BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR…

The fact of the matter is, whether WE asked for it or not, I did.  Now… now… now, before you go blaming ME, hear me out.  It’s not like I necessarily knew exactly what I was asking for, but if God answers prayers, this is his answer to mine.  If you don’t like it, take it up with him, not me.  I do not have the power to do what has happened.  But I did ask.  And now I, and possibly WE, have lessons to learn from this.  Let’s talk about it…

My Prayer

I have prayed all my life, but there have been times of personal crisis which always seemed to send me to my knees before God with renewed vigor too.  Then I went to school and studied Bible, answering a call on my life, which also led me to more careful prayer.  But the last decade, actually the last 15 years of street ministry, have emphasized prayer in my life like I would not have guessed.

As far back as 2013, when the Fat Beggars School of Prophets were inaugurated, I adopted a daily practice of asking God to help our members bear the image of God seeking the effects described by the prophets of old.  Thus my daily prayer addressing God developed like this: “Express Yourself through the beggars, bums, and prophets so that at the sight of You in them may the mountains bow down, the valleys stand at attention, and the crooked places straighten out, like Isaiah told us in the days of old… so that at the sight of You in them may the whole economy turn upside down, shake it out on the ground, and start it all over again, just like You did with those beggars of old at the gates of Samaria… and at the sight of You in them, may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in Lubbock like it is in heaven….”

Did you catch that part emphasized in italics?

Yeah.

I have been pleading that part with God on almost a daily basis since 2013.

Who would have ever dreamed that God answers prayers?  I will say that I wondered many times if I was being heard in the heavenly court by top management or not.  Somewhere there in 2013, the economy was doing fine, recovering actually from the 2008 recession, and I confronted the homeless church where I was a member about locking the homeless outside at night in the cold, and not only did leadership kick me out of the flock over this, but at the same time that church was voted by the wider community to receive a huge donation from the bank so that they could expand their ministry (which still did not open the doors to the poor).

FEELINGS

I sure didn’t FEEL like God was hearing me THEN.

OTHER things (other feelings and Bible considerations)

Hold that thought.  I have OTHER things I want to bring into this, but I will come back to that FEELING and to the influence it had on further prayer developments.  So change gears with me for the moment.

For the better part of SEVEN YEARS, I have been asking God to turn our economy upside down, shake it out on the ground, and start it all over again like he did so long ago with those beggars at the gates of Samaria.  (I recently posted on THAT story which is found in II Kings 6 & 7, and it quickly became my  most viewed post all year long so far!).  Well, he seems to have turned it up upside down, alright.  It remains to be seen whether he will now express himself through the bums and start it all over again.  But I am impacted by these events in relation to my prayer.

I suddenly FEEL like God was listening!  I suddenly FEEL like I was heard!!  I suddenly FEEL scared by it!!!

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!  (I can hear James Hetfield’s thundering lyric pounding that thought in my mind.)

SEVEN YEARS of this prayer?  SEVEN, that is a holy number.  Joseph, son of Jacob, sold by his own brothers into slavery in Egypt, the same boy with big dreams about the hay bales of his brothers bowing to his hay bale and the dreams of their stars bowing to him, went into slavery and prison UTTERLY FORGOTTEN and alone (as far as he could tell) with just his broken dreams until the king of Egypt needed his dreams interpreted.

You already know that story.  Surely I don’t need to recite it.  I am thinking that somewhere along the way his anticipation of greatness died.  This dreamer, this dream interpreter, with such a stellar record in his wake, who up until this point had no indication beyond his blind faith that his own dreams of grandeur would come true, has quite the opposite actually.  All his dreams are ground down to the nub – nothing but a memory.  Yet upon satisfying Egypt’s king, he becomes the second person in command of the whole known world (mirroring the Second Person in the Divine Trinity).  And for SEVEN YEARS, he manages the food production and storage, and then for SEVEN YEARS he manages the banquet in hard times!

