Sunday, June 1, 2014
Monday, February 13, 2012
As I looked down on the doctor’s checkout form, in the doctor’s scrawl I saw, “Sinusitis” and on the line below that, “Obesity”. I’d only gone to see the doctor for what I thought was a sinus infection; but he’d thrown-in an additional diagnosis at no extra charge.
He wasn’t my normal doctor, but the ‘head’ of the group I use—my normal doctor wasn’t in or was booked or whatever. I was in pain, and I didn’t feel well; I wasn’t about to be picky. Besides, it was his name on the practice, that’s got to be good, right?
As soon as the doctor had confirmed my suspicions of the sinus infection I was ready to go; but he wasn’t ready to let me go. He transitioned—I didn’t know it was a transition at the time—with a perfectly normal ‘doctor question.’
“I see you list heart problems with both parents. Tell me about your Mom’s heart problem?”
So, I did. I quickly relayed an abbreviated version of my mother’s heart attack and the conscience of its cause.
“I see. What about your Dad?”
I’d too quickly become annoyed and hoped my answer showed it. “He’s dead.”
I feel he sensed by annoyance, but was not to be deterred. “What about his heart problem?”
I relayed an even more abbreviated version of my father’s heart problems, and my opinion on their cause—namely being a life-long, heavy smoker.
As I finished, his head was still bobbing an ‘I understand’ head-bob. In silence for nearly a full minute (How much is that in billable dollars?), his head continued to bob as we starred at each other. Perhaps he was waiting for me to finish or perhaps he was plotting a next step, or perhaps that was just his style.
He broke the silence, “With your family history, your age, and your weight; you need to really pay attention to your heart’s health.”
My glib, “What about my liver?” was not what he was looking for, and he cast me a disapproving scowl.
Without my knowledge or consent, the transition period ended. He deftly moved into the next topic of his—as yet unknown to me—diagnosis. “I’m also going to prescribe you a brochure.”
His look this time clearly expressed annoyance that I’d interrupted him. He continued as though I had said nothing at all. “It’s about a movie I’d would like for you to watch, it is widely available and you can even watch it for free on their website.”
Again, he continued undaunted by my unnecessary prolonging of the last “a” sound in ‘OK’. “It about a movie, a medical documentary really; it’s called Forks over Knives.”
He didn’t ask if I’d seen this instant cult classic, so when he took a breath, I volunteered that I had already seen it.
OK, I’ve already given you way too much back story, so let me summarize the rest.
The doctor would pull from the movie some plot point that highlighted the medical value and importance of this ‘special diet’.
In response, I’d share why I felt that the conclusions amounted to unsubstantiated leaps to blame or credit based only on food choices, and presented a misleading picture.
He’d offer another piece, and I’d counter.
We verbally sparred for several minutes until I finally stood up, allowing my body language to announce I was done.
It was later that I noticed he’d “diagnosed” me with obesity, and the next day when I realized what an important lesson he’d unknowingly given to me.
Now, already far into this post, the lesson—“Most evangelists suck at evangelizing!”
“What?!?” Would be a logical question of exasperation. It isn’t easy to see how food could be tied to evangelists. But…
The ‘special diet’ that doctor was espousing was a vegan diet. I realized that every vegan I’d ever met was either an evangelist or a zealot. I don’t get this feeling from vegetarians; it has only been in my encounters with vegans.
Over the years, I’d encountered many different types and styles of evangelism in an effort to ‘win people over’ to one Christian denomination or another. In general, the efforts didn’t appeal to me, but they didn’t really bother me either…their style just wasn’t for me.
But, in my life, there is a real and significant difference (beyond the purpose, of course) between the evangelists for religion and the food evangelists—I was, on some level, interested in (or at least not opposed to) the topic of religion. On the contrary, I was not only uninterested in a vegan lifestyle, but was opposed to it. I’ve not been annoyed by the evangelist committed to his view of how to save my soul, but was quickly tired of and angry with the person who was equally passionate about his view of how to save my life.
As this percolated around in my mind, I started comparing different eating lifestyles and my perception of how they lived out their choices and drawing comparison to different religions and how they live out their choices; and, of course, how each chooses to promote it…to evangelize.
