“A Rebellious Love” excerpt from “Rebellious Lovers”©2014 Joseph Johnson

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Feed the hungry whether we think they deserve it or not. There is a tendency amongst people, religious or not, to have some sort of issue with people receiving food stamps. And the way the system “works”, if you make a penny more than the maximum allowable income to be eligible for assistance, it simply means that you are one cent too rich. The reality is that you work your butt off at one or two jobs to make ends meet. And standing in line in front of you at the grocery store is someone walking out of the door with 400 dollars worth of “free” food while you are trying to stretch 200 dollars between a family of six.

So the “obvious” feelings are anger or disgust. Yet, God never intended for His people to rely on any government, AKA “tax dollars”, to feed people. His plan calls for people to feed people. Sharing and giving; not out of abundance, but sacrifice.

Rebellion at it’s best.

I live near Joplin, Missouri. I have significant roots there. It is a city that I have rode the roller-coaster of life in for years. On May 22nd of 2011, an EF-5 tornado wiped out a third of the city. At least 160 lives were lost in just a few minutes. By some estimation, it was the largest tornado in recorded history. Following this “event”, people from all over the world rallied to Joplin’s aid. The record books do a fine job of recording the many efforts applied to assist the people of Joplin.

Personally, I was part of the initial search and rescue effort. As a trained Emergency Medical Technician, as well as a minister, I did what I could to help. In the days following the impact, various groups including churches, set up a multitude of aid stations to help victims as well as volunteers. It was interesting to see the different approaches and focuses. It almost seemed like a city-wide tail-gate party in some respects. As I made the rounds to the different outreach spots, I noticed the one thing that they all seemed to have in common.

Water.

Water is vital to life. Jesus even went so far as to point out the giving of it as a “qualifier” to receiving the inheritance of Heaven. In a later chapter, I will share with you how I personally have used a simple bottle of water to lead people to him.
But if we are honest and when it gets down to it, we in this country don’t give water much of a thought. We tend to take it for granted.

Odds are, if you are reading this, you may not give shelter much of a thought either. By shelter, I mean your home. Oh, if you are wondering how you are going to pay your rent or mortgage payment, you may give it some consideration. But all in all, we more or less take it for granted.

The person sleeping in a doorway doesn’t take it for granted, I can assure you. The family of five living in their car, that’s currently in repo, doesn’t take it for granted. When I have crashed from home to home, from couch to couch and at one time lived in a van, I can guarantee you that I did not take it for granted.

Jesus says to take the stranger in. He understood exactly what that meant because He bounced from house to house, depending on others to help Him out. I am pretty certain that if you heard a knock on your door tonight and opened it to find Jesus standing there, you would invite Him in. Anyone else though, especially a stranger, and the idea seems preposterous. The Bible tells us to be kind to strangers, because by doing so we may be entertaining angels.(Hebrews 13:2)

Matthew 25 speaks about these things as well as clothing people, comforting the sick and encouraging prisoners. All of these acts require us to step out of what we know. Out of our comfort level. Out of our religious box. They require us to behave in a manner that is not “normal.” Beyond the status-quo.

To actually do what Jesus has called us to.

Deny myself. Hate my family. Love my enemies. Give when I do not think I have enough.

It requires faith. It requires Love. A faith and love that we must admit we are unable to pull off by ourselves. We need Him to flow into us. We need Him to flow out of us. It requires rebelling against everything that we think is correct.

Yes, there is something about a rebel that appeals to a certain part of us. But unless it is able to appeal to the heart of us, it’s nothing more than a misguided use of a status symbol.

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“Creating Church In Our Own Image” excerpt from “Rebellious Lovers” ©2014 Joseph Johnson

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You’ve seen the signs. Literal signs on billboards, flyers, T-shirts, banners and bumper stickers. “Come As You Are”, I think, kind of set it all in motion. Kurt Cobain would have been proud. Now you see everything from “No Perfect People Allowed” to “Rock and Roll Church” to “Not Your Grandma’s Church”. I have to admit that last one kind of bugs me. I’m old enough to be a grandpa myself, and I have to admit, I like me some good “rock and roll” worship music from time to time. And that is a small part of the problem. But I’ll get to that later.

I do not believe, with the possible exception of the “grandma” thing, that there is anything inherently wrong with any of the above slogans or labels. You could argue that any of them are accurate, especially if the church is living up to their proclamations.

Everywhere you look, churches are cropping up with catchy names that cry out, “Hey! We’re not Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians or any thing at all. We are simply believers!!” In just about any city with a population of 50,000 or more you can open a phonebook(they still make those don’t they???) and find cool names like “Celebration”, “Journey”, “Oasis” or “_______Family  Worship.” We even have one in my city named “A Church Called Mystery.” I’m not certain what they are about, but I have heard good things about them.

As churches move away from what they consider to be denominationalism, the names become increasingly vague. Again, I personally see nothing necessarily wrong with that. Especially if they are facilitating worship. In my experience, I have attended or served in practically every denomination there is. I have even been labeled at times a “church-hopper”. I have yet to find that term in the Bible, and I am certain the Apostle Paul might take issue with it.

