CHURCH HISTORY- PHILOSOPHY- 2013- A
1856- FOR THE BIRDS
Late happy father’s day to all you dads out there.
Yesterday I got up early and went to Wal Mart- I wanted to get presents for my girls and do a kind of raffle at my oldest daughter’s house [Bethany].
I had wanted to meet at the beach- but I realized that plan wasn’t going to work so we ended up at her house.
I bought some nice stuff for the kids- and had a home bingo game I bought a while back [my wife plays with her sister- so I got them a cheap home version] and I used the thing that turns/mixes the bingo balls in the cage- and stuck the names of my kids on the balls.
It was silly- but they liked the stuff.
So- after I bought the gifts I took a ride to the beach [about 2 miles from where I live] and jumped in the gulf- yeah- it was dad’s day- so I swam.
O- I forgot- while driving to Wal Mart we had one of those quirky storms- and I [and everyone else] spotted a Funnel Cloud over the bay.
I stopped and took a few pictures- we do get them in our area- but it might be only the second time that I spotted one live [you see them on the news at least once every year or so- from the area].
As I was walking back to the truck after the swim- I heard someone yell out ‘hey John’.
Sure enough it was my buddy Tim [carpenter Tim- I wrote about him in the last few weeks].
Yeah- I have not spoken with Tim in years- like I said- sometimes I’ll run into my homeless friends once or twice every 2-4 years.
That was the case with Tim.
He was on his bike- and he told me he just got back to the area.
He rode the thing to Roswell N.M. [no joke- he’s a real bike rider!].
So we talked for about 2 hours [yeah- was running late for the father’s day gig].
Tim shared with me all the times the Lord provided for him on the bike ride.
At one point the weather got real cold- and the day before he found some long John’s [thermal underwear] at a rest stop- they were still in the bag!
He told me how this was how God provided the whole time [a few week- month type trip].
He told me he still has a camp in the Bluff [where I live- many years ago I used to visit Tim regularly in the camps- many of the homeless have camps- Tim was a regular friend- I would trek thru the brush area- maybe half a mile or so- Tim would have a nice camp set up- he’d brew me some Folgers over an open fire].
As we were talking there at the beach- he had some of the old Folgers coffee in his bag- sure enough he broke it out and made some right there.
I gave Tim some money- he really did not want to take it- then he tried to give me something of value [he had some music C.D.’s].
I told Tim ‘no buddy- the last few weeks I have been giving 20’s away- felt like I needed to catch up’. I was slacking with helping the poor- so it was the lord that allowed this chance meeting.
Tim told me he still has a camp on the property of some rich lady who lives here in town.
He does work for her- at almost no cost- so she lets him live there- outside!
He has told me about her in the past- nice lady- but a staunch atheist.
You know- the type that really lets you know they don’t believe.
He was telling me how she’s an avid bird lover- has all the stuff on her property for birds.
I gave Tim a quick Apologetics argument he can use with her- if he ever gets the chance.
I have written a lot about this over the years- but let me give you the short version.
Apologetics is the field where you argue for the existence of God- you use the proofs from science and logic and philosophy to argue your case for the existence of God.
Okay- this is the short version.
The fact that ANYTHING EXISTS- is proof that God exists.
For many thousands of years- dating back to the time of the famous philosophers- Plato, Aristotle and Socrates [5- 600 years B.C.] people who studied the universe [Cosmologists] believed that the universe [time, matter, space- all things that make up the physical world] had no beginning point.
Most [though not all] believed that the universe was eternal- even the contemporary Carl Sagan said ‘the universe is all there ever was- and all there ever will be’.
So- when Christian thinkers argued for the existence of a creator- most used the Aristotelian argument that said ‘God is the Prime Mover’.
Which meant- He started all motion.
Even the great 13the century Catholic scholar- Thomas Aquinas- used this argument.
But- in the modern era- science has found out that yes indeed- there was in fact a time when no physical matter existed.
We learned this in the 20th century- men like Einstein made great breakthroughs in the field of Physics- and they showed us that there was a time- well- when there was ‘no time’.
It would take too much to cover this here- but men like Hubbell and a few others made some great scientific observations that backed up Einstein’s theory- and vice versa.
So- when SCIENCE [not religion- not bible- not ‘God talk’] showed us that all matter had a starting point- it left the atheist in a tough spot.
If there was a time when nothing existed- then how did everything get here?
The only logical conclusion is something [or someone] who exists outside of the physical realm [called the metaphysical realm] had to have been responsible for it.
Why is this the only logical explanation?
Because things cannot come FROM NOTHING [the ancient saying ‘out of nothing- nothing comes’].
So- we are left with the dilemma that there was indeed a time of NO MATTER- and therefore something- outside of the material realm- has to be responsible for it.
This is indeed- in my view- the greatest Apologetic argument used to ‘prove’ the existence of God.
Now- some say ‘but how do we know it’s God- maybe there is some other ‘non material’ thing/being that did this’?
Look- some of the so called ‘new atheists’ have gone down this line of reasoning- and made fools of themselves.
One quick example.
One of the famous present day atheists is Richard Dawkins.
He was pinned down in an interview- and he was confronted with this dilemma.
He actually said that he thought it was possible that some ‘being’ from another time might have made all things.
He said the being- well- would have to be eternal [because if he isn’t- you have the problem- where did he come from].
He said this being had to have been very smart [you can’t get intelligence from non intelligence- this is a scientific observation].
And this being had to be very powerful- because he created all things.
In short- when Dawkins was done- he described the attributes of God down to the last detail [omniscient, omnipotent, etc.]
So- any thinking person- even an avowed atheist- realizes the problem that they face in trying to explain the existence of all things.
I told Tim it was ‘funny’ that this lady loves birds- but ‘hates’ God.
The Apostle Paul said in Romans chapter one ‘they did not want to have God in their thoughts- so God gave them up to worship the created order- Birds, etc..’
Yeah- men who rejected the obvious proof of God- creation- became worshippers of creation [they made idols of animals and birds].
I found it interesting that Tim’s bird lady was living proof that the bible is true.
I had a good time talking with Tim- it’s been a while- he asked if he should come by the house and visit in the upcoming weeks- I told him sure.
Tim is one of the homeless guys who does not like to impose on people- that’s why I hardly ever see him- he won’t even go to the free mission to eat- he avoids the whole scenario of looking like your homeless.
He works- lives- and feels like it’s his right to not have a home- without being looked down upon.
Well- I’ll end with that for now- for those who want to read more about Apologetics- I have stuff on the blog you can find- have fun.
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.
1855- UNFINISHED BUSINESS
First we need to take care of some unfinished business.
Yes- I’ll admit- yesterday’s prediction failed.
The post warned of a possible sell off in the market [I guessed around 100 or so points- nothing real big].
But- the market went up around 100.
If I have learned anything in life- it’s when you blow it you need to fess up- come clean- in Christian lingo ‘confess your sins one to another- so you will be healed’ [James].
So- to all who read this site- I have one thing to say.
My account was hacked [Anthony Weiner?]
Okay- let’s move on.
Actually- most of everything I posted was [is] still true.
I don’t want to do another whole post on economics- but some analysts think the market went up- not because we had good news [yesterday stats showed factory orders were down in May from the previous month] but because we had bad.
Like I wrote- if investors think things are bad- that makes them think the Fed will act [put more money into the system] and Walla- the Dow goes up.
There are a few other things too- like the Greek vote on Sunday [whether or not they will stay in the Euro] but overall I still stick to my post- absent that one line that was hacked!
Okay- did we have any other ‘big’ news yesterday?
There were a few things- some ‘bigger’ than the media [or the administration] would like us to know.
The president did a funny thing yesterday- he sent a letter to congress saying he ‘declassified’ info about our terror [drone] campaign in Yemen.
This is the first time he did this [as far as we know?] since he’s been in office.
Why does this really look suspicious?
His administration is under criticism right now- it looks like they have indeed been ‘leaking’ these stories to the press.
The whole recent scandal of national security leaks.
Of course he has denied it.
But- if he [and his political people] were behind it- then they obviously had a strategy about how much would come out each month.
This ‘late Friday’ release- seems to go along with this theory- it looks funny to me.
The president also did his ‘kinda’ executive order- by giving some type of cover to some illegal aliens.
For the record- I’m liberal when it comes to this subject [for those who think I’m too far right!]
I want for our nation to work out some type of deal for the kids of illegal’s- who were young when they came to the country- who are in school- basically grew up just like you and me- I don’t want these kids to be afraid of getting sent back.
I also realize the need to have some type of border enforcement- I just want to say I’m not against the principle that that the Pres laid out.
Of course it was politically timed- I mean you’re in office for 3.5 years- and now you do it.
In actuality there really is more ‘politics’ to it than meets the eye.
When the president’s real plan for immigration was shot down- The Freedom Act- he simply blamed it on the Repubs.
But something unsuspected happened.
Marco Rubio [the Cuban American Republican from Florida- possible V.P. pick for Romney] began working on a Repub plan to allow the minor kids of illegal’s to stay in the country.
The same basic thing that Obama wanted to do.
Okay- to the surprise of some- he seems to have convinced enough fellow Repubs to sign on.
Now- the part you don’t see is this.
What the Pres did- and the other Democrats- was they saw how bad it would look if the Repubs actually passed a law that favored immigrants- that if Rubio succeeds- than it will look like they did something Obama was not able to do- pass immigration reform.
So behind the scenes Obama and the Dems have been telling fellow Dems ‘don’t agree with Rubio!’
Some have jumped ship and simply said ‘look- we want reform- we [the Dems] had total control of the govt. for the first 2 years- you [our leader- Obama] spent all your capital on health care- so we don’t care if it’s Rubio- we simply want TO HELP THE KIDS AND GET THE REFORM DONE’.
Okay- that sounds principled to me.
So- Obama realized he was gonna look bad if the Rubio thing goes thru- and he came out- after 3 and a half years- and said ‘I must act now’.
He pulled the rug out from Rubio [which in reality hurt the long term solution- which would have been much better for the Hispanic kids].
And gave an ‘order’ to Janet Napolitano [the lady that oversees the immigration laws] and said ‘put a 2 year hold on deporting the kids of Immigrants’.
Now- there’s more to it- but this is the short story.
It really would have been better to just let the Rubio idea pass- because the new plan from the Pres still leaves the kids in limbo- they simply get 2 years to not get deported.
Okay- lets end the week with a few verses.
I have been reading Isaiah chapters 26- 30.
Some notable verses ‘your dead sons will arise- together with MY DEAD BODY shall they arise’.
This week the more historic/traditional churches celebrated the Eucharist [communion- the actual term means Thanksgiving].
This past Sunday was a church memorial that always sticks in my mind each year it comes up.
It’s a special day that celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi.
This feast is a celebration of the Body of Christ- but because that’s the name of my city- I usually make note of it when it comes up annually.
I like the above verse- I have quoted it every week for years [it’s one of the many prayer verses I have painted in my yard].
It’s a prophetic verse speaking about both the future resurrection of all men- and it’s also speaking about the Lords Table.
At the last Supper Jesus gave his men [and us] an ongoing memorial of his death for us.
‘Take Eat- this is my Body’.
He broke the bread and poured the wine.
We as believers have been keeping this memorial for 2 thousand years.
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians ‘as often as you do this- you do show the Lords death until he comes back’.
I love the celebration of the Eucharist- the Catholic scholar Scott Hahn says something I like.
He says ‘Jesus said DO THIS in remembrance of me- not- write this’.
His point- to us ‘scholarly’ types- is that we often emphasize the bible- the written word- while Jesus told us the doing of the memorial was what would ‘show his death’ till he comes.
I like that.
So- for you non church goers- maybe tomorrow [or in the near future] you can make an effort and go to church and celebrate the meal.
Isaiah said ‘your dead men shall rise- together with my dead Body they shall live’.
Gather ‘together’ with the confessing church- celebrate the meal- lets all live TOGETHER.
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.
1853- SEX- ALL TYPES
Let’s cover the ‘other’ news story of the day- the Elephant in the room.
Yes- with all the things going on in the news this week- we also have had the start of the Jerry Sandusky sex case.
Most of you know the scoop.
Sandusky is the famous coach from Penn state that worked for years with the famed Joe Paterno.
There were rumors- and ‘chance’ encounters where people saw Sandusky with young boys- and he was caught molesting kids.
As the defendants have been testifying this week- well- we heard bad stuff.
I don’t want to ‘defend’ the Sandusky’s of the world in any way- but I want to speak openly- and in a politically incorrect way about sexual orientations of all kinds.
I have a book here in my study- about 3 feet from where I’m sitting.
It’s the story of Jeffrey Dahmer’s conversion to the Lord after he was sent to prison.
I do realize that we see lots of jail house conversions- and for some people they will never believe that a Dahmer could convert.
But as I read the book- and also have watched the re play of the interview that Dahmer did with MSNBC- I do believe he was sincere.
One very interesting- and truthful part of the interview was when Dahmers dad was asked ‘why do you think this happened to your son’.
The dad- who is a Christian man- said he felt like somewhere along the line- Jeff associated- connected- the act of sex with dead things.
That he was fixated as a boy with skulls and dead things- and in time when he went thru puberty- that he also- somehow- connected the joy of collecting skulls and stuff with the act of sex.
Now- some might dismiss this as a lame excuse- and of course the crimes Jeff committed were very serious [for those not familiar- Dahmer is the famed serial killer who cannibalized his victims].
In point of fact- people- in all societies and in every age- can- and have ‘learned’ certain types of behavior- for good or ill.
The reason this debate is hard to have in our country- is because the present debate over gay rights pits one group against another.
For anyone to say ‘we actually do have proof that certain sexual behavior can indeed be learned’ seems to be bigoted and against the civil rights of people.
The purpose of this post is not to get into a long drawn out discussion over this.
I want to simply say- there are- and have been- all types of sexual associations that people have made with certain acts.
In the Sandusky case- with minors.
In the Dahmer case- with dead things.
The list does go on.
Is it possible to ‘un learn’ associations like this?
In short- yes.
Is it easy?
A few years ago I noticed that one of the major hospitals in the U.S. - famous for doing sex change operations- very quietly quit the practice.
As I listened and read about the story- I came to find out that the hospital- that was lauded for their non judgmental attitude- their willingness to break ‘the religious bigotry of our day’ that after doing the operation for years.
Admitted that the results were horrendous.
The rate of depression and suicide among most of the patients went sky high.
After years of doing the operation- the data showed that despite all the ‘political correctness’ the facts on the ground were these operations were doing more harm than good.
Yet- year after year we see people who have had the operation- on well meaning news shows being interviewed- and the interviewer- without fail- always comes across as ‘look how accepting I am of you- look how wonderful it is for us all to celebrate your freedom and to not judge’.
Yet- many of the times I get the impression that these people are under great pressure to go with this line.
That they are cast into the limelight as a great example of acceptance- and they seem at times to not want to let the interviewer- or the world- down.
But- if the data says the rate of suicide and depression sky rockets among those who have gone thru with the procedure- then if we really love these people- or our kids- or generations to come- then we would be more careful before we jump on the ‘what a great thing you did’ bandwagon.
In the whole debate about whether or not sexual orientation [or simple associations of sexual expression with particular acts] is changeable- we need to be aware of the overall effects we are having on all sorts of people.
In the Sandusky case- we do see an attraction that many men have.
There are entire organizations supporting man/minor ‘love’.
NAMBLA- North American Man Boy Love Association- being one.
Do these men make the same argument that some have made with the gay rights issue?
Many argue that that they have had this ‘orientation’ for as long as they can remember.
They argue that they share a common orientation with thousands of other men all over the world.
They argue that its’ the ‘Victorian era morality'- that religion wants to impose on people- that tells them- and society- that they are wrong.
After all- if ‘God created me this way- why should I not express it’.
Now- I- like you- do not accept these arguments- but in truth- they are basically the same type of arguments that others have made with the gay rights debate.
[Note- I do have gay friends- and I do not want to come off as saying I equate child molesters with gay people- I don’t. The point I’m making is the NAMBLA folk are saying ‘who has the right to say that Man/Boy sex is wrong’. And to be honest- if you reject the basis of natural/moral law- then they win the point.]
The point I’m making is if we- as a society- tell people that sexual orientation is never learned behavior- then we are in ways justifying the NAMBLA argument.
I was going to delve into the entire field of what we call natural/moral law.
Where does it come from?
Does society simply make up moral law?
This is a very long debate- going on since the days of Immanuel Kant [one of the great thinkers going back a few centuries].
In short- some have argued over the years that we need to rid society of moral law- that it’s these restrictions on men [particularly sexuality] that is the cause of society’s ills.
The famous thinker Freud [and Nietzsche] advocated this.
But after hundreds of years of debate- there are no examples of any successful society that has managed to develop any type of functioning ethic- apart from what we call the Judeo/Christian ethic.
I don’t mean to come off as judgmental- nor to offend any group of people- but if we are telling entire generations of people ‘you are a slave to your sexual orientation’.
If we are saying to people ‘you can never change’ or overcome your sexual associations.
Then we might be biting off more than we can chew.
If it simply makes us [the interviewer] feel better about ourselves when we say ‘see- you have done such a great thing- if only these religious bigots would stop judging you’.
But in reality- the data show that these people suffer tremendously- for the most part- after they get the sex change.
Then maybe we need to re think what we are saying to them as a whole.
Maybe we should tell people ‘yes- associating sexual expression with a particular act- or life style is a very strong thing’.
In most cases- even in cases like Sandusky- even if there are hundreds of thousands of people with the same ‘feelings’ all over the world.
Yet- if we do love people and are honest- we would tell them it is possible to change the feeling- the association- dare say ‘orientation’.
We must realize that there are many types of sexual expression- that society- and moral/natural law say is wrong.
Those in these lifestyles- often will argue that the orientation was with them for as long as they can remember.
Others argue that there are many others like them.
All this may be true- but in the end- this does not mean the association is right [NAMBLA] or can never be broken.
I’ll end with a couple of verses ‘I hate vain thoughts- but your law do I love’ ‘commit thy works unto the Lord and thy thoughts will be established’ ‘God will keep them in perfect peace whose minds are fixated on him’.
This entire debate is long- and even many Christians disagree on some points. There are movements within the church that seek to accept the gay lifestyle as an acceptable lifestyle.
Today’s point is- if we tell people- with all types of orientations- that you can 'never change’ them- or overcome them- then we are not being honest.
If we think that the solution is ‘let's just live with no moral law’.
That has been debated- and tried- and found wanting [Freud died in a mental hospital- going insane from a sexual disease].
If we love our kids- those around us- our neighbor- then we should not encourage those among us struggling with orientations to ‘go with what you feel’.
Or to be so accepting of an operation that the data shows does not solve anything- only makes it worse.
In short- if we love people- we must be truthful with them.
Yes- try not to judge- love them even if they don’t become what you think is best.
But be honest with people.
I feel sorry when I see Chaz Bono being interviewed- time and again- everyone telling her how happy they are for her.
When I know in reality the data says something different.
The statistics show that those who go as far as ‘changing’ their sex- many of them take their own lives.
And it’s not because they feel judged- it’s because many of them can’t believe what they have done.
Sad that we hide this- sad.
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.
1844- POPES HOMILY
Got with the homeless brothers yesterday- found out Football Jim died a few months ago.
Sad to see him go- will write more on Jim another time.
Spent another few hours with Mike [few posts back- Scapegoat].
Mike shared more of his story with me- serious [bad] stuff- he knows I’m chronicling it on the site- he’s fine with it.
I will tell more about this also- but not today.
What I want to do today is a post for my Catholic friends.
Note- I have Protestant friends who get offended when I use examples from the church- or when I watch [or every so often attend] the Mass.
There are reasons they get upset- and it takes time to explain why I think it’s important for me to keep in touch with ‘the ancient church’.
For the most part- I have been a student of church history [and the early church fathers] for the past 25 years.
It’s impossible to read deeply into church history without having an appreciation for the older more traditional churches.
Over time you begin to view these churches [Catholic, Orthodox] as sort of older relatives- like an uncle or grandpa- maybe they don’t know all the current techniques and all [like using computers!]
But over time you realize they know more [or are right more often] then you thought when you were younger.
So this has been my experience on the journey.
Okay- this past Sunday I watched the Mass on TV.
Every so often if the church is celebrating a special memorial they will broadcast the service from Rome.
This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday- so I watched the Pope give the homily from Rome.
Let’s cover the main verses he used.
