[STUDY] HOMELESS,OUTREACH STUFF this section deals with social justice issues and the local political/judicial scene. I share real life stories with you guys, times where I got mad and stuff. I am in no way advocating for people to lose their tempers or get mad. Scripture teaches us that the wrath of man does not bring about Gods righteousness. So simply see my faults [as we see Peters in the New Testament] and learn to not make the same mistakes!
 A SHIP CAPTAIN AND A KILLER
Today begins the congressional hearings with Jon Corzine. Corzine- the former governor of N.J.- and a former democrat senator- he ran M.F. global- an investment group- and they went bankrupt a couple of months ago. The reason it made news- besides it being the 8th biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history- was the fact that there is about 1.5 billion dollars missing.
Now- For you to have a former gov, a major Dem player- to be embroiled in a possible criminal scheme on a huge scale- and for this to barely be covered in the media- is another joke.
Imagine another former gov- say Sarah Palin- she’s active in Repub politics- the media hunted down 20,000 pages of personal emails- you know- things to her kids- what she told Todd- the whole thing- the media ‘had a right to know’ and damn it- they will know!
So they finally sued Alaska- got the emails- after 3 years- and then it ran as the top story on the evening news.
Then 2 news papers put out an open request ‘hey citizens- we are making all the emails available for anyone to read on line’ [what- no vetting?] and whoever would like to read them and then ‘email’ us if you find something you think is news worthy- then let us know’.
Yes- the papers made this request. So let’s say Sarah just got busted because she stole about 1.5 billion from her firm. Then say- oh I don’t know- say if Todd [her husband] just happened to work for the president and this same firm was funneling 50,000 a month to the husband- then would that be news?
Well yes- we just found out [primarily in the foreign media- London papers- U.S. papers don’t like covering Dem scandals] that Corzine was paying Bill Clinton 50,000 a month for ‘financial advice’ Clinton requested $200,000- but he settled for the 50.
And of course Hillary is the secretary of state. So you have a former Dem gov- a major player in Dem politics- ripping off people out of over a billion dollars- and ‘paying’ Bill Clinton millions on the side- and this is not news.
Today Corzine will be pleading the 5th- the crook.
So what’s the good news for today?
Okay- got with the homeless bro’s yesterday. Ran into Eddie again. I met Eddie a few weeks back- nice kid [I say kid- guess he’s around 30]. He’s from Michigan- lives in an R.V. [not really ‘homeless’] and seems to be a nice guy.
He’s trying to sell the R.V. and get a car- wants to drive home for Christmas and see his kids [gas too much for the R.V.] The R.V. is pretty nice- he was willing to trade the thing for an old van I have here at the house- I almost did the deal- it would have been a steal- but I felt bad about the thing- the R.V. is worth at least 8 grand- my van around 800.
But these deals happen all the time on the streets- he got the R.V. from some people for a few hundred dollars- some locals who had it for years and gave him the deal so he would have a place to live.
I met Walden- a new Brother. He came up to me at the homeless mission- kind of like he knew me ‘hey John- wanted to talk with you’. I didn’t know him- kinda glad I wasn’t in one of my moods- like ‘who the h—l are you’- yeah that happens every so often.
After a few minutes I kind of realized he was a friend of Eddie- and the last time I got with Edie I gave him my web site card and all- and maybe they ‘checked’ me out- and that might be how Walden knew about me.
Yeah- I have no problem meeting new brothers- giving them a ride- helping them run errands and stuff- but Eddie and Walden- you can tell these are ‘clean’ brothers- not down and dirty street guys- and yeah- they have to be careful- some guy saying ‘hey- I do ministry stuff- sure get in the truck’ [you never know- I might be a Bundy or Sandusky? Or worse- Corzine!]
Sometimes they are more scared they me. So that was kinda the deal yesterday. But all the guys are doing well. Got with Chris- have known him for many years.
He’s funny- used to be a machinist in Ohio for years- wound up on the streets in Texas. I never really found out the whole scoop on Chris- why he’s homeless- but it seems like something happened on the journey.
Maybe like he burned himself out at one time on LSD- or some type of drug like that.
I don’t know- but Chris is harmless- acts tough- but all talk. But you can tell he has some type of mental struggle.
Then I met Lupo- he’s a European merchant marine. The guys a real character- funny. He’s an Eastern Orthodox Christian- and of course when you mention stuff like that to me- geez- I jump into a long theological/historical account of the church. I love the Orthodox brothers.
Lupo tells me ‘well- I don’t think they are a good church’. He’s talking ‘church’ like the building he went to a few years ago. I’m talking 2 thousand years of world history- a little different plane.
But he told me how him and his ex tried to attend the local Orthodox Church a few years ago and they told him he needed a suit. They even gave him one- he put it on and didn’t like it.
He got pissed and told the Pastor off.
Okay- I know he didn’t handle it well- but it showed me that he at least made the effort [I would have never put the suit on!]
Lupo really has an interesting story- been in Texas since 1980 [as long as me]. Did big boat type jobs for some famous folk. He picked up and delivered a few yachts and ships for some rich and famous people over the years [Trump].
They would pay him to get the ship and sail it back to the U.S.- you know- he has all the papers to do this stuff.
Eventually he made some money- he and his wife started some concession type business- got divorced- lost some money- had some hard times- and wound up on the streets [sort of].
He’s staying with some other local street guys in a trailer a few blocks from where I live- when I dropped Chris off later in the day I saw the concession trailer and another food truck that belonged to Lupo- yeah- he was telling the truth.
All in all it was a good day- helped Eddie run a few errands- gave away around 20 bucks [just a few dollars at a time to a few street people who usually ask].
Oh- almost forgot- at the mission some guy walks up to me- I think he looks exactly like Jeff Bridges in the country music flick he made a few years ago- and then I realize it’s Huey.
I have known Huey for a lot of years. He has the guitar upside down hanging from the strap over his back- you know- the real country street guy look.
Huey did ask for a buck- I gave him 5- he has never asked for money- maybe once about 5 years ago. I hesitated to ask- but I asked how his brother John David was doing.
I wrote about John a few years ago- John was a meth/cocaine addict for many years. John killed his best friend in Dallas many years ago.
John never told me how bad the shooting was- but Andy- his other brother- told me that when the cops came they found John’s friend with buckshot from the top of his head all the way to the bottom of his feet.
John kept shooting- even after his friend was down.
So a couple of years ago- John had an experience with God and got clean. John would talk to me from that point on. I used to hang out with his brothers every so often- but John wanted none of it.
But after he dedicated his life to the Lord- yeah- he wanted to fellowship
Okay- I was afraid that Huey might say ‘Johns back on the stuff’ but to my surprise- Huey swore that he was still clean [Huey wouldn’t lie- these guys fight with each other and if John was back on the stuff he would have told me].
So I was glad to hear John was still clean.
John got off on the murder rap by his mom getting the famed lawyer from Dallas who defended the guy who shot lee Harvey Oswald- a famous lawyer.
He did the job Pro Bono and got John off. John told me a year after he killed his friend he went one night to the grave and ‘pissed’ on the grave. Yeah- John was what you would call an ‘unrepentant sinner’ but glad he repented now.
 JESUS FOR PRESIDENT?
Let’s try and cover a few current events. Obviously the media lost a major ‘player’ [source] of ‘news’ when Cain left the stage. And it only took them a few days before they attached on to Gingrich.
Christianne Amanpour [CNN] asked ‘do you think a twice divorced person can get the support he needs to be president’. This is not the first time I have heard this.
I think Newt is a smart guy- I’m not a big defender of any of these guys- but the hypocrisy of the media to keep asking this- as a major campaign question- is nuts.
Sure- he’s been divorced- we got that. Yet Edwards [John] actually fathered a child with a woman- while his wife was suffering from cancer [the same thing that Newt did] and the media did not think that story was relevant- they indeed knew about the thing.
It was only after the Enquirer actually got pictures of Edwards holding the kid- then the story broke.
So this obsession with Newt’s divorce- please.
Okay- the headline read ‘Woman in prison for being raped is pardoned’. Wow. Yes- this headline ran in a couple of my papers- right next to the name Afghanistan.
So- if you didn’t read the story- you would think that some woman got raped in the country- under those bad Taliban folk- and because we ‘liberated’ them- she's free.
Actually- that’s not the story. The woman was raped during the present regime- our guys [Karzai] and the courts made her a deal ‘if you marry the rapist- you go free’. She refused. She has been raising her daughter in jail- and Karzai made her the offer a 2nd time [how noble of him] and she married the rapist and she’s out.
The title should have been ‘Woman who was raped is forced to marry the S.O.B.’
Biden goes to the ancient city of Constantinople the other day [Modern day Istanbul- Turkey]. He’s having a meeting with a group of business people and young entrepreneurs that the president had launched a few years back.
In the meeting Biden stands up and gives this Joe Paterno like speech ‘way to go boys- we [Turkey and the U.S.] have come far in this liberating project of business- our success and democratic spirit have been a lynchpin for the Arab Spring….’ you know- Biden likes to talk a lot.
Right after he gave the sermon- one of the Turkish guys got up and slammed the West [us and Europe] for being a bunch of inept leaders- nations who spend more than they have like spoiled brats- and have no political courage to change course. Yeah Joe- you sure told them!
As we approach the end of the year- there are so many very serious world events taking place- events that will play a major role in our lives here in the U.S.
For the life of me- I can’t see how investors can be up on the market- even though some numbers are good- these other things are hanging right on the edge.
The Euro Zone is nowhere near being fixed- and the options are terrible. They will either have to jump in 100 % behind the Euro [which Germany and others will never do] or they split up.
The break up looks like it might happen- the odds are higher now than ever. Okay- if that happens- it will affect world markets- and many analysts fear it will cause us to go into another recession.
So- if these scenarios are possible [probable] then how can you have an optimistic overall outlook- economically speaking? Sure- you can hedge your bets and do well- I’m not saying we are all gonna die- but to be acting like we are on some boom market- that’s nuts.
During the time of Jesus you had a divided people. In 1st century Palestine the Jewish people split into 4 basic sects. 2 of them are pretty well known- the Pharisees and Sadducees- they are mentioned often in scripture.
The other 2 are less well known- the Zealots and the Essenes. The Zealots are named in the bible- but only in passing. We have no references to the Essenes.
The Pharisees were sticklers for the Torah [Jewish bible] and the Sadducees centered their life around the Temple- they were more of a political/religious type group.
They stuck to the Torah alone. That is they only received the actual first 5 books of the Old Testament- which is the Torah [also the term is used to speak of the entire Old Testament] and that’s why the Sadducees rejected miracles and angels and stuff. Most of those stories are found in the other O.T. books.
The Zealots were a group of people who hated compromise- they were actually a 1st century ‘terrorist’ group- who carried out assassinations. Not on Rome- but on their own people!
The zealots hated those who compromised with Rome- and if they felt a leader was too chummy- they killed him.
The Essenes were a separatist group who lived in ‘the hills’ [Qumran community] they simply gave up completely on any political solutions for the day- and went and lived in the hills. These are the ones responsible for hiding the Dead Sea scrolls [old bible books found in the last century] in a cave.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus had both a Zealot on his team [Simon- not Peter who also went by that name] and Matthew- a Tax collector. Tax collectors were considered the biggest sell outs of all- they actually worked for Rome and scammed their own people- it must have been hard for Jesus to lead this group [the 12 disciples] who came from such opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Yet Jesus did lead them- he was even offered earthly rule a few times [once from satan- and once from the people who heard him] he rejected it both times. His kingdom was not ‘of this world’.
In the New Testament book of Philippians- the bible says that though Jesus was in the form of God [deity] yet he became a man and humbled himself to the death of the Cross- a shameful way to die.
We have one letter written in the N.T. by a ‘family’ member of Jesus- that’s the epistle of James.
Protestants believe that Mary had other kids after Jesus was born- our Catholic friends teach that she remained a Virgin her whole life. My purpose right now is not to get into that.
James was considered the ‘half brother’ of Jesus [Mary was the mom of both boys- Joseph was the dad of James- Jesus’ father was God]. Okay- James was slow to believe in his brother- but over time as Jesus was declaring himself to be the Messiah- I’m sure James had to wonder- you know- think back ‘gee- come to think of it- I can’t’ remember a time where my brother got in trouble’.
Wait- now I remember- yeah- that time when Jesus was 12- we all went to Jerusalem for the big feast- and Jesus stayed behind while we started the trip home. Yeah- we went 3 days before we realized he was gone. Boy was mom mad that day.
So we went all the way back to get him- and when we found him- he was sitting in the temple- asking these questions- I mean questions that only theologians knew- Jesus was still a kid.
Mom said to him ‘son- why did you stay behind- we were worried’! Yeah- she was mad- if there was ever a time my brother came close to getting in trouble- this was it. But Jesus said ‘why were you worried- didn’t you know I would be doing my Fathers business’ yeah- he sure seemed different- but the Messiah- come on.
So as the ministry years of Jesus role by- there are all these reports of miracles and healings- blind people seeing- dead people coming back from the grave.
Yeah- James has got to be wondering now- but no- he could not accept that his own brother was the promised Son of God- no- too much.
Then the day came- that terrible day where mom had to watch Jesus die on that rugged Cross- on Golgotha- man the hill looked like a skull.
Yeah- it was a strange site- I mean the sky got dark- an earthquake shook the place- and even the Roman soldier who witnessed my brother die said ‘surely this was the son of God’. Wow- too much- my bother has carried this thing too far- even in his death he won’t let this obsession go.
Then James hears some disturbing reports- his friends are saying that Jesus has come back- that he pulled it off- the greatest miracle ever- the one Houdini himself couldn’t do.
But are the reports true? I mean if anyone could tell if this guy walking around is really Jesus- James would know.
We don’t read of the account- but all we know is James became a believer- a believer that his brother was indeed the Messiah- the Son of God.
I guess it went something like this- Jesus sitting there with his men- James shows up and sees his brother- the perfect one- not a spot on his record. Maybe Jesus looked up- maybe he said ‘brother- do you now see’ and yeah- he saw.
James would go on to be one of the leaders/Pastors of the church at Jerusalem- we read about him in Acts chapter 15. Most scholars believe this was the same James who penned the short letter we find in the N.T. that bears his name.
One thing James hits on a lot in his letter- is he defends the poor- the downtrodden- and he rips into the rich- the elite of the day. He warns us not to be biased- not to use ‘uneven scales’ when dealing with people.
James hit on social justice issues- he picked them up from his brother.
We need to be concerned about the world- if a raped woman is forced to marry her rapist- then we ought not say ‘she was pardoned’. When we critique one person for past failures- then we must do that to all.
But at the end of the day- Jesus never took the earthly crown- he did not see the solution to be a political one- he brought Simon and Matthew together on the same team- and he showed them what it means to lay your life down for others- to live without the praise of men- the earthly standard of success- he chose another way- and he left that path for us.
 HE BEING DEAD- YET SPEAKS [Hebrews chapter 11]
Okay- lets try and cover a few things today. First- should I now do the Mea Culpa? [last post]. Why did the DOW jump 500 points yesterday?
A few reasons- but the main one was that the ‘central banks’ kind of did a mini bail out of the European banks.
I use quotes for central banks- because the Federal Reserve of the U.S. usually spends the most on these Black Friday bargains given to other countries.
Sort of like when the news reports ‘10 NATO troops killed’- Yeah 9 of the 10 are usually us.
