Archive for March, 2014

JonahGod: Jonah, I want you to go next door and invite your neighbor to church.

Jonah: Umm, God, he’s mean and he stole my rake.

God: Just invite him to church. If he doesn’t come, I’ll rain fire and brimstone on him.

Jonah: He has tattoos.

God: Invite him. Jonah slips out the back door, walks down the alley and catches a local bus headed downtown. The traffic begins to pile up and pretty soon the bus is stuck in gridlock traffic. Nothing happening. 1 hour. 2 hours. 3 hours.

Rider: What’s the deal here? Are we cursed or something?

Jonah: It’s me. I’m running from God.

Others: Throw him off the bus!

The driver opens the doors and kicks Jonah out into traffic. He gets hit by a Smart car and is thrown to the side of the road. The Smart car is totaled. The driver calls 911 and an ambulance shows up shortly. The EMTs put Jonah on a gurney, slide him in the ambulance and they drive off. Jonah is dazed and confused. In transit the EMTs spot a two-for-one at Chick-fil-A and pull in. Then, the ambulance drivers drive around and park, drive around and park, and drive around and park.

This goes on for three days.

At the end of three days the ambulance is in an accident at a drive-thru and the doors crash open and Jonah’s gurney shoots out. He coasts to a stop a few blocks from his house. A street person trades his grocery cart for Jonah’s gurney. Jonah pushes the grocery cart home. It has a wobbly wheel. Crossing the driveway, he climbs the steps to his neighbor’s door and knocks.

Neighbor (opening door): What?

Jonah: God told me to tell you you are doomed. You can visit my church, if you want, but you are screwed.

Neighbor (scratching his chin): Is this over the rake?

Jonah: No. God’s sending fire and brimstone your way.

Neighbor: Hmmm. Yeah, I’d like to visit your church. When are services?

Jonah (swearing under his breath): Tomorrow morning. Service is at 11:00. You’ll need to go early ’cause parking is sometimes complicating, but there will be folks directing traffic.

Neighbor: Okay, I’ll leave at 10:15.

Jonah (turns and walks away): Yeah. Whatever. 10:15.

The neighbor and his family go to church. They love it. After a couple of weeks they go to Starting Point and Next. The neighbor begins volunteering with a parking team and joins a small group. Not long afterward, the whole family is baptized and their video testimonies get a standing O.

Jonah missed all of this because he’s in a snit. He’s in his backyard working on his grocery cart hoping God will strike down his neighbor. As he adjusts the wobbly wheel, his neighbor comes out and waves.

Neighbor: Jonah! Thanks about the church thing. We’re loving it. Jonah storms toward the front yard, pushing his grocery cart.

Jonah (furious): God! I knew it—when I first heard your plan, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I got on the bus! I knew you were full of grace and mercy, not easily angered, abundant in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to forgive this creep!

God: So, what are you angry about? But Jonah just left. He pushed his grocery cart across the street and sat down in the grass median to pout. He put together a makeshift shelter of newspapers and cardboard and sat there to see if anything would happen to his neighbor. It was hot. God arranged for clouds to come and turned on the sprinklers. Shade and a mist swept over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry mood. Jonah was pleased and happy with the shade and mist. Life was looking up. Within 30 minutes the sprinklers stopped and clouds passed. The sun came out and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east.

Jonah: @#$%^& this is terrible! I can’t stand this! No fire and brimstone and now, no sprinkler! Jonah goes in his garage, gets in his car and starts it.

God: What are you doing parked in the garage with the car on?

Jonah: Killing myself.

God: Why?

Jonah: The sprinkler. YOU turned off the sprinkler. I LOVED the sprinkler mist. And YOU turned it off. AND you saved my neighbor. He deserved fire and brimstone. Makes me so mad I can’t live another minute. And the sprinkler. I’d be better off dead.

God (turning off the car and opening the garage door): Seriously? How can you be so happy with sprinklers, then be so ticked off when they’re off? All you did was sit there next to your pathetic cart (which belongs to Kroger). So, why can’t I change how I feel about your neighbor and his family, to say nothing about his cat and dog?

Tr8: Don’t rejoice in another’s pain or judgment. Be gracious and merciful. “When theology becomes an obstacle to your mercy, adjust your theology,” Andy Stanley.

—- Read how the author nearly kills himself.

Originally blogged on April 29, 2012.