Now I do not want to lump any of these bodies in with those who have left a church to start their “own”, in order to avoid submission to authority. It is sad and all too common an occurrence when a person will start a church because they do not want someone telling them what to do. Often times you will find that the “pastors” of those churches actually own the building, control the finances and hand pick the board, if they have one. They are in essence accountable to no one, and rarely recognize any accountability to God. Many border on cult status.

There are however, many churches trying to reach a different generation in what they view as the best way they know how to. And they are succeeding in ways beyond our imagination.  Many churches that are targeting in on the 20 something demographic are seeing numeric growth way beyond what they could have ever predicted. However, some of these approaches are inadvertently breeding an improper rebellion that if not recognized, could contribute more to division than actual unity. They have cloaked this potential division under the garments of “musical tastes”, “casual dress” or even “concert lighting.”  They insist on “doing” church differently and have definite ideas as to what “their church should look like.”

Sometimes, these “new churches” are birthed in and remain under the umbrella of the “main” church. “Come to our new ‘Contemporary’ service in the gymnasium!!” or “Make sure and attend our Young Adult service immediately following our regular service” is becoming a new standard within many large fellowships. This gives some folks an “out” without ever having to leave “their” church. Jesus had some definite words in respect to division, and they were not favorable. Increasingly, we see the younger generation distancing themselves from the older generation, and the side effects are not good.

Instead of engaging with the “older” members of the fellowship to see if they might add to the existing structure, they created a “new” structure, so they could do church the way they wanted to. This may work with the middle-school aged worshiper (although that may also be worthy of further consideration), but when you are in your 20’s, segregation is not necessarily the answer. When you are in your 20’s, you have increased potential and voice to lead or otherwise add to the overall mission of the church. Another aspect of becoming a 20 something is, like it or not, joining the rest of intergenerational society. Face it, you have to integrate.  So as a result, the tendency is to either start a church within a church, or an entirely new fellowship that caters to their tastes and expectations.

My purpose here is certainly not to place blame or guilt on anyone. People are attending church, and that is certainly a good thing. But part of the problem faced by the 20 something’s is that many of them have come out of a carnival like, happy-feely, lights-camera-action high-school youth environment that served more as a baby-sitting service, while trying to somehow keep them interested in Jesus; than actual discipleship. Many children and youth in church today spend more time bouncing up to the next level of catchy classroom titles, than they ever spend in actual spiritual growth. And honest pastors and other leaders are often times to busy catering to cry-babies on the “board” that they do not have time to see what is really going on during Sunday school or children’s church. In many cases, church has become a couple of hours of spending time with “people just like them.”

And if we indoctrinate our children and young people into an environment that motivates them to only desire to spend time with people “just like them”, we may very well be cultivating a form of “self-worship.”

The truth is many of us, including a 50 something like me, are hungry for something more than what we grew up in. Three hymns, an offering, a message and an altar call just aren’t cutting it. And those of us, who have a passion to reach this generation, while refusing to isolate or otherwise disregard our “older” generation, are desperate to find “something” that “works.” Especially if we have taken the time to look at the statistics, that cry out for a revolution.

Since they have been keeping track of such things, it has been evident in business and culture, and increasingly in the church, the recognition that the “younger generation” functions like a type of radar, seeking out and reporting on what is happening in culture, both good and bad. The younger generation has an understanding of where things are headed way before anyone else. This is one reason why churches are beginning to look and sound more like what young people are feeling and/or experiencing. Major corporations have tapped into the reality of this “radar”, and use it to their full advantage. Companies like General Electric and Texas Instruments proactively rely on the ideas, and even leadership of younger people. Young adults in the church offer much of the same insight, but are too often faced with resistance from the older generation. The results of which continue to perpetuate a division that has its roots in the removal of children from the sanctuary for being “disruptive.”

So besides the counter-productivity that comes from such division, another element is slowly rearing an ugly head:

Arrogance.

I hesitate to write this, but I rarely follow my own hesitation. At any rate, there are churches all over this country, which will remain nameless, that have the most arrogant bunch of people attending that I have ever heard of. It sickens me how they are so elitist that they poison the Gospel as far as I am concerned. The sad part for me personally is that I know several well meaning seekers who attend them religiously. I pray for them. And I mean that.

But the arrogance is not just among the younger set. It’s coming from both sides of the aisle.

And whenever arrogance is present, it is almost always accompanied by a heart unwilling to submit to authority. The result of which causes one to pull away from, or out of, the church you have been part of. So we either create a church within a church, leave to start our “own” church, or leave church altogether.