The homily was good- but you have to pay attention to the verses/chapters to get a full understanding.
The chapters quoted from were Genesis 11, Psalms 103, Acts 2, John 16, and Galatians 5.
Because it was Pentecost Sunday the message was on the story we find in Acts chapter 2- when the Holy Spirit came to the church.
We read that the believers were gathered at Jerusalem- waiting for the ‘promise of Jesus’ that he would send them the Spirit [John 16].
When the Spirit came- all the disciples in the upper room began speaking Gods word to the multitudes that were gathered at Jerusalem for the special holiday.
They spoke ‘in tongues’ [unknown languages] and the people were amazed because they all heard the message in their own native tongue.
This was a Divine miracle that enabled the message to spread to all the different ethnic groups that were at the city.
After Peter preaches the gospel to them they repent and believe and are baptized- and the ‘Lord added 3,000 SOULS’ to the church that day.
The Pope contrasted this with the story in Genesis 11- The famous Tower of Babel.
This records the time when God divided the people by giving them different languages.
The people were building a tower and city that would reach ‘unto heaven’ [a symbol of mans efforts to reach God- or be like God- on his own- Humanism].
The bible says they ‘wanted to make a name for themselves’.
They were more interested in ‘leaving a legacy’ then in glorifying God.
God looked down and realized they were going to unite- in a wrong way- to build this city of man.
The bible says he came down and divided their languages in that day.
They were unable to communicate with each other and left off ‘building the city’.
This is where we get the term ‘babble ’ from- when you can’t understand what a person’s saying- he’s ‘babbling’.
In Galatians 5 we read about the fruit of the Spirit- and how we ‘thru the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness which comes by faith’ [a main theme of the Apostle Paul’s writings].
And in John 16 we read the promise Jesus made- that he would leave them and send ‘the comforter’- the Spirit- and he would guide them into all truth.
So we see the contrast of the biblical stories about language.
In Genesis 11 God divides the languages of men because they are rebelling against him.
In Acts 2 God ‘reverses’ this division by allowing them all to hear again in ‘one language’.
The Cross allows humanity to be united again.
The apostle Paul writes the Ephesians and says Jesus reconciled both groups [Jew and Gentile- which represented the major division of the time] by dying on the Cross for all men.
And that all men [who believe] now have ‘access to God by one Spirit’.
All in all- it was a good message.
The purpose of the gospel is to unite men- not divide them [I know Jesus said he came to bring division- families would be divided- mother- father against child. In context he was saying there was a reaction to being a follower of him. Sometimes families will even reject a child because they choose the Christian faith. We see this today among various religious groups.]
But the overall work of the Cross unities men- in Christ [2 become one- Ephesians- One New Man].
And we once again can share ‘a common language’.
The language of the Cross.
1840- DAVID’S TENT
The other day I went thru the gospel of Mark.
Of course there’s a whole lot in the book- but I came across a story that I liked a lot.
In Marks gospel Jesus is with the disciples and they are going thru the fields picking the ‘ears of corn’ [note- you did not have corn- like we think- growing in the land at the time. They were picking grain. But the King James Bible- 1611- which I use- did translate the term corn].
Now- when the Pharisees saw this- it was the Sabbath day- they accused Jesus and his men of breaking Gods law.
Jesus responded by saying ‘have you never read the story of David when he was fleeing Saul- how he and his men ate the sacred bread- that is not lawful for men to eat- only the priests’.
I always liked this story because there is so much to unpack- let’s try to do a little.
Was it unlawful for the disciples to have done this?
Not really- the Pharisees were a group of religious leaders that rose up during the time of the captivity of the Jews a couple hundred years before the time of Christ.
They did serve a noble purpose at the start- they wanted to retain the culture and religious beliefs of Gods people during a time of displacement from their own land.
So this group established the synagogue system [sort of a Jewish ‘church’] and they would gather around on the Sabbath day and read the scriptures and be reminded of their heritage.
Okay- what happened to these brothers- like many other good things that meant well at the start- was after a while they became elitist.
They saw themselves as better than everyone else- they became judges of all other groups- and they developed a Tradition- called ‘The Tradition of the Elders’ which was an expansion on the law of God.
This is what Jesus often fought against in his day- the Tradition of the Elders [not all tradition in general!]
Why is this important?
It is common in our day for many well meaning believers- Born Again Christians- to disdain all Church tradition.
Many people [like myself] come from a former Catholic background- and one of the first things you normally hear is ‘look at all the bad traditions that the church taught’.
This mindset is often justified by Jesus condemnation of the ‘Traditions of men that make void the Word of God’.
Jesus was not throwing all tradition under the bus- he was rebuking THIS specific tradition.
Okay- the reason I said ‘sort of’ [at the top] was because the defense Jesus gave said ‘didn’t you read what David did- when he ate the bread that was unlawful to eat’.
So Jesus really did not mind the ‘you broke the law’ accusation- but instead placed himself in the situation of King David and said ‘I too have authority over the Sabbath’.
In the Jewish mind of the 1st century- the statements like this that Jesus made [Moses said this- but I say this] these statements meant more than meets the eye.
They meant that Jesus saw himself as being equal with God.
If you carefully read the gospels you see this.
To the first century Jew- this was indeed a violation of what they were taught.
‘The Lord our God is One’.
So- Jesus defends himself and his men by saying ‘I am Lord over the Sabbath’
Strong words indeed.
The story of David is found in the book of Samuel.
He’s running from king Saul at the time- and he goes to the ‘House of God’ and needs food.
The priest [Abiathar] tells him he only has the sacred bread- which is reserved for the priests.
David makes up a story and says he’s on a special mission from Saul and the priest gives David the bread.
He eats- and gives to his men.
Now- when Jesus uses this story in the gospel- he does mention that David and his men both ate.
I find this interesting.
Because Jesus will sit down with his men at the last supper and do the same thing.
He tells them ‘take eat- this is my Body- drink- this is my Blood’.
How could Jesus ‘eat himself’?
The Bread and Wine represent the Body and Blood of Christ.
Jesus said his meat [bread- the thing that sustained him] was to do the will of God and finish his work.
He was sustained too by the mission he was on- he lived to ‘give his Body and Blood’.
This mission was his life’s purpose- he too ‘ate the Bread’.
Jesus also came from the lineage of king David- he was a ‘son’ of David.
In the above verses- it said ‘David came to the house of God’.
We often see this as the Temple.
But remember- the temple was not built yet.
David’s son Solomon will build it in the future.
So what ‘house of God’ did David come to?
It was the tabernacle [of Moses].
This was a tent type system that God gave to the children of Israel during their wilderness journey.
It became the central place of worship and sacrifice when they entered the promised land.
Eventually the main piece of this tent system gets taken by Israel's enemies [They stole the Ark- the box that held the 10 commandments].
And when David becomes king he gets it back.
As the Ark eventually winds up back in the hands of David- he builds another tent thing- called the Tabernacle of David- and he places the Ark under this tent.
Now- David is king at the time- the bible says he put on a Linen Ephod and worshipped God before this tent [he operated as a priest- which was unlawful for kings to do- normally!].
Understand- at the same time the Tabernacle of Moses still existed- it just did not have the Ark in it- David’s ‘new’ tent had the Ark.
This was symbolic of the New testament King/Priesthood of Jesus.
He in essence would usher the people into the presence of God- absent the Veil of the Temple- a covering that existed in the Tabernacle of Moses- which represented separation from God- but was not in the one David made.
So you see- when Jesus used David as an example- there was more than meets the eye- much more.
[Jesus is the New Testament King/Priest that died on the Cross- the Veil of the temple was ripped on that day- and he now represents us before the throne of God- absent the veil- the thing that separated man from God].
1834- HOW LOW WILL IT GO?
This past week I spoke with my Liberal friend from the North- yes- a real person- not a composite!
I always try and take the middle ground in these talks- showing my friend that to be too partisan clouds the mind.
One example- this friend has bought the whole media line that Romney- because of his wealth- is unfit to serve.
That his wife does just sit on the couch all day and does nothing- and they are unable to speak about real issues because of this.
Now- this person voted for Kerry a few years back.
I told my liberal friend ‘say if you found out that Romney actually never earned his money- but he married his wife- who also never earned it- but she inherited it from a rich father’.
And say if Romney was spending all of his wife’s money on yachts- expensive vacation homes- and all the ritzy stuff that Romney has [elevators for cars].
Of course my friend would be even more mad.
Yet this is exactly what happened to John Kerry.
He simply married a woman who was heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune.
Okay- does this make Kerry a bad man?
But this shouldn’t make Romney a bad man either- yet I never heard one story about Kerry being a free loader off of his wife’s money.
The point being we get mad at the other side- even though we allow those same things to slip by if it happens on ‘our side’.
Now- the other day I posted on the economy- that I felt we still had a ‘long hard slog’ ahead.
Others had too rosy of a picture in my view.
Now- economics/finances is like anything else- you look at the data and make the best ‘guess’ possible.
When I looked at the data at the end of last year- we had some bad signs ahead.
This year- the states and local govts [cities- towns] were not going to have anywhere near the revenue that they had for the past few years.
The federal govt. has cut back much of the funding that they gave to the states.
Obama care has also put a huge burden on the states.
One of the ways it ‘covers’ the uninsured is to simply mandate that the states put millions of more people on the Medicare rolls.
This is a tremendous cost to the states- money they don’t have.
Housing prices have gone down- in some places more than 50%- and the way most states/cities pay for their local expenses [schools] is this way [property tax].
So you basically have the states and cities having to come up with more money- and in reality they have nowhere to get the money.
Now- last night I watched the governor from Cali. say that the state is in almost double the debt that they we were expecting.
California is 16 billion in debt- not 9 billion as was projected.
Governor Brown- a smart guy- he once studied to be a Jesuit priest- they are top of the line intellectuals among Catholic priests.
[just as a side note- this order rose up during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. A soldier by the name of Ignatius Loyola was wounded and recovering in the hospital.
He read about the life of Christ and dedicated himself to the Lord.
The Jesuits were the order he founded.
They evangelized all the way into Asia- an area that the Protestant missionaries avoided.
The Jesuits played a major role in the scientific revolution- as a percentage of how few Jesuits there were- they had a huge impact on the development of modern science.]
So governor Brown said his state has lived beyond it’s means for too long- they spent money they did not have- and now the chickens have come home to roost.
Brown is a liberal Democrat.
The governor of N.Y. said the same thing a few months back.
When he got elected he actually worked with the unions in the state and worked out a deal where they were going to cut the huge expenses that the retirees managed to bargain for over the years.
Cuomo- another Democrat- said it was impossible for the state to continue to pay out these lavish benefits.
After the union leaders made the deal- the rank and file rose up [like Greece] and simply elected new leaders who would fight the changes.
I heard a clip from Cuomo- he was yelling ‘we can’t keep making the rich/businesses pay- they are all leaving the state’- just like Cali.
So- with unemployment at historic highs- with state and local govts having to lay off tons of teachers and cops and firefighters.
While the cost to the states is going up- a lot [Obama care].
With all these things in the hopper- besides the ‘unknowns’ like the banks [Morgan Chase] still making risky bets.
Yes- in my view I could not see how some financial guys were talking a huge recovery- some have said they thought the DOW would be at 17,000 next year- nuts!
As I spoke to my liberal friend- they said ‘so- do you think Romney would have been able to create more jobs than Obama’!
They were mad- I said I’m really not a Romney supporter- but being I live in oil state I know from firsthand experience that Obama has cost us jobs.
When he got in office the regulations and the EPA came down hard on the state- they cost lots of jobs.
I saw a clip- video- from Obama the other day- it was from January of 2008- he said he wanted to see the cost of opening up coal powered plants go so high that any sane business person would simply choose not to do it.
Okay- if you have said these things- and have actually done them- then yes- there have been very real jobs lost because of these things.
I assume Romney would not have done this- at least not as much as Obama.
So yes- it’s quite possible that the president’s agenda has cost jobs.
I also explained to my friend that many business owners have put off hiring for 3 years now- because if Obama care passes many of them will be mandated to pay the health care- or a huge fine- for each worker.
Now- as noble as these things might be- they cost real jobs.
My liberal friend- who is a nice person- has lived off of govt. programs for a long time- has only worked a real job for a small part of life.
This person simply had no idea how the private sector really worked- they just listen to the media talking points- and the real world is so much different.
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?
1827- SCHOOL LOANS AND HOW MANY TIMES DID THAT ROOSTER CROW?
I want to try and do both ‘politics and religion’- lets start with politics.
This story is a couple of days late [the big one this week is the anti Romney ad that the Obama campaign released- saying he would not have killed Bin Laden].
This story is last week’s fight over keeping the cost of federally funded student loans from doubling in July.
Basically in 2007 congress passed a law to keep the interest rates low- and it expires in a few months.
Now- both sides of the aisle actually agree on this- they just disagree on how to pay for it [around 6 billion in cost].
The Dems in the senate want to ‘tax the rich’ yes- they are not afraid to keep going to this pool- even though eventually this pool will run dry [not saying all the rich will become poor- but ultimately you drive the wealth from the country- people put their money where it won’t cost so much to keep!]
The Dems in the house want to tax the oil companies.
The Repubs want to pay for it by taking some money out of Obama care.
Okay- as the battle lines were drawn- the Repubs control the house- so they passed it- with about a dozen Dems on board- with the money coming from Obama care.
The President threatened to veto it- and the Dems began accusing the Repubs of waging ‘a war on women’s health’.
Boehner [speaker of the house] actually got mad and said the Dems are waging a phony fight.
Okay- as an independent- there are some points on both sides- but the ‘war on women’ is a stretch.
The fund in the health care law that the Repubs want to use- is a fund for preventative care- less than 1 % of this fund is targeted for women’s health.
The President and the Dems were the first ones to tap into this fund- as sort of a slush fund- when they needed the money for- of all things- a tax cut!
Yes- in the recent fight over extending the payroll tax cut [Social Security] the Dems came up with the idea to tap into this same preventive fund- and they used the money [billions] to give people a tax cut.
Now- when they did it- it was not a ‘war on women’ it was a ‘good thing’.
When the Repubs did it- it was a war on women’s health.
So- this is gridlock- this is why our country is becoming more and more dysfunctional as the days go by.
I have said this over the past few years- if we don’t actually elect people who will deal with the real issues- the big one being the cost of Medicare- which at the current rate will consume around 50 % of all federal spending in a few years- if we don’t elect people who will do this- then all the other little ‘campaign’ talking points will mean nothing.
Okay- this past week I went thru a course by Professor Bart Ehrman.
He teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He teaches Christianity and the New Testament and has been popular the last couple of years because he had a N.Y. times best seller- Misquoting Jesus.
Whenever I study a course- I usually do a parallel teaching on the blog.
Not word for word- I usually have a background in the subject already- and if the course goes too ‘off course’ I dump it and just finish the blog study by memory.
This time I never planned on covering the course from the get go- because I knew Ehrman was what you would call a Liberal scholar.
Now- Liberal and Conservative- in the field of Theology- are not political matters.
Liberals are those who hold to the critical view of the bible that was developed in the 19th century- primarily out of the German universities- men like Rudolph Bultman were leaders in the field.
This ‘way’ of interpreting the bible- called Higher Criticism- had some good points to it- but at the end of the day they came to reject the historical accuracy of scripture- and said that the Gospels were written by unknown men who wanted to simply convey spiritual truths that Jesus taught.
Conservative teachers [like me] hold to the belief that the bible is indeed historically accurate- and the ‘Inspired Word of God’.
Okay- as I went thru the course- I honestly expected Bart to make a better case for his side.
I really learned nothing knew- I was already familiar with the critic’s points- and he made the same ones that the conservative side has already refuted.
Now- let me give you a few examples.
When I first started reading thru the bible as a new believer- I did find some of these ‘discrepancies’ myself.
I noticed that in Matthews’s gospel the story about the denial of Jesus says Peter will deny Jesus 3 times before the ‘rooster crows’.
In Marks gospel it says ‘before the rooster crows twice’.
When I first saw this- it really wasn’t that big of a deal to me- and one time I mentioned it to my Pastor- a good Baptist man who was trained in a Fundamentalist school- and to my surprise he was not aware of this.
I also noticed a few more things like this over the years- and my pastor simply was never trained in these areas.
Now- I mention this only to point out that if you get a well rounded education- it really should include some of these so called discrepancies.
Some of the Higher Criticism is helpful- some not.
But to avoid these textual problems- simply because you’re a Fundamentalist- does more harm than good- especially when your parishioners are learning the stuff on their own!
Okay- I ‘solved’ the problem of the denials by simply seeing that even though one gospel says ‘before the rooster crows’ and the other ‘twice’- that at the end of the day one writer is simply giving you more detail.
It really is not a contradiction- if Matthew said ‘before the roster crows once’ then yes- that would be a problem.
But he simply gave less detail than the other writer.
Okay- after becoming familiar with Ehrman- and knowing that he is famous in the field of liberal scholarship- I thought for sure he would come up with something better than this.
But in actuality- this was one of his main examples of why the bible is not historically accurate.
I couldn’t believe it.
Now- to be fair- there are other things like this that do happen- but they are all minor details of the story [John’s gospel seems to indicate that Jesus was crucified on a different feast day than the other writers say].
But all these minor details in no way justify rejecting the gospels as historically accurate.
Let me just hit on a few things that the higher critics have right.
They do point to the fact that the early followers of Jesus lived in an Oral culture- things were passed along by word of mouth for the most part.
The writing of books [scrolls] did take place- but it was not an easy- or cheap trade.
We live in a day of books and internet access and all sorts of ways for the printed word to be distributed- but in the early church it was not like this.
So- the gospels were probably written about 20-50 years after the death and resurrection of Christ.
Yes- this is true.
The more conservative scholars go with the earlier date [some go as early as 15 years after Christ] but no one claims that the gospels were written at the same time as Christ walking the earth.
Yes- the stories were transmitted orally [oral culture] but they were written later on.
Now- the ultra liberal scholars say ‘see- how could they have known all the facts if they were written so much later’- and Ehrman uses the example of the game ‘telephone’ [or something like that?].
Where you have one person in class tell something to the next in line- and at the end of the line you get a different account.
Ehrman says ‘see- we have no idea what/who Jesus really was’.
Okay- the main discrepancy that Bart used- was the rooster crowing.
He actually sounded mad on the C.D. [I listen while I work!] and he said ‘well- which is it [damn it!!] did the rooster crow once- or twice!’
And then he jumped to the conclusion that the gospels were really fake stories that were made up by unknown men- well meaning men- but they had no real historical truth to them.
This my friends is what I call a ‘leap of faith’.
Geez- if we did this was all other biographies- we would have no ‘factual’ histories about anyone.
I’ll end with a note to my Catholic readers.
A couple of years ago I read the Popes book- Jesus of Nazareth- I did a brief review on the blog and I really liked the book a lot.
One of the things the Pope deals with [remember- Benedict was a priest from Germany- where the whole school of higher criticism arose] in the book is this whole debate over the historical accuracy of the bible.
At one point- as he graciously- yet boldly defends the conservative view- he is talking about the liberal view that the gospels were written by these unknown men who basically made the stories up.
The Pope asks ‘and just how did these men manage to write the most popular books of all time- books that came to be revered and known and loved by generations and generations- and yet no one even knows the names of the authors?’ [I did ad lib a little here]
The bottom line is- if the gospels were written by a bunch of anonymous men who simply wanted to convey some spiritual truths about Jesus- and they managed to stay hidden for all these centuries- this theory has more holes in it than say- a rooster crowing once or twice.
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
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
Last night I had my wife search for some old friends on Facebook [she’s better than me] and I had one old firefighter buddy that kept coming to mind- Buddy Renninger.
I met Buddy about 10 years ago- he attended one of the fire/ems schools that my Dept. was putting on.
Every so often when a neighboring city puts on a class- the other depts. might attend.
Buddy was a ‘rookie’ from the city of Alice- about 20 minutes from Kingsville- where I retired from.
Buddy was my age- though I had already put in about 20 years- he was a new comer to the job.
We got along good- went out for a few drinks a couple of times- shot some pool.
And yes- Buddy ‘picked my brain’ on Christianity- he was eager to learn.
I lost touch with Buddy after I retired- actually before that.
So when my wife looked up the name- to my surprise she told me ‘John- Buddy died’.
I was shocked- I mean he was 48 years old.
The on line article just said he died at home- no other info.
They actually have a little tribute to him on line- look it up if you want- just Google his name and the city of Alice- he was a Lieutenant.
