Chris Ramsey’s Blog

14 Nov 2018

Jesus notices the least and reaches out to them!

By |2018-11-14T20:12:46+00:00November 14th, 2018|General|0 Comments

THE QUESTION IS, “DO WE GET IT?”

A LOOK AT THE MAN BORN BLIND IN JOHN 9

In John 9 we read about the man who was born blind with verse one stating that Jesus “saw” this man. I’m interpreting this basic observation to mean that Jesus notices “everyone,” but especially the least. The least, who have had a very hard life, through no fault of their own.

Jesus goes on to clarify (somewhat) that his being born blind was neither his parents nor his fault. He seems to be stating a startling truth about so many of our lives: He saying something like, “Hey guys (to his disciples), I don’t like the fact that this man was born blind any more than you do. But as long there are folks in such desperate need like this, well then, I want you to know, that I do “care,” and I want you to “care”, also. And I don’t want you to question who’s to blame.

“No, but here’s my instructions to you: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4)

Well, as the story progresses, we notice that Jesus initiates his next move—“spitting on the ground, making some mud with the saliva, and putting it on the man’s eyes.” Then he tells him to go “wash in the pool of Siloam.”

The man does what Jesus says, and then he received his sight!

Whoa! Amazing! Beautiful! An absolute miracle!

But then we see that this “act” stirs all kinds of controversy. First, we see that the blind man’s “neighbors” had a difficult time comprehending how such “a miracle” could have taken place. Some recognized him as the “ same man who used to sit and beg.” But others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

And then we see the answer that the man gives to all his neighbors: “Hey guys, it’s me, it really is. Believe me.”

He then told them who, what, where, and how his blindness was cured.

Second, then it seems the neighbors (13) brought this man to the Pharisees to get their ‘take” on this unusual event. When some of the Pharisees heard that this man’s eyes were opened on the Sabbath, they immediately dismissed the possibility of this “man” being from God. But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” (16b)

Then the Jews turned to the man’s parents and questioned them. And his parents confirmed that this man was indeed their son, who had been born blind, but as far as “how he received his sight” we do not know.

Then the Jews turned to “the man” himself once again. In essence, they were saying, “Well sir, we’re going to give you another chance. We want you to declare that it was God who healed your blindness…and not this man (Jesus). For we know beyond a shadow of a doubt this man is a sinner.”

To this the formerly blind beggar responds, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (25)

And then, more of the same questions and accusations, “You are this fellows’ disciple!” And then they sort of imply—“Ok, we admit it, we can see that you can see, now! But that does not mean that you can see because of what this “Jesus” told you to do.”

And then we see that the man is not shy about restating his views on the whole event. Indeed, he gives them a lecture. He says in essence: “Wow! I can’t believe you guys. This guy (Jesus) opens my eyes, which is unprecedented, and yet you are not even willing to give this Jesus a hearing or be “open” to the possibility —that he is from God!”

And the Pharisees response: “What? Why you filthy little beggar! You… who were steeped in sin at birth-“How dare you lecture us!” And they “threw him out.”

So where was Jesus during this interrogation process? He must have not been far away. For when he heard that “they” had thrown him out he went to find him. It seems this Jesus was concerned about how this formerly blind man had “fared” under the harsh grilling and insults of the religious establishment.

And the first thing he asks is, “Do you believe in the Son of man?”

The man responds by saying, “Who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him.” In other words, “Hey, if you have any words of wisdom for me, hey, I’m all ears!”

Jesus responds: “You have now seen him; in fact he is the one speaking with you.”

And how does the formerly blind beggar respond? He proclaims, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.

This man “gets it!” He responds to Jesus only as one ought to respond to God. He’s saying, “I don’t care what anyone else says or believes. All I know is that this man (Jesus) has shown me how much that he cares about me, and others like me. So I’m definitely willing to listen to what he has to say. I mean, I’d be “dumb” not to.”

And then Jesus summarizes what his actions are meant to do—and it’s rather eye-opening! (Pun intended!) He says he’s come into this world for judgement, to expose things for how they really are.

Jesus seems to be saying, “One of my purposes for my actions is to show those who feel left out, even forsaken, that I absolutely care about them and desire to comfort and heal them. But there’s also something that I ask of them in return… and that is to receive their allegiance, their willingness to follow me whatever the cost. “

And to those who feel they just naturally “see” and understand so much of God’s heart and ways he says, “You are the ones who are becoming truly blind, to all “true” understanding of God’s heart and ways.”

