Haircuts for the homeless

I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.

-Gandalf (J.R.R. Tolkien) from “The Hobbit”

heart-in-hands1-300x212Brennon Jones is a 29 year old, ordinary folk, doing his part to show love to those who rarely experience it. He is a former barber who spends a lot of his free time driving around neighborhoods known for high number of homeless people. He goes with personal mobile salon, his arsenal of love, that consists of merely a tray and hair cutting clippers.

It’s not complicated. Jones strikes up a conversation, gets to know them a bit, then offers them a free haircut. Jones is not wealthy. He can’t give everyone he sees a home, clothes, or money. But he has a talent. He has a heart of compassion. That combination is all we need to make a difference in anyone’s life.

The Lord is rewarding Mr. Jones for his service to others. Sean Johnson, a barber and business owner in Philadelphia, has given Jones his very own barber shop. That’s right; just gave it to him! Wow! For the full article check out Today.com.

How are you gifted? Do be falsely modest and say that you have no gifting. God has made each and everyone of us unique, with passions, and talents.

What resources do you have? Hey, I’m a high school teacher, so I understand being limited financially. But that’s not the point. No matter how little or how great our resources, we all have something we can share with those in need.

What time do can you spare? If we think about all the time spent on our phones, watching TV or movies, or playing around with our hobbies, we can all spare some time to be with those who have no one.

Look around your community, your school, your place of work, your church…anywhere…everywhere. People are going down all around us. People are people. No one deserves to be ignored or overlooked.

For who makes you different? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it…

1 Corinthians 4:7a (ESV)

We are all one step away from being in a desperate situation. We’ve all needed the help of others. No one has made it to where they are on their own. Behind it all is a good and gracious God who intends us to be good and gracious to others.

Generosity that costs nothing, can be absolutely priceless.

Check out this video and try not to cry.

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Weeds and Roses

4bf7993cef7e6e71ba48e654c4c39b45--beautiful-red-roses-red-rose-loveWilliam Jennings Bryan, a former presidential candidate and outspoken progressive, once compared American society to a garden. Here’s a quote from one of his speeches:

In a garden, you don’t let the weeds triumph over the roses simply because the weeds are stronger. You protect the roses from the weeds. And if you want a society where you have good people, kindness, charity, and equality, you have to do some weeding.

The late 1800’s and early twentieth century in America saw many movements to reconcile a rather lengthy list of wrongs. Social inequality, in all of its various forms, was chief among them. That’s something I believe many of us can relate to, or at least recognize as visible in some ways in the 21st century. So his quote can be every bit as relevant in our day, as well as any other period in human history. So it begs the question, who are the roses and who are the weeds?

Roses are absolutely beautiful. I know that may be weird for a man to say, but I love flowers and roses are high up on my list. The rose has long been a symbol for love and friendship in many cultures, including our own here in America. A rose speaks of something of value and worth. To label something, or someone, a rose means that they are precious in your sight. Weeds…even saying the word creates a bit of anger and frustration in the hearts of anyone who has a yard to tend. Weeds are a classic reminder of the fall of mankind. I’m fully convinced that weeds did not exist in the garden before original sin entered the world. They are relentless, powerful, hard to kill, and they will choke the life out of every living plant in your yard if you let it.

So, with this less than eloquent description I lay before you, who do you think the weeds and roses are in the society you live in? Those that Bryan sought to endear our hearts to are not whom many would expect. They were the downtrodden, the outcasts, the homeless, the immigrant, the orphans and widows. Jesus would describe them as ‘the least of these’.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV) [my emphasis]

God loves everyone, that’s fact. Yes, even those you don’t like. God still loves them. God loves the superstar and the homeless man alike. God doesn’t show partiality with His love. For that, I am extremely grateful. For there were moments in my life when only He could love me. But tendered to God’s heart are all those who are helpless, hurting, lost, broken, and blemished. Societies have a funny way of determining the value of a person, and it’s not at all the way God does. Money means nothing to Him. Fame is futile in God’s kingdom. Who really cares what we drive or what the square footage of our home is? Do we think any of that lasts or has any eternal value? Zero. God’s eyes are fixed on His people. He sees the homeless man at that stop light that we pretend not to see. He sees all the abandoned or neglected children. He sees the abused wife and emasculated husband. He sees the exploited and abandoned. And to Him, they are roses. They are beautiful. they have unlimited value and worth. And so do those who take care of them.