He died a couple of year’s back- sad to see him go.
By the way- for those of you who just got ‘friended’ by me this week- as I was searching for some old friends- I found the search where it says ‘you might know this person’ and I went down the list and sent out about 50 requests.
Some names I thought sounded familiar- others I knew- others just had that good old Italian last name- so if you’re a new friend- that’s the story.
Alright- I still need to do one last post on this never ending Philosophy study I have been on.
But in the last post when I mentioned the book of Ephesians- I came across a verse in chapter 6- it says for workers to ‘obey’ their employers in all things- with FEAR AND TREMBLING.
That short phrase reminded me of something that I did not cover in the philosophy posts.
In a few posts we covered 19th century thinking- and we hit on Soren Kierkegaard- the 19th century father of Existentialism [will not repeat it all- you can find it somewhere on the blog].
Soren wrote a few books- one was called FEAR AND TREMBLING- he looked at the story of Abraham in Genesis chapter 22- where he takes Isaac to be offered as a sacrifice to God.
Soren [it’s easier then repeatedly spelling the last name!] examined the process of God telling Abraham to do something that by all accounts seemed contrary to God- and to what Abraham believed to be right.
Yet- at that point of the journey- faith became more than just an intellectual exercise- it became a man [or woman] who passionately embraced God- even beyond the point of his own understanding.
Yes- Abraham did this with much Fear and Trembling- and he never had to sacrifice Isaac- it was a test- a test that the patriarch passed with flying colors.
Next week I will try and finish that last post on philosophy- and try and review the short letter of James [in the New Testament].
This letter is the only ‘wisdom’ literature we find in the New Testament [wisdom literature refers to a specific genre of writing- in the Old Testament we have about 5 books in this category- Proverbs, Psalms, Job- etc.]
So if you get a chance- try and read the letter- it’s a short read.
Okay- that’s it for now- to all my new Facebook friends- glad to see you.
And to Buddy- sad to see you go my friend- may God bless your soul.
1822- CHOSEN BY GOD
Good morning to all my on line friends.
Today let’s cover the book of Ephesians and John 17.
I stumbled on them this past week- not realizing the similarity of themes.
In the past I have taught complete bible studies- both on radio and at the same time on the blog.
It took a little longer- because I would write on a chapter- then take 2 or 3 radio programs [15 minute shows] to cover it on air.
I’m not even sure- I think I might have already done a full Ephesians study on the blog?
Ephesians is written by the apostle Paul- though some scholars believe it was written by one of Paul’s disciples- they think it might be more of an elaboration on Paul’s other epistle to the Colossians.
There are various reasons that some scholars do stuff like this- won’t go into all the reasons- in my mind when a bible letter says within the text that Paul wrote it- then I go with that.
The short letter [6 chapters] starts off with a declaration that God chose the believers before he even made the world.
That God had a predestined purpose for them to have become children of God and for this new people of God to reveal the ‘manifold wisdom of God’ to everyone one [thing] else.
One of the verses says that even the angels and powers in heaven ‘learn’ the things of God thru the church.
This really is an amazing statement- that God uses the church to reveal Divine truths to the whole universe!
This theme of God choosing us [them] before the world- to fulfill a purpose that he planned before the world- is a major theme in the first 4 chapters of the book.
He wants them to see that this calling- this place where they are at at the present time- it is a sort of Divine appointment with destiny- that God had planned this before the creation of the world.
And it is now ‘in time’ that they are living out this Divine plan.
In John chapter 17 we read the prayer of Jesus.
Jesus says that he has 'finished’ the work that God gave him to do- which was to reveal God to these disciples that God has given to him.
He says ‘all mine are thine- and thine are mine- and I am glorified in them’.
Jesus also hits on the theme of this being a work of God that he pre-planned before the world was made.
He prays ‘don’t take them out of the world- but keep them from the evil’.
The same theme that we see in the ‘Our Father’.
I find it interesting that one of the more popular ‘end times’ teaching of our day is the Rapture.
Tim Lahaye has popularized this idea in his very successful series of books about the end times.
In the 1980’s- the number one best seller among Christian books [I think it was actually number 1 for all categories?] was Hal Lindsey’s ‘late great planet earth’.
He too took the same line as Lahaye and taught the idea that God was going to take all the Christians ‘from the earth’ and that the world would wonder where they all went.
I have covered this in the past- how the church came to teach this- how the historic church did not teach it- and why I believe the Rapture- as a separate event from the 2nd coming- has no real biblical basis.
The point for this post is part of the prayer of Jesus is ‘I pray not that you would take them out of the world’ which on its face seems to be the opposite of what the Rapture doctrine teaches.
Okay- Jesus revealed the Father to his men.
The apostle Paul told the church ‘God chose you for this before the world was made’.
Jesus believed that these disciples [and by extension the church] were ‘given to him’ by the pre ordained will of God.
What all this means- in a nutshell- is that where you are at right now- all the things you are going thru- God knew it before it ever happened.
And he still picked you for the job!
The Apostle tells them to be strong in the Lord- to pray always- and put on the whole armor of God.
Yes- just because they were chosen- did not mean they could sit around all day doing nothing- they were chosen for a purpose- and it was up to them [by grace] to walk in that purpose.
I would encourage you to try and read these chapters this week- Ephesians is short- but has a lot of good stuff in it.
As you read- look for the theme of God choosing the church before the ‘world was made’.
Notice how often this idea ‘pops up’ in the writing of Paul- and how it plays a major part in the life of the church.
Read- and apply- the instructional aspects of the letter [on family- husbands and wives- children- workers and bosses].
And practice- as much as possible- the ‘put on the armor of God’ teaching found in chapter 6- that section ends with ‘pray for everyone’.
That- in my mind- is the most important part of the instruction.
1816- CASA DI MI PADRE
This is the latest Will Ferrell flick to hit the big screen.
It’s in Spanish [no joke] and Ferrell speaks all his lines in Spanish.
I caught his interview on Jon Stewart- plugging the movie- and it looks funny.
I do like Ferrell- I clipped an article [so I would remember to mention it] and just about 5 minutes ago as I re-read the thing- I couldn’t stop laughing.
It shows a picture of Ferrell- all made up to look like a Mexican drug lord [I think he plays a brother of one in the movie] and he’s holding this rifle- in a real awkward way- and he looks like an idiot.
That’s what makes me laugh about the guy- he’s just funny.
The movie is a spoof of the Spanish Telenovela movies- he’s basically making fun of the genre- and at the same time trying to appeal to both Spanish and English speaking audiences.
As the week ends- there have been some surprises in the news world.
Most observers think the Health Care law has more of a chance of being struck down by the court than less of a chance.
It was not so last week- so this is a major story.
Also about 2 weeks ago I wrote some posts on the Syrian situation- if you remember both Russia and China rejected the U.S. lead effort [in the U.N.] to condemn Assad [the Syrian president] and call for his ouster.
At the time I said the U.S. needs to realize that we can’t keep calling for the ouster of leaders- even bad ones- every time a rebellion rises up.
Because the radical Islamist groups see this- and that’s why you started having various protestors calling for ‘NO FLY ZONES’.
They were reading us- and at times trying to simply manipulate us to do their bidding.
Now- after our U.N. resolution failed [because of China and Russia voting it down] Susan Rice- the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.- made a public statement- calling it ‘unconscionable’ and using language that you normally don’t see by ‘fellow negotiators’ from the U.N.
As I watched the fallout- I saw that experts at how the U.N. process works- they said Rice was incompetent- and her reaction showed her inability to handle the job.
These criticisms came from both sides- Russian and U.S.
I also said at the time that the U.S. needs to basically listen to what Russia’s objections are- and we need to move in their direction on this- and not the other way around.
Russia basically was fed up with the West coming in and backing rebel groups- unseating the leaders of the countries- and then leaving the place a mess [Libya- Egypt].
Russia [and China] saw the writing on the wall- and they called for a ceasefire on all sides- and for everyone to sit down at the table.
I thought this was the best way to go as well.
But Rice [U.S.] called for Assad to step down [which means he will get tried and executed- as various Al Qaeda groups take the country over].
So just the other day- the news headlines read ‘Russia capitulates to U.S. position’.
As I read the article- the opposite happened.
We agreed to the Russian position- not the other way around.
But every article on it- bar none- made it look like ‘we prevailed’.
That Obama and his team were the real experts- standing up for liberty- and the other side lost.
How many people knew enough to see that the articles were wrong- how many just read the headlines and thought ‘wow- what a bang up job that Susan Rice is doing at the U.N.’
This is how media bias works- sometimes I think they even believe their own stuff- even when it’s obviously wrong.
In the next week or so I’m going to try and wrap up a few more posts on Philosophy.
We started around 6 months ago- with the pre Socratic Philosophers [7-800 years B.C.] and made it all the way up to the Existentialists of the 19th century.
I hate to stop there- because we were right at the time of the rise of the Atheistic existentialists- the Nihilists- who saw no hope in existence.
These guys ‘stole’ existentialism from its founder- a Christian- Soren Kierkegaard- and developed a purposeless philosophy- a ‘man without hope’ future world.
Guys like John Paul Sartre and Camus [20th century] were writing/saying things like ‘the only question now left is the viability of suicide’.
Books with the simple title ‘Nausea’ or ‘no exit’ [a play]- describing the fate of man.
As I watch/read the current trends- it is tempting to see our future in this way.
I mean society is struggling for meaning- Arab nations are going thru tremendous times of questioning- and some observers are grasping at the solutions that the 19th century Atheists already espoused- and failed.
Men like Sam Harris [the End of Faith] blame all society’s ills on religion itself- pointing to Islamic terrorism- and making statements like ‘almost all wars are religion based’.
I mean his argument sounds good- he’s just wrong.
Out of all recorded major wars- around 1700- under 10 % are considered religious in nature.
But who really has time for facts like this?
So- over the next few weeks- as I watch the scene- maybe catch the Ferrell flick- I will keep in mind another famous line of Ferrell’s.
He was talking to Christina Applegate- in his classic film ‘Anchorman- the Legend of Ron Burgundy’.
And there sitting at some lookout- viewing the city of L.A.
And Ferrell waxes eloquent about the city- he says ‘L.A. - the city named after..’
Well- it’s kinda crass- he basically says it was named after the female part of a whale.
Christina looks at him- puzzled- and says ‘I think its name means City of Angels’.
Ferrell disagrees- he tells her ‘well- we will just have to agree to disagree’.
She says ‘no- I’m pretty sure I’m right’.
I’m glad the country is having a debate about what’s right and wrong- the Trayvon Martin case- the ethical responsibility that society has to the poor [Health care arguments].
Our role as a lead nation ‘among nations’- how to side with the protestors- in a responsible way that doesn’t leave the nations in a mess when where done.
All of these debates are ethical in nature- the questions we are asking is ‘is this right or wrong’.
And contrary to some modern thinkers- there is a right and a wrong on these issues- yes- sometimes we compromise- sometimes we ‘agree to disagree’ and sometimes it takes one side to tell the other ‘no- I think you are wrong on this’.
Do it in love- do it with boldness- ‘speaking truth to power’ but when you see the need- then do it.
1815- HEAD TRANSPLANT
I have been reading the San Antonio paper the last few weeks- and they have been running some ad for dental implants [fake teeth].
They have the ‘before/after’ pictures- whenever I see the ad- I think ‘before what? A complete head transplant’!
Yes- the before shots remind me much of my homeless buddies- the after shots look like glamour pictures for the ‘most beautiful person in the world’ contest.
This last week I have reached a sort of milestone- a few years ago I began praying [more than usual] for all types of criminal cases that I read about- or see- on the news.
I actually painted their names all over my gazebo- the back fence- and yes- right on the back and sides of the house [along with lots of bible verses].
I have hundreds of pictures/articles cut from the paper- their pinned to my office walls.
You say ‘John- I know you mean well- but do you think this is normal’.
Actually no- neither does my wife.
I have been threatened ‘if you keep doing this- I will paint the whole house’.
My paints [and brushes] have been hidden [by others!]- and when Christmas comes around- I tell the kids ‘hey- just get me another 5 gallon bucket of paint- I’m running low’ [yes- this part is a joke].
Some of the more severe cases- the ones that stick in my mind- I paint their names- the others I just pin up the article.
Sometimes I see the cases more than once- at the time of the crime- and then when they get sentenced.
This week Jacob Gonzales was sentenced to life without parole.
He plead guilty to a triple homicide he committed last year- shot 3 girls in cold blood.
The worst homicide the city has ever seen.
So I had written the name of Jacob down- and saved the article.
As I looked for a spot to paint the name- I realized that I already wrote the name Jacob- in big letters- on a ladder on my gazebo [long story- bible verse about Jacobs Ladder].
So it kinda just fit.
I knew his case was significant- I do ‘forever’ pray for these guys [and women] and being it was a local case- and he will be in jail for life- he would benefit more from the prayers.
During my normal reading for the week- I was reading Jeremiah chapter 31.
I usually focus on one or 2 chapters a week- and if I remember I comment on them at the end of the week.
As I read chapter 31- it starts with a verse that should be added to the previous chapter.
Sometimes you run into a chapter like that- our bible chapters and verses are really ‘man made’ that is the chapters themselves are not inspired- just the content [chapter divisions].
So I thought ‘heck- let me go ahead and see if the Lord has something for me in chapter 30’.
Now- this is the week where I added Jacob to my prayer group- again.
And I felt there was some special significance to his case.
In Jeremiah chapter 30 the Lord says ‘this is the time of Jacobs’s trouble- and I will save him out of it’.
It would take too long to teach the actual doctrine of Jacobs Trouble- but it is a long- and sometimes controversial teaching that we find all through the bible.
I say controversial because many [most?] Protestants have an ‘end time’ teaching about this [called Dispensationalism] that I don’t agree with.
I hold more to the historic churches’ view on these passages [Catholic, Orthodox, etc.]
But Jacob- in the bible- is the son of Isaac- the son of Abraham.
God changes his name to Israel [he is the father of the 12 tribes of Israel].
And the name obviously holds a lot of significance in the bible.
The ‘trouble’ part refers to the passages we find in the bible that speak about a very troubling time for Israel as a nation- in many of the End Time books/movies- it’s called ‘The Great Tribulation’.
But the significance for me- this week- was God kinda spoke to me thru the connection of this kid Jacob- who I prayed for all week.
Yes- Jacobs’ time of trouble.
In chapter 31 [Jeremiah] God tells Israel ‘there is coming a time when I will make a new covenant with you- not like the one I made with you during the time of Moses’.
This fits in with what I taught last week- how the apostle Paul said we are not under the old law [Moses and the 10 commandments] but under a new covenant- the new and everlasting covenant of the Blood of Jesus.
In the chapter it says God will write his law on our minds and hearts- it won’t just be an outward law- written on tables of stone- but one written on the inside.
Yes- he says ‘all things will be new- I will never remember your sins any more’.
You know- I guess complete head [heart] transplants can happen- but it takes a miracle from God.
1812- John 3- Ephesians 2 [and the chicken!]
I want to cover the 2 bible chapters that I mentioned the other day- John chapter 3 and Ephesians chapter 2.
But first- some business.
I wrote a post the other day about ‘confiscating’ the little plastic bags at my local grocery store [HEB].
And some of you might be thinking ‘see- crime does pay’.
For your information- the bags were probably worth about 25 cents.
The other day I went to take out the chicken thighs for dinner- I couldn’t find them!
Then I thought ‘gee- my truck has been smelling like dead bodies lately’.
Yes- the chicken was left under the back seat for 2 days- cost- about 6 dollars.
Lesson? Don’t steal the bags anymore- cost? Priceless.
Okay- John chapter 3 is the famous chapter where Jesus tells Nicodemus ‘a man cannot see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’ [or born from above].
We also have the famous John 3:16 verse ‘for God so loved the world…’
If you read the chapter- both Jesus- and John the Baptist speak about those who believe- they are not condemned- and those who do not believe are judged.
Yet Jesus says he came into the world- not to condemn it- but to save it.
In Ephesians chapter 2 the apostle Paul says we are ‘saved by grace- not of works- lest any man should boast’.
Both chapters emphasize the role faith plays in salvation.
Okay- where did I come up with these chapters for the reading of the week?
They were both quoted from during the mass on Sunday [as a Protestant- I always try and watch the mass on Sunday- as well as doing our own home church meeting].
‘John- do Catholics believe in being born again’?
Yes- very much so.
Being born again is actually a vital doctrine within Catholicism.
For a brief review of Catholic/Protestant teaching- on my blog- on the front page to the left- you will see a bunch of studies that I have highlighted- click the ‘Protestant Reformation- Luther’ and you will get a more in depth discussion on some of the differences- and points of agreement.
But for this brief post- Catholics [and Orthodox] believe the new birth takes place at baptism- for the most part Protestants/Evangelicals believe it takes place at the point of faith [added to a long list of ‘altar calls’ or ‘5 steps of conversion’ etc.- in short- Protestants have their own sacramental system- they just don’t know it!]
I say- mostly- because there are many various groups within the Protestant movement that also would agree that water baptism is the point of being saved [church of Christ- various Pentecostal groups- etc.].
Now- I hold more to the historic Reformation view [faith] but I do not see a ‘grave’ departure from scripture with those who put more of the emphasis on baptism.
There are verses in John 3- Jesus says ‘a man must be born of water and the spirit’.
Plus- the last half of the chapter starts with a discussion over ‘purifying’.
There was a debate- going on at the time- between Jesus and John’s followers- about baptism- the chapter says the debate was about ‘purifying’.
Overall- it’s not unreasonable- in my mind- to hold to the more traditional emphasis on the importance of the role of baptism.
Yet- Christians fight- vehemently- over this.
In this part of the country it’s common for a Baptist- Assembly of God- or Church of Christ believer to view the ‘other team’ as a cult over this- this to me is very sad.
The main point?
Regardless of how much of a role water baptism plays in your particular denomination- the main point is we are saved by faith- thru the death and resurrection of Christ.
In the Ephesians chapter- Paul actually hits on some pretty deep themes- that the death of Christ removed the ‘wall of separation’ between Jew and Gentile- and we both are made into ‘one new man’.
This shows us the role that the Cross should play in society- it should bring various groups and cultures together- not divide them.
It would take a little too much time for me to go into what the ‘wall of separation’ was in Paul’s day.
But he wasn’t speaking about our sins separating us from God [though this of course is true].
But he was speaking about the role the law [10 commandments] played at the time.
Paul- a zealous teacher of the Jewish law [Pharisee] held the law in high esteem- and often it became a barrier between the Jew and Gentile.
Some of the more fame seeking Pharisees [the ones we see Jesus interacting with in the gospels] used the fact that they were the nation that received the law under Moses- as an ‘I’m better than you’ mentality.
Paul says ‘the law of commandments that was against us- Jesus nailed them to his Cross’ [Colossians].
He also says in his letter to the Galatians ‘if righteousness comes by the law- then Christ died in vain’ strong words indeed!
The point he is making is we- believers- are no longer under the condemnation of the law- no longer under the continual threat of God striking us down at any moment because of our sin.
We have been saved by grace and those who ‘walk in the Spirit’ are no longer under condemnation [Romans 8].
So- Jesus nailed the law to the Cross- and the barrier that separated Jew from gentile- as well as sinful man from a Holy God- has been ‘taken away’ by Christ.
I must note that the apostle Paul himself- who is famous for this teaching- always added the caveat ‘do we now sin because we are not under the law? God forbid!’
He was accused- by the strict sect of the Pharisees [known as Judaizers] of teaching a ‘lawless gospel’.
No- he- as well as most Christian denominations today- teach that the 10 commandments are still very important- and as believers in Christ we will naturally- by our new birth- fulfill the law.
But it is no longer this sword of Damocles hanging over our head.
Okay- for those who haven’t had time to read the chapters yet- try and read them over the weekend- they are short chapters- think about what I said in this post- look for the emphasis on faith- the role that faith plays in our salvation.
I’ll be back in a few days- but I need to go now- need to get another pack of chicken thighs before the store gets crowded.
1811- ETCH A SKETCH
The top story of the day- the big- no- huge- breaking news.
What was it?
You aint gonna believe me.
Yes- the Etch a Sketch controversy!
During the day yesterday some campaign aid for Romney said when they get to the general election- they will move to the center and do like the Etch a Sketch- shake the game and clear the slate.
Okay- was this the smartest thing to say? No.
Sure- it played into the charge that Romney is a ‘change agent’ [he changes his position to suit the day].