Now… back to an ongoing conversation I have been developing on this blog in recent days: WAS THIS A JUDGMENT of God?  Or was this a Party-Planners Apocalypse???  For certainly Egypt’s economy tanked, AND the economy of the whole known world with it too, except for God’s intervention through Joseph on behalf of Egypt and even more so the whole world!  Was this JUDGMENT?  Or NOT???

Was God behind this or not?  Was it a form of discipline or not?  What words do you use for it?

We can get into some deeper questions quite fast and easily here.  Was this for Egypt’s benefit?  What was the purpose of these events?  Or was this for Israel’s punishment?  Was it for our benefit or punishment?

The people of Genesis start beholding Joseph’s favor with Jacob which leads to the envy of his brothers, which quickly gives way to Joseph’s dreams of grandeur and then leads to his brothers’ hatred and dread and terrible actions.  But the end of this story bookends all of those things.  Joseph’s dreams come true.  The brothers actually do bow down to him!

BUT…

But by the time they come true, I am not convinced Joseph is doing a happy dance and singing “I told you so…”  No.  On the contrary, Joseph is reduced to tears!

BUT… AGAIN…

Just because these things happen to Joseph and his brothers AND just because we find this bookend to the story in Genesis IN NO WAY means that is the end of it.

NO…

All of this is pointing forward – FAR FORWARD – to Jesus – to Jesus who was handed over to Pilate because of envy (Mark 15:10; Matt. 27:18).

But in the meantime, all this cataclysmic worldwide economic crash and food shortage otherwise has all the earmarks of a JUDGMENT.  Definitely we CAN and SHOULD credit ALL OF IT to God!  It is discipline to the ancient ones and to us today.

And besides, there is NO DEFENSE for the societal behaviors pervading our culture(s) at the local, national, and global levels of the past 6000 years, much less the last 50.  We are a sinful lot!  Go look at the sins of the world in the days of Noah, of the people on the Plains of Shinar, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Israel and Judah, of even the Second Temple, and come back and tell me how we are not just as thoroughly guilty as those people who suffered JUDGMENT according to the Bible – largely due to those very sins.

Please, make that defense, if you can.  I am all ears.

Look.  I never dreamed that FOOTBALL would get shut down!  FOOTBALL is the third person of the unholy trinity of West Texas (Money, Sex, and Football)  And honestly, that religion draws all the Methodists, all the Baptists, all the Pentecostals, AND half the pagans too, not to mention atheists, and college students together every week like even Jesus can’t.  I mean, do you remember that quote from the Will Smith movie Concussion?

Let me refresh you.

“The NFL owns a day of the week, the same day the church used to own. Now it’s theirs.”

The problem with this movie is that it’s not actually fiction.  And the arrogance of that statement reflects the true state of things.

But whether you make a defense or not, all your efforts to do so will ultimately be beside the point anyway.  So DON’T BOTHER.  (Most of you are too committed to your preconceived notions to give this a hearing anyway.)  But just wait.  Just wait and see if you are starving in about six weeks from now, because there is a psychological effect that sets in for people who suffer terribly.  They often FEEL like they are suffering a cosmic JUDGMENT, and you can’t hardly talk them out of it when they reach that point.  And you sure might get your chance to see for yourself.

Still, all of that may really just be BESIDE the point.

However we slice it, whatever words/terminology we use for it, I am convinced that God is behind this.  He answered my prayers – SEVEN YEARS worth.

Application phase

NOW…I gotta confess: Answered prayers like this scares me.  Be careful what you ask for…

I never saw THIS coming.  The economy has tanked now over a little cootie we call coronavirus.  Coronavirus never came across my radar until it made headlines in the national news media back in January.  However, I am finding that a number of our culture’s prophets did predict it years ago – not least Bill Gates!  Even Conan O’Brien is on record saying his father, a microbiologist, warned him years ago that a pandemic would hit and change everything.

