SYRIA [or- when you see a chance- take it]
The chapter for the week is Acts 7.
Out of all the single bible chapters- this is the best overview of the whole bible that you will find in any one chapter.
Of course it only covers the history of the Old Testament- because the New Testament was not yet written.
Okay- this week I have been picking up a bit more on my newspaper reading- and of course I always try and catch the world news on the tube.
And- to be honest- the last couple of weeks on the handling of the Syrian situation- this has to be the most botched foreign policy I have seen in my life time.
Much of what has been happening is simply tactical responses- by ‘enemies’ [adversaries] – countering ‘off the cuff’ remarks by the President- or his secretary of state [John Kerry].
Now- I am not a ‘right wing critic’ of the president- but this has been bad- the worst I have ever seen.
The president got us into this situation by warning Assad if he used Chemical weapons- that would be crossing a red line- that we would act.
He has more than likely used them about 12 times since the start of the civil war [2 years long- 100,000 dead].
Finally- as most of you know- after the last use [we don’t know for sure he is the one using them- it is possible the rebels are using them as a ploy to get the U.S. to attack].
Obama said ‘enough is enough’ and we rattled the war saber.
But- after a couple of days of political maneuvering- Obama decided to put this action to a vote in congress- which he did not do with his action in Libya- which by all accounts was more of a war move than what he planned in Syria [probably launching some rockets from ships- hitting some targets- and that’s it].
So- after congress got their hand in- well- it seemed for sure they would not authorize the use of force- which made the U.S. look bad- because the president said ‘he’ would hit.
Then- Kerry was asked at a press thing ‘what could Assad do to avoid this’.
And he gives an off the cuff remark ‘well- if he gives up his Chemical weapons- we won’t attack- but he’s not going to do that’.
Now- that’s a contradiction to what Obama said- Obama said ‘enough is enough- he poisoned kids- we will hit’.
So- Syria and Russia [allies] quickly respond to Kerry’s off the cuff remark- and say ‘yes- we are going to accept the U.S. offer [which was a slip!] and we will comply’.
Now- Obama and Kerry and the team are all trying to show this as ‘see- we really knew what we were doing- it was planned all along’.
No- not so.
Is it good that maybe Assad will do the right thing- and maybe Obama’s threat of force did this?
But who knows- this might end up like the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks- a 30 year ongoing thing that never leads anywhere.
So- how does this fit in with Acts 7?
In the chapter Stephen recounts the story of Moses- and how while in Egypt he defends a Jew- kills an Egyptian.
The next day 2 Jews are fighting- he tries to intervene- and one of them says ‘who are you- are you going to kill me like you did the Egyptian yesterday’.
Moses thought that his brothers would understand that he was trying to help them.
But even though these 2 sides [brothers] were fighting- yet when big brother tried to assert Moral authority- they rejected him.
I find it funny that they even said ‘will you throw us under the bus- like you did the Egyptian yesterday’.
One of the actual reasons we- the U.S. - have lost the Moral authority- is because of the way we treated the ‘Egyptian’.
Yes- the Arab world saw how quickly we rejected Hosni Mubarak- an ally- and it created a mistrust in the region.
Russia is now standing by Syria- their ally- and has even said they do not throw their allies under the bus- like we do.
Yes- Obama has tried to make the Moral argument [and to be honest- there is one- though I personally think military action is a mistake].
But the ‘fighting brothers’ in the region- as well as congress- and our allies [British] seem to think we do not have the moral authority to hit- militarily.
So- as it stands now- this might indeed be the worst handling of foreign policy I have ever seen [not saying the worst action- but handling].
One of the other chapters I have been teaching from is Luke 14.
Jesus says when you go to war- you sit down first and see if you have everything in place.
If after you take inventory- you see all is not going well- then you make decisions based on the reality of the situation.
He also says if you are going to build a tower- you count the cost first- lest after you lay the foundation- and are not able to finish- others mock you and say ‘look- he started- but couldn’t finish’.
I do not write on politics- or Obama- simply for the sake of finding fault.
But our actions are very serious.
In Syria- like Libya- and Egypt.
We have sided- every time- with those who persecute the Christian minorities in these countries.
Even in Iraq- the Christians have fled- because our removal of Saddam has created a situation where others who hate the Christians have more power.