Unfortunately, those weeds that are choking the life out of them are the one’s that popular culture loves to elevate. Lets not be guilty of that ourselves. Look into the eyes of the innocent child, the dust covered face of that man on the street, the newly arrived alien who does not speak your language, and know that they are roses in our garden. Life began with God, and all life has immense value to Him. It should be the same for each of us. All people need to know their worth, and we have an important role to play in that.

Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. Selah

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The title of this post comes from Psalm 87:3 (NASB). It serves as a reminder of the importance of Jerusalem, then and now. A city that has been fought over for centuries yet who’s name means the City of Peace. It was a city created to honor and worship God. Not just any god. The God of the Bible. The only real God. And yet, the world believes it has dominion over this great city.

I am relieved that I live in a nation, for the time being, that is not following the antisemitic path that many nations are on around the world. At least I can say that under our current leadership. The eight years before…not so much.  I understand that there are many antisemitic people in the United States. But at least for now, we are restrengthening our ties with one of the freest and most democratic nations in the world. There are many things I don’t care for with our current Executive, but I am elated with his overwhelming support of perhaps our greatest ally.

The UN voted recently to reject America’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. On the positive side, 44 nations did not side with the UN’s resolution. On another positive side, UN resolutions mean little to nothing in most cases. It does however, reveal the anti-Israeli stance of many nations around the world. But that is no shocker.

While people are clamoring  over the decision by President Trump to recognize Israel’s capital as…well…Israel’s capital, there are many prominent voices speaking out in praise. I read several of these in an article today that I’d like to share with you because they brought me some encouragement.

– Douglas Feith, President George W. Bush’s undersecretary of defense: Writing in Foreign Policy, he said, “U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem might contribute to peace.” It teaches Palestinians, he wrote, “[t]here is a price to be paid for perpetuating the conflict: Life goes on, the Israelis create new realities, and the world in general adjusts to those new realities.”

– Amos Yadlin, head of the centrist Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, tweeted, “Trump was not intimidated by the threats from Ramallah, Amman, or Ankara,” referring to the Palestinian, Jordanian and Turkish capitals, respectively. “The refusal to bow to the threats or blackmail, together with the message that the Palestinians do not have veto power, [is] a very important precedent for the future of the peace process.”

– Shoshanna Bryen, senior director of the Jewish Policy Center, wrote in The Daily Caller, “The intention is to disabuse the Palestinians of the notion that the U.S. is neutral between them and our democratic, pro-Western, tolerant, free-market ally Israel. American support for Palestinian’s aspirations is not withdrawn, but hinges on Palestinian behavior.”

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In the face of this landmark, and long overdue decision, the Palestinians and some of the surrounding Arab nations are showing their true colors by speaking out in outrage. To make matters worse, Hamas (An Islamist political organization and terrorist militant group that has waged war on Israel since the group’s 1987 founding, most notably through suicide bombings and rocket attacks) has renewed its outward violence.

Despite what some say, this declaration did not bring violence and upheaval to the region. That was already there. Not because of Israel, but because of those who are precipitating it now. What the declaration did do, was to force the world to face up to reality. Israel is not going anywhere. Jerusalem belongs to Israel, not the UN. Unfortunately, this is a reality that not everyone can accept. Fortunately, God is in control of Israel, not the United Nations.

A vote against Israel is a vote in support of the radical agendas that seek to destroy her. Does Israel do everything right? Not at all. But they are light-years ahead of those who surround them. Please spread the word of peace. Side with democracy and freedom. Speak up for our ally. No matter how you feel about our President, join in this courageous move for truth. Make your voice heard because the same anti-Israeli sentiments that predicated the last 8 years, and have plagued other periods of our nation’s history, could easily rise again. Remember God’s promise that those who stand with Israel will be blessed. As for those who do not…I think you know the rest.