The truth is that this spirit of arrogance festers in both competing generations. The older generation has refused to heed to the younger voices around them as contributing members of leadership. At the same time, the younger generation has put their own tastes and desires ahead of those whose wisdom and dreams paved the way to the front door of the church. The common denominator is fear, which provides the fertile ground for the broken relationships between the generations to flourish. The older folks are often afraid of change of any sort. Even if they may be in favor of a “new” idea, they fear their inability to execute it. They fear disrupting the “way things have always been” or fear what their peers may think. At the same time, the younger generation is afraid that they may be forced to conform to traditions or “dress codes” that will result in the loss of their identity. These fears become a breeding ground for division, and whenever fear is present, control tends to be the natural response.

Regardless of which generation we find ourselves part of, when we think of “church”, we all have different ideas as to what that means to us. We would be wise, in any generation, to reexamine what Peter stated in the 2nd Chapter of Acts when he quoted the Old Testament prophet Joel:

“Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” 

This is a timely reminder that any significant movement within the Church will be an inter-Generational one that is sensitive to the Spirit of God. God gave that dream to Joel thousands of years ago, but each of us should consider the present day application of it. A combination of the dreams and visions that God is so generously pouring out through His Spirit, to the old and young alike, will unite us to become a force equipped to storm the gates of hell.

In any generation, the men and women who have made worthwhile and lasting contributions to the Kingdom, have had a touch of rebellion attached to their actions. Attacking the institution of the church, as opposed to the dream of God known as The Church, is a worthwhile use of this rebellious nature. We must get past our arrogance and fear, regardless of our age, to become a responsible and productive part of this time in church history. 

We must get past the “next generation” and “church of the future” mentality to begin accomplishing this mission. We limit ourselves through terms and labels that divide instead of unite. This so called “future generation” is using mass-media, they are earning and spending money and they are starting families now. They are not on the side-lines, they are in the game. Yet in the eyes of too many elders, deacons and pastors, they are looked upon as going to “someday” be part of the church. The truth is, they are parts of a body known as The Church, and they are actively living out the visions God has given them. But unless we actively work to keep the body together, we will continue to see “new” churches popping up that cater only to the tastes and wishes of those who start them, and lose the dream God gave to Joel.

As a 50 something, I have to take some responsibility for the division I have helped to create. Partly because I personally dig the “Come as you are, no perfect people allowed, rock and roll, church unusual, perfect place for imperfect people” places of worship I am drawn to. But the thing is, it’s not about me. And if I insist on church being designed to cater to my tastes in order to contribute, then I completely miss the purpose.

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“Love Tough Love” excerpt from “Rebellious Lovers”©2014 Joseph Johnson

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As I began this chapter, my family and I are in *transition. We currently live in an upstairs apartment. There are two bedrooms and four children. Our oldest comes to visit throughout the week, and when he does, he crashes on the couch. Our other children are girls ranging in ages 5-8, and they share a bedroom. We are in the process of moving; boxing up our stuff while still attempting to function in a space that is a bit crowded, to say the least.

Below us is an apartment where a lady with a “nervous condition” lives with a man that I suspect adds to her condition. Not an ideal spot to be in when just a few short feet above you three active children dwell. However, we proactively attempt to show the lady downstairs respect, and in the process “demand” that our children conduct themselves in a manner totally opposite to who they are. Children and noise tend to be synonymous. It’s a fact, and if you don’t believe me, go and check out your local early childhood center.

Or your local adult night club. We never quite grow out of it.

So we have had to deal with the police coming to our door on more than one occasion, questioning our noise levels. Usually the sight of three young children explains the situation before we ever say a word. And typically, after a few moments with our neighbor, the police depart; asking us to “try and keep it down.”

As I mentioned, we are in transition.

Is my neighbor my enemy? Not in my eyes. Is she a pain in the butt? Absolutely. Do I hate her? No way. As a matter of fact, I love her. I also pray for her, and I don’t mean in a “Lord please straighten this woman out” sort of way. I simply pray for her to be blessed. Perhaps that may manifest itself as she watches us carrying our last box of stuff out. I don’t know.

But whether it’s a neighbor calling the cops on you, the gossiper at work, the family member who just refuses to let that one past issue die or the guy that stole “your” parking space; we all seem to have people we encounter who appear to be “out to get us.”

Jesus says to love these people.

Love your ex. Love your abuser. Love your accuser. Love the abortionist. Love the child molester. Love. Love. Love!

“Hold on there now Joe, you have crossed a line with that “child molester” statement.” I believe that line was drawn in the sand 2,000 years ago when Jesus came to the defense of a “whore.” And I will cross it as often as it takes.

“But this doesn’t make any sense. It goes completely against our nature.”

Our “human” nature.

That is the point. In order to get out of our humanity, we must tap into our Spirituality. We must flip everything right side up. Swim against the current. Go against the grain.

Rebel.

 

*Since I first wrote these words in 2012, we have remained in a perpetual state of “transition.” We have moved 4 times as a family. God is good!!!

“Family Matters” excerpt from “Rebellious Lovers”©2014 Joseph Johnson

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When you think of family, you may think of your mother and father, as well as your children. Perhaps your grandma and grandpa come to mind. Or maybe even a cousin, or an aunt and uncle. Nieces and nephews also come to mind for many people. But in my world, it’s my children. Even above my wife, which is okay with her, because she is cool with that. My personal experience with other relatives has been quite a mix. I will explain more about my “mixed” family in another chapter.

