were actually used in contradiction to the main point of James.
They were used to say ‘maintain your confession of wealth- if anyone tries to tell you anything different- you must reject it- don’t be double minded- keep the wealth confession and you will receive a 100 fold harvest’ [which by the way is another distortion from the teaching of Jesus].
So even though James says ‘beware you rich- your money and riches are rotting- they are fading away- they are a witness against you in the Day of Judgment’.
Or ‘Has not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom’.
‘Do not the rich call you before the courts and blaspheme that holy name by which your are called’.
I mean this theme is all thru out the letter- yet the teaching among the prosperity group managed to bypass all these themes- and simply pick a few verses out and turned them into a modern day financial scheme.
Okay-enough for now- I guess I’ll paste my first little book at the bottom of this post.
I wrote it years ago and eventually put it on a disc and sent it out.
It really is amateurish in a way [in my view] but there are lots of verses I reference that might help those who are interested in this subject.
Okay- that’s it for now- read and enjoy.
1830- DO CHRISTIANS SUFFER?
This past week I read the 1st letter of Peter [in the New Testament].
I read a chapter a day- and meditated on some key points.
I marked all the verses that dealt with the Christian doctrine on suffering. This teaching- found thru out the bible- has been neglected in much of the modern type Christianity.
Many systems of preaching and belief in our day have developed an idea that because Jesus suffered for us- therefore we need not suffer.
I’m sure some of my readers/friends have in some way been aware [affected?] by this- it’s almost impossible to have not been.
Many of the number one bestselling books [Wal mart] have these themes- most of what you would call ‘TV Evangelists’ teach this type of thing.
And many of the most popular Mega Churches of our day have some form of it within their ranks.
So- in the old style of actually writing out each verse- here we go.
‘For this is thankworthy- if a man for conscience toward God- endure grief- suffering wrongfully’
‘But if you do well and suffer for it- and take it patiently- this is acceptable with God’
‘For even hereunto were ye called- because Christ also suffered for us- leaving us an EXAMPLE that ye should follow his steps’
‘But if ye suffer for righteousness sake- happy are ye’
‘For it is better- if the will of God be so- that ye suffer for well doing rather than evil’
‘For as much then as Christ hath suffered in the flesh- arm yourselves likewise with the same mind’
‘If any man suffer as a Christian- let him not be ashamed- but let him glorify God on this behalf’
‘Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing- as unto a faithful creator’
‘But the God of all grace – who hath Called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus- after that you have suffered a while- make you perfect- stablish- strengthen- settle you’.
Okay- that’s the jist of it.
‘So why John are there so many teachings that leave this out’?
Many of the teachers are well meaning people- and they do have one side of the coin.
There are many verses in the bible that do speak about God blessing us- meeting our needs- delivering us out of trouble.
But none of these verses ‘do away’ with the ones I just quoted.
Peter himself said that Christ not only died to bring us back to God [redemption] but he also suffered for us- leaving us an example that we were to follow.
Peter says it’s better to suffer for well doing- then for evil doing.
Yet both are redemptive in nature.
Peter’s most famous suffering recorded in the bible is his very famous denial of Jesus.
The bible says after he did this he wept and was broken.
He went thru pain because of his sin- and even this suffering played a role in shaping the apostle.
Later on- we read in Christian history that when Peter was put to death in Rome- he requested that he be crucified upside down because he felt he was not worthy to die the same way as his Lord.
Geez- you would think he never got over the guilt.
Yes- the bible is clear on the matter- there are times when we are called to suffer.
We can’t ‘confess’ our way out of it- or ‘create our own world’ out of it.
We can’t rebuke the devil ‘out of it’.
There are simply times when we are called to suffer.
Now- this does not mean we sit around every day and wait for the thing to happen- no- we are commanded by God to take up our Cross daily and to follow him.
But the actual phrase ‘Take up the Cross’ carries with it the idea that there is a price to pay.
Okay- what’s my goal in covering this?
Am I trying to ‘put’ a bad confession on you?
No- but I’m trying to show you that if you are feeling guilty because in your mind things might not have turned out as well as you hoped.
Maybe years ago you started well- had good Christian friends- some who went on to ‘fame’ [Yikes!!]
Others had ‘good’ lives.
And maybe you have questioned God- ‘what did I do wrong- why am I different’.
That’s the point.
One of the verses I left out was Peter saying when you go thru these trials- don’t think it strange- but understand that you have many brothers and sisters in the world who are also experiencing the same pain as you feel right now.
Yeah- that’s the jist of it.
If we hold on to the ideas/teachings- that come to us by well meaning people- encouraging people- I mean who can dis like Joel Osteen!
But we need to balance it out with the Word.
Yes- many of these teachings go by the name ‘Word churches’ or ‘word people’ and I’m glad that they do quote the word.
But the Word also contains all these verses as well.
The Word shows us that there are things we will go thru in life- and we should not be taken by surprise when this happens- God told this to us from the start.
Okay- I was thinking I might throw in a few more things about the writings of Peter- some Non Canonical writings- the Gospel of Peter- and the Revelation of Peter [apocalypse].
Being I just ended a study form a liberal scholar- these writings came up.
They are early Gnostic writings that fall into the category of Pseudopigraphy [writing under the name of another person- note- I rarely use this word because my spell check does not have it- but I wanted you to see it- just beware I might have a letter or 2 off!].
I wanted to cover a few interesting tid bits from them- and to explain why we do not have them in our bibles today.
But I think I’ll let that wait for another post.
For today- re-read these verses on your own- if you haven’t read the book of Peter in a while- read it the next few days- look for these key themes.
The other day I mentioned the book of James.
I read it a couple of weeks ago.
I realized that I also mentioned ‘off the cuff’ that James was a leader at the first church we see in the bible- the Jerusalem church.
In Acts 15 we read that Peter, James and John are Pillars of the church.
They were spiritual ‘support beams’ if you will- what they said [and say] is very important.
If you remember- when I mentioned James I shared how he praises the poor- and warns the rich.
Here in Peter we see the biblical doctrine of suffering.
When I get to John [probably will do 1st John] I’ll hit on some key themes as well.
The point being- these key figures- these ‘Pillars’ they seem to be ‘out of touch’ with many of our modern day teachings.
I wonder who’s right?
1829- A CHINESE LAWYER AND LIVING STONES
I want to try and teach a couple of things from the letter of 1st Peter [in the New Testament] – but 1st a few comments.
Today the big story is the Chinese dissident- Chen Guangcheng.
Chen is a blind lawyer who has been under house arrest for years by the govt.
His main fight against the repressive communist state is their 1 child policy.
In China- because of the population growth- if a woman gets pregnant more than once- they force the woman to have an abortion.
This practice has not only killed many innocent kids- but also causes the parents to voluntarily abort the first child if it’s a girl.
Many of the families prefer a boy if they can only have 1 child- so the moms often abort the first [or 2nd– or 3rd] if it’s a girl.
So anyway- Chen miraculously escaped house arrest and made it to ‘safety’ to the U.S. embassy in China.
Here’s where there is some contradiction.
After a couple of days hiding out in the embassy- he left of his own ‘free will’ and the U.S. escorted him to a hospital [he suffered some inures during his escape].
Then we left him there- and he came under further persecution by the govt.
He called for help- and begged the U.S. to take him and his wife and family to the U.S.
Now- Hillary Clinton just happens to be there for talks this week- and she played down the case at first- and Chen says the U.S. rep’s told him if he didn’t leave the embassy that the Chinese officials would harm his wife.
Now- both sides agree that the threat was made [Chen and the U.S.] but we are denying that we related the threat to Chen.
Either way- the man left the protection of the embassy because of fear for his family- and he is now in danger.
This incident has now overshadowed the original reason for Clinton’s visit- and all the hype this week over the Bin Laden death anniversary.
Actually- it did look bad- as I was flipping the news channels- I saw the re-run of the NBC ‘coverage’ [more like an hour long free campaign ad].
They just did a special on the lead up to the death of Bin Laden- and it showed play for play coverage of the president and his team- I mean I do give the president credit for the death of Bin Laden- but they do seem to be overplaying the hand a bit much.
Even some of the elite Special Forces guys are complaining about his politicizing of the event.
So as I’m seeing clips about ‘we made the call [to kill him] it was a risk- but that’s what the job of president is- taking risks’ on and on- talking about how much of a risk it was for Obama to make ‘the call’.
And then on the next channel- we seem to be throwing this heroic Chinese dissident under the bus- and it seems like ‘the risk’ of actually saving the guy and his family- against the will of China [our bank] who does not want the U.S. to interfere- might be too much.
It is sad- I don’t want to politicize the thing- but for the media campaign to be harping on how much of a risk it was for the president to ‘make the call’- and at the very same moment- we have a crisis that needs him to ‘make a call’ it’s a bit much.
Okay- this morning I read a little from the letter of Peter.
In chapter 2 Peter uses the imagery of Jesus- and of us- as being stones- spiritual stones in a ‘living temple’ who offer up spiritual sacrifices to God thru Christ.
I always liked this imagery- the apostle Paul also uses it in his writings [Ephesians].
Peter says Jesus was a tested corner stone- a tried stone- rejected of men- but approved by God.
We too- as living stones- will be tested and tried- and yes- rejected by men.
This is part of the process.
He will later say ‘don’t think it a strange thing- the fiery trial you are going thru- it is not only given to us to believe on Jesus- but to also suffer for him’.
This is one of the main themes you see run thru out the New Testament.
Peter even says ‘if any man suffers as a Christian [by the way- this term is only used 3 times in the New Testament] let him glorify God’
Yes- suffering and difficulty are part of the package- and the apostle tells us not to ‘think it strange’.
There are so many well meaning believers in our day who have been taught that suffering- hard times- lack of wealth- that all these things only happen to people who don’t have faith- who haven’t yet learned how to ‘claim their covenant rights’.
Now- while most of these teachers mean well- they leave out the other side of the coin.
And if you only hear the ‘happy’ side- then when the tough stuff hits- you ‘think it strange’ you say ‘geez- I guess I’m just not as good as so and so- after all- why would I be suffering’.
So Peter warns us to be aware that the trying of our faith is an important aspect of the Christian life- and there are times when believers are called upon to share in this Cross experience.
In chapter 2 Peter says that Jesus was a tested stone- one that went thru the process of being chipped and honed and shaped into the vessel that God wanted.
Part of the shaping was the rejection process.
God uses ‘tested’ stones in his temples.
In the Old Testament- when they were building the temple- the bible says they prepared the stones away from the building site- so there would be no noise of the hammers chipping away at the temple site itself.
But after the stone was ready- it would be brought to the site and placed into the building.
Often times God allows us to have ‘down time’ a place of being prepared- getting chipped away at- but when he thinks the stone is ready- it is then brought to the site and put into the building.
The apostle John- in the book of Revelation says ‘I John saw the holy city- the New Jerusalem- coming down from God out of heaven- and there was no temple in it’.
John was describing the new kingdom community [the church] that would be absent ‘the temple’ [the old system of law and temple] and would be a new people- a living temple- a kingdom of priests and kings.
These new people would offer up spiritual sacrifices to God- no longer the animal sacrifices of the law- and this would please God.
Yes- we are the people of God- kings and priests unto God.
John also says this in Revelation.
‘thou art worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof- for you were slain and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every nation tribe and tongue- and have made us KINGS AND PRIESTS unto God- and we shall reign on the earth’.
Yes- kings and priests- a new community- a living spiritual temple.
All wonderful things- but the only stones that make it into this temple are tried stones- rejected stones- stones that got ‘chipped’ at for a long period of time.
Yeah- these are the precious stones.
This past week I have been reading the letter of James found in the New Testament.
James has always been a favorite- it was written [more than likely] by the brother of Jesus and it is the same James we read about in Acts chapter 15- one of the 3 main church leaders at the Jerusalem church.
Note- to my Catholic friends- when I say ‘brother’ Protestants believe that Mary had other children after giving birth to Jesus.