So even though there were some good economic numbers yesterday [new jobs- 200,000- housing sales up] yet the main reason for the jump was the Fed offered low interest loans to the European banks.
Now- why did this help? Or did it really Help?
Let me give a crude parable. Say if you lived on ‘Uncle Bennie’s’ block [Ben Bernanke- Fed. Chairman]. And everybody knew that uncle Benny was loaded.
Then a few houses down you have Pedro [or Mike- don’t want my Mexican buddies to get mad!] And Pedro has a drug habit- he likes the Cocaine a little too much.
Now- 2 more doors down you have the main drug dealer in town. The dealer knows that Christmas is right around the corner and he needs some money for the family- but Pedro has already sold momma’s 400 dollars worth of food stamps [or used the Lone Star card to by some meat and sold it at half price- happens every day!]
So the dealer is not sure how much stuff he should ‘purchase’ on his next trip to Mexico. I mean if Pedro has no cash- then the dealer might want to skip the monthly purchase.
But wait- uncle Benny is in the Christmas mood- and he gives Pedro some cash- sure he tells Pedro ‘you will pay me back wont you’ Oh yeah Benny- you know me.
Of course Benny will never see the cash again- but the dealer thinks ‘damn- Pedro’s got some cash- might as well make the monthly purchase’ and yeah- the DOW shot up.
Crude- sure- but the DOW- which simply represents the present mood of business- if they think that some big purchasers- like Europe- just got some cash- well like the dealer- they know that the sales will be up- even if only temporary- but the odds are that Pedro will buy the goods- not fix the roof!
So- in that sense- the market was happy. But uncle Benny really didn’t fix anything- in fact- in some people’s eyes he made it worse.
Pedro’s family thinks ‘damn Benny- Pedro was strapped for cash- we were hoping he would think things thru and turn his life around- but you just prolonged the addiction’!
So Benny really didn’t fix anything- he just gave some compulsive spenders some spending money.
So- if I were in the market right now [like at 4 a.m. as I write] I would sell as soon as it opens today- because the ‘rent is too damn high’ [remember that Black guy running for office a few months ago?]
Okay- let me get something a little spiritual in here. I have been getting with the ‘Pedro’s’ of the world these last few weeks- and the other day a funny thing happened. I was at the homeless mission where the guys show up at around lunch time- that’s where I have met most of the street guys over the years.
So as I’m sitting there with Henry- someone says ‘wow- there's Roger- I haven’t seen him in years’. I couldn’t believe my eyes- yeah- it was Roger.
Roger was/is a good friend- met him years ago when handing out some blankets and jackets to the guys on a cold night. I have known Roger for 25 years- we are good friends.
But around 3 years ago Roger got arrested [happened a lot] he was drunk- walked into the grocery store and told a cop ‘I’m gonna kill you’. Got sent to prison for that one.
So about 2 years ago Henry told me ‘John- got some bad news- Roger died in jail’. So I felt bad- lost a good friend. So- for the past 2 years I thought he went ‘home’. Now- here's where it gets interesting- this past Sunday as I was praying for the crowd- Roger pops into my mind.
Now- this has happened with friends who have died- and I have started taking it seriously- like in a way they are part of the brotherhood- some alive- others dead- but still alive with the Lord.
So when a dead buddy pops into my mind- I pray for/with him. So I kinda prayed ‘Lord- in whatever way this works- use Roger as a sort of Elder/Pastor for this old group of Corpus Christi bums’- and I left it at that.
I even wrote his name on my prayer wall- and kind of ‘ordained’ him as a spiritual brother who is in the group- though I ‘knew’ he was dead.
And it was only a day or 2 later that he showed up!
So I realized the lord was bringing him to my mind because he would be back on the streets soon. Now- as I’m still shocked at seeing Roger- you know- I yelled ‘hey Roger- I thought you were dead’. He came over and had a good talk.
And someone yells ‘wow- there’s Buck’ what? Yeah- I thought Buck died too. Been gone for around the same time- and Henry told me Buck died.
Now- as I’m sitting there- kinda laughing about the whole thing- saying ‘wow- I heard you guys died’. I am realizing that the main Obituary informer was Henry- yeah- he’s the brother that’s been feeding me the scoop.
I even told my daughter that I actually posted notes on the Blog when the guys ‘died’- sort of like little memorial things- man- that’s bad.
So I started to realize that Henry is not the most reliable news source when it comes to death notices.
And as I’m thinking this thru- I realize that Henry told me Old Vern kicked the bucket about 2 months ago. Vern ‘was’ not homeless- he was sort of a street preacher who used to help the guys. I’m now starting to wonder whether Vern is alive and well.
Yeah- Henrys a good buddy- but I fear I will run into some of the old crowd one day- and the first thing they will say is ‘wow John- we heard you died’.
 COMMUNITY CHEST
Okay- we have come off of a pretty hectic week- the market shook and raddled last week. About midweek I was ready to do a Mea Culpa [sort of]. I mean financial advice is like talking religion and politics- once you state your claim- it’s very hard to admit you might have gotten it wrong.
But last week I watched the Kudlow Report for a few minutes while channel surfing- and to my surprise he was talking the economy [and market] up.
Kudlow is usually a straight shooter- and he was saying the 4th quarter [last 3 months of U.S. economic numbers] might see a 3.5 or maybe even 4 % rise.
For the life of me- I thought he was wrong- but he does know more than me- so I was gonna do the Mea Culpa. Then [I think the next day?] those wonderful Euro Zone folks decided to sell some bonds [Germany] and lo and behold- they couldn’t get enough buyers so they shut down the auction.
Yeah- for Germany- considered the ‘most stable’ of the Euro Zone crowd- for them to have had trouble like this- that’s a bad sign.
The credit rating agencies already dropped the ratings for Portugal and Hungary to Junk status.
The reports came out that showed that the world’s major banks are all preparing for a Eurozone breakup- even U.S. regulators are telling our big banks [Citigroup] to lower their risk in the Euro Zone bond funds.
So all in all- the DOW dropped 4.8% for the week- the worst one week drop in 2 months- and I didn’t have to swallow the crow after all.
Okay- then why did the market jump back up another 200 or so points yesterday?
To be honest- there really was no good reason in my view. We came off of a jump in Black Friday sales- I think they sold 16 % more than usual- which of course is always a good sign when consumers are ‘consuming’.
But why did we see the jump? Please- please- let’s not all be Lemmings [you know- following the lead guy off the cliff]. Every year companies do the ‘Black Friday’ thing- which gets its name from- well doing great deals on the Friday after Turkey day.
Why the name? Oh- maybe because they used to only do it on Friday- you think?
Now- say if ‘every day’ was a Black Friday- say if we just did Black Friday all the time- would there be a huge jump in consumer spending? Heck yeah!
So why don’t we do it all the time? Because we would all go bankrupt [the businesses] and end up being permanent Zuccotti park occupiers.
So to make it simple- the numbers were up- because they started Black Friday early- like on Thursday!
Oh- the tangled webs we weave.
Those of you who remember- a couple years back the president and congress passed some big spending deals- for consumers.
They did special tax breaks for 1st time homebuyers- they did special deals for trading in your ‘clunker’ and getting a new car [Cash for Clunkers]. They even gave you money to buy Green Appliances [energy savers- not Retro looking!].
When they did this- well of course home/car sales went up- because you were giving people ‘free money’ to buy stuff.
Now- when the numbers came in- some Dems said ‘lets just keep doing it- after all- its working’ and the Repubs shut the thing down.
What was ‘working’? Well- when you give free money out- or do Black Friday ever day- yes- the numbers will look good.
But these types of ‘numbers’ are fake numbers- their based on skewed data- I mean doing these programs every so often can help some- sure- give me a great deal on some crappy car trade in- okay- I’ll buy a car.
But what happened the next year? Both car and home sales suffered- because these deals didn’t bring ‘new money’ in- they just moved up those who were going to purchase anyway- but they made the purchase while the deal was going on- and the economy- and housing markets- well they still took the hit- it was just delayed.
Now- to the real cynical folk out there- like you guys who can’t see that Herman Cain is an innocent man! [ Fine and Sandusky Too!] yes- to you nay sayers- it might just look like some politicians would love to keep giving away THE ‘FREE MONEY’ BECAUSE IT WOULD MAKE THEIR NUMBERS LOOK BETTER FOR RE ELECTION.
And so the game goes on- it never ends.
During the years called the Intertestamental period [around 400 years B.C. to the time of Christ] the Jewish people suffered lots. During their captivities they eventually lost their Temple and wound up living in a ‘strange land’.
It was at this time that the Synagogues were invented- these ‘church buildings’ were not the temple- they had no sacrifices or other priestly ceremonies- they were literally named after a word that meant ‘House of Study’.
This word is the same word used for the Israeli legislature today- Knesset.
During the time of Christ these synagogues were places where the Jewish people captured/retained their culture- while being ruled by Rome.
In the Synagogue you had 2 ‘offering plates’. One was called The Dish- this was the offering for the poor- those who needed short term help- this went to them.
Then you had what was called The Chest. This was the ‘plate’ used for more long term type help- sort of like a welfare thing.
We also see in the writings of the New Testament that giving to the poor- helping those in need- is a very noble [and mandated!] thing.
But when we see ‘free money’ that is ‘robbing from the rich to give to the poor’ as a last resort type thing- well then we are using the principle in a wrong way.
I read one article on why the Italian debt crisis [very bad as well] was not ‘seen’ as bad as a country like France [who is on the verge of getting downgraded too- geez- if they are having so much financial trouble- maybe Sarkozy should cut back a little on all these ‘mini Bush’ military ventures?]
They said even though the Italian debt crisis is real- yet outside observers know that many Italians are well off- they have saved and invested- and if worse comes to worse- they will just tax the wealthy.
For major outside observers to be thinking this- to be hedging their bets on the private money being ‘taken’ to cover the debt- that’s bad.
That’s the same language we are now seeing in our country ‘pay your fair share- flying those corporate jets- you rich S.O.B.’s!
Yes- these are all signs of the times we are in.
I have been out of the market for many years- and those who are ‘in’ most of you lost some over this last decade- and some lost a lot.
I’m not sure what the next decade holds- but if you put some money in The Dish- or The Chest [which is where we get the term Community Chest] then I think you will have spent some money well- but if you simply see investing thru the lens of how much you will get back- then I think many of you are in for a surprise.
 YAHWEH- YAHWEH- I LOVE TO SHOUT YOUR NAME!
Want to try and cover a few current events today. Last week- when the DOW went up to around 12,300- I felt like ‘here we go again’. The news came out ‘yes- Greece is solving their debt problem- hip- hip- hooray!’ Then of course a day or 2 will go by and something bad happens- ‘oh- no- the sky is falling’.
I mean it’s not even funny anymore- if the world [global] economy learns anything from this debacle- it will be to try and put a plan in place- where the entire global market is not going from week to week- based on these long term payouts that the other E- Zone nations are making to Greece- based on how much they agree to cut every few weeks.
It’s like running our govt. on the Continuing Resolutions- having to pass these temporary deals every few months- and the markets being drawn to the brink every couple of months- this whole way of working is not acceptable.
But what I wanted to say- that the so called solution to the Greek debt crisis- well it’s really not a solution at all. Yes- I think they needed to do it [cut their bonds in half] but what they actually did- was they did default [go bankrupt] and they reorganized their debt.
When a nation [or company- or bank] does this- they are telling all their investors ‘you just lost a boatload of cash’. Okay- who are these evil investors anyway?
The ‘Occupy Wall’ street guys- well they mean well- and they have some valid points to make- but the problem is not really with the bankers- or the ‘1-%’- that is if you simply slash the bonds/investments in half [those evil bank people!]- you are not taking all the money from those ‘fat cats’.
In reality- lots of the average folk lose money too. Many retirement accounts- yes- for teachers and Firemen and Cops [you know- the 99%] are tied into these investments. Now- I hope your own 401 k was not heavily invested in European debt- but many people’s investments are.
And when the nation [or company] says ‘hey everybody- guess what- we fixed the problem- we simply told everybody- today is half price day- for us’. Well yes- they reduced their debt. But they did it by ‘reducing’ the value of everyone else that had skin in the game.
So what does this mean? It means that lots of folk took a big hit- and these same folk [made up of all the other European nations] are not going to be happy about it. Will they ever invest in Greek debt again? Hell no- I don’t blame them either.
Okay John- what does this mean? Glad you asked. It means that even though the Europeans ‘solved their debt crisis’ they solved it in a way that will have long lasting effects on the global economy. Now- Greece is really a small economy- we all know this- but don’t be fooled into thinking something was ‘solved’ no- they solved it by saying ‘hey- we aint paying the people we owe money too’ Geez- wish I could ‘solve’ my debt crisis like that.
And sure enough- before I had a chance to write the post [warning about this very thing] yesterday we saw a global investment company go Belly Up. It was some firm that former N.J. governor Jon Corzine ran- they invested in these European bonds- and yes- they lost half of their investment [billions] over night.
So- before we [U.S. investors and workers] get too happy over the Europeans ‘fixing’ their problems [like the DOW shooting up to 12,300!] lets realize that there are still lots of problems on the horizon- and we are not out of the water yet [the DOW also was responding to the 3rd quarter numbers that came out- the U.S. economy did do better than expected- I think the growth was a little over 2 %- that’s good- not great- but okay].
Okay- I also found it funny [not to demean the thing] that the Syrians were protesting in the streets- calling for- well you guessed it- a NO FLY ZONE.
What? A no fly zone? Assad [the Syrian leader] is not flying planes over the protestors- he is indeed killing and torturing them- but no planes.
So why would the Syrians [not all of them] be asking for this? Well to them- after seeing our ‘no fly zone’ in Libya- to them it means ‘please come and hunt down our leader like a dog- kill him- his kids- his grandkids- and when it’s all over- let a bunch of our ‘leaders’ take over- you know- the Al Qaeda group’.
Sad- so sad.
Look- I’m sorry for the abuse that many Arab/Persian nations have foisted upon their people- and in many ways- Assad is an S.O.B.- but we need to find another way to deal with these crisis’- and the ‘no fly zone’ thing- well that has to stop.
One last note- last week I had a strange event take place. As a true news junkie [I read the papers- watch the news- for about 6 hours a day] I stumbled across a death penalty case.
I have made it a habit to pray for the cases I read in the papers- severe crime cases- people going to prison for life- mothers who killed their kids- yes bad cases- but case’s/people I felt the Lord wanted me to pray for- well- for the rest of my life.
I have cut out the news articles- and written the names of these people here in my study- and pinned them up on my prayer wall.
The list is now in the hundreds.
Okay- when I read [last Monday] that Frank Garcia was going to be executed on Thursday- I made a mental note to simply pray for Frank for the next 4 days.
I simply prayed for him every morning- prayed that God would be glorified- that God would help Frank to ‘end right’ to seek God in his last days- make any statements that need to be made- to the victims’ families or whoever else [he killed his wife- and a cop who came to the home on the night they were fighting].
I have done this ‘prayer vigil’ for the guys for many years- writing the names of offenders and putting them on my prayer wall- that’s only a few years old- but to pray for the death row guys- well I have done that for years.
Now- for some reason- in Frank’s case- I felt the Lord saying ‘John- you just adopted him’. What?
I have so many friends- ex-cons- addicts- street guys- and many of them are like brothers- ‘sons’. Some of them have become Christians thru ‘my’ ministry. The years of helping the street guys- preaching at the jails- the whole deal.
So in franks case- it seemed like the Lord was saying ‘John- franks in the group’.
