God’s power with His tee-shirt of Fat Beggars school of Prophets

I was hoping Agent TFT would edit this post by adding a photo before I reblogged this, but even without it, the post is a hoot, and I wanna share it with my readers too.

Hard Times Ministries

Who would have ever thought a person would get over a hundred comments from simply wearing one tee-shirt to church?  That’s exactly what happened at Lakewood Presbyterian Church here in Jacksonville, Florida.

The back of the shirt’s logo is:  Jesus was Homeless

And so between the prophet part of the logo and then the connection to the homeless:  many church members expressed statements of encouragement.

Understand if you would that Most Presbyterians anymore are either liberal or moderate in social stances:  I don’t imagine any Presbyterians believe in modern day prophets.  And while I don’t claim to be a prophet, I announced I was a member to a group that was:  mainly that of the FAT BEGGARS SCHOOL OF PROPHETS lead by my friend, Agent X.

As a matter of fact, I’d like to solicit those who would identify with the Fat Beggars school of Prophets and their championing the…

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Church Under The Radar

If you were one of the people of God living in Bethlehem between the years 1 BC and 1 AD, do you think you would notice if God incarnate came to visit your town?  What would that look like?  A young homeless couple, pregnant under suspicious circumstances, who can’t find lodging for the night when passing through?

If God sent out invitations for the birth of his own Son, do you think he would make a point to invite the High Priest and aristocratic families in Jerusalem, or do you think he would invite a bunch of lowly shepherds (bums who couldn’t get a better job) tending flocks in the night and a handful of hippie-astrologers from back East?  And if a couple of strange hippies and shepherd-bums showed up at the Temple, or your synagogue, inviting big shots to come down to the barn and see God, do you think the religious leaders of that day would drop what they were doing and run off to follow?

What if you were a Christian, church member (or pastor) in Lubbock, Texas 2018 years later?

Well, let me tell you my story before you answer.  But when I tell it, be honest.

A few readers here following this blog with regularity will remember my recent posts about Agent Mamma DJ and Agent V.  My most recent post about them highlighted acute overwhelming challenges amid their chronic overwhelming challenges, and some of you sent money to help totaling $500!

Thanx for the help!  and Praise God!!!

Here are links to those posts:

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2018/02/23/can-i-give-her-your-number/

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/3061/

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/news-flash-prayer-request-4-8-18/

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/i-stand-in-the-presence-of-god/

 

Let me fill you in now on what has happened since I last published a report.

Agent V sat in jail, first in Lubbock and then in Midland where her warrants originated.  Five hundred dollars came rolling in in the meantime.  I took the money to Agent Mamma DJ who immediately paid bills which began piling up at the same time.  (For those of you out there who insist that if you give money to a needy person, they will waste it on drugs or booze, let me tell you… I made no stipulations on how it should be spent.  The only thing I said to DJ on that subject was that God is gracious and that I did not care how she used it.  I just said that it should benefit Agent V as well, and that if V asked me, I would tell her that $500 was given to them both.  And what do you know??? DJ used it to pay bills!  Ha!)

But then late last week, DJ called to tell me that V was released in Midland, that she would stay there one night, but that she needed a ride back to Lubbock the next day.  DJ arranged to get a ride, but she needed to raise gas money.  I had $9 to offer to help.  Only nine.  Seriously, it was pathetic.  I had prayers too, but seriously… $9 and a prayer puts my participation in the back seat. No?

So, Agent Mamma DJ and Agent GL managed to rob Peter and pay Paul and get a tank of gas and head off to Midland to retrieve Agent V.

I was busy with babies here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners.

Late in the day I got a text message.  Agent V was on her way home!  Yay!  It was hours later before I had time to call.

Finally, I called, and Agent Mamma DJ eagerly put Agent V on the phone.  She had news to tell.

It turns out that during the two weeks Agent V spent in jail, starting in Lubbock and winding up in Midland (120 miles away), our little needy person, the recovering drug addict, the humble lady walking along the side of the road two hours to get to her minimum wage job, and now jail-bird, suddenly went into missionary mode.

No really.  I’m not making this up.  Nor was I there to direct it, take credit for it, or get in the way of it.

She started talking to other humble people locked up in jail (strangers and old friends alike) telling them how she has this new thing in her life.  A ministry for Jesus that reaches out to the homeless to love them, pray with them, and celebrate Jesus with them.  How it’s called Fat Beggars School of Prophets, and how excited she is to be part of it.

And the people responded to her!

She even reconnected with a minister in Midland she knew from times gone by.  And the minister there became excited about this ministry and wants to see it expand to Midland where there is a sizable homeless population.

Yeah.  Almost like Jesus showing up in a manger in the barn to hang out with shepherd/bums and hippie astrologers, he seems to be slumming it with the Fat Beggars in county jails around the state of Texas.  Something special happened there.  Something really, very special.

But if you wanna know about it, you either head down to the barnyard with the humble people and see for yourself or you read about it in Holy Writings.

So… if you were a Christian, church member (or pastor) in Lubbock, Texas in 2018, do you think you would know or care if Jesus was in the barn or jail?