We both believe in the Virgin birth- conceived by the Holy Spirit- but Protestants believe Mary had other children by Joseph.
Okay- not a big deal in my mind.
To defend the Catholic position somewhat- even though James is called the brother of the Lord in scripture- brother can refer to close cousins and also ‘Christian’ brothers- so that’s how our Catholic friends interpret it.
Okay- Just this morning I read the last chapter- and thru the week I tried to meditate on one chapter each day.
Key themes- defend the poor, praise the humble- and rebuke [warn] the rich.
Beware of the tongue- what you say ‘it is a world of sin’ and can start a great fire- just like a match starts a forest fire.
Works- was not ‘Abraham our father JUSTIFIED BY WORKS’ ‘Rahab the harlot was JUSTIFED BY WORKS’.
To my scholarly friends- I believe a right understanding of these verses can bridge a 500 year old split between Protestants and Catholics.
I have tried my best to explain this in the past- and it takes time.
Suffice it to say that the normal Protestant interpretation does not do justice to the text.
Most Protestants try their best to say that James WAS ONLY saying ‘the faith that saves is working faith’.
While this is true- if you simply re-read the portions I quoted above- you can see there is more to it than this.
In a nutshell- Justification, Salvation, Righteousness [all words that speak about ‘being saved’] are not only static terms [one time events] but also fluent.
James uses the example from Genesis 22- when Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar.
The apostle Paul uses Genesis 15- when Abraham ‘believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness’.
I believe if we see that James is speaking about the ongoing relationship that God has with his kids- and when these kids do right- obey God- it pleases God.
And God can continue to say ‘well done son- did well’ and in the mind of James- you can say ‘Abraham was justified by works’ God said ‘good job- you’re just’.
There is more to it than this- but I think this explanation is more in keeping with the text than simply seeing James thru the lens of Paul- James does not contradict Paul- but is simply coming at it from a different angle.
Okay- James deals with the ‘rights of the worker’ yes- this is a biblical issue- workers rights!
That’s why historically the church has sided with labor movements.
Many of my conservative brothers seem to equate all union movements with ‘the left’ but to be honest to the text- James [and in this case- Jesus] can be called liberal!
James is chock full of good stuff- try and read it this week if you haven’t all ready.
One of the key themes that I always see ‘jump out’ at me is the theme of defending and honoring the poor- and rebuking the rich.
Now- to my friends who are ‘rich’ its okay- the warnings are along the lines of what the apostle Paul told Timothy [1st Timothy 6] to simply keep wealth in its proper context.
Honor God with it [by helping the poor- not by making TV preachers rich!] and be humble.
This theme is important for our day- because there are many well meaning Christians- and movements- who have gone off track with the wealth issue and have made it a goal of faith.
James- Paul- and Jesus all had strong warnings for the rich- and had great praise for the poor [they inherit the kingdom- James and Jesus said it].
For more on this subject- referred to as the Prosperity gospel- I will post a few posts from the blog right below.
These are from the February posts of each year.
During the year when I write individual posts- I put them in categories and stick them in the February posts at the start of the New Year.
So these are from the Prosperity gospel section.
Also- if you go to the blog [or are on it now] look to the left and you will find my first little book- called House of Prayer or Den of Thieves- I talk about this issue there as well.
Okay- that’s it for now- might do another politics post in a few days- not sure what’s next.
Don’t forget to try and lift each other up in prayer- help someone who’s down on their luck- share with the less fortunate in some way this week- give- but give for the purpose of helping the poor- don’t always see it as ‘an investment with a return’ but give out of love- God will reward you for it.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
1825- PHILOSOPHY [conclusion]
Today let’s wrap up the last philosophy post for now.
Over the last 6 months or so I have posted around 25 posts- covering the pre Socratic thinkers [800 B.C.] and we made it all the way up to the 19th century.
The main philosophical thought of the 20th century was called Logical Positivism.
This idea said there were 3 stages to Western thought/culture;
First- Infancy [religious/myth]
Second- adolescence [philosophy]
Third- adult [science/empirical]
This idea said that man in the 20th century has finally advanced beyond the silly stages of religion and has now moved into a stage where the only true things are empirical in nature.
That is- for something to be true- you must be able to show it scientifically [or mathematically].
It did not take too long before the critics figured out the major flaw with this idea.
This philosophy states ‘the only truth is empirical’ this statement in itself [as well as all the books written on it] is not an empirically proven statement.
Therefore- according to its own criterion- it is false.
This particular aspect of the philosophy was called The Verification Principle [had to be proven/verified scientifically to be valid].
Pragmatism- this is the only home grown philosophy that had its roots in the U.S.
Founded by Dewey and Peirce- this thought denied objective reality and states that ‘whatever works- use it’.
Of course being ‘pragmatic’ in a practical way is fine- we do want things to work.
But at its core Pragmatism says there are no real ethics- no right or wrong- just things people do.
In the beginning of the 20th century you had the British thinker/mathematician Bertrand Russell.
Russell was a good man- raised as a Christian.
But as a young man he read a book by John Stuart Mill [19th century] that questioned one of the classic arguments for the existence of God [the argument from first cause].
Mill said ‘if everything has to have a cause- then why not God- who caused him’.
Russell accepted Mills claim- and became an influential atheist/agnostic.
The main flaw with this argument- that everything ‘has a cause’ is that it’s false.
The law of Cause and Effect [Causality] does not state that everything has a cause- it says that ‘every effect has a cause’.
That is- there is nothing in existence- an effect- that came from nothing.
Some argued that there was no initial cause- but an infinite series of ‘little’ cause and effects that go on forever.
This too is wrong- it leads to another problem called the Infinite Regress.
If there is no First cause- then logically you can never arrive at ‘Now’
There had to have been a starting point somewhere [Einstein has since proved this] and the starting point [Big Bang] could not have come from nothing.
This too is a very common belief among many well meaning people- that somehow science has taught us that all things came from nothing.
This could not be further from the truth- this is referred to as Creation Ex Nihilo- which too is scientifically false.
The only other option- beside the Infinite Regress- and the creation out of nothing- is there had to have been some type of first cause- who is not limited to the material realm.
By nature this being would have to be Metaphysical [outside the physical realm] and would have to be self existent- having no beginning.
To have a First cause- who himself is infinite- is indeed consistent with the principals of logic- and at the end of the day is the only reasonable explanation for the existence of all other things.
Okay- as we end our posts on philosophy for now- why did I cover this?
Thru out the history of the church Christians have grappled and challenged the other world views- and have done a good job at it.
The Christian perspective is not some silly religious way of life that has no real proof.
To the contrary- the church has had the upper hand in all these debates down thru the centuries.
But in today’s ‘media market’ Christianity- the proliferation of self help books [everyday day a Friday?]
The nonstop talk about becoming rich- or sending your money to ‘my ministry’ as a ‘seed faith’ to become rich.
In this environment- many outsiders see the church as an irrelevant- never ending drum beat that they can’t wait to switch to another channel.
This is not the history of the church- and the church has historically won the debate on the reality of God.
It’s just the average person does not know it.
So- for the Christian to be learned in these fields- to have a working knowledge of the opposing world views- is a good thing.
Why do so many believers avoid a field like philosophy?
The apostle Paul warned the Colossians ‘beware of the philosophies of men’.
He also wrote to his protégé Timothy ‘beware of the oppositions of science- falsely so called’.
The word for science in this text is Gnosis- the Greek work for knowledge.
In the early days of the church there was a Christian cult that rose up- called Gnosticism.
More than likely- Paul was not saying that all science- as we use the term today- is bad- but he was warning against a particular from of science- called Gnosticism.
The same with the warning on philosophy- while you could apply it to all philosophy- that is to say that we should be careful when people try to give us opposing ways of thought- yet in context it seems like the apostle is dealing with the philosophies that oppose Christian thought.
For the first 1500 years of the Christian church the study of Theology and Philosophy went hand and hand.
After the Protestant Reformation [15th century] many Protestants avoided the field- which I think was a mistake.
So- as we close up this subject for now- maybe review a few of the posts on the blog that I did these last few months- become more familiar with the apologetic arguments for the existence of God.
Christians do not have to argue- or oppose atheists- or other religions that hold a different view than we do.
But we should be able to give a defense for the faith- to explain to society around us why we believe the things we do.
At the end of the day- we really do have the winning argument.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
1800- THE CHURCH LADY
I caught the debate last night [number 20!] and was surprised that King only asked one question on ‘social issues’ [I think?].
He did bring up the ‘controversy’ over birth control.
Now- up until a few weeks back- starting with the question by Stephanopoulos [a Dem insider- worked for Clinton- admitted- on air- that he cried while sitting at home during the Obama win. You say ‘so what John- Boehner cries too!’ Yeah- but he’s smart enough not to admit it when he weeps in private].
Yeah- when Stephanopoulos brought up the silly question on whether states had the right to ban birth control- right after that the media jumped on the band wagon and have been saying how the Repubs want a war on women’s right to health.
The media keep parading women across the screen- decrying the attack on their health- after all- birth control cures cancer! [The truth be told- there are many more health risks to abortion and birth control then there are health benefits].
Yes- they want the country to see the Repubs as right wing ‘satan hatin’ preachers!
I just read an article the other day- 2 ‘women’s health clinics’ were fined in Texas- their disposal company was dumping the bodies of aborted babies in the city dump.
A woman’s right? I wonder how many of these little bodies belonged to future women.
So the debate goes on- and the populace drinks it in.
They have been showing the clips of a speech by Santorum- he talked about evil as a reality and satan as an enemy.
Okay- he was speaking at a Catholic university forum- it was about 4 years ago- what’s the big deal?
‘Well- you never know- say if he starts talking like this in office’
You mean like Obama?
Yes- 2 weeks ago the Pres was speaking- at a political/religious forum- in Washington- and he defended his tax policies by saying they are based on Jesus’ teachings in the gospel of Luke.
He quoted Jesus ‘to whom much is given- much is required’.
Okay- I see the point he’s trying to make- asking the rich to pay more.
But for a sitting U.S. president to say that his tax policy- as opposed to the other side- is the ‘Jesus one’ well- that would have been world news for days if it were Bush.
So the satan speech- given at a catholic school- geez- give it a break.
The media would have you think that Santorum is the church lady from SNL [Saturday night live].
Dana Carvey did the Church Lady- he would often come up with some circumstance- and then reply ‘hmmm- could it be satan’.
Yeah- that’s Santorum!
This week I have been reading Ezekiel chapter 34.
It talks about the leaders- shepherds of the people. They are being rebuked because they are like ‘shepherds who feed themselves- they kill the sheep- eat the meat and wear the wool as clothes’.
In the New Testament Jesus alludes to this when he says ‘beware of false prophets- they are like wolves in sheep’s clothing’.
Yes- that’s where the term comes from.
The term means more than meets the eye.
It’s speaking about a mindset- one that sees people- church people- citizens- any group of people being ‘ruled’ by others.
And the mindset is ‘I can benefit in some way from my position over them’. This usually means financially.
I have written much about this over the years- and I’m convinced that many good men in modern ministry do not see the violation of scripture they engage in when they enter ‘ministry’ and constantly appeal for money- even to the point of thinking that their becoming rich off of the giving of people is ‘Gods way’.
But also in the broader sense- God is rebuking the leaders because they really don’t have the true concerns of the people at the fore front.
Good leaders- politicians- presidents- congressman. They should be willing to make the right decisions- even if those decisions seem less popular at the time- they should do it because it’s right.
The Pres put out a policy yesterday that said he wanted to lower corporate tax rates and eliminate tax loopholes.
Now- I haven’t read the thing- and I know some say it’s really a scam- I don’t know.
But if it has some truth in it- then it would be a good thing.
Because most analysts say that’s really a major step in the right direction.
Dems and Repubs- responsible ones- have already said this needs to be done.
So if the thing is accurate- then we should support the pres.
The other major thing that the next pres must deal with is the entitlement programs- but whoever gets in- whether it be Romney- Obama- or the Church Lady- they will need to govern for the people- not pander to them for personal gain [popularity that will help them win again].