Some of the rebels in Syria- who will become emboldened if we strike Assad- have threatened Christians [nuns- etc.] with death- if they do not convert to Islam.
Now- our track record in these conflicts has been on the side of those who are more ‘anti-Christian’ then the actual leaders we are siding against.
I guarantee you- we would not be doing this if it were the other way around- if we were siding with ‘Christian rebels’ who were killing Muslims [I do realize of course that Muslims are killing Muslims in this conflict- but they are not targeting them because of their faith].
Even the Coptic Christians in Egypt are happy that the military generals removed Morsi.
Yes- the military removal of Morsi is not seen as a military Coup by the Christians.
No- they stand by the removal of Morsi- because he was moving the country into an Islamic ruled state- which it was not under Mubarak.
This is why the Pope even came out and asked for us to pray for peace- giving a sign that he too was against a military strike in Syria.
Okay- read Acts chapter 7.
Stephen gives a great overview of the historical promise of God to the Jewish people- of a coming Messiah.
If you read the chapter carefully- you see what he is trying to do.
He is making the case that just like the Jews rejected Moses rule- so the Jewish people of his day rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
And Stephen quotes Moses ‘the Lord will raise up a prophet- like unto me- him will you hear’.
He then goes thru the chapter and shows all the ways that Moses and Jesus were alike.
Moses- like Jesus- was born at a time when the king/ruler was killing all the young children in the land.
Yes- Pharaoh was killing the new born males- and that’s when Moses was born.
Herod was killing the young children- up to the age of 2- at the time of Jesus [he was trying to get Jesus- but Joseph and Mary were warned by an angel to flee].
Moses- like Jesus- did signs and miracles in the land.
And Moses- like Jesus- was rejected by his own people at his first appearance to them as a savior.
It was later- after Moses spent 40 years in the dessert- that God appeared to him in the burning bush- and then he would return to his brothers in Egypt and deliver them.
So- Stephen is trying to show the Jewish people that their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah was indeed fore told in the scriptures.
That Moses himself said ‘God will raise up a prophet- LIKE ME’.
At the end of the chapter- Stephen is stoned- and as he is dying- he says ‘Lord- lay not this sin to their charge’.
And he dies.
The bible says there was a religious leader there- agreeing to Stephens’s death.
His name was Saul.
2 chapters later [Acts 9] Saul is knocked off his horse- Jesus appears to him.
Stephens’s prayer was answered- God forgave those who were there at his stoning- and Saul becomes the apostle Paul and carries the same message that he heard form Stephen on the day of his death.
Yeah- Paul- in a way- was a convert of Stephen.
As the church fathers have said ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’.
Paul would take the message of Christ further than any other missionary of his day.
And he too would die a martyr’s death in Rome- like his other friend Peter- who took the same message and brought it to the Jews- Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.
Yeah- Moses said ‘the Lord WILL raise up a prophet- like me- him WILL YOU HEAR’.
God raised him- and they heard.
NOTE- The last time I was in New Jersey- a strange thing happened.
For many years I always wanted to take a good New York City tour.
I mean I have gone to see the 911 memorial and stuff like that.
But I never really rode the subway- and visited the boroughs.
So- last year I did it.
I went to spots I never went to before.
Queens- Rockaway beach- etc.
Then- when I got back to Texas- hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey- and as I watched the footage with one of my homeless buddies- the exact streets I walked [for the first time- ever] were the actual ones that got wiped out.
It seemed strange- and my homeless buddy even kidded that I was some sort of messenger of judgment.
On my phone right now- I have a bunch of pictures that I have been unable to upload.
One of the other spots I have not been to in years was the Jersey Shore.
Now- most of my friends said Seaside Heights- and the boardwalk- were not worth the ride.
Just go to Sandy Hook or some closer spot.
But no- as a kid- Seaside- and that boardwalk were my spot.
So- last week I took the ride- the boardwalk was empty- but yes indeed- they rebuilt all the arcades and stuff after Sandy hit- and it looked great.
I showed the phone pics to a few friends and they were surprised that the boardwalk was so empty.
I mean it was like the spot was just there for my picture taking.
So last night I was with the crew at White Castle- and Bob asks ‘did you see the news’.
‘The boardwalk at Seaside Heights is on fire- and they can’t stop it’.
As of last night- the same spots that I just took all the pictures of last week- are now gone- again.
I am finding these experiences a bit strange to be honest- and I’m not sure if they mean anything.
