’tis The Season (again)

A Fat Beggars’ Christmas tradition… Here is the annual re-post offered yet again this Christmas Eve. Yet I pray it be unnecessary and irrelevant next year…

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

(The following is the Fat Beggars traditional Christmas Eve post.  May it prompt readers to open their homes tonight.)

It’s Christmas eve now.  A night filled with expectation.  Expectation of God.  Expectation of LOVE.  The candles lit, the stockings hung, the Christ-child is in his manger, and all through the house… not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.

This is Christmas – ground zero.

Camp Jesus: Ground Zero

Camp Jesus: Ground Zero

And my heart hurts for anyone who does not have a home to be in tonight.  For anyone who is not with their family.

Snapshot 7 April 30 Joe n Missy at Whataburger Snapshot 5 Calendar attempt Mike fixing tent poles after storm wind Snapshot 4 Calendar attempt Snapshot 9 Calendar attempt

I really want you here with me, celebrating.  We have a fire.  We have some hot chocolate.  There is room for one more.

It might be meager, but if you ain’t too proud, you can fit in here.

I am thinking of you just now, as the flames burn low and…

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Voices behind Bathroom Walls

Being unable to produce my own posts, it occurs to me that I can reblog Tom and keep a toehold in the blog-O-sphere.
Thx for your patience during these technical difficulties.

Hard Times Ministries

Have you ever noticed the attention placed on messages scribbled on bathroom walls? Today even, here locally in Jacksonville, we have schools on lock-down and a red alert activated due to a bomb threat read off one of the bathrooms at a urban middle school.

With the alert comes shakedowns, metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, many police,FBI, and it seems like the : Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force and Swiss Border Patrol along with the Japanese Navy.

And of course, I exaggerate, but the point I am making here is that the danger and event is important, so thus, we pay attention to it.

Yet, as important as a bomb threat is to us, even more importantly is the Kingdom of God.

Imagine if we were to grant importance to Jesus the same as we do to earthy matters? Yes, I state that Jesus is more important to…

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If You Were The Carpenter

I got into a curious conversation recently that keeps my imagination humming.

It almost seemed too trivial at first.  I almost didn’t take it serious.  I guess you could say it was beneath my contempt.  After all, I don’t come to Jesus looking for what YOU think.

Okay, let me unpack that statement.  I am sure it doesn’t make sense yet.

I don’t get invited to too many Bible studies anymore.  So maybe this is just a trend whose time has come and gone, but perhaps you know the experience yourself.

Often a deacon or Sunday school teacher charged with leading a class winds up turning the session into a “discussion” of a text.  (So far, so good.)  But the “discussion” boils down to a few people talking about “what the text means to me”.

I don’t mean to suggest that is a bad thing.  But it’s not, really, a goal.  It’s not the end game.  It’s not the point.  I mean it’s a good start (not a necessary one, but a good one).  You read a text, and part of absorbing it is reflecting on what it means, and your own opinions and ideas are the first stop in that process.

But really, we want to know what IT means.  What did this text mean to the person/people who wrote it?

I am thankful to have the text translated into English, even thankful there are various versions of it in English, but those who wrote it, who were inspired by God to offer it, did not write in English, not even Old English.  They were not Americans, and thus not part of this culture, not expressing the message in American idioms and so forth.  There was an original context, and getting to the meaning of a text means getting familiar with it, as best we can, rather than settling for “what it means to me” or to Mrs. Wilson, or to Mr. Johnson.

So often we treat the Bible like its our slave, and read a passage completely out of context, ask what it means to us, and settle for what ever FEELING it gives to us or to someone brave enough to speak up in the “discussion”.

Like, I said, I see that as a good start, but not a good finish.  We have tools, experts to consult, and deeper meditative reflection at our disposal than Mrs. Wilson’s opinion.  And even if some texts always remain mysterious to us, we can treat them with more respect than that.  (But let me hasten to add this caveat: In our day-n-time, it is fashionable not to even open a Bible anymore in some circles, and I want to commend anyone who at least does that much!)

And so when I got into this conversation recently, it sounded like this kind of exercise in futility to me – at first.  But we weren’t talking about Bible study – per se.  On the contrary, we were talking about Christian IMAGINATION.  Engagement with the heart.  And here was the suggestion:

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the CARPENTER with a limitless budget.  Even with NO SKILLS in the trade, artistic or scientific, take a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and sketch a floor plan for a church BUILDING you think would honor Jesus.  I mean, just start from scratch, using only what you know and think about church and Jesus and the world he comes into and dies for as a demonstrations of his LOVE.