Don’t get me wrong- as a Christian I’m glad the Pres talked about Jesus- and that Santorum talked about satan.
But the reality is- the ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ looked/talked just like sheep- that’s how they kept getting into the sheepfold- but all they really wanted was personal gain- they saw the sheep [people] as a means to an end- and that’s what gets us in trouble- every time.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
1775- WHAT DID HE SAY?
Let’s do a little review today. I know the history posts go a little long sometimes- and many Christians do not see the value in studying church history.
But I have found over the years that a lot of independent type churches- good men- good people- but cut off from the broader church- well these churches have a tendency to get off in a rut- a particular doctrine or style of teaching- and after a while it becomes impossible to get these good church folk back on the balanced course.
A few examples. Many years ago- as a young Pastor- I had lots of good Pastor friends who too were doing their best to do what they felt God wanted.
At the time- I began having difficulty with many of the most popular interpretations of the bible that these good men were using.
After a while I realized that some of the stuff was so off course- that if they didn’t make some major course corrections at the time- that they were going to end up spending their entire Pastorate teaching stuff that is out right false.
I have talked a lot about this over the years- and the examples are too numerous to cover them all- but a good example is the ‘Camel going thru the eye of a Needle’ verse.
One time Jesus and his men were going thru town and a young rich guy asks Jesus what he must do to be saved.
A pretty straight forward question- right to the point.
Jesus tells the guy to keep the law- the guy asks which ones.
Ah- now you’re digging yourself in brother.
So Jesus says to love God and his neighbor- these are the top ones.
He asks ‘and who is my neighbor’?
Jesus goes on and gives an explanation- and he also tells the guy to go and sell all he has and give it to the poor- and follow him.
The guy goes away sad because he was rich.
Then Jesus says ‘it’s harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a Camel to go thru the Eye of a Needle’.
The disciples [I think Peter?] say ‘then who can be saved’?
Jesus says with men it is impossible- but not with God- with God all things are possible.
[just a quick side note- I haven’t read all these stories in a while- trust me- they are all in the bible- but I might have mixed a few together- but the main point stays the same]
Okay- in context- what could Jesus be saying about the camel and the needle?
It sure seems like he’s using a figure of speech that would mean ‘look- the guy is too attached to his money to fully give himself over to being a follower of me- maybe down the road he will change- but he’s not ready yet’.
Seems reasonable to me- don’t you think?
But wait- in the group of pastors/teachers that were popular at the time- one of the main teachings was how to get rich- and they saw financial increase as the main thing- I mean that’s what they focused on all the time.
So what do you do with verses like these?
You simply change them- you make them say what you want.
So the ‘true’ explanation for the Camel and the Needle became ‘the Eye of the Needle is the name of a low passage way thru the wall into the city- and the merchants- if they have lots of stuff- well the Camel has to stoop low to get thru’.
Aha- so what seems to mean ‘rich folk will have a hard time making the kingdom’ really means something else- as a matter of fact- it means the opposite- because the Camels that have to ‘scooch’ belong to the owners who have a lot of goods- thus the Camel has to get low.
Okay- maybe as rank amateurs this stuff was not the unpardonable sin- but many of these men are still teaching this type of stuff- and this one example is the tip of the iceberg- I could go on for a long time quoting all them but that’s not the point for now.
The main point is- if Christians separate themselves from the broader church- not just talking about ‘going to church’ but talking about the broad understanding that the people of God have- the books and teachings of those who have gone before us- not just one small group- but the whole community- then we will avoid these kinds of pitfalls.
As we do a few more posts in the coming weeks on church history- we will see this was one of the things restored by the Protestants Reformers during the 16th century.
Luther restored what’s referred to as the Literal Sense- that when you read the bible- you should be able to take it at face value- as much as possible.
Sure- you also want to ‘hear God’ speak in a personal way- but if what your hearing is the exact opposite of what the text is saying- well then we do have a problem.
 Happy new years eve to all. Let’s do a brief Year in Review.
We did have quite a busy news year- last night I caught a CSPAN clip of Newt- yeah- he was crying like a baby!
Okay- not that bad- but he did break down for a few seconds on screen. Some of the pundits debated if it were ‘planned’ or real.
I think E.J. Dionne [a liberal news guy] got it right- he said he thought it was sincere- but how much it will help a man in a Repub primary fight- well that’s another story.
Boehner said he didn’t see anything wrong with it [lol for you non savvy political folk- who knows- maybe they will both run for office in North Korea? The crying capitol of the world].
The big story of the year? Well- there were a few [Tsunami- Arab Spring- E.U. crisis] but as a geopolitical event that was big- I guess I would say the shakeup we saw in the Arab world was pretty major.
It started with a street vender in Tunisia- he refused to pay ‘the tax’ to the cops for his street profit- it’s really a form of extortion like the mob uses. So in frustration he ‘self immolated’ [lit himself on fire!] and he died a few days later from his injuries.
This led to the overthrow of the long time leader in Tunisia [Ben Ammi]- and then the Egyptians followed suit by protesting in the historic Tahrir square.
Mubarak got toppled and then Libya gave it a shot. Of course we [the U.S. and NATO] basically bombed the hell out of the place and then let the rebel’s claim they won.
Last week in Nigeria- on Christmas day- Muslim radicals bombed a Christian church and killed many worshippers. Nigeria is much like the Sudan- the country is divided North and South by Muslims and Christians [Sudan’s south also has lots of Animists].
What do all these countries have in common? They are all in Africa. Yes- the African continent probably saw the most ‘action’ though the last part of the year we have focused on Europe.
Yes- Europe had her own Western style debt crisis. It can get a little confusing- I mean I was watching one news show- the title was the Euro Zone debt crisis- and they said there were 27 nations in the Euro Zone.
That’s a common mistake some have made. The Euro Zone is made up of 17 European nations- that have entered into a treaty that allows them to all use one common currency- the Euro.
But there are a total of 27 nations that make up the European Union- the biggest Economy out of all of them is Britain- they are not part of the Euro Zone- though they are part of the E.U. – got it?
By the way- Brazil just passed Britain as the world’s 6th [or 7th?] largest economy.
And Japan faced her devastating earthquake/Tsunami [I think it was this year?] anyway there economy has been in the doldrums for around 20 years. Japan had her own recession/depression many years ago- and they have still never fully recovered.
Which brings us to the end of the year in the U.S.
We end the year with some better than expected economic numbers- but don’t be fooled- the numbers are not great- they are actually not good- they are just better than expected.
Some now predict that the last quarter will see around 3 % growth [it takes a few weeks for the data to come out] and some are predicting that 2012 we’ll see around 3 % growth.
3 % is not good- it’s actually bad- but it’s not as bad as a recession.
What we need to keep in mind is our economy has gone through some major hits- and like Japan- you don’t just pop out of it in a few years.
Many of the companies are in better shape- because they scaled back- they cut people and downsized- some for good.
So- the DOW might look good because of stuff like this- but we have now had a few years of college grads who have been unable to find work- and they missed the ‘boost’ of getting a good job- buying a car- getting a place to stay- and this group of young unemployed kids- well they might never get the jump they need to do ‘better than their parents’.
So by no means have we as a country recovered from our debt/economic problems- and the E.U. still has a lot of risk in the coming year.
In the last few weeks the Federal Reserve and a few other central banks made money available to the E.U. banks at a cheap rate.
The theory is if you pour money into the banks- that might loosen up lending- and you avoid a real problem. Just like our own TARP thing we did in 2008.
But lo and behold- some of the E.U. nations sold [tried] to sell some bonds- and the banks did not buy as many as people expected. The banks took the cash [like the U.S. banks did in 2008] and basically sat on the money.
So all this means we still have a tough year ahead- globally- and just because some numbers are looking better at the end of the year for the U.S.- this does not mean all is well.
The scripture reading for this week is Isaiah 52. The prophet speaks about Gods people- he says ‘Wake up- rise up- shake the dust from your feet and move on’.
He also says that blessed are those who preach the Good News- the good news of salvation. Those who publish peace- those who declare Gods rule.
I have a habit- every week [just about] I watch the Catholic Mass on the tube- those are the bible chapters I cover during the week.
Of course this past week I watched the Popes Mass from Rome- the Pope spoke against the commercializing of Christmas- and he reminded us that the true message of Christmas is Emmanuel- God with Us.
As we end the year- I want to encourage all my readers/friends- the reality of God being with us is what’s important. Yes- I do think many are not seeing the ‘story behind the story’ in the above news events- many want to believe there is no way they might have lost money [401 k’s] and they might never see that money again.
But that’s okay- even if you didn’t lose it this past year- you were going to ‘lose it’ someday- we all have to leave some day- and we have a tendency to put that reality off.
One year I had a friend- another firefighter- who just started investing in Real Estate. And all the guys knew I was doing that for years. I used to have renters come by and drop off the rent checks and stuff like that.
So when one of the other guys got into it- they would ask me for advice. One day I had a friend- around 50 years old- and he bought a few homes.
As he was talking- he was telling me that he would pay off these 2- sell this one- rent the other- I mean he had all the plans first time buyers/investors get into. I simply tried to give him some sound advice- and I also had to stop him at one point.
He was telling me the plans he had for the 3 homes that were on a 30 year mortgage- and I had to say ‘Mike- I know your excited about the houses- but you’re talking about paying off these homes- you do realize you might be dead before the mortgage is paid off’.
I wasn’t being funny- I actually was telling him something that many investors do not calculate in when they do the numbers- they very rarely calculate in their own mortality.
So yes- we will all do our best- we will watch the numbers this year- and well will try and publish the good news- the good news of God being with men- that God became a man- was crucified- died- and buried. He rose again the 3rd day- according to the scriptures- he will come again to judge the living and the dead. Amen and Amen.
Happy New Year to all.
 JESUS FOR PRESIDENT?
Let’s try and cover a few current events. Obviously the media lost a major ‘player’ of ‘news’ when Cain left the stage. And it only took them a few days before they attached on to Gingrich.
Christianne Amanpour [CNN] asked ‘do you think a twice divorced person can get the support he needs to be president’. This is not the first time I have heard this.
I think Newt is a smart guy- I’m not a big defender of any of these guys- but the hypocrisy of the media to keep asking this- as a major campaign question- is nuts.
Sure- he’s been divorced- we got that. Yet Edwards [John] actually fathered a child with a woman- while his wife was suffering from cancer [the same thing that Newt did] and the media did not think that story was relevant- they indeed knew about the thing.
It was only after the Enquirer actually got pictures of Edwards holding the kid- then the story broke.
So this obsession with Newt’s divorce- please.
Okay- the headline read ‘Woman in prison for being raped is pardoned’. Wow. Yes- this headline ran in a couple of my papers- right next to the name Afghanistan.
So- if you didn’t read the story- you would think that some woman got raped in the country- under those bad Taliban folk- and because we ‘liberated’ them- she’s free.
Actually- that’s not the story. The woman was raped during the present regime- our guys [Karzai] and the courts made her a deal ‘if you marry the rapist- you go free’. She refused. She has been raising her daughter in jail- and Karzai made her the offer a 2nd time [how noble of him] and she married the rapist and she’s out.
The title should have been ‘Woman who was raped is forced to marry the S.O.B.’
Biden goes to the ancient city of Constantinople the other day [Modern day Istanbul- Turkey]. He’s having a meeting with a group of business people and young entrepreneurs that the president had launched a few years back.
In the meeting Biden stands up and gives this Joe Paterno like speech ‘way to go boys- we [Turkey and the U.S.] have come far in this liberating project of business- our success and democratic spirit have been a lynchpin for the Arab Spring….’ you know- Biden likes to talk a lot.
Right after he gave the sermon- one of the Turkish guys got up and slammed the West [us and Europe] for being a bunch of inept leaders- nations who spend more than they have like spoiled brats- and have no political courage to change course. Yeah Joe- you sure told them!
As we approach the end of the year- there are so many very serious world events taking place- events that will play a major role in our lives here in the U.S.
