2058- BUS RIDE’S- PROPHETS AND A TAG..
I have been wanting to do a post on world affairs- the other week I talked about the ‘feeling’ that the U.S. is in for more trouble than people realize.
I posted that this year I think we are going to experience another 911 type event.
A week or so later- we had the mysterious Malaysian plane go missing- now many think it was a terrorist attack.
Yet- I don’t feel like that was what I spoke about.
I felt like our country is going to get hit- big.
Now- the entire story about Russia/Crimea and Ukraine- might be the one.
I want to talk about the justification of what Russia has done so far- and how the U.S. media machine might get us into World War 3.
Russia- like the U.S. – justifies action- even military action- on various grounds.
One of them is if they feel there is a real threat to their nation- they will act.
We too have this as a stated objective of our military interventions- of which many in the past 15 years have been absolute failures [Libya- Iraq- Afghanistan- the list goes on].
For various ‘self-interests’ [even the self-interest of so called moral mandates ‘you are on the wrong side of history’ yeah- but whose history book is Kerry and Obama quoting?]
So- back to Russia.
In the 1950’s Nikita Khrushchev simply gave away Crimea to the Ukraine.
When he did this- it was against the will of the people.
There are various ideas of why he did it- but it was simply a totalitarian move.
At the time- Ukraine was still a part of Russia [USSR] so- even though it was a cheap shot- yet it was simply a transference of some land- within a sovereign state.
But later- after the breakup of the USSR- the Crimea- once again- against the will of the actual people [who are mostly nationalistic Russian- who never wanted to break away from Russia for the most part] became a part of Ukraine- one of the former USSR states.
So- like Georgia- they were now independent of Russia.
The U.S. and other Western countries- under the ‘flag’ of NATO- began to make a ‘land grab’ in these former Soviet states.
That is we have indeed tried to persuade Ukraine to join NATO [who Putin- rightfully has said- is no longer a purely defensive treaty- but an offensive umbrella alliance that has been used to actually invade other countries].
The West has been in a battle for the Ukraine- to win them over- and we have a strong- threatening presence [threatening to Russia] in Ukraine.
Ok- this year when the protesters began hitting the streets in Ukraine- in a way- what they did was a sort of Coup De Tat [which is what Putin has said!].
The protestors were not asking for Democracy- which they already had- even though the Ukrainian president was corrupt- yet the protestors were mostly Fascists [would the U.S. give in to Fascist protestors if they stood at the gate of the White house- threatening violence?]
So- Ukraine- with Putin’s help- decided to agree on early elections [they voted for this- legally] and the Ukrainian president took refuge in Russia.
But- the protestors- and the U.S.- didn’t want to wait for the lawful election- so we simply picked apart the political puzzle- and chose the parts that best fit our ‘self-interests’.
And started making it look like Putin was following the path of Hitler in WW2- invading sovereign states and possibly going all the way to Europe [which indeed Ukraine is a gateway].
Now- the Crimean people did indeed hold a referendum- and willingly voted- overwhelmingly- to join Russia again.
The western media made it sound like they were forced- at gunpoint [Russian troops are in Crimea] to approve the vote.
That’s simply media spin- the Russian troops were there so the people could vote for what they wanted all along- to go back to Russia.
The U.S. [and other European allies] do have real objections to some of what’s going on- but in reality no country would allow an adversary to build up a military presence on their border.
We threatened Nikita Khrushchev when John f. Kennedy was president for this very thing- trying to place Nukes in Cuba.
Putin is simply doing the same thing- when the West started talking about Ukraine becoming a part of NATO- and putting a defense shield in Poland- Putin was responding the same way we have- using the reason of self-interest.
Ok- as of today Putin has seized the airport and other strategic spots in Ukraine.
They have a naval port off the coast of Ukraine- and yes- they can’t/won’t allow a key strategic waterway to be taken by a pro-Western group.
Ok- this past week it was strange to here John Kerry say ‘yes- we know the Crimean people will overwhelmingly vote to be part of Russia- and we have warned Russia to not accept the vote’.
We are backing the Fascist protestors in Ukraine- and rejecting the will of the people in Crimea.
Putin is right- we are simply cherry picking this stuff- for our own ‘national interests’.
As of today- yes- I think we are closer to another world war- than ever before.
Russia has state run media- and one of their top guys said they have enough Nukes to obliterate the U.S.