Be honest.

It’s church down under the radar.

 

 

Vacation (Pastorbation) Time!

Did you here the one about the homeless minister who took a two week vacation?

Yeah…  He told his congregants he was taking some much-needed time off, to recharge, refresh, and reconnect with God for two weeks in the Bahamas.  Somehow, though (perhaps he could tell by the look in their eyes, but no one said anything openly to his face), he sensed he lost his connection with his flock.  He had worked hard for almost two years to gain their respect and trust, and it all felt tentative all over again.

He chalked it up to just more evidence that he needed time off.  And anyway, the pastor at his sponsoring church told him to do it – to recharge, refresh, and reconnect with God….

Yeah, and the senior pastor at the sponsoring church gave the homeless minister a brochure for the resort in the Bahamas that the homeless minister was now going to visit.  It turns out that the senior pastor has a club membership that earns him 15% off his annual trip there if he persuades someone else to go there at full price.

Oh, and the senior pastor spent a month there on “sabbatical” earlier in the spring.  Yeah, he reconnected with God there too – God and a porn channel on the TV.  And judging by the empty seats in his assembly most Sundays, he should be feeling the loss of connection with his own flock.

Actually, one of the rich business men in his flock got a 20% discount on his annual club fee when he talked the pastor into joining the club at regular price.

Anyway, it sure is good that all the ministers are getting away to recharge, refresh, and reconnect to their gods – Mammon and Aphrodite!

Happy Summer from the streets, ya’ll!

Insidious Babel: A Babeling Bum’s Bible Study (part 5)

I hope, and this feels tentative to me but I hope, anyone reading this post has followed the progress through the previous four, AND that the series is making sense to you.  I hope so because in this post, I intend to make some daring assertions that, to my way of thinking, rely on the kind of study we have been engaged in so far – assertions that begin to challenge the status quo at the root and may begin to cause trouble.  Basically, there is Someone new in charge now, and when he arrives at your place of worship, he is likely to turn the tables on you.

A quick, one-paragraph review is in order to help us hold it all together here.  We started by pointing out that a strong traditional view of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, one long held by many of us devout believers, winds up making that story into mere Bible trivia – explaining where all the languages come from.  Then we challenged that idea first by setting the story within it’s original context in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, which grounded a deeper, more penetrating insight: The people of God’s creation who were created to bear his image (and thus honor his name) have a tendency to rebel and make a name for themselves as a way to order the world God made to bring them pride and security.  Then we used that insight as a lens through which to examine three key passages all through the biblical saga and saw that this insidious rebellion continues among the pagans throughout world history, that this rebellion has infiltrated even the chosen people of God as well, and that God has reversed the curse of the scattering languages upon re-establishing himself as King of his chosen people.

Yes, I hope your heart and mind have grappled with that large sweeping picture.  It is epic in size, really.  That moment in I Samuel 8 when God claims that his own people have rejected him being their king is answered in all four Gospels when Jesus, God incarnate, comes back to Jerusalem and takes a crown of thorns!  And this King is King of kings and Lord of lords!  So when Luke opens his second volume on Jesus, and the advancement of his Gospel among the people who will now spread the glory of his name over the face of the earth, and in short order pictures this bookend on the other side of the saga from the confusion of the languages in Genesis 11, we should see that despite the insidious nature of the rebellion, God is moving even deeper beneath the surface against the tower/empire to redeem creation for his own name’s sake.

Yeah.  Acts opens with this bookend, and the rest of the story is about what Jesus continues to do, but this time through his people who now point to his glorious name to reorder the world for God’s glory.  And this mission does not stop until it has reached the belly of the beast, that Tower of towers/Empire of empires, Rome.  And the last verse of Luke’s second account describes the Spirit of Jesus in this man named Paul preaching the Kingdom of God (another way of saying God is in charge here) and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord (right in the hometown of that other lord – Caesar), and that despite his house arrest, Jesus is now UNLEASHED!

Yeah.  That is what the last verse in this document that very quickly bookends the saga we started in Genesis 11 says.  Jesus is UNLEASHED right under the nose of that other would-be lord and his little empire cannot stop him!

So… if I am making sense to you now… What do you think?

Are you having some new thoughts yet?  What is the relationship between God and empire?

Well, it is clear that he does not destroy the tower with a flood, like he destroyed the world in the days of Noah.  It is clear that he does not destroy the empire with fire from heaven, like he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.  He certainly put Egypt through the paces with ten devastating plagues, but then he put his own chosen people through the very thing the architects of empire feared when he took them out into the wilderness to worship.  Then later, when the same rebellion cropped up amid his own chosen people, he actually indulged them!  Woah Nelly!  What’s up with that???  But at the long end of that saga, he uses a cruel form of capital punishment devised by the evil empire to have himself crowned King!  Apparently God can seem pretty tricky that way!  And then he invades that empire with missionaries planting little cells of worshipers all over the empire who suddenly withhold their allegiance to empire and instead give it to Jesus, the very one that had been crucified beneath imperial contempt!