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future exitDisclaimer/Attribution: I’m stealing this story from my pastor (www.northpointonline.tv) who shared it at a #thx meeting last week. The imagery is great and I hope he won’t mind. Trinity hardliners, give me a break, it’s just a story.

Jesus is risen and in heaven with the Father. He has ministered, died, arisen and commissioned his disciples.

Father (thoughtfully): Son, I’m not sure about the guys you picked as disciples. Of the twelve, one was a traitor and the rest are hiding in Jerusalem thinking and praying about a Master Plan to get to the “ends of the earth.”

Jesus: They’ll get to it. They’re good guys. They’re thinking about it right now.

Father: I know, but look at the Gentiles. You need someone who is a doer, not a thinker.

Jesus: Who did you have in mind?

Father (pointing): Look at this pharisee, Saul. No half-measures with him!

Jesus: Yeah, but he HATES the Good News.

Father: Yeah, but look how WELL he does it!

Jesus: Hmm. Let me talk to him. Think I should put on the skin or just do light?

Father: Light’ll work. The skin thing is rough, plus, Saul is looking for us, he’s just blind–kind of a pharisee thing, right?

Jesus descends again to earth on a road on the outskirts of Damascus. He’s all lit up.

Saul (to his servants): Is the sun getting brighter or is it getting hotter? I should have brought my shades.

Men traveling with Saul (looking at him): Say, what?

Saul (shielding his eyes): Holy smoke! What’s going on here!

Men (hearing a voice, looking around): Do you hear murmuring?!

Jesus (beaming): Saul, why are you persecuting me?

Saul (blinded by the light): Who are you?!

Jesus: I’m Jesus, the one you are persecuting. You are like an ox kicking at a farmer’s prod–it’s stubborn and pointless.

Saul (trembling and astonished): Lord, what do You want me to do?

Jesus: Time for you to join my team. Go to Damascus and you’ll be told what to do.

Jesus goes back to heaven.

The men with Saul are speechless–they heard Jesus but saw no one. Saul stood up, but he was still blind. His friends took him to Damascus and for three days he was without sight. He neither ate nor drank. Later, through Ananias, the Spirit opened his eyes and started instructed him. Eventually, Saul ended up in Jerusalem. With Barnabas’ help he met with the Disciples to talk.

Paul: Guys, the Spirit is doing some amazing things among Gentiles.

Peter: Yes, of course. Jesus said we needed to make disciples and preach to the “ends of the earth.” We’re in Phase I of our Master Plan–praying and a pledge drive.

John (sliding a pledge card across the table to Saul): Yes, Phase I is well on its way, but I suppose we could meet. Check your calendars–how about next Wednesday after prayer meeting?

Saul (looking at Barnabas; scratching his chest): No need for a meet–no big deal. How does this sound: You guys concentrate on the Master Plan in Jerusalem and I–maybe with Barnabas–we’ll take the rest of the Empire. How ’bout that?

Matthew (looking thoughtfully): Hmmm. We do Jerusalem and you take the rest of the Roman Empire?

Peter (looking at Matthew): Seriously? That doesn’t sound right. Anybody have a map?

Matthew (brightening): I get it. We do Jews and you do Gentiles!

Peter (brows furrowed): Hang on. This reminds me of that dream I had…Spirit’s been talking about Gentiles to me. It’s part of Phase III. Right, John?

John: Yes.

Peter: The dream involved a big hat–or sheet–full of…

Saul: Seriously. Barney and I are headed for Antioch tomorrow. We have tent-making workshops scheduled from here to Greece and back that’ll keep us busy for a few years. We’ll preach as we go.

Everyone begins talking.

Peter (hold up his hands): Yo! Hey! (The group quiets) Everyone who’s okay with Paul and Barnabas preaching to Gentiles while they make tents, raise your hand.

Everyone raises their hands.

Peter: Good luck, guys. If you ever make it to Rome, let me know and I’ll come, too! (To the others,) You know, we could learn something here–I think maybe Phase IV needs to be spreading the Good News beyond the city limits.

In heaven:

Jesus (to the Father): Paul’s the real deal. I’m going to let him write half the New Testament.

Tr8: Be a doer. Make the Good News the front page of your life.

 

RoyIt’s the Sabbath. Jesus is walking north on the Dead Sea Road (a main thoroughfare) into Jerusalem with his followers. He’s moving up the valley toward the Fountain Gate and Dung Gate outside the southwestern wall of the Old City of David. Herod’s Temple is at the top of the valley. The road is cobblestone and on his right is the Pool of Siloam. As they pass into the city they pass a beggar, Roy, who was blind from birth.