The only way a statement can be made like that on Russian media is if Putin allows it.
So- I wanted to give you the bigger picture here.
Maybe my prediction about another 911 was wrong- maybe it will be worse.
SATURDAY- just a quick note about the above- I do believe that Putin is on a roll, and will take Ukraine and try and consolidate the former Soviet states.
The point I made was the U.S. pushed him to this point.
We aggressively tried to bring Ukraine and other breakaway states under the umbrella of NATO; It was no secret that we wanted a real presence on the border of Russia.
A few years ago when protests rose up in Russia- we made a short public statement- sort of like ‘well- the will of the people must prevail’.
The same statements we made before we deposed other leaders- by using NATO as the cover.
Putin saw the writing on the wall- he realized in time he had to do something.
Ok- I wanted to teach a bit about the various genres we see in scripture.
Last week I taught from the creation account in Genesis.
When I did one of our weekly meetings one of the guys mentioned how some people think the tree that Eve ate from was a Pomegranate- or some other type of fruit tree.
Ok- I didn’t want to debate with my friend.
But maybe we can give a little insight here.
The bible uses various forms of literature- just like any other book.
Some forms are Poetic- some are Prophetic [symbolism] - sometimes we see things like round numbers [Jesus feeds the 5 thousand- or the bible says ‘the whole city came out to see him’].
Now- we do believe the inspiration of scripture- but did the writers use things like round numbers?
Yes- in the Old Testament we see it used when talking about armies and stuff- or the 12 tribes of Israel.
Now- in the account of creation- the 2 trees that are named are the Tree of Life- and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Ok- we have a description here- and the description does not speak of fruit trees- but things that symbolize stuff [like I explained in last week’s post].
Are there any other symbols/types in the creation account?
Yes- we read about ‘the serpent’ who speaks!
Now- most realize it is referring to satan- which is right.
Are there any symbolic references in the bible that speak about satan as a serpent?
Yes- in the book of Revelation we read about the Dragon- and most of us realize it is symbolic.
Ok- what am I saying here- that the bible is not to be taken literally?
Well- here’s the problem.
The classic sense of ‘literal’ interpretation does include the symbolic- poetic- etc.
When we say we take the bible literally- it does indeed include stuff like this.
In the 19th/20th centuries there arose a school of thought out of the universities in Germany- we refer to these theologians as being in the liberal school of bible interpretation [Bultman- etc.]
Now- some of the insights they had were indeed good [sort of like what I’m showing you now].
Some not so good [like denying the actual death and resurrection of Christ].
But- when we understand that there are portions of the bible that fall under the category of Historical Narrative- others fall under Poetic- others Symbolic.
It helps us explain the bible better.
Is the whole creation account symbolic?
In my view- no.
Because we read other portions of the bible- referring back to the creation account- and the teacher is using what’s called Historical Narrative.
Jesus says ‘in the beginning God made them male and female’.
So- there are tools like this that we use when trying to understand what portions are historical- and what parts are symbol.
If you use what’s called the ‘literal interpretation’ then when you read symbol- you must take it as such.
If you interpret symbol as ‘historical’ then you might think you are taking the bible ‘literally’ but in actuality you are not.
The same goes for the portions that are historical.
So- in the creation account- we might be seeing a mixture- some historical- some symbol [most fight for one or the other- I think it might be better to take it the way I just showed you].
So- what type of tree did they eat?
They had a choice- and the bible tells us they disobeyed God- and thru that action were cut off from the presence of God [tree of life] and were left to their own devices [living your life out of your own intellect- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil].
So- God is showing us stuff- maybe the story contains the major doctrines of scripture- in a symbolic way [original sin- etc.].
The more liberal schools of thought argue that the first 10 or 11 chapters of Genesis are not to be taken ‘literally’ [as historical narrative].
The more conservative scholars disagree.
I think there is truth on both sides of the argument.
Either way- God gave us the names of 2 trees- and neither one of them are around today [that is- in a literal way].
SUNDAY- WE FLIPPED A COIN- THATS HOW.
Later this week I want to cover the bible teaching for the week- John the Baptist.
But for today- lets tell some more of my story.
I want to be careful- because some of these people have relatives who are friends of mine on Facebook- and I don’t know how much they know about things that happened.
But- in a way- maybe they too need to hear the story.