So what is God’s relationship with empire?  And what is ours?

I know someone will want to rush to Romans 13 about now, and that is fine.  I will not negate what St Paul says there, but I will not sit back and let you use that passage to negate what Luke is doing here either.  No doubt Romans 13 puts some pressure on us that would have us show respect for the tower/empire we are subverting, but that cannot then be used as a way of calling off the subversion or comforting the empire.  There is no comfort for those making names for themselves in hearing there is a new sheriff in town bringing a new way of doing things.  That message is bound to be disturbing!

I am struck by the insidious nature of the rebellion to begin with, but even more so by the insidious way the Gospel subverts it.  God, it seems, favors order over chaos – and insofar as that goes, he gives blessing to empires, but there is still the matter of evil order vs. good order, and evil order must come to an end.  Making a name for ourselves is very Roman, very Egyptian, very Grecian, very Babylonian, very American.  All empires seek vanity by which to order the world, but it will not be so among us.

Remember how in both part 2 and part 3 I highlighted a shotgun blast of questions to consider?  Let’s look at those again:  What do we do with this view of things?  What does it mean to us now?  What guidance does this story offer us besides explaining why we speak English?  What exactly is the problem with building towers/empires and making a name for ourselves?  How is “confusing the languages” an answer to the problem?

Are we finding answers for them now?  Are we finding the questions themselves enhanced by this process?

I will now divulge the thing that prompts me to take on a series of posts in this way.  I recently sat in a Bible class studying the book of Acts over the course of several weeks.  The class is made up entirely of white, middle-class, middle/late-middle aged, conservative west Texans.  (Do you think we might have certain issues with pride and security coming into a study of the Bible???)  And as the teacher passed over a handful of passages describing missionaries (St Paul in particular) being run out of one town to the next and then the next, sparking multiple riots in some of these communities, and going to jail multiple times, he (the teacher of the Bible class) actually said he thinks Luke is writing this document as a way of “comforting the empire”.

I kid you not.  The man said it just like that.

He thinks that all these accounts of all this mayhem that seems to be stirred up where ever the Gospel is preached (where it is said that Jesus is Lord, and where his resurrection is proclaimed) is Luke’s way of pointing the finger at wayward Jews and saying they are the ones responsible for all the unrest here, not Jesus!

Hmmm…

I think that insidious rebellion is back among God’s people.

In the most gentle way I know how, I rebutted the teacher’s point.  I raised my hand, offered a small nugget of insight based on the passage at hand, and declared that Luke is not comforting the empire; he is demonstrating that the Gospel is unstoppable despite imperial attempts to the contrary.  Jesus is UNLEASHED in the tower, and it is only a matter of time.  The empire’s days are numbered!  (Okay, I didn’t exactly declare all of that.  I was being polite and gentle as I could, actually.)  And still the teacher persisted with his assertion.  And not only that, but others in the class shot me down.  I was not afforded a chance to speak again, I did not have the floor, and I politely backed off.  But I was amazed that even with my very polite and limited challenge to this notion, the wagons circled up to block my rebuttal.

To me it felt like a $5 reaction to a fifty cent remark!  And I think that is telling.  I struck right at the pride and fear my classmates want to protect by saying Luke is comforting the Roman Empire, not challenging it.

But, hey!  Who am I to say???  I am just a lowly street prophet disturbing the comfortable and comforting the disturbed (not actually a Bible verse, but it goes a long way describing Jesus and his program, I think).

I am not in the comfort-the-empire, give-the-tower-a-pass business.  I am in the Jesus-is-Lord business, and that is a challenge to anyone out there making a name for themselves.  And if I am handling the word of God anywhere like he would want, then I have the whole Bible, and certainly that strange little story in Genesis 11, crushing the rebellion on the one hand and calling me to follow God into the wilderness on the other.

Please… If you are reading here… Let’s talk!

A Babeling Bum’s Bible Study (part 4)

(Let’s hit the pause button on this study for a moment.  I sense that I am losing my followers with this series, and honestly… I think it would lose me too, if it weren’t mine already.  But for those few who are still with me, or who stumble on to this series of posts, I persevere with this largely because some of the deep bedrock of my faith is shaped with this kind of thinking especially as it pertains to the Tower of Babel.  If my ministry and offerings on this blog have you puzzled, this series will, I hope, help iron a lot of it out.  And besides, I find myself in argument with a number of religious leaders of our day in recent times, who I am convinced have not sufficiently pondered their positions vis-à-vis that tower.  Thus I trudge on…)

I had hoped to get more feedback on the last post.  In part, I am sure my offerings here offer new thoughts for most of us to consider, but I in no way have this business all ironed out.  Therefore, I am hopeful that this series might attract others who have better clarity than me and thus might help me to shape my thoughts better too.  The post before this one asks us to consider the Tower of Babel more carefully within the context of the first eleven chapters of Genesis.  How do those chapters illuminate this story?

