What’s The Point?

I revisited the mall-of-God church last Sunday – the one that was seeking to be counter-cultural two weeks ago.  I did not make it to Sunday School, but I did make it to the worship service.  And though we worshipped the Creator God of the Universe with a concert band giving Him all the glory we know how, I was actually thrilled about the sermon!

Our preacher was a young guy I do not know.  But it was clear that he had done his homework – especially in Image Bearing Theology.  The text is part of an on-going series from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, in particular he talked about salt and light.  Our speaker recounted for us a couple of cliché sermons (good though they are) about salt seasoning food and then about salt preserving meat from rotting, but he noted that being salt is not something we do; it is something we are.  And in ancient times, unlike today, salt was currency (from which we derive our word “salary” – it has great value.

He told us that Jesus’s words were not meant to be heard as speaking to individuals, but to the collection of hearers.  When Jesus took the multitudes up on the mountain, he was prophetically re-enacting the vocation of Moses.  With Moses as mediator, God constituted Israel up on the mountain.  The Ten Commandments, thus, were like the constitution of that nation.  Here Jesus reconstituted the people of God around himself, and so the commands of the sermon are not for individuals but for the whole people of God together.  This is The World Jesus Imagines (which is the title for the series), that the people of God are of infinite value like salt.

He also spoke of light in the darkness.  The sermon moved to an illustrative mode as the lights in the worship hall were cut off while the speaker preached.  He talked about how our eyes were becoming comfortable with the darkness, and then he lit a small lamp at the front of the crowd.  As he did it, he pointed out how natural it was for all eyes in the sanctuary to be drawn to the light.

He summed up talking about how together we bear the image of God which has infinite value – the medium of relation with each other and the world around us – and how in bearing his image, we are the light in the darkness.  This salt-n-light metaphor is part of how the people of God are constituted, it characterizes our purpose and mission, and helps us to imagine the world as Jesus imagines it.

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Theologically, I could not imagine a better sermon.  I was really jazzed!  My only concern is: What does that have to do with anything almost a week later?

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I think the world as imagined by a man purposefully orienting his short life towards coronation via crucifixion, the world imagined by the Son of God, surely does not have in mind business as usual come Monday morning.  I am watching the nightly news, but I see no sign of the people of God bearing the light of God’s image in the darkness, and when I go to the grocery store, whatever likeness I (or for that matter “we”) bear is not accepted as currency that purchases food.

So, if we are going to do this great exegetical research and theology, what is the point?  What has it changed?

Asleep in snow

And as far as I can tell, here on Friday morning almost a week later, as fall is setting in and the temperatures fluctuate nightly, our church house is still locked up at night while the least of these brothers and sisters (metaphorically constituting Jesus himself) sleep out doors (Matt. 25:40) scattered all over Lubbock.

A van full of priests -n- Levites

A van full of priests -n- Levites

Missed Opportunity

 Missed Opportunity   

Dumpsters n Steeples

PNNL 1 Homeless Church Closed at Nite 001 (2)

What’s the point?

I am all ears…

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Praying For The Coronado Project

The Coronado Project made the news last week and again this week for being unable to pay the water bill.  Residents at the Ponderosa Apartments had their water cut off briefly and face the possibility of having their electricity shut off too.  At first glance it has the appearance of a slum lord letting his tenants suffer, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Former city councilman, Frank Morrison, is a personal friend of mine and a brother in Christ.  We have worshipped together for years.  Frank was instrumental in getting Tent City (now called Grace Campus) started years ago when the city ran the homeless off library property, and he has served the poor tirelessly and at GREAT personal expense (both with sweat equity and financially) in numerous other programs as well.

Frank is the founder of the Coronado Project which houses the poor at the Ponderosa Apartments.  His fundamental aim is to keep families together.  He seeks especially those poor folk who are trying to hold a family together, and he houses them on a sliding scale fee.  Some cannot afford to pay at all; some pay a little; others pay more.  And the Coronado Project has refurbished an old slum on the poor side of town where Frank offers these services.