In the summer of 2012, I had the honor of baptizing my one and only son. It was an amazing experience. As a matter of fact, words cannot describe the joy that the experience has brought to me. I was privileged to lead my son to Christ when he was six years old. And although it took eight years to walk into those baptismal waters, it was well worth the wait. I will cherish the moment for the remainder of my days. Alex is an amazing young man. He is not only extremely intelligent; he has the heart of a lover. I am excited to witness the path God has ordained for his life.

I also have a twenty-four year old daughter. As I shared in chapter three, on the day she was born, Jessica was the first blood relative I had ever laid my eyes upon. For the first seven years of her life, Jessica and I were inseparable. There are hundreds of photographs, hours of videos, and an imprint in my heart and mind of our times together that neither time nor space will ever erase. Her mother and I divorced in 1997, and not long after that, Jessica made a decision that has torn away a piece of my heart. She decided that she no longer wanted to have contact with me. There is obviously much more to this story; but the bottom line is that my daughter and I have not had any sort of relationship since that time. For years I have prayed for reconciliation with my precious daughter. Only recently have I prayed for that very thing, but added, “If it is my Father’s will.”

Somewhere within the heart of this rebel, I only desire a reconciliation if it is within the will of God for both of our lives. Jessica received Christ when she was seven, so I know that someday we will be reunited; even if it happens on a street paved in gold.
In June of 2012, I married a woman after God’s own heart. And when I say “after”, I mean she is relentlessly pursuing the heart of God. One of the many blessings of this union is that I now have three young daughters as well, and the responsibility that comes with that is all at once amazing and fearful. Like the example given within the life of Job, God will so often replace that which we have lost. What I have also learned is that even though God gives us back much more than we ever lose, we still often times live with the heartache of our loss.

Such is the power of love.

My wife is an amazing woman, if for no other reason; she somehow “gets” me. She has signed on to this rebellious call on my life. And I also have extended family that I cherish. Family is important to me.

In Luke chapter 14, verse 26, Jesus gives His thoughts on all of this. He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.”

Now hold on there. Jesus is saying I have to hate my family? Hate my children? I have to be honest when I tell you that for a very long time, I avoided this scripture. It was pretty much the “deal killer.” I’m sorry, but if you expect me to hate my children, then I am pretty much done. Besides, didn’t he call me to love my neighbor as myself? How could you possibly expect me to love my neighbor, who insists on sitting right outside my window, telling profanity laced “war stories” and hate my children? Or hate my wife, who they are keeping awake. You want me to love the prostitute selling herself outside the truck stop, but hate my mother and father?

And as I hurl these questions into the cosmos, instead of immediate answers, I am reminded of Matthew 5 and verses 43 thru 45 which records Jesus as saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

And there I am, seemingly being instructed by my King to “hate” my family, but to love and even pray for my enemies. What a peculiar way of living. All at once backwards and Holy.

Some might say rather rebellious.

Hate is a word that we tend to give too much power. By definition, it’s simply a lesser form of like. So I am not supposed to have a “lesser form of like” for my enemies, yet somehow conjure up one towards my family.

Semantics are a strange animal.

I’ve thought about this passage a lot. Prayed about it. Meditated upon it, whatever you want to call my basic analytical approach to most everything. I have ripped the word “enemy” apart. In my mind, an actual enemy is someone who is pro-actively seeking to cause me harm. In all honesty, I can’t come up with one. The devil is referred to as being our enemy, and I can assure you that my feelings toward him way surpass a lesser form of like.

It all can appear to be rather confusing if you slice and dice, replace truth for metaphor or simply try to over analyze the Word as I have a tendency to do. But in all actuality it is pretty simple.

Love.

Love God and people.

“There’s Something About A Rebel” excerpt from “Rebellious Lovers” ©2014 Joseph Johnson

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I was talking to a six year old not long ago as she told me about a boy she liked in school. I said, “Why do you like him?” and she replied, “Because he’s funny.” I framed my next question based on my having worked for many years in early childhood education. “Does he get in trouble with the teacher?” I asked. “Yes”, she replied, with a smile and a giggle.

There is something about a rebel that tends to attract us. Now granted, a six year old may not meet all of the qualifications of a rebel, but there is something about the system that just doesn’t click with them. And their bucking of the system will bring a sound of laughter out of a kindergarten audience. Albeit, may be a nervous sort of laughter.

All throughout history, rebels have both intrigued and inspired us. It may be their way of standing up against a system that others adjust to. Or it may be the way they fight against the status quo, although at times it may be a misguided battle. Satan, or as he was formerly known; Lucifer, was a rebel. He certainly falls into the “misguided” category. If there ever was a futile rebellion, his had to be it. “I think I will rebel against God. Try to take over.” His end result is still yet to come. But I am certain that he regrets his decision; which may be a large portion of the fuel that fires his determination to take as many souls with him as demonically possible.