But top news? Please.
What should be top news?
I have covered a bunch of important overlooked stories these last few weeks- there are so many I could write one a day- but let’s hit a couple for now.
The top government leader in Libya has just said- quote ‘the central govt. is incapable of protecting or governing the nation’s vital institutions since the capture and killing of Gadhaffi’.
Yes- we over through that govt. by force- and we left the country in a mess.
Egypt- this week they just acquitted 9 terrorists who belonged to Al Qaeda and were part of the Islamic Jihad movement.
They had charges against them from trying to overthrow the former regime- Mubarak- who we forced to step down.
Yes- the people we enabled to be in charge- they acquitted our so called number one enemy in the world- Al Qaeda.
So why do these important stories- stories that demand headline news coverage- why do they get put on the back burner- and instead we have room for the Etch a Sketch.
It’s because the media do not want to report stories that would have a negative effect on Obama.
John- do you really believe this?
Hillary Clinton believed it to.
During her run against Obama for the nomination- her insider political people knew that the media were purposefully covering for Obama.
It has been reported- credibly- that her people actually contacted Hannity from Fox news- and told him that they were grateful that Fox was the only network willing to cover Obama.
A book just came out by David Corn- a liberal supporter of Obama- works for Mother Jones.
In the book Corn says how Obama has told his supporters that his poll numbers are down because Fox news accuses him of being a Muslim 24/7.
I watch Fox- as well as all the news channels- I have never heard a hard news report that claimed Obama was a Muslim.
Now- the president himself has indeed made so many statements in the past- calling Islam ‘my Muslim faith’.
He has said that he studied the Koran- he has prayed the Muslim prayer at sunset- and it was- quote ‘a beautiful thing’.
He has made statements like this over and over again- nonstop- over the years.
So- you would have thought that during the campaign some media people would have simply asked ‘why did you say this- a lot’.
Not one question- instead the media began a campaign to get people to think ‘geez- why are they always accusing Obama of being Muslim’.
The news reporters would ask the opposing candidates ‘do you think he’s Muslim’.
They would ask ‘should you make so and so apologize because he thinks Obama is Muslim’.
Yet not one story on his own statements associating himself with Islam.
Many of you probably never heard the few I just quoted in this post.
Okay- am I on this anti Muslim rant- trying to associate Obama with Islam?
But the book just came out- and this is a charge he makes- that the other side are ‘24/7’ calling him a Muslim- that’s just not true- and any other candidate who made the statements he has in the past- they would have not gotten ‘a pass’.
I talked about the atheist Nietzsche in the last post.
One of the famous comments he made was- man- like the Superman- should ‘will to power’ he should live for what he deems best- and strive for the top- even if you have no real reason for your own existence. He said man should ‘build his house on Vesuvius’ [an active volcano].
As the year progresses- as the top stories of the day become a stupid Etch a Sketch comment- or how one side is so right- while the other so wrong- we need to read between the lines.
There are many serious- important stories to cover.
Innocent people being killed- leaders oppressing their people.
Children starving around the world in vast numbers.
These are all very serious issues that we need to know about- pray about- and if we can- do something about.
But no- we want the Etch a Sketch- we want the stories that have no real value- no true meaning.
Yes- we are building our house on Vesuvius- and we don’t even know it.
1810- THE CRUCIFIED ONE
Yesterday I shopped at the local grocery store- and as my habit is- I started at the vegetable/fruit section.
When I grab the little bags to put the stuff in- I usually grab a few extra- and if I don’t use them I’ll take them home and stick them in the cabinet.
So, as I’m checking out- the lady asks me ‘oh- do you want me to throw these out’. I think she knew I was gonna confiscate them for personal use.
So- as a joke- I say ‘no- that’s fine- I sell them to the homeless guys out front’ [The store is a couple of hundred yards from the homeless mission where I hang out- everyone in the area knows about the ‘homeless guys’].
As I tell her the joke- both she and the bagger- they don’t seem to think it’s funny.
They look pretty mad- to be honest.
I tell them ‘no- I’m kidding- I take them home and use them for the onions and stuff’.
Their look didn’t change one bit- they did not want me to get those damn bags!
Right now in Texas we have an ongoing war with the Obama administration. In all my years as a political observer- I have never seen someone as petty as this current president.
I have written about him denying us federal aid when we applied because of wild fires we had a few years back.
Then the recent accusation that Texas is racist because of the voter I.D. laws.
Plus- the E.P.A. rules that are shutting down parts of our power grid- this coming year Texas is going to face some blackout problems because of this.
So- this week the president cut the federal funds for the WHP program.
This program gives care to poor women.
There are over 2400 hundred providers in Texas that will lose the majority of their funding because of this.
Why would the president do this?
Texas- like a few other states- passed a law that prevents tax payer money going to clinics that provide abortions.
The federal money supplies about 90 % of the funding- the federal govt. said if you deny any funding for the Planned Parenthood clinics- then we will cut all the funding to all of the 2400 clinics.
Now- did they have to do this?
How many Planned Parenthood clinics are in this group of over 2400 providers?
If you simply listen to the media- you would think that just about all of them are- or maybe half.
Out of the over 2400 providers- Planned Parenthood makes up 44.
The president cut off funding for 2400 clinics- that do breast screenings and mammograms.
That actually treat cancer and other diseases.
He cut them all off- because Planned Parenthood would not be in the group any more.
Planned Parenthood does not treat for breast cancer- does not offer pre natal care- and does not even have mammogram machines.
Many of the 2400 clinics that the president cut off do all of these services.
So why would you cut off over 90 % of the clinics that actually do these real- needed services?
Because of the political ideology of being pro abortion.
Obama has positioned himself as being on the side of abortion and his supports want that.
So- to appease his base- he cut off 2400 poor women’s clinics in Texas- this was a choice he made- not Perry.
A poll was done the other day- they asked women ‘would you like free birth control- or have to pay for it yourself’?
Now- if you ask just about anybody ‘would you like free dental- or health insurance- or beer’ what do you think the majority of people would say?
So after they did the poll- they said ‘see- most people support the position the president takes on abortion and birth control’.
See how the media shapes the conversation? You can ask a question in a way that gets a certain answer- and Walla- they achieved the goal.
Society has a decision to make- can we as a people live without any ethical requirements.
Should ethics- making a distinction between right and wrong- should this be part of the conversation?
In our Philosophy study- as scattered as it has been- we ended right around the 18-19th centuries.
We were coming up to the Existentialists.
Existentialism is a difficult philosophy to pin down [as most are].
But the easiest short definition I have found is it’s the philosophy of Existence.
That is real life- It’s not just a matter of intellectual data- it’s what we learn and experience as passionate people- people who have real problems and issues- yet they strive for meaning.
The father of Existentialism was the 19th century thinker- Soren Kierkegaard.
Kierkegaard was a Christian- he challenged the dead church of Denmark- the state church- and he called for a more adventurous approach to the faith.
Some notable followers of this philosophy took a different approach- they were the atheistic existentialists.
One of the most famous being Frederick Nietzsche.
Nietzsche taught that men should abandon all hope of a future afterlife- that the whole field of ethics was futile ‘do what you need to do to excel- step on the other people on the way up the ladder- and that’s what life is all about’.
He called this the Superman- man coming into this new age of science and reason- and rejecting the old forms of religion and ethics- which keep man down.
Nietzsche spent the last years of his life in an insane asylum.
His sister sold tickets to the ‘audience’ who wanted to see the madman.
She exercised her ‘superwoman’ and did what would benefit her- financially- without any worry about whether it was right or wrong.
The last couple of years of his life- Nietzsche signed his letters ‘the crucified one’.
In his rejection of God- he lost his mind and took the identity of Jesus Christ- the ethical one.
As we grapple with what’s right and wrong- as states pass laws that say 'we don’t want our tax payer money supporting abortions’.
Then we are going to have to deal with the backlash- those who at the time have the power [money] to cut the states off who see ethics as a priority.
Yes- the Superman [Feds] can deny that ethics play a role in women’s health- they can say ‘no money for any of your 2400 clinics’ just because you won’t fund 44 Planned Parenthood clinics.
People can get mad- and even take polls that say ‘we want free things’ [don’t we all? My grocery bags!]
At the end of the day- right and wrong do make a difference.
Trying to live a life- a worldview [philosophy] in a passionate way- that’s a good thing- we are all real people who deal with real issues.
But when you leave God/ethics out of the picture- then you are on a crash course- you might wake up one day- having lost your mind- and signing you letters as The Crucified One.
1808- 22 DAYS- AND COUNTING
As we end the week it’s been 22 days since Obama has held possession of the 1 million dollars that Bill Maher gave him.
I’m not sure how much longer he will keep it- all the clips of Maher calling women bad stuff- well they have been going viral on the net.
I even heard Ed Rendell- a big Democrat insider- say that he has Democrat women telling him that Obama needs to give the money back.
Maher just did a sold out show here in Texas [San Antonio] - he talked about giving up the ‘cu-t’ line about Palin [he also speaks of her as a ‘twat’ and makes fun of her Down syndrome child].
He said he gave up the ‘cu-t’ line [left the n out] even though it was the funniest line in his routine- that everyone loved it.
If that’s the funniest line on your show- then you have one dull show.
Sinbad [the Black comedian] is funny- you laugh when he does stand up- and you never hear any stuff like this out of him- if you need to degrade women and Down syndrome children to get laughs- then you have a problem.
The sad thing is- Obama and his guys are still 100% behind Maher- defending him on TV [Axelrod].
I heard Axelrod give a defense of Maher just the other day- while at the same time accusing the Repubs of waging a ‘war on women’.
Too much- that’s funnier than all the Maher skits combined.
Okay- let’s ‘keep em honest’ [as Cooper says].
As the debate heats up- Obama has been denying- vehemently- that he wants higher gas prices.
He told one reporter at a news presser- ‘do you really think that a president- in an election year- wants gas to go up’?
Actually- I don’t.
Then why ask this?
One of the political positions that some have taken over the years [Gore] believe that in order to wean the nation off of fossil fuels- that you have to get the gas prices high enough that it would then make the alternative clean fuels more economically feasible.
At the same time- this view believes that the Govt. should invest in clean fuel companies [thus Solyndra] and help them get off the ground.
Okay- has Obama and his Energy secretary ever espoused views like this?
Yes- many times- in public- on camera- on utube- even in the last couple of years.
Okay- do we have the right to be suspicious?
Obama- and Chu [energy secretary] have both said there goal was to get fuel prices higher- Chu said 8 dollars would be about right [a gallon].
This administration has touted clean fuel companies and has even been caught [emails] telling one company that was about to go under [Solyndra] ‘wait until after the midterm elections before you go bust’.
They have held this anti fossil fuel position for a long time.
Then why is it so unreasonable to simply ask ‘do you still hold to your past position- one you are on record as having- that you want gas prices to go up’.
Yet- the MSNBC crowd- and the other supporters of Obama in the media- they cant believe that anyone would ever believe that Obama and Chu would want gas to go higher.
Chu was confronted this week at a congressional hearing- the congressman asked him if he still held to the words he spoke a few years ago when he said he wanted gas to go up in price.
Chu said- ‘no- I don’t hold to that view anymore’.
Geez- this was your life long mission- something you advocated for- for many years- you’re were on that side- the Gore idea- and now you say ‘I don’t hold the view’.
Who do we believe man?
As MSNBC continues their ‘war on women’ accusation- we now have clips of Sharpton making the rounds [UTUBE] where he calls the Greek Philosophers [the ones I have been teaching on this least year] ‘a bunch of Homo’s’.
How wonderful- Sharpton- a guy- flim flam man- who holds a regular show on msnbc- he degrades Jews- calls Greeks ‘Homo’s’ speaks of Whites in terrible ways- yet he is lauded as some great civil rights guy- and he is a major supporter of Obama.
This week- the justice dept just overturned a Texas voter I.D. law.
Some states have been passing laws that say you need picture I.D. to vote.
Holder [attorney general- who has said that the civil rights laws are only meant to protect Blacks- not Whites- he did say this by the way].
He overturned Texas’ law because he said it was racist- because more minorities don’t have I.D.’s.
A few years ago- there was a video making the rounds- a Democrat woman [I think Ca.?] she was onstage talking to an Hispanic audience- she said ‘go tell your friends and neighbors to vote- even if they don’t have documentation- because they are not allowed to check at the polls’.
So some states have passed laws- trying to make sure that only citizens are voting.
In 2008- Georgia’s first vote after they passed voter I.D. laws- they had MORE Blacks show up to vote.
In 2008- the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter I.D. law- Justice John Paul Stevens- a liberal- wrote the majority decision.
He simply said that states have a real interest- not racist- to make sure only eligible voters are voting.
He said there was absolutely no evidence to suggest that requiring people to have picture I.D.’s to vote is racist.
Yet Holder says that states that are trying to pass voter I.D. laws are trying to ‘undo’ the civil rights gains that men like John Lewis fought for in the 60’s.
This guy is unbelievable.
So we have an administration- whose public defenders- who’s attorney general- whose energy secretary- and all the other people around him- hold to paranoid views on race and energy and all types of things.
They call women the nastiest manes in the book- they speak about Jews and Whites as groups that conspired against Blacks and who need to be ‘eliminated as a social class’ [Bell].
Yet- at the same time they are also running a media campaign that says 'look at all the Repubs- they are anti woman- they are racist- they call women sluts’.
And then when 2 polls come out [this week- Washington Post and N.Y. Times] they cant believe that Obama’s approval actually fell- even among women.
Yes- after the Super Tuesday results- when Santorum won a large amount of women voters- you had the pundits on MSNBC shocked- even mad ‘I guess these southern women are too stupid- that they would vote for a guy who wants to take away their birth control’.
Now- Southern women- Northern Women- women from all regions and colors- they have daughters and sons who need jobs- who have a very bleak future ahead of them- if the economy does not start really producing jobs.
These women are paying 75 dollars to fill up their cars/vehicles.
These women- they have real concerns about real issues.
And for the media to have really thought that their contrived War on Woman campaign- to have thought that women would go out in huge numbers to vote for their ‘right to have birth control- paid for by everyone else’ for them to have thought this was demeaning- condescending.
Yes- women are concerned about health care issues- and the CBO said this week that Obama care will cost twice as much than what he said [1.7 trillion instead of 900 billion].
And that private employers would drop around 20 million people from their rolls [not 1 million as Obama said].
Yes- these health care issues matter to women- it matters to women that your major supporters degrade women on a regular basis- accuse Jews and Whites of conspiracies.
These things matter too.
But no- the media can’t understand how Obama’s approval actually went down among women- not up.
I guess they don’t realize that Jews and Whites and Hispanics and all other races- well they are women too.
And even though Eric Holder does not believe that these ‘other races’ are covered under the civil rights laws- and that states that simply want citizens to vote- whether they be Mexican or White or Black- they want to make sure only eligible voters vote.
Well Holder says that those states are trying to turn back the civil rights gains made over the past 60 years.
It’s no wonder why the numbers are going down- women see these things- women of all races- and its condescending to have thought that women were going to abandon the other side in huge numbers and support Obama- all because a Georgetown university student- who pays 40 thousand a year tuition- can’t afford 9 dollars a month at wal mart for birth control.
It’s a surprise for me to think that any woman- Black- White- North- South- would have swallowed a line like that.
1806- THE 2% LIE
I want to talk a little bit about how we perceive things- the way the media and politicians use propaganda to sway the way people think.
This weekend I spoke with my liberal friend from N.J. - by the way- when I use examples from our talks- these are real discussions that I have had with this friend for the last 30 years.
This is not a ‘made up person’.
Okay- one of the first things they said was ‘can you believe these Repub candidates- all they want to talk about is birth control’.
Now- I told my friend that this was a perfect example of how the propaganda machine works.
If you remember back to the first time birth control came up during this election- it was a question by George Stephanopoulos.
He asked Romney if states have the right to ban Birth control.
Everyone on the stage- and in the audience were shocked- surprised. Why in the heck would you ask a question like this- no one on the trail is talking about it [until then] and it simply was not part of the ‘conversation’.
A few days later- Stephen Colbert had Stephanopoulos on his show [Colbert Report] and he asked him ‘why would you ask a question like that’?
He responded ‘I had a bet with Dianne Sawyer that I could get Romney to admit that birth control was a good thing’.
What really happened was the Dem strategists had a plan- they knew that it would be difficult for the President to run on the economy [even though now the numbers are looking better- to his credit].
So they had a strategy to turn the conversation into one on birth control and ‘the war on women’.
The president was just about to announce his new rule on birth control- that the Catholic church would no longer be able to not provide it thru their plans- and this whole conversation was orchestrated to get the average person to wake up one day and say ‘geez- look at all these stupid stone age Republicans- all they want to talk about is birth control’.
And Walla- my friend swallowed the bait- hook line and sinker.
Now- do both sides do this?
Sure- I’m just showing you how.
Now- the present problem [in my mind] is that Obama has been unable to distinguish between speaking honestly as a president- and speaking ‘politically’ as a campaigner.
What do I mean?
The last 2 weeks the president has been going around making public speeches and saying ‘when these Repubs say “drill baby drill” they are lying to you about the problem- even if we drill- we use 20% of the world’s oil- and only have 2% of the oil reserves here in the U.S.’.
Now- he has said this more than once- and sometimes he qualifies the statement by saying ‘proven oil reserves’.
But as you hear the words- you- the average Joe [Mary] think ‘geez- if we only posses 2 % of the world’s oil- and we use 20%- then just doing more drilling is not the answer’.
Okay- do we only have 2% of the world’s Oil here in the U.S.?
No- if you opened up ALL the oil rich regions- both offshore and on land- we would have 100% of our oil needs met- for 250 years.
Yes- you heard me- we would have so much oil- that we would not have to import any- nada.
So John- how can Obama say we only have 2%?
Well- put aside the ability to lie for a moment- and realize [like the birth control] that the political insiders for Obama realized that the gas/oil issue does have the potential to derail the presidents bid to get re-elected.
So they devised a strategy to respond to the Repubs argument that gas is going up- and blame Obama.
Now- here’s the tricky part.
When Obama uses language like this- he is using a little known definition of ‘proven oil reserves’ that the OMB [office of management and budget] uses.
This definition of proven oil reserves actually means- all the oil reserves that we are currently tapping into- and the ones that the govt. /pres has already approved down the road.
In essence- Obama is saying ‘out of all the oil reserves THAT I AM GOING TO APPROVE- we can only get 2%’.
And when the ‘drill baby drill’ folk say ‘let’s drill’ they are talking about all the reserves that we are not drilling from.
So- in essence- Obama simply lied.
Now- did he lie- like under the legal definition of Bill Clinton ‘were you ever alone with Lewinsky’?
Reason ‘there were other people in the building at the time’.
Okay- he was alone with her in the Oval Office- but in his mind- if there were other people in the building- or lets say in D.C.- or lets say ‘in the world’ well yes- you can technically say that none of us ‘are ever alone’.
But to the average mind- well- you were ‘alone’.
So- when you hear the president- saying over and over again [he has now stopped- I think- he got caught] ‘we only have 2% of the world’s oil reserves’ well- he’s using Clinton language.
When you campaign- and do stuff like this- okay- they all do it- it’s not right- or good- but they do it.
When you are actually holding the office- and people hear you say this- you are purposefully deceiving folk- you know they think something other than what you are saying.
I mean who thinks ‘Ah- he’s using the OMB definition for oil reserves- not true human speak’.
Who remembers where we left off on our Philosophy posts?
We were in the 18th century and were discussing Empiricism- the idea that we obtain true knowledge about things thru the things themselves- the empirical evidence.
One of the famous philosophers that falls into this category was a Bishop named Berkeley.
Even though he is called an Empiricist- he kind of had some ideas that were also Idealist- those that saw ideas and the Metaphysical world as the main source of knowledge.
You might not have ever heard of Berkeley- but most of you are familiar with his famous statement ‘If a tree falls in the forest- and no one’s there- does it still make a sound’.
Or the modern version ‘if a man speaks in a room- and no woman is there- is he still wrong’.
Berkeley grappled with the debate of what role does the observer play in the actual existence of things.
Does reality depend upon an observer- if something is not being perceived- does it really exist?
His conclusion was- things do depend upon an observer to exist [I don’t hold to this view by the way] and that God is the ultimate observer- he is observing all things at all times- therefore all things really do exist.
As you can see- Philosophy does get fuzzy at times.