I am now ready to broaden that question to include the whole Bible.  And for me, this is where it gets exciting.  How does Genesis 11 inform the rest of the Bible, AND, conversely, how does the rest of the Bible inform Genesis 11?  I expect that when we find key words and/or themes that pertain significantly to Genesis 11 in other passages, those words and themes will prompt us to juxtapose them all side by side and watch the sparks fly!

I will not be able to exhaust all of the passages of Scripture where this might be the case in this post.  I must be selective for simplicity’s sake.  So I have chosen three passages from the Bible over all to juxtapose BRIEFLY with Genesis 11: 1st The Exodus from Egypt (Exod. 1-12 (with particular attention to chapter 5)), 2nd Israel demands a king (I Sam. 8), and 3rd People hear the Gospel in their own language (Acts 2).

Bouncing sparks off Genesis 11

First we stop off in Exodus

This probably comes as a surprise to most Bible students, but have you ever noticed that the first time the word “bricks” appears in the Bible it is found in Genesis 11:3, and the second time the word is used we find it in Exodus 5:7-8?  In the Genesis-11 narrative, “brick” is one of the few details offered in a story short on details!  And the bricks wind up serving a rebellious cause in God’s creation.  When we reach Exodus 5, God’s chosen people, the people through whom he promises to bless the world with his redemption, have become slaves to the neo-tower/empire, and their main job is serving that age-old rebellion making bricks!   This use of “bricks” is no literary accident – not in the word of God!  It powerfully links these two stories that now will bounce sparks in between and illuminate God’s mysterious acts in his creation.

This observation does far more, actually, than just link the two passages, but for simplicity’s sake I must leave it at that for present purposes.  So, at the very least, it firmly establishes a solid link and strongly supports the idea that the Tower of Babel acts as a precursor to the Egyptian Empire (among others).  Thus, at this point we can say that the few things we know to be true of that tower in Genesis 11 are true in some sense of the empire in Exodus (and others).  Pharaoh (and presumably his subjects) are making a name for themselves (pride) in order to counteract chaotic forces that otherwise might disperse them over the face of the earth (security).

I do not claim for one moment that we will find a one-to-one correspondence for every point between these two passages.  After all, if that were the case, we would merely be telling the same story twice.  But there are similarities that are significant, and careful Bible students will want to pay attention in order to meditate on them.  Likewise, there will be differences that we will want to note.

Let’s touch on some briefly.

In Genesis 11, the people fear drifting apart and dispersing over the face of the earth.  Presumably, they will be vulnerable, humble, and insecure if they live this way.  But if they work together in a unified way, they can instill pride and security in themselves and one another by building a city and tower.  They will be kings of their domain ruling the way they see fit when they make a name for themselves.  When God judges them, he confuses their languages, which has the effect of bringing their fears into reality.  They are dispersed, the very thing they seek to avoid.

Compared with the Exodus, we can presume the Egyptians build their empire with the same motives – pride and security.  Thus we can assume they have similar fears about vulnerability, humility, and insecurity.  So far, so similar.  But in contrast God does not judge them with confusing the languages.  Instead he judges them with ten plagues.  But here is the deep irony in it: He calls his chosen people, the slaves in Egypt’s brickyards, to head out into the wilderness and be with him there!  This is the thing both the people of Shinar and the Egyptians see as a virtual death sentence!  And based on the grumblings of the Hebrews, they think so too!  This is the fear they are guarding against by building their empire!

We really must move on…

Let’s swing very briefly by I Samuel 8.  Here we have come several generations after Moses and the Exodus and after the chosen people have entered and taken possession of the Promised Land when suddenly they come to Samuel (their current leader) demanding “a king like the nations” (I Sam. 8:5).  And, of course, they get one.  And if you read that chapter carefully, you find that the demand displeases Samuel, alright, but God (the same Creator from Genesis 1 – 11) tells Sam that these people are rejecting Him (God) from being their king – the very same thing the people on the plains of Shinar did when they sought to be kings and make a name for themselves rather than honor the name of God as they were created to do in Genesis 1!

This is a particularly tragic moment in Israel’s history.  The people of God, the bearers of his image, his blessings, and his promises of redemption for all of creation are now acting just like the scoundrels who rebelled against God in Genesis 11.  And sure enough, Sam warns against this demand, but God tells him to indulge their wishes anyway, and you can read of all the disasters that befall Israel as bad king after bad king takes the throne like the nations around them.  They become practically as pagan as all their neighbors as they make a name for themselves and fear being dispersed all over the world.

And after many generations of such rebellion, God sends Israel into Exile too.  Some go into Assyria – never to be heard from again.  Some go into Babylon (an Empire whose name may have influenced the name of the tower in Genesis 11, btw), and there they find a strange land full of strange customs, strange religions, and yes… strange languages!

But we must move along briskly again…

Finally, we come to Acts 2.  Here we find a really strong link to the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, but rather than it being an exact similarity, it is practically the polar opposite.  In fact, if confusing the languages in Genesis 11 was a judgment curse, then hearing the Apostles preach, each in your native language, is a sure sign that God is now going to reverse the curse!  And as we let more sparks bounce between these texts, it becomes clear, I really believe, that God wants us to read our Bibles this way!

