Monday, May 23, 2011

The “homeless” guy on the corner

I’m told that his name is Chris. He has been on a corner near our house for several years. He moves to a different one once in a while. He’s been on my prayer list for a year and a half. I pray for healing of his mind and that he would come to know Jesus.

Yesterday I was on a walk to the grocery store and saw him on his regular corner. I decided I would try to talk to him. I asked him how it was going and he said not good. I asked what and he said no one was stopping and giving to him. He also said he had a horrible headache.

I decided I would get him something to drink in the store. Then I decided I would get him a sandwich too. On my way back home I asked him if he wanted something to eat and drink. He said he would take it and then told me that he couldn’t eat – his stomach upset from the headache. I said he should try to drink something but he said he couldn’t. I suggested maybe he could try a little sip but he said no. He then told me that the only thing that would help is if he got an IV from the doctor and that it cost $20.00 and he didn’t have that.

I talked to him a little more. I told him I was sorry for his condition. As I walked away I saw him drop the sack of food and drink in a bush. He then went back to his corner.

I wondered after if the “doctor” was a drug dealer? I know that when going through withdrawal, food and drink are far from your mind. Maybe that is part of his problem.

I now have more to think about as I pray for him. I’m glad that I didn’t give him money. He needs more that I can give to him. He needs Jesus.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Radical or Not...?

I recently watched a series called Radical by David Platt. There is a book by the same name. While I agree with much of what was said in the series, I do think that his conclusions could cause false guilt for those who don't have a broad understanding of Scripture.

To sum up what the series was about: we are rich and should give most of what we have to the poor. His main text for the series is Mark 10: 17-31 - the story of the rich young ruler.

I hesitate to criticize his message because for the most part, the American church is very materialistic. I wouldn't want my comments to be an excuse for the baby to be thrown out with the bath water.

What I write here will not be an exhaustive review of the series and I will not cover all the good and bad things I see in it. Just a few comments of what's foremost in my mind.

What I agree with: yes we in America have a lot and for the most part are materialistic. Me too!

What I disliked most: taking various Scripture passages and either reading too much into them or taking huge leaps from them. Here is an example: he cites passages from the Old Testament showing that God's blessings made many rich. He then shows New Testament passages where possessions were used to help the poor. He then leaps to make the case that the difference is that in the OT God used the lavish blessing of His people to draw others to Himself and in the NT He used the sacrifice of His people to bless and draw others to Himself. Therefore it is now wrong to have riches. I don't accept that. Both examples are true but not exclusive to their times or 180 degrees opposite.

Early in the series we were encouraged to not try to get off the hook by comparing ourselves to others. I don't have as much as someone else; I give more than someone else, etc. Then he uses the comparison of us rich Americans compared to all the poor around the world. His conclusion is we are the rich who should probably sell most of what we have and give it to the poor.

He makes a claim from the story of the rich young ruler that riches cause us to become self-confident, self-sufficient and self-content. Remember, he reminds us, everyone of us is rich. While riches may do this, it’s a leap to say they always do.

In one place he gives a hypothetical: someone makes 10 million dollars and gives away 9 million. Platt says that would not be extravagant giving. Who says? The problem is that he has come to the false conclusion that in New Testament times it is impossible for God to bless someone with excess for pure pleasure. While I can’t imagine having 10 or 1 million dollars, I do know what it is like to have 25 dollars in my pocket. That is my allowance each week. I can do whatever I want with it. Or maybe I should feel guilty for that excess and give it to someone else.

Another thing I really disliked was the assertion that if we question (what is wrong with having stuff for example) it shows a bad heart. I disagree. We may have a bad heart but if we are being asked to do something radically opposed to what we are doing now then thoughtful wrestling through questions is appropriate.

In his final message he gives the challenge for us to look at what we have and identify if it is a necessity or a luxury. Assumed is that everything beyond food, clothing and shelter is not necessary. We should then consider selling all of the extra and giving it the poor. Then we should put a cap on our spending; everything beyond necessities is given to the poor.