Ok- after I got kicked out of the Navy- I went back to North Bergen for about 6 months .
When I got back- my good buddy Miguel heard that I was in town and we hooked up again.
Miguel and I were good friends growing up- I used to eat at his grandma’s house in Union City- last year I took a picture of that old spot.
She cooked great Cuban food.
Mike was glad to see me- and I him.
He had just gotten kicked out of the Army- so we were a ‘good team’.
During his year- I lived in the downstairs apt. - where I lived last year for a while- when my sister died.
I remember one day my dad noticed I was polishing off is beers in the fridge- he said ‘you start early son- maybe you should let up’.
He was glad to see me back- but his father [who I never met] was an alcoholic- who beat my dad when he was a kid- his dads name was Amadeo.
My granddad Veto told me this- my dad never mentioned his real dad- who died young.
Being I was back in town- I got with my buddies- one day Fred, me and Miguel took a ride in Mike’s Monte Carlo.
Mike was dangerous in a car- we used to go down to West side avenue [North Bergen] and he would open it up- maybe about 135- high as a kite- he did crash this car several times.
One year at the Fire Dept. he called me- he just got out of the hospital [in North Bergen] he flipped his car off ‘suicide turn’ on Blvd. east- we used to walk the train tunnel at that spot- it was known as a dead man’s turn.
Yeah- he went off- and lived!
So- me and Fred and Mike took a drive one day to Elizabeth N.J. - the town where they filmed the Sopranos.
We just went for a drive- were drinking and getting high.
We went up some country road and saw a new car parked right on the edge of this cliff.
Mike pulled up to the bumper- and yeah- we started pushing it over the cliff.
No one was in it- but after a few minutes I heard a loud bang on the window where Mike was siting- the guys who owned the car saw us- they must have been partying on the mountain.
This big guy- probably a football jock- and his 2 buddies were slamming the driver side window with a huge bat- like the one you see in the movie walking tall.
I rolled down the window of the passenger side where I was sitting- and broke my beer bottle on the roof- so it would smash in the kids face.
I got out- the guy was big- and to be honest- you never know when you’re the one that’s gonna be at the wrong end of the fight.
So- I changed it up.
I of course threatened the guy- and told them that we were gonna ‘mess’ them up.
I yelled at Fred- he was in the back seat ‘Fed- get my gun’.
He of course went along with the story [I had no gun].
Boy- those kids got scared- they begged Fred to not ‘give me my gun’.
By the time we left- they were apologizing for us destroying their car- sad.
As we left- about 5 miles down the road we passed a cop car- realizing in about a minute they were going to pull up to the scene- and see this kids car hanging off the cliff.
Miguel hit the pedal and we did about 120 all the way back to North Bergen.
During these few months- to be honest- it was exciting- but dangerous.
One day- on a whim- I told Mike ‘I’m driving to Texas Tomorrow’.
He said ‘wait Johnny- lets go together’.
But he wanted to go to Florida.
I had a 1976 Chevy Nova- Mike had a AMC Javelin by then.
That day we made a pact- I said ‘hey- lets flip a coin- heads I win- we go to Texas- tails- we go to Florida’.
I said ‘some day we can tell our kids this story- and tell them that’s how we moved- by the flip of a coin’.
I won the flip- and the next day we drove to Texas- in the Javelin.
Ok- I’ll tell more in the coming days- but I want you to see that in a way- when I started doing ministry- God put me back in ‘my element’.
It was God’s plan for me to surround myself with these guy's- because in a way I was like them.
I’m comfortable with them- being in the mix- every person has a calling- and I in no way recommend everyone to do things the way I do them- yes- it is high risk stuff.
But that’s the calling- God brings people with various backgrounds- and then he uses them with that back ground in mind.
I’ll tell more about my conversion and how I led Mike to the Lord- and how he later died.
Mike had 4 boys- I remember the oldest well- Andrew.
But the younger ones were just babies when I saw them- they came to my Texas church- the one I stated in the late 80’s.
One of the boys- Joshua- was just a baby when I saw him[Or maybe he was born in N.J.?- I don’t know if I saw him or not].
About a year ago he became a friend on Facebook.
He reads the site.
See- I told Mike ‘one of these days we will tell our kids how we wound up in Texas’.
Today was the day.
MONDAY- HE MUST INCREASE AND I MUST GO AWAY.
