The Reign of gods

“Democracy” – such a wonderful idea – is not the Rule of God, not the rule of a king, but it is a never-quite-realized rule of “the people” that depends on an ideal of “equality”.  Basically, democracy treats the citizenry as if all the individuals are kings of their own domains dealing with each other as equals and letting majority rule in all decisions regarding governance.  We all get to be equal kings in this arrangement, and if you can sway enough opinion among equals, then your opinion will rule as we all submit to the majority opinion.

It sounds great and promises soooooooo much.  As king you can be in charge of your own destiny.  You can make of the world anything you want!  The only limitation is the opinions of all the equal-partner kings with whom you share the reign of this domain.

It should be no surprise, then, that you win some rulings and lose some.  (But that is not very kingly, is it?)  Under this system, it only works if we respect the opinions of other kings we may or may not agree with in the decisions that are made.  (No real king does that, do they?)  The ideal, of course, is that surely the majority opinion will be the right one.  (This always pans out, no?)  The ideal, of course, is that surely the majority will actually rule and not be thwarted by a shifty system of representation (such as an electoral college???).

Oh, man… this is getting complicated, isn’t it?  And I am only three paragraphs into these thoughts.

And I thought this was a “Christian nation” I was living in, the nation that leads the world in democratic ideals.  But shouldn’t a “Christian nation” be subject to the King of kings?  And isn’t His Rule and Reign the one that counts?  Why is He beholding to majority rule or any ideals other than His own?  Why am I acting like the electoral college on His behalf?  Haven’t I shortchanged His Reign the moment I dared to participate in a system that says I am “equal” with all the others?

Oh, man… this idolatry is getting complicated fast isn’t it?

Yeah, can we really treat God’s creation like a giant Algebra equation?  Didn’t our “founding fathers” botch this from the beginning when they used words like “all men … created equal” but really they only meant white, land-owning men?  Is it any wonder we can’t stand the rule of the Other Party in our political system?  (I don’t care which one you identify with, this is true going either way.  No?)

And not only is it producing lack of respect for the other “equals” among all these kings, but outright displays of hate, scorn, and contempt.  How does that honor God?

In The Reign of God, though, doesn’t He blow the idea of equality away?  I thought He said, “If you want to be the greatest in the Kingdom of God, then you must become the slave of all the others”….  Didn’t I read that somewhere?

So if the majority rules, but there is complications with even that, and if we don’t respect the will of the people, and there is complications with that too, then “equality” and “democracy” are not delivering on their promises.  And the deep Revelation (Apocalypse) here is that we have a reign of gods rather than The Reign of God.  And no amount of flag and apple pie is going to enthrone Him.

So, just what are we doing here?

Advertisements

Maybe I Failed…

I recently posted a message declaring that I have made the message plain, simple, and loud enough that there is no excuse.  I said your heart is just so hard, and that is the only explanation at this point that the message I bring is not heeded.

And honestly, I believe that still.  But just to cover all the bases.  Just to make double sure, in case I failed the mission and just don’t recognize it…  let me try this angle:

In reading the Gospels, it is abundantly clear many times over that when God comes into his creation via this Prophet Jesus (Joshua) of Nazareth, very quickly we see the poor, the lame, the blind, the lonely and broken people, the sinners and lepers following him, clinging to him, even mobbing him every where he goes.  This is a standard feature of God’s presence in Galilee and Judea leading up to Jesus’ (Joshua) of Nazareth’s arrest.

Basically, the poor he always has with him!

This is such a profound feature of God’s presence in the world that absolutely no serious reader of the Gospels misses it.  None.  Every last one of them – the honest readers with even a shred of sincerity – sees it just as clearly as the nose on your face!

So…

If this is true of God in the world, especially God as expressed through Jesus (Joshua) of Nazareth, then why is it so lacking in the assembly I assemble with which calls itself “the Body of Christ”?  Why are the poor and homeless, lame and blind, lonely and broken not jamming our doors at our assembly everyday so much that there is not even room inside to eat? (See Mark 2:2 and  6:31 for instance.)

If we are the Body of Christ, indwelt with the same Holy Spirit as Jesus, then why is this elephant not in our room?

It is the sound of the dog that did not bark, I think.  It goes so easily unnoticed.  But I have pointed it out to you now…

But maybe I failed to before.

No?