Are these God’s prophets?  Well, maybe.  God can use false prophets or even Balaam’s ass to spread his Word.  No.  These guys did not, to my knowledge, give God the glory or the credit (or “blame” God as some might call it), but their predictions did come true, and THAT is a mark of a true prophet.

But I didn’t see this coming.  (What does that say about me?)

No.  To me these microbes are scary, foreign, and surprising.  On their best day, I think: This is how Tom Cruise won the War of the Worlds.  Right?  This is how Brad Pitt beat won World War Z!  Right?  (I like movies.  What can I say?)

Neither one of those stories are really helpful, are they?  They are not biblical, that is sure.  And if we were, to apply some principles from these fantastical movies to our situation, then it would be us sinners who are the aliens and zombies whose demise finds resolution for this drama.

Hmmm…

Probably, in the end, all of that is beside the point too.  Let’s, as they used to say, “get back to the Bible.”

Egypt, and all the whole known world, gets plunged into economic ruin and starvation, just as God is raising Joseph, the both favored and dreaded son, to realize his dreams of grandeur.  People literally starve to death all over the world and then come running to God’s man, bowing down to him, finding God’s grace in his care, and by far most of them NEVER know why.

But we do.

And why is it?

Is it because of sin?

Well, yes… but there is no indication this JUDGMENT/DISCIPLINE is linked to a particular rebellion against God like we find in other JUDGMENTS.  On the contrary, it LOOKS like the whole thing is designed to bring Joseph glory and honor and power, except that with CHRISTIAN EYES OPEN we see that it actually always really pointed to Jesus.  Jesus is the cosmic Party Planner wants everyone to come to HIM for the living food!  And Jesus came to save us from our sins, alright, so we surely must factor that in to the scenario even if we are mystified by how that works.  I know for sure that had Adam and Eve not sinned at the other end of Genesis, Joseph’s story would not have unfolded in the divine drama.  So, yes, sin is involved in this whether we can map out how or not.

Maybe I am wrong about all that.  But it sure seems reasonable and biblical to me.  But if I am failing to make sense, please point out to me how and where.

The real jump always comes at the “application” part of the Bible study.  Does any of this apply to the coronavirus and the economic crash?

Well, I feel sure that as the one who prayed for this, if I look into the eye of this storm and say, “No, This ain’t God’s doing; this ain’t no answer from God,” then I must be a faithless fool.  Maybe you can look at it and say that, but I can’t.

So it isn’t popular, not even among Christians, to say this is a JUDGMENT of God.

Should peer pressure be my “standard” and dictate the lesson I take from this?

I don’t think so.

However, if you can show me IN THE BIBLE where all this kind of stuff happens and God doesn’t have anything to do with it, then I am all ears.  Can you go THERE and demonstrate to me how such things are not his JUDGMENT?  I am all ears.

But I prayed for it too.  Be careful what you ask for!  I prayed this for SEVEN YEARS.

IF – and I mean if – IF I am right (or at least on the scent), then what is the application?

Well, no doubt we are full of sin as a city, a nation, and the world.  And there are far more sins involved than the ones I harp on, but at the very least we have been very proud and arrogant, very rich and stingy, self righteous and self justifying – all at the expense of LOVE.  And God has worked in and through the small, the poor, the weak, the insignificant – the poor bums we specifically LOCK OUTSIDE OUR CHURCH HOUSE DOORS.

How about we take this time to go ask forgiveness from a bum we dismissed?  Because if this ain’t the end of time and the ultimate JUDGMENT hot on the heels of this virus, then perhaps God is knocking us to our knees for one more real chance to confess, to open our eyes, to receive conviction, and have our hearts broken for him.  Perhaps once we FEEL the suffering, that most terrible sense of JUDGMENT will kick in again whether it makes sense to us or not, and we will come with broken and contrite hearts to God before the REAL JUDGMENT does come and claim sheep and reject goats.

Hmmm…

Back to talking about FEELINGS

I got into a rut with my prayer.  I kept bringing it before the LORD, alright, but I lost the FEELING for it.  Then it came back.  Then I lost it again.  Then again.  And again.  For SEVEN YEARS, I did this.  Somewhere about two years ago, all the anticipation just vanished.  It began to FEEL like just some empty ritual.