And what was the message behind Jesus’ stern words of warning. It was fact that they had closed off their hearts and minds to God’s care for the least…which ought to have been at the top of these “religious folks” list as well.

Next we are shown plainly that these Pharisees did not “get it.” For we see that couldn’t stop themselves from asking Jesus, “What? Are we blind too?” In modern day language: “O come on, Jesus, you can’t be including us in the category of the blind–of the unbelieving, of the uncaring? After all, we’re God’s people. You can’t be serious!”

To which Jesus calmly, but resolutely responds: “If you were in the shoes of this “blind beggar” (one of the least), well then, I wouldn’t hold you as responsible for your heart and actions. But it is by your own testimony that you yourselves say, “Hey, we love God. And don’t you know that we’ve been following him as strictly as we know how. I mean, we’re the righteous ones, right? I mean, we know for sure that we can’t be that far “off track.”

To which Jesus counters with: “Since you feel that you couldn’t possibly be “off-track,” well then, I can’t really help you… for you won’t admit your own sins and shortcomings.”

And this is where verse 39 confirms Jesus’ over-all intentions of his message and actions. He says, “For judgement I have come into this world.”

And what does this mean in this context? He’s saying, “Listen up everyone! I’ve come to reveal to you—to everyone—all you “religious folks (which can be a good thing!) and all you “not-so–religious folks” (which can be a good thing!) that I am the one who cares about the ones that so few care about or even notice.

“But even more importantly, I’ve come to give you myself, my very being, my very life, that you may see—clearly–the reason that I have come. And that is to ATONE for all of your sins—and that includes everyone! I’ve come to offer everyone a way out of feeling so lost, so hungry for the truth that constantly eludes you all. And it starts with acknowledging our own shortcomings. It starts with the admission that we are all responsible for the “state” we find ourselves in.

And this is why Jesus is the one and only spiritual leader who truly “gets it” totally right! Maybe that’s why he and so many of this followers are accused of being so narrow-minded. I mean, he tells us, that he is “the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

In closing, I’d like everyone to ponder this quote by the late Dallas Willard, a well-respected theologian and philosopher: “If there was a better way, then Jesus would be the first one to tell you to take it. And if you don’t believe that, then what you’re really saying is that you don’t have faith in him because Jesus would tell you to believe a lie.”

The only question left, “Do we “get it?”

Take care, Chris.

Be sure to Join the Jesus In The Least Facebook Group!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/JesusInTheLeast

Order ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least’ at WestBow

Order ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least’ at Amazon

14 Nov 2018

CCDA Celebrates 30 Years!

By |2018-11-14T20:12:53+00:00November 14th, 2018|General|0 Comments

HONORS JOHN AND VERA MAE PERKINS!

I was blessed to attend the 30th annual conference and celebration of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) here in Chicago this past Nov. 1-3, 2018.

It was a wonderful gathering of like-minded souls from all over the country—folks that have been called by God to live and serve amongst the poor in our inner-cities across America.

It was also a time to honor John and Vera Mae Perkins and their life’s work of racial reconciliation and leadership to Christians across this country for over five decades.

John had some challenging words for us all to ponder and wrestle with. He boldly shared that maybe we’ve “all” been asking the wrong questions…questions such as “Do Black Lives Matter?”

His answer to this question revealed his frustration with this current discussion in our society. “Of course, black lives matter!” he would have said. “All lives matter!” He went on to emphasize that we (especially those of us who call ourselves serious believers) ought to be embodying the truth of the gospel that we truly are “One Blood.” (Gal. 3:28-29) In other words, we all (black, white, brown, whatever) need to modeling before a broken and fallen world what “real” love and acceptance of each other looks like.

But of course we can not do this without Christ’s love and life living and flowing through us. And we also need to be Spirit-led and empowered by the Spirit. But if we allow these God “actions” to take place in our lives, then we will able to be used to “make Him known.”

And this is what my friend, John Perkins, would say “It’s all about!” How about you? How about me?

That is the question we ought to be asking ourselves—-“Are we making Christ known?”