Sadly though, he is a rebel that draws a very dangerous attraction from many. The “evil dark side” of reality tends to allure people into a potentially deadly trap. For some, it’s an attempt to be mysterious. For others it’s a conscious unholy alliance. Either way, it’s a bad game to play. To combat the dark side takes a rebellious type of love.

Typically though, when we think of rebels, Lucifer doesn’t come immediately to mind. Spend some time down south, and you’ll meet a rebel on every street corner. And most of them are proud of it. The confederate flag all but outnumbers “Old Glory”, or at the very least, gives the stars and stripes a run for its money. There is a deep sense of pride and conviction running through the south, even if the current crop of rebels aren’t quite certain what it is they are rebelling against.

The term rebel is typically associated with one who resists either authority or tradition. I can totally relate to this, because throughout my life, I have had a tendency to resist both. Time and perhaps a sense of survival have tempered me a bit on the authority side, but I still have problems with traditions.

Especially tradition for tradition sake.

But in my heart, lies the heart of a rebel. I have to admit, this rebellious side of me has often times gone without focus. At times, it seemed first nature. Whatever “it” may be, my natural response was the opposite. My rebellious nature has caused me both grief and satisfaction. Lately though, I have fine tuned my rebellious spirit, and steered it onto a primary path.

Love.

The Lover of my soul was a rebel. He was arrested, “tried” and “convicted” as such. Ultimately, He was executed as well. Among His crimes was tearing up the religious system of His day. He was never accused of that particular “crime.” At least, not in so many words. But, in all that He did, His motivation was love.

His name is Jesus.

To suggest that Jesus was a rebel is all at once vogue and appropriate. For some, to think of Jesus as a rebel, is cool. We tend to dig identifying with the “rebel Jesus.” Verbal confrontations with the religious people, tearing some stuff up in the temple. Breaking “tradition” by healing on the Sabbath. And hanging out with various women, derelicts and drunks certainly marked Him as rebellious. Bucking authority, trashing religion…Yes, that’s a rebel to definitely identify one’s self with.

However, those examples were specific instances in Jesus’ life. And as rebellious as they may have been, He has called His followers to a far greater state of rebellion. An ongoing way of living that doesn’t appear to be all that rebellious. But the rebellion that is required here goes far deeper than calling out a religious person. It requires us to rebel against everything that human nature has taught us. Everything we feel comfortable with.

Everything that we know.

Self Destruction

To begin the process of becoming a legitimate rebel, we must first launch a rebellion within ourselves.

In Luke the 9th chapter and verse 23, Jesus said the following, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Denying yourself is a rebellious concept indeed. We are conditioned to put ourselves first. Often times, even when we are helping someone else out, it’s in order to feel good about ourselves. The ironic thing is that when we are serving others out of a genuine love, we will “feel good” in spite of ourselves. But to deny what I want, to deny what I need, well that is bordering on ludicrous. One of my pet peeves is when a person starts a sentence with, “I want.” Right or wrong, the simple truth is “I” wish they didn’t do it. “Self” is a hard habit to break.

There are many different aspects to self. Most often, we tend to apply negative meanings: SELF-centeredness, lack of SELF control, SELF-ishness. But there are other ways to view self, as in what makes us who we are. Personal preferences; tastes in things such as music, movies, etc; habits (not all habits are bad); even levels of tolerance (some things just bug us); and even points of view. All of these are parts of “who” we are, and there is nothing intrinsically “bad” about any of them, as long as they do not place us outside of God’s will.

Yet, Jesus says that we must deny ourselves. Or simply stated; putting others first. And that is not solely those people that we have an investment in, like our children or our spouse. Or even our parents. It’s the beggar flying a sign at the freeway on-ramp. It’s the prostitute working the truck-stop. It’s the crazy neighbor who tosses their dogs crap over the fence and into our yards. It’s the single mother stripping for a living six nights a week. It’s even the men who toss her a buck for a lap dance.

That’s some serious denial. Rebellious you might say.

And it is only accomplished by Gods rebellious love flowing into, and out of us.

And this leads us to the next part of that verse, “taking up your cross.” There is nothing pleasant about bearing a cross. True cross bearing must include a willingness to suffer. It’s called sacrifice, and typically leads to death. Jesus suffered silently, and that may be the most difficult part of all. When I am truly “bearing my cross,” I tend to find myself talking a little less, even when I want to cry out. Paul said in Galatians 2:20 that he was “crucified in Christ Jesus, and [he/self] no longer lives.” So at least we are in good company.

 

“What If Satan Ran The Church?” excerpt from “Rebellious Lovers” ©2014Joseph Johnson

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When I was 14 years old, I read “The Satanic Bible” by Anton LaVey. It’s not so much a “bible”, but a collection of essays, rituals and observations put forth by the author, who was the founder of “LaVeyan Satanism”. The book conveyed his understanding of human nature and gave “insights” into philosophers who advocated materialism and individualism. That’s a mouthful, but easy to swallow.