Just look what has happened leading into this scene where the Apostles preach in the miraculous tongues.  A New King has taken charge, and it’s God himself!  He has come again at long last to claim his rightful place as Israel’s King despite his wayward people!  And now some of them (in fact about 3,000) are seeing what we modern Bible readers have long missed!  That moment when they speak in tongues by the power of the Holy Spirit acts like a bookend on the other end of a long sinful saga that reaches its apex in that Tower of Babel.  And now, the people of God are called to gather in unity around making a name for Jesus, and thus finding vulnerability, humility, and security in him, and not some cheap imitation version found in “making a name for ourselves”.

I really must draw this post to a close here, but let me point out that as we have juxtaposed various passages with Genesis 11, we have come to far more depth of insight into that chapter as well.  As we overlay it on the others like a lens to examine through, we find that the mere trivia we started with, no longer will do.

Please, please, please…

There is so much material I had to sacrifice in order to shorten this long post that I hope… I hope, if you are still reading here, that you will respond and engage in the comments.

A Babeling Bum’s Bible Study (part 3)

I ended the last post highlighting some questions our new viewpoint of the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 might raise.  I just lobbed out a few that seem rather natural to me.  Here again are those questions: What do we do with this view of things?  What does it mean to us now?  What guidance does this story offer us besides explaining why we speak English?  What exactly is the problem with building towers/empires and making a name for ourselves?  How is “confusing the languages” an answer to the problem?  Let’s consider some of them now.  We may even enhance them, change them, or find new and better questions raised as we get into this stuff.

This list of questions seems natural to me, alright, but they also come at me like a shotgun blast.  If a scatter gun could shoot questions, my list would be the shot it fired.  So, if you will indulge me…., I want to approach them in an organized fashion that attempts to be biblical in some sense.  I expect the process to enhance them a bit.

Here is the way I want to go forward from this point: I want to look at the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 more closely in its own context – particularly the first eleven chapters of Genesis.  Then (in a later post) I want to look at the tower as it informs (and/or is informed by) the rest of the Bible.  Then, finally, I want to look more closely and specifically at modern life in our neo-towers.

Among our shotgun blast of questions, the one that seems most pertinent to the story within it’s original setting, to my way of thinking, is: What exactly is the problem with building towers/empires and making a name for ourselves?  Is there a strict prohibition against building towers?  In fact, I can imagine a critic asking me if there is a verse anywhere in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not build towers”.  The idea is so silly that it almost seems ridiculous to mention it.  And anyway, go visit a city such as New York City that is filled with towering skyscrapers.  I never heard of any preachers saying those buildings were sinful just for existing.  Have you?

So.  What exactly is the problem with building towers/empires and making a name for ourselves?  It’s not like God told us we shouldn’t.

Well, for now let’s look for answers in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and since we know there are no verses specifically commanding us not to, we will need to look for theological clues sort of between the lines.

A word about the character of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is in order first.  Sometime sit down and read the first eleven chapters through all in one sitting.  No doubt you are familiar with most of the stories there, but a few of them are really strange.  In fact, all of them are strange – even the ones we know really well.  They all raise far more questions than they seem to answer – some more than others.  And they seem to cram a lot of stuff into too few words too.

I mean… think about it.  In the first two chapters we get the story of creation.  Seriously, the whole story about how God made all of creation is told in only 56 verses!  And part of the story is told twice, meaning even fewer verses to cover all the mystery of creation!  I suspect we could bring hundreds of questions to that short text that we would really like to have answers for, yet it shows no interest in answering them.  For instance: Where did the dinosaurs come from, and where did they go?  Was the sky pink or blue?  Was a “day” there a literal 24-hour day, or was it an age or eon.  And if it was an eon, how long was that?  How did the man and woman run a farm naked?  Did they use a plow, or did crops grow miraculously at the mere sight of them making love?  And I could literally go on and on and on and on… but this text shows no interest in providing answers to most of these questions!

So what’s up with that?  Am I suggesting there is no way to answer these questions?

Well, for some of the questions, that is probably the case.  For a few of them, the text itself will give clear answers.  For a lot of them in between, we will sniff out theological clues, but probably not be able to verify them with science-like certainty.  And that says as much about us as it does the text.  We like scientific sorts of answers to our questions!  But Genesis 1 – 11 is most definitely not interested in giving us scientific answers or certainty.  Instead, this text demands we find answers in faith!  And even then, there are plenty of our questions it will ignore and not bother to answer at all.

Still, we will engage the text with all we’ve got, and I expect that God will begin shaping our faith in part by the way he answers the questions he chooses to answer and by the way he ignores others, and even more by the way we pick up on the strange clues he lets us chew on.  And we will encounter these twists and turns all through the first eleven chapters.  We will wonder whether Adam and Eve had children before they were expelled from the garden.  We will wonder who Cain fears when he is punished for murdering his brother.  We will wonder who the Nephilim were.  And we will look for answers first of all within this initial context.

And so again we ask: What exactly is the problem with building towers and making a name for ourselves within the first eleven chapters of Genesis?