I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt…

Genesis 12:3 (HCSB)

As the debate is sure to rage on and on, lets not forget Who this city really belongs to and who He gave it to. The UN didn’t create Israel in 1947, they simply gave land back that was already theirs. Regardless of what bickering and protests continue to swell, this Jerusalem is only temporary, as is the rest of the world. What I can’t wait for is the new Jerusalem, adorned in glory. There, the nations of the world will be united, not under the banner of a UN, but in the presence of our God.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

Races don’t exist

af9874ec95caadf9fef66dafb6925b92272470bef7947dea95e5202b8f8a43e9The battle over racism has reverberated throughout history. Cultures have used the concept of race, or variations of it, to subjugate groups of people for millennia. In the US alone, we denied civil rights to particular groups based on the “color” of their skin. More than that, we used race to segregate large portions of our population from public areas and certain jobs. If that wasn’t enough, we even bound people in chains all because of race. However, all of these conflicts have occurred based on a faulty concept. There is no such thing as multiple races. That’s right! Races don’t exist, therefore racism is discrimination towards something that isn’t real. That, among many other things, should make racists feel great shame. How have we come to such a place where people are so hung up on belonging to a specific race? How did we ever develop a construct of racial groups in the first place?

Over 100 years ago, an American sociologist named W.E.B. Du Bois spoke out on this issue. He was concerned that race was being used as biological explanations for social and cultural differences between different populations of people. Du Bois criticized the idea of using white and black labels for discrete groups. He claimed that these distinctions ignored the scope of human diversity and were not biologically correct in the first place.

 

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Recent scientific research has supported Du Bois’ claims. Here’s a quote from Michael Yudell, a professor of public health at Drexel University in Philadelphia who has been involved in studies on the matter.

It’s [race] a concept we think is too crude to provide useful information, it’s a concept that has social meaning that interferes in the scientific understanding of human genetic diversity and it’s a concept that we are not the first to call upon moving away from.

Race has been a tool, not for understanding people or for preserving culture and identity, but to subjugate and segregate people groups within societies and without. The best way for racism to disappear in a society is for people to come to the reality that race is only a construct of their own imagination. Human cultures have been bred to see race. We’re constantly inundated with it. We hear about it in schools, in music, on movies, and in the news. But race, has no place, among the world of facts. I’ve written this topic in a post two years ago but the issue has only grown in our American media and mainstream since. So I feel compelled to share once again. Below are just a few reasons why race is a false title for you and me to apply to anyone:

#1- We all have the same beginning.

Race: a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.

Dictionary.com

Every single human being on planet earth has the same descendant.  It doesn’t matter where you live, what language you speak, or how you look. We are all related. Africans are related to Europeans, are related to Americans, are related to Asians. We are all one big family. If we are all related, race cannot exist. To discriminate against another is to attack your own family. But if we all started from the same two people, then why the variations? Why do we look so different? For the same reason why you don’t look like your distant cousins. Now multiply that by billions of people genetically mixing over thousands of years and it’s not too difficult to understand why humanity is so diverse.

#2- We are all the same color.

One thing people use as a race identifier is the color of skin. But what few people realize is that every single human is the same color. That’s right! So why the different variations?  It all comes down to how much melanin your body produces (which also affects eye and skin color). People have the ability to make multiple kinds and levels of melanin in their skin and that will determine the shade variation of your appearance. That is all determined by the combination of genes that have mixed and been passed down over the ages. The amount of melanin can be varied from very little, like in fair skinned people, to a lot found in dark brown skin. In combination with this is also the color of our skin cells. Most cells are clear and we can see the reddish purple of the blood through very pale skin, but in our outer skin the upper cells have keratin fibers for protection. Keratin has a pale yellowish hue. Variations in human skin shade also correlate closely with geography and the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. So humans have various shades based on the combinations from melanin production, keratin, the blood under their skin, and exposure to the sun.

#3- The concept of race is fairly new

Contemporary scholars argue that race was made common place as recent as the 18th century as people were searching for a way to classify people. Many disciplines have declared that the real meaning of race, especially in American society, has to do with social realities, as opposed to physical variations in the humans. In other words, race was created as a means of justifying abuses. And even today, race is being used to further drive a wedge among people within a nation. Prior to the 18th century, most civilizations viewed others in accordance with people groups and family lineage. Read historical texts, including the bible, and see how labels are used. So while persecution still existed in great abundance before the 1700’s, it was based on biases, a desire for dominance and power, socioeconomic status, and differences in cultural customs. You know who enslaved Africans first? Africans. You know who the “white” Europeans enslaved first? Other “white” Europeans.  All of the elements of discrimination that once existed still exist today, yet we’ve added the race element to it as well, and it has been tearing at the American nation ever since.