I didn’t fully understand it- but heck- I accepted the thing [you know- when God says something- its’ usually a good idea to believe it].
So on Thursday- I just happened to have the local news on at 6 P.M. - here in Texas the guys usually get the needle at around 6:20 P.M. and before the news ends- they tell you the guys dead.
So as the news rolled along- I prayed for Frank for this last 20 minutes- he wound up dying a little late- at 7.
The next day- I read 3 articles on Frank’s last words- I have never read a testimony like this- yes- from a criminal who did indeed commit horrendous crimes- crimes he needed to be punished for.
The article said that when Frank entered the ‘death room’ for the entire 20 minutes or so- he simply sang out to God- very loudly- praised Jesus- shouted ‘Yahweh- Yahweh- I love to sing your name’ and went on like this for the whole time.
He prayed for the people in the ‘stands’ watching the show- he prayed ‘God- for the prosecutor sitting here right now- may she never forget this day father- may she come under conviction someday father- may she accept Jesus some day’.
He went on and said ‘Father- for this day was I born- to glorify you- even though I committed such terrible crimes- for which I’m sorry for- yet to end my life glorifying you and your Son- to praise you as my God and king- thank you father- thank you’.
The article went on to say that as the drugs began taking effect- Frank began rattling off at the end- not able to form compete sentences- his final word was ‘Jesus’.
The Mother of the woman Frank killed [his mother in law] said she was shocked- that this former San Antonio gang member was always such a quiet kid- she has never spoken to Frank since he killed her daughter- but she saw a different person this night- someone she really did not know at all.
I’m sure the other witnesses will never forget what they heard that night either- especially the prosecutor- who had to position herself as an adversary- one who accuses the defendant in criminal cases- yes- that’s her job- but by nature- she in a way had to ‘hate’ frank- yet she heard him pray for her on the night of his death.
Yes- I never heard a ‘death row’ testimony in my life like this one- and for some reason- I never prayed as much [you know- remembering to pray thru out the week- and then praying for the man the actual hour he was dying] for one either.
These last few years I have ‘sensed’ and in a strange way- ‘received’ some of my old buddies who have died years ago. Many of them were friends I ‘lead’ to the Lord- yet they had very long histories of drug abuse and crime- and yes- some did die as a result of that.
But these last few years- while praying in my prayer ‘spot’ [a special spot in my yard] out early in the morning- under the stars- I sense all my ‘sons’ and friends being in this crowd- the image of John the Apostle- seen in revelation chapter 5- he is in this heavenly throne room before God.
He is there with the angels and saints and the great Lion of the tribe of Judah [Jesus]. It’s a picture of saints that are in heaven- and also on earth- the book of Hebrews says those who have died- and have already passed on- they are in the stands and cheering us on.
I know this sounds strange- but I really sense my ‘old group’ even my buddies who are gone- they are still ‘having church’ with me under the stars.
A few years ago- when I first started sensing this- it seemed as if one of my old friends showed up one week- I just ‘sensed’ it.
His name was Miguel. Me and Mike grew up in N.J. together- good friends as kids.
After high school- I joined the navy- Mike went into the Army.
After I earned my 4 year discharge in 1 year [got kicked out of the Navy!] I went back North and me and Mike got back together as good buddies [he got kicked out of the Army faster than I got booted from the Navy- yeah- he won that competition too!] we did commit a few crimes in those months- we were no ‘angels’ but we eventually headed back to Texas.
Why Texas? Mike wanted to go to Florida- I said Texas. We had no real plans- just two18 year old kids with no destiny.
I said ‘lets flip a coin- heads it’s Texas- tails Florida’. I told Mike that day- I still remember the moment- sitting there in front of my house- on a cold N.J. day- dreary day.
I said ‘hey- some day we can tell our kids that we chose [Tx or Fla.] based on a coin flip’.
I won the flip- we left for Texas in the morning – been here ever since.
Eventually I lead Mike to the Lord- his wife- Lu Ann- and my wife became friends. Mike had a few boys- I had 4 girls!
Mike became a member of my little home church [we also met in a rented hospital for a year or 2] and we were in a sense- living the dream.
Mike had a little harder time than me. He eventually went back North- and I got a call from Mike one day- he told me had had Aids.
I stayed in touch with Mike- he wrote me a few good letters- and one day when I came home from work- my wife said ‘John- Lu Ann called’. I knew it- I said ‘Mike died’ she said yes.
I have Miguel’s funeral card here in my office- its pinned up on a wall with my other friends names who have gone on- Mike was 32.
So a while back- when I started ‘sensing’ this ‘church thing’ this reality that my friends who are still ‘on the ground’ and my buddies who have died- well they are all here with me during those prayer mornings- yes- in that ‘upper room’ that the apostle John was in.
One day I was praying and doing a home church thing with my wife- we often do a simple home meeting- pray- bible reading- communion- it’s kind of cool.
My wife tells me ‘you know- I had a weird dream the other night. You old friend Mike showed up at the door- he rang the bell. He said he was here- looking for you’.
Yes- I felt like God said I ‘adopted’ Frank- that in a way he was now part of my ‘fellowship’ yes- made up of the worst of the worst- they did say of Jesus ‘he’s friends with hookers and killers and sinners- what kind of preacher is that!’
Yes- I like my little group. O- and this past Sunday- while doing the early prayer thing- at the part of being in ‘the room’ with the guys- I almost thought I could hear Frank singing- yes- he seemed to be singing ‘Yahweh- Yahweh- I love to shout your name’.
Yea- it was a good service- the best one in the world.
 FOR A PAIR OF SHOES? CMON!
Yesterday I saw a few clips from a talk Joe Biden gave- he was at some municipal type function [Cops- Firemen] and he was basically defending the presidents ‘jobs bill’. I mean the guy really impressed me with his mastery of the numbers.
He rattled off ‘in 2007- you had this many cops on the street- this many rapes- this many killings’. He then went on to the following years- you know- showing us that as the force went down in numbers- that the violent crimes went up.
I mean- it was so smooth- you would think he was just pulling the numbers out of the air.
As he left the hall- some reporter got him on whether or not it was right to associate voting no on the ‘jobs bill’ with being for an increase in rapes [Biden was saying if you vote no- then the number of cops being let go will go up- and the rapes will go up too- according to his numbers].
Biden kind of got into a little scuffle ‘hey buddy- don’t you misquote me on this- this is what I said’ you know- Biden has never had trouble with talking off the cuff like that.
Then sure enough- the Repubs got the actual numbers from the FBI on the rapes and stuff from that city [I think he was in Boston?].
And the actual numbers were the opposite of what Biden said- the rapes went down over the years he said they went up.
I like old Joe- he lives his life for the moment. You know- having a few shots of J.D. with the guys at the Fire Dept. Hanging out with the cops and all my fellow union bro’s [still am a member with the fire fighters union] and then going to the union hall and hitting one out of the park- just giving this soul stirring defense of the president’s policy- rattling off those numbers like one of the local lotto ‘quick 6’ guys does at the corner store.
Then of course the thrill is short lived- sure it made you feel great as you hung out with the boys for the rest of the day ‘Biden sure defended us today- way to go Joe- way to go’. Then he gets back home and sees all the clips of how he screwed up the whole thing.
You know- his wife saying ‘hey honey- look your on CNN again- they’re making fun of you’. And Biden probably just fluffs the thing off ‘Heck- this aint the first time baby- and won’t be the last’. Oh- and by the way- Obama’s trying to get a hold of you- ‘just tell him I’m’ busy hon- talk to him another day’.
Ah- the more I watch these guys- the more I keep thinking of the Don Knott’s movie ‘the gang that can’t shoot straight’ it’s sad- but at least you can laugh as the country goes to Hades in a hand basket.
Okay- to my liberal friends- this next one is for you.
I do think very seriously that our country- and the world- has very serious problems facing us these next few years. I do not see the answer to these problems as being conservative or liberal- I think that both sides really need to be able to come to the table and talk as adults- that has not happened yet.
I’m going to defend Obama right now- just a warning to both sides.
These past few months the U.S. has been trying to negotiate a deal with Iraq- we originally signed an agreement with the new govt. that we would stay in their country till the end of this year.
As the months rolled by the leadership of Iraq has had some very shaky people join their ranks. Iraq is now considered [by many insiders] as being part of a group of 3 nations [Iraq- Syria- Iran] that are strengthening their ties- as sort of a buffer against the other nations in the region.
One of the leaders in Iraq- on the official payroll- is Muqtada Al Sadr [I’m guessing on the spelling?] Do you remember him?
This guy led his own militia during our war in Iraq. At times we went back and forth on whether or not we should target his little enclave and take out his personal army.
Eventually we decided to let the guy live and he finally got on the actual team of leaders that make up the new Iraqi leadership.
This guy has killed our guys- we have killed his.
Now- a while back he agreed to putting a stop to the killing of American soldiers in Iraq [gee thanks a lot!]. He is a religious leader with a following- and at one time he justified [Fatwa] the killing of American soldiers as being part of fighting the ‘infidel’ invaders from the west.
After he got in office- he agreed to tell this people ‘stop killing them’- for good? No- just until the official agreement of our forces staying until this year ends- but after that- he has said its open shooting once again.
Okay- this guy is part of the Iraqi govt.- he’s telling us he will take his guys and kill American soldiers if we stay past the deadline.
Obama has been trying to extend the deadline [at the secret request of the Iraqi leaders- they want us to stay longer- but because of political posturing won’t say it openly]. But in order for them to look tough to the outsiders- they are refusing to sign an agreement that would give our guys legal immunity if we stay.
So you have these guys playing ‘hard ball’ with our guys- we are not asking them to pay the 800 billion dollar bill we have racked up over these past 10 years- they have officials in their govt. who are openly saying ‘you stay past the deadline- your dead’ and the other leaders will not grant our guys immunity.
I would have done the same thing Obama did- you know what- we shed blood here- your govt. has turned into a major supporter of some of our biggest enemies in the region- and your own officials are calling for the killing of our men- after the deadline.
Your damn right we’re not staying- no way in hell.
But we are so divided- the Repub candidates have used this as a tool to criticize Obama- and the left has done the same dirty deeds [Biden’s numbers game?]
This week the DOW went up to around 11,800. I’ll admit- I did not think we would see those numbers this year- nor do I think it’s smart for us to ‘see’ those numbers.
Why? I have said a bunch of times over this last year that the global economy is not in good shape.
Some economists think we [the U.S. and Europe] are going through a De- Leveraging cycle. They feel that nations/economies can only go so long through a borrowing/spending cycle- and then they have to ‘bottom out’ and go through a long season of deleveraging.
Many think that the west is in this phase right now- and will be in it for a number of years.
That’s why Greece- once again- is having open rioting on the streets. They have over borrowed- over promised- and now are doing what’s called Austerity measures- they have to cut.
Now- in our country- we too have these same problems looming over the horizon- we are not technically as bad as Greece [yet] but we are in trouble.
The only way to really deal with this problem- is for both sides to actually make some serious cuts/changes in what we call entitlement programs [Medicare being the biggest] and yes- some type of income on the ‘revenue side’.
Not raising taxes across the board [maybe?] but doing what many on both sides have called for- closing a lot of the loopholes that are in the tax code and making real ‘adjustments’ to entitlements- if we don’t seriously do this- then we will be in big trouble.
Okay- why do I think the DOW is way too high? Investors have been looking for a sign- any sign- that they can use to hang some hope on- that we will not go into another recession.
Sure enough- some good news did come out- and some not so good.
Then once again- the European debt yoyo- it went up again- the investors thought ‘o- maybe the Euro Zone will fix its debt crisis’. Look- no matter what deal they do- they will still have a very long way to go to get out of their problems- and their banks and economies are going to still suffer- no matter what.
And why was Biden doing the speech? Because he was trying to get support for Obama’s plan to send more federal money back to the states. The states have been propped up by the stimulus package and fed. aid- and that moneys gone.
So yes- the states are going to lay off this year- more than any previous year- the moneys gone.
All of these things are huge problems- on a Macro level- that are going to effect the global markets for many years to come- even if the actual figures for business look better [many financial guys have been saying ‘the fundamentals are much better’- true- in a way].
But no business functions in a vacuum. No matter how good the bottom line looks- if people are out of work- and banks are not lending- and if we are really in a de leveraging cycle- then no matter how good the ‘fundamentals’ are- the ‘customers’ are broke- or can’t get a loan to buy the good/service- see?
Okay- lets end with some bible stuff- before I lose all my Christian readers.
A while back we were doing an over view of the entire bible- and I probably should have done at least one last post or 2 before we stopped [maybe will get to that in the next few weeks?]
We stopped at the O.T. prophets- and under that category- you have what we call the Major and Minor Prophets. That’s simply a distinction in the size of their books [Isaiah is long- major- Amos short- minor].
I did hit on Isaiah some- and for a minor prophet- if I could only do one- it would be Amos.
Amos was a very strong defender of the poor- the weak ones in society. He railed against the rich- and the powerful- ‘you sell the poor for a pair of shoes- there is no justice in the land’.
In a way- you could fit him in at one of the Occupy Wall Street rallies.
Amos also condemned the ‘church folk’ he said [like the other prophets too] that the religious people were having great meetings- they were rejoicing in their religious life- they had a great time ‘practicing’ their religion [every day a Friday?] Yet there were many injustices in the land- things that God was not happy with.
And these things were the uneven balances that existed in their day.
When he said ‘you sold the poor for a pair of shoes’ yes- the ‘market’ was that bad- that you could ‘buy a slave’- that cheap. Was it ‘just’ simply because that was the market value?
Hell no- people have more value than a damn pair of shoes! What about his injustice ‘rant’?
That spoke specifically about ‘justice in the courts’ the rich were able to ‘buy’ a better outcome in the courts- than the poor.
Man- if these things are not signs of our times- then I have no idea what is.
Okay- I’m glad the President did what he did on the troop thing- if your country can’t guarantee immunity to our guys- yeah-were gonna get the hell out.
Oh- one last thing- I think I hear a phone ringing- all the way from Delaware- yes Joe- someone wants to talk to you- and soon.
 DO THE HUSTLE?
One time Jesus was engaging with the religious folk- and he said they were like kids/people in the market place. They said ‘we piped and you did not dance- we mourned and you didn’t respond how we wanted you to respond’ [my paraphrase].
A few years back a lot of things changed with me [us- ministry]. As a ‘ministry’ I never took money for personal use- no salary- nada. And eventually I ‘forsook’ all money. That is in the first few years as a home church- we did take offerings- and it was used to meet the needs of people.
When we did rent a place to meet- we used some for the expenses. But as I progressed [some say digressed!] I just cut the whole offering thing off. On the radio- we [I] was the only person who actually paid out of pocket for the air time. Though you had others who never asked for money- yet these shows were underwritten by their church.
So I just said ‘from now on- I will not take money- for anything’. I also quit claiming my giving [which was a lot- considering the radio alone] for tax purposes. I simply wanted to give the example that being ‘in ministry’ is not some type of business that you have to constantly be prodding people to ‘give to God’. I realized that much of what we call ‘ministry’ is simply well meaning people- setting up Christian non profit organizations- and then developing a mechanism to get others to ‘support the work’.
Some churches teach ‘church membership’ but many times what they mean is- after you come for a while- we want you to commit to giving 10 % of your salary to the church.
Other ministries take various approaches.