For the life of me- I can’t see how investors can be up on the market- even though some numbers are good- these other things are hanging right on the edge.
The Euro Zone is nowhere near being fixed- and the options are terrible. They will either have to jump in 100 % behind the Euro [which Germany and others will never do] or they split up.
The break up looks like it might happen- the odds are higher now than ever. Okay- if that happens- it will affect world markets- and many analysts fear it will cause us to go into another recession.
So- if these scenarios are possible [probable] then how can you have an optimistic overall outlook- economically speaking? Sure- you can hedge your bets and do well- I’m not saying we are all gonna die- but to be acting like we are on some boom market- that’s nuts.
During the time of Jesus you had a divided people. In 1st century Palestine the Jewish people split into 4 basic sects. 2 of them are pretty well known- the Pharisees and Sadducees- they are mentioned often in scripture.
The other 2 are less well known- the Zealots and the Essenes. The Zealots are named in the bible- but only in passing. We have no references to the Essenes.
The Pharisees were sticklers for the Torah [Jewish bible] and the Sadducees centered their life around the Temple- they were more of a political/religious type group.
They stuck to the Torah alone. That is they only received the actual first 5 books of the Old Testament- which is the Torah [also the term is used to speak of the entire Old Testament] and that’s why the Sadducees rejected miracles and angels and stuff. Most of those stories are found in the other O.T. books.
The Zealots were a group of people who hated compromise- they were actually a 1st century ‘terrorist’ group- who carried out assassinations. Not on Rome- but on their own people!
The zealots hated those who compromised with Rome- and if they felt a leader was too chummy- they killed him.
The Essenes were a separatist group who lived in ‘the hills’ [Qumran community] they simply gave up completely on any political solutions for the day- and went and lived in the hills. These are the ones responsible for hiding the Dead Sea scrolls [old bible books found in the last century] in a cave.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus had both a Zealot on his team [Simon- not Peter who also went by that name] and Matthew- a Tax collector. Tax collectors were considered the biggest sell outs of all- they actually worked for Rome and scammed their own people- it must have been hard for Jesus to lead this group [the 12 disciples] who came from such opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Yet Jesus did lead them- he was even offered earthly rule a few times [once from satan- and once from the people who heard him] he rejected it both times. His kingdom was not ‘of this world’.
In the New Testament book of Philippians- the bible says that though Jesus was in the form of God [deity] yet he became a man and humbled himself to the death of the Cross- a shameful way to die.
We have one letter written in the N.T. by a ‘family’ member of Jesus- that’s the epistle of James.
Protestants believe that Mary had other kids after Jesus was born- our Catholic friends teach that she remained a Virgin her whole life. My purpose right now is not to get into that.
James was considered the ‘half brother’ of Jesus [Mary was the mom of both boys- Joseph was the dad of James- Jesus’ father was God]. Okay- James was slow to believe in his brother- but over time as Jesus was declaring himself to be the Messiah- I’m sure James had to wonder- you know- think back ‘gee- come to think of it- I can’t’ remember a time where my brother got in trouble’.
Wait- now I remember- yeah- that time when Jesus was 12- we all went to Jerusalem for the big feast- and Jesus stayed behind while we started the trip home. Yeah- we went 3 days before we realized he was gone. Boy was mom mad that day.
So we went all the way back to get him- and when we found him- he was sitting in the temple- asking these questions- I mean questions that only theologians knew- Jesus was still a kid.
Mom said to him ‘son- why did you stay behind- we were worried’! Yeah- she was mad- if there was ever a time my brother came close to getting in trouble- this was it. But Jesus said ‘why were you worried- didn’t you know I would be doing my Fathers business’ yeah- he sure seemed different- but the Messiah- come on.
So as the ministry years of Jesus role by- there are all these reports of miracles and healings- blind people seeing- dead people coming back from the grave.
Yeah- James has got to be wondering now- but no- he could not accept that his own brother was the promised Son of God- no- too much.
Then the day came- that terrible day where mom had to watch Jesus die on that rugged Cross- on Golgotha- man the hill looked like a skull.
Yeah- it was a strange site- I mean the sky got dark- an earthquake shook the place- and even the Roman soldier who witnessed my brother die said ‘surely this was the son of God’. Wow- too much- my bother has carried this thing too far- even in his death he won’t let this obsession go.
Then James hears some disturbing reports- his friends are saying that Jesus has come back- that he pulled it off- the greatest miracle ever- the one Houdini himself couldn’t do.
But are the reports true? I mean if anyone could tell if this guy walking around is really Jesus- James would know.
We don’t read of the account- but all we know is James became a believer- a believer that his brother was indeed the Messiah- the Son of God.
I guess it went something like this- Jesus sitting there with his men- James shows up and sees his brother- the perfect one- not a spot on his record. Maybe Jesus looked up- maybe he said ‘brother- do you now see’ and yeah- he saw.
James would go on to be one of the leaders/Pastors of the church at Jerusalem- we read about him in Acts chapter 15. Most scholars believe this was the same James who penned the short letter we find in the N.T. that bears his name.
One thing James hits on a lot in his letter- is he defends the poor- the downtrodden- and he rips into the rich- the elite of the day. He warns us not to be biased- not to use ‘uneven scales’ when dealing with people.
James hit on social justice issues- he picked them up from his brother.
We need to be concerned about the world- if a raped woman is forced to marry her rapist- then we ought not say ‘she was pardoned’. When we critique one person for past failures- then we must do that to all.
But at the end of the day- Jesus never took the earthly crown- he did not see the solution to be a political one- he brought Simon and Matthew together on the same team- and he showed them what it means to lay your life down for others- to live without the praise of men- the earthly standard of success- he chose another way- and he left that path for us.
 Where’s the oil?
Let’s cover a parable of Jesus. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the story of the 10 virgins who went to meet the bridegroom. 5 were wise- 5 were foolish. The wise ones took containers of oil with their lamps. The foolish ones took lamps- but no oil.
All the virgins were waiting for the bridegroom to return [Jesus] and as the wait went long- they all fell asleep.
Then at midnight the bridegroom came back- and they all awoke. The virgins who took no oil asked the ones who had oil ‘can you give us some’ they were told ‘no- but you go buy some too- like we did’ and as they went to buy- the bridegroom took the ones who were ready- they went into the feast and the door was shut.
The ‘no oil’ crowd missed out.
Okay- what does this mean? Well- if you have lamps at the house you need to…- Well maybe there’s a little more to it than that.
When we read the parables of Jesus- the most important thing [in my view] needed to understand them is the context. I have heard many good teachings over the years- on all the parables- and lot of times the preachers/Christians ‘place’ them in the context of ‘current church’.
Maybe the parable of the sower- they’ll struggle with ‘okay- is this group ‘saved’ or what about these who endure to the end’. While of course it is true that we can apply the parables to modern life- most of the times when we approach them with the mindset that Jesus is speaking specifically about ‘your church’ or church group- well then I think we miss the main meaning.
Having said all that- I think I will ‘apply’ this one to some current events of the day. But first- Jesus is basically telling his audience- the Jewish nation- that many people will think they are ready for his return and they will find out- too late- that they were not really ready- no oil.
As a ‘teacher’ who likes to teach all Christians- Catholic, Protestant- etc. What I try to do is present both sides of the issue. I also strive to teach from ‘a storehouse’ of oil- I make an attempt to be familiar with the current trends in Theology- hear/read what the scholars are saying- and to also have a background on the history of the various churches.
Then- when doing the teaching- I try to be honest- and fair. If I have a particular point of view- or a way I think the text should be taught- or what the ‘right’ doctrine is- I will share it from that point of view.
But it would also be unfair to use the years of study- and then ‘blast’ another denominations adherents- fully realizing that the average church attendee probably does not have the same background info that I’m familiar with.
So it’s important to teach from ‘a storehouse’ while at the same time not using the storehouse to simply prove your point.
Okay- Over the years I have bought tons of books- and as time went by- I had to eventually make room for this collection. Though I have a huge wall in my study just for books- yet I still ran out of room. So one day I packed up all the ‘less valuable’ books- and off they went to the half price book store.
I kind of reminisced as I went thru the process of ‘should I dump this one’ or should I hold on to it. A lot of the titles were silly- things like ‘when your money system fails’ or stuff like the mark of the beast- or more practical titles like ‘flying higher’ or ‘improve your serve’.
All well meaning books/authors- who for whatever reason woke up one day- had a ‘thought’ and off to the printing press they went.
Okay- storehouse? No. Well meaning? Yes. But a storehouse [operating out of years of good learning] no.
Now- I don’t want to be too mean here- there are times where a book- or teaching that is simple can speak to people. Jesus parables were indeed short stories that were simple- people could remember them- not like a long theological treatise from the great apostle Paul [Romans] where you learn from hard study- but Jesus style was indeed short- and sweet.
Plus- it’s easy to remember the moral of the story- without banging your head up against some heavy doctrine.
Yet- heavy doctrine plays its role as well.
Now- most contemporary teaching- like going to church on Sunday-most of it today springs from this ‘I’ll take my lamp and I will see what we got for this week’. You know- you wake up on Monday- kind of go thru the week [talking pastors here- which I did myself for a few years] and you ‘come up’ with something for Sunday.
Sometimes you come up with something good- sometimes not so good. Often times you’re simply going from week to week- sort of like my bookshelf- listening/reading stuff- well meaning stuff- but just stuff.
I mean an entire book on ‘flying higher’. Yeah- I still remember it. A well meaning pastor- but the whole book was based on how one day a friend told him about how pilots use a certain technique when they fly- and Walla- a book!
Or another title form a very famous preacher of the day- ‘how I lost 30 pounds’ [I think it was 30? But who really cares!]
Say if you went to college- and as you arrived at the class- your professor said ‘okay- this week we will cover [math- or whatever subject]’ and he went on and taught an entire lesson from some sign he saw while driving to the school [you know- a literal sign that said ‘2 plus 2 is 4’].
You would think to yourself ‘geez- at this rate- I will never really get an education’ and you would be right.
So why do believers think its okay to learn the faith like this?
The bible commands us to be childlike in faith- that is to be like a child when approaching God- as our Father. But the bible also says to be mature when it comes to our understanding ‘in understanding be men’ [Apostle Paul].
Wherever you are at today on your journey- I want to encourage you to ‘clean out the book shelf’ don’t live with a ‘lamp only’ mentality- that is you show up at the party with a lamp [some gift/tool that might be a good tool- like writing a book- or preaching a sermon] but a lamp is only effective if it comes with a container- a container that has some oil to ‘back it up’.
I fear that too many of us are showing up at the party- we have waited a long time for the groom to come back- and we realize too late that we spent a whole lot of time perfecting our ‘lamp skills’ and the important stuff [oil] is missing.
 FOR A PAIR OF SHOES? CMON!
Yesterday I saw a few clips from a talk Joe Biden gave- he was at some municipal type function [Cops- Firemen] and he was basically defending the presidents ‘jobs bill’. I mean the guy really impressed me with his mastery of the numbers.
He rattled off ‘in 2007- you had this many cops on the street- this many rapes- this many killings’. He then went on to the following years- you know- showing us that as the force went down in numbers- that the violent crimes went up.
I mean- it was so smooth- you would think he was just pulling the numbers out of the air.
As he left the hall- some reporter got him on whether or not it was right to associate voting no on the ‘jobs bill’ with being for an increase in rapes [Biden was saying if you vote no- then the number of cops being let go will go up- and the rapes will go up too- according to his numbers].
Biden kind of got into a little scuffle ‘hey buddy- don’t you misquote me on this- this is what I said’ you know- Biden has never had trouble with talking off the cuff like that.
Then sure enough- the Repubs got the actual numbers from the FBI on the rapes and stuff from that city [I think he was in Boston?].
And the actual numbers were the opposite of what Biden said- the rapes went down over the years he said they went up.