When people use language- ‘2% of the world’s oil reserves’ they expect you to be using language that most humans agree upon.
When you say ‘I did not have sex with that woman- Miss Lewinsky’.
They don’t realize that your definition of sex does not include oral sex- or any other sex- outside of standard missionary position intercourse.
So as we progress over the next few months- yes- both sides are going to be using propaganda- the media- to make their point.
And some things are true- others are not.
Reality/truth is not something that changes- or depends upon an observer- if the tree falls- yeah it makes a noise- whether you are there or not.
When you say ‘2%’ of the world’s oil- yes- it makes a difference that you are using a definition that MOST HUMANS ARE NOT OPERATING BY- and whether an ‘observer’ catches you or not- it’s still wrong.
1804- THE NEW ISAAC
So a few days have gone by- and the number one media story- the story that topped the deaths in Syria- the U.N. report that says we and NATO backed a group that committed ‘war crimes’- yes- the top story- that Rush Limbaugh referred to Sandra Fluke as ‘a slut’ and that he finally apologized- yes this was the headline of the week.
What U.N. story John?
Glad you asked.
If you remember during our ‘kinetic action’ in Libya- I wrote a bunch of critical posts about our involvement.
I kept saying that we were using the wording of the U.N. resolution- that said we had the authority to go in and use DEFENSIVE means to protect civilians- well that wording became twisted [by us] to mean we can chase down Gadhaffi and his family [and his friends] and simply kill them.
When some observers began questioning this act- we said we were using ‘defensive’ means to knock out the ‘command and control’ of Gadhaffi- and that’s how we justified it.
Now- this whole thing was a farce- there never was any ‘command and control’ in the buildings we bombed- we simply thought Gadhaffi might have been there.
So we bombed his sons house in a private neighborhood- killed his grandkids- but missed him.
Okay- the U.N. did a yearlong study to see if we did indeed violate human rights by lying like this.
The report came out- and it said we tried to reduce the civilian causalities- but did kill around 60 innocent people under the guise of ‘taking out command and control’.
They found that there was no evidence at all that these buildings we targeted were command and control centers.
Yes- the report also states that the rebel group we backed did commit war crimes- now- the report says Gadhaffi’s side committed ‘crimes against humanity’ [far worse] but that our side did commit war crimes- and till this day the new ‘govt.’ will not investigate the possible crimes committed when they killed innocent people.
So- this story was a small article in the back of the paper- it should have been headline news- not ‘the slut’ comment.
Okay- in the last post I commented on Jeremiah chapter 33.
This was the promise God made to Israel that he would fulfill his promise and they would be restored into a strong nation.
I referenced the earlier story we find in Genesis [chapters 12-15] where God makes this promise to Abraham.
If you read these 2 chapters- plus 17 and 22- you will get the main promise.
God called Abraham to leave his homeland and go on a journey. In this new land God would bless Abraham and he would have tons of kids and grandkids and eventually become a nation [the nation of Israel].
So over a period of time- thru many dangers and trials- he finally has a son- named Isaac- and this son is the promised child thru whom all the others will come from.
In chapter 22 of Genesis- when Abraham was an old man- Gods tests him and says ‘Abraham- go and take Isaac- your only beloved son- and offer him up to me on Mount Moriah’.
Abraham went thru many years of doubt and struggle before he finally received the promised son [read chapters 17-18 of Genesis].
And when Sarah finally had the child- it was a miracle.
So when God says ‘offer this boy up’- to Abraham it was putting at risk the whole purpose of his life- the very reason he left his friends and family and moved to a strange land.
But the bible says he took the child- and when they got near the range of mountains where mount Moriah was- he told the servants ‘you guys wait here- me and the boy will go to worship- and we will BOTH BE BACK’.
This phrase is picked up in Hebrews chapter 11- the writer says Abraham simply believed that God would raise the boy from the dead- that’s how he justified in his mind the order to offer his son- and this same son being the child thru whom the others would come.
So as Abraham approaches the mountain- he takes the wood for the offering- the ‘fire’- and no animal.
He puts the wood on Isaac’s back- to carry up the hill.
Isaac asks his dad ‘dad- we have the wood and all- but where is the animal for the offering’
Abraham simply tells his boy ‘God will provide himself a lamb for the offering’.
As they get to the top of the hill- Abraham ties Isaac with the rope- and puts him on the altar and takes out a knife to slay him. At that moment- an angel calls out to him and says ‘STOP!’
The whole thing was a test- to see if Abraham would do what God said- even if it seemed contrary to Gods promise and purpose for his life.
It should be noted that the Rabbi’s tell us that Isaac was not a young boy at the time- he was probably an older teen- strong enough to carry the wood up the hill.
This signifies that Isaac could have probably put up a fight- and won!
But he heard all the stories about God’s miracles- his dad recounted all the great signs and things that God did in their lives- and when Abraham got to the point of offering up his son- maybe Isaac simply accepted that God was in control and he would do whatever needed to be done.
Over a thousand years later- Jesus would walk the dusty streets of Jerusalem- he too was a promised son.
He preached and healed and was a true miracle worker.
He often used ‘Father Abraham’ as an example to prove his teachings- one time he said ‘before Abraham was- I AM’.
This incensed the hearers and they took up stones to kill him- the words I AM- are the words that refer to God [during Moses time he told Moses he was the I AM].
So the day comes for Jesus to ‘take the wood’ of the sacrifice- and go up the hill- called Calvary.
History tells us that Calvary is in the same range of mountains that Moriah sits on.
Jesus- the ‘second Isaac’ took the wood of the Cross- just like Isaac- and carried it to the top.
In the story of Abraham- when the angel said STOP- they looked around and found a ram in the brush- they used the ram as a sacrifice.
But this day- the day of Jesus- no ram was to be found- he looked up to his God- and he said ‘why do you forsake ME LIKE THIS’.
Yes- Jesus was the lamb that Abraham prophesied of- he was the ultimate sacrifice.
Sometimes we go thru things that seem contrary to the true purpose- things that we see as course changers.
When Jesus died- all of his followers thought the goal was gone- they thought he was going to lead a present day rebellion against Rome and become the new Messiah ruling out of Jerusalem.
When he died on the Cross- they could not harmonize what they thought was the whole purpose- and this gruesome death.
Yet 3 days after they saw the true purpose- the ultimate reality.
Are you at Mount Moriah?
The place that seems like all is lost.
Trust God- after 3 days everything will look totally different.
1802- THE HARVARD PROFESSOR
Caught an interesting show the other night- a Harvard economist [liberal] gave a lecture on economics.
Now- when I say ‘liberal’ I do not use the term in a derogatory way- no- he was the type of economist that would fit into the category of a Paul Krugman.
Krugman writes for the N.Y. Times and often [always?] gives you the Keynesian view.
So anyway this Harvard prof. made some good points.
But he blundered somewhat in his defense of Socialism/communism.
He talked about Karl Marx [the ‘founder’ of the system] and said that what happened in the Silicon Valley boom [the Dot.com businesses] was a type of Marxism.
The internet boom companies had a different view of the business structure- instead of the ‘bosses’ being over the working class stiff- you would have the actual employees run the show.
Yeah- when you watch the documentaries on Facebook [and other Companies like it] you do see an environment where all these young ‘hipsters’ are calling the shots- and they do have a sense of freedom that you don’t see in the standard business model.
But the Harvard Prof. went a step too far when he compared this to Marx.
Marx was raised in Germany- he was a Jew.
His father had to re-locate his business and join the Lutheran church in order to fit in with the people he needed to do business with.
Marx would eventually go to ‘university’ in England- and he developed his ideas in an environment where the industrial revolution took off.
He witnessed the plight of the working class man [proletariat] and how he became a victim of the factory system.
In England you did see many hopeless workers fall prey to a lifestyle that had you going to work at the factory all day- often in a dark and dingy environment.
You would come home to a gloomy existence and often drink yourself to sleep.
Marx saw the working class as victims of the Ownership class [the original 99 versus the 1%].
Marx saw that those who ran the system- and ‘owned the tools’ had the true influence in society- and according to Marx- they used two primary means of controlling the masses.
Law and Religion.
So Marx advocated for a violent overthrow of the system- thru Revolutionary means- in order to free the working class slave from the power of the few.
Now- where the Harvard Prof missed it is he compared Marx’s idea to the Dotcom business model.
Facebook and other internet businesses- they tried to empower the worker by making him part owner.
When Facebook went public this last month [Initial public offering] it was said to have made many millionaires overnight.
Because those who got in at the start [even the kid who painted the Graffiti on the walls of the building] were offered the option of cash or stock.
Those who took the stock became rich when the company went public [it actually will go into effect if a couple of more months].
So- this model empowers the working class person by making him part owner.
Okay- Marx wanted to ‘level the field’ by putting the State in charge.
He felt like if you took the power away from the private owner [capitalism] then you could even out the scales by making the state decide how much pay was fair- and the state would literally own ‘the tools’ of the system.
Most of us know by now that his system failed pretty badly [Soviet Union].
Though he meant well- trying to defend the hopeless worker- yet he created a Monster State- and the state would become the new oppressor of the people- and take away the incentive that the private ownership model gave.
So all in all- the Harvard prof had some truth to what he said- but he went a step too far.
In today’s political climate- we all have a tendency to hear one side- and if we lineup with that side- we very rarely question those who advocate the way we believe.
It’s important to hear both sides- to give credit to the ideas that are good- and then reject the ideas that are bad.
Marx had some very legitimate concerns- the founder of the Salvation Army- William Booth- began his ministry to the same class of people that Marx saw.
Marx rejected religion because he believed the ownership class used it to keep the masses under.
Any truth to this?
Many of the Black slaves were encouraged to attend church and keep singing their Black spiritual songs.
Many of the themes of these great songs did indeed encourage the suffering servant to just hold on until he/she gets to the Promised Land.
As a matter of fact- many of the themes taught that if you rebelled against the slave owner then you would forfeit your reward in the hereafter.
Marx experienced the power of religion- and the role it played in his own family in Germany- his father had to join the Lutheran church- even though he was Jewish- just so he could be in contact with the people of influence in his town.
So yes- it’s good to hear both sides- give credit when you can- and also reject what you must.
Yeah- the Harvard Prof seemed to be a good guy- he knew his stuff- just not well enough.
1791- PICTURES OF ME WITH BLACK PEOPLE
Well it’s been a sad couple of days- yes- we lost the beautiful angel Whitney Houston.
I never was really a fan of Whitney- I mean she had a great voice and all- I just never bought any of her music.
As I watched the media cover her death- I began to realize how interesting her journey was- even with all the failures.
She was from Newark N.J. - I never knew that [right around the area I grew up].
She started her singing ‘career’ in a church choir.
As I saw all the clips the past few days- I saw her singing some Christian songs [I didn’t know that either].
And the last clip of her being recorded- a few days before her death- she sang a note from the famous kids bible song ‘Yes Jesus loves me’.
I know many in the media- and ‘church world’ have a tendency to judge people when they die- many seem to know ‘for sure’ who made it to heaven- and who did not.
I have learned a long time ago- I’m not the judge on stuff like that.
I saw Bill O'Reilly do his shtick. He tried to do the ‘real guy’ stuff- you know- like when he had on Bernie Goldberg- a Jewish friend- who was trying to outdo Bill on the ‘I am a friend of the Black man’.
Goldberg brought out a photo of him with a Black rapper- Ice Cube.
As Bernie shows the photo- to say ‘look- I even hug Black men’.
He refers to Cube as ‘Ice T’.
Bill- as a true brother- corrects Bernie and tells him ‘it’s not T but Cube’.
Bernie gets mad- you can see the look on his face ‘how dare you correct me’.
Then someone from off camera must have yelled ‘listen- Bills right- its Cube- not T’.
And Bernie quickly back tracks.
I guess Bernie got the picture from his file ‘pictures of me with Black people’.
So anyway- O'Rielly does the section on Whitney and he kind of goes hard on her.
He talks about her choice to do drugs- and basically says she was looking to die- she made the choice.
I realize what he was saying- but I found it to be the wrong time to say it.
A few years ago I heard a radio preacher talking about the funeral of a gang member that he preached at.
He said the mother and family and all the gang bangers were there- and he ‘told it like it was’.
He went on and said how he preached ‘this kid is in hell right now- screaming his brains out- he has no rest- he’s burning- forever!!’
He said how the mom ran out crying- his family was distraught- I thought he was lucky that he didn’t get gunned down right in the pulpit.
Yes- we need to have grace in these situations.
So- after seeing all the clips of Whitney- I believe she very well might be with God right now- and sure- I know she messed up lots- but I am certainly not in the position to judge the angel.
The other day I was reading Psalms 147.
I read how God counts the stars and gives them names.
It reminded me of the book of Revelation- where there is this vision of Jesus [chapter 1].
John the disciple sees Jesus- he has hair like wool- these eyes of fire- and feet like brass- burned in a furnace.
As Jesus is standing there- he is surrounded by 7 golden lamp stands- and he has 7 stars in his hand.
The vision is revealed to John- the lamp stands are the churches [of Asia Minor] and the stars are the ‘angels of the 7 churches’.
Now- as a theology buff- I know many bible folk say these angels are Pastors- because the Greek word simply means messenger.
But as I have read this over the years- I have come to believe these are actually angels.
What does the bible say about angels?
In the book of Hebrews we read that they are ‘ministering spirits- sent forth to minister to those who are inheriting salvation’.
We often hear that angels in the bible look like men- they are not things with wings!
Actually- this is another ‘fable’.
While it is true that many appearances of angels in the bible do look like men- and Hebrews also says that we should entertain [show hospitality] to strangers- because some have helped angels and they didn’t even know it.
Yet- there are also angels ‘with wings’.
We call these creatures Cherubim and Seraphim.
In the book of Exodus we read the story of the 10 commandments [chapter 20].
We read the first commandment as not having other gods before God- and not to make graven images of anything.
Over the centuries the church has had some debates over Christian art- is it right or wrong?
After all- much of it is statues and pictures depicting people and creatures and angels and God.
So during the Protestant Reformation [and the rise of Islam] you had occasions where people went out and destroyed the statues and paintings of other groups.
A few things should be noted here.
The commandment- however you take it- does not say ‘go and smash the statues of other religions’ [a few years ago the famous statues of Buddha were destroyed- I think in India- but radical Muslims did this because they felt the statues violated the commandment on angels]
Also- after Moses gets the 10 commandments from God- he puts them inside a box called ‘The Ark of the Covenant’.
This box has a lid on it [called the Mercy Seat] and on the lid you had 2 statues of Angels [Cherubim].
So- the actual box that held the commandment not to make idols- had religious art on it!
So we need to be careful before we start going around smashing statues [by the way- this smashing of the statues was called Iconoclastic].
So- we see that angels are spirits- created by God- and they are here to help us.
In Revelation 1 we read about a war in heaven- Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon and his angels.
We read that Michael prevails and the devil loses.
It says ‘the accuser of the brothers is cast down- the devil- who accused them before God day and night’.
There are only 2 named angels in the bible [3- if you include the Catholic apocrypha].
They are Michael- Gabriel- and Raphael.
Yes- angels are real- they war on our behalf- and they fight in a specific way- they cast down the dragon [satan] who accuses the believers.
This day I am happy in a way for Whitney- she struggled a long time- she was such a beautiful ‘angel’.
I would like to think she is with God right now- getting ready for ‘church’ this Sunday- yes- I know she is not ‘an angel’ in the biblical way.
But let’s stretch some- yes- she will be singing in the angelic choir once again.
Let’s not accuse her this day.
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?
 PEOPLE LAUGHING- PEOPLE SINGING- A MAN SELLING ICE CREAM
These past few days I have been reading scriptures on the influence of the church in the nations- that is God’s original purpose for the church- to have a people/nation that he could reveal his glory though. This morning I read Zechariah chapter 8- it talks about God restoring Jerusalem and that there will be old men and women dwelling in it- little boys and girls playing in the streets once again.
The impression you get is a sort of ‘block party’ atmosphere- all types of people enjoying life once gain- after a season of captivity. As I read the verse on the old men and women- I thought of Aunt Bee.
Bee was the aunt of one of our original church members. Emmet [Senior- I have also talked about his son on the site- Jr.] became a church member early on. I don’t remember if I met him while preaching at the county jail- or through Elias- another friend who struggled with addiction. Both of them were long time drug addicts.
I would pick up Emmet at his Aunt’s house every week for church- and just visit him every so often. The ‘church’ was a little home group I started from scratch. I fixed up my 2 car garage- and the guys I met from the streets- or at the jail- would become the core group.
Over time Aunt Bee- who raised Emmet- started coming to our meetings- and as an older lady- in her 70’s- she would tell me she was learning the bible for the first time- she really liked it.
I was basically filling the slot that she missed out on- the bible study aspect of Christianity. Bee was a good Catholic lady- and she told me her friends said ‘why do you go to brother Johns’ church- your Catholic’ she would tell them ‘because I learn things’.
I never tried to ‘convert’ Bee- she stayed Catholic- and that was fine with me. Many Protestant bible churches do fill a need that some of the historic churches lack- simple bible study. Yet many of the Protestant ‘bible’ churches lack what the historic churches offer- a historic connection to traditional Christianity.
During the Reformation of the 16th century- the Protestant reformers [who were all initially Catholic] fought with the Roman church over doctrinal issues- and during this fight the reformers stated a few main principles- one of which is called Sola Scriptura- which means ‘the bible alone’.
What they meant by this was on issues where the church could not come to agreement with the dissenters- that at the end of the day- the bible would have the final say.
Now- the common mistake many Protestants fall into- is thinking that this principle means ‘Solo Scriptura’ is a belief that all Christianity is simply a process of reading/organizing your life around the bible. That is the view that the bible is all there is.
This is not the historic Protestant position- the reformers themselves [Calvin. Luther, etc.] referred often to the early writings of the church fathers [Augustine] in trying to prove their points.
I have found it helpful over the years to spend time reading/hearing the voice of the historic church- as well as being up on the bible. The other day I moved a few books from my office into a shelf in the living room- I read an article on how people are selling books ‘by the inch’ just to decorate their homes. What types of books- that didn’t matter- they were just for show [ouch!]
So I figured I’ll move the real McCoy- classics that I have read and re-read over the years.
I was glad to see that I still had the Confessions of Saint Augustine- a classic from the 4th century. Augustine was a Catholic bishop from Hippo- North Africa. He is often associated with the doctrine of Predestination [which he did believe in] and is loved by many Catholics and Protestants alike.
The major reformer who launched the reformation was Martin Luther- a German Augustinian monk- Luther was also a strong believer in the doctrine of predestination- though its common to associate the doctrine with John Calvin, Luther too was a strong believer in it.
One day Aunt Bee shared a story with me- she used to visit her daughter who lived in Alaska- her daughter sort of felt like her cousin Emmet was taking advantage of her mom. I was familiar with the environment- my older sister- who has also been a drug addict for many years- has lived with my mom her whole life.
When addicted people live with their parents [aunts] as they age- they fall into an environment where they manipulate the guardian to get what they want [money- borrow the car, etc..]
So Aunt Bee’s daughter felt like Emmet took advantage of her mom. Aunt Bee told me about an Indian she saw one time while visiting Alaska- he was panning for gold in one of the freezing streams- and was wearing an Indian loin cloth and was in the ice cold water. She said how interesting it was to see how other cultures learn to adapt to their environment.
Bee was an educator- she taught at A&I university [Kingsville- Tx.] for many years [now called A&M] and her students were some of the most famous people in Texas- Senators and congress people. I found it interesting how an influential person like Bee- would wind up learning the bible from some Jersey boy- preaching in a garage [I was around 25 at the time].
Bee was a good person- she died many years ago- as has Emmet. Emmet eventually broke the drug habit and married another church member- Janie. She was s single mom with lots of kids- they made a very nice couple. Emmet died at around the age of 50- his liver went out- too many years of drugs eventually got to him. As a matter of fact- Elias- who I think first introduced me to Emmet- he eventually became a preacher and pastored his own church. He started with me- was the song leader and filled in on the days I had to work- and eventually took a position with a church called Victory Outreach- a ministry to addicts.
One day while working at the fire house- I was riding on the ambulance that day and we got a call. As I got to the house- I realized it was Elias’s house- he had a brain aneurism that day- he went into a coma and died a few days later.
I met Elias around 8 years earlier- preaching to him at the jail. Gave him his first bible- which he would always remind me about- and walked with him for a few years. He was ex-air force. He did at least 4 years before he got out and got hooked on hard drugs- mainline addict.