The next day or 2 I want to teach a bit on John the Baptist.
The other day David had some questions about him- like why did John send 2 disciples to ask Jesus ‘are you he that should come- or look we for another’.
If I remember- I’ll get to it.
John the Baptist was spoken about in the Old Testament prophets [Isaiah- Malachi].
The last verse in the Old Testament is about him ‘Before the day of the Lord comes I will send Elijah the prophet..’.
John was the fulfillment of this prophecy.
At the time of Jesus- John’s parents- Zechariah and Elizabeth were up in age.
Zechariah was a priest and one day he was fulfilling his normal duties and the Angel Gabriel appeared to him in the temple.
The angel said ‘your prayers are heard- your wife will have a son’.
Now- they were old at the time- and Zechariah had some doubts ‘How can this be’?
The angel is kind of shocked ‘Geez- I’m an angel for heaven’s sake- I stand in the presence of God!’ [Sort of like- what more do you need man! - by the way- this is my ‘version’ but accurate].
So the angel pronounces a judgment on him- he will not be able to speak until the promise comes to pass.
The angel gives him the name for the child ‘he shall be called John’.
Sure enough- the time comes and John is born.
Now- John did not fit the mold at all- he was wild- had strange eating habits [locusts and wild honey] and did not dress for the part [camel’s hair clothes].
Yet- God was in the thing.
When Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary- and told her that she would have the baby Jesus- Gabriel also informed her that her cousin Elizabeth was already 6 months pregnant with John.
Mary visits her and when she walks in- the 6 month Fetus in the womb of Mary ‘leaps’.
John was already fulfilling his purpose as the forerunner- before he was born!
Ok- John begins his ministry by calling the people to repentance ‘Repent and be baptized- the kingdom is here!’
He gains a following of sorts.
One day Jesus comes to be baptized- John says ‘I need baptism from you- not you from me’.
But Jesus says this has to happen- and John baptizes him.
This is the beginning of Jesus ministry- the Spirit descends on him like a Dove and a voice from heaven says ‘this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’.
In the gospel of John we read how Jesus begins gaining a bigger following than John- and some of John’s men kind of feel the competition.
‘You’re losing your men to Jesus’.
John says that ‘he must increase and I must decrease’.
John says he is not the center of attention- but that Jesus is the bridegroom and the bride [people] belong to him.
John’s joy is being able to simply hear the voice of the bridegroom- and to see the great romance play out.
Now- getting to the question above- why did John send 2 of his men later to ask if Jesus was the one.
Surely John knew.
John was cast into prison by Herod- and as he sits in jail- he might have been thinking ‘ok- I’m the forerunner- Jesus is the Messiah- in time I’ll be rescued’.
It’s possible that John felt resentment about what was happening to him.
Sort of like ‘Ok Jesus- I’m still here in the cell- are you the one or what?’
Now- I don’t know for sure if this is why he ‘doubted’- maybe he did have some doubts- John was human too.
The religious leaders asked John one day ‘who are you- are you the Elijah that was to come’.
They were quoting the verse from the prophet Malachi that I mentioned above.
Now- John says ‘no’.
But then he does quote the prophet Isaiah- ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness- prepare ye the way of the Lord- make his paths straight’.
Now- we read later that the people ask Jesus ‘isn’t Elijah supposed to come first- before you’.
And Jesus says ‘yes’ then he goes on and says that John was indeed the one who came in the power and spirit of Elijah.
It’s funny- John recognized part of his significance- but not all.
He knew he was spoken about in the prophet Isaiah- but did not know he was the fulfilment of the Malachi prophecy- the Elijah that was to come.
Ok- a few practical things.
Often times we too do not see the significance of our calling- our purpose in life.
The bible tells us that we too were chosen before the world was made- to be children of God and to fulfill a purpose.
John was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb.
In a way we are marked from the day of our birth- to fulfill a specific destiny in life.
Sometimes that purpose might be tough [John eventually gets his head chopped off!].
But it’ not about our own survival- the creature comforts of life.
No- it’s about being forerunners- in a way- making a new path- so others can follow in time.
When you cut thru the brush for the first time- it’s hard- it takes time- you get ‘cut’ a lot.
But if you do it long enough- it makes a path.
Others will naturally follow that path- it makes it easy for them- even if it was hell for you.
John knew his purpose- it was not about him- he would fade from the scene soon.