After I retired from the Fire Dept. I got into a bind- I lost my health insurance- it was too expensive to keep- so I dumped the thing. This left me in a curios spot- I was still helping lots of the people out [homeless- church friends] and sometimes I would pay a bill or 2 for them- maybe 100- 150 dollar type thing- and I would be out that month. Yes- I live off of a retirement check- just a little over what some of these friends were getting- if you add in the Medicare/Medicaid- and some had disability/s.s. checks.
I guess they didn’t realize that paying a bill or 2- actually- really left me broke. Now- I didn’t complain [unless you count this post as a complaint!] but at times- after doing the ministry this way- I always found it strange that people still questioned me [and others in general] about the ‘money motives’ of ministry.
I had a relative call me and straight out question me on why I was not financially supporting another family member [kind of a bold thing to ask- out of the blue] I knew this relative was quite rich- multimillionaire? At least in the category of a millionaire. They said ‘if your spending all this money on your homeless friends- why don’t you use some of the funds for so and so’ I said ‘what funds are you talking about’?
They then realized I was basically doing the stuff from my measly check- yes- as bad as that sounds- that’s the deal.
Then they were upset that I was ‘wasting money’ on helping people.
Like Jesus said ‘we made music for you- and you didn’t dance’ that is people see ‘ministry/church’ as ‘we expect you to respond in a certain way’ and sad to say- because of this very subject- money- many preachers/churches do ‘adjust’ their messages based on how well the giving went in the previous month.
Needless to say- the whole thing at times seems to be a vast wasteland- coming up with all types of ‘bible verses’ and telling people ‘if you don’t give- your testing- robbing God’ geez- we better make sure were using that verse in context [Malachi] because in most of these scenarios we are not- and then to falsely charge people with ‘robbing God’ that’s pretty darn bad.
I don’t blame my friends for not realizing that at times- me helping them out- well- it did put me in a bind. And sometimes- they don’t realize that because I don’t have health care benefits- that if you actually added everything up- many of these friends are actually making the same [or more] than me.
I just feel like we all need to do our best to help others- don’t assume that people have money- or that they are in it for the money. Many times people are just doing what they feel they are required to do.
And of course- you’ll always have the friend/relative who wants you to do a dance for them- to justify- for them- why you do what you do- never mind that they are worth a hundred times more than you- and they are in much better shape to help the relative- no- that’s none of my business. But when they Pipe [make music] they just want you to dance- geez- I never was a good dancer- why start now?
 PEOPLE LAUGHING- PEOPLE SINGING- A MAN SELLING ICE CREAM
These past few days I have been reading scriptures on the influence of the church in the nations- that is God’s original purpose for the church- to have a people/nation that he could reveal his glory though. This morning I read Zechariah chapter 8- it talks about God restoring Jerusalem and that there will be old men and women dwelling in it- little boys and girls playing in the streets once again.
The impression you get is a sort of ‘block party’ atmosphere- all types of people enjoying life once gain- after a season of captivity. As I read the verse on the old men and women- I thought of Aunt Bee.
Bee was the aunt of one of our original church members. Emmet [Senior- I have also talked about his son on the site- Jr.] became a church member early on. I don’t remember if I met him while preaching at the county jail- or through Elias- another friend who struggled with addiction. Both of them were long time drug addicts.
I would pick up Emmet at his Aunt’s house every week for church- and just visit him every so often. The ‘church’ was a little home group I started from scratch. I fixed up my 2 car garage- and the guys I met from the streets- or at the jail- would become the core group.
Over time Aunt Bee- who raised Emmet- started coming to our meetings- and as an older lady- in her 70’s- she would tell me she was learning the bible for the first time- she really liked it.
I was basically filling the slot that she missed out on- the bible study aspect of Christianity. Bee was a good Catholic lady- and she told me her friends said ‘why do you go to brother Johns’ church- your Catholic’ she would tell them ‘because I learn things’.
I never tried to ‘convert’ Bee- she stayed Catholic- and that was fine with me. Many Protestant bible churches do fill a need that some of the historic churches lack- simple bible study. Yet many of the Protestant ‘bible’ churches lack what the historic churches offer- a historic connection to traditional Christianity.
During the Reformation of the 16th century- the Protestant reformers [who were all initially Catholic] fought with the Roman church over doctrinal issues- and during this fight the reformers stated a few main principles- one of which is called Sola Scriptura- which means ‘the bible alone’.
What they meant by this was on issues where the church could not come to agreement with the dissenters- that at the end of the day- the bible would have the final say.
Now- the common mistake many Protestants fall into- is thinking that this principle means ‘Solo Scriptura’ is a belief that all Christianity is simply a process of reading/organizing your life around the bible. That is the view that the bible is all there is.
This is not the historic Protestant position- the reformers themselves [Calvin. Luther, etc.] referred often to the early writings of the church fathers [Augustine] in trying to prove their points.
I have found it helpful over the years to spend time reading/hearing the voice of the historic church- as well as being up on the bible. The other day I moved a few books from my office into a shelf in the living room- I read an article on how people are selling books ‘by the inch’ just to decorate their homes. What types of books- that didn’t matter- they were just for show [ouch!]
So I figured I’ll move the real McCoy- classics that I have read and re-read over the years.
I was glad to see that I still had the Confessions of Saint Augustine- a classic from the 4th century. Augustine was a Catholic bishop from Hippo- North Africa. He is often associated with the doctrine of Predestination [which he did believe in] and is loved by many Catholics and Protestants alike.
The major reformer who launched the reformation was Martin Luther- a German Augustinian monk- Luther was also a strong believer in the doctrine of predestination- though its common to associate the doctrine with John Calvin, Luther too was a strong believer in it.
One day Aunt Bee shared a story with me- she used to visit her daughter who lived in Alaska- her daughter sort of felt like her cousin Emmet was taking advantage of her mom. I was familiar with the environment- my older sister- who has also been a drug addict for many years- has lived with my mom her whole life.
When addicted people live with their parents [aunts] as they age- they fall into an environment where they manipulate the guardian to get what they want [money- borrow the car, etc..]
So Aunt Bee’s daughter felt like Emmet took advantage of her mom. Aunt Bee told me about an Indian she saw one time while visiting Alaska- he was panning for gold in one of the freezing streams- and was wearing an Indian loin cloth and was in the ice cold water. She said how interesting it was to see how other cultures learn to adapt to their environment.
Bee was an educator- she taught at A&I university [Kingsville- Tx.] for many years [now called A&M] and her students were some of the most famous people in Texas- Senators and congress people. I found it interesting how an influential person like Bee- would wind up learning the bible from some Jersey boy- preaching in a garage [I was around 25 at the time].
Bee was a good person- she died many years ago- as has Emmet. Emmet eventually broke the drug habit and married another church member- Janie. She was s single mom with lots of kids- they made a very nice couple. Emmet died at around the age of 50- his liver went out- too many years of drugs eventually got to him. As a matter of fact- Elias- who I think first introduced me to Emmet- he eventually became a preacher and pastored his own church. He started with me- was the song leader and filled in on the days I had to work- and eventually took a position with a church called Victory Outreach- a ministry to addicts.
One day while working at the fire house- I was riding on the ambulance that day and we got a call. As I got to the house- I realized it was Elias’s house- he had a brain aneurism that day- he went into a coma and died a few days later.
I met Elias around 8 years earlier- preaching to him at the jail. Gave him his first bible- which he would always remind me about- and walked with him for a few years. He was ex-air force. He did at least 4 years before he got out and got hooked on hard drugs- mainline addict.
We had lots of good times together- I see his boys every so many years when I venture into Bishop [a small city around 40 miles from where I live]. I think his wife- Janie- still lives there.
The bible says Gods city [a symbol of the church] has old people having fun in the streets [the aunt Bee types] and little boys and girls playing in the streets [too many names to mention in this one- Elias & Janie alone had around 6 kids- Janie & Emmet too- different Janies!].
God’s church/family is a great one- it consists of the great church fathers [men like Augustine] and it extends to the little kids playing in the streets of some small town in South Texas- it even includes those who society has rejected- those who have failed many times in life- and they know it- more than anyone else.
I read a verse the other day- in Psalms ‘sins prevail against us- yet you will save us from our transgressions’ I thank God that he helps people- people who have things that ‘prevail’ against them- he often uses these people to help others- Gods ways are sometimes very hard to understand- his ways are not ours.
 WHAT MATTERS?
The other day I mentioned how believers have a habit of getting caught up in certain ‘religious’ views [tithing was the example I gave] and over time these views develop to a point where they take precedence over the things Jesus actually placed real value on.
In the 1st century when Jesus showed up on the scene- the religious practices of Gods people were centered around religious meetings [holy days] prayer, fasting and tithing- mainly to be seen of men- that is religion digressed to a point where what seemed to be the most important thing- was actually not important.
So how did Jesus respond? He spends the 3 very public years of ministry- healing the sick, telling the poor they are the blessed ones who will inherit Gods kingdom- and blasting the rich- and those in power- by telling them that their day was coming too.
In essence Jesus was the ultimate prophet- he followed the long line of Jewish prophets who took these same positions. The prophet Isaiah told the people ‘God is tired of all your religious activities- your church meetings- your special ‘sacrificial’ offerings- these things are a stench in his nose!’ then he would go on and say that God wanted justice for the poor and widow.
Amos also rebuked the rich and defended the poor- Ezekiel said the shepherds [religious leaders] were fleecing the sheep- they were leaders who were making a financial killing off of the people.
All of these things- in today’s world of ‘ministry’ are making a comeback- it’s just we don’t see it because they are dressed in a different way. But at the end of the day- for the most part- American style Christianity is usually measured by how much money you give [or take in] how faithful your are to attend religious meetings- and how famous your ministry is- are you a really gifted speaker? Or do you give a great ‘stage’ performance.
And in the mind of the average Christian- if you ask them ‘when was the last time you gave of your goods to your neighbor- reached out to the poor- showed your Christianity thru charity’? Often times they will answer that that is not ‘their ministry’ or that their giving to some Christian organization/church is their role- and it’s up to ‘the church’ to actually help the poor.
But these responses miss the main point- Jesus [and the prophets] were saying that’s the mistake- thinking that ‘religion’ consists in these outward religious acts- which are really for show- while the true acts of mercy and love are all too often neglected. People today have made the same mistake as the religious observers of Jesus day.
The letter of James- written by the brother [half] of Jesus- tells us that Pure religion- is to keep yourself unspotted form the world- and to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. That’s it. No mention of religious holy days? No. No mention of special tithes/offerings? No. But what does he have to say about the modern religious view of the accumulation of wealth? Let’s not even go there [believe me- it’s pretty bad- go read the letter- its short].
This week in Somalia the estimates are 11 million people are on the verge of starvation- 2 to 3 million are kids. The world at large has had a hard time getting the food/resources in- because the country [like many other African nations] is in a sort of civil war.
The militant Islamic group fighting the govt. [Al Shabbab- I think that’s the name?] are made up of children. Yes- the kids have taken up an armed resistance against the leaders- and they are killing each other. I saw a news report on Mosaic world news- and the kids were in the streets- sort of like any kids on a block- but they had guns.
One young kid [10?] was pulling on the rifle of an older boy [15?] and the older boy got mad- like some school yard thing. The older boy just pulled away- and pointed the gun at the ‘opposing kids’- at the same time- they were playing in the street- throwing rocks and waving sticks- and pointing loaded guns at each other- it was like it was a game- they were used to shooting each other if they had to.
There are many things happening in our world today- things that matter to God. Many Christians- though they mean well- seem to leave these other things up to others. They feel that if they can just make it through another week- attend religious meeting on Sunday- put in the tithe- that if they live up to these outward religious standards- that they have done well.
Jesus taught a different way- the apostles tried to follow in his way. The apostle John said ‘if you see your fellow man in need- and don’t actually help him- do what needs to be done to defend them- then how can you say Gods love is in you’ [my paraphrase].
The apostle Paul wrote the Colossians- he said ‘I’m worried about you- you are observing days and times and other outward religious rites- I’m afraid you are falling away from the true faith’.
There was always a danger that Christians would fall into this rut- this thing where they unconsciously make the least important things- the most important. When the religious leaders of Jesus day were conspiring to kill Jesus- they had a problem- if they killed him on the wrong day- it would mess up their religious festival going on at the time. If they had to deal with the dead body- on the wrong day- they would be technically unclean according to Jewish law- and it would throw off their game.
So they worked it out where they would kill Jesus- and leave the body alone on the Sabbath- and they had it all worked out. One problem- they were violating the most important commandment of all- given to them by their most important law giver [Moses] that said ‘thou shalt not kill’ but somehow- over a period of time- they saw these things as the most important- their special observances of holy days- keeping themselves ceremonially clean- not ‘unspotted from the world’ as James said- but religiously clean- so they could put on a good public show.
I just finished praying for a bunch of stuff- of course I prayed for the kids in Somalia- those dying and those killing. Yes- I also send money every month to the starving kids- but these things are not enough. I [we] need to also engage those around us- those hurting and dying and struggling in real ways. We need to make the most important things- important again.
 HARRY POTTER
This year we ‘celebrate’ the end of an era- Harry Potter. I caught an interview last night with the publisher who put out her books. He explained that he was the only one willing to take the risk- because kid’s books- at a time when computer games and high tech stuff are all the craze- that trying to get kids into books again, well that seemed like a tough sell.
Yet J.K. Rowling went after it- and the rest is history. Some [most] preachers/Christians have been against Rowling’s fables- why? Of course she is introducing ‘soft witchcraft’ into her themes. The church has traditionally been against all forms of fortune telling. Horoscopes, astrology and the like.
And I have been surprised about how many friends over the years have asked me about whether or not doing the Palm Reading thing is okay for a Christian. The fact is the bible condemns- in no uncertain terms- all of these practices. But the bible does speak about spiritual gifts- prophecy, dreams- etc. These types of gifts are different from all these other forms of sorcery and witchcraft- these gifts originate from God- and they are acceptable.
Okay- having said all this- is there any good that come from Potter? Actually- there is. Even though Rowling has used these other forbidden themes- yet you also need to look at the overall theme of the books. For instance- do they have ideas about good versus evil? Yes. Do they introduce kids back to the lost art of reading? Yes.
So overall I think its okay for kids to read her stuff- with the parental warning of ‘
Little Johnny/Suzie- you know there is really no such thing as White Magic- all good comes from God- and evil from satan [and mans sinful nature]’.
I have sitting here a bunch of new teaching series from various scholars. I’m going thru one on the origins of the church- taught by an ex Benedictine Monk [Luke Timothy Johnson] who is an accredited scholar. Has lots of degrees and teaches at Harvard. The other series is an entire overview of the bible- with all the historical and theological data mixed in.
This series is also taught by a scholar- R.C. Sproul. Why mention this? One of my homeless buddies was over a few days ago- he loves learning- he walks thru my study [we usually hang out in the yard] and he says ‘who needs a university- you have everything right here’. Well- I have lots of great stuff- but a university I’m not.
The point is- we should try and do our best to learn from people who know stuff- people who are educated. Way too much of what is produced today from the ‘church’ is really at a low level. Now- I know I have been hard on ‘preachers’ in the past- and have criticized the abundance of TV/radio stuff that is simply ‘God is the answer’ which of course is true- but must we spend billions of dollars every year- for the simple exercise of having ‘our pastor’ say the same thing- that everyone else is saying- at a charge of millions of dollars?
We need to re think this stuff.
I had a talk with a friend the other day- I was discussing some of this with him. I told him how we [Christians] have taught people ‘if you don’t give 10 % of your money into the basket on Sunday- you are cursed- you are robbing God’. This teaching comes from the Old Testament Tithe- primarily taken from a proof text in the book of Malachi.