I like old Joe- he lives his life for the moment. You know- having a few shots of J.D. with the guys at the Fire Dept. Hanging out with the cops and all my fellow union bro’s [still am a member with the fire fighters union] and then going to the union hall and hitting one out of the park- just giving this soul stirring defense of the president’s policy- rattling off those numbers like one of the local lotto ‘quick 6’ guys does at the corner store.
Then of course the thrill is short lived- sure it made you feel great as you hung out with the boys for the rest of the day ‘Biden sure defended us today- way to go Joe- way to go’. Then he gets back home and sees all the clips of how he screwed up the whole thing.
You know- his wife saying ‘hey honey- look your on CNN again- they’re making fun of you’. And Biden probably just fluffs the thing off ‘Heck- this aint the first time baby- and won’t be the last’. Oh- and by the way- Obama’s trying to get a hold of you- ‘just tell him I’m’ busy hon- talk to him another day’.
Ah- the more I watch these guys- the more I keep thinking of the Don Knott’s movie ‘the gang that can’t shoot straight’ it’s sad- but at least you can laugh as the country goes to Hades in a hand basket.
Okay- to my liberal friends- this next one is for you.
I do think very seriously that our country- and the world- has very serious problems facing us these next few years. I do not see the answer to these problems as being conservative or liberal- I think that both sides really need to be able to come to the table and talk as adults- that has not happened yet.
I’m going to defend Obama right now- just a warning to both sides.
These past few months the U.S. has been trying to negotiate a deal with Iraq- we originally signed an agreement with the new govt. that we would stay in their country till the end of this year.
As the months rolled by the leadership of Iraq has had some very shaky people join their ranks. Iraq is now considered [by many insiders] as being part of a group of 3 nations [Iraq- Syria- Iran] that are strengthening their ties- as sort of a buffer against the other nations in the region.
One of the leaders in Iraq- on the official payroll- is Muqtada Al Sadr [I’m guessing on the spelling?] Do you remember him?
This guy led his own militia during our war in Iraq. At times we went back and forth on whether or not we should target his little enclave and take out his personal army.
Eventually we decided to let the guy live and he finally got on the actual team of leaders that make up the new Iraqi leadership.
This guy has killed our guys- we have killed his.
Now- a while back he agreed to putting a stop to the killing of American soldiers in Iraq [gee thanks a lot!]. He is a religious leader with a following- and at one time he justified [Fatwa] the killing of American soldiers as being part of fighting the ‘infidel’ invaders from the west.
After he got in office- he agreed to tell this people ‘stop killing them’- for good? No- just until the official agreement of our forces staying until this year ends- but after that- he has said its open shooting once again.
Okay- this guy is part of the Iraqi govt.- he’s telling us he will take his guys and kill American soldiers if we stay past the deadline.
Obama has been trying to extend the deadline [at the secret request of the Iraqi leaders- they want us to stay longer- but because of political posturing won’t say it openly]. But in order for them to look tough to the outsiders- they are refusing to sign an agreement that would give our guys legal immunity if we stay.
So you have these guys playing ‘hard ball’ with our guys- we are not asking them to pay the 800 billion dollar bill we have racked up over these past 10 years- they have officials in their govt. who are openly saying ‘you stay past the deadline- your dead’ and the other leaders will not grant our guys immunity.
I would have done the same thing Obama did- you know what- we shed blood here- your govt. has turned into a major supporter of some of our biggest enemies in the region- and your own officials are calling for the killing of our men- after the deadline.
Your damn right we’re not staying- no way in hell.
But we are so divided- the Repub candidates have used this as a tool to criticize Obama- and the left has done the same dirty deeds [Biden’s numbers game?]
This week the DOW went up to around 11,800. I’ll admit- I did not think we would see those numbers this year- nor do I think it’s smart for us to ‘see’ those numbers.
Why? I have said a bunch of times over this last year that the global economy is not in good shape.
Some economists think we [the U.S. and Europe] are going through a De- Leveraging cycle. They feel that nations/economies can only go so long through a borrowing/spending cycle- and then they have to ‘bottom out’ and go through a long season of deleveraging.
Many think that the west is in this phase right now- and will be in it for a number of years.
That’s why Greece- once again- is having open rioting on the streets. They have over borrowed- over promised- and now are doing what’s called Austerity measures- they have to cut.
Now- in our country- we too have these same problems looming over the horizon- we are not technically as bad as Greece [yet] but we are in trouble.
The only way to really deal with this problem- is for both sides to actually make some serious cuts/changes in what we call entitlement programs [Medicare being the biggest] and yes- some type of income on the ‘revenue side’.
Not raising taxes across the board [maybe?] but doing what many on both sides have called for- closing a lot of the loopholes that are in the tax code and making real ‘adjustments’ to entitlements- if we don’t seriously do this- then we will be in big trouble.
Okay- why do I think the DOW is way too high? Investors have been looking for a sign- any sign- that they can use to hang some hope on- that we will not go into another recession.
Sure enough- some good news did come out- and some not so good.
Then once again- the European debt yoyo- it went up again- the investors thought ‘o- maybe the Euro Zone will fix its debt crisis’. Look- no matter what deal they do- they will still have a very long way to go to get out of their problems- and their banks and economies are going to still suffer- no matter what.
And why was Biden doing the speech? Because he was trying to get support for Obama’s plan to send more federal money back to the states. The states have been propped up by the stimulus package and fed. aid- and that moneys gone.
So yes- the states are going to lay off this year- more than any previous year- the moneys gone.
All of these things are huge problems- on a Macro level- that are going to effect the global markets for many years to come- even if the actual figures for business look better [many financial guys have been saying ‘the fundamentals are much better’- true- in a way].
But no business functions in a vacuum. No matter how good the bottom line looks- if people are out of work- and banks are not lending- and if we are really in a de leveraging cycle- then no matter how good the ‘fundamentals’ are- the ‘customers’ are broke- or can’t get a loan to buy the good/service- see?
Okay- lets end with some bible stuff- before I lose all my Christian readers.
A while back we were doing an over view of the entire bible- and I probably should have done at least one last post or 2 before we stopped [maybe will get to that in the next few weeks?]
We stopped at the O.T. prophets- and under that category- you have what we call the Major and Minor Prophets. That’s simply a distinction in the size of their books [Isaiah is long- major- Amos short- minor].
I did hit on Isaiah some- and for a minor prophet- if I could only do one- it would be Amos.
Amos was a very strong defender of the poor- the weak ones in society. He railed against the rich- and the powerful- ‘you sell the poor for a pair of shoes- there is no justice in the land’.
In a way- you could fit him in at one of the Occupy Wall Street rallies.
Amos also condemned the ‘church folk’ he said [like the other prophets too] that the religious people were having great meetings- they were rejoicing in their religious life- they had a great time ‘practicing’ their religion [every day a Friday?] Yet there were many injustices in the land- things that God was not happy with.
And these things were the uneven balances that existed in their day.
When he said ‘you sold the poor for a pair of shoes’ yes- the ‘market’ was that bad- that you could ‘buy a slave’- that cheap. Was it ‘just’ simply because that was the market value?
Hell no- people have more value than a damn pair of shoes! What about his injustice ‘rant’?
That spoke specifically about ‘justice in the courts’ the rich were able to ‘buy’ a better outcome in the courts- than the poor.
Man- if these things are not signs of our times- then I have no idea what is.
Okay- I’m glad the President did what he did on the troop thing- if your country can’t guarantee immunity to our guys- yeah-were gonna get the hell out.
Oh- one last thing- I think I hear a phone ringing- all the way from Delaware- yes Joe- someone wants to talk to you- and soon.
 PLEASE DON’T EAT THE DAISIES [OR THE SEAL].
I heard a news story the other day- some kids in a Massachusetts school district found a stranded baby seal on the beach one day. So like most environmentally minded young folk- they rescued the seal and brought him back to their town.
As the news got out- the town decided to adopt this helpless thing- and they went all out- the school district put out lots of money [they spent about 80 thousand overall] and after a couple of years- little ‘flipper’ was ready to launch.
So they all went down to the ocean one morning- and it was truly a tearful moment [maybe a little too tearful?]. As they launched their beloved child- you know- sending him [her] off to brave new worlds- places ‘no seal has gone before’- as soon as the lad was released- an Orca [killer whale] came up from the water- and swallowed him whole.
Now- you have the kids and all standing at the shore- asking their elders ‘mommy- daddy- what happened’. And of course that began a long week of mourning for the whole town. Whose fault was this? Was it anybody’s fault? Would it be right to make this someone’s fault?
As we enter this last year of the president’s term- for whatever reason- he has made a conscious decision to ‘blame the rich’. Now- those of you know me- and have read my posts for a while- will realize that I am no defender of ‘the rich’.
I have worked with poor people for most of my life- and I refuse offerings or help- because I have always felt that the influence of money [like ministries always begging for it] has been a blight on the church.
Yet at the same time- there are lots of very hard working people- who are being categorized as ‘the rich’ who don’t pay their ‘fair share’.
In the current Obama plan- couples making over 250 thousand a year [and singles making 200] are considered ‘the rich’.
Now- depending on where you live- this might be rich- or maybe not.
Where I grew up in N.J. – if you’re a cop- or firefighter- maybe the wife is a teacher- you might fall into this rich group.
And if you are paying the very high North East mortgage payment- then to hit a family like that with a huge tax increase- well that’s gonna hurt.
The example the president keeps using- well he’s making it sound like most of the rich are really paying less. The truth is we do have a graduated income tax rate in this country- that goes up as you make more.
I think the bottom is at around 5 %- the top around 29 % [plus you have around 40-50 % who pay no federal income taxes at all]. So why is the president saying the rich pay less than their secretaries? [Buffett’s famous line]. Because Buffett- like a few other billionaires- pays only capital gains tax- taxes on investment income and dividends from stocks.
Yes- for those few fortunate billionaires- they have managed to live off of the interest- and the tax on that kind of income is around 15 %.
How many of ‘the rich’ are not paying ‘their fair share’ by doing this. I don’t have the exact number off hand- but it’s close to around 1 % of all those who file who make around a million a year or more.
The point is- the people who are ‘not paying their fair share’ are not the people the president is branding as ‘those who are not paying their fair share’.
So- it’s just dow right unfair to the working cop and teacher- who might be getting hit with the new ‘fair rate’ and to brand them as not pulling their weight in society- when the truth is- these are the people who are really paying close to 80% of all the taxes in the country.
Now- I do think we should get rid of corporate loopholes- and yes- if we do a ‘billionaires’ tax type thing- to deal with the few Buffett’s of the world- than I really don’t care much.
But the reality is most of those being accused of not paying their fair share- well- they are paying the lions share right now.
It’s easy to get people on your side- if you find a noble cause [saving the baby seal- or helping the poor working folk] and if you can put the blame for this injustice on someone else- then you almost always win [the argument- though you might still lose the seal].
I’m sure the kids at the beach that day would have liked to have blamed ‘that darn Orca- taking more than he should- probably eats more than the other species of fish- who are struggling in life- but no- this bully had to have the very last bite-‘ and on and on.
When we feel like an injustice has happened- like the scales are not tipping right- we want to find a scapegoat- to find the real culprit’s behind the injustice. Sometimes things happen- sometimes societies [Greece- Italy this week] overpromise too much to people- and if these societies are spending money they don’t have- well it’s easy to blame it on the Orca- the ‘big bully’ who seems to get his full- while we baby seals are left here on the shore struggling to survive.
I know it’s hard to take this position and defend the ‘Orcas of the world’ and the whole reason some people blame the Orcas- well- it’s because they know they are an easy target- you don’t get many people to stand up for the right of the Orca to eat the baby seal.
But this is such a dangerous game- and it’s unfair to the majority of people who are in this ‘rich’ category [not the Buffett’s] who are really paying their fair share- and more.
I think the president should make this clear- and not divide the country over this- sure- you might be on the side that will naturally garner the most sympathy- but that still doesn’t make it right.
 DO THE HUSTLE?
One time Jesus was engaging with the religious folk- and he said they were like kids/people in the market place. They said ‘we piped and you did not dance- we mourned and you didn’t respond how we wanted you to respond’ [my paraphrase].
