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Friday, September 27, 2013
I HAVE CALLED YOU FRIENDS- [Jesus to his disciples] My last North Bergen post- for 2013.
The chapter for the week is Luke 15.
As I write today- this will be my last North Bergen post- till next year.
I have a few things I need to squeeze in to this one- so bear with me.
The other day- as I was debating on going back up the block- to White Castle [I go at different times- never to eat- but times I know some of the street guys will be there].
I decided to go- at an unusual time.
As I sat there- a few of the street guys were there- and we were getting into our little social club mood.
The street guys know some of the senior citizen crowd- who also hang out there.
Retired guys- yes- some of them are drinkers- but guys who have achieved a degree of success- and they feel like they deserve to just spend the day hanging out- fine with me.
But today- there were 3 older guys talking about religion and the bible.
Now- I have made it a habit to ‘shut up’ when these things happen.
Every so often I’ll hear somebody talking to someone else about God- and even if I think he might be getting some stuff wrong- I avoid the urge to butt in and ‘correct’ stuff like that.
But this time I had to at least ‘correct the record’.
These guys were discussing stuff- one guy says ‘you know the gospels were written hundreds of years after Christ’.
Another says ‘yeah- they did that word of mouth thing- what’s it called’?
So- at this point I did a few second ‘correction’.
‘It’s called Oral Tradition- and most scholars believe the gospels were written about 15- 20 years after Christ’ [this is true by the way- the early Christians did pass things by word of mouth- and some of the disciples realized they needed to write this down for future generations. If you read Acts chapter 1- the writer- Luke- says this- that he decided to also write an account of Christ for future generations].
So- after I spoke up- one of the guys who was sitting there seemed intrigued.
He must have seen me over these past months- with these street guys- and has happened in Texas- I often get seen as a street guy myself.
So Tony comes to sit with me- he asks me about why I’m here- why I have been on the streets and stuff.
I told him its ministry.
As we talked- I realized the church he attends- A messianic congregation in Lodi- I used to have contact with his Pastor because we both broadcast on the same radio station in Texas.
Tony explained to me that he was a Born Again Christian- and he feels part of his calling in life has been at certain times [he emphasized the Timing aspect] God will use him to communicate a Word/Message from God to another person.
I am very familiar with this gift- I have actually done this- taught this- and have seen it operate many times in my life.
So- as Tony learned my background- the ministry and all- he felt honored because he knew that this day God had sent him to me- that he usually knows who the ‘target’ is- and he knew this was one of the times.
But- he has never done this with someone at ‘my level’ [note- Tony was very respectful- and he simply saw me at a ‘higher level’ sort of like a scholar- because of the simple correction I gave earlier to the group- and then when he asked me about the ministry].
So- as we talked- for about an hour or so- he felt like God was telling me that this street work- the outreach to these guys- was without a doubt Gods true purpose.
Tony was envious in a way- he always wanted to do this- and he kept telling me that not many people have this calling [he sees me with the street guys- and he realizes that I did infiltrate this area- he himself probably thought I too was ‘on the streets’.]
Tony also said he felt God was telling me to lay down my years of studying- my books and stuff- and to focus on the outreach part of ministry- he could not emphasize enough how this thing- me on the streets- that this is the most valuable thing- that nothing compares to this.
I Told Tony when I left Texas 3 months ago- I gave my library of books away- for good.
I was able to instruct Tony- about what was happening between us- because he has had this gift [which you can call Prophecy- or a Word of Knowledge/Wisdom- these gifts are mentioned in the book of Corinthians] and I am very familiar with these types of gifts.
I also know when God sends someone.
The morning of my chance meeting with Tony- as I was reading Luke 16- I came across a verse that reminded me of an old friend- Randy.
He came so strongly to mind- that I prayed for him- and knew that something about Randy was important for this day.
Tony- looked- sounded- had the same exact demeanor of Randy- who I haven’t seen in 25 years.
Randy even used to tell me he envied my calling- going out to the streets and all- and that he wished he too had a sort of outgoing way of doing stuff.
So- Tony was ‘Randy’ this day.
In a nutshell- God sent Tony to give me this Word- this message- and I had already come to see the things Tony was saying.
Even about picking up the street ministry when I get back to Texas.
I wrote in a previous post about ‘taking back your Isaac’.
Out of all the things I laid down this year- the hardest was leaving the street ministry in Texas.
But these past few weeks I felt the Lord saying I will ‘pick’ that up again.
So Tony spoke Gods word to me this day- on my last week in North Bergen.
When I first got to town- and met the street guys- I would refer to them as Friends.
One day Nick took notice ‘John- I know you see us as Friends- but these guys are not friends- they are acquaintances’.
Now- I know what he meant.
It was funny- the other day I was with one of the guys.
He too owed 10 dollars for a particular purchase he made [I say too- because the other guy- in the group of 3- also owed ‘friend’ number 1].
So- the guy I was with- well I kinda was joking a bit-
‘Geez- so and so has owed so and so- about 13 times- since I’ve been here- and yet he always ‘let’s by gones be by-gones’ after he pays’ [he will owe for a day or 2- then when he has the money- he shows up and pays].