Peter: Jesus, who sinned, him or his parents, to make him blind?

Jesus: Sin’s not the problem. He’s blind so God can work through him–to make darkness light. He’s going to see me. We have to work in the light. In darkness no one can work (touching Roy’s shoulder). While I’m here, I am the light of the world.

Kneeling, Jesus spits in his palm and mixes some dirt in to make some mud. He puts it on  Roy’s eyes.

Nathaniel: Jesus, that doesn’t look too clean…

Jesus (looking at Nate and rolling his eyes): Roy, go over and wash in pool. Murphy, give him a hand.

Jesus continues up the street. Murphy, the non-disciple, takes Roy by the elbow and leads him the short distance to the pool. Roy washes…color explosion! The first thing he sees is Murph grinning ear to ear with his hand up. Roy looks, then holds his hand up, too. Murph gives him a high five. Roy looks around the pool…

Roy: I can see!!!

Roy runs west a block to his home and shouts until neighbors gather. Murphy follows.

Roy (joyously): Hey, everyone! I can see!!!

Mr. Issacson (to Mr. Jacobson): Hey, isn’t he Roy, the blind beggar?

Jacobson: Looks like Roy, but he’s not blind. Must not be him.

Roy (coming to them):  Mr. Jacobson, it’s me!

Issacson: He does look like Roy. A lot.

Roy (dancing): Mr. Issacson. I. Am. Roy.

Jacobson (scratching his head, turning): If you are, why aren’t you blind?

Issacson: Yeah.

Roy: A guy called Jesus put mud in my eyes and told me to wash and then I could see.

Issacson (frowning): So, where is he?

Roy (emphatically): I don’t know. I WAS BLIND! Guess he left.

Issacson: I thought the Sabbath was for watching football, not healing. We’ll get to the bottom of this.

The neighbors grab Roy and haul him to the local Pharisees.

Pharisees: How did you receive your sight?

Roy (grinning, pointing to his eyes): A guy called Jesus put mud in my eyes, I washed, and now I can see!

Pharisees: What?!

Roy (excitedly): Yes! I can…

Pharisee Leader (angrily): NOT on the Sabbath! This can’t be from God! It’s the Sabbath! There’s football on! Only sinners and NFL players work on the Sabbath.

Roy (surprised): …I can see…

Another Pharisee: Hang on. How can such a miracle come from a sinner? It’s not even halftime.

Pharisees (turning to Roy): What about Jesus? Where did he go? It was your eyes that were opened, right?

Roy (nodding): I. WAS. BLIND. I didn’t see him. I guess he’s a prophet.

Leader (frustrated, stomping his foot): Liar! Get his parents.

The neighbors go and return with the Roy’s parents.

Leader: Is this your son? You say he was born blind? How is it he sees, now?

Parents (afraid the Pharisees were about to kick them out of the synagogue because they hated Jesus): Yes, Rabbi, this is our son, Roy. And we know he was born blind, but we don’t know anything about why he can see. Ask him, he’s legal age, he can speak for himself.

Leader (taking notes): Call the beggar back in.

Roy: Rabbi?

Leader (pointing his finger): Give glory to God and forget this Jesus business. We know he’s a sinner.

Roy (holding up his hands): Whether Jesus is a sinner or not, I can’t say. All I know is, I was blind, now I see.

Leader: What did he do? How did he open your eyes?

Roy (smiling): Hello? Weren’t you listening a moment ago? Aren’t you taking notes? Are you wanting to become Jesus’ disciple, too?!

Leader: Look, smartypants, you’re just a dirty, lying, begging, Sabbath-breaking-fool. What are you doing getting healed on the Sabbath, anyway? You should have been at home listening to football. Don’t sass us! You lousy, no-good, blaspheming, porker!

Other Pharisees (angrily yelling insults): Yeah, clueless idiot! Beggar! Pinhead! Liar! Blind man! Football hater!

Leader (shaking his finger at Roy): Just as I expected. YOU are Jesus’ disciple! But WE are disciples OF MOSES! We KNOW God spoke to Moses–we don’t even know where Jesus came from.

Roy (laughing): Unbelievable! You ‘re worried about where Jesus is from! HE OPENED MY EYES! Are you idiots?! We know God doesn’t listen to sinners, he listens to godly people who do his will. Who has even heard of someone opening the eyes of a person blind from birth! If Jesus weren’t of God, could he do this (pointing to his eyes)?