I said ‘now- when we use this verse- this way- we are usually telling the people that this teaching is mandated by God- to support his work’. Okay- I have been taught this over the years- but the part we usually leave out- is the actual teaching- from the bible- on the Tithe.
In the Old Testament the Jewish people were required to Tithe- it was more like an income tax than an offering [like the way we think of offering]. This tax was used for 3 things. A third was used to support the Levitical priests, a third was used for banquets and feasts [and wine!] and a third was used to meet the needs of the poor [a welfare system].
Now- the part that went to the priests- none of it could be used for personal wealth growth. The priests were not permitted to have personal wealth. They were taken from the tribe of Levi [one of the 12 tribes of Israel] and they were forbidden to own their own land/inheritance.
So if we taught the ‘biblical’ tithe- it would be using a third for the poor- a third for parties, and the rest went to ‘the preachers’ who were forbidden to own real estate [have personal wealth].
Now- after all the years of people teaching the Tithe- all the many hours of telling believers ‘you are robbing God if you don’t Tithe’ how hard can it be to simply do one teaching on the actual Tithe?
I mean I just taught the whole thing- and it took a few minutes.
But the contemporary church is consumed with practical stuff- and to many- it’s not practical to say ‘oh- and by the way- the preachers/pastors- according to the Tithe system- are not permitted to own stuff’ that lifestyle just doesn’t fit the modern picture.
Okay- my point today is not to condemn giving money to churches- but it’s to nudge us towards a more ‘enlightened’ Christianity- a church that asks- and seeks for truth.
A literate people- who read!
So today I think we can commend Rowling for re introducing a lost art- the art of learning. Though we as Christians do have difficulty with ‘sorcerer’s stones’ yet the fact that kids are reading again- well that’s a good thing in my book.
 GREAT EXPECTATIONS? Warning- this post is graphic
The other week we celebrated Fathers day. I was getting ready to buy a new computer and figured- wait- let me just tell my daughters  that instead of getting me different stuff I don’t need, just by me the PC.
They kinda scoffed at the idea- my wife said ‘John- computers are expensive’ I said ‘Okay- I’ll pay the balance- whatever they want- they can put down- I’ll cover the rest’. I really wasn’t expecting a free computer- I just thought it was a good idea. I even told them ‘hey- my birthdays coming up- just count this as a combination present’ look- I tried my best.
So as the week wore on- I would drop hints- you know- trying to see if they made the purchase. I am notorious at this kind of stuff. Every year around Christmas time I would always trick my girls into confessing what my wife bought me. I mean I would do what needed to be done- as crass as ‘hey Debbie- want to make 10 bucks’ yes- I go low.
Of course my wife would get mad ‘I’m gonna bring the presents back if you keep doing this!’ I swore my scheming days were over. Then one year they asked what I wanted- I said ‘I know- get me a BB gun’ what? Yeah- I want the classic kids toy- that toy that kids from all cultures and races covet- the toy little Ralphie shot his eye out with- yeah- that’s the one.
So the weeks went by- I tried my best to get the girls to confess- their older now [around 10 years ago] they know how to spot my tricks. So after weeks of doing my best bargaining- I gave up.
Then my wife comes home from work- and as soon as she walks in the door- I say ‘They told me you got me the BB gun’ boy was she mad- she looked at them [and me] and said ‘I told you not to tell him!’ They replied- ‘we didn’t’ ah yes- I still had the skill.
So as Fathers day approached- they wouldn’t budge- the day arrived and I even gave them directions on where I wanted to set it up in the study- I spent a couple of days running the cord and all.
As the day wore on- I realized that this time it was no game- they simply decided to not get me a gift. I kidded them about it [one of the girls did by me a nice plant] and we really never do stuff for Father’s day to be honest- I don’t like doing birthdays [for me] or stuff like that. Sure- maybe order out for dinner- nothing big.
My girls were kind of feeling a little guilty- far be it for me to put a guilt trip on them. Becky asks ‘hey dad- what do you want for your birthday’. I said ‘I know- do they sell any type of medication at the store- maybe some natural home health remedy- something that can help a person overcome a feeling of depression- the type you feel when you get nothing for Father’s day’.
Yes- the schemer still lives.
Okay- let me try and cover a few things. Last week I was talking to my homeless buddy Henry- we got into a discussion about the buzz on Perry possibly running for Pres. I told him I really wasn’t too excited about it- I can see it now- the media portraying him as a whacky evangelical- and Obama of course is the candidate that you should never question about his church beliefs.
Sure enough the talk has started. The MSNBC crowd has already said they think Perry is a Marjoe [the story of the fake boy evangelist] and of course Bachman’s ‘pray the gay away’ clinic has made it to prime time news.
These stupid arguments usually leave carnage on the floor. Stephen Tyler’s [Aerosmith] bio has been on the best seller list for a few weeks now. He tells the story of going to an abortion clinic with his 5 month pregnant girl friend. As they go in for the procedure- he thinks it’s a simple procedure that makes the pregnancy just go away. You know- this is a woman’s right!
As she lies on the table- the doctor sticks a needle into her. She begins going into forced labor- and the baby comes out- alive and screaming. Tyler stands in shock as he sees this tiny human- this person that he thought was just a blob of cells- crying for help- love- life.
They all stand there- seeing this beautiful 5 month old preemie struggling for life. Eventually the baby goes silent- the damage done. Tyler’s friends will later say that he became a different person after that- much more violent and angry. The story is simply the true telling of the life of a rocker- and Tyler has no behind the scenes agenda- he just told the truth- the shock and feeling of disgust over what happened.
The reason I’m leery about possibility of the ‘Texas Evangelical’ versus the ‘enlightened liberal’ is because these real life tragedies get lost in the debate. One time former senator Rick Santorum showed a picture of an unborn child- around the same age as Tyler’s kid. He was on the floor of congress and had it up there. I mean there is no way you could deny that what was on the screen was human. He asked Senator Barbara Boxer if what she saw was a baby or not. Boxer replied that it was beyond her pay grade to make that decision- that she did not see it as her responsibility to judge whether or not her consent to the killing of these babies was humane.
Yet this same congress can judge ‘crimes against humanity’ when a leader on the other side of the globe threatens to go after those who have raised up an armed insurgency against him- a civil war.
Sometimes our expectations are too high- we expect more from others than what we get. As these debates move forward this coming year- we need the integrity to do what’s right- not what’s politically expedient- but what’s right. I have never- ever- been able to justify the deaths of these preemies- after seeing the actual pictures of the babies- real little babies- being mutilated- this act is atrocious- it is equal to the slaughter of the innocents under Hitler’s regime- yes- it’s that bad.
I don’t expect too much out of our leaders- but I at least would hope that when they see the body of a beautiful little baby- perfectly formed- lying on a table- screaming for its life while the mother and father and doctor watch- that we can at least say that this is no surgical procedure- no ‘right to privacy’ being carried out- this my friends is murder- pure and simple.
 A GLASS OF WINE ON THE HOUSE?
Henry’s been coming around a lot these last few days. I didn’t realize that he probably was feeling a little guilty/worried. A few weeks ago I gave Henry some money- wrote him a check for around 25 dollars.
I was supposed to do a few things with Henry- and I would always miss him. Last week I hit the grocery store and bought a bunch of good BBQ- we were going to head to Bishop for a fellowship- I went to pick up Henry at the boat dock where he works, and he wasn’t there.
I asked one of the kids if he knew where Henry was- he told me he had jury duty. What! Yeah, the week before he did get a notice to show up- it was legit. The homeless guys use various ministry addresses for their home address. I guess they found Henry because he votes.
They use the voting info for our local juries. I will admit I got a laugh out of it- I thought there was no way they would pick him. So anyway he comes by a few days later and he tells me the scoop. He made it through the first round and went back a few times as they trimmed the field.
He was telling me that it was a local corruption case against the cops. Now- I will admit, I have had my run in’s with the local cops. Over the years they really have harassed a lot of my homeless buddies. Lots of the guys live in various camps around this area.
I live in a sort of beach area- and there are lots of transients that set up temporary tents as their spots. One time I bought a nice tent for some friends- a big tent. A husband and wife couple used it. They were so grateful to get the thing. It only cost me around 100 bucks- well worth the sacrifice.
The next time I saw them they told me the cops came through and cut the tent. Our local cops do this because they get lots of complaints about the ‘bums’. Then one time I’m helping a homeless guy move from a camp. As were driving away some ‘cop’ walks up to my truck [he had a shirt on that said Corpus Christi Police] and starts questioning me- why I was in the area and all.
I had 2 of my buddies with me [Henry was one of them] and they are used to getting harassed. But as the ‘cop’ is talking to me I realize he’s an auxiliary cop [rent a cop type guy]. Now- I have worked with volunteer firefighters for years- and they are good guys- but sometimes we had a problem with them walking around town wearing our Fire Dept. shirts.
They were allowed to have them- but they were not supposed to be acting like they were the ‘real deal’. It would get the real guys [like me] in trouble. So I discerned that this cop was like that- plus he’s practically interrogating me.
I had it- I told him ‘I’m pulling over right here and getting out’. I did- he made sure he was back on his property- fast.
It’s just a long term thing- dealing with the cops harassing the guys. So Henry’s telling me his court ordeal- and when he tells me it’s a cop case- it was funny. He says they asked him ‘do you have any relationships with the local force’ [being it’s a corruption case]. I kid Henry and say- ‘did you tell them- well kind of- I hold a special affinity for the local police chief- I see him as a surrogate Father figure’ Henry just started cracking up.
He was finally kicked off the jury- I think they realized Henry might have been a loose cannon.
Okay- Back to the top- when Henry came by he wanted me to know that he ‘lost’ the check I gave him- and he said he signed it. I kind of picked up the feeling that Henry might have bought a bottle of wine- and he might have thought I found out and was mad at him.
Now- Henry is not a drunk- I have never seen him drink. But I do know that he likes to drink a glass of wine every so often. Even though I’m not a tee totaler- yet I have told the guys not to buy alcohol with any money I give them.
It’s just the principle of the thing- too many guys are alcoholics and I didn’t want to contribute to that it any way. So I think Henry might have used some of the money for a bottle. Okay- if so I would not be mad- water under the bridge.
But lots of people do get mad- they will cut guys off for stuff like this- and I think that was playing on Henrys mind. So he asks me if I could check on ‘the check’ to see if maybe someone cashed it- with his name on it of course.
So at about this time I’m beginning to catch on- and I tell Henry ‘you know Henry- my bank called and told me that someone did cash it- they asked me to come down and check the video’ okay- Henry’s kinda sweating at this point- I go on ‘and I went down to the bank and sure enough- I see a church van leaving the parking lot- it was brother Rey!’
Rey is a local street preacher who Henry works with- he’s had some tuff times recently so I fibbed a bit. Henry realized I was letting him off the hook- that it wasn’t a big deal to me- even if he had a glass of wine on the house.
I have noticed- many times- that people who do help the guys- if they feel the guys might have swindled them- or if the guys are not as grateful as they should be- some people leave- for good. I think true friendships should be able to ride this stuff out- Plus- I need to stay on good terms with the homeless guys- you never know- they might be my jury one day?
 PREACH THE GOSPEL?
Let’s talk some about the role of the church in society. Many years ago I had a friend who was a preacher/pastor- at the time some people kindly told him ‘brother- I know Jesus is the answer- but you need to also teach- you can’t just say ‘Jesus is the way’ all the time’.
Were they right? In a way- yes. Let me explain. In the book of Isaiah we read about the purpose of Jesus [chapter 11]. Jesus came to preach the gospel [good news] to the poor- set captives free- to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
The book of Amos [a prophet in the Old Testament] shows Amos railing against the rich- the powerful- as he defends the poor in society. Part of ‘the gospel’ is speaking out against injustices in society- telling those in power ‘your day is coming- you have trampled down the innocent- abused the immigrant- and God hears their cry’.
Yes- a part of the ministry of the church is to address these abuses in society. Now- what happens when the church casts off this job? It gets picked up by any/all others who are willing to run with it. So you have ‘the media’ or even a comic like Jon Stewart- anyone else who is willing to speak out against injustices- uneven scales- these will fill the void if Gods people won’t.
If you read the ministry of Jesus- the things he did and said- he often came up against religious forms of holiness. Those in society who thought their purpose was to- well be ‘religious’. That is they made a special class out of religion. They often engaged in public displays of it [prayer- fasting to be seen of men].
They valued their own religious experience as the primary thing- when they perceived man getting in the way of their expression of religion- they were willing to ‘sacrifice him’ [literally] in order for their own religious cause to gain influence [they said of Jesus- if he keeps doing this we will lose our position of power and influence].
At the end of the day- these religious folk saw their own view of religion as the primary thing- it took precedence over all other things- even people themselves.
Now- when the church reduces her mission to ‘religious speech’ that is when they refuse to engage in society- to do what the prophets did in the bible- defend the poor- rail against injustice- when Gods people leave this part of ‘preaching the gospel’ out- then they unknowingly have given in to the temptation to see their practice of religion- as simply a ‘religious thing’.
In a way- they have become like the religious folk of Jesus day- so busy carrying out their religious tasks- that the voiceless of society have no one to advocate for them.
We are living in a day where many major upheavals are taking place- I think the ‘average person’ does not fully understand the seriousness of what’s going on in the world today. It is quite possible that the U.S. will default on her debt. And that we will face a credit crisis equal to that of Greece- where the politicians have pandered to the people to a point where the people are rising up in the streets because they refuse to see the reality of the situation.
There are threads of this taking place right now in this country- at the current rate we are going- our debt will equal our GDP in 10 years- that’s really bad.
As we have these debates- we must remember that the poor and impoverished of the world count to God- the cause of the illegal alien means a lot to God- these issues are not just nationalistic- they are of concern to God.
As we move down this treacherous road over these next few years- lets not forsake that part of the gospel that calls us to speak up for the poor- to speak truth to power- and to expose injustice wherever we see it- not just on the opposing team.
 VARIOUS MUSINGS
Took a ride to the city of Bishop the other day- on the way I had a tire blowout on the highway [no spare] and managed to drive it [still had air in it- the radial tread ripped off] to a shop to get a new tire. I had one of my homeless friends with me and we were gonna have a fellowship day with Eliseo at his ranch- instead we will do one this Wednesday.
Those of you in the area who know where Eli lives- we will be there at around noon. Bring some food and meet us there, everyone is invited. As a side note- Eli, I got your message last night. I think little Rudy called too- I will try and get back with him, if he wants I’ll pick him up Wednesday for the ride.
Okay- after the blowout I did a fish fry/b.b.q. at the house with Henry and Chris [homeless bro’s] and we had a great time. My only mistake was I put the fish out first- about 10 pieces- and I thank the Lord I at least got 1!
Let me try and hit a few things today. Last week I had a good visit with a J.W. [Jehovah’s Witness]. He rang the bell and I told him I was a Christian and that I love having discussions and I did about a 20 minute historical overview of Christianity and the development of the doctrine of the Trinity [which is a major sticking point] and I tried to come down in a nice way- being honest about the historic problems many believers/various groups have had with the doctrine- and at the end of the talk I of course emphasized the bible verses that do indeed speak about the Deity of Christ and left it at that.
He was nice enough to come back by around an hour later and he dropped off a pamphlet put out by their group that discusses the Trinity. He asked me to read it and I did.
