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One Tax Free Notion under God

Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax[b] to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him. – Mark 12:13-17

-Pastor Jim

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Sunday School Party Animals

My Texan Sunday School teacher was a Democrat who managed to work the Party’s platform into of every lesson to captive Baptist seminarians. Democrats ruled Texas for 100 years, voting last for Jimmy Carter in 1976. After all, “Jesus rode into Jerusalem, not on an elephant, but a donkey!” Another ancient and frequent visitor was an old geezer member of the “Temperance Movement,” spouting the evils of any alcohol. Looking back, I wish I would have listened more to the geezer but found a another Sunday class. You may say, “Jim, God could still use that teacher.” Yes, God even used the jawbone of an ass to slay the Philistines. Ergo, I know, Samson was a proto-Democrat? Don’t get me started.

How Texas Voted

I arrived in seminary in January of 1981, with the Democrats stinging from their defeat to Ronald Reagan. As I consider separation of church and state, I remember my old teacher and his taking liberty to mold young seminarians in the ideal that God was a Southern Democrat.

Republicans and Democrats need not worship together like the feuding Hatfields and the McCoys. Let us beat our political swords into bowls to catch the new rain of God’s Spirit to a thirsty world. In this we can find common ground.

-Pastor Jim

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The Pastor and the Floozy

“The issue facing us is not the left versus the right but the crisis of intolerance.”-Pastor Vincent Woolsey

Tolerance … “The pastor’s wife is a bar-fly who frequents a bar. We don’t want our church money going to a floozy … ”

So, the rumors wafted about the local teetotaling Wesleyan Methodist pastor’s wife and family, friends of mine. Visiting in their home, they came clean to me. Their only beautiful son, a toddler, had serious medical problems. As they couldn’t afford healthcare on his pastor’s chicken feed salary alone, they agreed she would take a job waiting tables at night in a Phoenix restaurant that happened to serve alcohol. To this day I wonder if some of those very church members dined in that restaurant? I, too, am a floozy for Christ .

-Pastor Jim

Saloon Girl

Emperor Worship

St. Peter addressed Simon Magus who attempted to convert the laying on of hands into a “for profit” (first mistyped “for prophet”, which would fit) enterprise:

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” – Acts 8:20-23

Three false doctrines bow before the dais of emperor worship: 1. God wants you to be wealthy, 2. The wealthy politician is truly blessed by God, 3. The politician is god. Prosperity preachers serve as priests at this altar dispensing sacraments of “dough” and the “fruit of the wallet.”

The first Beatitude of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount did not teach, “Blessed are the winners, for they shall never hang with losers.” Rather Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3).

Be Blessed,

-Pastor Jim

Bulldozers for Christ

Like a Good Neighbor. There was a large white middle class church out of parking in a booming Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Older small homes of minorities landlocked the church. The church pastor and board became possessed with a plan: eliminate the houses around the church to expand the blacktop. So the plan was launched to bulldoze the homes of the Hispanic neighbors and replace them with good, Christian pavement, all the while singing, “We are Standing on Holy Ground.” “Surely, those people know we are expanding the Kingdom of God.” Meanwhile, the historic memory of the departed neighbors was buried under a fresh grave vault of hot asphalt. “Blessed are the parking attendants, for they shall be garbed in florescent green.” How was this church a neighbor to its community? [Based on at true story. Stock bulldozer image and not actual home involved.]

Sample Church Parking

Bulldozers for Christ – “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”! The church’s bulldozers were legal and financial before the real thing arrived. For some church leaders I’ve known, “bulldozer” would be an improvement.

Don’t ask me which church this was lest they shun me again from their fabulous annual “All Church Parking Lot Potluck and Hymn Sing.”

-Pastor Jim

Exotic Masks

The Pandemic is so bad ... that strip clubs are charging extra to remove face masks.

Mask Police

Retailers and their employees are finding themselves playing the uncomfortable role of mask police. The increase in coronavirus cases is prompting concern over how to protect both customers and workers in crowded stores from infecting each other.

The COVID-19 pandemic sets “WIIFME” (“What’s In It for Me?”) against the “W.H.O. , Me”?

“I forgot my mask and need an item from Walmart or Home Depot; I’ll pop in. No big deal.”

“I’ll ride as one of 250,000 bikers to Sturgis with no mask in sight. Got to express my freedom.”

The strength of US Capitalism may blister our Achilles heel when faced with a pandemic as the economic theory stands on the “the individuals acting in their own self interest” :

Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, explains that the best economic benefit for all can usually be accomplished when individuals act in their self-interest. His explanation of the Invisible Hand reveals that when dozens or even thousands act in their own self-interest, goods and services are created that benefit consumers and producers.

The saddest verse in the Bible captures what’s behind the masks –In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 17:6.

You may ask, “Pastor Jim, are you against Capitalism?” No, I’m not against Capitalism just in favor of a Service Based Capitalism that includes others at the table, as our Lord said, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Let us reflect on the “W.H.O., Me?” and consider how we can consider the economic needs of other. This will seem foreign to us as we have learned best way we can help another is to help ourselves first. Small steps forward may be to buy N95 masks for our neighbor rather than curse those who don’t read the signs.

Pastor Jim