We had lots of good times together- I see his boys every so many years when I venture into Bishop [a small city around 40 miles from where I live]. I think his wife- Janie- still lives there.
The bible says Gods city [a symbol of the church] has old people having fun in the streets [the aunt Bee types] and little boys and girls playing in the streets [too many names to mention in this one- Elias & Janie alone had around 6 kids- Janie & Emmet too- different Janies!].
God’s church/family is a great one- it consists of the great church fathers [men like Augustine] and it extends to the little kids playing in the streets of some small town in South Texas- it even includes those who society has rejected- those who have failed many times in life- and they know it- more than anyone else.
I read a verse the other day- in Psalms ‘sins prevail against us- yet you will save us from our transgressions’ I thank God that he helps people- people who have things that ‘prevail’ against them- he often uses these people to help others- Gods ways are sometimes very hard to understand- his ways are not ours.
 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.
 HARRY POTTER
This year we ‘celebrate’ the end of an era- Harry Potter. I caught an interview last night with the publisher who put out her books. He explained that he was the only one willing to take the risk- because kid’s books- at a time when computer games and high tech stuff are all the craze- that trying to get kids into books again, well that seemed like a tough sell.
Yet J.K. Rowling went after it- and the rest is history. Some [most] preachers/Christians have been against Rowling’s fables- why? Of course she is introducing ‘soft witchcraft’ into her themes. The church has traditionally been against all forms of fortune telling. Horoscopes, astrology and the like.
And I have been surprised about how many friends over the years have asked me about whether or not doing the Palm Reading thing is okay for a Christian. The fact is the bible condemns- in no uncertain terms- all of these practices. But the bible does speak about spiritual gifts- prophecy, dreams- etc. These types of gifts are different from all these other forms of sorcery and witchcraft- these gifts originate from God- and they are acceptable.
Okay- having said all this- is there any good that come from Potter? Actually- there is. Even though Rowling has used these other forbidden themes- yet you also need to look at the overall theme of the books. For instance- do they have ideas about good versus evil? Yes. Do they introduce kids back to the lost art of reading? Yes.
So overall I think its okay for kids to read her stuff- with the parental warning of ‘
Little Johnny/Suzie- you know there is really no such thing as White Magic- all good comes from God- and evil from satan [and mans sinful nature]’.
I have sitting here a bunch of new teaching series from various scholars. I’m going thru one on the origins of the church- taught by an ex Benedictine Monk [Luke Timothy Johnson] who is an accredited scholar. Has lots of degrees and teaches at Harvard. The other series is an entire overview of the bible- with all the historical and theological data mixed in.
This series is also taught by a scholar- R.C. Sproul. Why mention this? One of my homeless buddies was over a few days ago- he loves learning- he walks thru my study [we usually hang out in the yard] and he says ‘who needs a university- you have everything right here’. Well- I have lots of great stuff- but a university I’m not.
The point is- we should try and do our best to learn from people who know stuff- people who are educated. Way too much of what is produced today from the ‘church’ is really at a low level. Now- I know I have been hard on ‘preachers’ in the past- and have criticized the abundance of TV/radio stuff that is simply ‘God is the answer’ which of course is true- but must we spend billions of dollars every year- for the simple exercise of having ‘our pastor’ say the same thing- that everyone else is saying- at a charge of millions of dollars?
We need to re think this stuff.
I had a talk with a friend the other day- I was discussing some of this with him. I told him how we [Christians] have taught people ‘if you don’t give 10 % of your money into the basket on Sunday- you are cursed- you are robbing God’. This teaching comes from the Old Testament Tithe- primarily taken from a proof text in the book of Malachi.
I said ‘now- when we use this verse- this way- we are usually telling the people that this teaching is mandated by God- to support his work’. Okay- I have been taught this over the years- but the part we usually leave out- is the actual teaching- from the bible- on the Tithe.
In the Old Testament the Jewish people were required to Tithe- it was more like an income tax than an offering [like the way we think of offering]. This tax was used for 3 things. A third was used to support the Levitical priests, a third was used for banquets and feasts [and wine!] and a third was used to meet the needs of the poor [a welfare system].
Now- the part that went to the priests- none of it could be used for personal wealth growth. The priests were not permitted to have personal wealth. They were taken from the tribe of Levi [one of the 12 tribes of Israel] and they were forbidden to own their own land/inheritance.
So if we taught the ‘biblical’ tithe- it would be using a third for the poor- a third for parties, and the rest went to ‘the preachers’ who were forbidden to own real estate [have personal wealth].
Now- after all the years of people teaching the Tithe- all the many hours of telling believers ‘you are robbing God if you don’t Tithe’ how hard can it be to simply do one teaching on the actual Tithe?
I mean I just taught the whole thing- and it took a few minutes.
But the contemporary church is consumed with practical stuff- and to many- it’s not practical to say ‘oh- and by the way- the preachers/pastors- according to the Tithe system- are not permitted to own stuff’ that lifestyle just doesn’t fit the modern picture.
Okay- my point today is not to condemn giving money to churches- but it’s to nudge us towards a more ‘enlightened’ Christianity- a church that asks- and seeks for truth.
A literate people- who read!
So today I think we can commend Rowling for re introducing a lost art- the art of learning. Though we as Christians do have difficulty with ‘sorcerer’s stones’ yet the fact that kids are reading again- well that’s a good thing in my book.
 GREAT EXPECTATIONS? Warning- this post is graphic
The other week we celebrated Fathers day. I was getting ready to buy a new computer and figured- wait- let me just tell my daughters  that instead of getting me different stuff I don’t need, just by me the PC.
They kinda scoffed at the idea- my wife said ‘John- computers are expensive’ I said ‘Okay- I’ll pay the balance- whatever they want- they can put down- I’ll cover the rest’. I really wasn’t expecting a free computer- I just thought it was a good idea. I even told them ‘hey- my birthdays coming up- just count this as a combination present’ look- I tried my best.
So as the week wore on- I would drop hints- you know- trying to see if they made the purchase. I am notorious at this kind of stuff. Every year around Christmas time I would always trick my girls into confessing what my wife bought me. I mean I would do what needed to be done- as crass as ‘hey Debbie- want to make 10 bucks’ yes- I go low.
Of course my wife would get mad ‘I’m gonna bring the presents back if you keep doing this!’ I swore my scheming days were over. Then one year they asked what I wanted- I said ‘I know- get me a BB gun’ what? Yeah- I want the classic kids toy- that toy that kids from all cultures and races covet- the toy little Ralphie shot his eye out with- yeah- that’s the one.
So the weeks went by- I tried my best to get the girls to confess- their older now [around 10 years ago] they know how to spot my tricks. So after weeks of doing my best bargaining- I gave up.
Then my wife comes home from work- and as soon as she walks in the door- I say ‘They told me you got me the BB gun’ boy was she mad- she looked at them [and me] and said ‘I told you not to tell him!’ They replied- ‘we didn’t’ ah yes- I still had the skill.
So as Fathers day approached- they wouldn’t budge- the day arrived and I even gave them directions on where I wanted to set it up in the study- I spent a couple of days running the cord and all.
As the day wore on- I realized that this time it was no game- they simply decided to not get me a gift. I kidded them about it [one of the girls did by me a nice plant] and we really never do stuff for Father’s day to be honest- I don’t like doing birthdays [for me] or stuff like that. Sure- maybe order out for dinner- nothing big.
My girls were kind of feeling a little guilty- far be it for me to put a guilt trip on them. Becky asks ‘hey dad- what do you want for your birthday’. I said ‘I know- do they sell any type of medication at the store- maybe some natural home health remedy- something that can help a person overcome a feeling of depression- the type you feel when you get nothing for Father’s day’.
Yes- the schemer still lives.
Okay- let me try and cover a few things. Last week I was talking to my homeless buddy Henry- we got into a discussion about the buzz on Perry possibly running for Pres. I told him I really wasn’t too excited about it- I can see it now- the media portraying him as a whacky evangelical- and Obama of course is the candidate that you should never question about his church beliefs.
Sure enough the talk has started. The MSNBC crowd has already said they think Perry is a Marjoe [the story of the fake boy evangelist] and of course Bachman’s ‘pray the gay away’ clinic has made it to prime time news.
These stupid arguments usually leave carnage on the floor. Stephen Tyler’s [Aerosmith] bio has been on the best seller list for a few weeks now. He tells the story of going to an abortion clinic with his 5 month pregnant girl friend. As they go in for the procedure- he thinks it’s a simple procedure that makes the pregnancy just go away. You know- this is a woman’s right!
As she lies on the table- the doctor sticks a needle into her. She begins going into forced labor- and the baby comes out- alive and screaming. Tyler stands in shock as he sees this tiny human- this person that he thought was just a blob of cells- crying for help- love- life.
They all stand there- seeing this beautiful 5 month old preemie struggling for life. Eventually the baby goes silent- the damage done. Tyler’s friends will later say that he became a different person after that- much more violent and angry. The story is simply the true telling of the life of a rocker- and Tyler has no behind the scenes agenda- he just told the truth- the shock and feeling of disgust over what happened.
The reason I’m leery about possibility of the ‘Texas Evangelical’ versus the ‘enlightened liberal’ is because these real life tragedies get lost in the debate. One time former senator Rick Santorum showed a picture of an unborn child- around the same age as Tyler’s kid. He was on the floor of congress and had it up there. I mean there is no way you could deny that what was on the screen was human. He asked Senator Barbara Boxer if what she saw was a baby or not. Boxer replied that it was beyond her pay grade to make that decision- that she did not see it as her responsibility to judge whether or not her consent to the killing of these babies was humane.
Yet this same congress can judge ‘crimes against humanity’ when a leader on the other side of the globe threatens to go after those who have raised up an armed insurgency against him- a civil war.
Sometimes our expectations are too high- we expect more from others than what we get. As these debates move forward this coming year- we need the integrity to do what’s right- not what’s politically expedient- but what’s right. I have never- ever- been able to justify the deaths of these preemies- after seeing the actual pictures of the babies- real little babies- being mutilated- this act is atrocious- it is equal to the slaughter of the innocents under Hitler’s regime- yes- it’s that bad.
I don’t expect too much out of our leaders- but I at least would hope that when they see the body of a beautiful little baby- perfectly formed- lying on a table- screaming for its life while the mother and father and doctor watch- that we can at least say that this is no surgical procedure- no ‘right to privacy’ being carried out- this my friends is murder- pure and simple.
 A GLASS OF WINE ON THE HOUSE?
Henry’s been coming around a lot these last few days. I didn’t realize that he probably was feeling a little guilty/worried. A few weeks ago I gave Henry some money- wrote him a check for around 25 dollars.
I was supposed to do a few things with Henry- and I would always miss him. Last week I hit the grocery store and bought a bunch of good BBQ- we were going to head to Bishop for a fellowship- I went to pick up Henry at the boat dock where he works, and he wasn’t there.
I asked one of the kids if he knew where Henry was- he told me he had jury duty. What! Yeah, the week before he did get a notice to show up- it was legit. The homeless guys use various ministry addresses for their home address. I guess they found Henry because he votes.
They use the voting info for our local juries. I will admit I got a laugh out of it- I thought there was no way they would pick him. So anyway he comes by a few days later and he tells me the scoop. He made it through the first round and went back a few times as they trimmed the field.
He was telling me that it was a local corruption case against the cops. Now- I will admit, I have had my run in’s with the local cops. Over the years they really have harassed a lot of my homeless buddies. Lots of the guys live in various camps around this area.
I live in a sort of beach area- and there are lots of transients that set up temporary tents as their spots. One time I bought a nice tent for some friends- a big tent. A husband and wife couple used it. They were so grateful to get the thing. It only cost me around 100 bucks- well worth the sacrifice.
The next time I saw them they told me the cops came through and cut the tent. Our local cops do this because they get lots of complaints about the ‘bums’. Then one time I’m helping a homeless guy move from a camp. As were driving away some ‘cop’ walks up to my truck [he had a shirt on that said Corpus Christi Police] and starts questioning me- why I was in the area and all.
I had 2 of my buddies with me [Henry was one of them] and they are used to getting harassed. But as the ‘cop’ is talking to me I realize he’s an auxiliary cop [rent a cop type guy]. Now- I have worked with volunteer firefighters for years- and they are good guys- but sometimes we had a problem with them walking around town wearing our Fire Dept. shirts.
They were allowed to have them- but they were not supposed to be acting like they were the ‘real deal’. It would get the real guys [like me] in trouble. So I discerned that this cop was like that- plus he’s practically interrogating me.
I had it- I told him ‘I’m pulling over right here and getting out’. I did- he made sure he was back on his property- fast.
It’s just a long term thing- dealing with the cops harassing the guys. So Henry’s telling me his court ordeal- and when he tells me it’s a cop case- it was funny. He says they asked him ‘do you have any relationships with the local force’ [being it’s a corruption case]. I kid Henry and say- ‘did you tell them- well kind of- I hold a special affinity for the local police chief- I see him as a surrogate Father figure’ Henry just started cracking up.
He was finally kicked off the jury- I think they realized Henry might have been a loose cannon.
Okay- Back to the top- when Henry came by he wanted me to know that he ‘lost’ the check I gave him- and he said he signed it. I kind of picked up the feeling that Henry might have bought a bottle of wine- and he might have thought I found out and was mad at him.
Now- Henry is not a drunk- I have never seen him drink. But I do know that he likes to drink a glass of wine every so often. Even though I’m not a tee totaler- yet I have told the guys not to buy alcohol with any money I give them.
It’s just the principle of the thing- too many guys are alcoholics and I didn’t want to contribute to that it any way. So I think Henry might have used some of the money for a bottle. Okay- if so I would not be mad- water under the bridge.
But lots of people do get mad- they will cut guys off for stuff like this- and I think that was playing on Henrys mind. So he asks me if I could check on ‘the check’ to see if maybe someone cashed it- with his name on it of course.
So at about this time I’m beginning to catch on- and I tell Henry ‘you know Henry- my bank called and told me that someone did cash it- they asked me to come down and check the video’ okay- Henry’s kinda sweating at this point- I go on ‘and I went down to the bank and sure enough- I see a church van leaving the parking lot- it was brother Rey!’
Rey is a local street preacher who Henry works with- he’s had some tuff times recently so I fibbed a bit. Henry realized I was letting him off the hook- that it wasn’t a big deal to me- even if he had a glass of wine on the house.
I have noticed- many times- that people who do help the guys- if they feel the guys might have swindled them- or if the guys are not as grateful as they should be- some people leave- for good. I think true friendships should be able to ride this stuff out- Plus- I need to stay on good terms with the homeless guys- you never know- they might be my jury one day?
 PREACH THE GOSPEL?
Let’s talk some about the role of the church in society. Many years ago I had a friend who was a preacher/pastor- at the time some people kindly told him ‘brother- I know Jesus is the answer- but you need to also teach- you can’t just say ‘Jesus is the way’ all the time’.
Were they right? In a way- yes. Let me explain. In the book of Isaiah we read about the purpose of Jesus [chapter 11]. Jesus came to preach the gospel [good news] to the poor- set captives free- to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
The book of Amos [a prophet in the Old Testament] shows Amos railing against the rich- the powerful- as he defends the poor in society. Part of ‘the gospel’ is speaking out against injustices in society- telling those in power ‘your day is coming- you have trampled down the innocent- abused the immigrant- and God hears their cry’.
Yes- a part of the ministry of the church is to address these abuses in society. Now- what happens when the church casts off this job? It gets picked up by any/all others who are willing to run with it. So you have ‘the media’ or even a comic like Jon Stewart- anyone else who is willing to speak out against injustices- uneven scales- these will fill the void if Gods people won’t.
If you read the ministry of Jesus- the things he did and said- he often came up against religious forms of holiness. Those in society who thought their purpose was to- well be ‘religious’. That is they made a special class out of religion. They often engaged in public displays of it [prayer- fasting to be seen of men].
They valued their own religious experience as the primary thing- when they perceived man getting in the way of their expression of religion- they were willing to ‘sacrifice him’ [literally] in order for their own religious cause to gain influence [they said of Jesus- if he keeps doing this we will lose our position of power and influence].
At the end of the day- these religious folk saw their own view of religion as the primary thing- it took precedence over all other things- even people themselves.
Now- when the church reduces her mission to ‘religious speech’ that is when they refuse to engage in society- to do what the prophets did in the bible- defend the poor- rail against injustice- when Gods people leave this part of ‘preaching the gospel’ out- then they unknowingly have given in to the temptation to see their practice of religion- as simply a ‘religious thing’.
In a way- they have become like the religious folk of Jesus day- so busy carrying out their religious tasks- that the voiceless of society have no one to advocate for them.
We are living in a day where many major upheavals are taking place- I think the ‘average person’ does not fully understand the seriousness of what’s going on in the world today. It is quite possible that the U.S. will default on her debt. And that we will face a credit crisis equal to that of Greece- where the politicians have pandered to the people to a point where the people are rising up in the streets because they refuse to see the reality of the situation.
There are threads of this taking place right now in this country- at the current rate we are going- our debt will equal our GDP in 10 years- that’s really bad.
As we have these debates- we must remember that the poor and impoverished of the world count to God- the cause of the illegal alien means a lot to God- these issues are not just nationalistic- they are of concern to God.
As we move down this treacherous road over these next few years- lets not forsake that part of the gospel that calls us to speak up for the poor- to speak truth to power- and to expose injustice wherever we see it- not just on the opposing team.
 VARIOUS MUSINGS
Took a ride to the city of Bishop the other day- on the way I had a tire blowout on the highway [no spare] and managed to drive it [still had air in it- the radial tread ripped off] to a shop to get a new tire. I had one of my homeless friends with me and we were gonna have a fellowship day with Eliseo at his ranch- instead we will do one this Wednesday.
Those of you in the area who know where Eli lives- we will be there at around noon. Bring some food and meet us there, everyone is invited. As a side note- Eli, I got your message last night. I think little Rudy called too- I will try and get back with him, if he wants I’ll pick him up Wednesday for the ride.
Okay- after the blowout I did a fish fry/b.b.q. at the house with Henry and Chris [homeless bro’s] and we had a great time. My only mistake was I put the fish out first- about 10 pieces- and I thank the Lord I at least got 1!
Let me try and hit a few things today. Last week I had a good visit with a J.W. [Jehovah’s Witness]. He rang the bell and I told him I was a Christian and that I love having discussions and I did about a 20 minute historical overview of Christianity and the development of the doctrine of the Trinity [which is a major sticking point] and I tried to come down in a nice way- being honest about the historic problems many believers/various groups have had with the doctrine- and at the end of the talk I of course emphasized the bible verses that do indeed speak about the Deity of Christ and left it at that.
He was nice enough to come back by around an hour later and he dropped off a pamphlet put out by their group that discusses the Trinity. He asked me to read it and I did.
The teaching was fairly honest about the various historic disputes that Christians have had over the Trinity. It did cover the reality that there were Bishops and early church leaders who did indeed argue against the doctrine. It did a good job at showing how some early Christian leaders were indeed influenced by Greek philosophy and that some think that that’s where the doctrine developed from.
The pamphlet made the case that ‘the bible’ does not teach the Deity of Christ- and that these doctrines were later introduced by Catholic church leaders who paganized Christianity primarily thru Constantine’s ‘baptism’ of Christendom with the Roman state.
I’m very familiar with all these debates- many Christian scholars have made this exact same argument. Muslims and Jews also reject the doctrine of the Deity of Christ [and the Trinity] and often times you hear these same arguments made.
During the 4th century of the Common Era Constantine became the Roman Emperor and the church hotly debated these issues. The Bishop Arius [who denied the deity of Christ- that Christ is God] fought against the opposing view [that Christ is indeed God] and the bishop Athanasius was the warrior who defended the deity of Christ.
After Athanasius died his tombstone would read ‘Athanasius against the world’ he was the driving force in the 4th century who swayed the tide back to orthodoxy.
Now- the church would have a few 4th [and 5th] century church councils that would settle the matter concerning the nature of Christ and his deity- and the final decision was that the Trinity was indeed true and the Jesus is indeed God.
The other side stayed with the idea that Jesus was a created being- a god- but not thee God. Some of these churches exist till this day. They are primarily oriental churches. If you visit them they seem just like any other ancient type church- the Mass, Saints, Mother Mary- yes- the whole 9 yards. But they stuck with the Arian view [Bishop Arius] and deny the deity of Christ [and thus the Trinity].