Right up front, let’s say it. There are crazies in every category, so let’s just do what I do in real life—ignore them, don’t make eye contact and hope they go away. But to be fair, often times, these crazies (or zealots) genuinely believe they are doing an invaluable service for the world and that they are doing it in the best possible way. Of course, that’s part of what places them on the ‘crazies’ list.
From my conversation with the (very committed) doctor, and my time of pondering after; I was reminded that you can’t talk people into that which they aren’t interested. The old adage of “You can catch more flies with honey…” reminds us that starting a health conversation with ‘you’re fat’ isn’t setting the stage for a positive talk. In much the same way, neither is ‘you’re going to Hell’.
When put in a position of defense, human nature it to defend, even when the position is indefensible. For most, we continue to defend a position that we may not even believe in any longer, but feel somehow honor bound to stand behind it with the best defense we can muster.
If human nature—call it the ‘sin nature’ if you like—directs us toward refuting and rebelling against that which we are opposed to or with which we do not agree; then the vast majority of the weapons in the average evangelists arsenal only have effect upon the already converted. I’ll say it again—most evangelists suck at evangelizing. Don’t even get me started at the damage done by zealots!
This post is already long—even by my standards—and I really can’t understand why you are still reading it (but I certainly appreciate it). But, I’m not quite done yet…
I shared earlier that my experience has shown that vegans and vegetarians live their food lifestyles very differently, and in turn share their lifestyles very differently. In gross generalizations, let me tell you how I see them.
My experience with vegans is one of encountering highly passionate people who are committed to their way of life, and feel theirs is the ONLY acceptable way of life and any other choice is simply wrong and must be corrected. Their food choices flow over into every aspect of their life and become a focal point—a point of separation and classification. In many cases these choices become insurmountable obstacles to any meaningful relationship—except with already likeminded individuals. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never met a vegan who didn’t almost immediately tell me (through word and/or action) that (s)he was vegan.
Contract that with most of the vegetarians I’ve met. I would suggest their commitment is just as real and solid as the most passionate vegan, but for the most part, they view their food lifestyle as a personal choice—a choice that may not be right for everyone. I’ve eaten meals with vegetarians, but didn’t know they were vegetarians—because they didn’t make a big deal about it. Rather, it seems to me, their testimony comes as a response to how they live their life. By that I mean, I’ve asked questions based on what I’ve seen. This could be obvious things like consistent food choices; or less obvious things like weight or perceived fitness. Or it could even be something in passing, like: “How come everyone’s gotten what’s going around by you?”
One is the guy standing on the busy street corner wearing the sandwich board with the megaphone shouting “Repent, The End Is Near”. The other is the studious worker, who draws others to him by a positive attitude and inviting smile. One is shouting a message that many more may hear, but to which no one is listening. The other is inviting others to take an interest in order to share that what makes them different—the saving knowledge of the one Christ.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I very literally get goosebumps when I think about the person of Christ getting the treatment approaching what the conquering Christ will receive upon His return.
But as this is Controversial Christianity, I don't think even Palm Sunday (more correctly, "Holy Week") should escape the controversy, so...
Let me start by saying the name "Holy Week" has always bothered me. By its very name, it implies that the other 51 weeks aren't holy. I'm pretty sure God doesn't grade on a scale, nor does He 'weight' the questions.
But, that really isn't too bad, it just proves that the Church cares more about a 'sound bite' than good grammar.
Here's the part that has bothered me for several years now. I am not trying to minimize the wonderful, powerful, and amazing sacrifice (no pun intended) that was made when Christ opted to die for us, but...
...He had an advantage. As God Himself, He had full knowledge of where he was going to go at His resurrection. Maybe better said, He knew what He would give up if He did not fulfill the prophecy. He was not acting on faith alone. He was not accepting the will of God blindly. He was God, He came from Heaven, and knew that in a few days He would be back in Heaven. That's a pretty strong incentive; and, I believe, a pretty significant advantage.
I've heard stories of missionaries who have given their lives while preaching the "good news" in Africa (or even America and England). These individuals willingly gave their lives in pure, blind faith. Again, I'm making no attempt at minimizing Christ's actions.