‘But’ I told my friend ‘when you owe- once- you get cut off’.
Now- I can’t’ really give all the details- how I know he really has only owed once [in the time I have been here] but that’s the story.
So- I tell my buddy ‘yeah- old ‘so and so’ must be racist- he lets the other guy [who is 100% Italian] off the hook a lot- yet you [not full Italian/white] get cut off after one time’.
He says ‘yeah- I’m gonna sue that son of a bitch’.
Now- we are both laughing here- and I know it’s not funny- well actually it is- but I’m giving you the ‘feel’ of the moment.
So- whenever one guy [usually just one] owes another money- he avoids him.
It’s routine now.
And the way I know is I’ll ask-
‘Was he at White Castle this morning’?
And the other guy says ‘no- he must owe so and so some money’.
That’s the scoop.
So- I’m with one of the guys- sitting on the bus bench off Bergenline Ave.
Across the street is another guy- who won’t talk to ‘us’ today [why me? Because I’m with the guy who owes- funny!]
As we are sitting there- the 3rd guy- who owes to the guy I’m with.
We see him ‘rolling’ down the street-
‘There he is- that son of a ..’
As the 3rd guy sees us- as we are sitting across from the other guy [standing at Quick check].
He too makes a hard left turn [in the middle of the road] and crosses the street [he owes the guy I’m with].
Then the guy I’m sitting with waits to see if he’s going to talk to the other guy- nope.
He owes him too- so all 3 of ‘the crew’ are avoiding each other- on my last week in North Bergen!
So I tell my friend ‘geez- I’m depressed- It’s like I’m leaving in the middle of a family feud’.
He was laughing his … off.
Over time- Nick started referring to me as his Friend.
One day something funny happened.
Rick asked if I could help him with an errand.
So I notice Nick didn’t text me in a day or so [the guys call- text- a lot- but I’m bad with that. I usually don’t answer the phone- or look at texts- so that’s not just here- but some of my buddies in Texas say the same thing ‘you never return my calls/texts!’]
I see Nick a day or 2 later.
He tells me ‘I saw Rick- he was bragging about how you were gonna help him- give him a ride- So he thinks he’s a big shot because you’re his friend…’
‘I told him- look- John chooses his friends- It’s not because you’re some great guy-..’
Now- I realized Nick- in a way- was ‘jealous’ of the fact that I was trying to help Rick.
You think ‘John- these are grown men’.
Yes- but this is not the first time these types of things have happened.
Lots of the guys on the streets have grown up in very dysfunctional homes- and 2 of the guys on this trip have spoken about deep resentments toward their Fathers.
So- even though these guys are my age- late 40’s- 50’s- yet these feelings of rejection- or wanting attention- are results of their dads having had bad relationships with their kids.
So- after time- we all starting seeing one another as friends.
Someone said yesterday- someone that’s not in the group- ‘gee John- you think these guys would take you out to eat before you leave’.
They have been asking me his for the last 3 weeks.
Even the other night Nick bought some Pizza for us at Angelo’s.
So yeah- after 3 months- it’s not a game- we are friends.
Okay- as I finish my ‘task’-
When I first got to town I was not sure how things would go.
I was trying to ‘hear’ God about what type/style of ministry I should do.
I used to actually ‘preach’ [you know- like a preacher].
But honestly- I’d rather be ‘on the streets’.
But- I printed up about 8 little bible studies- and they are in the format of a Christian based AA meeting.
I thought I might start meetings like that.
But as the weeks rolled by- I saw that was not the way to go.
But- I had these bible studies printed- and decided to give one to each of the guys- and write a personal letter to each of my new Friends.
I will hand them out- like little scrolls [I will post a picture] to the guys the day before I leave.
I attached a gold coin to each letter as a going away gift [the coin thing is a story in itself- if I remember I will mention it another time].
Now- I’m open- and blunt in these notes.
I basically tried to ‘custom fit’ each note for their own situation.
I talked about the danger of drug dealing- how if you keep doing it- you’re gonna get busted.
I talked about how someone with lots of talent is throwing it all away because he’s an addict- and needs to make an effort to change.
I talked about Alcoholism- and how it is ruining someone’s life.
I was blunt- talked as a friend- and made no bones about it- all 3 of you guys need to make a change- before time runs out.
Last night [Thursday- 9-27-13] I spent a little extra time hanging out with Nick- sitting on a bus bench off Bergenline ave.
I was ready to take off- Nick was in one of those ‘states’ where he talks.
Ok- but sometimes when the guys are going on- if I see it’s a result of how they spent their day- then I listen for a while- and take off.
But last night I figured I’ll stay a little longer- times running short.
Nick- a musician- is one of those guys who ‘speaks’ words [prophecy] without realizing it.
I have had this happen many times over the years with street friends- often musical guys [guitars on the streets] and they don’t realize what they are doing- by ‘accidentally’ speaking these Words of Wisdom.
So- the last few weeks the guys have been saying ‘wow John- what a f.. experience this must have been for you- meeting this crew’.