Well, it appears that the tower the people on the plains of Shinar intend to build is meant to keep them all together as a unified group.  This tower, they think, will deal with their worry of being dispersed all over the world.  It seems strange to us modern Americans with our pioneer heritage that these primitive people would worry about being dispersed all over the world, but according to Genesis 11:4, building this tower and making a name for themselves is their way of preventing this disaster!

Making a name for ourselves is clearly a matter of vanity. It’s practically self-evident.   You don’t have to ask: What’s in it for me?  When others either celebrate or fear my name (or both at the same time), I get the sense that my place in the world is secure!  I will not be reduced to wandering the streets of Lubbock aimlessly looking for charity (a place to sleep, food to eat, and clothes to wear), on the contrary, if my name is honored/feared, the world will bring those things to me and lay them at my feet!

It’s almost like a kingdom!  In this tower/kingdom, we (my king and I (or conversely my subjects and I)) will benefit from this creation rather that scavenge our way through it.  In fact, we will master it, and creation will bend to our will!

What is the problem with all that?

Well, if we approach it only from the vantage ground of people currently living in such a tower (such as white, middle/upper class Americans) then we are not likely to see any problem with it at all.  But if we consider closely the context of Genesis 1 – 11 (which is the task we are undertaking with this post), we will notice that this creation is God’s (not ours), and as such designed by him (not us) to serve him (not us).  We learn, in chapter 1 that we humans are created in his image to rule over it all, alright, but not to make a name for ourselves.  Rather we rule in his image in order to bring him the glory, the honor, and the fear of all the rest of creation.  We rule in his name, not ours!  And we must take care not to take his name in vain.

The tower of Genesis 11, no matter what else we say, is a problem because the people building it are in rebellion against the creator God when they set out to order his creation in such manipulative, dishonest, and vain ways.  It doesn’t take much to see the lure of it all, the pride and security this tower seems to offer are very tempting, but they are not what they seem.  They are vain promises of vain people made to themselves whose end is futility.

This post is getting quite long at this point, and I am sure we could say so much more along these lines.  And hopefully the conversation in the comments will continue and more will be said therein.  But I trust this offering will suffice to help you imagine richer, deeper application of the story of the Tower of Babel for our lives today.

What other questions from my list above do you think find either answers or clues within the context of Genesis 1 – 11?  Do you have questions of your own that you would like to bring to this text and share on this blog?  I look forward to exploring this further in the comments (I hope).

A Babeling Bum’s Bible Study (part 2)

In my previous post, I attempted to simplify matters pertaining to the study of Bible and especially my thoughts on the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.  Actually, just saying that is a paradox since most of us already had an overly simplified view of it that I am now complicating.  But my real aim is to get us to un-think old thoughts and rethink with new ones, and I hope to simplify that process as much as possible.

I hope I adequately demonstrated that the old view holds the story of the Tower of Babel as nothing more than mere trivia.  It gives a novel explanation for why different languages are spoken all over the world, and not much more.

Trivia.

But surely the word of God is not just trivial.

What else could it mean?

I must, at this point, disclose, I am not a Bible scholar.  I am not an expert in the field.  And just because I am able to raise a devastating question and pose it against a long-held, time-honored traditional view does not necessarily mean that my offerings in its place are the best alternatives.  They have not been peer reviewed or tested as disciplined theories.  So, let us move forward with caution in intellectual humility.

With that caveat out of the way, I want to suggest that the Tower of Babel, among other possible and even likely purposes, functions as a template for world empires.  It tells us something about the powers behind great nations: what they want, what they fear, what they do, and about God’s dealings with them.  And as you can see, questions like that are anything but trivial, and they are hard to simplify also.

So, what am I saying exactly… in English???  (pardon the humor)

I’m saying that way back at the beginning of creation, just a few generations after God made it all and after sin and death came in to wreak havoc on all his good order, a group of very fearsome and fearful people came together to analyze their situation and determined to build a grand city with an amazing tower in order to “make a name for themselves” so that they would not be dispersed over the face of the earth.

Look at that closely.  They fear drifting apart around the world.  They see strength in banding together, but they need a social force to do it, and the force they find is vanity.

They will construct an awe inspiring tower and then pat themselves on the back for it.  They will be proud of their own work.  And doing work one takes pride in is a great motivator even today.  Once you see your work displayed and honored, you willingly give your allegiance to it.  And when everyone gives their allegiance to the same symbol, it becomes a strong, cohesive, unifying, social force.  (This is already starting to sound and feel a lot like idolatry.) It turns out pride is infectious like that, making willing slaves by subduing the will of its subjects.

Soon there is this imposing tower out there on the plain of Shinar, and if any nomad or barbarian – or his tribe – were to see it, he/they would immediately recognize the grandiosity of it.  And he/they would fear it!

Then those tower builders would not fear others, but instead would strike fear in others!  They would make a name for ourselves as they looked out for their own collective, best interests, their own safety, their own glory and pride.

This sounds a lot like Egypt, the first empire we meet on the pages of the book in which this story is found.  And not only that, but if you look closely at Genesis 11:3, you will see that these people on the plains of Shinar make bricks with which to build their tower.