While all of this self-examination is good I think his conclusion as applied to everyone is in error and dangerous. Dangerous for those who don't have a broad view of Scripture and prone to living under guilt.

So here are some of my luxuries: the computer I write this on, Internet access, coffee, the flowers I planted in the yard, perfume, my recliner, iPod, books, magazines, tools, electric blanket, my smoker, food above beans and rice, a gold wedding ring and muck more. I don’t have the money for big time expensive hobbies, a retirement account, various insurance plans, a fancy car, spacious house, or expensive dinners but I can sure be jealous of those who do.

I really wish Platt's challenge would have finished differently as we really need the heart of what he is getting at. Many people will reject it outright and not progress farther than they are now. Many with a good understanding of Scripture will see his stretched conclusions and reject his whole message. That's too bad. The heart of what he is getting at is good but some of his conclusions are beyond what Scripture calls all of us to.

The last thing is that I think there are many other areas where Jesus calls us to radical obedience that Platt neglects, at least in this series. With the rich young ruler, the issue was his heart and his love of possessions. The heart issue Jesus hits others with may be completely different. For many people it's nothing to give away money but they may have a problem with loving the admiration of people. Jesus may call them to take a position on an issue that will cause people to hate them. What matters is that we do what Jesus says and he says a lot more than caring for the poor. We have to be careful that our pet project or calling doesn't become the criteria we judge others by.

An issue dear to my heart is abortion. I could apply many of Platt's arguments to being a prolife activist. How can the church and the people in it barely conjure a yawn when millions of babies are slaughtered every year? That is my example of somewhere we could be radical and I think it is right up there with concern for the poor. At least the poor are alive and have the opportunity to improve their life.

Well those are my basic thoughts. Yes, I will spend time asking God if there is more I should give as David Platt suggests. That is always good. But I will not be motivated by guilt or biblical gymnastics and I will not be afraid to question.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ultimate (bad) Breakfast Platter

I stopped at Burger King yesterday for a cup of coffee (and nothing else). I was intrigued by their breakfast menu especially the Ultimate Breakfast Platter. It is the kind of breakfast I loved before I changed eating habits; never mind that I was usually lethargic after.

I pulled out my IPod and opened a nutrition app. I soon found out that this breakfast wonder has 1310 calories. Bad unless you are going to hardly eat anything the rest of the day. The real damage comes from fat, sodium and cholesterol.

Here is the bad news based on a 2000 calorie diet: 72 grams of fat; 65 is the max.  455 mg of cholesterol; 300 is the max. 2490 mg of sodium; 2400 is the max although the FDA is now recommending 1500. So the Ultimate is not a very good breakfast choice.

Breakfast is a very important meal and one that should not be skipped. It also shouldn’t be one that starts the day off bad nutrition wise.

Here is a link to other posts about my weight loss journey.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Men's Retreat - 2

My view this morning
“It is easy to find good teaching on how a man should live but it is hard to find a man who is living it”. That was a comment by one of the young guys at the retreat. Ouch!

But how true; I see it in myself. I know what the right thing to do is in many areas but my life doesn’t match my knowledge. Then there is the myriad of areas where I am clueless.

I then wondered if the guy he is looking for even exists. Is there a guy at church or out there anywhere else who has it all together? Now there are plenty who would proclaim so. There was a time in my life when I would have thought so for me.

Or is the lesson somewhere deeper? If the perfect, all together guy doesn’t exist then maybe we need something else.

Some years ago we went to a church with a near perfect pastor with a near perfect family. If they had any flaws, they must have been miniscule – at least that is what they portrayed. The message sent to the rest of us was if we were not like them it was because we didn’t really love the Lord Jesus or maybe we didn’t take Scripture seriously.

As you might guess, it didn’t take a lot of probing to see what was really there. The pastor surrounded himself with brown-nosed yes men. Disagreement of substance was not tolerated. If you felt different then you probably better find a different church.