Now- to me this is not new- or a first.
This has been my life- I have done this for around 30 years now.
But to them- these guys in their 50’s [late 40’s- early 60’s] - yeah- this whole experience was new.
And now- after 3 months- yeah- at this late stage in life- we became Friends- just like when you were a kid.
So- last night Nick does another one of those ‘slip up’s’.
He’s wanting to say something about the past few months- and he says ‘what a Fu.. Carnival this must have been for you John’.
Now- he corrects himself [this is often how I know what they are saying is a word from God] and says ‘no- not Carnival- why am I using that word’.
And he goes on.
I often associate signs/images with things.
God often speaks to me thru these things- not in a weird way- let me explain.
One of the things I felt would be a sign this year was a Carnival.
The last 3 months I have been doing ministry- in the streets of North Bergen- where as a kid we used to go to the Carnival- in Hudson County Park.
Before I left Texas I kept saying ‘geez- I think I’m gonna see a Carnival before I go’.
I had this thing in my head- a connection with a Carnival- and this year.
Now- I have been making a journal for this year- I am not the type that does diaries- or journals.
But- this year- I felt the Lord telling me to do one.
Many years ago I used to post an ad [for the web site] in the Jersey Journal.
I ran that ad for a few years- and finally dropped it.
But- I cut out one of the actual pictures- a photo- of the Jersey Journal building- and the view of the Hudson River- across from the NYC skyline.
This is an actual photo of the area.
So- I have had this photo for about 7 years or so- and this year I pulled it off my office wall in Texas [thinking I was never ‘goin back again’] and stuck it in this journal.
A few weeks ago- as I was reviewing the journal- I saw something for the first time in this photo.
Right there- whenever this photo was taken [25 years ago?] there was a small Ferris Wheel- you could see it- there must have been some Carnival going on the day they took the photo.
As I saw it the other day- I felt like God was saying ‘there- see it- this was your Carnival.’
THIS being my last 3 months here- reaching out to the street crew.
So- once again- when Nick said ‘John- this must have been some fuc.. Carnival’ I knew what he meant.
When I first got back to town- my dad gave me a gift- a collection of gold coins that he was saving for me- I guess he figured he would leave them to me in his will.
But- he decided to give them to me now.
Their nice- not 100% gold- but worth some money.
I have been carrying one- a 20 dollar replica- with me as I walk.
I showed it to the crew a few months ago- and Billy really liked it.
‘John- that’s worth some money’.
I told him I gave one to a friend- Patrick- and Billy asked ‘why? Why would you give stuff away’?
But- after a few weeks- when the guys heard I was leaving- they started saying ‘man John- now I kinda wished you hung around a little longer- we need to all go out to eat before you take off’.
Now- these guys are funny at times- and all 3 [the main crew] have fought over stuff since I have been here.
So one day Billy asks ‘John- before you leave- can you give me a gold coin’.
You might think ‘how dare he ask!’
To be honest it didn’t bother me.
I told him I only have 3 of the big coins left [the one I showed him].
But ‘I’ll see what I can do’.
So- this week I have been writing those personal letters to each one of these guys- and I stuck the gold coin- a smaller one- on each letter [see the picture- if I remember to post it!]
Nick- and Rick have opened up some during my time here- but Billy- well he’s what we call a true road warrior.
At first I thought he was homeless- then maybe not- just a show- but I needed to correct that post- because I now know he sure enough is homeless.
I can’t give any more details- but I wanted to correct that part.
Billy is 61- he’s been on the streets for a while- and he’s not the emotional type [like Rick- who has cried a few times when we were talking about life- and God].
But Billy boy- Nah.
It was funny- the other day I went to White Castle to see the guys- Nick says ‘they had Billy laid out on 3 cop cars in the parking lot last night’.
The first thing I thought was ‘o no- I better stop blogging about this journey- maybe too much is out’!
Yeah- I’m trying to be careful with stuff- but this is part of what I’m doing- journaling as much as I can- even right on the edge.
So- I ask Nick ‘what happened’?
I thought for sure it might have been bad.
Nick tells me they gave Billy a 250 fine- for pissing in the park.
We laughed- hard.
So- Billy asks me yesterday ‘John- I guess I have known you for about a month now’ [actually 3- but Billy has a bad memory- as those of you who have been reading my posts know by now].
But he goes on ‘let me ask you a question- what do you think of me- as a person’.
Now- that’s a tough one.
I love these street guys- they are my purpose [here- Texas- everywhere].
I told Billy ‘Billy- this week I am going to give you and the guys a gift [coin he wanted] and when I do- with each gift is a letter- and in that letter it gives you what I feel I need to say- read it’.
I was surprised Billy asked- and I’m kind in my letters- but very honest as well.
I didn’t hit much on the chapter for the week- Luke 15.
But Jesus talks about a missing coin- a missing sheep.
He says when a piece is missing from the ‘collection’- you do all you can to recover the missing one.
You even leave the other pieces by themselves for a while- when you go on the journey to recover the missing piece.