Frank offers other services as well, but this is the backbone of The Coronado Project (as I understand it).  And it means that Frank puts himself at risk as he juggles financial debt and finds ways to raise the money to house these people.  And now with The Coronado Project in the news, it seems our prayers are particularly warranted.

Please join me in praying for Frank and The Coronado Project.  And if you have the means to make a donation, please consider it.  Just imagine the savings this community enjoys every time Frank is able to keep a child out of CPS and the Foster System.  Imagine the savings this community enjoys every time Frank helps a parent find a job and supports them with housing and other social services.

Yes.  Please join me in prayer on this and give if you can.

Yes.  This Fat Beggar is Begging.

Send donations to:

The Coronado Project

Attn: Kassey Sexton

902 E 28th St

Lubbock, TX 79404

 

Thanx

 

A Prophetic Prediction About The Presidential Election

Tonight our presidential candidates square off in debate, and it promises to be the highest rated TV show of the year!  It seems there is a LOT of interest.

I don’t think I am alone in saying that I really do not like either of the candidates.  Neither of them represent my concerns very well, and one of them in particular almost frightens me as a potential president, while the other I find distasteful and worrying.  I am not endorsing either one!

In fact, it seems likely that most of the American voters will be voting against a candidate rather than endorsing and championing one over the other.

And so… HERE IS MY PROPHETIC PREDICTION:

I predict that after election day, half (or more) of the people of our nation are going to be very upset with the results.  In fact, about half will be very worried and angry with them.  And within that astounding number of fearful, angry people, many will be my friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family (even my church family).  And a lot of them are going to express their dissatisfaction, anger, and fears in both respectful and inappropriate ways that cause offense to me and to their fellow countrymen. 

Yes. That is my prediction.

And as a prophet who goes to the place of shame, pain, and despair in my community TO BEAR THE IMAGE OF GOD THERE, I think it is appropriate now to begin praying openly for our national leadership – EVEN IF I DON’T WANT THEM AS MY LEADERS!

I am telling you, O blog-O-sphere, about this now in hopes that some of you will join me in doing that.  There is a lot of work in this place of shame, pain, and despair to be done.  Only the Image of God can touch this massive wound with healing.  May the God who uses even pagan kings like Darius as his servant be appealed to for guiding our nation with the leaders we are about to elect!

 

Jesus and Riots

Somewhere in the massive sea of N.T. Wright writings, Wright said, “Wherever St. Paul went there was a riot.  Wherever I go, they serve tea.” 

I remember coming across that line in one of his books a few years ago and thinking it was a great quote.  According to my recollection, he was quoting someone else (from Oxford, I believe).  But when I searched for the quote on-line, I found it credited to Wright.  Either way, he is the one to make it famous.

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A couple of years ago, I found a great little book, an exposition of the book of Acts, called How To Start a Riot by Jonathan Storment.  I highly recommend this easy-to-read book!  And it seems that Storment found the same quote by N.T. Wright and then used it as the basis for his title and subsequent lens with which to examine the Acts of the Apostles.

I have never been part of a riot, nor do I really want to be.  But, my ministry often – and I mean often – finds conflict with others in the field and in business.  I am frequently worried that I come off as some kook – a crank, a hard case, someone who is impossible to get along with.  And there is no doubt, I am a stickler for challenging the status quo with the Word of God.  I am sure I am not the easiest person to get along with, but I sincerely want to be true to Jesus, and I think the church should be also.

Storment’s great little book, and Wright’s fun little quote, both validate me, I think.  I am gonna stick to my calling.  Prophets aren’t normally welcomed openly.  They tend to get under the skin and down in your little business where they were not invited.  That makes for conflict.  But they speak for God in those dark places in your heart.  And there are a lot of dark places going unacknowledged.

The flip side of this is… I am willing to be challenged.  Come to the table with an open Bible and let’s talk.  I am not infallible.  But I have no desire to listen to your worldly wisdom, I want to hear from God.  So often I hear back all kinds of interesting stuff – even had one Ph.D. church leader respond quoting Diogenes to me, but he failed to quote anything from Jesus.  We might still disagree about a passage; that is possible.  If so, I will respect a sincere presentation.  But way too often I keep bringing Jesus to bear in these conflicts, and when he is not heeded, I tend to get ignored or shunned.