Bricks.

By the time Moses comes to tell Pharaoh that God wants him to “Let My people Go”, God’s people are serving the proud empire that makes a name for itself as lowly, brick-making slaves serving tower-building masters!

Let’s simplify it like this: Bricks make Towers.  Bricks make Empire.  Tower = Empire.  

It’s almost a silly observation; I know.  But a stubborn one all the same.  (“Bricks” will be important in subsequent Bible study.  So save that idea in a special file for a later time.)

So, in the interest of simplicity, I will point out that Egypt is only the first in a long line of empires that rule God’s creation with little or no regard for the Creator as they make names for themselves, take pride in themselves, cast fear in their subordinates and in outsiders, and provide “safety” for those who engineer the towers therein.  And the list is long – including Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Britain, France, and … yes… even the United States of America which has a very official “separation of church and state” (as Thomas Jefferson called it) while it builds a tower of strength and pride in which we are free to make a name for ourselves and pledge allegiance to it’s symbols of pride.

Am I keeping it simple enough?

Believe me.  I could say a lot more in support of all this, but I am attempting to take every shortcut and straight line I know how to keep this simple.  (I will be happy to provide more complex evidence upon request.)

Now… assuming my expeditious outline here adequately supports a worthwhile alternative understanding of the Tower of Babel, the next question will be something like: What do we do with this view of things?  What does it mean to us now?  What guidance does this story offer us besides explaining why we speak English?  What exactly is the problem with building towers/empires and making a name for ourselves?  How is “confusing the languages” an answer to the problem?

I expect to offer another post where we take aim at those kinds of questions next time.

Stay tuned…

A Babeling Bum’s Bible Study (part 1)

I have resisted writing much along theological/Bible-study lines, especially in recent months, when I decided to revamp this blog this year in an effort to focus more seriously on attracting local readership and involvement with the Fat Beggars School of Prophets.  In part, I am leery of writing complicated sentences (like the one just before this one (and this one too for that matter)) and paragraphs and/or diving deeply into biblical analysis that requires erudite words or concepts.  Basically, what I want to talk about is not actually all that simple, to my way of thinking, but it is important.  And I want to share some important thoughts, some of which are complex, but I want to simplify it all, yet I don’t know how.

What follows is my best attempt at simplicity:

Think back to when you were a kid – a little kid.  If you were like me, you grew up in church and were taught Bible stories by parents, grandparents, and Sunday school teachers.  The lessons we learned at those early ages were quite simple.

We didn’t cover a lot of deep Christian theology from Romans or First Corinthians on those flannel boards.  We covered simple narratives mostly.  Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, David & Goliath, and of course narratives of Jesus’s healings and adventures with Peter and Paul (mostly from the Gospels or Acts).  A lot of those early Bible lessons were not revisited in later years, when the deeper theological stuff was added.  For instance, we heard about Rehab the Harlot who let the spies down the wall of Jericho with a rope after hiding them in her home when we were seven or ten years old, but it wasn’t until I got into a college Bible class that someone dealt with the question of what/Who led those spies to her brothel to begin with.

My point is that a lot of Bible education is acquired at a very young age, and then it just stalls out right there.  A lot of adults in churches today learned the bulk of their Bible studies before the age of fourteen without expanding on that knowledge.  Thus, if I ask if you studied the story of Moses at the burning bush, there is a strong chance that the bulk of your knowledge was gained as a child, and your child-like understanding of it may be all you have to work with even at this point in your life.

(All of this assumes you grew up obtaining this kind of Bible study in the first place.  Just think of all the people who did not grow up in Christian homes or attending Sunday school!)

The story of the Tower of Babel is what I currently have on my mind.  If you are like me, you were taught about the Tower of Babel at a very young age, and the most significant part of the lesson was that this story explains why the Italians speak Italian, the French speak French, The Mexicans speak Spanish, and why the Americans speak English!

Well, okay… perhaps I am being a bit facetious, but I think the point comes through.  

The people who build the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 expect to build a tower that reaches into heaven so they can make a name for themselves.  Basically, they think they can run the world without God’s input and without revering him in the process.  But as a child, I didn’t pick up on some of those deep aspects, not much anyway.  I imagined a really tall tower reaching into the clouds almost like Jack’s Beanstalk and thinking that would be an amazing building project.  I never quite understood what God found so offensive in it, but I was clear he did find offense alright.  And I never understood why he thought “confusing the languages” was an appropriate response/punishment/disciplinary measure, but it surely did explain why I spoke English to the satisfaction of my six-year-old mind.

And then I grew up with that pretty much characterizing my understanding of the story.

Like so much of Genesis, and especially the first eleven chapters, there was no sense of redemption in the narrative.  Rather, it explained how we got here.  It demonstrated why we needed redemption.  But it did not offer the redemption and had very little, if any, connection to it.