How should I respond? Let me just say that I am a Trinitarian who believes in the deity of Christ- Christ is fully God and fully man. The J.W. pamphlet made a good defense for their view- and they were not totally ‘deceptive’ in their argument. But they did quote lots of bible verses that kind of backed up their side- and they quoted some from Isaiah. But they left out chapter 9.
The famous passage that says Jesus is the ‘Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ very strong language indeed.
What about the argument that the early Catholic bishops polluted the true teachings of Jesus by introducing Greek thought into Jesus true teachings? It is true that Greek philosophy had a belief that there was a pre existing principle of wisdom- a ‘divine logos’ if you will.
The only problem with the argument that the Catholic bishops were the culprits who introduced Logos Christology into the doctrines of the church is that the New Testament itself has ‘Logos Christology’ in it. What is Logos Christology?
Logos is the Greek word for ‘Word’. Christology is the study of Christ. Logos Christology is the description of Jesus found in the writings of the apostle John that describe Jesus as the Eternal Word of God.
John wrote the gospel of John, the 3 letters- 1st, 2nd and 3rd John- and the book of Revelation [some scholar’s dispute that John authored the last one]. In these writings Jesus is called the Word of God- he is described as the Word that was ‘with God, and was God’ [John 1].
So the bible itself has Greek influences- because it was written in Greek! And even though the pre Christian philosophers had a concept of a personified wisdom [the Jews also- read Proverbs 8] yet the New Testament also speaks of Jesus as this Eternal Word of God who was indeed ‘true God from true God’.
So I think the talk I had was good- I understand that many groups of people have had difficulty with the doctrine of the Trinity and the accusation that Constantine and the Catholics ‘hijacked’ the true religion of Jesus has been made by many groups over the years. Yet at the end of the day the doctrine of Jesus being God is clearly found in the bible [and yes, even in the Old Testament] and we as Orthodox Christians confess Jesus as God- not because of the Greeks- or the Catholics- or because of any other influence that ‘snuck in’ we confess him as God because ‘the bible tells me so’ Amen and Amen.
 A WAKE UP CALL TO THE PROFESSOR-
There are a lot of things I want to hit on today- let me start with an article I read in the paper yesterday. It was a study that compared students who studied physics using 2 different methods. The traditional lecture room environment- taught by veteran teachers. Versus an interactive classroom environment taught by inexperienced students [no teacher] who simply shared the things they were learning with each other.
To the shock of the traditional advocates- the kids who were taught without a teacher scored twice as high on the tests as those who sat in the classroom. The study was headed up by a top rated scientist who works for the president.
This reminded me of all the teaching I did over the years on the nature of the church [the study on the blog is called ‘what in the world is the church’]. After years of studying and doing many of the ‘interactive’ principles found in the study- I do see how important it is for believers to interact with each other- not just during ‘fellowship’ times- but as a main part of worship.
It is no accident that the churches in the New Testament were structured along these lines. In the bible you simply did not have churches structured around a single figure who ‘lectured’ week after week to the people. Now- this debate has been raging for a while amongst those who debate stuff like this. And a few years back some scholars from the more traditional view really went after the more ‘organic’ type church brothers.
But overall I believe the interactive ‘church meeting’ is really the most biblical way to go. I still think there is room for the more traditional style of ‘lecture hall’ but that is a small part of being in Christian community- yet for many that seems to actually be what they refer to as ‘the local church’ very limited perspective indeed [you can also read my short book on the left of the blog site- Further Talks on Church and Ministry].
Okay- maybe I’ll hit a few more thoughts in keeping with this idea. After the fellowship lunch the other day I invited Henry [my homeless friend] back to the house for the day. These guys are on the streets most of the day and they appreciate being able to rest and catch some news on the tube.
Once again as Henry left he told me ‘John- this was one of the best days I have had in a long time’. He told me this the last time I had him over. Why? What I do with Henry is I try not to act the ‘preacher/pastor’ role. That is I share and interact with Henry as an equal. Henry just so happens to be real knowledgeable when it comes to the bible and theology.
Part of the discussion was Henry sharing how the letter to the Romans [written by the apostle Paul] was the only letter written to a church that Paul did not found himself. Now- I knew this before- and most bible students know this- but yet it started a conversation that both of us could engage in. Henry had read somewhere that the church at Rome might have been started by the Diaspora [the scattered] Jews/Christians who dispersed after the Martyrdom of Stephen in Acts chapter 7.
I told Henry that I actually taught on this before- but I referenced the dispersion that took place in Acts chapter 2. At the day of Pentecost there were Jewish worshippers who came from all parts of the known world at the time- they were gathered at Jerusalem for the big holiday.
After the Spirit came on the early church- these believers went back to their homes and some of them did indeed go back to Rome.
Either way- the point is that Paul did not start the church at Rome- and there are no records [in the bible] of who was the first founder [yes Peter also went to Rome- but he too was not the initial 'church planter’].
Okay- why even mention this? I think Henry has these ‘best days of my life’ days because the fellowships we have are based on the organic church style- that is I’m not always ‘preaching’ to him in the conventional sense.
I hope to get with the guys again this week- same place [Sirloin Stockade off of SPID in Corpus] I will let everyone know a day ahead- so if you guys want to make it a weekly thing you can join the group. But I have been meeting with these friends for 20 years now- just sharing the interactive way.
The above study was said to have been a real wake up call to the actual veteran lecturers- they couldn’t believe that the students on their own- without the ‘pro’ lecturing them- would do twice as well as the students who sat ‘in church’ [the lecture room] simply listening to the able speaker- speak.
The apostle Paul knew this trick 2 millennia ago- he wrote the church at Corinth ‘and when you meet together- let everyone of you share what you have learned- do it in order- but let everyone speak’ I like Paul’s method a lot.
 OPEN THE BOOK AND BREAK THE SEALS
We had a good fellowship the other day- I and 2 homeless bro’s got with 2 Kingsville originals and we all ate at the Sirloin Stockade. I want to try and meet once a week for lunch in Corpus- everybody is welcome by the way. I’ll try and mention it on the sites [Blog, Facebook] a day ahead of time, and you are all invited.
I will only cover the cost of the homeless guys though- everyone else it’s Dutch. Okay- this week I have been reading revelation chapter 5. We see this image of John the apostle standing in the throne room of God and God has this book in his hand. John is upset because no one is able to open the book and loose the seals. As John is upset, one of the elders comes up to him and tells him not to worry- Jesus- the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he has prevailed to open the book and to break the seals.
The vision is you have these elders and beasts and John and a multitude of angels and people from all nations- it’s a great gathering of saints of the most high- a true picture of the people of God.
I applied the vision to our little fellowship- made up of people from all over- different ethnic backgrounds and cultures. And John the apostle is struggling with this mandate to get the message out. Remember- the book of Revelation begins with Jesus telling John ‘write these letters to the 7 churches’ so John has this task to communicate this message from God. Yet he runs up against the classic roadblock ‘Who is worthy’ in so many words ‘why did you pick me for the job- I’m not able to do it’. You hear the words of Isaiah here- Isaiah said ‘I am a man of unclean lips- in the middle of a bunch of unclean people!’ Geez Isaiah- you’re not only too hard on yourself, but everyone else!
In the Isaiah vision God takes a coal and uses it to cleanse the lips of the prophet. So John is distraught over the fact that this book is sealed- and no matter how hard he tries- he cant open the thing. Jesus steps up to the plate and takes it and opens it. The whole community rejoices- they sing this song- a new song ‘Worthy is the lamb to open the book and to loose the seals thereof, for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us unto God by thy Blood out of every kindred and tribe and tongue and nation- and hast made us priests and kings unto God our father’. Yes, I put this verse to memory this week and sang it all thru out the week.
Sure- my wife said ‘who are you talking to’. I just blew it off- I have been talking to myself for years. So I’m identifying somewhat with John- also struggling to ‘open the book and loose the seals’. These last few weeks I dropped our radio program and was in a mad rush to get the shows on line [there on now]. But I dropped on a Friday and wanted to have them up by that Sunday.
So as I’m praying/singing the ‘new song’- kind of an intercessory thing- believing God to help us get the word out. Sure enough I sing the thing and the bell rings. That was my buddy Emit [last post] and from that surprise visit a few doors opened to get together more often with the brothers.
Of course I’m just applying these things- obviously revelation is not about eating at the big cow! But God does use stuff like this to speak to us- the principle of Jesus alone being the one who is worthy to ‘open the book’ well that’s a truism that will always be there.
Down the road I hope to teach a little more on the book of Revelation. It’s really not as hard as it might look. Basically you have the command of Jesus to John to write the 7 letters. John sees Jesus as the one who will assist him in getting the message out. The book had 7 seals. The opening of the last seal releases 7 trumpets. And the last trumpet leads to 7 bowls [vials]. Then you have the last few chapters that speak about the wrapping up of the kingdom and the resurrection and the final judgment. You end with a new heaven and a new earth and whoever wants ‘let him come and drink of the water of life’. That’s really it- sure you do have a lot of numbers and images and stuff- but overall this is the basic outline of the book.
In the book of Daniel he sees a lot of the same things that John sees in the book of Revelation- but Daniel is told to seal up the vision- for the time was not ready. John is told to ‘un seal’ it- the time is at hand. For many of the new friends that came in this last year- the time was ready for you guys to ‘read the book’ so to speak. Just remember the key- only Jesus has the ability to show you what’s in the book- to make it clear. Read and pray and ask God to help you understand- he alone can do it.
 A SURPRISE VISIT
I had a surprise visit last night- one of my original ‘church members’ stopped by to see me. Emit was the 2nd generation family, a son of one of the guys who was hooked on Heroin in the early days. Emit’s dad [Emit senior] was also part of the first group of members.
I would hold bible studies for the guys in the county jail- some were waiting for their court dates- they would do lots of time in Texas’ famous prison system- others were just doing time for minor offenses- things related to their drug addictions.
So anyway Emit Jr. was in that first group. I would pick up his dad for our church meetings [first held at an old abandoned hospital- later moved to my garage]. We had around 30 or so people who made up our little group. Mostly families of the guys I met thru the jail meetings. But every so often we had someone hear about us and they would join our group.
I remember Roy and Kathy- they were in this group of ‘normal people’. Roy was a liberal news reporter for the local paper- and Kathy was a bible college graduate. I don’t know how they found us- but they liked the bible studies I would do and they became good friends. The same with Hubert and his wife Katy.
Hubert actually taught at a regional bible school [Pan Am school/church] sponsored by the Presbyterian Church. It was their Latin American outreach school- located in Kingsville. So we had some up-standing folk as well. As I was fellowshipping with Emit we had some good laughs. I told him now that I’m posting the radio shows on the blog that in the future I’m going to post some of the old recordings from the early days. You can hear Emits dad on these tapes.
It was funny- the guys acted like we were just hanging out at my house- even during the church meetings! Emit [Sr.] had a habit of raiding my fridge right before the meetings would start- I mean I couldn’t keep Pecan Pies away from the brother. I eventually hid the good stuff before Emit got there. Hey I loved the bro. but the Pecan Pies were not part of the deal!
Emit told me he still has a few of these tapes and he hears his dads voice on some of them- His dad has been dead for many years now. He was clean at the time- but he ruined his liver with the Heroin and it finally caught up with him. His dad met his wife- Janie- at our little church. Janie was a single mom who had a bunch of boys- I worked with her sons and she would attend the church- Emit met Janie and sure enough they got married. They were a nice couple.
So last night Emit calls some of the other original group [geez- he had all their numbers in his phone]. So in a few hours I will be taking Emit, David [Buentello] and Henry [one of the homeless guys] to lunch in Corpus. David and Emit both work in Corpus now- they still live in Kingsville.
David too was a ‘founding member’ I met his dad while preaching at the jail- Leonard was a long time addict. Once again I met the sons thru my friendship with the dad. David has a bunch of brothers and I met Leonard [Jr.] and Ben and a few others. David spent lots of year strung out on drugs. I must have written Dave a few hundred times over the years when he was in prison- I saw this as a ministry- keeping in touch with the brothers as they did time- lots of time- in prison. David got his degree [he started while in prison and finished after he got out. It’s a program that helps the guys get a degree with aid from the state. Texas just ended the program this year; they said ‘why should we be paying for ex con’s education for free’. As someone who has seen the good results- it really was worth it].
David has been clean for many years and he is a professional counselor working in Corpus Christi. One time I asked David to pick up the guys for our meetings the next day. Many times I was working the night before at the fire house and it helped if someone could pick the people up in the morning- it gave me a little more time to prepare for the meeting. So I gave Dave the Suburban and he had it for the night. I knew it was a risk- not that he would steal the darn thing- but be tempted to score drugs and all.
Sure enough Dave came by the fire station early in the morning- he was fessing up- telling me he blew it and he was gonna leave the truck. I told him just because he had a bad night- I still needed him to finish the task and pull through. He did- he picked everyone up and attended the service.
Lots of times the guys in these situations have never had any home structure- I mean their parents love them and all- but when the dad struggles with addiction- they’re not there to support the sons. So this was training in a way for Dave.
So hopefully they will all find the restaurant [it’s right off the main drag- but I’m not sure they know the spot I was telling them]. It was funny- as Emit was leaving I walked him out to the car. He was wearing these coveralls from the auto dealer that he works for- he has this lawnmower sticking halfway out of the trunk [he was cutting yards for money after work]. And I asked him about his new girlfriend and all [Emit was married years ago to another person whose family were church members of our group. His wife, Veronica, had a few boys and one girl with Emit. They eventually divorced. One time at work we had a call for a stabbing- the person who was stabbed- Junior Perez- was another family member who I met from the jails. Junior’s younger brother- Tony- was a faithful church member. His older brother- Daniel- was the one I met thru the jail. Junior was dating Veronica at the time- it was an abusive relationship- she stabbed Junior while he was trying to get into her house. She lived there with her mom- Yolanda- yes another one of our church members. She killed Junior that night- no charges against her- but she would eventfully move out of town]
So as Emits leaving I ask him about his latest girl- he says she a nice person- but its one of those situations where the family doesn’t know she’s dating him [I don’t know why- just some family thing]. Then I asked him what happened with his other girl friend- the one he dated for years ‘Oh her, they took her away from me’ [now- I know what Emit meant- her family didn’t get along with Emit and they eventually convinced her to leave Emit]. Now, even though I knew what Emit meant- I was like ‘Hey bro. you show up with these work coveralls- the type you usually see on these serial killer types- you know the video of some guy kidnapping someone at the local store- and you have this ‘after hours lawnmower job’ [classic cover up for stuffing things in the trunk] and you tell me the current girl friend’s family- well they don’t know about your ‘relationship’ and the last one- well ‘they took her away’ [I mean who is they- the cops! LOL]. I said if I didn’t know any better it looks like you might have spent the last 10 years as a serial killer’!
He got a kick out of that. Okay enough for now- maybe I’ll let you know how the fellowship went tomorrow. Emit told me his youngest boy- Justin- is a full blow Heroin addict in Robstown. Geez- I just took a ride thru there the other week- felt like God wanted me to simply do a prayer drive. And now we are going to visit Justin in a few days- maybe it was a sign. Okay- please pray for my buddies and their families.
I’m glad they’re still hanging in there- but I need to try and get with them more often- hopefully today we can schedule a few more fellowship meetings- it’s been too long.
[NOTE- Dave- if you read this- just leave a quick comment on Facebook- so my friends from Jersey can see who you are- I have lots of old friends on the site- thanks]
P.S.- As Emit was giving me all the updated phone numbers of the brothers- I was writing them down in my address book/organizer- geez- as I turned to the ‘E’ page and the ‘D’ page and all- I still had the original names and numbers of their dads and all. One entry said 'Emit/Janie’ it brought back lots of memories.
 LETTER FROM AN OLD FRIEND
The other day I mentioned how over the years I have come to ‘see’ the community of people that I speak into- those friends I have worked with on the streets and all the readers/hearers of the ministry- I have come to see them as one community. I even began to see the friends who died as still being part of the community- just because they are not physically present- they are still ‘there’.
In the letter to the Hebrews the bible says Jesus stands in the middle of the congregation and sings praises unto God. On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus met with Moses and Elijah [2 dead saints] and Peter, James and John. The community was made up of both earthly and heavenly saints.
Okay- said all that to say this. When I first came to Texas I drove down with a good buddy I grew up with. His name was Miguel and we hung out as kids. Eventually Miguel would give his life to God [after me working with him for a few months] and I saw him as one of my 1st converts to the Lord.
I gave Miguel my first bible and got another one. Over a few years me and Mike tried to establish ourselves and our young families on this strange Texas frontier. Eventually Mike went back to Jersey. The night before he left [I drove him to the airport in San Antonio the next day- and his family]. We took a drive to Corpus Christi [where I now live- we both lived in Kingsville at the time- about 40 miles from Corpus] and spent the last night as buddies just hanging out on Padre Island- eating Whataburger’s [a great burger restaurant in Tx.] and just talking about what God had in store for the future. Actually, as I sit here and type I’m about 100 yards from the main road going straight to the Island- the same road we drove on 25 years ago.
As the years passed I would get a call from my old buddy every so often. One time Mike called to give me the news ‘John- I wanted to let you know I tested positive for Aids’- What! How’d that happen? [Probably a bad response now that I think about it]. Mike wasn’t ‘gay’ or bisexual- but he had lots of girlfriends- all the time. Back then safe sex was more of an option- and obviously Mike wasn’t too careful. Mike told me his wife- Lu Ann- also tested positive. What a tragedy- they had 4 boys.
So of course the whole family became a regular prayer request- till this day- every morning [every!] I pray for Mikes boys. One time I came home from work and my wife said ‘John- Lu Ann called’ I said ‘Mike died’ she said yes. Mike was 32. One day I received a letter from Lu Ann- she told me how her oldest boy was a preacher now in N.J. and he was on fire for God. She wrote a nice long letter. It must have been something God wanted her to do- I will forever remember that letter.
When Mike left Texas- I got that old bible I gave him back. It was just a sentimental thing of keeping your 1st bible. Then one year I started reading from it again and found that Mike had sprinkled notes all thru out it- things like ‘ask John this’ and stuff like that. So it was cool to catch these short notes every so often. I could almost hear Mikes voice as I read the notes.
So anyway as I pray in the mornings I have a conscious sense of my old buddies who have died- lots of homeless friends- a few ex- con/addict friends- and of course Mike and Lou Ann- [I guess she’s dead by now?] So last week as I’m just asking the Lord what chapter to read. I turn to Exodus 16- and Mike had a bunch of notes on this page- stuff like ‘NOTICE THIS’ and things that were weird- like he was writing notes to me. It did freak me out- I ‘fellowship’ with Mike when I pray for the Bro’s- and sometimes it’s like Mike is saying ‘John- thanks for praying for the boys’. And then to read notes later that say ‘Notice this’ or ‘ask John this’ it’s freaky.
Okay- that chapter dealt with God giving his people Manna- bread from heaven. It was the same week I dropped the radio program- I felt bad about doing it- but it was time. I told the Lord ‘If I messed up- sorry’. That is if I dropped it cause I was mad they kept losing the ‘darn’ tapes- then I repent. So anyway one of the verses in the chapter says ‘some people went out on the 7th day- to get their daily bread- and they found none’.
I knew there were going to be lots of long time listeners- who have written- who loved the show. These would ‘go out’ on the 7th day [Actually Sunday is the 1st day- but you get the idea] and would find ‘no bread’ for the first time in 15 years of broadcasting over KCTA. Actually over these last few days I have had lots of confirmation that this was the way to go- I began putting the shows on my blog- you can now listen and download the stuff 24/7- as opposed to only being able to hear it once a week. At the broadcast rate- geez it took 5 years just to recycle some of the older messages.
So for today- we learned that those who have gone on- our spiritual brothers and sisters- they are ‘still alive’. Now the bible forbids communication with the dead, and there are lots of religious superstitions that cross the line in these areas- but at the same time we do believe in eternal life- and if God speaks to me thru the words of one of my old buddies- stuff like ‘notice this’ then who am I to not notice?
 I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE-
The other night I had a weird dream- 2 young guys showed up at my door. They rang the bell and as I opened the door one of the boys said ‘John, do you remember me’. Now- to be honest this has happened lots thru out my life. At the Fire House I would often show up for shift in the morning and the off going shift would say ‘John- one of your convict buddies stopped by yesterday’ [they eventually caught on that lots of the guys I worked with at the jail/prisons knew where they could find me when they got out- and they figured they would catch me at the Fire House].