Basically, if you wanted to sum the book up in a sentence or two, it would be “if it feels good, do it.” Or, as long as something works for “you”, it doesn’t matter how it affects anyone else. As a matter of fact, according to LaVey, the most important “holiday” in the satanic “belief”, is ones own individual day of birth.

My apologies to all the anti-Halloween purists reading this. But hey, at least you still have Christmas.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus is quoted as saying, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” He used money as an example, but the point is clear: We cannot serve God AND anything or anyone else. Now, I doubt seriously that anyone who is reading this would consider themselves a “Satanist.” As a matter of fact, an atheist is not technically a Satanist. That is, if being a true Satanist means you have to read and believe LaVey’s book, or attend a meeting.

“Inspired” or not, LaVey hit the nail on the head when he broke the worship of satan down to two key elements: “materialism” and “individualism.” The worship of material objects, whether it is a golden calf, or a church building, cannot be reconciled with true worship of God. Likewise, the worship of an individual cannot coincide with the worship of God. You will “hate one and love the other.” I have personally met very few people who have literally bowed down in worship to a Harley-Davidson. And I can’t remember any time that I have witnessed a person lying face down in worship to Taylor Swift or the “Edward” dude in the Twilight movie. Jesus didn’t even use the term “worship” in the above Scripture. He used “love and hate” and “devoted and despise.” It’s clear that if we put our possessions or ourselves above God, then we hate Him. As a matter of fact, if we put our love of our spouses and children over our devotion for Him, we despise Him.

Those are some pretty rough things to consider. None of us would come out and say that we love our cars or our family more than we love God. And we surely would never claim to love ourselves more than we love Him. And the “church” certainly would never be caught making such claims.

But let’s consider some evidence:

In the United States alone there are roughly 314,000 Protestant and/or other Christian churches. This is according to research and surveys by the Hartford Institute. Obviously these numbers cannot be 100 percent correct, since there are many congregations who are off the radar. Most likely, the numbers are higher.

Based on these numbers, it is estimated that approximately 56 million people attend weekly church services. That’s quite an impressive number. Just think what we could accomplish.

Let’s take a quick look at what we haven’t even put a dent in:

In 2010 it was estimated that there were 46.9 million people living in poverty in the United States. Those numbers are considered to be higher now.

Every year in this country, over 3 million child abuse cases are reported. Many more occur and go unreported.
There are over 207,000 cases of rape and sexual assaults reported in this country each year. It is believed that over half of the assaults that actually occur are never reported.

There are an estimated 636,000 homeless people in this country.

There are approximately 2 million abortions reported in the U.S. each year.

There are blah…blah…blah…blah…BLAH.

When you get right down to it, the numbers are meaningless. Specifically the 56 million mentioned above. There is only one number that appears to really matter: ONE. Because when you get right down to it looking out for “number one” is how most of us live our lives. We are focused on our family vacations, our new “toys”, posting our “I eat better than you” photos of meals on Facebook, our titles, labels and position. We ponder more over the batting average of Bryce Harper than the fact that there are over 67,000 homeless veterans in this country. By the way, as of this writing, Bryce’s batting average is .282, whatever that means.

Our next door neighbor might be beating his wife and kids, but that’s “none of my business.” But let someone sit in our seat at church, and all hell breaks loose. We can tell you how many times brother and sister so-and-so have missed church this month, but we’ll be darned if we can remember the names of their kids. We refuse to give the guy holding a sign outside of Sam’s Club a dollar because he might use it to buy alcohol, but we’ll make certain we have the latest 5G gadget that comes along….”

Oh my goodness….I think we might all be Satanists. Well actually, they probably wouldn’t accept some of us. They tend to have a problem with Truth and absolutes. However, if we apply what Jesus said concerning two masters, along with what He also says in Matthew 25 concerning “feeding, clothing, providing shelter, tending to the sick and encouraging prisoners”, then upon further examination we may just qualify after all. Because we can’t claim to serve God while neglecting our fellow humans. It’s impossible.

So if the “qualities” of being a Satanist is putting material possessions and ourselves above other people, then our churches are full of people who meet the basic qualifications of Satanism. That’s some scary stuff there.

I’m pretty certain I have pissed off a lot of you who have managed to read this far.

Am I calling you a “satan” worshiper? Absolutely not. I can be no more certain of that, than I can be as to whether or not you are a Christian. Only God knows that for real. But I do know that the Scriptures state that faith without action is dead. If you have faith, and do nothing with it, then your faith is dead. 56 million of us pop in and out of the church doors weekly. Yet all around us is the evidence of a lifeless and increasingly irrelevant church.

I am certainly not in favor of The Church of Satan. But they do practice what they preach. Pretty sad that we could actually learn something from them.

Stephanie Neiman was the victim…NOT her killer

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18 YEAR OLD OKLAHOMA MURDER VICTIM’S KILLER IS DEAD

By Joseph Johnson

Around the time that Stephanie Neiman was beginning her senior year at Perry High School in Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett was being released from prison. He had been sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty in 1996 in Kay County to a charge of conspiracy to commit embezzlement.