...Was there another way? Within the confines of my human-bound brain, and a limited one at that, I've always wandered, why? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays, "...if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me...." . Not once, nor twice, but three times in that passage of scripture. Luke records, that Christ sweat blood in His earnestness. With all the power of Heaven and earth (and beyond), there wasn't another way?
God is God, and I don't doubt that. In fact, it is because of that, the whole thing always seemed a bit odd. All He had to do was snap His fingers--less, think it; and the result could have been the same. I'm thankful--literally, eternally thankful--of Christ's role as sacrificial lamb; but it seems to me that the 'cup' could have passed him. In fact, it seems to me that Jesus could have stayed at God's right-hand.
The quick answer is: "It happened to fulfil the prophecy." First, I'm pretty sure that God could have found a thousand other ways to fulfil that (those) prophecy(ies). Even more so, HE is who gave the prophecy, and HE did so with Jesus' earthly life in mind. So, He could have given different prophecies. He could have deemed and in turn prophesied that the savior of man would be a purple pigeon, and the result could have been the same.
Other thing I've heard from pulpits for years is something like: "Since Christ has been human, He is able to better intercede on our behalf." Not only is that a bunch of hogwash, it is close to blasphemy. My belief structure is one of an omnipotent God; not a God that needs "on-the-job training" to better understand His own creations. So, I dismiss this stance out of hand.
Please don't take my words as flip, or trite; they are simply thoughts of "why?" Hey, its a blog with the name 'controversial', what do you want?
I don't believe there will be a press conference in the sky, where God will 'entertain' questions from us; but this, I humbly believe, would be a good answer. I wonder if even in my heavenly form, my mind will be able to comprehend God's ways? I accept the God would not be God if I could understand Him. I not only accept it, I need it. But I do hope that as I walk with Him, I will slowly understand more. Thanks to Christ's sacrifice, I've got all eternity to work on it.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Whether Biblical bumperstickers are within the confines of Christianity or not is still uncertain to me. In Matthew 6:6 the Bible says: "...When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen...." In the proceeding verse it warns against praying "on street corners to be seen by men." I am not sure that this public display of "Christianity" is necessary or right. However this is not the topic of this article, the topic is what happens once these billboards of "Faith" are on display.
I can't tell you the number of times that as a car goes zooming past me, all I can make out is that: "The Lord is my Co-Pilot" bumpersticker. [Don’t even get me started on the idea of God as Co-Pilot!] What does that say to the non-Christian--"Well, there goes one of those self-righteous so and so's." Speeding is a law and breaking that law is a sin. The Bible says to obey man's law in at least three places. The most popular is probably Romans 13:1: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." That does NOT say: "Well, if the law is silly one or is not enforced, you need not obey it because you are "Christians." Quite the opposite, because you are a professing believer in Jesus Christ, you need to set the best example, follow the laws made by our Civil Authorities.
In Titus 3:1, we find Paul instructing Titus to remind God's people to, "...Subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good...." It isn't just speeding; how many times have you allowed someone other than yourself to use your vehicle--children, sibling, neighbor, anyone. Do you only allow "Christians" to use your vehicle? Let's say that while your brother, who is not a believer, has your car, he gets cut off in traffic; he then proceeds to flip-off the driver of the other car. You wouldn't (and didn’t) do that, but the impact is the same because everyone who saw the action also saw that, "Jesus is Lord" bumpersticker or license plate. The damage is done. You might as well have done it yourself. BillyBob, who got flipped off, has no way of knowing that it isn't a Believer in the car. He has, however, added more ammunition to his "Can't convert me" arsenal.
What can you do? I believe that a witnessing is an important part of the walk toward Christianity; but somewhere people got suckered into mass marketing. My witness is a very personal thing, it cannot be summed up or expressed in writing, much less on the limited area of bumperstickers or license plates. The way I act in traffic, on the elevator, at the workplace and at-home is a witness in itself. If you are truly striving to be Christ-like, people will be able to notice something, without the "He is Lord" tags—your life can be the fragrance of Christ.
Get out the rubbing alcohol and razorblade or the screwdriver and get that misplaced billboard off of your vehicle.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Since this is "Controversial", let me start with the use of the Cross to symbolize Jesus. I've never really understood this obsession. This is another case of the Church taking an existing tradition with a very negative world image and altering it to fit the need. Don't get me wrong, I understand that Christ's death was a pivotal point in the history of the world. A deciding factor in God's perfect (though mostly unknown) plan. But the cross wasn't invented for Jesus--thousands of others were crucified before Him and thousands more after Him.