After you find it- you GO HOME- and call all your friends and neighbors- you throw this huge party- and rejoice- because you finally found the missing part of the puzzle.
In these last 3 months- I think-in a way- I have found the missing coin- the son who has been missing for years.
Not one of the crew- so to speak.
But all of them- even though it’s a small group.
In the chapter- when you find the missing piece- you tell your friends- you rejoice.
Part of the value of recovering the missing piece is- you TELL THE STORY.
For what purpose?
You model it- you show the way ‘this’ works- you encourage others- do this too!
For many years I have had experiences like this- I see/experience God when I’m with the down and out.
I never told these stories- till the last few years- since I started the Blog.
But that’s part of this journey- to show how to go out- take some risks- and recover the missing piece.
As I wrap up this 3 month tour- I say good bye to all my new North Bergen friends.
I have been trying to say bye to those I can- and if I missed you- please don’t take offence- I say bye now.
I love you all.
I’ll see you guys again next year.
TIME FOR YOU TO GO OUT TO THE PLACES YOU WILL BE FROM- EVERY NEW BEGINNING STARTS WITH ANOTHER BEGININGS END- Closing Time- Semisonic.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBoook] - I have posted lots.
Friday, September 20, 2013
AMERICAS HILLIEST CITY [ or- don’t die in this mountain]
The chapter for the week is Exodus 32.
As I wrap up this tour of North Bergen [3 months- will try and do this every year].
I feel like my documenting the way I met some of the street guys-and the interaction [how over time you build trust] was part of what I was supposed to do.
To give an example [another- I have done this a few times already- started blogging about a new area- meeting new street guys- and what developed as ministry] of how we- as believers- can- are commissioned- to go out ‘into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in’.
Ok- that last part ‘come in’.
These are the words of Jesus- and he is saying we need to tell them the gospel- make it clear that this is about the kingdom of God [‘this’ being why I’m around- interacting].
So- the last few days I have indeed stepped up the ‘witnessing’ part of this project.
And yes- the guys have done some soul searching during my time with them.
But- there have been some funny incidents as well.
Yesterday I did my park walk- and on the way back I usually sit on a bus bench right off Bergenline ave.
Its just cool to sit- see the old town- and this time to see some of my buddies doing their daily routine.
So- I see [I will keep this name anonymous for this story] ‘so and so’ across the street.
I usually go and hang with him for a while.
But my dad was at the house- he heard I was wrapping up this visit- and he wanted to come by and see me.
He lives in Nutley- I’m staying in North Bergen.
So- I figure I’ll just go home and see dad- and talk to my buddy later.
But he sees me and waves for me to come over.
What the heck- sure.
He asks- with anxiety in his voice ‘did you see so and so’ [I better keep this name anonymous too].
I say ‘no’.
‘Did you talk to him on the phone earlier’?
‘O that son of a .. lied to me again- this is the 13th time he’s burned me- I’m done dealing with him’.
Now- this is not the first time I heard this saga from this friend- and it’s sad that this keeps happening.
But- the ‘funny’ part was- this was the first time I was the decoy.
Yeah- I told my friend ‘well- maybe I missed the call’- though I knew more than likely the other friend was faking it [the guy who said he talked to me].
But I did say ‘maybe he did call- and I missed the call’.
‘He was with me at White Castle [my friend tells me] and he was pretending he was on the phone with you- and you were going to lend him 20 dollars- so I gave him th…’
Now- let’s be clear- I don’t buy- use- or have used at all this year.
I am clean- for good.
But- it was funny to see that my name was considered a ‘trusted source’ to use as a decoy.
Okay- This past week a few of the other guys have had some serious talks with me- about making a change- quitting the stuff their doing- and have talked about anger issues.
One of the guys- who has asked me about the Jehovah Witnesses- finally told me he hates his dad- when he was young his dad converted from Catholic to Jehovah Witness.
He went into about an hour [or more] discussion about all the resentments- not celebrating Christmas- or being the only kid in class not doing the Pledge of Allegiance.
He talked about how his dad was an abusive drunk while he was growing up- beat the hell out of him.
Yeah- he told me he was glad to finally get this off his chest- years of resentment.
Now- this friend tares up the literature in their faces when they give it to him.
He sees them all the time- this area of the country is close to the main headquarters in NYC.
So- I explained the main difference between Historic Christianity and the JW’s.
I told him I do try and avoid the use of the term Cult [though I do realize why this label is on them].
And yeah- we talked about the bible- and had a long conversation about Christ and salvation.
Now- this talk was natural- friends among friends.
But yet- all the years of the well-meaning Christian groups who simply pass out literature- he simply does not hear or have time.
So- you build trust over time- and you gain influence.
This same thing happened with one of the other guys the next day- a long discussion about life-and how God fits into the picture.
So- it took time- made some friends- and in the process have had some influence on them- and they really do not ‘tempt me’.
Over all the years of doing this  I have never used with any of the guys.
I simply have no urge- or desire to drink or use drugs when I’m in these situations.
Now- does that mean I am immune to this stuff?
But I do realize that this style of ministry does indeed violate many of the classic standards of AA and other groups.