When the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question ‘are you the one’.
Jesus told them ‘among all that are born of women- there is none greater than John’.
Then he goes on and says an interesting thing.
‘Yet he that is least in the kingdom- is greater than John’.
Some think Jesus was saying that those of us today- who are born of God- in the Church age- are ‘greater’ than John- being he was a sort of Old Testament prophet- not yet in the ‘church’.
Yet I think Jesus was saying something else.
Jesus often spoke of himself in the 3rd person ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…’
I think Jesus might have been saying ‘he that is least [speaking of himself] is greater than John’.
See- John fulfilled the purpose of his life- he showed us who Jesus was.
Yet Jesus- he became the least of all- humbled himself to death on a cross.
Humiliating as ‘hell’.
Was mocked- spit on- rejected of men- a man of sorrows.
‘Reduced’ to the point of agony and ‘depression’ that none of us could ever relate to.
He said things like ‘God- why have you left me- if you can help me- please do it’.
The prophet Isaiah said he was a ‘man of sorrows- acquainted with grief- we hid our faces from him when we saw him coming’.
I’ll tell you- that doesn’t feel good.
Yes- John was a great man- a great prophet.
But Jesus was the seed- ‘except a seed all into the ground- and die- it remains alone- but if it die- it brings forth much fruit’.
It becomes a tree- and the birds of the air nest in it.
Yeah- remember last week’s post- the Tee of Life.
He had to die first- then the Tree.
Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
Matthew 11:3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Matthew 11:4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
Matthew 11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Matthew 11:6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Matthew 11:7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
Matthew 11:8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
Matthew 11:9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
Matthew 11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
Matthew 11:14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
John 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
Mark 9:11 And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come?
Mark 9:12 And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.
Mark 9:13 But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.
Luke 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
John 1:19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
John 1:20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
John 1:21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
John 1:22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
John 1:23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
Luke 7:28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
MONDAY NIGHT- THE BUS RIDE.
Today I had an interesting experience- but let me talk first.
Last week I took my car in to have an oil change and to check on a fuel smell.
Sure enough- they said I needed a new gas tank.
Ok- my usual response is ‘these guys are trying to rip me off!
So- I took the car home and got under it- yeah- they were right.
I figured I’d at least by the tank [it cost 80- the shop adds an extra 80 just for them to get it].
So I went to the salvage yard [Sables are no longer in business- the dealer did not carry a new one].
Sure enough they had three 16 gallon tanks- each different- and I had to drop the tank to see which one it was.
Forget it- took it back to Pep Boys and had them do it.
But- I did look forward to having to walk for the day- and catch the bus.
Last year I rode the bus more than any other time in my life. I sold my vehicles and the plan was I was moving from Texas- and from now on I’ll use the buses in North Bergen [NY city area].
But- things changed.
So- I actually looked forward to riding the bus today.
I thought ‘well at least I’ll get a break from Timons [the local mission] and I won’t get bugged for someone bumming a cigarette’.
Sure enough- a guy I know from the mission gets on the bus- the first thing he says- yeah- you guessed it.
But- as I walked from the bus to the mission- I stopped in a store I would never stop in.
One of my homeless buddies works part time there- and I figured it would be cool to see him.
As I went inside- the owner was talking about God to my friend- and kind of grilled me too.
I told him I do a ministry- and he kinda looked at me like ‘yeah right’ [I do look homeless at times].
He asked me what the ‘word’ was for today.
So- I launched into the teaching for this week [above] and quoted stuff- like I do at the meetings.
I think it was a bit much for him.
Anyway- I did talk about the ministry- the years of working with street guys- prisoners- the whole 9 yards.
Told him I have had friends who have done it all- murder- etc.
He started really getting something from this short ‘ministry’ time- he saw I was for real.
He then asked me to pray for him- I did.
Then he handed me some papers- he told me ‘this is my rap sheet- I’m praying for God to help my record get dismissed’.
He wanted me to see it- as I flipped thru the first page- yeah multiple felonies.
He had 3 pages- but he wanted me to see the last page.
Felony conviction- Murder.
He asked if I would pray again- I did.
It was strange- when I walked in to this store [this ‘kid’ is rich-and has really made a turnaround in his life].
He doubted my story- I could tell [plus I do smell like a smokestack].
But after a while- he realized I was sent there for him.