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to John and Vera Mae for loving and serving so many throughout their lives. May Jesus bless and honor and keep them close to HIM till their final breath.

And I was also blessed to say Hi to John’s “sidekick”, good friend, and co-laborer, and co-founder of CCDA —Wayne Gordon and his wife, Ann , who have been serving Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood for more than 30 years. They, too, have been such an example of “modeling” Christ’s love and compassion and hope for those growing up in poverty. May Jesus continue to bless Wayne and Ann and their hearts for everyone who’s left out and forgotten in our American society.

Take care, Chris.

Be sure to Join the Jesus In The Least Facebook Group!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/JesusInTheLeast

Order ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least’ at WestBow

Order ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least’ at Amazon

28 Oct 2018

Who wants to be a rock star?

By |2018-10-28T09:17:42+00:00October 28th, 2018|General|0 Comments

Ah, Yeah, I guess that would be me!

I was just walking into our Food Pantry when “Granny Ira” greeted me with “Hey, Chris, you’re my rock star. Now I understand you a lot better.”

I was taken a back for a moment, but then I smiled and said, “Well, thanks, that means a lot to me.”

Now what was that all about? It was simply Granny’s way of sharing with me that she had been reading my book and she had recently finished a segment entitled, “The Rock Concert.”

And now I invite you to check this short piece written so long ago…. but still applies to how I try to view and carry out my work even to this day.

The Rock Concert

I always wanted to be rock star. I grew up (like so many my age) loving the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Led Zeppelin. I was the kind of guy who would jump around and lip sync in front of the mirror. (I still do it now and then.)

Well, I’d just like to you to know that I finally made it. I’ve just become a rock star of a different kind. I now realize that our dinner guest meals are a type of performance.

Before each dinner guest time, we’re busy setting up tables and chairs, bringing out food, utensils, bowls, plates, getting the drinks ready, cutting up bread, looking for back-up food. It’s like we’re setting up for a concert. Everything needs to be in place and ready for when we come out on stage.

Once everything is mostly set-up, we usually take a break and eat lunch ourselves. I try to relax a bit, read the paper, offer a few prayers. This is my way of preparing for the “concert” to come.

When I walk out of my office to oversee the final phases of our set-up I feel a little nervous tension. I know that in about a half-hour’s time we’ll be opening up the doors, and there will be about 200 hungry people—my fans!—filing in, expecting a decent meal.

At present, a majority of the food is cooked at our JPUSA community site (aka the Friendly Towers) about three blocks away. One of our drivers must transport the food to our CCO serving location. We at CCO are also heating up what I call our “back-up” food.

Meanwhile, whatever volunteers God has assembled on any given day are finishing up the cutting of the bread, putting out margarine on the tables, making the drinks, and doing any necessary clean-up. (Our CCO women and children, those who stay at our shelter, have just finished their lunch.)

When the food arrives we open the doors so folks can start making their way in. We spread the food out on our serving tables, and place each volunteer behind the food item they will be serving. The line begins to form, and quickly curls throughout our entire dining area.

When everything is set I ask for everyone’s attention so that I can read a verse or two, and then offer about a one-minute sermonette. Many times I introduce our dinner guests to the volunteer church group (if there is one), and encourage them to talk to each other. I finish with a brief prayer asking for strength and guidance for everyone, as well as giving thanks to God for the food he has provided.

Now the curtain has drawn, and the show is ready to begin. Our guests gather their trays and begin working their way down the serving line ending at our drink table. From then on, I’m almost constantly on the move— prancing around on my stage.

I’m talking and joking with my friends. I’m getting hygiene kits for needy individuals. I’m checking our “back-up” food in the kitchen. I’m making sure everything is “flowing well” on our serving line.

I might be checking for some clothes in our back free store. Or I might have to “settle down” a couple of guys who are threatening each other. (If anyone gets too out of control they are asked to leave. By God’s grace, most do willingly, but some have to be escorted. Many times the guests who are near-by will assist me if the particular situation warrants their intervention.)

Or I might be offering a tip to any one of our volunteers on how to serve in the most efficient manner. I’m like a coach who is trying to get the most out of his team.