The teaching was fairly honest about the various historic disputes that Christians have had over the Trinity. It did cover the reality that there were Bishops and early church leaders who did indeed argue against the doctrine. It did a good job at showing how some early Christian leaders were indeed influenced by Greek philosophy and that some think that that’s where the doctrine developed from.
The pamphlet made the case that ‘the bible’ does not teach the Deity of Christ- and that these doctrines were later introduced by Catholic church leaders who paganized Christianity primarily thru Constantine’s ‘baptism’ of Christendom with the Roman state.
I’m very familiar with all these debates- many Christian scholars have made this exact same argument. Muslims and Jews also reject the doctrine of the Deity of Christ [and the Trinity] and often times you hear these same arguments made.
During the 4th century of the Common Era Constantine became the Roman Emperor and the church hotly debated these issues. The Bishop Arius [who denied the deity of Christ- that Christ is God] fought against the opposing view [that Christ is indeed God] and the bishop Athanasius was the warrior who defended the deity of Christ.
After Athanasius died his tombstone would read ‘Athanasius against the world’ he was the driving force in the 4th century who swayed the tide back to orthodoxy.
Now- the church would have a few 4th [and 5th] century church councils that would settle the matter concerning the nature of Christ and his deity- and the final decision was that the Trinity was indeed true and the Jesus is indeed God.
The other side stayed with the idea that Jesus was a created being- a god- but not thee God. Some of these churches exist till this day. They are primarily oriental churches. If you visit them they seem just like any other ancient type church- the Mass, Saints, Mother Mary- yes- the whole 9 yards. But they stuck with the Arian view [Bishop Arius] and deny the deity of Christ [and thus the Trinity].
How should I respond? Let me just say that I am a Trinitarian who believes in the deity of Christ- Christ is fully God and fully man. The J.W. pamphlet made a good defense for their view- and they were not totally ‘deceptive’ in their argument. But they did quote lots of bible verses that kind of backed up their side- and they quoted some from Isaiah. But they left out chapter 9.
The famous passage that says Jesus is the ‘Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ very strong language indeed.
What about the argument that the early Catholic bishops polluted the true teachings of Jesus by introducing Greek thought into Jesus true teachings? It is true that Greek philosophy had a belief that there was a pre existing principle of wisdom- a ‘divine logos’ if you will.
The only problem with the argument that the Catholic bishops were the culprits who introduced Logos Christology into the doctrines of the church is that the New Testament itself has ‘Logos Christology’ in it. What is Logos Christology?
Logos is the Greek word for ‘Word’. Christology is the study of Christ. Logos Christology is the description of Jesus found in the writings of the apostle John that describe Jesus as the Eternal Word of God.
John wrote the gospel of John, the 3 letters- 1st, 2nd and 3rd John- and the book of Revelation [some scholar’s dispute that John authored the last one]. In these writings Jesus is called the Word of God- he is described as the Word that was ‘with God, and was God’ [John 1].
So the bible itself has Greek influences- because it was written in Greek! And even though the pre Christian philosophers had a concept of a personified wisdom [the Jews also- read Proverbs 8] yet the New Testament also speaks of Jesus as this Eternal Word of God who was indeed ‘true God from true God’.
So I think the talk I had was good- I understand that many groups of people have had difficulty with the doctrine of the Trinity and the accusation that Constantine and the Catholics ‘hijacked’ the true religion of Jesus has been made by many groups over the years. Yet at the end of the day the doctrine of Jesus being God is clearly found in the bible [and yes, even in the Old Testament] and we as Orthodox Christians confess Jesus as God- not because of the Greeks- or the Catholics- or because of any other influence that ‘snuck in’ we confess him as God because ‘the bible tells me so’ Amen and Amen.
 A WAKE UP CALL TO THE PROFESSOR-
There are a lot of things I want to hit on today- let me start with an article I read in the paper yesterday. It was a study that compared students who studied physics using 2 different methods. The traditional lecture room environment- taught by veteran teachers. Versus an interactive classroom environment taught by inexperienced students [no teacher] who simply shared the things they were learning with each other.
To the shock of the traditional advocates- the kids who were taught without a teacher scored twice as high on the tests as those who sat in the classroom. The study was headed up by a top rated scientist who works for the president.
This reminded me of all the teaching I did over the years on the nature of the church [the study on the blog is called ‘what in the world is the church’]. After years of studying and doing many of the ‘interactive’ principles found in the study- I do see how important it is for believers to interact with each other- not just during ‘fellowship’ times- but as a main part of worship.
It is no accident that the churches in the New Testament were structured along these lines. In the bible you simply did not have churches structured around a single figure who ‘lectured’ week after week to the people. Now- this debate has been raging for a while amongst those who debate stuff like this. And a few years back some scholars from the more traditional view really went after the more ‘organic’ type church brothers.
But overall I believe the interactive ‘church meeting’ is really the most biblical way to go. I still think there is room for the more traditional style of ‘lecture hall’ but that is a small part of being in Christian community- yet for many that seems to actually be what they refer to as ‘the local church’ very limited perspective indeed [you can also read my short book on the left of the blog site- Further Talks on Church and Ministry].
Okay- maybe I’ll hit a few more thoughts in keeping with this idea. After the fellowship lunch the other day I invited Henry [my homeless friend] back to the house for the day. These guys are on the streets most of the day and they appreciate being able to rest and catch some news on the tube.
Once again as Henry left he told me ‘John- this was one of the best days I have had in a long time’. He told me this the last time I had him over. Why? What I do with Henry is I try not to act the ‘preacher/pastor’ role. That is I share and interact with Henry as an equal. Henry just so happens to be real knowledgeable when it comes to the bible and theology.
Part of the discussion was Henry sharing how the letter to the Romans [written by the apostle Paul] was the only letter written to a church that Paul did not found himself. Now- I knew this before- and most bible students know this- but yet it started a conversation that both of us could engage in. Henry had read somewhere that the church at Rome might have been started by the Diaspora [the scattered] Jews/Christians who dispersed after the Martyrdom of Stephen in Acts chapter 7.
I told Henry that I actually taught on this before- but I referenced the dispersion that took place in Acts chapter 2. At the day of Pentecost there were Jewish worshippers who came from all parts of the known world at the time- they were gathered at Jerusalem for the big holiday.
After the Spirit came on the early church- these believers went back to their homes and some of them did indeed go back to Rome.
Either way- the point is that Paul did not start the church at Rome- and there are no records [in the bible] of who was the first founder [yes Peter also went to Rome- but he too was not the initial 'church planter’].
Okay- why even mention this? I think Henry has these ‘best days of my life’ days because the fellowships we have are based on the organic church style- that is I’m not always ‘preaching’ to him in the conventional sense.
I hope to get with the guys again this week- same place [Sirloin Stockade off of SPID in Corpus] I will let everyone know a day ahead- so if you guys want to make it a weekly thing you can join the group. But I have been meeting with these friends for 20 years now- just sharing the interactive way.
The above study was said to have been a real wake up call to the actual veteran lecturers- they couldn’t believe that the students on their own- without the ‘pro’ lecturing them- would do twice as well as the students who sat ‘in church’ [the lecture room] simply listening to the able speaker- speak.
The apostle Paul knew this trick 2 millennia ago- he wrote the church at Corinth ‘and when you meet together- let everyone of you share what you have learned- do it in order- but let everyone speak’ I like Paul’s method a lot.
 OPEN THE BOOK AND BREAK THE SEALS
We had a good fellowship the other day- I and 2 homeless bro’s got with 2 Kingsville originals and we all ate at the Sirloin Stockade. I want to try and meet once a week for lunch in Corpus- everybody is welcome by the way. I’ll try and mention it on the sites [Blog, Facebook] a day ahead of time, and you are all invited.
I will only cover the cost of the homeless guys though- everyone else it’s Dutch. Okay- this week I have been reading revelation chapter 5. We see this image of John the apostle standing in the throne room of God and God has this book in his hand. John is upset because no one is able to open the book and loose the seals. As John is upset, one of the elders comes up to him and tells him not to worry- Jesus- the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he has prevailed to open the book and to break the seals.
The vision is you have these elders and beasts and John and a multitude of angels and people from all nations- it’s a great gathering of saints of the most high- a true picture of the people of God.
I applied the vision to our little fellowship- made up of people from all over- different ethnic backgrounds and cultures. And John the apostle is struggling with this mandate to get the message out. Remember- the book of Revelation begins with Jesus telling John ‘write these letters to the 7 churches’ so John has this task to communicate this message from God. Yet he runs up against the classic roadblock ‘Who is worthy’ in so many words ‘why did you pick me for the job- I’m not able to do it’. You hear the words of Isaiah here- Isaiah said ‘I am a man of unclean lips- in the middle of a bunch of unclean people!’ Geez Isaiah- you’re not only too hard on yourself, but everyone else!
In the Isaiah vision God takes a coal and uses it to cleanse the lips of the prophet. So John is distraught over the fact that this book is sealed- and no matter how hard he tries- he cant open the thing. Jesus steps up to the plate and takes it and opens it. The whole community rejoices- they sing this song- a new song ‘Worthy is the lamb to open the book and to loose the seals thereof, for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us unto God by thy Blood out of every kindred and tribe and tongue and nation- and hast made us priests and kings unto God our father’. Yes, I put this verse to memory this week and sang it all thru out the week.
Sure- my wife said ‘who are you talking to’. I just blew it off- I have been talking to myself for years. So I’m identifying somewhat with John- also struggling to ‘open the book and loose the seals’. These last few weeks I dropped our radio program and was in a mad rush to get the shows on line [there on now]. But I dropped on a Friday and wanted to have them up by that Sunday.
So as I’m praying/singing the ‘new song’- kind of an intercessory thing- believing God to help us get the word out. Sure enough I sing the thing and the bell rings. That was my buddy Emit [last post] and from that surprise visit a few doors opened to get together more often with the brothers.
Of course I’m just applying these things- obviously revelation is not about eating at the big cow! But God does use stuff like this to speak to us- the principle of Jesus alone being the one who is worthy to ‘open the book’ well that’s a truism that will always be there.
Down the road I hope to teach a little more on the book of Revelation. It’s really not as hard as it might look. Basically you have the command of Jesus to John to write the 7 letters. John sees Jesus as the one who will assist him in getting the message out. The book had 7 seals. The opening of the last seal releases 7 trumpets. And the last trumpet leads to 7 bowls [vials]. Then you have the last few chapters that speak about the wrapping up of the kingdom and the resurrection and the final judgment. You end with a new heaven and a new earth and whoever wants ‘let him come and drink of the water of life’. That’s really it- sure you do have a lot of numbers and images and stuff- but overall this is the basic outline of the book.
In the book of Daniel he sees a lot of the same things that John sees in the book of Revelation- but Daniel is told to seal up the vision- for the time was not ready. John is told to ‘un seal’ it- the time is at hand. For many of the new friends that came in this last year- the time was ready for you guys to ‘read the book’ so to speak. Just remember the key- only Jesus has the ability to show you what’s in the book- to make it clear. Read and pray and ask God to help you understand- he alone can do it.
 A SURPRISE VISIT
I had a surprise visit last night- one of my original ‘church members’ stopped by to see me. Emit was the 2nd generation family, a son of one of the guys who was hooked on Heroin in the early days. Emit’s dad [Emit senior] was also part of the first group of members.
I would hold bible studies for the guys in the county jail- some were waiting for their court dates- they would do lots of time in Texas’ famous prison system- others were just doing time for minor offenses- things related to their drug addictions.
So anyway Emit Jr. was in that first group. I would pick up his dad for our church meetings [first held at an old abandoned hospital- later moved to my garage]. We had around 30 or so people who made up our little group. Mostly families of the guys I met thru the jail meetings. But every so often we had someone hear about us and they would join our group.
I remember Roy and Kathy- they were in this group of ‘normal people’. Roy was a liberal news reporter for the local paper- and Kathy was a bible college graduate. I don’t know how they found us- but they liked the bible studies I would do and they became good friends. The same with Hubert and his wife Katy.
Hubert actually taught at a regional bible school [Pan Am school/church] sponsored by the Presbyterian Church. It was their Latin American outreach school- located in Kingsville. So we had some up-standing folk as well. As I was fellowshipping with Emit we had some good laughs. I told him now that I’m posting the radio shows on the blog that in the future I’m going to post some of the old recordings from the early days. You can hear Emits dad on these tapes.
It was funny- the guys acted like we were just hanging out at my house- even during the church meetings! Emit [Sr.] had a habit of raiding my fridge right before the meetings would start- I mean I couldn’t keep Pecan Pies away from the brother. I eventually hid the good stuff before Emit got there. Hey I loved the bro. but the Pecan Pies were not part of the deal!
Emit told me he still has a few of these tapes and he hears his dads voice on some of them- His dad has been dead for many years now. He was clean at the time- but he ruined his liver with the Heroin and it finally caught up with him. His dad met his wife- Janie- at our little church. Janie was a single mom who had a bunch of boys- I worked with her sons and she would attend the church- Emit met Janie and sure enough they got married. They were a nice couple.
So last night Emit calls some of the other original group [geez- he had all their numbers in his phone]. So in a few hours I will be taking Emit, David [Buentello] and Henry [one of the homeless guys] to lunch in Corpus. David and Emit both work in Corpus now- they still live in Kingsville.
David too was a ‘founding member’ I met his dad while preaching at the jail- Leonard was a long time addict. Once again I met the sons thru my friendship with the dad. David has a bunch of brothers and I met Leonard [Jr.] and Ben and a few others. David spent lots of year strung out on drugs. I must have written Dave a few hundred times over the years when he was in prison- I saw this as a ministry- keeping in touch with the brothers as they did time- lots of time- in prison. David got his degree [he started while in prison and finished after he got out. It’s a program that helps the guys get a degree with aid from the state. Texas just ended the program this year; they said ‘why should we be paying for ex con’s education for free’. As someone who has seen the good results- it really was worth it].
David has been clean for many years and he is a professional counselor working in Corpus Christi. One time I asked David to pick up the guys for our meetings the next day. Many times I was working the night before at the fire house and it helped if someone could pick the people up in the morning- it gave me a little more time to prepare for the meeting. So I gave Dave the Suburban and he had it for the night. I knew it was a risk- not that he would steal the darn thing- but be tempted to score drugs and all.
Sure enough Dave came by the fire station early in the morning- he was fessing up- telling me he blew it and he was gonna leave the truck. I told him just because he had a bad night- I still needed him to finish the task and pull through. He did- he picked everyone up and attended the service.
Lots of times the guys in these situations have never had any home structure- I mean their parents love them and all- but when the dad struggles with addiction- they’re not there to support the sons. So this was training in a way for Dave.