A few years back a lot of things changed with me [us- ministry]. As a ‘ministry’ I never took money for personal use- no salary- nada. And eventually I ‘forsook’ all money. That is in the first few years as a home church- we did take offerings- and it was used to meet the needs of people.
When we did rent a place to meet- we used some for the expenses. But as I progressed [some say digressed!] I just cut the whole offering thing off. On the radio- we [I] was the only person who actually paid out of pocket for the air time. Though you had others who never asked for money- yet these shows were underwritten by their church.
So I just said ‘from now on- I will not take money- for anything’. I also quit claiming my giving [which was a lot- considering the radio alone] for tax purposes. I simply wanted to give the example that being ‘in ministry’ is not some type of business that you have to constantly be prodding people to ‘give to God’. I realized that much of what we call ‘ministry’ is simply well meaning people- setting up Christian non profit organizations- and then developing a mechanism to get others to ‘support the work’.
Some churches teach ‘church membership’ but many times what they mean is- after you come for a while- we want you to commit to giving 10 % of your salary to the church.
Other ministries take various approaches.
After I retired from the Fire Dept. I got into a bind- I lost my health insurance- it was too expensive to keep- so I dumped the thing. This left me in a curios spot- I was still helping lots of the people out [homeless- church friends] and sometimes I would pay a bill or 2 for them- maybe 100- 150 dollar type thing- and I would be out that month. Yes- I live off of a retirement check- just a little over what some of these friends were getting- if you add in the Medicare/Medicaid- and some had disability/s.s. checks.
I guess they didn’t realize that paying a bill or 2- actually- really left me broke. Now- I didn’t complain [unless you count this post as a complaint!] but at times- after doing the ministry this way- I always found it strange that people still questioned me [and others in general] about the ‘money motives’ of ministry.
I had a relative call me and straight out question me on why I was not financially supporting another family member [kind of a bold thing to ask- out of the blue] I knew this relative was quite rich- multimillionaire? At least in the category of a millionaire. They said ‘if your spending all this money on your homeless friends- why don’t you use some of the funds for so and so’ I said ‘what funds are you talking about’?
They then realized I was basically doing the stuff from my measly check- yes- as bad as that sounds- that’s the deal.
Then they were upset that I was ‘wasting money’ on helping people.
Like Jesus said ‘we made music for you- and you didn’t dance’ that is people see ‘ministry/church’ as ‘we expect you to respond in a certain way’ and sad to say- because of this very subject- money- many preachers/churches do ‘adjust’ their messages based on how well the giving went in the previous month.
Needless to say- the whole thing at times seems to be a vast wasteland- coming up with all types of ‘bible verses’ and telling people ‘if you don’t give- your testing- robbing God’ geez- we better make sure were using that verse in context [Malachi] because in most of these scenarios we are not- and then to falsely charge people with ‘robbing God’ that’s pretty darn bad.
I don’t blame my friends for not realizing that at times- me helping them out- well- it did put me in a bind. And sometimes- they don’t realize that because I don’t have health care benefits- that if you actually added everything up- many of these friends are actually making the same [or more] than me.
I just feel like we all need to do our best to help others- don’t assume that people have money- or that they are in it for the money. Many times people are just doing what they feel they are required to do.
And of course- you’ll always have the friend/relative who wants you to do a dance for them- to justify- for them- why you do what you do- never mind that they are worth a hundred times more than you- and they are in much better shape to help the relative- no- that’s none of my business. But when they Pipe [make music] they just want you to dance- geez- I never was a good dancer- why start now?
 WHAT MATTERS?
The other day I mentioned how believers have a habit of getting caught up in certain ‘religious’ views [tithing was the example I gave] and over time these views develop to a point where they take precedence over the things Jesus actually placed real value on.
In the 1st century when Jesus showed up on the scene- the religious practices of Gods people were centered around religious meetings [holy days] prayer, fasting and tithing- mainly to be seen of men- that is religion digressed to a point where what seemed to be the most important thing- was actually not important.
So how did Jesus respond? He spends the 3 very public years of ministry- healing the sick, telling the poor they are the blessed ones who will inherit Gods kingdom- and blasting the rich- and those in power- by telling them that their day was coming too.
In essence Jesus was the ultimate prophet- he followed the long line of Jewish prophets who took these same positions. The prophet Isaiah told the people ‘God is tired of all your religious activities- your church meetings- your special ‘sacrificial’ offerings- these things are a stench in his nose!’ then he would go on and say that God wanted justice for the poor and widow.
Amos also rebuked the rich and defended the poor- Ezekiel said the shepherds [religious leaders] were fleecing the sheep- they were leaders who were making a financial killing off of the people.
All of these things- in today’s world of ‘ministry’ are making a comeback- it’s just we don’t see it because they are dressed in a different way. But at the end of the day- for the most part- American style Christianity is usually measured by how much money you give [or take in] how faithful your are to attend religious meetings- and how famous your ministry is- are you a really gifted speaker? Or do you give a great ‘stage’ performance.
And in the mind of the average Christian- if you ask them ‘when was the last time you gave of your goods to your neighbor- reached out to the poor- showed your Christianity thru charity’? Often times they will answer that that is not ‘their ministry’ or that their giving to some Christian organization/church is their role- and it’s up to ‘the church’ to actually help the poor.
But these responses miss the main point- Jesus [and the prophets] were saying that’s the mistake- thinking that ‘religion’ consists in these outward religious acts- which are really for show- while the true acts of mercy and love are all too often neglected. People today have made the same mistake as the religious observers of Jesus day.
The letter of James- written by the brother [half] of Jesus- tells us that Pure religion- is to keep yourself unspotted form the world- and to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. That’s it. No mention of religious holy days? No. No mention of special tithes/offerings? No. But what does he have to say about the modern religious view of the accumulation of wealth? Let’s not even go there [believe me- it’s pretty bad- go read the letter- its short].
This week in Somalia the estimates are 11 million people are on the verge of starvation- 2 to 3 million are kids. The world at large has had a hard time getting the food/resources in- because the country [like many other African nations] is in a sort of civil war.
The militant Islamic group fighting the govt. [Al Shabbab- I think that’s the name?] are made up of children. Yes- the kids have taken up an armed resistance against the leaders- and they are killing each other. I saw a news report on Mosaic world news- and the kids were in the streets- sort of like any kids on a block- but they had guns.
One young kid [10?] was pulling on the rifle of an older boy [15?] and the older boy got mad- like some school yard thing. The older boy just pulled away- and pointed the gun at the ‘opposing kids’- at the same time- they were playing in the street- throwing rocks and waving sticks- and pointing loaded guns at each other- it was like it was a game- they were used to shooting each other if they had to.
There are many things happening in our world today- things that matter to God. Many Christians- though they mean well- seem to leave these other things up to others. They feel that if they can just make it through another week- attend religious meeting on Sunday- put in the tithe- that if they live up to these outward religious standards- that they have done well.
Jesus taught a different way- the apostles tried to follow in his way. The apostle John said ‘if you see your fellow man in need- and don’t actually help him- do what needs to be done to defend them- then how can you say Gods love is in you’ [my paraphrase].
The apostle Paul wrote the Colossians- he said ‘I’m worried about you- you are observing days and times and other outward religious rites- I’m afraid you are falling away from the true faith’.
There was always a danger that Christians would fall into this rut- this thing where they unconsciously make the least important things- the most important. When the religious leaders of Jesus day were conspiring to kill Jesus- they had a problem- if they killed him on the wrong day- it would mess up their religious festival going on at the time. If they had to deal with the dead body- on the wrong day- they would be technically unclean according to Jewish law- and it would throw off their game.
So they worked it out where they would kill Jesus- and leave the body alone on the Sabbath- and they had it all worked out. One problem- they were violating the most important commandment of all- given to them by their most important law giver [Moses] that said ‘thou shalt not kill’ but somehow- over a period of time- they saw these things as the most important- their special observances of holy days- keeping themselves ceremonially clean- not ‘unspotted from the world’ as James said- but religiously clean- so they could put on a good public show.
I just finished praying for a bunch of stuff- of course I prayed for the kids in Somalia- those dying and those killing. Yes- I also send money every month to the starving kids- but these things are not enough. I [we] need to also engage those around us- those hurting and dying and struggling in real ways. We need to make the most important things- important again.
 TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON-
Yesterday was the end of an era for me- after 23 years of doing broadcast radio- I thru in the towel. I have been on radio right from the early days of ministry. I started recording my messages even earlier. In those days everything was done on cassette tape. I watched the times change over the years as I would go to the local [regional] radio station to ‘drop off tapes’- geez- thousands of times.
I would notice how most of the other ministries were converting to C.D. [also now a dinosaur] and I was still using cassettes. I would often say to myself ‘John- don’t let the devil make you feel bad- you’re not behind the times’ and I would pop in my Styx 8 track on the ride back home [okay- fudged a little on this].
Anyway I had a system going where I would record the tapes and make high speed copies- the copies would get dropped off- the originals [masters] would not. This was just in case the station lost the program- or a tape broke- you would still have the original. Well as the times changed you couldn’t even purchase [have serviced] these old tape duplicators. As an independent preacher- someone who takes no offerings or receives any financial support [because of principle- way too much money involved in today’s church] I took the risk of just dropping off the originals- and every so often they would ‘get lost’ [I think one of the employees might have enjoyed taking them home to listen to- which was alright with me- it’s just I needed them back].
So over these past few years I did my best to try and solve the problem- it never worked. The station manager- a good friend- told me he would copy the tapes to C.D.’s if I wanted- I said yeah! He never got around to doing it. He then told me he would save the programs in digital format [they put them on computer] and I would be able to copy them that way.
So the other day I finally had him make a copy to my flash drive- at least I would have them that way. I realized they weren’t even playing the right tapes [using the older- out of order stuff]. Then when I got home I realized they did indeed ‘lose’ another tape- part of a series that if you lose one [like a bible study] it ruins the whole set.
So I went and picked up the last batch of tapes and told them that I was sorry- but I had to finally cancel the show. They gave me a break on cost- but I literally spent thousands of dollars over the years doing these broadcasts- it was time to move on.
So hopefully I will soon have a link on the blog where you will be able to hear the programs [simply on line]. I found out it’s a real pain to convert the tapes to Mp3 format- then to get them on the blog. I spent the whole day yesterday messing with it- I ordered the convertor you need to do it. Then I had to start a Host site- the blog does not have space for this- and now I think I will have to get another computer- I do all my work from a laptop- I think the cord for the converter will only work on a desk top.
As someone who is computer illiterate- for the most part- it’s frustrating to have to deal with it. Geez- just getting the Host site up took me forever. So being I was already feeling bad about going off the air- it was something I loved to do- I figured I would just get a quick News fix- in the background- as I’m trying to figure all this out on my laptop. Of course all the channels were showing the Royal Wedding- enough said.
I hate it when the news fixates on a story- or presents something silly- and they do it all day long. One time at the fire house- I was sitting there with a good buddy- we had the news on [the guys used to get mad- for real- I had the news on all the time] and sure enough the actor Lloyd Bridges died. So as I’m sitting there glancing at the screen- I tell my buddy ‘Gee Joe- you think they could show a more ridiculous photo of the poor man’- I mean they had a picture of him from one of the spoof Airplane movies- he had a towel sticking out of both ears- with a goofy face- making it look like the towel went thru his head- ear to ear.
Joe started cracking up. I mean the poor man’s grandkids were probably saying ‘why does grandpa have a towel in his head mommy’. I mean the man had a long career- lots of serious movies- no, CNN liked the towel picture.
So for today I think I will work on the on line format some more- I do have some programs already on computer disk- trying to convert them to the host site and add the link to the blog. So for those of you who are interested you should be able to hear us on line soon- no more radio. Talk to you guys later- John
 LESSON FROM A MUSLIM-
I read a story in my local paper yesterday- there was an ecumenical dinner held this week between Christians, Jews and Muslims. The Christian staff writer who attended shared how it helped her to overcome previous prejudices that she had. She told what the various speakers discussed and I was particularly impressed with what the Muslim speaker said- she talked about how true religion is not performance, putting on a show- but is expressed in reaching out to those in need- the poor and hurting.