But this is not AA- this is a mandate- requirement- from Jesus himself- to
‘Go out into all the world- and preach the gospel to every creature’.
So- that’s what I feel I need to do.
Okay- Exodus chapter 32.
Moses goes up to the mountain to get the 10 commandments.
As he is gone- the people in the camp get inpatient.
‘Where is Moses’?
So- they go to his brother Arron and he says ‘give me your gold jewelry and we will make a golden calf’.
So they make this idol- and have a big orgy [yes- that’s the deal].
On his way down from the mountain- with the 2 plates of the 10 commandments in his hand- he hears a noise in the camp.
It is the noise of this big party.
He sees how quickly they turned from God- and in anger he takes the commandments- breaks them.
Melts the calf- puts it in water and makes them drink it.
He executes judgment on the people.
But- before this- God had told Moses ‘I will destroy them and make you into this great nation’.
And Moses made a plea for the people ‘no- don’t kill them- they are your people- remember the promise you made to them. Plus- if you kill them the the Egyptians will say ‘see- he brought them into this hill country to destroy them’.
God listens to Moses prayer- and spares the people.
The other day I was reading the book of Psalms and I came across a passage- I think it’s in Psalms 72.
It says ‘Ephraim- being fully armed- turned back in the day of battle’.
It’s talking about one of the tribes of the nation of Israel- when they ran from the battle- even though they did indeed have the equipment to finish the job.
Yesterday I spent the day helping some of the guys.
Rick has a storage unit in Union City- and he sells garments- perfumes- lots of stuff- legal stuff- to other retail shops.
As I have gotten to know Rick- I see he is a good man- who- like many of my other friends thru the years- has tried to fulfill some type of hope/dream- as they struggle with addiction.
Things did not go well.
Now- I have had people tell me ‘John- you need to be careful with these types of guys’.
To be honest- I have been doing this a long time- and yes- part of the ability to gain trust with these guys [these guys- in general- Texas- N.J.- etc.]
Is when things ‘go bad’- or you get into it- a little- then they see that the next day [or that day] that I don’t ‘run in the day of battle’- then yeah- that opens a door to be in the group.
So- we went to this retail shop- a sort of little used sales store in the heart of the Cuban area of Union city [right around the corner where I used to hang out with one of my best friends as a kid- A Cuban buddy].
Now- I’m also careful that the stuff the guy’s sell- is legal [at least when they are in the car with me].
And yeah- Rick just had all sorts of perfumes and vitamins and stuff in his bag.
How do I know?
He passed out [he had a beer in a bag by his seat].
He snuck it in the car.
I told him I can’t have an open beer in the car- I have too many past arrests- DWI things- and that’s a no no.
So- he downed the beer- and in a few minutes passed out.
And yeah- I checked his bag- just legal stuff.
I had his wife Stacey in the car- nice girl- just met her this day.
She grew up in the same area where I live- and after I mentioned a few names- we realized we did know some of the same people as kids.
So- Rick passed out- the deal was off- and I drove them both back to town.
I dropped Stacey off- and I dropped Rick off at White Castle- where I picked him up earlier.
Billy was outside- he saw me pull up with Rick- passed out.
I finally woke him up- and he made it into the place.
I figured something else was up- and sure enough it was.
Billy told me some of the guys do pills when they drink- and that’s probably the story.
Okay- This isn’t the first time this has happened- over many years.
And I do have a rule- I will help with a ride- but the guys can’t be carrying anything [drugs- booze- etc.]
And I of course won’t help with any type of illegal deal- if they do that- there on their own.
In all honesty- I do believe the deal was legal- because I have seen Rick carrying these types of things in his bag- perfumes- vitamins- etc.
And to him- this is a way he feels like he has a little business.
I’m familiar with this- many of my homeless buddies in Texas do the same exact thing.
I used to tell them ‘geez- your homeless- and yet you’re paying rent on 2- or 3 storage units- that doesn’t make sense’.
But after a while- I realized they see this- maybe unrealistically- as a ‘business’- and that makes them feel like they are accomplishing something.
So I stopped saying ‘you’re wasting your time- and money- with these storage units’.
So-because of past experience- I really didn’t doubt Rick’s story- the storage units and all.
And yes indeed- it was true.
But the substance abuse- yeah- that interferes with any hope of making a better life- and Rick- and his sweet wife- who drove back with us- saw that.
She was slapping him in the face- pretty hard- ‘wake the fu.. up’.
He was passed out- I told her don’t worry- this is not new to me.
Okay- I share this part of the story to let you see the real stuff.
Yeah- I know this stuff [and other worse stuff] can- and does happen.
Now- being ‘fully armed’ turned back- in the day of battle.
Moses convinced God not to wipe out the people- and part of the argument was ‘the Egyptians will say- ‘see- God took them out of Egypt- and brought them to the mountains- and there they died’.
Right now- and for the last 3 months- I have been living- praying- doing outreach- in Americas ‘Hilliest City’.
Yeah- North Bergen- N.J. - is the hilliest city in the U.S.
Some say ‘what about San Fran’?