Like I said, at first, it seemed too trivial to me.  Why would I care what a bum would draw?  Why would you care what Mr. Johnson would draw?  And for that matter, to my knowledge, no one has ever tried this exercise before, and the church has rocked along for 2000 years without it.

Right?

Wrong.

No.  Somebody did this.  Almost certainly skilled professionals.  And every single “church” building you ever entered (almost without exception) is the finished product of someone else’s imagination about what that should look, feel, and function like.  Often with millions of dollars devoted to it.

And yet, it’s not been questioned.  Just accepted.  And the cultural artifact we call “church buildings” guide our Christian imaginations – sometimes setting them free, but sometimes limiting them in ways we NEVER notice.

Would this get us to the bottom of anything?

No.  This exercise is not a goal in itself.  But it is a good start.  One I would like to invite you to engage in for once in your life.  And once you do, describe it, and tell why you would build it this way or that.  And don’t forget, there is no budget to limit your imagination.

My Idea of Church Must Just Be Radically Different

Lubbock got hit with almost a foot of snow in one morning!  It is such a rare level of snow storm for us here, to be sure.  However, it’s managed NOT to be utterly paralyzing like you might think.  Dangerous, yes, but not epic.

The roads were surprisingly passable yesterday.  But they remained wet and then froze in the deep freeze last night.  So, traffic this morning… beware…  Right?

Right.

So… many churches all over Lubbock either canceled or delayed services today.

Makes sense…. Right?

Yes.

Sorta.

I mean, the hospital didn’t close.  The fire department is still keeping us safe.  The police are out there watching over us.  They didn’t cancel or delay at all.

I am wondering about the church…

Do we need to gather for worship at times like this?  It seems a bit nuts, no?

Well, it wasn’t nuts for my wife, the nurse, to get up and out at 6:30 this morning and answer the call to be at work tending to sick babies.  And I recall a few years ago when we had a massive snow that actually did paralyze us and that the Sheriff’s office called in all hands, and the jail staff worked round the clock for 3 days and nights!

We saw this storm coming, this week.  We could have prepared.

I wonder why my church didn’t hit the stores and stock up on groceries, round up all the needy and poor people of our community, and take them in 2 days ago for a 72 hour worship service!  Why is it that people who said YES to Jesus and to picking up our crosses and follow him don’t see this?

I guess I just really must see church very differently from all the others.

Snowed IN

So glad we have an IN to be snowed in to…

As usual, my thoughts and prayers are with those who find no room at the inn (or at the church) this time of year.  But even though the scale of the wallop is a bit of a surprise, the fact that we got it is not.  I expect our million dollar street ministries are taking people in their facilities just now.  I certainly hope so.

Actually, I don’t, at the moment, really know.  But I believe they do take care of folks under these conditions for emergency services.

As for this house, since I am kicked out of the charity services across town, we have 3 little toddlers taking refuge with us in the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners.  They have never seen snow before, and, praise God, they have this warm HOME to be in while we venture out to have a little fun before returning for hot chocolate and indoor fun.

IT’S A SNOW DAY!!!  in Lubbock, Texas today.

 

Is There Anybody In There?

Hello?  Hello!  HELLO!!  HELLO!!!

HELL… oh…

I have resisted writing a series of posts about, for, and as the door keeper at the House of God.

I say I “resisted”.

Well, I have.  Not that you noticed, but I have.

I think of Walter de la Mare’s poem, The Listeners.  (I definitely recommend my reader(s) check it out.  Here is the link.)

There is a sense in which this whole blog is an exercise in knocking on that door, prophetically, on God’s behalf.  Is God in there?  This is HIS House … No???

Yes.  The House of God belongs to God, the Master of the House.  He places a servant there to keep alert for the Master’s Return.  He instructs the servant to “Keep Alert!”  After all, the servant does not know the day nor the hour when the Master will Come Again (Mark 13:32-37).

In that sense, this whole blog has been a test of the theological Emergency Broadcast System.  It’s only a test!  If it had been the REAL knock, the servant at the door would be judged by now.  (Let the reader understand…(Mark 13:14))

Jesus is the Carpenter (Mark 6:3).  He builds The Carpenter’s Church (Eph. 2:19-22).  He comes there to live, to worship, to party with us (Luke 14:7-24; 15:2, 6-7, 9-10, 22-24, 32).

May the door keeper be found worthy!

“Behold!” says Jesus, “I stand at the door and knock.  If you open up, I will come in and party with you” (Rev. 3:20).

Perhaps the door keeper didn’t hear the knock?  Perhaps the door keeper fell asleep??  Perhaps the door keeper didn’t recognize Jesus when he came???