In fact she was basically quoting the New Testament book of James- James says ‘pure religion is to visit the fatherless and widows and to stay clean from the world’. A few weeks back one of my homeless buddies stopped by- he’s basically a genius when it comes to the bible- I mean it’s sort of an autistic thing to be honest- he knows- by memory- much more than the average preacher. As I visited with Henry I gave him the latest bible studies that were sent to me over the last few months. Years ago I heard a N.J. Jewish preacher- who pastors a Messianic congregation in Lodi, N.J.- he had a short radio show on the same station I’m on- and as a courtesy I sent him some of my books and told him hi and all- being I’m a former Jersey brother and all. Ever since he has sent me these really great bible studies every month.
The studies are really in depth- and he usually only sends them to partners [those who support his ministry with money]. But I guess he appreciated my sending him a nice note and he forever put me on the list. Now- I’m an avid reader- I’ve read just about everything you can get your hands on- but these past few years I’m trying to stick with scholarly stuff- not that I’m ‘too good’ for the basic stuff- It’s just I really don’t have the time to just read tons of stuff that’s in the category of ‘devotional’ material- stuff that just kind of talks about Christian things.
So I hate to throw the stuff out- I mean they’re great bible studies. I don’t want to write Jonathan [the pastor] and say ‘take me off your list’- so I save them up and give them to Henry- he devours them and even quotes them back to me the next time I see him. So anyway we had a good talk. Somehow we got into discussing the book of James [the verse I quoted above] and I told Henry how it’s funny that James [we believe this letter in the New Testament- called James- was written by the James who was Jesus’ brother- mentioned about in the bible. He was the same James mentioned as one of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem in the book of Acts, chapter 15. To my Catholic friends- it might sound strange ‘Jesus had a brother?’ these words are found in the New Testament. Catholic teachers don’t deny this- they just interpret it to mean ‘cousin’ or near relative- some say its speaking of ‘Christian brother’. Don’t want to debate it- just thought I should mention it].
Anyway- I told Henry how it’s strange that one of the key leaders in the early church- who was closer to Jesus than all the other disciples [he lived in the same house] that he would write such a scathing indictment against the rich- and he would defend the poor so strongly. James’ letter is one of the strongest rebukes against the rich that you will find in the bible. Anyway Henry agreed with me- of course Henry’s poor- homeless- but he knows his stuff. He said ‘you know John- as true as you are- you never hear this from the famous pulpits in America’. He was agreeing with what the Muslim lady said at the dinner- that true religion is not fame and glory- but serving those in need.
I liked the spirit of the article I read- It does not mean I will not continue to advocate for the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus- that Jesus is truly the only way to God. Pope Benedict has also come under some heat for saying the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is the only way of salvation- to which I agree.
Yet at the same time- as we make our case to our Muslim and Jewish friends- we can also sit down with them- live as citizens of the same community with them- and even learn something from them every now and then.
NOTE- To any of my friends who might be ‘rich’. The early church did have certain individuals who were rich- and it was oaky. The person who gave his grave spot to Jesus- Joseph of Arimathea- was rich. Also in the books of Acts there were believers who sold their real estate and dedicated the money to the church. So the bible doesn’t just outright condemn those who are rich- but there are many warnings against being rich in ‘this world’ while forgetting to build riches in the kingdom [works of love and charity]. That’s the main theme of James’ letter.
 3rd PILLAR- ZAKAT.
As I was debating whether or not to continue my study on Islam [today] the spot I stopped at last was the 3rd pillar. Sure enough yesterday [and the rerun at 1 a.m.] Beck did an interesting show on Zakat. He had on a few experts- who are known to not be sympathetic to Islam- and they covered the subject of non violent Jihad- those who advocate for an Islamic society thru non violent means. Now- I know some Beck supporters have been upset with me in the past because I criticize Beck- it’s not that I don’t think he actually brings up things that other networks don’t- sometimes he does reveal stuff that the other networks don’t because they are so ‘in the tank’ for the president. I never thought I’d see the day where a news host actually would describe his ‘feelings’ that come over him when he hears the president speak- he actually used sexual connotations to describe it [a tingle goes up my leg]. Now- I’m not saying this to be cute [okay- maybe a little] but to say I have never in my life seen the media- the so called 4th estate- so one sided. So Beck [Fox] does serve a purpose. Now- Beck covered the groups that raise money under the banner of ‘charity’ and yet they have ties to radical Islam, and they discussed the ancient Islamic practice of Zakat [or Tithe].
In the Muslim community Zakat is giving a portion [2.5%] of both goods and finances for the sole purpose of providing for the poor. In Muslim communities the Zakat is like social security. The word literally means purification. The word itself is not a terrorist term- nor the practice. It is important for Beck and others to cover stories about the use of Zakat given to charitable groups for radical purposes- yet most Americans have probably not heard of the term before- and their first introduction to it was seen thru an association to terror.
Years ago I had a chance meeting with a Muslim- I’m sure he didn’t realize he ran into some nut who studies just about everything a person can study [I was working at the fire house and on duty]. He was a devout Muslim- dressed in Muslim garb an all. As we talked I gave him the biblical history of Abraham and his 2 sons Isaac and Ishmael. I traced the lineage of Christians and Jews from Isaacs’s line, and the genealogy of Muslims [Arabs] thru Ishmael. I spoke about the coming of Jesus in the 1st century of the Common Era as the promised offspring that God originally told Abraham about. I explained the purpose of the Messiah [Jesus] as being the predestined one sent by God to unite all people and tribes under one new nation- the Kingdom of God. I explained to my friend that Christianity teaches that Jesus was not simply a prophet- but one who died for the sins of the world and rose again as the final sacrifice that would ever need to be made for the sins of men. I was surprised to see my Muslim friend hearing the whole story- for the 1st time. He told me he was not familiar at all with the history [even though it is both biblical history and Islamic- the part about Ishmael which is found in the book of Genesis]. He seemed so grateful to have heard it thru ‘this angle’ not from the angle of the Crusades- or of Western Colonialism- but from the angle of the grace of God that has come to all tribes and races thru Jesus Christ.
As I watch the media day after day- seeing more unrest in the Middle East than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Seeing the growing strain between Christians and Muslims and Jews [the Fla. Pastor went and burned a Koran and Muslim demonstrators in Afghanistan attacked the U.N. building and killed and beheaded some workers]. As I see the lines being drawn in the sand- I come back to the story of my Muslim friend- who obviously was dedicated to his faith [wearing the robe and all] yet he never clearly heard the gospel- which actually means Good News. The bible commands us [Christians] to live in peace with ALL MEN- to love our neighbor as our self- to even love those who hate us- to pray for those who persecute us and to do good [a type of Zakat] to our fellow man. While I make no excuses for the killing and beheading of the U.N. people- yet to burn the holy book of another religion is also not living peaceably with all men.
I believe the Islamic practice of Zakat is closer to actual biblical teaching than what most Christians practice today. The majority of Christian giving- often wrongfully referred to as the Tithe- goes to the function of media ministry- church buildings- salaries- etc. under 10 percent goes to meeting the needs of the poor. Yet in the teachings of Jesus and in the New Testament the majority teaching on giving is in context of giving to meet the needs of the poor [go read my books under the Feb- 2010 posts- and also the study called ‘what in the world is the church’ under the Feb posts]. So in a very real way I do think the Islamic Zakat is closer to the biblical practice than what most 21st century Christians practice.
I will obviously have many things I will not embrace about Islam in future posts- I will try and cover those differences as respectfully as I possibly can- without being a biased defender of Islam [as my current instructor on the course seems to be]. And I will make the case for Christ as well. At the end of the day hopefully we can learn more about our various beliefs- try and have respect for those who differ- and root for the moderates among us. I reject the Koran burning pastor in Fla. And I hope most Muslims will also reject the radical elements within their ranks. The history of the 3rd Pillar of Islam is a good one- a practice that centers around the teachings of Christ- it’s a shame that some in the Muslim community have hijacked it for violent Jihad.
 MUSLIM IN AMERICA- THE PRESIDENTS SPEECH AND OTHER MUSINGS.
Last night the president finally spoke to the nation in defense of our military action in Libya. He made the case that there are times when the U.S. can/should act if we feel we can avert a humanitarian disaster- he also said we can’t always intervene in every conflict. I guess for the most part this makes some sense- it’s just the way he handled it [going on vacation- congress in recess]. There are still lots of questions to be asked/answered. Today the rebels are on the outskirts of a western city that is ‘pro Gadhafi’. The city is called Sirte and like other cities in the west they favor Gadhafi more so than the rebels. The question is; how do we justify the bombing of Gadhafi’s military- in order to protect civilians- while the rebels are getting ready to overthrow a civilian population- with force- against the majority of the will of the people? We have indeed enabled the rebels to advance this far west, and we are basically on the side of the rebels- in this case- against the populace.
The other night I watched a CNN special on Muslim discrimination in America- most of you who read my posts [blog] know I try and take the more moderate position of not branding all Muslims as radical. I do think there are times when Muslims are discriminated against wrongfully because of their faith. Yet at the same time the media often show their bias. The show did a good job at revealing how Muslims face discrimination in America- the host- Soledad O’Brien- kind of showed the ‘ignorant’ Christians versus the moderate Muslims. The town was Murphysboro Tenn. [yes- they picked a spot that would be a little more redneck than usual] and they interviewed a few American Muslim women whose sole experience of Islam comes from an American perspective. These women, as sympathetic as their causes are- do not even begin to breech the absolute discrimination and oppression that many Muslim women experience around the globe on a daily basis- it was just unfair for CNN to portray Muslim women as victims of Christian discrimination while overlooking the real problem- expressed by many women who have chosen to speak out- against the oppression women face when living in countries that have Sharia law as the law of the land.
As I continue to teach the study on Islam [so far have only done 1 post on it] I want to try and approach the strained relationship that exists between Western society and Islam- yet I don’t want to be an apologist for Islam. I’m currently going thru a course on Islam that is taught by the official govt. teacher on the subject. I believe he was sitting in the second row of the president’s speech last night. Over the years I have studied on lots of subjects- years of utilizing the public library system, buying university level books [not pop culture Christian stuff on how to ‘get what you want’] and I have also ordered courses [C.D. and book] from the top professors of the universities of the world. These course are not cheap- yet they are cheaper than actually getting credits for the courses [you can take the same courses as extension courses from the universities and get credit- but that’s way too expensive- especially if done thru the elite universities- Harvard, etc.] So instead I simply purchase the courses and do them on my own. Now- the reason I say this is to explain a ‘funny thing’ that happened on my study of Islam. When I first ordered the course I noticed the ratings were not that great. Most courses are rated in the 80-90 percentile- from others who have done the course- this one was in the 60’s. I hesitated to get it- but the other courses that dealt with Islam also dealt with other religions- and I didn’t want to do an entire comparative religion study at this time. So these courses are taught by the top tier professors in the world [these professors are peer reviewed and deemed to be in the top 10 %]. This one on Islam is taught by the person who teaches Islam to the incoming govt. employees under president Obama. As I’m going thru the course- there are times where I feel like the teacher is too defensive of Islam- sort of like the CNN special. At one point the professor defends Muhammad as a religious leader who freed women from oppression and instituted an open and liberal society for all people- especially women. Geez- stuff like this is very problematic- I know enough about the current world nations that have Islam as the official religion of the nation- these nations are without a doubt very oppressive to women.