Nope- North Bergen.
The reason is the entire city is built on this hill/ridge that the area is known for.
One of the Psalms I like is Psalms 72- it also says at the time of fulfilment [of promises] that the Lords house will be on the ‘top of the mountains’.
These are all images- I don’t take them as actual prophecies about North Bergen.
But I apply them- in a spiritual way- to my time here.
Over the past 30 years I have prayed for this area- every week.
‘No- You must be making that up’.
One of the pics I posted last night might look strange.
It’s a ‘hole in the yard’.
I killed the grass in the spot I pray in every morning.
The walking in that spot for 3 months has killed the grass.
So yeah- I do pray- and for this area.
So- in a way- in the middle of many of my own battles in life- transition- making major life changes.
I see my journey like the tribe of Ephraim ‘fully armed- don’t turn back’.
In a small way- I have made some inroads- had some experiences- good- and bad.
But over the past 3 months there were times when I wanted to pack up and take off- but I felt I needed to stay longer.
Now- I see it was for these 3 months.
I in a way I am asking God to ‘spare these guys- do something- don’t let them die in this mountain- this hilliest city in the country’.
Rick- whose story I will tell in a future post- grew up here.
His mom was from Peru- his dad was an Italian business man from Brooklyn.
They met here in New York City and married many years ago.
So Rick- whose last name is very Italian- looks Mexican/Hispanic.
He often gets confused with the many south/central American illegal immigrants who now populate this region.
So- I see how this in itself adds to the frustration of living in addiction- in your hometown- and feeling like there’s no way out.
But these last few days I have had some good talks with the guys- they know about the AA- NA meetings in the area.
And I have planted some seeds- that maybe in Gods time will bear fruit.
Some times in life you have no control over all the other things around you.
But- if you’re at a place- like the tribe of Ephraim- and you have the opportunity to shoot the bow- being fully armed.
For heaven’s sake- shoot the thing.
Give it your best shot- because if you don’t go for it now- and yor turn back in the day of battle.
You will regret it in the end.
‘NO MAN- HAVING PUT HIS HAND TO THE PLOW- AND TURNING BACK- IS FIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD’- Jesus Christ.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBoook] - I have posted lots.
Friday, September 13, 2013
SYRIA [or- when you see a chance- take it]
The chapter for the week is Acts 7.
Out of all the single bible chapters- this is the best overview of the whole bible that you will find in any one chapter.
Of course it only covers the history of the Old Testament- because the New Testament was not yet written.
Okay- this week I have been picking up a bit more on my newspaper reading- and of course I always try and catch the world news on the tube.
And- to be honest- the last couple of weeks on the handling of the Syrian situation- this has to be the most botched foreign policy I have seen in my life time.
Much of what has been happening is simply tactical responses- by ‘enemies’ [adversaries] – countering ‘off the cuff’ remarks by the President- or his secretary of state [John Kerry].
Now- I am not a ‘right wing critic’ of the president- but this has been bad- the worst I have ever seen.
The president got us into this situation by warning Assad if he used Chemical weapons- that would be crossing a red line- that we would act.
He has more than likely used them about 12 times since the start of the civil war [2 years long- 100,000 dead].
Finally- as most of you know- after the last use [we don’t know for sure he is the one using them- it is possible the rebels are using them as a ploy to get the U.S. to attack].
Obama said ‘enough is enough’ and we rattled the war saber.
But- after a couple of days of political maneuvering- Obama decided to put this action to a vote in congress- which he did not do with his action in Libya- which by all accounts was more of a war move than what he planned in Syria [probably launching some rockets from ships- hitting some targets- and that’s it].
So- after congress got their hand in- well- it seemed for sure they would not authorize the use of force- which made the U.S. look bad- because the president said ‘he’ would hit.
Then- Kerry was asked at a press thing ‘what could Assad do to avoid this’.
And he gives an off the cuff remark ‘well- if he gives up his Chemical weapons- we won’t attack- but he’s not going to do that’.
Now- that’s a contradiction to what Obama said- Obama said ‘enough is enough- he poisoned kids- we will hit’.
So- Syria and Russia [allies] quickly respond to Kerry’s off the cuff remark- and say ‘yes- we are going to accept the U.S. offer [which was a slip!] and we will comply’.
Now- Obama and Kerry and the team are all trying to show this as ‘see- we really knew what we were doing- it was planned all along’.
No- not so.
Is it good that maybe Assad will do the right thing- and maybe Obama’s threat of force did this?
But who knows- this might end up like the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks- a 30 year ongoing thing that never leads anywhere.
So- how does this fit in with Acts 7?
In the chapter Stephen recounts the story of Moses- and how while in Egypt he defends a Jew- kills an Egyptian.
The next day 2 Jews are fighting- he tries to intervene- and one of them says ‘who are you- are you going to kill me like you did the Egyptian yesterday’.
Moses thought that his brothers would understand that he was trying to help them.
But even though these 2 sides [brothers] were fighting- yet when big brother tried to assert Moral authority- they rejected him.
I find it funny that they even said ‘will you throw us under the bus- like you did the Egyptian yesterday’.