One more thing… Let me also declare: I seek harmony.  But I stipulate that our harmony then harmonize with Jesus too.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

I am not just a crank.  Not at all.  Like so many prophets before me,  I LOVE Jesus, and I think that means changes in what God’s people to do and be more than they comfortably imagine.

The Hem/Haw gospel

“Church Shopping” – as I have been doing in recent weeks – landed me in Bible class for the first time in years recently.  I guess I am a bit jaded; I don’t really care what people think (or something like that).  Wow!  That sounds pretty crass alright.  But really, sitting around listening to white, middle-class Americans hem-n-haw about “my truth” and “your truth” (which of course is not what we actually call it because this is THE segment of society that resists the very idea that “Truth is Relative”, despite ourselves).  And when we actually get around to talking about the need to be “counter-cultural”, well, who are we kidding?

Yeah, it came up for discussion recently.  And so I sat in a plush church building with its coffee bar, its “worship center”, it’s trendy worship team (a concert band), and all that “counter-cultural” stuff.  Shoot, I even noticed near the entrance in the lobby we had a giant movie-style poster proclaiming the upcoming sermon series!

Does ANY of this sound even remotely counter-cultural?

A sat there trying to recall my sociology courses from college where we discussed culture, cultural artifacts, institutions, and “group think” etc… and of course, counter-culture.  It’s all basic sociology.

But…

Hey, at least we Bible-class attendees were talking about it! – Right???  And I must say, I know several individuals in this church personally, including the head pastor who taught a graduate course I once took.  He definitely earned my respect as a Bible teacher.  And there is no doubt that Bible class in the academy (as opposed to Sunday School) is a whole different culture – one where there actually are right and wrong answers, tests with grades, and where your thinking gets challenged at the core!  No hem-n-haw; did you read the text?  What did IT say?  How does it read in the original languages?  Are there textual variants?  – You know… stuff like that.

And my limited previous experience with this church demonstrated to me that leadership there sets the agenda for all the Bible classes.  Then they “train” the teachers, laity-volunteers, to present the material in the various “classes” in an effort to “equip the saints” in biblical teachings.  And that sounds good in theory.  It certainly starts off with some high-octane Bible doctrines, but… (there’s that “but” again….)

The lay-volunteers who teach tend to be like middle-management.  They are not the skilled Bible students or the professors from the academy.  Like so many others, they have at least as much to unlearn before they can re-learn and then actually teach.  Once turned loose with the other laity, the gospel agenda enters the collective digestion of the free democratic system of thoughts and ideas.  And so the good material tends to break down into the morass as the hem-n-haw gets going and churns out a little “my truth/your truth” by another name.

(As an aside, it’s like… How can such a great nation produce only the lousiest two choices of presidential candidates?  You would think we COULD NOT, but, but, but… that’s just what we do!)

I was, however, actually and pleasantly surprised, for a moment, when the teacher asked the class to look around us and consider how we might be counter-cultural amid the trappings we obviously were invested in – and not only that, but he asked us to consider bringing in new people – “un-churched” people – to join our counter-culture.  Yeah.  The moment was pregnant with possibility.

But here’s the thing about being “counter-cultural”.  “Counter-culture” is actually a rather generic notion; it is not necessarily Christian at all.  So the question then really is: Which counter-culture do you have in mind?  And it would seem obvious that we are talking about a Christian counter-culture as opposed to a 1960’s hippie counter-culture or a Muslim counter-culture.  And those counter-cultures have a lot more focus on their agendas than we in this classroom have on ours.  We are blind to our own cultural assimilation!

How did this teachable moment play out?  (Glad you asked.)