#4- The One that created us gave us a real image

Race is more about image than it is anything else. We are physical creatures and we often view others based on their physical appearance and how they portray themselves and that goes a long way in determining one’s image. We aren’t black. We aren’t white. We aren’t anything that has to do with color. We aren’t meant to put ourselves in a tiny box labeled Caucasian or Hispanic or African American. Those labels should have no place in a society. They only serve to divide and brainwash us to view ourselves and others based on those labels. We all have the same inherent label and image. Once people can come to grips with that reality, the better we’ll be in treating and viewing others how they should be.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

Enough with Unite the Right. Enough with KKK and White Supremacy. Enough with Black Lives Matter and Black Power. Can’t we all see that this is all self defeating? Can’t we see that all this race talk is further making race a problem? We need to wake up America! There is no such thing as Black and White. There are only people. We are all the same race. We are all image bearers of the One that created us. You know how conflicts arise? Pride and jealousy over differences in people. Sin! It’s people developing images for themselves and others that are so distant from who we were created to be. We are all different. And that is good. Maybe a better way to phrase it is, we’re all unique and that’s how we’ve been designed.

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to planet earth to destroy this social phenomenon of false imagery and discrimination. He came to unite His creation based on who He is, not based on our differences. We are created with differences, not to mistreat and label others, but so we will learn to be in community and use our skills to benefit humankind. Faith in Christ, unites. Faith in Christ destroys walls. Faith in Christ opens our eyes to see beyond physical appearance. Faith in Christ helps us to know who we really are and were always meant to be. Lets have a few less protests and a lot more proclaiming the love of Jesus. Lets forget about resisting the national anthem and focus on a revival of hearts on fire for Jesus Christ and His mission.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 (NIV) [my emphasis]

America is missing the point about Charlottesville

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I have heard a lot the last several days about Donald Trump, neo-Nazis, alt-right, alt-left, and Black lives matter. None of them are the big problem behind what happened. The news has been full of finger-pointing, blaming, and dividing rhetoric. None of that will bring healing and unity in the wake of this tragedy.

The problem is we fought a physical war over 150 years ago, to bring an end to confederate ideals that destroyed human dignity, but we didn’t offer a solution to the much greater need of a broken human nature. The problem is that we marched for civil rights over 60 years ago but still didn’t address the broken human nature that led to the formation of the violent KKK and black panther groups. The problem is that we banned to disgraceful institution of segregation but we didn’t lay the ground work to actually unite a people.

The human nature is broken. Humanity is fallen. Humanity needs saving. That’s not a new thing. It’s been that way since the garden. Charlottesville is a manifestation of humanities brokenness. Donald Trump is not dividing our nation. Neo-Nazis are not dividing our nation. Black lives matter is not dividing our nation. Our broken, sinful nature is dividing our nation. It’s a shared responsibility. It’s not just the brokenness of the protesters in Charlottesville. It’s the brokenness of you and me who refuse to speak the truth to everyone we meet and know. It’s the brokenness of every human who lives a life apart from Jesus Christ. It’s the brokenness of everyone who is meeting hate with more hate. It’s the brokenness of every person who would not wash the feet of their enemy like Jesus did but would rather publicly defame, ridicule, and verbally terrorize those who believe differently than them.

Nothing about what happened in Charlottesville was good. No matter the side you look at. Nothing. Let’s stop wasting time pointing fingers and start spreading the saving message of Jesus Christ who is the ONLY hope for our nation. He is the only one that can heal our human nature. He is the only one that can break apart the ideologies that promote any race because we are all God’s creation. No race is better or more important than another because we are all one in Jesus Christ. Love and truth are the remedies to our sickness. And that love and truth can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Jesus went to the cross out of love for all of those neo-Nazis. He went to the cross for every slave owner in world history. He went to the cross for Donald Trump. He went to the cross for you. He went to the cross for me. He went to the cross for the Black lives matter protesters. Alt-right or Alt-left, Jesus died for all them both. Marches don’t heal us. Protests don’t heal us. The media can’t heal us. Presidents can’t heal us. Only Jesus can do that. Only coming to the cross of Christ with our brokenness can heal us.

We have the words of healing and of hope. Let’s go spread the message!

Love and peace to you brothers and sisters.

Anti-Trump Protesters Are Making Him Look a Whole Lot Better

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I’ll keep this short and to the point. No matter the words that Trump spoke during his campaign that made him out to be a divisive and crude candidate, those words are now being overshadowed but an angry hate-filled mob. Perhaps one of the best things that could’ve happened to help his image was to have many of those who don’t support him and the election put on a vulgar display as many of them have done since Election Day. Don’t get me wrong, the only thing that will completely erase his shady past will be if his actions now as a President, husband, and father reflect a humble and repentant heart with a desire to serve the best interests of this nation.