Like many things in life- we all try and do our best to give people the benefit of the doubt- and as someone who has disagreed with the president and been openly critical of him- yet I try not to be so biased that I find fault with everything he does. The media has far left defenders- who never find anything wrong with the man- and far right critics who never find anything right. At this time- the revolts in North Africa and the Middle East are really getting out of hand- the Christians in Egypt- an ancient Christian church [Coptic] have lived there since the early days of Christianity- they have just voted in Egypt to recognize Sharia law as the official law of the land- this referendum was passed by 70 % of the population- and the Muslim Brotherhood showed their organizational abilities by gaining a majority of the vote for the things they wanted. So now the Christians in Egypt might face the same fate as those in Pakistan- being put to death for blaspheming Islam [which often means witnessing for Christ]. The rebels who we are fighting for in Libya are much more radical than Gadhafi- yes Gadhafi was/is a madman- yet the rebels have more Al Qaeda influence than Gadhafi- they have been enemies in Libya for years. Do we really want our people dying for the Rebels?
There are still lots of questions to be answered- I am uncomfortable that the course I’m going thru on Islam is so skewed to the point of defending Islam as a great liberator of women and their rights- I was even more troubled to have seen ‘my instructor’ sitting in the 2nd row at the president’s speech.
 EXODUS 33- The Lord tells his people that they must get up from the place they are at- Mount Sinai- and move on to the new place he has promised to them- Canaan [the Promised Land]. Okay- symbolically what does this mean? Sinai represents law, promised land= the Cross, the ‘new land’ of grace and freedom found in Christ. In the New testament- this is the way all the apostles dealt with these promises [Hebrews, Galatians, Peter’s sermons in Acts]. It is vital for Christians [especially T.V. preachers!] to get this right. The message to the Muslim/Arab world is not ‘God is taking sides in a land war in Israel/Palestine’ but the message is ‘in Jesus, all nations/ethnic groups are welcome- leave Sinai [the old law mentality of seeing God thru the lens of a strict judge who wants to get you] and come to the ‘new land’ this land of grace where Jesus took upon him the sins of the whole world and bore the punishment for us’ this is really the message of Christianity- many people see Christianity/Christendom thru a 2 thousand year history [okay to do- I too am a historian] but they look at the mistakes- the Crusades- the Christian hatred of Jews that existed- the Muslim/Christian battles- many people do not really see the true message of the Cross- the new land of grace and acceptance thru Jesus- they are stuck at Sinai [a mountain that we already saw was fearful, people trembled- were scared- strict judgment] and can’t seem to get to the next mountain.
Also the Lord tells the people ‘take off your costume jewelry’ they wore the celebratory stuff- sort of like Mardi Gra stuff- when they sinned while worshipping their idols. God says ‘it’s not a performance- your service to me, your worship- take the fake stuff off’. In Matthews gospel- chapters 6-7, Jesus says ‘this thing is not theatre- how to perform and gain an audience’ I mean you can’t get stronger than that. Jesus also says ‘prayer is not mastering some type of formula to get what you want- create lots of wealth’ I mean he really takes to task the majority of American Christianity- a huge percentage of it is really performance- seeing ‘church’ as a place where we go once a week and actually watch a stage/theatre performance- ouch! God told the people ‘get rid of the costume jewelry- I have more important stuff for you’. Right now there is a lot of stuff happening in the world- the voice of the church needs to be a voice for justice in the earth. I watched an interview on Fox news this weekend- the host described our wars as just- and the Muslim/Arab side as terrorism. I had just read a news article describing the accidental killings of the 9 Afghan boys who were gathering fire wood while our attack helicopters killed them. The boys were between 5 and 11 years old. One boy- the only survivor, named Hamed- said as they were in the field they heard the chopper coming. Of course it’s a scary sight for little boys. Then as the chopper left- it came back again- like stalking them. They stood still- until the first boy was mowed down. They ran in all different directions- the chopper methodically hunted the boys down- one by one. This boy survived because a tree fell on him and hid him. I know our side thought the boys were enemy combatants- I know we did not intend for this to happen. But to excuse our actions- to say ‘we are just’ and the other side- some who are simply fighting for the Taliban because they need the job- to say they are immoral- and we are moral- seems like a joke after hearing about the deaths of these boys. May God have mercy on all of us.
 THE NARRATIVE- These last few days we have all been given a lesson in Narrative- that is we have been shaped by ‘the story’ that people tell. If you view a certain event thru a conservative lens- then you will see things in the story that confirm what you already believe- the same with a liberal bias. These past few weeks I have been reading the book of Proverbs- just a few hours ago I read the verse ‘labor not to be rich, cease from your own wisdom’ then it referenced the verse I quoted the other day in 1st Timothy chapter 6 ‘those that desire to be rich have fallen into a trap and have swerved from the true faith’. Now- I haven’t spoken on this topic for years- but whenever I bring it up- it usually seems to disturb the narrative [story line] of the contemporary evangelical church. Many well meaning believers have been given a story line that says ‘the old traditional churches have told us money was not good- that God loves the poor- but the bible teaches otherwise’ now- are there verses that do speak about God blessing people financially? Sure. But the other side of the coin [like the verses I just quoted] these are not ‘old church traditions’ these are also part of the biblical narrative- the whole story we find in the bible. So we are often given- or drawn to- the story line we like the most- and then we look for proof that our story is the only right one. Last night [actually the repeat of the 1 a.m. show] I saw Beck interview a moderate American Muslim- he is the president of some Muslim group who have vocally rejected militant extremism. Now- Beck introduced him in a well meaning way- as a friend he met around 5 years ago. But in his introduction he said something like ‘I have been looking for a Muslim who is willing to tell the truth- to reject radicalism- and I finally found one’. In Becks mind- moderate Muslims don’t seem to exist- except this lucky one he found. Yet the man shared how his organization is made up of the majority of Muslims who in fact reject radicalism- he was Becks friend- but his reality did not fit Becks story line. As time was running short- Beck just really wanted the man to admit ‘yes- we Muslims are all basically dangerous- and I’m the only brand that managed to get plucked out of the fire’ their story lines contradicted each other. I have a confession to make- a few years ago when working at the fire dept., yes, I used to pick up the N.Y. Times and read it along with our Texas papers. Now- these past few weeks I have been picking it up every so often. I actually read the whole paper- just about every article- you have to be a junkie to read the entire times [very long articles]. Why do I do this? Because even though the Times is at times biased [let’s see- McCain runs for president- a few days before the primary vote- the Times runs a front page, top of the fold article about a rumor that he was ‘too friendly’ with a female staff person. John Edwards- known by the insiders to have actually fathered a child out of wed lock, how did the Times originally treat it? Nothing- you know- it’s the man’s personal life- got ya] yet I do find the articles real thorough, and you get to hear both sides of the narrative- something that you very rarely get from television media [especially cable]. So it’s important for all of us to try as hard as possible to be exposed to the different sides of the story. Now- Egypt. Some have said ‘do you really think that the Egyptians just woke up one day and wanted Democracy’ this narrative says it’s the radical Muslims behind the uprising. At the same time- many Egyptians themselves will say ‘you are disrespecting us- when other countries citizens rise up [Iran] you cheer for their independence- yet you treat us with disdain’. These protesters are saying we are getting the story wrong. And in the Arab world- yes- you have all sides realizing these things. So the pro Mubarak group- while being against militant Islam- at the same time realizes that if the world thinks the protests are being fanned by the militant Muslims- then Mubarak knows the world will turn against the protests and support him. So they attempt to tell ‘that story’. After reading all ‘the stories’ it seems to me that the initial protests were indeed the younger generation feeling like they had no real future- they seem to have really ‘woken up one day’ [being emboldened by the Tunisian protests] and yes- wanted Democracy. This is not to say that the radical Muslim groups are not trying to use it to their advantage- but in a way these protests actually work against ‘the narrative’ of the militant groups. How? The ‘story’ that the radicals try to tell is ‘the only way we can be free from these autocratic, western loving- Israel peacemaking leaders is thru violent revolution’ if the Arab street believes peaceful protests can do it- then they not only challenged Mubarak’s rule- but also the narrative of the violent radicals- see? So as we view these events from afar- be sure you’re not only being shaped by one sides view- even if the side you listen to seems sincere- heck- I think most of what Beck says he believes! But at the same time there is good journalism out there [I do think the Times still has tremendously valuable info. Despite the bias] try and listen to the more respectable news sources- for many years I did not subscribe to cable- I watched the networks and P.B.S.- yes- the news hour is an excellent source for news. And at the end of the day realize that there might be some truth to both sides of the argument- it is rare to find the whole truth resting with only one side.
 WILL WE SUFFER? I was going to do another post on the Jewish contribution to Modernity- the Jewish thinkers and their contribution to the Western Intellectual Tradition [an ongoing on-line study I’m doing] but instead let me share a few more practical thoughts. The other day I wrote a post on the persecuted Christians in Pakistan- and I had a few Pakistani Pastors email me- thanking me for the web site- telling me it’s been a blessing to them- and even inviting me to speak or start a ministry under our name/title in their country and they would work with me. I of course thanked them for the offer- and just encouraged them to freely use all our stuff- make copies of the books- hand them out- use all of our stuff as much as you wish. I have waved the copyright to all my stuff years ago. Then I caught a quick few minutes of Peirs Morgan- the guy who replaced Larry King- he was interviewing Joel Osteen. Peirs was asking him something about the abuse of money in the modern televangelist world- and Joel answered cautiously- rejecting the title of Prosperity Preacher- and shared the basic theme that God doesn’t want his people being poor and suffering and beat up all the time. I like Joel- I’m very familiar with his belief system- Joel’s dad- John- was one of the pioneers of the Word of Faith movement in this part of Texas- and over the years I even had some ordained ministers who were ordained by Lakewood church [Joel’s church] who were members of the church I started back in the 80’s. So I basically am familiar with the scoop. Okay- the contrast of Joel’s simple remarks- given in a good spirit- just did not fit the lifestyle of the fine Pastors who I had just been in contact with over the past few weeks. Men who have been literally risking their lives- suffering- fellow believers being killed- all the descriptions that Joel felt were not what God wanted for his people. The book of Hebrews says ‘you suffered the loss of your material possessions willfully- knowing that in heaven you have eternal riches that will not fade away’. There is a verse [Proverbs?] that says ‘don’t make me rich- lest I forsake you- don’t make me poor- lest I curse you- just give me what I need’ or ‘those that desire to be rich [just the desire mind you!] have swerved from the true faith and have gone shipwreck’ [1st Timothy 6]. The point I want to make is we often hear snippets of things- things that seem innocent enough, and yet they violate the basic truth of scripture. I am not upset with Joel- Joel is a good man who has the gift of encouraging people- I do not see him as your typical ‘money preacher’ but I just wanted to give you the balance. The apostle Paul spent a few years living with the believers at Ephesus [I think you can read the account in Acts 20- I also wrote on the subject in my commentary on the book of Acts- in the 2-2010 posts] and as he was teaching them- he called the leaders of the church [called elders in the bible- what we would see as Pastors today] down to the shore- and he gave them a going away speech/warning- he told them after he leaves ‘wolves’ will come in- men who will take advantage of the believers- and he goes on and says ‘all the years I was with you- I refused to let you guys support me- I worked day and night- not only to support myself- but to pay the way for the workers I brought with me’ then he says ‘the reason I did this- was to give you preachers an example- so you too would work with your own hands to provide for yourselves’ now- the entire subject of supporting Christian teachers/preachers is a long one- and I’m not against supporting our Pastors/Priests in a moderate way- them having incomes commensurate with the people. But how many times have you ever heard the story I just shared with you? I mean does the average person even know that the apostle Paul taught stuff like this? You would think it was heresy if it weren’t right there in the bible. If you want to read more about this stuff- under the section ‘what is the church’ an ongoing series I’ve been doing for years- I share about this a little more- but today’s point is we need to be careful as preachers- when we view Christianity primarily thru an American lens- I’m sure Joel meant no harm- but there are indeed times when Gods people are persecuted- broken- afflicted- suffering- these are very real situations that many of our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis thru out the world. We don’t want to give them the false impression that they are suffering contrary to the will of God- there are just too many bible passages that say otherwise [ ‘it has not only been given to us to believe on Jesus- but to also suffer with him’ the Apostle Peter- etc. etc.].