One of the actual reasons we- the U.S. - have lost the Moral authority- is because of the way we treated the ‘Egyptian’.
Yes- the Arab world saw how quickly we rejected Hosni Mubarak- an ally- and it created a mistrust in the region.
Russia is now standing by Syria- their ally- and has even said they do not throw their allies under the bus- like we do.
Yes- Obama has tried to make the Moral argument [and to be honest- there is one- though I personally think military action is a mistake].
But the ‘fighting brothers’ in the region- as well as congress- and our allies [British] seem to think we do not have the moral authority to hit- militarily.
So- as it stands now- this might indeed be the worst handling of foreign policy I have ever seen [not saying the worst action- but handling].
One of the other chapters I have been teaching from is Luke 14.
Jesus says when you go to war- you sit down first and see if you have everything in place.
If after you take inventory- you see all is not going well- then you make decisions based on the reality of the situation.
He also says if you are going to build a tower- you count the cost first- lest after you lay the foundation- and are not able to finish- others mock you and say ‘look- he started- but couldn’t finish’.
I do not write on politics- or Obama- simply for the sake of finding fault.
But our actions are very serious.
In Syria- like Libya- and Egypt.
We have sided- every time- with those who persecute the Christian minorities in these countries.
Even in Iraq- the Christians have fled- because our removal of Saddam has created a situation where others who hate the Christians have more power.
Some of the rebels in Syria- who will become emboldened if we strike Assad- have threatened Christians [nuns- etc.] with death- if they do not convert to Islam.
Now- our track record in these conflicts has been on the side of those who are more ‘anti-Christian’ then the actual leaders we are siding against.
I guarantee you- we would not be doing this if it were the other way around- if we were siding with ‘Christian rebels’ who were killing Muslims [I do realize of course that Muslims are killing Muslims in this conflict- but they are not targeting them because of their faith].
Even the Coptic Christians in Egypt are happy that the military generals removed Morsi.
Yes- the military removal of Morsi is not seen as a military Coup by the Christians.
No- they stand by the removal of Morsi- because he was moving the country into an Islamic ruled state- which it was not under Mubarak.
This is why the Pope even came out and asked for us to pray for peace- giving a sign that he too was against a military strike in Syria.
Okay- read Acts chapter 7.
Stephen gives a great overview of the historical promise of God to the Jewish people- of a coming Messiah.
If you read the chapter carefully- you see what he is trying to do.
He is making the case that just like the Jews rejected Moses rule- so the Jewish people of his day rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
And Stephen quotes Moses ‘the Lord will raise up a prophet- like unto me- him will you hear’.
He then goes thru the chapter and shows all the ways that Moses and Jesus were alike.
Moses- like Jesus- was born at a time when the king/ruler was killing all the young children in the land.
Yes- Pharaoh was killing the new born males- and that’s when Moses was born.
Herod was killing the young children- up to the age of 2- at the time of Jesus [he was trying to get Jesus- but Joseph and Mary were warned by an angel to flee].
Moses- like Jesus- did signs and miracles in the land.
And Moses- like Jesus- was rejected by his own people at his first appearance to them as a savior.
It was later- after Moses spent 40 years in the dessert- that God appeared to him in the burning bush- and then he would return to his brothers in Egypt and deliver them.
So- Stephen is trying to show the Jewish people that their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah was indeed fore told in the scriptures.
That Moses himself said ‘God will raise up a prophet- LIKE ME’.
At the end of the chapter- Stephen is stoned- and as he is dying- he says ‘Lord- lay not this sin to their charge’.
And he dies.
The bible says there was a religious leader there- agreeing to Stephens’s death.
His name was Saul.
2 chapters later [Acts 9] Saul is knocked off his horse- Jesus appears to him.
Stephens’s prayer was answered- God forgave those who were there at his stoning- and Saul becomes the apostle Paul and carries the same message that he heard form Stephen on the day of his death.
Yeah- Paul- in a way- was a convert of Stephen.
As the church fathers have said ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’.
Paul would take the message of Christ further than any other missionary of his day.
And he too would die a martyr’s death in Rome- like his other friend Peter- who took the same message and brought it to the Jews- Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.
Yeah- Moses said ‘the Lord WILL raise up a prophet- like me- him WILL YOU HEAR’.
God raised him- and they heard.
NOTE- The last time I was in New Jersey- a strange thing happened.
For many years I always wanted to take a good New York City tour.
I mean I have gone to see the 911 memorial and stuff like that.
But I never really rode the subway- and visited the boroughs.
So- last year I did it.
I went to spots I never went to before.
Queens- Rockaway beach- etc.
Then- when I got back to Texas- hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey- and as I watched the footage with one of my homeless buddies- the exact streets I walked [for the first time- ever] were the actual ones that got wiped out.
It seemed strange- and my homeless buddy even kidded that I was some sort of messenger of judgment.
On my phone right now- I have a bunch of pictures that I have been unable to upload.
One of the other spots I have not been to in years was the Jersey Shore.