But it reminds me of the verse I used the other day- that life is short [and the stuff in it].
It appears for a little time- and then vanishes away- like smoke.
Okay- a few updates about this time in North Bergen.
When I first left Texas [over 2 months ago] the ‘plan’ was to permanently move north.
As of now- I think I’m gonna finish 3 months- and try and come back every year.
Some of the new crew [the street guys I have met] told me they are disappointed that I’m gonna do it like that.
We have been getting together every day or so- I even got a text from Nick the day I was in Seaside.
So we have a little group of ‘street guys’ who are in this area.
Just like the Texas street guys.
And a few of these guys have already mentioned maybe making the trip back to Texas- or coming down to visit.
So- this time back- I finally did break some ground- I will see these guys each year when I come back.
Any Progress with them?
This ‘style’ of outreach [which all the guys know I’m doing- when they ask ‘what’s John here for’- I tell them straight up].
This is a style of ministry I have been doing for years.
I tell them ‘I’m not a Narc- undercover cop- I’m not gay [look- they see some guy being nice- and you have to let them know].
I tell them I see this as ministry- and over time- they know I’m not giving them some story.
So- when the guys make a Beer run [or another more expensive purchase] - they come back- and they have a diet coke- for me.
Yeah- Nick knew I quit drinking- so he brought back the coke.
Last night- Rick was happy.
We were at White Castles- he got some good news [he’s gonna get some money- legally!]
And he said ‘you know John- when a person is happy- it makes them more healthy’.
I told him yeah- and I said ‘actually there is a bible verse- Proverbs- that says that’.
And I quoted ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine’.
Rick asked ‘is that in the bible’.
Sure- and of course Bob and the other guys listen in.
Know- it’s not a game- I’m not trying to ‘trick’ these guys.
No- over time- they know the scoop- and I’m not ‘preaching’ per se- but I am sharing stuff- and stuff about God.
I even quoted another verse.
One of our mutual friends- let’s say- who has a ‘selling business’.
If his buyers don’t pay- he gets mad- and has a bad day.
So- Rick will text me ‘so and so was sad today- he left early’.
We actually kid around about it some- because our friend says stuff like ‘I can’t believe he did it again’!
Talking about the ‘purchaser’ not paying him- buy pretending he handed him 20-but it might be a ten and a few dollars rolled up.
So- after seeing this happen- more than once- I tell Rick ‘geez- he keeps saying ‘I can’t believe it happened again’- but it happens every day’!
Then Rick let me in on the scoop- yeah- the guys know he’s not the best person for this type of business [nice guy- older guy- but maybe getting senile?]
And Rick tells me he has heard him say ‘I can believe he did it again- for the 13th time!’
So- it’s kinda funny to be honest.
I have been showing the guys a gold coin my dad gave me- there like ‘that’s worth money!’
So our friend- the ‘business man’ asks if I could buy him his coffee- he gives me the money- 1.17- and I- or one of the other guys- buys it.
White Castle won’t serve him- so he asks us to buy it.
So- he’s a penny short.
I tell him ‘dont worry- I’ll cover it’.
So I get the coffee- I bring it back to my friend- and I say-
‘I was a penny short- so I had to give her the gold coin’.
He says ‘NOOO- get it back!!’
I tell him ‘No- I’m just kidding’.
He says ‘I hate it when people kid like that- that fools me’.
Another friend- who you might say ‘fools so and so’ too- he was right there- and he was holding in the laugh.
Yeah- he’s a nice guy- but not cut out for his ‘line of work’.
So yeah- I know people have problems with my style of ‘ministry’.
And over time- after doing this for around 25 years- I have found that these guys- yes- even hardcode users- they become friends- and they know that I’m not gonna use- or get high.
And yes- over the years- some of the street guys do get clean- do accept God- and live a changed life- that has happened.
So- I let the guys know I’m gonna finish this month- and I’ll come back every year- for a few months.
When I go back to Texas- Maybe I’ll stay for a while- or maybe try another state.
One of the lessons I learned from the burning down of the boardwalk is- when you ‘see a chance- take it’.
Last year- when I was leaving- I did see the signs for the shore- and thought ‘well- maybe next year I’ll come back and go to the boardwalk’.
So- I did.
But if I missed the chance this time- there was not going to be another- until they rebuild it- again.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBook] - I have posted lots.