Some good brother hem’d something about how good it is to be counter-cultural as long as we don’t get “legalistic” about it.  Then a good sister haw’d about “legalism”, and in a matter of seconds the whole discussion of counter-culture was blunted instead of sharpened, and then assimilated into the hem-n-haw of personal truths as we chased “legalism” bunnies.  Then another good brother turned that into a hem-n-haw about going to heaven when we die as he wanted to keep the focus on the real point of it all.  Yeah.  Pie-in-the-sky!  (Sure, that’s the point!)

Meanwhile, I sat there thinking about the teacher’s question asking us to consider bringing in the “un-churched” in some counter-cultural ministry.  And I immediately thought: Hey!  Unlock the doors on this place tonight at about 9 pm, and throw a Luke-14 party where all us white, middle-class white folk get in our cars, drive around the streets and alleys of Lubbock finding homeless people, and compel them in to the party!

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But…

Of course, I kept my mouth shut.  That is exactly the kind of rhetoric that got me in trouble at the church where I got shunned, and the homeless church where I got kicked out, and got me passed over at the job interview for working with the homeless at another ministry!  I have tried just that kind of truth-telling (IN LOVE no less) exercise before.  It does not work.  And it gets me landed on the outs.

So, then I sat there contemplating how many (not all to be sure, but still MANY) of our Muslim neighbors gather in counter-cultural cells to discuss their holy scriptures and then how they get focused on counter cultural objectives!  And SOME of them take those ideas to deadly extremes.

How is it that we (the church) sit around so clueless?

“Legalism”?  Really?  Do you know that is not actually even a word in the Bible?  It is a straw-man argument brought to pop-culture Christianity largely by Chuck Swindol over 35 years ago.  And that is the kind of crap my generation needs to unlearn before we can re-learn what the Bible is really saying and doing.  Legalism isn’t even a Bible concept.  I have no desire to deconstruct it on this blog, but I will say that Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.  Wait a minute…  Actually, he said that (Matt. 5:17-20).

And anyway, that discussion lead away from where we could be going… where we SHOULD be going.  And then there is that pie-in-the-sky garbage that is always a show stopper for the Kingdom of God.  Why do you want to “go to heaven when you die”?  If you pray, as Jesus taught, you ask for God’s Kingdom to come ON EARTH as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).  Why are you trying to escape the Kingdom Come?

Yes.  We have a lot of un-learning to do.  If we could clear this diffusive nonsense out of the discussion, THEN hopefully we could begin plotting revolution!  And that is a term that makes “counter-culture” seem rather mild.

But…

It is my assertion, if I would be allowed to make it – if I would be allowed even the hearing, that we, the people of God – the church, are the tip of the spear, the salt-n-light, bearers of the resurrection power of God tasked with the mission that goes head-to-head with those terrorist cell groups planted like weeds among the wheat.  And currently, they are making the headway for their agenda(s) as they have already successfully pit American against American in politics, fear, and distaste.  I go to the airport and look at all the strangers and wonder if they are one of us or one of them.  And how can I know?  But if the church, the Body of Christ, got serious about being counter-cultural, we would be loverist cell groups, plotting revolution and setting off love bombs in this culture that blow open imaginations and settle human hearts in love and trust and faith around the Lord’s Table.

Just for starts…

But…

I tried to be respectful and “get along”, so I kept my mouth shut and politely let the church engage in its spiritual masturbation.

The counterfeit church

As long as I am “reblogging” tonight anyway… this one seems a rather fitting message for the Fat Beggars ministry. Shunned at one church, kicked out of another, passed over at a job interview for a position with a homeless ministry after quoting scripture to answer the questions asked…. Yeah. This post seems relevant.

just a jesus follower

counterfeitMany things that God shows me and teaches me, I don’t openly share. I hold them close – just for me.

Today, I thought was one of those times…but when we were done, he told me to share it with you.

It’s no secret that I have a difficult time lining up scripture with the way we do church today. I’ve taught that message from the pulpit more than once.

Today, what He said just pounded my heart.

Here it is….

There has and always will be a war around the idea of church. In it’s purest form, the church is unstoppable. It’s the wild, provocative, battle hungry bride of Christ.

SATAN HATES THAT PICTURE.