Now- most of my friends said Seaside Heights- and the boardwalk- were not worth the ride.
Just go to Sandy Hook or some closer spot.
But no- as a kid- Seaside- and that boardwalk were my spot.
So- last week I took the ride- the boardwalk was empty- but yes indeed- they rebuilt all the arcades and stuff after Sandy hit- and it looked great.
I showed the phone pics to a few friends and they were surprised that the boardwalk was so empty.
I mean it was like the spot was just there for my picture taking.
So last night I was with the crew at White Castle- and Bob asks ‘did you see the news’.
‘The boardwalk at Seaside Heights is on fire- and they can’t stop it’.
As of last night- the same spots that I just took all the pictures of last week- are now gone- again.
I am finding these experiences a bit strange to be honest- and I’m not sure if they mean anything.
But it reminds me of the verse I used the other day- that life is short [and the stuff in it].
It appears for a little time- and then vanishes away- like smoke.
Okay- a few updates about this time in North Bergen.
When I first left Texas [over 2 months ago] the ‘plan’ was to permanently move north.
As of now- I think I’m gonna finish 3 months- and try and come back every year.
Some of the new crew [the street guys I have met] told me they are disappointed that I’m gonna do it like that.
We have been getting together every day or so- I even got a text from Nick the day I was in Seaside.
So we have a little group of ‘street guys’ who are in this area.
Just like the Texas street guys.
And a few of these guys have already mentioned maybe making the trip back to Texas- or coming down to visit.
So- this time back- I finally did break some ground- I will see these guys each year when I come back.
Any Progress with them?
This ‘style’ of outreach [which all the guys know I’m doing- when they ask ‘what’s John here for’- I tell them straight up].
This is a style of ministry I have been doing for years.
I tell them ‘I’m not a Narc- undercover cop- I’m not gay [look- they see some guy being nice- and you have to let them know].
I tell them I see this as ministry- and over time- they know I’m not giving them some story.
So- when the guys make a Beer run [or another more expensive purchase] - they come back- and they have a diet coke- for me.
Yeah- Nick knew I quit drinking- so he brought back the coke.
Last night- Rick was happy.
We were at White Castles- he got some good news [he’s gonna get some money- legally!]
And he said ‘you know John- when a person is happy- it makes them more healthy’.
I told him yeah- and I said ‘actually there is a bible verse- Proverbs- that says that’.
And I quoted ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine’.
Rick asked ‘is that in the bible’.
Sure- and of course Bob and the other guys listen in.
Know- it’s not a game- I’m not trying to ‘trick’ these guys.
No- over time- they know the scoop- and I’m not ‘preaching’ per se- but I am sharing stuff- and stuff about God.
I even quoted another verse.
One of our mutual friends- let’s say- who has a ‘selling business’.
If his buyers don’t pay- he gets mad- and has a bad day.
So- Rick will text me ‘so and so was sad today- he left early’.
We actually kid around about it some- because our friend says stuff like ‘I can’t believe he did it again’!
Talking about the ‘purchaser’ not paying him- buy pretending he handed him 20-but it might be a ten and a few dollars rolled up.
So- after seeing this happen- more than once- I tell Rick ‘geez- he keeps saying ‘I can’t believe it happened again’- but it happens every day’!
Then Rick let me in on the scoop- yeah- the guys know he’s not the best person for this type of business [nice guy- older guy- but maybe getting senile?]
And Rick tells me he has heard him say ‘I can believe he did it again- for the 13th time!’
So- it’s kinda funny to be honest.
I have been showing the guys a gold coin my dad gave me- there like ‘that’s worth money!’
So our friend- the ‘business man’ asks if I could buy him his coffee- he gives me the money- 1.17- and I- or one of the other guys- buys it.
White Castle won’t serve him- so he asks us to buy it.
So- he’s a penny short.
I tell him ‘dont worry- I’ll cover it’.
So I get the coffee- I bring it back to my friend- and I say-
‘I was a penny short- so I had to give her the gold coin’.
He says ‘NOOO- get it back!!’
I tell him ‘No- I’m just kidding’.
He says ‘I hate it when people kid like that- that fools me’.
Another friend- who you might say ‘fools so and so’ too- he was right there- and he was holding in the laugh.
Yeah- he’s a nice guy- but not cut out for his ‘line of work’.
So yeah- I know people have problems with my style of ‘ministry’.
And over time- after doing this for around 25 years- I have found that these guys- yes- even hardcode users- they become friends- and they know that I’m not gonna use- or get high.
And yes- over the years- some of the street guys do get clean- do accept God- and live a changed life- that has happened.
So- I let the guys know I’m gonna finish this month- and I’ll come back every year- for a few months.
When I go back to Texas- Maybe I’ll stay for a while- or maybe try another state.
One of the lessons I learned from the burning down of the boardwalk is- when you ‘see a chance- take it’.
Last year- when I was leaving- I did see the signs for the shore- and thought ‘well- maybe next year I’ll come back and go to the boardwalk’.
So- I did.
But if I missed the chance this time- there was not going to be another- until they rebuild it- again.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBook] - I have posted lots.