An almost comedic example of the charade was what happened with the pastor’s daughter who married the youth pastor and then was divorced. Oh, I should probably mention that the pastor’s family was all employed by the church including son-in-laws. Anyway, a divorce might mar the near perfect illusion this pastor enjoyed. The daughter’s marriage was annulled and they went through remaining copies of the church directory and removed the page that had the daughter and ex-son-in-law. It was all as if it never happened. Some time later she married another guy and he too became a church employee.

So the perfect guy/mentor probably doesn’t exist. Maybe what we need to look for is a guy who knows how to get up after he falls. A guy who can be honest with the reality of his struggles. A guy who may have some areas together and we can learn a lot from him there. A guy who presses on when life gets tough. A guy who works hard to keep his marriage together. A guy who knows how to go to work day after day when he doesn’t feel like it. A guy who will expose his failings so I can learn what not to do.

So what I need is a messed up guy like me. Not perfect or all together but drawing close to the one who is perfect. That is the guy who can help me. I will never be perfect or have it all together so I can identify with him. I can be honest with what is really going on in my life. I won’t have to fake it when I’m around him. He understands and helps me get up after I fall.

And maybe I can be that guy to someone else.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

2011 Men's Retreat - 1

A view to the south
What does it mean to be masculine? That was the question asked. The weekend will probe and reveal the answer.

What stood out to me last night was a point made that one way a boy shows a transition from boy to man is in service. He goes from being cared for and served by his mother to caring for, serving and protecting women.

I don't like to be served all that much but I sure don't like to serve, especially if it's inconvenient. If I can fit it into my schedule or routine I may.

So in that way I have not made that defined transition from boy to man and I'm 55. In that way I am stunted.

I get the point though and I get why. Having men like that will make a much better society.

May God help me be the man.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Things are not always what they appear to be. Sometimes our eyes deceive us.

I am amazed that I needed to lose 70 pounds. When I set out to lose weight I knew I needed to lose 50 and probably a few more than that. My problem was I didn’t know what a pound of fat looked like or all the places it was hiding in my body. Now I have a better idea.

I had become so used to being overweight that I couldn’t remember what it was like before. Now my vision is becoming a little clearer and my memory is coming back. I remember in my young twenties when I joined a gym. I wanted to lose about 15 pounds. I weighed about 155. Life sidetracked me and year by year that number grew. If I had lost that weight I would have been where I am now.

Even my wife has no memory of me not being overweight. When we got together I was at that point of needing to lose 15 pounds. For her, my present appearance is something she has never seen.

This week I was replacing some fence posts. As I picked up the 50 pound bags of cement I was reminded of the extra weight I was carrying around - all day and every day. How thankful I am to God for helping me get where I am today.

So appearances can deceive. There are many other areas of my life that may look good on the outside or where my vision has become dull over time. I am thankful that God keeps pulling me along and conforming me into his image.

Here is a Latin saying I aspire to: Esse quam videri. It means To be rather than to seem.  That's what I want in my life. I want to be the real thing and have clear vision of what I am - both good and bad.

Here is a link to other posts about my weight loss journey.


You Can't Outrun Your Mouth

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sharing Jesus at Work

I read this yesterday and thought it was very good.

Here are a few suggestions to help you proclaim Christ in your place of work:

Work in ways that show you're a competent employee. A poor employee doesn't have much of an opportunity to be a good witness.

Always act ethically. If you don't, please don't tell anyone you're a Christian, and certainly don't try to get them to be like you.

Relate with care, concern, and fairness to all customers and fellow employees. Be especially attentive to this matter if you're in management.

Be respectful of the right of fellow employees to their own beliefs. Respect begins with listening.

As opportunities for conversation arise, talk with ease about what your faith means to you. Don't let proclaiming Christ degenerate into "arguing about religion." Let your fellow workers know how your faith helps you.

From God's Man by Don Aycock

This fits too:
Preach the gospel wherever you go; when necessary, use words.
~Saint Francis of Assisi