Shortly after Stephanie received her high school diploma, their paths would cross.

On the evening of June 3, 1999, Stephanie climbed into her new Chevy pick-up to give a friend a ride to the Perry home of 23 year old Bobby Lee Bornt. Clayton Lockett, along with his cousin, 17 year old Alfonzo Lockett and 26 year old Shawn Mathis had already arrived at the Bornt home. Clayton Lockett was there to collect money that he was allegedly owed by Bornt. The three men tied Bornt up and began to beat him. Bornt’s 9-month old son was also present during the home invasion.

While the beating was taking place inside the home, Stephanie and her friend arrived at the residence, totally unaware of what was taking place behind its closed doors.

As Stephanie’s friend walked to the front door, it suddenly opened, and the 18 year old was drug inside; where she was hit in the face with a shotgun. Then, with the shotgun aimed at her head, she was forced to call Stephanie inside the home. At that point, Stephanie was also hit with the shotgun, suffering a cut near her left eye.

Lockett and his crew quickly bound the two young women with duct tape, before all three men took turns raping Stephanie’s friend. Then both women, along with Bornt and his son, were driven to rural Kay County; where the beatings continued. Along the way, Clayton Lockett informed the captives that he intended to kill them all.

Stephanie, bound in duct tape, received a particularly brutal beating. She continued to refuse to provide her assailants with the keys or the alarm code to her Chevy, or promise not to contact authorities if she was released. According to the survivors of the nightmare, Stephanie stood up to her captives until the very end.

For 20 long minutes, Stephanie and her friends watched as Shawn Mathis dug a shallow grave in a ditch beside the road. Clayton Lockett then led Stephanie to the ditch, aimed the shotgun and fired. When he went to fire a second time, the shotgun jammed. Lockett then returned to the truck, in order to fix the shotgun.

Meanwhile, Stephanie could be heard crying, “Oh God, please, please.” Lockett and his two accomplices could be heard laughing as to how “tough” Stephanie was. He then returned to the ditch and fired another round into Stephanie.

Clayton Lockett then ordered Mathis and the younger Lockett to bury her, despite the fact that Mathis informed him that Stephanie was still alive.

Bornt, his son and the other woman, were returned to the home, where the three assailants stole Bornt’s truck to make their get-a-way.

Fifteen years later, Clayton Lockett was led to the execution chamber at McAlester, OK to die for the murder of Stephanie Neiman. As has been reported on an almost continuous loop, something went “wrong” during the execution. The execution was halted, but Lockett later died of a massive heart attack.

Regardless of which side of the death penalty debate a person may find themselves on, we must never push aside the victim of a crime, in order to enhance our point of view.

Perhaps Stephanie Neiman and Clayton Lockett, in some strange way, are both victims. Careful examination of both of their fates might just produce a valid argument on both sides of the issue.

But this is, and always will be, about Stephanie. A beautiful young girl whose life was snuffed out by nothing less than a monster. I believe Clayton Lockett got off lucky, which is way more than he deserved. If there is a martyr to be formed from this mess, it is certainly not him.

My vote goes to Stephanie.

Nearly 3.8 Million Joplin Tornado Relief Dollars Still Sitting in the Bank

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By Joseph Johnson

May 22nd will be the third anniversary of the massive EF-5 tornado that wreaked havoc in Joplin Missouri. The whirlwind that swept through Joplin was one of the deadliest in U.S. history, taking over 150 lives and injuring thousands; physically, mentally and emotionally. One third of Joplin was literally wiped off of the map.

In the hours, days, weeks and months that followed, Joplin received a world-wide outpouring of support that also set records. Besides tons of tangible goods, millions upon millions of dollars flowed into the city as well. Millions of these dollars were raised by nationally recognized charitable organizations.

One of these organizations was the Salvation Army. According to their website, in the immediate days following the disaster, they were feeding up to 10,000 people a day. I remember a lot of food being served up all over the city by hundreds of different groups, 10,000 a day is very impressive.

What is also impressive is the amount of money the Salvation Army raised towards Joplin’s tornado relief. As a matter of fact, so much money was pouring into their organization, they “needed” to hire a “director of development.” Callie Hudson got the job, and one of her tasks was to recruit a volunteer advisory board of leading Joplin citizens.

According to Hudson, “I went on a kind of 90 day campaign around Joplin and spoke to as many people as I could about what we were going to be doing in Joplin.” It was the board’s job to help decide how to best spend the relief funds. However some of the former board members have since expressed that they did not feel that the overseer’s were really listening to them.

The Midland Division of the Salvation Army in St. Louis, MO oversees Joplin.

According to a Salvation Army representative who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Salvation Army raised right at $4.8million towards Joplin’s recovery. However, of that amount, approximately $1million is all that has been spent in the past three years.

That leaves around $3.8million still sitting in the bank.