In much the same way Baptism and Halloween were both pagan traditions the Church took and manipulated for their purpose. [Unfortunately, we've given Halloween back.] I realize that baptism was used as a tool to bridge the immense gulf between the poly-theist and mono-theist (Christ-centered) faiths. But is was still a pagan tradition--but that is a conversation for a much later time. [But that little teaser, should be enough to tick off a few folks--though that isn't my purpose.]
Back to the cross. Yes, the old testament scriptures give some prophetic guidance as to the event, but they mainly point to a death of disgrace. Let's be honest, what form of public execution isn't seen through an eye of disgrace? Public beheading did take place back then. Can you imagine if that form of execution would have been used? We would all be wearing little axes on our necklaces, or have them dangling from our rear-view mirrors.
So if Christ's torturous death on the cross isn't so special in my eyes, do I hold Good Friday in the same esteem as so many others who call themselves Christian? Yes!
As I see it, Good Friday has three imperative aspects--and none of them involve a cross per se.
- The willing, complete, and perfect sacrifice of the Christ--God's Son, part of the Trinity. How He presented Himself is not so important to me, except to the degree in which it fulfilled prophecy.
- The tearing of the shroud. That curtain that once separated God from His people was ripped asunder through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. This event alone allows us to speak directly to God, through the intercession of His Son, and the 'groans' of the Holy Spirit.
- Christ's dissension into Hell--and the subsequent vanquishing of our burden of sin which put Him there.
PS: What ever happened to all those dead folks who were resurrected at the moment of Christ's death?
The crowd cheering the coming Messiah, Deliverer. The masses glimpse the freedom from bondage they so desperately crave. Of course, they fail to see that their bondage to the Romans was nothing compared to their spiritual bondage--the very bondage Jesus came to deliver them from.
I get chills when I think about my Jesus--eyes, arms, and heart open wide--pushing through the crowd of excited Jews and Gentiles alike. All rightfully praising His name. All the while the Pharisees look on with scorn. I imagine Jesus seeing them out of the corner of His eye, and His smile growing broader knowing that this outpouring of love so bothered them. I strain to imagine the energy (maybe even that of the Holy Spirit) buzzing in the air when Jesus answers their rebuke with: "...the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40)
Can you imagine? Not only will every knee bow, and even tongue confess that Jesus Chris is Lord, but all of God's creation--the stones themselves--will declare the sovereignty of my Jesus! The same Jesus that has granted me the rights as His Co-heir!
I LOVE Palm Sunday!!!
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Happy New Year, Happy New Week, Happy New Day, Happy New Hour, Happy New Moment; yes, Happy New Moment. My two small children have little or no sense of time. My wife mentioned going to Disney "in a couple years" to our 3 1/2 year old. Now he regularly askes if we are going to Disney "tomorrow". When we say something like: "Do you know where we are going Saturday?" His answer will almost certainly be an excited "Disney!?!" Tomorrow means very little to him, much less next year.
We are all God's children, and we too can (maybe should) lose the perspective of time. God's time is not our time ( 2 Peter 3:8, Psalm 90:4), we cannot wrap our mind around 'always has been, always will be.' It is too easy to try to break up eternity (and all its consequences) into years, decades, or even millennia--but those are our concepts, God's is eternal and infinite.
We have New Year's Resolutions: We are going to lose weight, be better with money, spend more time with family, etc. But because they are anchored to a "year" we almost always fail. Tomorrow is much to easy when we have a whole year to get it done. The same is true with Christian living and the discipline God's children are called to.
We have to be true to each moment, we have to be the reflection of Christ this very moment and only for a moment--but moment after moment. When we try to be Christ-like 'today'; well, that isn't over until we crawl into bed, there's still plenty of time. Besides, we aren't going to do anything truly bad, right?
In the time since you started reading this, at least a couple moments have past, were you reflecting Christ? NOW, is a new moment, Happy New Moment...reflect Christ in this moment...just this moment, until the next one and then reflect Him again...only for a moment.