His strategic plan is to disarm, dismantle and strip it of all authority in the world. He’s done a good job.

His plan is to create a counterfeit version of what was intended. A church…

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Children’s Clothes Say The Darnedest Things

Do you have a tee shirt with a logo on it?  Perhaps it says “Harley Davidson”,  “Chevy”, “Bud Light”, or “Denver Broncos”?  Or maybe it doesn’t have a logo; maybe it has some kind of message whether cute or serious.  When I was a kid, they had shirt shops in the mall where you could pick out the color shirt and the press-on transfer you wanted.  (Now days, people just get the tattoo, but in those days we got tee shirts with images and messages on them.)  I had one that said, “U toucha da shirt… I breaka U face!”.  But my best friend had one that said, “I’m with stupid”.  (Wonder if he was trying to tell me something….)

Well, I can’t believe I am writing THIS entry on THIS blog.  It seems waaaaaaaay out of range for the kind and style of content I usually publish.  But it is related in a round about way.  This is the kind of fun I have with HOMELESS people – in this case homeless children.  Perhaps I am just getting a bit crazy from all the diaper changes!

Here’s the thing:  Since we started taking in Foster Kids here at the Fat Beggars Prophetic Home for Orphans and Strays, I have had to learn a lot about child care – especially for infants.  And it has been good.  Fun, really.  I am having a blast!  I am learning that when you get hungry, you cry a lot.  I am learning that not only do you crap yourself, you cry once you’ve done it, and then it’s my job to clean you up!  I am learning that once you eat, you barf a lot!  I won’t even mention bath time.  Yeah!  I am having more fun than you can believe!!!  And I am noticing that all the baby clothes have some kind of message on them.  Normally its pretty cute – not always my personal taste, but cute is the idea.

Baby Agent N has one little outfit that looks like a Mickey Mouse tuxedo.  It is one of my favorites.  The kid really pops in it.  He wore one yesterday that said, “I woke up this Awesome”.  Baby Agent B wore a little headband yesterday that looked like birthday cake sprinkles.  She could have been the decoration for the party.  And really, there is a pile of these things that reaches to the sky.

But most of the little messages are not quite my idea of cute, or maybe I think its cute, but does not match this kid… etc….  And this has me thinking:  What message would I put on a little garment if I could?

I have been dreaming up some really funny ideas.  Here are a few…

“My Diaper is Packing Heat, and I Ain’t Afraid to Use It!” 

“I Didn’t Do It; It Wasn’t Me!”

“Pull My Finger”

“Don’t Be Fooled By My Innocent Smile: I Can Hurl Barf Up to 3 Feet Away!”

“If You Are Close Enough To Read This Shirt, You Are Standing In My Barf Zone!”

Anyway, I started thinking that if I asked my readers, you might offer some funny ideas for printing on baby clothes.  Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.  I would love to hear from you.

I need the laughs.

Praying Thanx

Carpenter’s Church, it seems, has completed their building project for their Housing First ministry.  I heard of it early last week when one of our street friends came to jail and told me she was going to be assigned one of the apartments later this month.  Sure enough, the story is picked up in the local media (see it here).  This means that several (I think about a dozen) homeless people of Lubbock will actually have a place to call their own this winter!

Yay!  This is big news – at least for a few.  And I, for one, am grateful for the blessing.  I thank God regularly for the good work that is done down there at Carpenter’s Church.  This achievement definitely is news-worthy, and I hope it gets a lot of attention and has even a fraction of the “success” other cities are claiming with their Housing First programs.

Thank You, Jesus!

Amen.

Midnight Feedings, Diaper Changes and The Poo-Pocalypse – The Dozens of Reasons I Am Too Busy for Blogging

The Fat Beggars Prophetic Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners is now open, and I have soooooo many things I want to write, but no time.  I am making adjustments as best I can.

I continue to ask for your prayers for this ministry… and for volunteers.

Come to the Proph-O-Manger moved from the barn into the Abode and see the face of Jesus!  The Carpenter has built his HOUSE.  There is room for one more.  You will find healing for your soul here.