Three years later, and the Salvation Army is still holding on to almost 80% of the money raised to support Joplin. And you can be assured that when the “army” was soliciting the donations, they did not say, “Please donate to the Joplin tornado relief so we can sit on the money for three years.” As a matter of fact, their campaigns implied that people were going to be helped immediately with the funds.

Even more distressing than the small amount spent, is where the money went. My source, again speaking on the condition of anonymity states that nearly $455,000 went for expenses. Specifically: *$38,000 went for salaries, $4,700 went for employee medical insurance and $15,000 went for uniforms. The remaining amount of approximately $645,000 went to specific assistance.

It is no secret that the Salvation Army does have a pretty good track record when it comes to response and assistance during times of disasters, as well as the charitable work they perform on a daily basis. And historically speaking, they have been known for taking the “long term” approach in regards to spending donated relief dollars.

But $3.8million?

Money just sitting in a bank when there are still people in recovery mode three years after the event. I believe the Salvation Army needs to re-evaluate what their intentions are with that money, and expedite getting it into the hands of the people it was meant for.

 

*Amounts are approximations.

“My Life As A Sixteen Year Old Girl”

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PREDATORS ARE LURKING ON THE NET

By Joseph Johnson

In the summer of 2012, I made a profile as a sixteen year old girl, complete with photo, on a popular internet chat site. Within seconds…and I do mean seconds…of activating the account, I was bombarded by invites to “private conversations” with “older men.” Most of the conversations were typical chat conversation, I guess. I have never really been into chat myself. Most of the men wanted details concerning “my” measurements, location and dating habits. One of the men I met stood out from the rest. He wanted to know if I would give him my personal email address. I had created an account just for that purpose, and our “conversations” took a wicked turn from there, at least on his part. Once we started to communicate via email, I deleted the chat account, and I did not include a photo in the email account.

This would be a good place to note that in none of our “conversations” did I say, or imply that I was interested in any type of “inappropriate” relationship.

He, on the other hand, made it clear what he had in mind. I have copies of the transcripts of all of our “conversations” that took place via email. They are disgusting, and I made it clear on more than one occasion that I was “sixteen.” He, by the way was 49.

The things that he stated he would like to do to “me” were horrific, and of a perverted sexual nature. I talked mostly about my dissatisfaction with home life, my “mothers” inattentiveness and a longing to take a trip somewhere. I admit, I was baiting him, with the intent of involving the authorities had he broken any law.

The sad part is, he only broke half of the law. The things he said, and implied that he would like to do to “me” were the first part of a two part law. The second part is making an attempt to meet up with “me” with the intent of following through with his desires. He never did this. I believe his “thrill” came from the “talk.”

Finally, things took an unusual turn when I sent him the following message:

“I am a 51 year old male, NOT a sixteen year old girl. I imagine that this is freaking you out a bit, but it is not my desire to cause you grief. I would like to give you an opportunity. I am a Christian and a Pastor. I know what it is like to be lost, because I have been. But like you, I do not need to be. I want you to know that God is willing to forgive you for the perversion that would cause you to desire sex, fantasy or not, with a child. Eventually, if you do not seek Him, you will end up in prison. Ask Jesus to forgive you and He will. Even for the things you have suggested to _________.

Unlike the law enforcement people that will someday be busting in your doors, I desire Christ to bust through your heart and deliver you from the pain you are feeling. Please consider what I have written to you. Not because of the transcripts of our conversations, but because you need Him. God Bless you.” (I intentionally left my screen name blank on here)

He then sent me the following message:

“Oh, believe me I am taking this very seriously and this is a wake up call. I am looking in my heart to change my life around as we speak. i just hope everyone will forgive me. I have a big knot in my stomach right now.”

Our conversations have taken a totally different turn since then. Make no mistake; I am sickened by the perverted people out there preying on our children. But I have to ask myself, “What Would Jesus Do?” Joseph Johnson’s first instinct would involve a bullet. Sorry if that bothers you, I’m just being real here.

But it is not about me.

I am convinced, based on our subsequent conversations, that this man is seeking help and a change in his life. The question here is what about you? What are you doing to protect your children? It’s not about parental controls on pieces of technology. It’s about loving your children in such a way that they will not go seeking after a relationship on the internet, or otherwise, that could ultimately lead them to death…or worse, in some cases.

Parental controls are not a bad idea in and of themselves, but when they become a replacement for an actual relationship with our children, then we become inadvertent accomplices to the millions of perverts out there waiting to pounce on our children.

What began as an experiment for me, led to at least one of these people turning their life around. You might ask, “How do you know they are for real?” The truth is, I don’t know for certain, any more than I know if you are for real. Or for that matter, you don’t know about me. The Bible say’s we are known by our actions, for they reveal our hearts. Either way, God knows, and that’s all that really matters.

So, what would Jesus do? He already did it. He died and rose again for our sins. For yours, mine and the dude I met on the internet.

 

I would love to hear your feedback. You can do so by messaging me here.