Our afternoon soup-kitchen’s hours are 1:30PM-3:00PM. When it is nearing closing time, I begin directing the clean-up process. The tables are cleared, wiped off, broken down and stacked. The chairs are stacked and pushed along the wall. The pans are collected and taken to the dish room. The garbage is “escorted” to the dumpsters. The f loors are swept and mopped.

And in the midst of all this, our last guests—some of my most adoring fans—are slowly making their way out the door. They might be talking with our volunteers or joking with their friends. They might be waiting to ask me for an extra sandwich or two to take with them.

When our final guest has exited, our “show” is done, and I can begin to unwind. Now I haven’t been asked for any autographs, but I have been thanked for putting on a pretty good show quite often.

To God be the glory! And to his supporting cast that he assembles each and every show-time.

Chris.

Be sure to Join the Jesus In The Least Facebook Group!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/JesusInTheLeast

Order ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least’ at WestBow

Order ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least’ at Amazon

25 Sep 2018

Serving Warsaw’s homeless…

By |2018-09-25T14:55:35+00:00September 25th, 2018|General|0 Comments

2 Non-profits Do a Great Job!

I’m visiting my son, Jonathan, and his wife, Ola, and their daughter Frania in Warsaw, Poland… and we’re having a great time.

And during our visit I had heard that there was this group called “Warsaw Seva” that served a hot, vegetarian meal to the homeless in the main plaza in central downtown Warsaw, right below the Palace of Culture, each and every Sunday afternoon, so I was interested in observing and volunteering where I could. So I headed on downtown, a little earlier than the serving time began and ran into a few folks who were friendly and talkative.

First, I ran into Barbara and Barjena.

Barbara was quick to explain her view of the whole homeless situation in Warsaw. “They come from all over Poland,” she said. “When you’re out of work and you have no family to help you, it’s very hard.”

I then asked where they sleep at night? “Oh, sometimes we sleep under the Palace of Culture… sometimes in the park, ” she said. And then I asked if the police ever demanded that they “move on?”

She replied, “Sometimes they do… and sometimes they don’t.”

A little while later I ran into Mark and Wanda. They told me that they were from Moldova, and that they had been in Warsaw for the last 2 weeks looking for work. But they had had no such luck. And they said they were headed back to their homeland the next day. They were disappointed, but not discouraged. I then asked them if they had a faith in God. “Oh yes, God helps us all the time,” she said.

A while later, I noticed the Warsaw Seva folks were setting up shop. And I also observed the long line of “hungry” folks beginning to form, and waiting patiently until the food was ready to be served.

I went over to ask the “head server” if there was any way to volunteer my services. He quickly responded, “You want to help? Follow me. I will show what to do.”

He then brought me over to where “the drinks” were being distributed. He then filled a pitcher of “gatorade” and grabbed a small stack of paper cups, and handed them to me. “Now, you just go down the line and give anyone who wants a drink a cupful,” he said. And so I was off and running (walking), eager to play a small part in their service to the homeless. Though I don’t know hardly any Polish, I was warmly received by most folks.

And then just as Warsaw Seva folks were winding down, another group, entitled “Smile Warsaw” began to set up “shop” about 50 yards away from where Warsaw Seva had been serving. Smile Warsaw, I soon learned, was a group of ex-pats from so many different countries, religions, and worldviews. The one thing that bound them together was a united sense of the need for caring for those less fortunate.

This group was able to offer more services such as free clothing, free haircuts, a hot meal, minor medical services, and even someone to “cut nails.” The way I would describe these folks and their “gifts” to the homeless would be that… “These folks really just loved “loving on people.”

So I had a great time mingling and talking (where I could!) and observing both of these groups reaching out to Warsaw’s homeless in very simple, but practical ways.

Toward the end of my time, I ran into Gregory, who didn’t want his picture to be taken. We talked for a bit, when I inquired if he had ever “tried” God out?

He looked at me with a wry smile and said, “I don’t want to try sex with men, and I don’t want to try God.” He went on to explain that “God” is just not for him. He said his mother was a believer and a few of his friends but that “God” is not for me.”

I told him that I would pray for him. And he smiled, once again, and said, “If you want to pray for me, you can. Who knows, maybe sometime in the future “God” will be for me.”

Chris.

Be sure to Join the Jesus In The Least Facebook Group!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/JesusInTheLeast

Order ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least’ at WestBow

Order ‘Discovering Jesus in the Least’ at Amazon