And I grew up in a faction of the very Western ideal that cut redemption off from the world in which we live.  For me, the point of studying the Bible and believing in Jesus was so that I could leave this world for a better place.  Specifically, the point of my faith, as I was led to believe, was to “go to heaven when I die” and thus escape the great judgement fires that would consume the world of Genesis and reduce it all to ashes – if even they were spared.  Thus Genesis could explain how we got here, but it could not get us where we wanted to go, and the explanation of where all the languages came from made for a nice bit of Bible trivia.

However, once I was grown, I studied Bible in the academy under rigorous academic discipline and learned that biblical faith is not about “going to heaven when I die”, but about God redeeming the very creation he loves and made with his special care.  And within that context, the Tower of Babel was no longer a trivial matter at all.

So what do we do with this story given the right context and theological mindset?

I am sure that is highly debatable, actually.  But I am also certain that most of us are not qualified to enter that debate in our current state.  Many readers here on this blog hold to the Western ideals and traditions about heaven and hell and believe staunchly that the goal of life is to “go to heaven when we die”.  I am betting that by now you have heard that this traditional view is heavily challenged in the academy, but still you resist it.  I am betting that many other readers here have come to terms with that tradition and moved on from it, as have I.  But even those who have moved on will likely spend the rest of their lives un-learning the old traditional view and disentangling it from our Biblical faith.

Point being, stories like the Tower of Babel surely have more meaning than mere trivia.  But what is it?  How does it work?  What does it mean after all?

Well… without diving into each argument deeply (this post is already neck deep in theology), I will mostly make assertions that readers are welcome to challenge.  But since I figure my findings will be far more meaningful than mere trivia (on the one hand) and new to most people (on the other), I want to share some fresh thoughts on the Tower of Babel that I feel sure will undergird a lot of subsequent theology and ministry.

But since this effort at simplicity is already getting lengthy, as well as challenging, I must break it off here and pick up this line of thinking in (a) subsequent post(s).

So, if you wanna know more about what this babbling bum has to say on the Tower of Babel… stay tuned…

If My Blog Stinks (repost)

On this blog, I do my best to REPRESENT.  I want you, dear reader, to see JESUS, not so much in me or on this blog, but in that bum you drive past on your daily commute, that bag lady down by your corner Starbucks, that dumpster diver in your alley.  And without the capability of emitting a sense of smell through the website, I must make myself metaphorically stink like Jesus (“the aroma of Christ”) in your nostrils.

I spent an hour talking to a man on the street corner downtown by St. Benedicts a couple of years ago who must have urinated in his pants a dozen times at least.  He was a hardcore alcoholic.  Was drunk at the time when we spoke, but I could not smell the alcohol over the piss.  The smell was overwhelming.  Thank God Lubbock is a breezy place!  I talked with the guy fighting back the urge to hurl while my eyes watered and shed tears.

I mentioned the smell of an untreated psych patient who showed up for shelter one night during a snowstorm (back before the Premier Homeless Church stopped hosting on such nights, and thus before they kicked me out for insisting they continue).  If you are interested in that post, HERE is a link.  This dude may well have crapped his pants.  I suspected that his matted hair probably had feces in it too.  His smell was TREMENDOUS!  And then he farted all night in the shelter too!

Just last year, I met a woman camping under the water tower down on 50th street across from the Market Street store.  I took lunch to share with her on that sticker patch, and when she sat up to visit with me, the body odor overwhelmed me.  I choked on that sandwich as we ate.  So badly I wanted to throw up, but kept stifling it for all I was worth.  She too, gave signs and symptoms of serious mental illness.  But it was sooooo important that I eat WITH Jesus there as Lubbock drove by on that busy street.  For she had been invisible to even my eye at first, and it wasn’t until a friend pointed her out that I saw her there in plain sight!

So, how do I stink on the internet?

(Glad you asked.)

I stink by lurking.  I leave my smelly comments on your provocative posts that so many of you don’t know what to do with.  I sense, in many cases, that you would rather I moved along.  Once in a while someone tries to shew me along, but usually I get the sense that I am like a lingering stale fart in the checkout line that no one openly mentions.

I write posts that are not well crafted works of literature.  I reuse photos over and over.  My blog is simple and not updated or “user friendly”.  I really don’t care if you find eye candy here.  I do not write trendy theological stuff that you can find in your coffee table Christian books.  When I talk about “having a personal relationship with Jesus”, I push the idea on you, dear home-owning Christians, that he is the bum (Matt. 25:40) knocking on your door (Rev. 3:20).  You can open up and have that relationship with him ANYTIME you really want to.  But as long as you just hold to some indefinable, warm, fuzzy, feeling in your heart, the Matthew-25:45 Jesus isn’t really impressed.

Yeah, I do not write here to comfort you in your American Dream, I write here to disturb you and hopefully get you to wake up and wrestle the Angel through the night.  That bum is OUT THERE in the cold while you snuggle on your pillow.  And then I aim to plant a seed of imagination in the soil of your contempt: That’s Jesus out there, and you could very easily invite him to your party!  There is NOTHING stopping you doing it!

And for most of you (however less so for an ever-growing few) that stinks.  And that is this prophetic message… earning a prophet’s wage.  But for the few seeking the narrow gate, it is the Aroma of Christ.