So stuff like this has happened lots- and there are times when I simply don’t remember who the guy’s are- if you give a bible study 5 years previously- they might remember you- but you might not remember them. So in my dream I told the kid [around 19 years old] ‘to be honest I don’t really remember you- just a little’ [Yes- I admit at times I have said ‘yeah- I think’ just so I wouldn’t offend the brothers].
The boy tells me that I did indeed help him and he won’t forget it. So I fellowshipped a little while. Then the boy asks a strange request ‘John- will you draw me a picture’. Sure- it seemed like something a young boy would ask- but why not. So I drew a picture of the beach and us just sitting there- like Father and son- and he asked me to sign it for him. I gave him the simple request and he seemed like a little boy getting a present from his dad. He talked a little more and as he began to leave he told me his name. He said ‘I’m Texas Ruiz’. And he left.
As I woke up [around 3 a.m.] I didn’t think too much about it. As I started the coffee, getting ready to go in the yard to pray. I remembered who Texas Ruiz was. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I pray for the cases I see in the paper- or on the news- the severe cases of crimes that have been committed. I have a wall of names [around 30 or so] that I paint the names of these people on. They will forever be on my prayer list- so I try and pick cases where the criminal [or victim] has a long lasting result/penalty- so as I pray for them over the years they can benefit from it.
One of the cases was a local one- here in Corpus Christi. The stepdad called 911 and his stepson [around 1 year old] had died. At 1st they thought it was from some natural cause- then they found out the step dad abused the boy and he died from this abuse. I saw the boy on T.V. a lot- being it was local. As Protestants we usually don’t pray for the people who have died- but I actually have felt the Lord challenge me about this over these last few years- and I do pray for the victims sometimes, even though they are dead. When I saw the boy on TV I would just raise my hand towards him and pray that God would be with his soul- I felt real bad for the kid. I did this a few times over about a week. I felt like a ‘dad’ to the kid- just praying for him. The boys name was Texas Ruiz.
There is a verse in Ezekiel 37- God says ‘in the day I raise you up and bring you back from the dead- in that day you will know that I am God’. I wrote this verse down on an ongoing journal type thing- every week I add whatever verse/book I’m studying from- whatever I feel might be significant. So I stuck this verse on the top of the page. A few days went by and I wrote the dream on the same page- I felt it was significant so I wrote it down.
After a few days- while reviewing the page- I saw that on the top it said ‘in the day I bring you back from the grave’ and in the dream- yes one of ‘our people’ did come back- it freaked me out.
In John’s gospel, chapter 11, we read of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters- Martha and Mary- are good friends of Jesus. They lived in a little town named Bethany [the name of my oldest daughter] and for the Jewish people to openly embrace Jesus at the time- it was a sacrifice. Many of the religious leaders already had turned against Jesus.
So one day Lazarus gets real sick and the sisters send word to Jesus ‘Lazarus- your friend- is sick’. Now- Jesus is going all over the place- healing sick people- opening blind eyes- multiplying bread and fish. I mean the sisters must have thought ‘well- at least all the flack we’ve taken over openly befriending Jesus will finally pay off’. But when Jesus hears about Lazarus the bible says he purposefully waited 2 extra days before heading towards Bethany.
Now- after a few days Lazarus did indeed die. The sisters are mad- ‘wow- he healed all these others- strangers- yet no time for us’. When he gets to the outskirts of town Martha goes out to see him ‘Jesus- why didn’t you come? You could have prevented this from happening’. Eventually Mary says the same thing to him. Jesus tells them ‘I am the resurrection and the life’.
The sisters only saw Jesus thru the lens of ‘why didn't you fix the problem when it was still possible’ Jesus was saying ‘it’s still possible’. He was telling them ‘Just because the thing you thought I would do- in life- didn’t happen yet- I can still overcome the devastation that it has caused you’. Jesus of course will raise their brother- it becomes a huge miracle to the point where the religious leaders conspire to kill Lazarus too- because so many Jewish people begin believing in Jesus because of this miracle.
In Ezekiel 37 God told Ezekiel [and the nation of Israel] ‘in the day I bring you back from the dead- in that day you will know I am God’. Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. A real event that took place in time and has stood the test of historical examination [too much to cover right now- but take my word for it- the evidence is overwhelming].
Sometimes we are like the sisters of Lazarus- we expected God to prevent the disaster from happening ‘Lord- if you were here this would not have happened’. The test of faith is to continue to believe- even on the other side of the disaster. The problem with Mary and Martha was they felt like Jesus simply did not come thru in time- they heard all these great stories about how Jesus helped all these others- yet they sat at home- with a dead brother and a funeral to attend.
Today I want to challenge you- are you like the sisters? Did God not prevent the disaster from happening? Did he not do for you what he did for the others? You might not see the ultimate ‘healing’ until the resurrection- the ‘last day’- but be assured- in the day he raises you from the dead- you will know that he is God.
 THE CHINGALINGS-
Got an email the other day from one of my old buddies who I haven’t heard from in a few years. He must have googled my name and found the blog site- it’s not hard to find me being my name is on a lot of the posts that I publish.
He was surprised to have heard that I retired; he used to call me up a lot over the years when I was at the fire house. We grew up together in N.J. and he was one of the friends I always kept in touch with. He told me that a mutual friend was still in prison [Rahway, N.J.] I told him ‘yeah- I know’ I have been writing him in prison ever since he first told me about it a few years back.
He finally sent me the ‘rap sheet’ I knew our friend was doing time for a serious offense, just never knew the whole story. As I read the link I pictured in my mind the whole scene. They pulled up to some house on 70 something street- late at night. The owner was a 73 year old salvage yard owner. My friend had done business with him being he too owned a trucking business. As my friend waited in the Getaway car- his cousin [who I also knew] and another guy go upstairs and knock on the door- he answers ‘who is it’ they reply ‘PSG & E’ [I guess the name of the utility co. in Jersey- I grew up in Jersey but never paid a utility bill]. The guy says ‘one minute’ and as ‘he’ unlocks the door they rush in- to find the cops waiting in the apt. They were set up.
The case showed how they had plastic restraints and duct tape and all the stuff you would need to kidnap someone. They basically were there to rob the guy- he supposedly had a safe with lots of money in it- instead they got busted. As I read the case- the wife’s testimony [I knew her since I was a kid too- they were together since ‘way back then’] I could hear her voice- reading my friends testimony- the story he came up with- I knew I was hearing my friend. It was sad- yet I felt like I was there.
One time this friend stopped by my house in Jersey ‘hey John- let’s take a ride to the shore’. Sure- where did you get the car? [Nice new Nova] ‘I found it- it was just sitting there with the keys in it’ sure enough I went. We had a few incidents take place where he owed me some money- one night I was at the carnival with another friend and I said ‘if I see so and so tonight- its over!’
Sure enough my friend spots him a little while later and I got into a severe fight with him. The next day I found out he had to go to the hospital and his family pressed charges against me- and his ‘biker friends’ [from Fort Lee- young guys- all our age] were gonna get me. I joined the Navy a few days later.
Over the years I always tried to ‘convert’ my buddies- the first time back after this incident [maybe a couple of years later?] I hooked up with these old friends- my one friend [geez- I don’t want to use their names] the friend that I didn’t get in the fight with- he said ‘John- so and so still holds a grudge, maybe you better not get in touch with him’ I just blew it off- we got together and nothing happened. I felt bad- he did have some scars from the incident a few years earlier.
I have always tried to stay in touch with these old friends- I have made lots of friends thru the years- guys who have gone to prison- involved in bad stuff- yet lots of them do actually get into the bible- seek God- and many of them do come around.
I have always had sincere friends say ‘John- maybe your taking too many risks by being around these guys’. I have had a few good friends tell me this recently about my friends contact with these Muslim groups on facebook ‘John- you never know if these guys are terrorists or what’ I hear them- yet the ‘risk’ of possibly having a ‘secret’ terrorist friend on the net- well that’s really not something I worry about- plus- these guys do read my posts, what more could I ask for?
I haven’t heard from my friend in prison for around 8 months now- he was real happy to write- he asked for some radio tapes from my programs- I sent him a bunch- he was grateful- shared them with the brothers in jail [the way my buddy was- always scamming someone- I wouldn’t put it past him to have sold the tapes!]. The charges against him were attempted kidnapping and robbery. They caught him because the plan was hatched with a biker gang out of the South Bronx [N.Y.] and they had an undercover informant in the gang. The gang are called the Chingalings, I saw an A&E special on them years ago- never knew my friend [or his cousin] were in the gang.
So anyway hopefully I’ll hear from him again- I saved the address [I used to never save the addresses of my friends who I wrote to in prison- I have been writing the brothers for years- teaching them stuff- one on one, like the blog- but I would simply get the address from the next letter- this time I thought I should save one of the envelopes- so sure enough I have his Rahway address- his prison number and all].
One time I got an email from a friend- a girl I grew up with- she read the blog and said something like ‘gee- I like the blog John- and I know you are always challenging us to go out and help people like you do- but I’m not like you- I can’t get with all these convicts’. I emailed her back ‘PLEASE- DON’T GET WITH CONVICTS!’ I had to explain to her that she shouldn’t take my blog challenges the wrong way- I never meant for the average homemaker to go out and meet with the Chingalings!
Yet I do try and challenge my old buddies- guys who have done time in prison- ex drug addicts and all- I do often tell them ‘hey guys- don’t forget where you came from- there are still others like you that need someone to go and take a chance on them- like I did with you’. All in all I’m sure God’s will will get done. Anyway it was good to hear from one of my old buddies- he’s not on Facebook- I searched for him when I first got on- I told him that would be the best place to keep in touch. Either way it’s important to make an effort- even if its small- to try and help out your friends- you might have to take some risks- but in the end it will be worth it.
 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.
 CHRIS MATTHEWS, ED SHULTZ AND THE HOMELESS- Spent the day yesterday on the streets with my homeless buddies- it was cold! I was on foot. Ran into Henry, one of the brothers who really knows his stuff. Henry is originally from Massachusetts and he always has great discussions about the bible- he’s sort of one of those undiscovered genius types- a ‘rain man’ type guy when it comes to the bible. We came back to the house for the afternoon- made a little lunch/dinner type thing. A few months back another one of my buddies, John David [I wrote about John a while back- he was strung out on cocaine for years- has been clean for a while] came by- he started a drug rehab- told me the location and showed me the story they ran on him in the news [it made it to CNN!] I was excited- the next day I wrote a 50 dollar check- stuck it in my wallet and figured the next time I run into him I’ll give it to him as a gift. Never ran into him since- so I gave the check to Henry- he will get with brother Ray- a street preacher who is also struggling with finances right now- and they will split it. Henry would never be able to cash it by himself- or else I would have just given him the 50. I Heard Roger might have died in jail- about a year ago he threatened to kill a cop [he’s all talk- never would have done it] and they charged him with a terroristic threat- sent him away for a year. Roger was a good friend- hope he didn’t die. Around 4 o’clock Henry was heading out to go down the road to brother Rays place [lives a mile or 2 away] I gave Henry a bunch of bible studies that some ministry sends me every month- I don’t have time to read them- hate to throw them away- so I save them for Henry, he loves them. The preacher is from New Jersey- a Messianic Jew- I sent him some stuff once and just said hi- he has been sending me the studies ever since. As Henry was walking out- he had the check- a little doggie bag I whipped up for him with some stuff- the studies and all- he told me ‘John- this has been the best day I have had in a long time’ I knew it wasn’t the check- or food- Henry sees me as one of his best friends- and he really gets into the fellowship time- I usually share some ‘scholarly’ stuff I’ve been reading- the trends going on in theology and all- he eats that stuff up- loves learning- but doesn’t always have up to date info on the recent developments in the field of theology- so he just likes learning.
Okay- though I hate to do this- let me make a few more political/news comments. After Henry left I caught the news for a few hours- Chris Matthews has chosen to use the deaths of the innocent victims in Arizona for political gain. He went on a rampage of saying because of this Sarah Palin needs to come out and apologize for using political targets to target Democratic districts- he said she will forever be associated with the deaths- that you will be able to Google Palin and crosshairs and she will be marked for life with the deaths of these people- and he said she will be ‘ERASED’ [no lie] if she doesn’t apologize. This man is more dangerous than Glenn Beck- most people see Beck for what he is- Matthews is not seen as a ‘nut job’ it is very possible to take his words to mean he is calling for the assassination of Sarah Palin- so very sad. Then Ed Shultz [another guy I do like] did his show defending his segment ‘psycho talk’ I missed the beginning of the show- but you got the drift that some on the conservative side have shot back at the liberals and said ‘look- you lib’s use radical talk too’ so Ed was defending his segment- than- to my shock- he transitions to a segment called RAPI- FIRE [God- please help us all] and as he asks the 2 democratic guests their views on the irresponsibility of Palin and the right using images of guns and crosshairs and targets- the 2 guests seem embarrassed that the name of this segment is called RAPID- FIRE with the words ‘rapid fire’ blazed in red and blinking on the bottom of the screen- I mean Shultz comes on MSNBC right after Matthews- who just called for Palin to be ‘ERASED’. I couldn’t believe the stupidity of these men- to put it bluntly. At this point it looks like the shooter was just a mentally disturbed young man who had no consistent political views- yes- in the beginning it seemed like he might have been a right wing nut job- a Tim McVeigh type personality- but the evidence just does not show that. Of course what he did is still horrendous- it just doesn’t seem to have been instigated by right wing ideology. It just seems hypocritical- of course the right wingers are going to show you all the examples of the left doing the same things that they are outraged over- so another ‘target’ was revealed- it was made by the Democrats- and it had exactly the same rifle/scope targets over the districts of Republicans- then they of course showed you the clips of Obama saying ‘when they bring a knife [political opponents] we bring a gun’ and I even caught this one my self- when the president made the end of the year deal with the republicans- the lame duck congress- he had to defend himself against the liberals who were mad- so he innocently says ‘You know- I didn’t agree with everything in the deal- but when HOSTAGE TAKERS are threatening to hurt the hostages- than you make the deal’ now- we all know the president did not mean to send a message to the real hostage takers of the world- telling them ‘yes- I will deal with you if you start killing off the hostages’ and I heard no conservative voice accuse him of this [someone might have- I did not hear anyone so far] - it would be irresponsible to take the political speech of the president [we’ll bring a gun- hostage takers- etc.] and use that as a political tool to shame the man- yet that’s exactly what some on the left are doing- I agree with those on the right and the left who are calling for a step down on the rhetoric- from both sides- but those who are publicly saying that the rhetoric from one side is what caused these peoples deaths- that’s being irresponsible to the max.
 HITCHENS- BLOOMBERG AND ADAM- Okay- being I’m finishing up my last book, I made the mistake of going to half price books yesterday- mistake? Yes- I’m going thru some courses right now on philosophy and really shouldn’t be starting any new books right now- but heck, I couldn’t help myself. So as my custom goes- my wife dropped me off [they know better than to wait at the store- I usually take a few hours] and I begin the obsession. First I go thru all the shelves of the targeted category [theology, philosophy, etc.] and pluck out the books I think are relevant. Then when the process is complete I usually purchase 3-5 books from the collection [yes- I leave the rest on the shelf for the poor book worker to put back into the proper section]. So anyway as I was walking outside after the purchase I sat at one of the outside coffee areas where lots of people usually hang out [you know- the professors- one time there was a guitar playing hippie singing about the war in Vietnam- in 2009!]. But this day it was surprisingly empty- only one homeless guy. As I sat to start Christopher Hitchens best seller ‘god is not great- how religion poisons everything’ I realized that the reason the spot was empty was because the homeless kid was sitting there at one of the tables- playing with one of those kids toys- you shake it back and forth and it claps- and he seemed to be talking to himself. To be honest- some of these guys are my best friends- I’ve spent thousands of man hours just hanging out with these brothers over the years. I really didn’t talk too much- trying to dissect Hitchens- then my wife drove up and beeped the horn. As I got up to leave- I saw the brother kinda look my way- seemed to be waiting to see the scared- or violent type response they usually see- you know ‘stay the hell away from me’ type thing. I caught his eye and just gave him a friendly ‘hey brother- how you doing’ he was so glad to be seen as a human being. I walked over and figured I’d talk for a minute or 2. I didn’t realize it at first, but he was wearing headphones and listening to music- he wasn’t talking to himself after all. He told me he was listening to Floyd- I told him I too am a big classic rock fan- that while living in Jersey I missed their concert in 1979-80 ‘The Wall’. He knew the year- it was 1980. I just spent a few minutes having a friendly talk with him- maybe the first real communication he’s had all day- most of these brothers are nice guys- yet they often struggle with mental issues- he looked to be in his late 20’s, originally from some northern state- probably headed south for the winter. As my wife was waiting in the car- beeping the horn- probably thinking ‘Oh know- another one of his homeless friends’ [yes- I’ve met hundreds over the years- and they’ve all been to the house many times] I told my buddy I got to go- he asks ‘what’s your name’? John. Hi John- my name is Adam. Strange- the man who was made in God’s image- Jesus said ‘in as much as you helped one of the least- the down and out- you have helped me’.
Okay- once again I really needed to do a post or 2 on philosophy- before I get too ahead of myself in the study; but let me make a few comments on Hitchens book [see- I told you I shouldn’t have hit the book store!] Okay- I’m gonna try and be nice to Hitchens- he is one of the famous atheist writers of the past few years- these guys are referred to as ‘the new atheists’ the group consists of some notable names- Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris- a few others. These guys kind of became popular in reviving some of the old arguments against religion and God- most modern readers are not aware that they are simply re-hashing the same old arguments that have been refuted in the past- and to be honest this bunch make a whole lotta errors in their thinking/arguments. Most well trained Christian apologists have thoroughly refuted them. But being Hitchens is dying [or died? I haven’t checked recently] of cancer- I’ll try and be nice [try!]. Okay- like some of the book reviews I read- Hitchens is crude and mean- and yes- at times ignorant of his glaring mistakes. He describes a nice old teacher he had as a youth- as a young boy growing up in England- she taught the schoolboys about nature and science- and yes- God. I thought he was being nice telling the story. Then he calls her ‘a pious old trout’. He refers to the sex abuse scandal that’s rocked the Catholic church- he calls it the ‘no child’s behind left’ scandal [a takeoff on the no child left behind policy]. So yes, this book- while containing some real good history- also sounds overly crude. Hitchens also appeals to mans great intellect and sophistication as being all we need for true morality- he says man does not need God, religion or the bible to be moral- after all we have the great works of literature! Sounds good- right? He then goes on and mentions the names of the great authors- he mentions Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy among others- and makes the argument ‘see- we have morality and truth contained within these books without needing religious truth’- geez- every well read person will tell you that these authors are known for their books being inundated with religious morality- it’s no secret that these 2 authors are considered some of the greatest Christian/religious writers of their time. How Hitchens could appeal to the ethics contained in their writings and say ‘see- we don’t need religious ethics- we have these guys’. I mean these types of obvious flaws jump right out at you- to be honest I have only read the reviews from these famous atheists in the past- but most of the reviews have pointed stuff like this out- I just didn’t think these guys would be this ‘amateurish’ [geez- don’t want to call the guy an idiot- or an old trout- that wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do]. So anyway I guess I’ll hit a few high points of the book the next week or so.
Last- but not least. Have we had our own Greek crisis? Those of you who follow the news are aware that this last year the European Union has suffered from a severe debt crisis- many states that make up the union have struggled to try and cut costs and sure up their economies- Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland are still very much in trouble. So the other healthier economies in the union [Germany] have put pressure on the weaker ones to get their houses in order- they refer to this as ‘austerity’ taking measures to reign in the financial crisis. As a response to these cutbacks- like raising the retirement age and hiking college tuition- many citizens have taken to the streets in protest- govt. workers going on strike and all. People have wondered if stuff like this could happen in the good old U.S. of A- it looks like it might just have! In sort of sneaky way. The blizzard that has wreaked havoc on the north east these last few days has caused problems for N.Y. and N.J. [my old home turf]. The mayor of N.Y. - Michael Bloomberg- has come under fire for not getting the streets cleared in time. Word has gotten out that some of the street workers were told by their bosses ‘go slow in the clean up’ so to put pressure on the mayor to not eliminate their jobs- sort of like an under the cover strike. If this is true [we don’t know for sure] then it would be our own workers rebellion against our austerity measures- while it’s not as bad as what Europe has gone thru- never the less it’s still bad.