Its September, and we forgot this important birthday

The real author of this post is Agent X who sent this to me on email.

It’s September again, and you know what that means.  Well, actually, you don’t.  So let me tell you.

September 23rd, 63 B.C. is the birthday of Gaius Octavius, or as he liked to be called, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, but is now more commonly known as Caesar Augustus – the Lord of Imperial Rome, in fact Lord of the whole known world of his time.

And anyway, his birthday is kinda a big deal.

Well, at least it used to be.  Maybe YOU forgot his birthday this year, but I assure you that all during the first century A.D. and likely a few more to follow, September 23rd was absolutely a HUGE HOLIDAY SEASON filled with festivities and cheer throughout the empire.

Think they didn’t decorate the mall?  Oh, they did!  Even the court yard at every town square, held parades, orgies, parties, feasts with happy revelers-a-plenty!  Special songs, toasts, family traditions… Oh yeah!

Just read this portion of an inscription unearthed by archaeologists which celebrate this glorious day in what is characterized as “glad tidings” (an English translation of the Greek word for “gospel” or “good news”.  Here is a quote:
The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a saviour for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere. . . ; the birthday of the god [Augustus] was the beginning for the world of the glad tidings that have come to men through him. . .

Oh yes!  The birthday of the god Augustus is the beginning of the world!

But YOU didn’t remember it?

Well, to be frank, I doubt strongly that the locals celebrated it with vigor in Bethlehem back in the day, but there is no doubt they heard of it.  The whole world seemed full of it, how could they not?  But another King was born in their midst too, one for whom there was no room, so they squatted like vagrants in a barn and laid this child in a manger.

Oh, yeah… you do know THAT STORY!

Yeah, we don’t know the actual date of HIS birth – it seems his mother stored a lot of precious things up in her heart, but our records failed to store it up for posterity.  Nevertheless, for good or ill, we celebrate the birth of THAT KING in December every year, and the season is cause for parades, parties, festivities, decorations, family traditions, and the commemoration of GLAD TIDINGS from God!

Anyway, I just figured that this year, for September, I could remind you to forget Augustus’ birthday again.  It is worth noting that you didn’t remember it.  After all, it is quite a coup d’tate for such a humble, homeless, peasant to turn that world upside down, don’t you think?  A world-wide REVOLUTION achieved without firing a shot!  And so, this September, as you remember to forget Caesar’s birthday (yet again), you can ponder the profound mysterious power of God at work in your world.  And it will AMAZE you.

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A Gospel Confrontation

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog.  I think X says what I wish I would have said and says it better than me.  So I don’t have much to add.  But I went to a Bible study with him a few days ago that is changing my life.  He isn’t writing about it, so I guess I will.

We started reading Luke in a small group.  Just reading.  Have you ever sat down and just read Luke?  I never did.

It starts off talking about the Christmas story.  Not the whole thing, but a big part of it.  The part about no room at the inn and all the shepherds mostly.  The three wisemen and the slaughter of the innocents (actually that part gets left out of most Christmas productions) is not in Luke.  It’s all a bit wordy, but familiar.  I got what I expected, except it’s also about the birth of John the Baptist too.

But then when the birth stories are done, the story about Jesus in the temple when he was a baby and again when he was 12 are out of the way, the confrontation sets in.  And X was just reading it.  We stopped to talk for just a couple minites at the end of every chapter, but mostly just read it and kept pushing forward.  Only talking enough to clear up any confusions.

But then suddenly after Jesus is tempted by the devil, John starts preaching.  And the confrontation is on!  I mean John just goes at it, stirring up controversy, stepping on toes and getting into people’s business.  He gets right up in your grill.  You can smell the locusts on his breath as he leans in pointing his finger, buts of wild honey and locusts jump off his lips with spittle as he blasts away in your defensive face!

“You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to run from the wrath to come?  Don’t make lame excuses for yourself!  Get right!  Get right with God NOW!  The axe is already cutting down the tree!  It’s all going into the fire!!!” – John the B.

Who preaches like this?  Does your preacher preach like this?  Ever?

Does God want this message preached?  Is it not the Word FROM God?

X is right.  The gospel is not about being nice.  John is not nice.  And it seems the crowds are scared by his preaching, and they ask what to do.  And John’s first instruction is to care for the poor!  “If you have two coats, give one to a person in need!”  First sermon in Luke – give to the needy.  Get right with God.

Wow!  Who knew?

But Luke’s story is not really about John.  John gets a bit part, but its not about him.  And if you think Jesus is all meek, mild, and NICE, think again.

Look at chapter 4.  Jesus preaches a nice sermon in his hometown.  And it is nice – at first.

Everyone seems to like his preaching – at first.