Later- after I left- my homeless buddy who works there told me ‘John- he really likes you- he asked if you would come back and visit’.
Yeah- I was mad about the whole gas tank thing- but glad I rode the bus today.
TUESDAY- In a little while we’ll be heading to Bishop for our meeting.
First I want to wrap up this past week.
The other day I got another call from my friend in North Bergen.
He said it was important [he texted first] that he needed me to call.
I called back in a little bit- he told me ‘John- I’m ready to quit drinking- there’s something wrong with my body John- I can feel it’.
I told Rick that has been the theme these past few months- that now’s the time- we are running out of time in a sense- so we have to make the best of the time we have left.
He texted me a few times last night- he’s on his 3rd day of being sober.
I told him to attend the AA meetings- there’s one right where we hung out- an old church in Fairview.
He did ask my advice- I told him go to the meeting.
Last week I gave an old refrigerator to Pop’s- he had a small one [I’ll post the pics to Facebook] and I told him I’ll give him one.
We borrowed a truck and I took Charlie and Damien- a neighbor- in a bad area of town- they are using drugs and stuff in that spot.
But Damien has the gang look- the whole 9 yards.
He rode with me- and I told him ‘brother- you’re the type of person that I love working with’.
I told him about the ministry and all.
I thought he was Mexican- he’s 100 % Sicilian.
Wow- right up my alley.
We moved the fridge- spent about an hour or so talking to him about life change.
When I dropped him off- he told me to come by whenever I’m in the area- visit him.
This is how this stuff woks- no- I’m not perfect- far from it- but when people see your real- they connect.
Charlie rode with me this day- when we got back to his apt- as we got out of the car- he said ‘preacher John- I need to tell you something’.
Sure- what's up?
‘I’m sorry- I talked about you behind your back- stuff I don’t really know about- I’m sorry’.
He felt bad- almost started to cry.
I of course told him I forgive him.
We went inside for a bit.
I hung out with Pop’s for a while. When I was leaving Charlie called me over.
‘I need to tell you something else’.
‘When I was in the hospital [he was on his death bed- in a coma and on a respirator- for 2 months] the only face I saw- out of all the people who told me they came by and prayed for me- was yours’.
He said it freaked him out.
I remember a few weeks ago when he called- he didn’t tell me this yet- but that day said ‘man- when I talk to you on the phone- I see your face’.
At the time I didn’t get it.
But now I see that when I prayed for Charlie- we in a way our all ‘on our deathbeds’.
I mean when we connect with people- show them God’s love- live life like it was your ‘last day’- then you are walking in a different path.
You’re not concerned about lots of other stuff- you’re doing the best you can- and God sees that.
I remember when Charlie got out of the hospital- a few people did tell him ‘we went and prayed for you- Jackie’s prayers saved you!’ [Jackie has been relapsing for a long time- again just the other day. David- my partner with the halfway house- tells me ‘she didn’t get step 1 right- she had the wrong sponsor’- on and on. I have written about this problem- in an honest way. David keeps seeing a program [AA] in his mind- that is without flaw. And every time Jackie relapses- which she does a lot- he always seems to see how she did not work the program right- I have a lot of trouble with this. I am now sober for about a year and a half- I had to leave AA for various reasons that I have written about. But even to this day- David sees me as a ‘dry drunk’- meaning even though I’m not using- and doing God’s will- yet he sees me at flaw- almost waiting for me to relapse. Yet- those in the program- who are relapsing a lot- he sees them as on the right track- because in his mind they are still in AA- I try and be nice about it- but if someone continues to relapse- don’t keep trying to see how they did some step wrong- or had the wrong sponsor- be open enough to see that maybe they should seek help another way].
I felt uncomfortable hearing stuff like this- to be honest.
And I did pray for a few of my buddies this past month or so- all 3 were on their death beds- and made it.
But I don’t think it was ‘my prayer’ I mean it was like people were competing for who’s prayer saved these guys.
But when Charlie told me this- I knew God was indeed giving him one last chance.
Let’s hope he makes the best of it.
Let’s end this post with a few practical things.
Yesterday I did one of our meetings in Bishop.
I covered the teaching on John the Baptist- and talked about God’s purpose for every one of us- just like he chose John ‘from his mother’s womb’.
One of the verses I forgot to mention above was that John was ‘filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb’.