Agent W

One of the more disturbing images I see from time to time is homeless people camped right up next to a locked church-house door – sometimes literally right against it under the shelter of the overhang of the roof or awning.  More often than not, I actually don’t see it (which also disturbs me).  And I recall a night about three years ago when I gathered up a group of street friends and suggested we go sleep at a church where I was attending, but the street friends protested strongly saying they did not want to wind up in jail!

A few weeks ago, Agent Mamma DJ and Agent V and I met Agent W in her camp spot on a tennis court in a park in central Lubbock.  Agent W is the one that had all the dogs.

I failed to even try to describe Agent W’s rig at the time.  The thing about her that caught our eye that day was the rig.  But it defies description, I think, and I just left it out of the report on account of that.  But if you had been there, you would have found it most remarkable – remarkable among eye-witnesses.

But how to describe it… to others who were not there to see it first hand?  hmmm….

I want to say go watch Mad Max in the Road Warrior.  But of course that is a fast paced movie with all manner of hot rod contraptions.  The “contraption” part is where we are getting close, however, I did not see the contraption move, but I imagine it moves very cumbersome and slowly.

I did not examine it when I was up close to it.  I was so very deeply engaged with Agent W herself at the time that I really did not notice where the shopping cart ended and the fence around the tennis court began.  But I think that if I called to your mind the skeletal frame of an old West covered wagon, and then transferred that picture onto a grocery buggy, and then loaded that with all manner of junk dangling off the scaffold contraption, then maybe, just maybe, you would begin to imagine the gaudy, tacky, and sophisticated trashiness on wheels that Agent W manages to relocate around town (along with five or six dogs).

It so happens that I have regular business that takes me up on 34th Street near Ave Q on a weekly basis.  There is a Sonic drive-in and a Family Dollar store there on 34th next to each other and flanked on either side of these neighboring businesses sits two small churches.

I have another memory from about three or four years ago when Ms. Jenny from Restoring Hope street ministry introduced me to a couple of guys who were sleeping behind one of those church buildings.  I recalled then that it was daring for those guys to sleep there, and they told me at that time they were staying away until they knew the pastor and all the congregants were gone.

Knowing that, I always glance back in that direction to look for evidence of squatters every time I drive through that part of 34th Street ever since.  And sure enough two weeks ago, I spotted Agent W’s rig back there across the parking lot from the church building and tucked almost out of sight behind the Family Dollar.  I drove up and spoke with Agent W briefly on that occasion and told her she is in my daily prayers.

But yesterday, as I was making my way through there, I saw her rig jammed up against the church-house door under the protection of the shade on a day with record-breaking heat.  I noticed no cars on the lot, suggesting that no pastor or congregants were currently around.

I did not stop to talk to her.  I was way too busy with foster care business, and I make a point not to seek out street homeless people when I have foster kids in the car with me.  I have no way of KNOWING, at this point, whether Agent W had express permission from the church to camp there like that, but I highly doubt it.  I doubt it because I have only ever heard of one church, Bacon Heights Baptist Church, that made such an arrangement with street people in Lubbock on the one hand, AND based on my experience with psych patients plus my conversations with Agent W, I expect she is delusional on the other hand and may well squat like that rather boldly without permission.

There are so many burdensome side issues raised in these observations I make here that I cannot address them all in a single post.  But I can, in under 800 words so far, do my best to create the snap shot of what I saw as I drove past.  It is a disturbing image.  “The least of these” camped outside the locked up church-house door in all the glory of junk a grocery buggy can possibly carry, and with six or more dogs all chained together making dog messes and passing the time away on a hot day like no one has a care in the world.

WWJD?

Wax On/Wax Off

Symbols and metaphors are the paints and brushes of prophetic imagination.  When God speaks through his prophets, sometimes he makes them talk (preach/sermon/oracle), but just as often he makes them act.  The prophetic acts are mini dramas that embody and demonstrate God’s message, but unlike oracles and worded messages, you can’t argue with them.  And once you witness one of these enacted messages that plays with symbols you hold dear or metaphoric connections you didn’t make before, they smuggle God’s message into your imagination behind your defensive grid of rational thought where they tick like a time bomb until your heart is open and vulnerable and then suddenly they explode into life.

I vastly prefer finding biblical imagination at work in my life and in the life of the church to anything extra-biblical or non-biblical and certainly to anything un-biblical.  (I will post more on that another time.)  But a few “secular” symbols and metaphors (let’s not leave out similes) prove stubbornly helpful, it seems to me.  And one of those is found in The Karate Kid.