Leader (indignantly): You are a bucket of sin, blinded at birth! How dare you lecture us!

The Pharisees grab Roy and throw him out of the synagogue. Murphy finds Jesus in the Temple and relates the story. Jesus rounds up his disciples and heads back to Roy. A crowd gathers around Jesus as he approaches Roy.

Jesus: Roy, do you believe in the Son of Man?

Roy: Who is he, sir? Tell me, so I can believe.

Jesus: You’re looking at him, in fact, I AM.

Roy (nodding, looking into Jesus’ eyes): I believe you! Lord, have mercy on me!

Jesus (to the crowd): I have come to make the blind see, and those who see, blind.

Pharisee (whispering): What?! Is he going to blind us?! We’re blind?!

Jesus (hearing them): Roy sees me and SEES God–he has sight. You see me, but don’t SEE me–you are blind–your guilt remains. You are blind guides.

Tr8: See Jesus; see God. Don’t see Jesus; don’t see God. It’s that simple.

Very loosely based on John 9

messiah wantedWait a minute! Why is this important?

Because Jesus answered the want ad at a singularly significant time and place in Hebrew politics, traditions and history. Judaism was within a generation from being hijacked by Pax Romana. 

Pax Christos far surpassed Pax Romana.

Jerusalem before Jesus

Jerusalem was a wasteland a half-century before Jesus’ birth. There was no temple and no Hebrew King. According to Judas Maccabeus, a pre-Jesus revolutionary who conquered Jerusalem, the temple mount was trashed, the altar profaned, weeds were everywhere and all the gates were burned.

Antipas (Governor of Idumaea) put down a civil war in Palestine and joined the Governor of Syria under Caesar’s standard to defeat Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalia. Caesar made Antipas a Roman citizen and King of Judea.

Herod, his fifteen-year-old son, was given Galilee. Early in his career he caught Hezekiah (a messianic claimant) with an army of rebels on the Syrian border and put them to death. The Hebrews wanted Herod to appear before the Sanhedrin (Hebrew court), but Antipas declared martial law and the Governor of Syria, one of Herod’s allies, demanded an acquittal.

Hyrcanus, the Hebrew high priest, complied, but the people rioted. The teenaged Herod came to Jerusalem with an army, but Antipas sent him back to Galilee to avert a disaster. When Herod gained his father’s throne, he executed Hyrcanus.

The Romans established “Pax Romana” throughout the Middle East. Antipas ruled Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palistine and Israel. However, he was not a descendant of David and he was not anointed. He kept the peace with swords, spears and crosses.

A decade or so before Jesus’ birth NO ONE in Jerusalem remembered a temple.

Herod the Great became ruler of Jerusalem thirty-five years before Jesus’ birth. To appease the Hebrews, he “converted” and built “Herod’s Temple.” He completed his temple shortly before Jesus’ birth. Always a shrewd politician, Herod managed his temple’s leadership and kept his finger on the pulse of the Hebrews.

Herod’s Temple and Hebrew traditions were re-instituted for political appeasement. Herod shrewdly focused Jerusalem on religion, not God. Herod maintained tension between the legalists and traditionalists to keep the Hebrew house divided.

The Gospels pick up the story here. Situation: Fake king, fake temple and fake religion. 

Jerusalem newspaper: Wanted: Messiah. SJM miracle worker must be lineage of David, anointed by God and able to defeat Roman Empire. Call Issac: JR7-3977 

The “wise men” came seeking the “King of the Jews,” the Hebrew scholars pointed to Bethlehem, Herod the Great stuck a deal with the wise men and then gave orders to kill all the infant boys in Bethlehem (this infanticide is part of the historical record). Joseph, warned by an angel, took off for Egypt.

A few years later Herod gives a speech and explodes (more or less, look it up).

Herod’s son, Herod Archelaus ruled in Jerusalem for most of the New Testament. Achelaus killed his brother, Philip, to take his wife, Herodias. She was a rare piece of work. She detested John the Baptist for condemning their relationship. The royal house was a treacherous place. Caesar Augustus said, “Better to be Herod’s swine than Herod’s son.”

Herod’s temple lasted about one-hundred years and was destroyed shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. The siege of Jerusalem, a famine and the destruction of the temple (prophesied by Jesus) sent the disciples out into the world. 

“In due time…” Jesus came.

Tr8: God knows what he’s doing. Trust his timing.