In the letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul says ‘God chose us before he made the world- to be holy and without blame before him in love’- the chapter goes on to say that he had a particular destiny for our lives- even before we were born.
In the case of John the Baptist- God actually had the Old Testament prophets speak specifically about him.
In our case- we have the overall general call of God- that even though there are not particular verses that mention us- by name.
Yet- the calling of God is just as real.
In 2012- in the middle of a personal storm- one morning I got up early- and I usually do some house cleaning in the morning- after prayer and writing.
As I walked thru the hall- I noticed something on the floor.
It was some type of tag- made out of strong material- it said ‘First kiss- but not the last- New York’. [I have no idea where it came from- I guess one of my kids bought something?]
Over the years I always wanted to do outreach in N.Y.
But- for reasons I mentioned above- I put it off.
But as I picked up the tag- I stuck in in my bag [I carry a little back pack with my books- so if I’m in the yard- or the house- I have all the stuff right there].
I thought ‘this might be a sign of sorts- that someday I’ll make the trip again’.
I haven’t been back to New Jersey in a few years [maybe 10?] at this time- and the spot where I grew up is really the NYC area- right off the Hudson River.
As a matter of fact- my last trip there- I walked over the George Washington Bridge and headed towards 42nd St. - Times Square.
So- that’s the area.
As the day progressed [when I found the tag].
I had an argument with my wife- and without planning any trip- yeah- I jumped in the Van and headed out- to N.J.
I hate leaving late like this- it was in the afternoon- but like I said- it wasn’t planned.
Later that day [or a few days later?].
I opened my bag- and saw the tag.
It was strange- almost like God was saying ‘you’re going to go back to N.J. soon’.
I had no idea it would be this soon!
So- that was 2012- and I went back for 3 months in 2013 [the longest return since I moved back to Texas in 1981].
And I plan on going back at least once a year- maybe more.
Yeah- first kiss- but not the last.
As you read these long posts- I’m trying to mix in teaching- along with my story.
I never told the full story about all of this stuff- until this last month.
I had a lot of friend’s I have been doing ministry with- who were surprised to say the least.
One of the guys at the mission- who I never told the story to- must have heard from someone else.
He always made an excuse of sorts ‘Well John- the reason I’m on the streets- is because I never had the church upbringing like you’.
He has said this for many years- and I never really corrected him.
I mean I did go to church as a kid- but was not the ‘good Christian’ type boy.
The other day he asked ‘you were raised in the church- right?’
This was the first time he put it like that- as a question- so I simply said ‘no Dirk- I too have a background’ [and to be honest- probably worse than his- absent the recent stabbing- that is].
Another friend- who I won’t mention by name [ see- now it’s hard to do this- without my buddies thinking it’s them- let’s say this friend does not read my site- or Facebook- that way you will at least know who it isn’t]
I have known him for years- yet- he has never confessed to using hard drugs- and he is a loner- I know much more of the homeless crew then he does.
I shared some of my story with him the other day- and for the first time- he told me he used to spend about 400 dollars a night- on Meth.
So- in a way- I think it’s been good to finally tell it all- like they say.
What’s God’s calling for you?
Maybe you won’t find a tag on the floor [or maybe you will?] but often times you already know what he wants- he puts that desire in you.
In my case- finding the tag wasn’t the reason I left- but no- I had been putting off this trip for years.
The tag [or sign] simply prods you along the way.
The past few days my North Bergen friend has been keeping in touch daily- he has about 3-4 days sober now- and we text about every day.
In a way- you could say I’m his sponsor- though this is not AA.
One of the good things I did get from AA was seeing my friends who sponsor these guys- how they call each other- do help each other- and keep in daily contact with them.
Because of my short time in AA- I now do this with some of our guys.
In the past it was almost impossible to get me on the phone- but because of learning/seeing my friends do this as sponsors- I changed my pattern.
So yeah- I do credit AA for the good- and when I critique AA- the purpose is not to put AA down- but to help all of us find the best path.
Yeah- I ‘kissed’ North Bergen for the first time in 2012 [There’s a verse that says righteousness and peace will kiss the earth- so the ‘first kiss’ tag symbolized a type of ministry thing] and again in 2013- and will in 2014.
Yeah- that was my path- that’s not everyone’s path- but that was mine
God- like in the case of John- also has a path for you.
I pray that you will find it- soon.
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 [FaceBookl] - I have posted lots.