So hopefully they will all find the restaurant [it’s right off the main drag- but I’m not sure they know the spot I was telling them]. It was funny- as Emit was leaving I walked him out to the car. He was wearing these coveralls from the auto dealer that he works for- he has this lawnmower sticking halfway out of the trunk [he was cutting yards for money after work]. And I asked him about his new girlfriend and all [Emit was married years ago to another person whose family were church members of our group. His wife, Veronica, had a few boys and one girl with Emit. They eventually divorced. One time at work we had a call for a stabbing- the person who was stabbed- Junior Perez- was another family member who I met from the jails. Junior’s younger brother- Tony- was a faithful church member. His older brother- Daniel- was the one I met thru the jail. Junior was dating Veronica at the time- it was an abusive relationship- she stabbed Junior while he was trying to get into her house. She lived there with her mom- Yolanda- yes another one of our church members. She killed Junior that night- no charges against her- but she would eventfully move out of town]
So as Emits leaving I ask him about his latest girl- he says she a nice person- but its one of those situations where the family doesn’t know she’s dating him [I don’t know why- just some family thing]. Then I asked him what happened with his other girl friend- the one he dated for years ‘Oh her, they took her away from me’ [now- I know what Emit meant- her family didn’t get along with Emit and they eventually convinced her to leave Emit]. Now, even though I knew what Emit meant- I was like ‘Hey bro. you show up with these work coveralls- the type you usually see on these serial killer types- you know the video of some guy kidnapping someone at the local store- and you have this ‘after hours lawnmower job’ [classic cover up for stuffing things in the trunk] and you tell me the current girl friend’s family- well they don’t know about your ‘relationship’ and the last one- well ‘they took her away’ [I mean who is they- the cops! LOL]. I said if I didn’t know any better it looks like you might have spent the last 10 years as a serial killer’!
He got a kick out of that. Okay enough for now- maybe I’ll let you know how the fellowship went tomorrow. Emit told me his youngest boy- Justin- is a full blow Heroin addict in Robstown. Geez- I just took a ride thru there the other week- felt like God wanted me to simply do a prayer drive. And now we are going to visit Justin in a few days- maybe it was a sign. Okay- please pray for my buddies and their families.
I’m glad they’re still hanging in there- but I need to try and get with them more often- hopefully today we can schedule a few more fellowship meetings- it’s been too long.
[NOTE- Dave- if you read this- just leave a quick comment on Facebook- so my friends from Jersey can see who you are- I have lots of old friends on the site- thanks]
P.S.- As Emit was giving me all the updated phone numbers of the brothers- I was writing them down in my address book/organizer- geez- as I turned to the ‘E’ page and the ‘D’ page and all- I still had the original names and numbers of their dads and all. One entry said 'Emit/Janie’ it brought back lots of memories.
 LETTER FROM AN OLD FRIEND
The other day I mentioned how over the years I have come to ‘see’ the community of people that I speak into- those friends I have worked with on the streets and all the readers/hearers of the ministry- I have come to see them as one community. I even began to see the friends who died as still being part of the community- just because they are not physically present- they are still ‘there’.
In the letter to the Hebrews the bible says Jesus stands in the middle of the congregation and sings praises unto God. On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus met with Moses and Elijah [2 dead saints] and Peter, James and John. The community was made up of both earthly and heavenly saints.
Okay- said all that to say this. When I first came to Texas I drove down with a good buddy I grew up with. His name was Miguel and we hung out as kids. Eventually Miguel would give his life to God [after me working with him for a few months] and I saw him as one of my 1st converts to the Lord.
I gave Miguel my first bible and got another one. Over a few years me and Mike tried to establish ourselves and our young families on this strange Texas frontier. Eventually Mike went back to Jersey. The night before he left [I drove him to the airport in San Antonio the next day- and his family]. We took a drive to Corpus Christi [where I now live- we both lived in Kingsville at the time- about 40 miles from Corpus] and spent the last night as buddies just hanging out on Padre Island- eating Whataburger’s [a great burger restaurant in Tx.] and just talking about what God had in store for the future. Actually, as I sit here and type I’m about 100 yards from the main road going straight to the Island- the same road we drove on 25 years ago.
As the years passed I would get a call from my old buddy every so often. One time Mike called to give me the news ‘John- I wanted to let you know I tested positive for Aids’- What! How’d that happen? [Probably a bad response now that I think about it]. Mike wasn’t ‘gay’ or bisexual- but he had lots of girlfriends- all the time. Back then safe sex was more of an option- and obviously Mike wasn’t too careful. Mike told me his wife- Lu Ann- also tested positive. What a tragedy- they had 4 boys.
So of course the whole family became a regular prayer request- till this day- every morning [every!] I pray for Mikes boys. One time I came home from work and my wife said ‘John- Lu Ann called’ I said ‘Mike died’ she said yes. Mike was 32. One day I received a letter from Lu Ann- she told me how her oldest boy was a preacher now in N.J. and he was on fire for God. She wrote a nice long letter. It must have been something God wanted her to do- I will forever remember that letter.
When Mike left Texas- I got that old bible I gave him back. It was just a sentimental thing of keeping your 1st bible. Then one year I started reading from it again and found that Mike had sprinkled notes all thru out it- things like ‘ask John this’ and stuff like that. So it was cool to catch these short notes every so often. I could almost hear Mikes voice as I read the notes.
So anyway as I pray in the mornings I have a conscious sense of my old buddies who have died- lots of homeless friends- a few ex- con/addict friends- and of course Mike and Lou Ann- [I guess she’s dead by now?] So last week as I’m just asking the Lord what chapter to read. I turn to Exodus 16- and Mike had a bunch of notes on this page- stuff like ‘NOTICE THIS’ and things that were weird- like he was writing notes to me. It did freak me out- I ‘fellowship’ with Mike when I pray for the Bro’s- and sometimes it’s like Mike is saying ‘John- thanks for praying for the boys’. And then to read notes later that say ‘Notice this’ or ‘ask John this’ it’s freaky.
Okay- that chapter dealt with God giving his people Manna- bread from heaven. It was the same week I dropped the radio program- I felt bad about doing it- but it was time. I told the Lord ‘If I messed up- sorry’. That is if I dropped it cause I was mad they kept losing the ‘darn’ tapes- then I repent. So anyway one of the verses in the chapter says ‘some people went out on the 7th day- to get their daily bread- and they found none’.
I knew there were going to be lots of long time listeners- who have written- who loved the show. These would ‘go out’ on the 7th day [Actually Sunday is the 1st day- but you get the idea] and would find ‘no bread’ for the first time in 15 years of broadcasting over KCTA. Actually over these last few days I have had lots of confirmation that this was the way to go- I began putting the shows on my blog- you can now listen and download the stuff 24/7- as opposed to only being able to hear it once a week. At the broadcast rate- geez it took 5 years just to recycle some of the older messages.
So for today- we learned that those who have gone on- our spiritual brothers and sisters- they are ‘still alive’. Now the bible forbids communication with the dead, and there are lots of religious superstitions that cross the line in these areas- but at the same time we do believe in eternal life- and if God speaks to me thru the words of one of my old buddies- stuff like ‘notice this’ then who am I to not notice?
 I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE-
The other night I had a weird dream- 2 young guys showed up at my door. They rang the bell and as I opened the door one of the boys said ‘John, do you remember me’. Now- to be honest this has happened lots thru out my life. At the Fire House I would often show up for shift in the morning and the off going shift would say ‘John- one of your convict buddies stopped by yesterday’ [they eventually caught on that lots of the guys I worked with at the jail/prisons knew where they could find me when they got out- and they figured they would catch me at the Fire House].
So stuff like this has happened lots- and there are times when I simply don’t remember who the guy’s are- if you give a bible study 5 years previously- they might remember you- but you might not remember them. So in my dream I told the kid [around 19 years old] ‘to be honest I don’t really remember you- just a little’ [Yes- I admit at times I have said ‘yeah- I think’ just so I wouldn’t offend the brothers].
The boy tells me that I did indeed help him and he won’t forget it. So I fellowshipped a little while. Then the boy asks a strange request ‘John- will you draw me a picture’. Sure- it seemed like something a young boy would ask- but why not. So I drew a picture of the beach and us just sitting there- like Father and son- and he asked me to sign it for him. I gave him the simple request and he seemed like a little boy getting a present from his dad. He talked a little more and as he began to leave he told me his name. He said ‘I’m Texas Ruiz’. And he left.
As I woke up [around 3 a.m.] I didn’t think too much about it. As I started the coffee, getting ready to go in the yard to pray. I remembered who Texas Ruiz was. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I pray for the cases I see in the paper- or on the news- the severe cases of crimes that have been committed. I have a wall of names [around 30 or so] that I paint the names of these people on. They will forever be on my prayer list- so I try and pick cases where the criminal [or victim] has a long lasting result/penalty- so as I pray for them over the years they can benefit from it.
One of the cases was a local one- here in Corpus Christi. The stepdad called 911 and his stepson [around 1 year old] had died. At 1st they thought it was from some natural cause- then they found out the step dad abused the boy and he died from this abuse. I saw the boy on T.V. a lot- being it was local. As Protestants we usually don’t pray for the people who have died- but I actually have felt the Lord challenge me about this over these last few years- and I do pray for the victims sometimes, even though they are dead. When I saw the boy on TV I would just raise my hand towards him and pray that God would be with his soul- I felt real bad for the kid. I did this a few times over about a week. I felt like a ‘dad’ to the kid- just praying for him. The boys name was Texas Ruiz.
There is a verse in Ezekiel 37- God says ‘in the day I raise you up and bring you back from the dead- in that day you will know that I am God’. I wrote this verse down on an ongoing journal type thing- every week I add whatever verse/book I’m studying from- whatever I feel might be significant. So I stuck this verse on the top of the page. A few days went by and I wrote the dream on the same page- I felt it was significant so I wrote it down.
After a few days- while reviewing the page- I saw that on the top it said ‘in the day I bring you back from the grave’ and in the dream- yes one of ‘our people’ did come back- it freaked me out.
In John’s gospel, chapter 11, we read of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters- Martha and Mary- are good friends of Jesus. They lived in a little town named Bethany [the name of my oldest daughter] and for the Jewish people to openly embrace Jesus at the time- it was a sacrifice. Many of the religious leaders already had turned against Jesus.
So one day Lazarus gets real sick and the sisters send word to Jesus ‘Lazarus- your friend- is sick’. Now- Jesus is going all over the place- healing sick people- opening blind eyes- multiplying bread and fish. I mean the sisters must have thought ‘well- at least all the flack we’ve taken over openly befriending Jesus will finally pay off’. But when Jesus hears about Lazarus the bible says he purposefully waited 2 extra days before heading towards Bethany.
Now- after a few days Lazarus did indeed die. The sisters are mad- ‘wow- he healed all these others- strangers- yet no time for us’. When he gets to the outskirts of town Martha goes out to see him ‘Jesus- why didn’t you come? You could have prevented this from happening’. Eventually Mary says the same thing to him. Jesus tells them ‘I am the resurrection and the life’.
The sisters only saw Jesus thru the lens of ‘why didn't you fix the problem when it was still possible’ Jesus was saying ‘it’s still possible’. He was telling them ‘Just because the thing you thought I would do- in life- didn’t happen yet- I can still overcome the devastation that it has caused you’. Jesus of course will raise their brother- it becomes a huge miracle to the point where the religious leaders conspire to kill Lazarus too- because so many Jewish people begin believing in Jesus because of this miracle.
In Ezekiel 37 God told Ezekiel [and the nation of Israel] ‘in the day I bring you back from the dead- in that day you will know I am God’. Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. A real event that took place in time and has stood the test of historical examination [too much to cover right now- but take my word for it- the evidence is overwhelming].
Sometimes we are like the sisters of Lazarus- we expected God to prevent the disaster from happening ‘Lord- if you were here this would not have happened’. The test of faith is to continue to believe- even on the other side of the disaster. The problem with Mary and Martha was they felt like Jesus simply did not come thru in time- they heard all these great stories about how Jesus helped all these others- yet they sat at home- with a dead brother and a funeral to attend.
Today I want to challenge you- are you like the sisters? Did God not prevent the disaster from happening? Did he not do for you what he did for the others? You might not see the ultimate ‘healing’ until the resurrection- the ‘last day’- but be assured- in the day he raises you from the dead- you will know that he is God.
 THE CHINGALINGS-
Got an email the other day from one of my old buddies who I haven’t heard from in a few years. He must have googled my name and found the blog site- it’s not hard to find me being my name is on a lot of the posts that I publish.
He was surprised to have heard that I retired; he used to call me up a lot over the years when I was at the fire house. We grew up together in N.J. and he was one of the friends I always kept in touch with. He told me that a mutual friend was still in prison [Rahway, N.J.] I told him ‘yeah- I know’ I have been writing him in prison ever since he first told me about it a few years back.
He finally sent me the ‘rap sheet’ I knew our friend was doing time for a serious offense, just never knew the whole story. As I read the link I pictured in my mind the whole scene. They pulled up to some house on 70 something street- late at night. The owner was a 73 year old salvage yard owner. My friend had done business with him being he too owned a trucking business. As my friend waited in the Getaway car- his cousin [who I also knew] and another guy go upstairs and knock on the door- he answers ‘who is it’ they reply ‘PSG & E’ [I guess the name of the utility co. in Jersey- I grew up in Jersey but never paid a utility bill]. The guy says ‘one minute’ and as ‘he’ unlocks the door they rush in- to find the cops waiting in the apt. They were set up.
The case showed how they had plastic restraints and duct tape and all the stuff you would need to kidnap someone. They basically were there to rob the guy- he supposedly had a safe with lots of money in it- instead they got busted. As I read the case- the wife’s testimony [I knew her since I was a kid too- they were together since ‘way back then’] I could hear her voice- reading my friends testimony- the story he came up with- I knew I was hearing my friend. It was sad- yet I felt like I was there.
One time this friend stopped by my house in Jersey ‘hey John- let’s take a ride to the shore’. Sure- where did you get the car? [Nice new Nova] ‘I found it- it was just sitting there with the keys in it’ sure enough I went. We had a few incidents take place where he owed me some money- one night I was at the carnival with another friend and I said ‘if I see so and so tonight- its over!’
Sure enough my friend spots him a little while later and I got into a severe fight with him. The next day I found out he had to go to the hospital and his family pressed charges against me- and his ‘biker friends’ [from Fort Lee- young guys- all our age] were gonna get me. I joined the Navy a few days later.
Over the years I always tried to ‘convert’ my buddies- the first time back after this incident [maybe a couple of years later?] I hooked up with these old friends- my one friend [geez- I don’t want to use their names] the friend that I didn’t get in the fight with- he said ‘John- so and so still holds a grudge, maybe you better not get in touch with him’ I just blew it off- we got together and nothing happened. I felt bad- he did have some scars from the incident a few years earlier.
I have always tried to stay in touch with these old friends- I have made lots of friends thru the years- guys who have gone to prison- involved in bad stuff- yet lots of them do actually get into the bible- seek God- and many of them do come around.
I have always had sincere friends say ‘John- maybe your taking too many risks by being around these guys’. I have had a few good friends tell me this recently about my friends contact with these Muslim groups on facebook ‘John- you never know if these guys are terrorists or what’ I hear them- yet the ‘risk’ of possibly having a ‘secret’ terrorist friend on the net- well that’s really not something I worry about- plus- these guys do read my posts, what more could I ask for?
I haven’t heard from my friend in prison for around 8 months now- he was real happy to write- he asked for some radio tapes from my programs- I sent him a bunch- he was grateful- shared them with the brothers in jail [the way my buddy was- always scamming someone- I wouldn’t put it past him to have sold the tapes!]. The charges against him were attempted kidnapping and robbery. They caught him because the plan was hatched with a biker gang out of the South Bronx [N.Y.] and they had an undercover informant in the gang. The gang are called the Chingalings, I saw an A&E special on them years ago- never knew my friend [or his cousin] were in the gang.
So anyway hopefully I’ll hear from him again- I saved the address [I used to never save the addresses of my friends who I wrote to in prison- I have been writing the brothers for years- teaching them stuff- one on one, like the blog- but I would simply get the address from the next letter- this time I thought I should save one of the envelopes- so sure enough I have his Rahway address- his prison number and all].