“When you [welcomed the Stranger] did it to the least of these brothers, you [welcomed Me] did it to Me” (Matt. 25:35-40).

Somebody, please, wake up the door keeper in there!  This job he does (or not) is VERY IMPORTANT.

Hello???

Is there anybody in there… in there… in there… in there….???

You’ve Heard It Said… “Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin”

It’s a nifty phrase, don’t you think?

It’s not in the Bible, but I get it.  It makes sense… sorta.  It helps to keep straight that there are standards of both behavior and LOVE that do not cancel out each other.  I don’t have to like your sin or endorse it, but I am supposed to love you.

Yeah.  I can handle that.

So if that makes sense, then surely you can appreciate the problem with saying, “Hate the Homeless; Love the Homeless Ministry”.

Let me say that again:

Hate the Homeless; Love the Homeless Ministry.

Not making sense?

Well it shouldn’t.  Because it doesn’t.

In fact, it has taken me a long time to catch on to it BECAUSE it doesn’t make sense, AND it’s not in the Bible.

Yeah.  I belong to a church that LOVE’s our Homeless Ministry alright.  We are major contributors to the work, alright, AND we offer Bible classes designed to educate our church on the issue and how to help it.  Some of our ministers even run a coffee shop where every purchase of your favorite latte raises money for the cause too.  We send our youth group to short term missions on the streets of Los Angeles, California every year.  And many from our church volunteer for a number of charity organizations that serve the homeless.

So, yeah, we LOVE the Homeless Ministry.

But…

Come to our worship services on any given Sunday and look around.  You won’t see a homeless person among us.  We don’t share our worship or our lives with THEM. No.  We have a (separate but not quite equal) church for THEM across town… where THEY are more comfortable anyway.  And if I offer a homeless person a dollar, I will come under scrutiny for it, but if I give a dollar to anyone else, that is fine.  If I point out that we have homeless people sleeping out even in our part of town and ask if we can open our door for them, I am emphatically told ‘NO!”

Thus we…

HATE THE HOMELESS; LOVE THE HOMELESS MINISTRY.

It’s worth noting.

It’s About Monarchy Not Democracy (Sorry America)

Jesus doesn’t come along the seashore preaching about the Democracy of Heaven.  He does not say, “Repent!  The Democracy of Heaven is at hand!”  No.  He says, “Kingdom!”

There is a lot of religion and politics these days that doesn’t seem to know the difference.  This seems odd to me since it was not so long ago that American Christianity typically made the mistake of assuming “The Kingdom of Heaven” meant “Heaven” – as in up in the sky, far removed from us “down here” on earth.

It seems a pendulum has swung.  There is a feeling that the Republican Party is the “party of God” and can do no wrong even if it champions a self-professed, unrepentant “pussy” grabber.  A feeling that God wants Republicans in charge and that they represent him because God is a fiscal conservative at heart who hates abortion and wants to end welfare.

No doubt a lot of us Christians are thoughtful enough to see through this, but the momentous wave of politics seems to sweep us up in it nonetheless, and somehow our critical thinking gets affected.

God against welfare?  Really???  Have you listened to HIS Word lately?

The two greatest commands in God’s Word are LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS.  The answer to Cain is “YES”, you are your brother’s keeper.  The King in this Kingdom is a Shepherd of the flock!  We are meant to follow wherever he leads, to depend on him utterly, and to share our blessings with one another fully.

As I see it, American politics AT OUR BEST (which isn’t that great, actually) pits love of God against love of others.  Republicans/conservatives lament the loss of prayer in school and legal abortions largely because they seem so contrary to the will of God, whereas Democrats/liberals are not nearly so beholding to the Judeo/Christian God.  On the other hand, Democrats/liberals seem to show far more care and willingness to sacrifice for the care of our needy brothers and sisters, whereas the Republicans/conservatives feel encroached upon by the needy and their claim on us through taxes.  And in the America God “blesses”, my participation in politics boils down to this dichotomy, which tears apart the will of God – the first and second commands which are meant to go together.

The church in America has tried hard to have it both ways.  But it’s not working.  The Kingdom of Heaven is a Monarchy, not a democracy.  When I was a kid, our approach to the needy was not so much to be our brother’s keeper, but to point their souls to heaven.  Now it seems we search for ways to make them fiscally conservative like us so that we can finally have the utopia we desire in democracy.

This is a serious mistake.

The King has spoken.  Listen to his Word.  Do as the King says.  Stop trying to reorder his world according to your desires, and trust the Shepherd King to order it beyond your wildest dreams.  Take him at his Word.  REPENT!  THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND!