Monday, October 31, 2005

Brother, Can You Spare A Million?

Before you read this, let me warn you. I'm mad. It's not righteous, holy, or indignant. I am plainly and simply...... ticked off. You have no idea how much I want to use stronger langauge but I will at least restrain myself at that most basic level. But that's where my restraint ends.

Corporate quarterly earning reports are filtering out into the media landscape. History has been made, records have been shattered and tens of billions of dollars have been banked for the past quarter. (that's 3 months or 12 weeks or approximately 84 days). The oil company giants are overwhelmed at the jackpot. They have blitzed previous earning records for any company in any business. At last estimate I think I tabulated that the big 4 or 5 of these pigs have an extra 33,000,000,000 in their vaults. That's billion folks. Not million, 33 BILLION just in the last quarter. Exxon, Shell, BP, Texaco. Fat, happy and still charging us $2.25 at the pump. If somebody doesn't ask some serious questions in a large and public arena somewhere, I'm going to be mad all over again.

We've been told that the hurricanes are the cause, that the limited refineries are the cause, that the evil Arabs are the cause and our unlimited consumption is the cause. Enough of the lies. The cause is unmitigated, unbridled, unmasked, unimaginable GREED. And not just garden variety greed, but a greed that jumped on the backs of hurricane ravaged victims on the coast and in central America. A greed that saw a historic opportunity to mug and rape hapless customers.

But, before you dismiss me as some raging preacher looking for a soapbox, let me educate you. I just hung up the phone from yet another family in our area that is about to be evicted from their tiny home because they have been pouring more and more money into their gas tank to get to a minimum wage job. I am the president of ministerial association that sponsers a food shelf, emergency fuel assistance, rental assistance and other small efforts to bridge life and death gaps that welfare and low end jobs do not cover. During this last quarter I have been watching and listening to the escalation of calls for help in our little corner of the world. Our food shelf is under seige. Thank God we have good resources and wonderful volunteers, but, our little assistance checkbook is almost completely drained.

And yes, I DID just hang up the phone from a weeping lady offering to do any kind of community service she can just to get an extra $100 for rent, today. Last week I pulled off a miracle (because of time and procedures) to get $10 of gas to a lady needing to get to the hospital for a potentially life saving treatment. The week before that I was called by a man who was in obvious emotional pain because he was embarrassed to ask for $10 of gas to get to work. When I also sent him to our food shelf, he was beside himself with gratitude.

I have answered calls like this for the better part of 30 years. I can smell fraud. Faking your need does not generally work with me. The people I am talking to lately are, for the most part, very painfully real. But while I am on the subject of smelling the stink of fraud, let me tell you that the stench of fraud is at at the gas pumps. These oil company CEO's are faking their need and as of right now, I have had it! Beginning today, I am going to find a way to contact these god-fathers and their underworld partners in crime and ask for a spare million for the ministerial account I represent. The people they have stolen from are in real pain and I need just ONE million of their last quarter ill-gotten billions to assist these weeping souls who are calling me. No administrative costs will come out of that, no office overhead....a straight million back into bellies and pockets of the people who have just been robbed over the last several weeks.

"Hey brother Exxon, brother Shell, brother Texaco and brother BP! Can you spare a million? I know life is real hard on you right now....all that money counting and searing of your conscience and all. But if you could spare a paltry million, maybe you could help stop the bleeding in a few genuinely needy families out here in fly over country. If it helps you make up your depraved mind, please know that a great deal of that million will go to $10 gas vouchers for people trying to make to their poverty level jobs and doctor appointments."

Did I mention that I'm mad?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Apocalypse WOW!

I am looking at an 11 x 17 full color brochure sent to me, my church and several members of my church. The cover shouts, "Apocalypse Now!....Coming October 23 to Menomonie, WI". Today is October 26th and unless every major news outlet has missed it, Menomonie is still there. Maybe the Apocalypse didn't know how to get there, took a right turn in Eau Claire and ended up in a farm field and wiped out some poor cow....utter devastation.

Now, I know that this slick (sick) brochure is advertising a program called "Apocalypse Now!" but the silly contradictions are too blatant to ignore. Like the teaser on the back that says, "Future Topics to be Announced!". Future?, What future?

Now.... let me describe the best contradiction of this ad. On the inside, centered among bizarre cartoons of strange multi-headed beasts and scary "Killer nations coming" subtitles, is a large font headline that reads, "Surviving the Terror", and just below that is a caption that says,"This prophecy seminar is presented in a relaxed atmosphere....come as you are and enjoy.....!" RELAXED?! ENJOY?! WOW! Indeed, "Apocalypse, WOW!"

This is a perfect illustration of why I am saying, "God is not Christian". He is not "Christian" in the form of this silliness. He is not "Christian" by the definitions offered by cartoon ads seeking to scare the pants off the average postal customer. The God of historic Christianity, the real, one and only God defies all slick brochure caricatures and is above our fictional fantasies.

I am offering myself as a voice in this brochure wilderness, crying out for those who have an ear to hear, "Let's rediscover God! Let's give God a chance to reshape, reform and renovate modern Christian 'spirituality' into something that shines forth the awe inspiring light of the face of Jesus Christ in our day and on our streets." Will you join me?

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Book of Revelations

Before you skim over this entry to see if you are interested, take a look at the title. Look again.

See anything amiss? The Bible does not have a book in it called "Revelations". Somebody might say that I am being picky. That's OK. This is America; you have the right to be wrong. I am not being picky.....what I am is a shepherd watching over the flock by night and I have witnessed a sick wolf stalking the flock.

Skinny and mangy, but he is the most hazardous type of wolf to the sheep because he is a wolf of doctrinal purity and theological precision. He can quote 10 scriptures more quickly than you can say the Pledge of Allegiance. This wolf has intentionally misrepresented the character of God and the beauty of Jesus Christ with impunity on Christian TV and in Christian book sales. This wolf believes that the last book of the Bible is a spooky collection of revelations about the (scary organ music please) "end times".

The simplicity of the book of Revelation is found immediately in its opening verse; "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place." That simple statement has been mangled, twisted, abused, stretched, ignored and plural-ized. What if the book is not at all about any end of the world business? What if the book is not at all about a 7 year anger itch that God has buried in His nasty side? What if the word pictures, the mysterious images, the mystical portraits and the colors, numbers, scrolls, trumpets and symbols are just exactly what the first verse says? What if it is about Jesus Christ and things that have taken place and will always take place in human history?

The dear man who wrote Revelation, John, was a man of poetic eloquence and passion. He laid his head on the chest of Jesus at the last supper. He was a man of deep feelings who must have struggled mightily to find words and means to express the unimaginable things revealed to him.

God took a magnificent risk in trusting such a soul to write this book, but it was a necessary risk in order to paint the portrait that emerged. Now then, think of this book as the most majestic original word painting ever created.

It is not a collection of revelations. It is the depth, width, height and length of a Jesus most have never seen. It is an artist's view of history from the heavens. It is rich in metphors, symbols and word pictures that point to a Jesus Christ who must be rediscovered by the church.

I dare you who read this to completely shed yourself of the religious baggage you may taken on and join me in a passionate treasure hunt for the real, one and only Jesus Christ. I believe we have not yet seen and known the Real Jesus and I believe He can be found in the book of Revelation.

Oh, and remember that sick wolf roaming around the edge of the flock? When you have a true revelation of Jesus Christ, he is "left behind".

Saturday, October 08, 2005

God is Not Christian

Last week I attended a small conference in Atlanta where a man of God named Carlton Pearson said, "God is not Christian". Now, he got our attention as I hope I have your attention with that statement as my title. God is indeed, NOT Christian.

Before I tell you how wonderful that truth is, and before I take on any Narrow-sees (you know the Narrow-sees....they're folks like the Pharisees who hated Jesus and finally had to kill him for thinking and believing outside their narrow sight) let me introduce you to Bishop Pearson. He is a very well known singer, speaker and pastor who for years has been greatly loved in many pentecostal and charismatic circles. I heard him 25 years ago preach a beautiful sermon on "Shadrach, Meshach and a Big-Negro (Carlton is African American). But these days Bishop Pearson is not so loved by those same circles. He has gotten himself in trouble. He has stepped into the same territory that Jesus did in His 3 years of public ministry. The good Bishop is no longer satisfied with church and Christianity as it has become in 2005. The Holy Spirit has revealed a truth to this man of God, so threatening, so world shaking, so dangerous that one well known pentecostal leader has declared that he has ship wreaked his ministry. What is that truth? God is not ticked off. God loves everyone. God is not seeking new and creative ways to kill people who displease Him. God's wrath is satisfied in the Cross. God does not need anger management counseling. He loves the world and everyone on it. His mercy is severe.

Get down off that table and stop throwing things at me long enough to think....think deeply....I know some of you haven't done that in a while, but give it a try. Ready? Well, ready or not, here we go.

American evangelical/fundementalist Christians have gotten so narrow in our sight (remember the Narrow-sees?) that we have intentionally produced a god in our own image. We are too frightened to let Him produce us in His image because if He does, we might have to let go of our secret desire to enjoy hurricanes that "judge" New Orleans and earthquakes that mangle school children in Pakistan.

God told Moses that His Name was (and IS) "I AM". He is independent. He is God, all by Himself. He does not need our approval, vote, direction or counsel on who should be judged. God is not Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Buddist or Hindu. When Joshua saw a human image of Him he asked if He was on "their side" or "our side". God giggled and shot back, "Neither. I'm on My own side."

It's time for a New God. One Who is not really new, but One Who has been "above" us, not shaped by our prejudices and ignorances. A shocking God. A God untamed and out of the cage we created to protect ourselves from His consuming fire of His Big Bad Self. It's time for an extreme make-over of the God Who "AM"!