One time I got an email from a friend- a girl I grew up with- she read the blog and said something like ‘gee- I like the blog John- and I know you are always challenging us to go out and help people like you do- but I’m not like you- I can’t get with all these convicts’. I emailed her back ‘PLEASE- DON’T GET WITH CONVICTS!’ I had to explain to her that she shouldn’t take my blog challenges the wrong way- I never meant for the average homemaker to go out and meet with the Chingalings!
Yet I do try and challenge my old buddies- guys who have done time in prison- ex drug addicts and all- I do often tell them ‘hey guys- don’t forget where you came from- there are still others like you that need someone to go and take a chance on them- like I did with you’. All in all I’m sure God’s will will get done. Anyway it was good to hear from one of my old buddies- he’s not on Facebook- I searched for him when I first got on- I told him that would be the best place to keep in touch. Either way it’s important to make an effort- even if its small- to try and help out your friends- you might have to take some risks- but in the end it will be worth it.
 LESSON FROM A MUSLIM-
I read a story in my local paper yesterday- there was an ecumenical dinner held this week between Christians, Jews and Muslims. The Christian staff writer who attended shared how it helped her to overcome previous prejudices that she had. She told what the various speakers discussed and I was particularly impressed with what the Muslim speaker said- she talked about how true religion is not performance, putting on a show- but is expressed in reaching out to those in need- the poor and hurting.
In fact she was basically quoting the New Testament book of James- James says ‘pure religion is to visit the fatherless and widows and to stay clean from the world’. A few weeks back one of my homeless buddies stopped by- he’s basically a genius when it comes to the bible- I mean it’s sort of an autistic thing to be honest- he knows- by memory- much more than the average preacher. As I visited with Henry I gave him the latest bible studies that were sent to me over the last few months. Years ago I heard a N.J. Jewish preacher- who pastors a Messianic congregation in Lodi, N.J.- he had a short radio show on the same station I’m on- and as a courtesy I sent him some of my books and told him hi and all- being I’m a former Jersey brother and all. Ever since he has sent me these really great bible studies every month.
The studies are really in depth- and he usually only sends them to partners [those who support his ministry with money]. But I guess he appreciated my sending him a nice note and he forever put me on the list. Now- I’m an avid reader- I’ve read just about everything you can get your hands on- but these past few years I’m trying to stick with scholarly stuff- not that I’m ‘too good’ for the basic stuff- It’s just I really don’t have the time to just read tons of stuff that’s in the category of ‘devotional’ material- stuff that just kind of talks about Christian things.
So I hate to throw the stuff out- I mean they’re great bible studies. I don’t want to write Jonathan [the pastor] and say ‘take me off your list’- so I save them up and give them to Henry- he devours them and even quotes them back to me the next time I see him. So anyway we had a good talk. Somehow we got into discussing the book of James [the verse I quoted above] and I told Henry how it’s funny that James [we believe this letter in the New Testament- called James- was written by the James who was Jesus’ brother- mentioned about in the bible. He was the same James mentioned as one of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem in the book of Acts, chapter 15. To my Catholic friends- it might sound strange ‘Jesus had a brother?’ these words are found in the New Testament. Catholic teachers don’t deny this- they just interpret it to mean ‘cousin’ or near relative- some say its speaking of ‘Christian brother’. Don’t want to debate it- just thought I should mention it].
Anyway- I told Henry how it’s strange that one of the key leaders in the early church- who was closer to Jesus than all the other disciples [he lived in the same house] that he would write such a scathing indictment against the rich- and he would defend the poor so strongly. James’ letter is one of the strongest rebukes against the rich that you will find in the bible. Anyway Henry agreed with me- of course Henry’s poor- homeless- but he knows his stuff. He said ‘you know John- as true as you are- you never hear this from the famous pulpits in America’. He was agreeing with what the Muslim lady said at the dinner- that true religion is not fame and glory- but serving those in need.
I liked the spirit of the article I read- It does not mean I will not continue to advocate for the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus- that Jesus is truly the only way to God. Pope Benedict has also come under some heat for saying the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is the only way of salvation- to which I agree.
Yet at the same time- as we make our case to our Muslim and Jewish friends- we can also sit down with them- live as citizens of the same community with them- and even learn something from them every now and then.
NOTE- To any of my friends who might be ‘rich’. The early church did have certain individuals who were rich- and it was oaky. The person who gave his grave spot to Jesus- Joseph of Arimathea- was rich. Also in the books of Acts there were believers who sold their real estate and dedicated the money to the church. So the bible doesn’t just outright condemn those who are rich- but there are many warnings against being rich in ‘this world’ while forgetting to build riches in the kingdom [works of love and charity]. That’s the main theme of James’ letter.
 CHRIS MATTHEWS, ED SHULTZ AND THE HOMELESS- Spent the day yesterday on the streets with my homeless buddies- it was cold! I was on foot. Ran into Henry, one of the brothers who really knows his stuff. Henry is originally from Massachusetts and he always has great discussions about the bible- he’s sort of one of those undiscovered genius types- a ‘rain man’ type guy when it comes to the bible. We came back to the house for the afternoon- made a little lunch/dinner type thing. A few months back another one of my buddies, John David [I wrote about John a while back- he was strung out on cocaine for years- has been clean for a while] came by- he started a drug rehab- told me the location and showed me the story they ran on him in the news [it made it to CNN!] I was excited- the next day I wrote a 50 dollar check- stuck it in my wallet and figured the next time I run into him I’ll give it to him as a gift. Never ran into him since- so I gave the check to Henry- he will get with brother Ray- a street preacher who is also struggling with finances right now- and they will split it. Henry would never be able to cash it by himself- or else I would have just given him the 50. I Heard Roger might have died in jail- about a year ago he threatened to kill a cop [he’s all talk- never would have done it] and they charged him with a terroristic threat- sent him away for a year. Roger was a good friend- hope he didn’t die. Around 4 o’clock Henry was heading out to go down the road to brother Rays place [lives a mile or 2 away] I gave Henry a bunch of bible studies that some ministry sends me every month- I don’t have time to read them- hate to throw them away- so I save them for Henry, he loves them. The preacher is from New Jersey- a Messianic Jew- I sent him some stuff once and just said hi- he has been sending me the studies ever since. As Henry was walking out- he had the check- a little doggie bag I whipped up for him with some stuff- the studies and all- he told me ‘John- this has been the best day I have had in a long time’ I knew it wasn’t the check- or food- Henry sees me as one of his best friends- and he really gets into the fellowship time- I usually share some ‘scholarly’ stuff I’ve been reading- the trends going on in theology and all- he eats that stuff up- loves learning- but doesn’t always have up to date info on the recent developments in the field of theology- so he just likes learning.
Okay- though I hate to do this- let me make a few more political/news comments. After Henry left I caught the news for a few hours- Chris Matthews has chosen to use the deaths of the innocent victims in Arizona for political gain. He went on a rampage of saying because of this Sarah Palin needs to come out and apologize for using political targets to target Democratic districts- he said she will forever be associated with the deaths- that you will be able to Google Palin and crosshairs and she will be marked for life with the deaths of these people- and he said she will be ‘ERASED’ [no lie] if she doesn’t apologize. This man is more dangerous than Glenn Beck- most people see Beck for what he is- Matthews is not seen as a ‘nut job’ it is very possible to take his words to mean he is calling for the assassination of Sarah Palin- so very sad. Then Ed Shultz [another guy I do like] did his show defending his segment ‘psycho talk’ I missed the beginning of the show- but you got the drift that some on the conservative side have shot back at the liberals and said ‘look- you lib’s use radical talk too’ so Ed was defending his segment- than- to my shock- he transitions to a segment called RAPI- FIRE [God- please help us all] and as he asks the 2 democratic guests their views on the irresponsibility of Palin and the right using images of guns and crosshairs and targets- the 2 guests seem embarrassed that the name of this segment is called RAPID- FIRE with the words ‘rapid fire’ blazed in red and blinking on the bottom of the screen- I mean Shultz comes on MSNBC right after Matthews- who just called for Palin to be ‘ERASED’. I couldn’t believe the stupidity of these men- to put it bluntly. At this point it looks like the shooter was just a mentally disturbed young man who had no consistent political views- yes- in the beginning it seemed like he might have been a right wing nut job- a Tim McVeigh type personality- but the evidence just does not show that. Of course what he did is still horrendous- it just doesn’t seem to have been instigated by right wing ideology. It just seems hypocritical- of course the right wingers are going to show you all the examples of the left doing the same things that they are outraged over- so another ‘target’ was revealed- it was made by the Democrats- and it had exactly the same rifle/scope targets over the districts of Republicans- then they of course showed you the clips of Obama saying ‘when they bring a knife [political opponents] we bring a gun’ and I even caught this one my self- when the president made the end of the year deal with the republicans- the lame duck congress- he had to defend himself against the liberals who were mad- so he innocently says ‘You know- I didn’t agree with everything in the deal- but when HOSTAGE TAKERS are threatening to hurt the hostages- than you make the deal’ now- we all know the president did not mean to send a message to the real hostage takers of the world- telling them ‘yes- I will deal with you if you start killing off the hostages’ and I heard no conservative voice accuse him of this [someone might have- I did not hear anyone so far] - it would be irresponsible to take the political speech of the president [we’ll bring a gun- hostage takers- etc.] and use that as a political tool to shame the man- yet that’s exactly what some on the left are doing- I agree with those on the right and the left who are calling for a step down on the rhetoric- from both sides- but those who are publicly saying that the rhetoric from one side is what caused these peoples deaths- that’s being irresponsible to the max.
 HITCHENS- BLOOMBERG AND ADAM- Okay- being I’m finishing up my last book, I made the mistake of going to half price books yesterday- mistake? Yes- I’m going thru some courses right now on philosophy and really shouldn’t be starting any new books right now- but heck, I couldn’t help myself. So as my custom goes- my wife dropped me off [they know better than to wait at the store- I usually take a few hours] and I begin the obsession. First I go thru all the shelves of the targeted category [theology, philosophy, etc.] and pluck out the books I think are relevant. Then when the process is complete I usually purchase 3-5 books from the collection [yes- I leave the rest on the shelf for the poor book worker to put back into the proper section]. So anyway as I was walking outside after the purchase I sat at one of the outside coffee areas where lots of people usually hang out [you know- the professors- one time there was a guitar playing hippie singing about the war in Vietnam- in 2009!]. But this day it was surprisingly empty- only one homeless guy. As I sat to start Christopher Hitchens best seller ‘god is not great- how religion poisons everything’ I realized that the reason the spot was empty was because the homeless kid was sitting there at one of the tables- playing with one of those kids toys- you shake it back and forth and it claps- and he seemed to be talking to himself. To be honest- some of these guys are my best friends- I’ve spent thousands of man hours just hanging out with these brothers over the years. I really didn’t talk too much- trying to dissect Hitchens- then my wife drove up and beeped the horn. As I got up to leave- I saw the brother kinda look my way- seemed to be waiting to see the scared- or violent type response they usually see- you know ‘stay the hell away from me’ type thing. I caught his eye and just gave him a friendly ‘hey brother- how you doing’ he was so glad to be seen as a human being. I walked over and figured I’d talk for a minute or 2. I didn’t realize it at first, but he was wearing headphones and listening to music- he wasn’t talking to himself after all. He told me he was listening to Floyd- I told him I too am a big classic rock fan- that while living in Jersey I missed their concert in 1979-80 ‘The Wall’. He knew the year- it was 1980. I just spent a few minutes having a friendly talk with him- maybe the first real communication he’s had all day- most of these brothers are nice guys- yet they often struggle with mental issues- he looked to be in his late 20’s, originally from some northern state- probably headed south for the winter. As my wife was waiting in the car- beeping the horn- probably thinking ‘Oh know- another one of his homeless friends’ [yes- I’ve met hundreds over the years- and they’ve all been to the house many times] I told my buddy I got to go- he asks ‘what’s your name’? John. Hi John- my name is Adam. Strange- the man who was made in God’s image- Jesus said ‘in as much as you helped one of the least- the down and out- you have helped me’.
Okay- once again I really needed to do a post or 2 on philosophy- before I get too ahead of myself in the study; but let me make a few comments on Hitchens book [see- I told you I shouldn’t have hit the book store!] Okay- I’m gonna try and be nice to Hitchens- he is one of the famous atheist writers of the past few years- these guys are referred to as ‘the new atheists’ the group consists of some notable names- Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris- a few others. These guys kind of became popular in reviving some of the old arguments against religion and God- most modern readers are not aware that they are simply re-hashing the same old arguments that have been refuted in the past- and to be honest this bunch make a whole lotta errors in their thinking/arguments. Most well trained Christian apologists have thoroughly refuted them. But being Hitchens is dying [or died? I haven’t checked recently] of cancer- I’ll try and be nice [try!]. Okay- like some of the book reviews I read- Hitchens is crude and mean- and yes- at times ignorant of his glaring mistakes. He describes a nice old teacher he had as a youth- as a young boy growing up in England- she taught the schoolboys about nature and science- and yes- God. I thought he was being nice telling the story. Then he calls her ‘a pious old trout’. He refers to the sex abuse scandal that’s rocked the Catholic church- he calls it the ‘no child’s behind left’ scandal [a takeoff on the no child left behind policy]. So yes, this book- while containing some real good history- also sounds overly crude. Hitchens also appeals to mans great intellect and sophistication as being all we need for true morality- he says man does not need God, religion or the bible to be moral- after all we have the great works of literature! Sounds good- right? He then goes on and mentions the names of the great authors- he mentions Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy among others- and makes the argument ‘see- we have morality and truth contained within these books without needing religious truth’- geez- every well read person will tell you that these authors are known for their books being inundated with religious morality- it’s no secret that these 2 authors are considered some of the greatest Christian/religious writers of their time. How Hitchens could appeal to the ethics contained in their writings and say ‘see- we don’t need religious ethics- we have these guys’. I mean these types of obvious flaws jump right out at you- to be honest I have only read the reviews from these famous atheists in the past- but most of the reviews have pointed stuff like this out- I just didn’t think these guys would be this ‘amateurish’ [geez- don’t want to call the guy an idiot- or an old trout- that wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do]. So anyway I guess I’ll hit a few high points of the book the next week or so.
Last- but not least. Have we had our own Greek crisis? Those of you who follow the news are aware that this last year the European Union has suffered from a severe debt crisis- many states that make up the union have struggled to try and cut costs and sure up their economies- Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland are still very much in trouble. So the other healthier economies in the union [Germany] have put pressure on the weaker ones to get their houses in order- they refer to this as ‘austerity’ taking measures to reign in the financial crisis. As a response to these cutbacks- like raising the retirement age and hiking college tuition- many citizens have taken to the streets in protest- govt. workers going on strike and all. People have wondered if stuff like this could happen in the good old U.S. of A- it looks like it might just have! In sort of sneaky way. The blizzard that has wreaked havoc on the north east these last few days has caused problems for N.Y. and N.J. [my old home turf]. The mayor of N.Y. - Michael Bloomberg- has come under fire for not getting the streets cleared in time. Word has gotten out that some of the street workers were told by their bosses ‘go slow in the clean up’ so to put pressure on the mayor to not eliminate their jobs- sort of like an under the cover strike. If this is true [we don’t know for sure] then it would be our own workers rebellion against our austerity measures- while it’s not as bad as what Europe has gone thru- never the less it’s still bad.
OTHER POSTS CAN BE READ IN THE 2-2011 POSTS