Then one day we face a “pandemic” and the stock market crashes.  Then it crashes the next day and the next.  Soon the talking heads are making mention of “recession” and then soon after that “depression.”  And somewhere, right about there, it hit me.  I asked for this.

Be careful what you ask for…

I don’t think Joseph had the SAME investment in those dreams of grandeur when they were realized as he did when he first shared them with his brothers and made them so jealous.  I don’t think he was even remotely interested in the I-told-you-so song and dance.  No.  I think he was so overwhelmed with emotions, and by the depths at which God’s healing touch COULD reach, that he was reduced to tears.  He probably was as sorry for his own pride as he was happy to see his family again.  Maybe that’s just me, but I think all those hopeless years in slavery and prison with NO CHANCE his personal dreams would ever see the light of day again, did THAT to him.  That’s what I think.

FEELINGS.  The Bible doesn’t actually tell us too much about that part, but depicts Joe’s tears, and that is how I read it.

For my part, I FELT neglected, unheard, insignificant for a very long time.  Then God answered my prayers, and we have a coronavirus tanking the economy worldwide, and I am scared even to claim it.  I’m scared to post this.  I am scared it will do as much harm to me as anyone else.  I am scared that I even toyed with such prayers to begin with… be careful what you ask for…!

I was FEELING cut out by my church too.  They ran me off just when I was asking that the poor be included.  They found a windfall just when I was asking God to take our economy and shake it out on the ground.  And then for SEVEN YEARS, that did not happen.  Instead my brothers back at the church that kicked me out put together a million dollar budget and found funding for it.

What do you think I was FEELING?

I can tell you this: I didn’t think the FEELING was particularly from God.

So I set out praying for my brothers.  I continued to confront them, but I also prayed for them, and I still do.  It is my daily practice to recite the prayer of Jesus when he said, “Forgive them.”

Yes, for most of the last SEVEN YEARS, I have asked God to forgive my brothers for the ugly way they have treated me and the poor.  I have asked God to bless them.  I have thanked God for the crumbs that do fall from their table.  I have thanked God for those who answer the call to come and serve despite it being a difficult calling, serving difficult people, under the watchful eye of a world that largely scorned the work.  AND I have asked God to give me a heart to forgive them too.

This has been a prayer developed over SEVEN YEARS.  And now it seems God has answered (be careful what you ask for), and I am scared.  Is God’s answer to this prayer going to kill my wife?  Will it kill my kids??  Will it kill me???  Did I truly find forgiveness in my heart for the brothers who locked the door in the face of the poor???  We will all answer for ourselves, and this moment in history brings the questions to bear!  Will the poor finally bear the image of God?  And will the mountains finally bow down, the valleys finally stand up, and the crooked places finally straighten out?  For surely God has turned the economy upside down, just like he did using those beggars of old at the gates of Samaria.

I can only testify to what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done.  I am not lying about any of this.  That leaves only mistakes, misunderstandings, or the truth to be dealt with, and I have laid it all out there now to be picked over and examined.

I was being faithful when I answered the call.  Now I am being faithful with my accounting of it.

God have mercy on us all!

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. anonymous~ · April 9, 2020

    Thank you for the wake up call to see my LORD, and my GOD in those I attempt to serve in His name!
    I have a long way to go before I may see my proverbial dreams come true. I’m grateful for God’s mercy, and blessings towards me!! Thank you again!
    God bless you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steven · April 9, 2020

    Be careful what you pray for—a great lesson for anyone who dares get in a relationship with the Creator of all. Sort of reminds me of a few times in the past couple of years when in my more frustrated, definitely less balanced moments, I would pray for God to destroy society as I sat in my pew before Mass began. My prayer currently is that a more just society and economic system will emerge from this crisis, which starts in my own life.

    Liked by 1 person

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