To be honest, I don’t really like The Karate Kid movie.  I like a few Ralph Macchio movies, alright, but not this one, and not so much for his sake either.  But this is not a movie review, just a quick disclaimer.  What I like about the story is of course the way Mr. Miyagi goes about teaching Karate to the young Daniel-san.  He gives him some mindless, almost meaningless, repetitive, and even humiliating work to do, which Daniel-san gladly and willingly embraces at first.  Eventually, it becomes grueling to him, and Daniel protests it.  And it is at that mystical moment that Miyagi reveals (apocalypse) to Daniel that he has been learning Karate all along!

Boom!

The time bomb explodes.

This becomes a metaphor depicting so much of my experience with faith.

This is not a biblical illustration, but a secular one instead, but nevertheless is so highly relatable to people my age in this culture, and despite the weaknesses of the movie (from acting, to plot, to being out of date), Ralph Macchio is still recognized for this work more than three decades later, and anyone reading this almost surely knows I am referring to this movie by placing the title on this post.

It’s a tangible version of “let the force be with you”.

Whatever else we might say about faith and prophetic imagination, this secular example does seem to help us get our minds into the process, I think.  And so I offer it as a gateway metaphor into discussion of prophetic imagination.

But I intend to move quickly into the good soil of Scripture for most of my harvest.  And I will invite you to join me there in future posts.

A Prophet Without Honor

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his own people… in his own HOUSE” -Jesus.

I have come to realize that I cannot make it more clear… more simple… more easy to understand or digest.  It’s not that I didn’t say it loud enough.  It’s not that it’s just too complicated.  It’s not that I am a terrible messenger, though that is true enough (I told God to send someone who can say it better, but he told me St. Paul was good enough; Moses was good enough; even Balam’s Ass was good enough speakers though they thought poorly of their abilities too!).

I have knocked on the door of your heart with kindness, gentleness, patience and all that, but you did not answer the door.  I loitered around it so that you and all your friends had to step around and over me to go in and out, and still you ignored me there.  I invited you to come out and dine with us, but you said, “No thanx”, and “I already ate a big meal”.  And I banged on the door loudly and abruptly with a sharp tone, and that was when I FINALLY got a reaction, but you complained about my “tone”.

And I didn’t seek attention for myself, but for others, but once you acknowledged my banging and tone, it was only my harshness you wanted to talk about.  You still have yet to acknowledge that your sheep are astray, some even dying in the streets!

You have a very hard heart and a big lock on the door of it.  I have experienced it for years now, it is my report back to HQ.

I brought a message from Jesus.  I am amazed at those in other towns, other houses, among other peoples who have heard the message I bring and who respond with favor, conviction, and humility.  But you… my people in my town in the HOUSE of God where I worship would not.

Hmmm…

A prophet without honor…

I know the feeling.

Let’s Pretend

You ever pretend?

Sounds like child’s play, no?

I can hear you now:

Sorry, X, but I’m a grown up.  I don’t pretend.

Really?

Ever dress up for Halloween?  Isn’t that a game of pretend?  Isn’t that what Tom Cruise does for a living?  Pretend he is someone he’s not in blockbuster movies we all pay hard earned money to see?  Sounds like a good business to be in; he makes it look so easy.  So, pretend is a lot bigger than just Halloween.

Ahhh…  But actors are also known as thespians and hypocrites.  And we don’t want to be hypocrites do we?  Hypocrites.  That’s someone pretending to be what they are not, and passing it off as real.  It is a false way to be, and you cannot trust such people.

And anyway, playing pretend is child’s play.  We should grow up and be authentic instead… .  No?

Well, if you are just so sure you need to resist, then go on your merry way and be all grown up and non-hypocritical, if you must.

But remember Jesus said: Let the children come to me, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  AND whoever does not receive the Kingdom like one of these shall not enter it.  So, I suggest you consider this notion carefully before you discount it in a knee jerk reaction.  Don’t get too wrapped up in your own sophisticated authenticity.

Here is a prophetic idea for you:

Pretend.

Pretend you are Jesus for a day.  Read about him in the Gospels and look for opportunities to behave like him as best you can.  You will find that the great academy award winning actors make this look easier than it is, but you can develop your skills as you go; there is grace for that.

But don’t let the role just go to your head.  There are more facets to pretending, and you should explore them.  So here’s another prophetic idea for you:

Pretend that the next person you meet is Jesus and treat them the way you think he should be treated.  You will find all kinds of problems with this because it would REALLY help if they were pretending to be him when you do this, AND it would help a lot if they were good at it when they pretend to be him.  But this is a luxury we don’t have.  Nevertheless, you can pretend, and work at it developing skills at it, and I am sure you will find authentic blessings in doing so, if you authentically pretend.

But I have yet another facet to explore.  Here is one more prophetic idea for you:

Find someone you really cannot stand – an enemy or someone beneath your contempt (the homeless quickly come to mind) – and pretend they are Jesus and treat them the way you think Jesus should be treated.

Here’s the thing:

You were created in the image of God to bear his image in the world.  Jesus is the perfect image of the invisible God (I read this somewhere).  And so if you pretend to be him, instead of being yourself, then you will be being your true self, the self you were created by God to be.  This will be hard to do, and you will likely not master it, but have you ever tried?  Let’s get started!  But there is more:

All the other people you see running around, going to work, to the lake, to the supermarket or wherever… are also created to bear the image of God too.  Like you, they are not doing it – and the few who try don’t typically do it well.  But when you treat them as if they do, you are helping them to do it better.  And where ever two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name, there he is in their midst (I read this somewhere too).

But in none of this do you get to “be yourself” in any normal sense of that terminology.  And in fact, the real hypocrites – the ones you cannot trust – are those pretending they are lord and master of their own making rather than reflecting the image of the Creator God.

Imagine That!

 

 

Youth Ministry and Homeless Ministry at The Same Time!?

Agent Z aint messin around. He is doing two ministries for the price of one!

I Am Agent Z

It turns out that you can do Youth and Homeless ministry at the same time. Last night we threw an end of the year party for our youth group and did not have quite the turnout that we were expecting, not even close. So, seeing that we had a surplus of hamburgers, I asked if it was okay if I bagged them up to give to some homeless people, as I could look out the door and see at least one standing on the bridge with a sign. When I got the okay, I bagged up about thirty burgers into three bags and ran one of the bags over to the man on the bridge, after talking to him I found out his name is Brandon and him and his brother live under the bridge with a few others.

This morning I still had two bags of burgers, and some…

View original post 142 more words

Jesus died in ABQ flood yesterday

Headlines from under the overpass in ABQ: Jesus Dead in Flash Flood

I Am Agent Z

Today I had it brought to my attention that a homeless person died during the rain storm yesterday. After looking for news on the subject, I have learned that the woman who died in the flooding was an unnamed homeless woman. However, I can tell you, this woman was Jesus. ABQ let Jesus die in a flood yesterday. No one welcomed Jesus inside when he was a stranger. (Matt. 25:35)

Here is a link to the article for those who are interested:

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/albuquerque-storm-sweeps-away-6-in-arroyos-1death-reported/

Here is Matthew 25 for those who need a refresher:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+25&version=ESV

View original post

Bearing The Image at the Place of Shame, Pain, & Despair

Thomas, Mark, Jerry, Jason, Heather & Dennis, Ricardo, Ishmael, George, Belinda, Leo, Pedro, Sylvia, Charles & Autumn, Jeremy, Damien, John & Gina, Jessica & her friends from Denver, Andy, Aaron, Aaron, Dustin, Justina, Mike & Faith, Erika & Rudy, Catman, Daniel, Daniel & Jenifer, SteveO & Patty, James & May, Lee & Suzi, Matt, Mary, Tex & Ryan, Roadkill, Scarlett, Hank, Henry, & Harry, Kate, Kathy, William-Lee, and Lucio, Johnny, Daniel Zapata, Qurran, Raul, and that whole crew, Trip, Melissa, Allison, Cassandra, Stephen & Sarah, Craig & Antwon and that whole crew, David & Tasha, Christina, Brenda, Ryan, Turk, Tony & Rene and Nikki and all them, Alabama, “Bob from Denver”, Jim & Happy, Michael, Etta, Daniel & Pete, Red, Crystal & Dustin, Mike, Lee, Joe & Melissa, Mamma Jo & Cliff, Mamma DJ, Anna, Anica, GL, Veronica, Wendy, Kitty, and Terry

… Just to name a few….