But as soon as they express how much they really like his nice sermon, Jesus sucker punches them and exposes their prejudice, their bias, their ethno and ego sentric ways.  He doesn’t let up until the crowd in his hometown wants to kill him.

Don’t believe me?  Go look at it.  I am not kidding.  Jesus is well loved.  Everyone likes his nice sermon.  They tell him so.  He really could have left it at that.  He could have caught flies with all that honey, but he wasn’t satisfied with it.  He decides to drive that mule with a stick instead.  He breaks every homiletic rule in the book.

I am only describing the start of this book we call Luke.  Keep going.  Page after page has Jesus picking at scabs and stirring up controversy.  There are crowds who love him and follow him, yes, but it appears they are the poor.  Everyone even remotely related to “the establishment” gets hit with the gospel like a freight train.

I don’t think I will ever see Jesus the same again.

The Thing That’s Lacking…

X said to quote him, and I think this quote sums it up well – The one universal thing missing in the life of every homeless person is LOVE.

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

When I talk to professionals in the field working for charities and social work organizations, and when I read the experts, I find a concerted push to get to the root causes of homelessness and to address the issue with comprehensive approaches that tend to be complex.  “Poverty” itself undergoes redefinition.  In addressing root causes “effectively” efforts are made to shore up deficits in sobriety, in education, in job training, in anger management, in housing opportunities, in “awareness”, and perhaps a dozen other aspects of the intractable problem.

However, I suggest that the one universal thing missing in the life of every homeless person is LOVE.

Having a HOME is all about sharing LOVE.  It’s not really at root about personal responsibility, about holding down a job, about education, sobriety, affordable housing or any of that stuff – important though any of it may be.  On the contrary, it is…

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Selfish Salvation – A Song I Need to Write

There is a lot of stuff Agent X does not publish to protect the guilty.  Some of it you know on his blog, but there are things behind the scenes he leaves out.  Last winter he took a class at church about caring for the poor and homeless that proved to be an exercise in futility.  The mantra of the class was “stop meeting needs and start seeking shalom”.  You know, just like Jesus who also stopped meeting needs and started seeking shalom.

X confronted the teacher and the class about this.  That much he published, but he didn’t tell how it got him in trouble with the elders.  They had meetings with him, meetings about him, accused him of being unloving and a bunch of other things.  All of it smokescreen and denial.  They should have listened to him, but the NEVER did.  Not even for a minute.

I surprised X by visiting his church this morning to see what it is like there first hand.  It’s a nice place.  Big.  Rich.  On the nice side of town.

But I walked out after the 4th song.  It was Reckless Love, a song you might know by Cory Asbury.  A nice song with sentiment from the heart, but I kept thinking about those words and how they fall flat when the street people of Lubbock bed down in the winter snow.

Here are a few of the lyrics with my inner voice sandwiched in between –

 

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me

(A Rich Church On The Rich Side of Town)

Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

(A Rich Church On the Rich Side of Town)

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

(For Rich People Like Us)

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

(To the Rich but Not the Poor Who Sleep Outside Tonight)

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me

(To Bad You Don’t Fight For the Poor in the Gutter Though)

You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me

(But It’s A Good Thing You Don’t Give Money To Beggars Who Would Misuse Your Love)

You have been so, so kind to me
And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

(It’s A Good Thing I am Not The Undeserving Poor, Huh?)

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down

(But You Won’t Open A Church House Door for the Poor, So I am glad I am Not Like Them!)

Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

 

I think you get the idea.

We sang this song with such passion and devotion, but it just rang hollow in my ears and in my heart.  God is just so good to US, but we won’t open a door to the poor who literary freeze to death.  Such a Selfish Salvation.

Make me think I should write a song about that.

Whatever else you do today, DONT read THIS post

Okay, okay, okay… I see how you are – you stubborn blog reader.

 

Okay, in that case, then definitely, absolutely, DO NOT under any circumstance go out on the streets and pray with a homeless person and invite them out to eat after you take them to worship this Sunday.

 

Let’s see you NOT do that now!

 

Hmmm?

Good Guys and Bad Guys

I normally don’t visit other blogs except Fat Beggars, but X says we should reblog this one, and so here goes…

Hard Times Ministries

Aren’t we such good guys when we tell the story of the Good Samaritan? We love to point out the hypocrisy of the clergy in this parable and reflect on how we show compassion for people.

Yet, this past Saturday, here was a man around 40 years old.  He was ‘passed out’ and bleeding profusely from his nose and head and lying in the street.  Who knows if he was severely injured, drunk or on drugs or a combination of all?

The point is this: no one wants to stop and help these bums, drunks or and druggies.

We look down on this ‘trash’ as the bad guys, while we strut around as the good guys.  After all, we aren’t down in the street like some stray dog as a mark of road kill.

It ends up that I knew this man.  He is a neighbor of mine who suffers…

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