His opponents say that he will tear this nation apart. So what do many of them do? They lead march after march and paint their foreheads with labels like, “not my president” and smash windows and vandalize buildings. All of these protests serve one purpose: they breed division. They’ve even gone so far as to call upon our electoral college to ignore the popular votes on their states. Are you kidding me? I am not a fan of Trump’s character which is the biggest reason I didn’t vote for him,  but every bit of hate speech spoken by his opponents makes them look a whole lot worse. Some people continue to say how much they fear they have with a Trump presidency yet it’s been Trump supporters who have been beaten on the streets.

This post is by no means meant to prop up Donald Trump or make him out to be a stand-up guy. Only time will reveal his current character and ability to be our President. But I would just plead with my fellow countrymen who are causing controversies and division, striking fear, and spreading vile speech on social media and in the streets to stop and take a good long look at what they are doing and saying. They say they want a nation of inclusion and peace yet they are doing things to create the exact opposite atmosphere. I am a huge fan and advocate for the democratic process and free speech but the Anti-Trump movement has been the epitome of hypocrisy. Want inclusion? Be inclusive. Want peace and unity in our nation? Be unified. Fear an administration that is discriminatory? Don’t discriminate. After all, its not our president who sets the cultural and ethical patterns of society; It’s society itself.

Let’s be the example of love, unity, peace, kindness, and goodness that we want to see in our leadership.

No Shocker Here!

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I’m going to take a break from my usual posts and address…you guessed it…the elections. Before you click off this post (because you are so sick of election stuff) just know that I am not pushing a party agenda or talking trash in any way. This is meant to calm the common rhetoric we’ve seen since Tuesday. I say it’s common because there are always protests following elections and in some cases, states try to leave the union (like Texas four years ago). So as an American Government teacher, I wanted to provide some information that may just calm some people down.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong about my predictions for election night, but I was not surprised. I’ve been telling my students for nearly two years that the national political trend predicts a Republican candidate as President. A look back through election results dating back to 1968 shows that the results from 2016 are right on schedule. No political party has dominated our government for an extended amount of time since 1968. When a party controls either branch of government for a long amount of time, that is known as a party era. One has not existed since the Democratic Era between 1932 and 1968 where Eisenhower was the only deviant from the party. Prior to that era, the Republicans controlled the Executive from 1860-1932 with only a few Democratic presidents in between.

While there have been 6 Republican presidents compared to 3 Democrats since 1968, the time difference is not so big. Republican presidents have controlled the white house for 28 years and Democrats for 20. More importantly to note, most of the time Congress, as a whole or at least one chamber,  is controlled by the opposing party so those presidents are at a political stand still for a portion of their term(s).

-1968-1976 Nixon (R) and Ford (R)

-1976-1980 Carter (D)

-1980-1992 Reagan (R) and Bush Sr. (R)

-1992-2000 Clinton (D)

-2000-2008 Bush Jr. (R)

-2008-2016 Obama (D)

-2016-? Trump (R)

A lot of factors play in to this phenomenon: One, overall our nation is fickle in their political support. Popular and political culture changes with the seasons. Two, party loyalty is stronger than ever. Those who regard themselves as Republican or Democrat truly bleed red or blue and are becoming even more polarized. Three, there is an ever growing number of independent voters whose votes are up for grabs each election. Four, there are more swing states (ones who could vote either party) since 1968 than in prior decades.

While the election results may be a surprise to some, the current power switch is nothing new. More than likely the trends will continue and no single party will run our nation for a long amount of time. Most importantly, its all over and we can move on past the bickering and mud-slinging towards unity. Love him or hate him, Trump is our president and he is probably the least partisan one this nation has ever had. Only time will tell if that is good for us or not.

I call on my Christian brothers and sisters to continue in spreading love and encouragement. No matter our leader, our mission has not changed. We are, and always will be, about our Father’s business. Let’s help to bind wounds and stand for truth. The sun will continue to rise and the seasons will come and go as they always have until that glorious day that our Savior calls us home. No matter what color people think they bleed, Jesus Christ bled and died for us and that is what matters most. We need to speak life and hope and break down political, race, and gender lines that only serve to hinder and divide us.

Pray hard and love much!