Live in the moment. Lose your sense of time. Know that this moment is God's moment, we are just its steward. We are called to reflect our Savior. We are called be His children..."Are we there yet?"
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
In this post, however, I want to look at something that has created a great deal of conversation (read: controversy) whenever I bring it up.
In Mark 12: 41-44 (and Luke 21: 1-4, but I prefer Mark's account), we read the popular account often dubbed "The Widow's Offering" or "The Widow's Mite." There are a number of lessons in these four short verses, but keeping to this blog's name sake, I want to look at an often overlooked portion of this passage.
In the 41st verse we read: "Jesus sat...and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury." He was watching who put what in the equivalent of the offering plate. Let me say that again--He watched. In fact, we see this wasn't a passing glance, as the scripture tells us he was actively watching. So much so, that it is implied He choose His seat specifically for this view.
Since I am too simple minded to believe that the scriptures just through in fluff when it seems needed, I have to believe there is a point to this passage's inclusion, a lesson that is often overlooked. I am no Bible scholar, but I think the lesson related to Public Accountability.
I think Jesus is sharing with us that there is importance to openly making offerings to His Church. But this is a VERY slippery slop. Because in today's society, as in Christ's day, when humans do things in public it can very easily become a point of pride...a prideful display. This is NOT what Jesus wants.
However, I think there is something to be ask about actions taken in "the light." rather than in the 'secret' (from man not God) of "the dark." Financial stewardship, I think, is one of those things that may need to be done in "the light."
I think you can see some ways in which the church has attempted to cast light into the shadows. In fairness, these actions most likely had other intended purposes as well, but all the same...
For example, many churches ask their congregation to sign a 'pledge' card for the coming fiscal year. Often times, this card asks specifically if the amount pledged is "a tithe," "a tithe and an offering," "or striving to be for tithe." For now, set aside the tithe concept (I'll get on that soap box in a later post(s), I promise.).
Another example is the fact that offering envelopes are printed with a place to write your name. I have counted my church's offering for years, and I can tell you there are very few who pay with cash.
Another example is simply the collection of offerings at all. Most denominations still pass an offering plate around the sanctuary. The collection tool being passed from one person to the next, applying--to some level and degree--peep pressure.
I think these all trace their roots back to this passage--even if subconsciously. However, I can't help but believe their is something more I am missing in this portion of scripture.
We are commanded to financially support the building of God's Kingdom, but are we also commanded to make a public proclamation of it--or to have a public proclamation of support made? Is anonymously slipping our offering into the plate God honoring?
I would say "yes" the first, and "no" to the second. I believe that there should be some sort of congregation-wide knowledge of where the church's money comes from. Specifically who, how much, and how often. I also stand on this passage to infer that anonymous giving is considered charity, but would not qualify as our offering. OK, saying it is not God honoring is probably over doing it, but I think you get the point.
We are all called to Christ with a spiritual gift; and, I believe, a calling to support God's work in specific ways, financial support is only one way we are called to support. But in this way, I believe we are called to a VERY specific type and amount of support. It is only in living up to that calling that we will receive a full measure of God's blessings. No, He won't love us any more, but we will feel better, and His blessings will be more abundant and bountiful.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I love this passage, it is a powerful passage, and can be the basis for dozens of sermons, blogs, and/or devotionals.
As you might guess, I want to look at an often times more controversial side of this passage--the power of the mind.
Romans 12:2 clearly talks about the importance of thoughts. The Apostle Paul, spent a lot of time on the power and influence of the human mind. The mind is the basis of the will. Paul (and King David in the OT) is insistent that our minds dwell on God. If our mind is on God, and our mind is the basis of our will, then our will will be God's will.
To help me with this I found a secular source far better than any I found in the "Bible Bookstore" circles. The book that I found and strongly recommend to you is Jeff Olson's The Slight Edge.
In that book, we find steps to help with focusing our mind, in turn our will; at the root our philosophy. Mr. Olson stresses the importance of what Steve Covey calls: "Integrity in the moment of decision." The idea is that the cumulative effect of the small decisions is far greater than the major decisions we so often fret about.
I challenge you to read Jeff Olson's book is, apply his steps to your Walk With Christ. Of course, you can (should) apply this to every area of your life. Then again, your Walk should cover every aspect and area of your life.
Jeff Olson's background is network marketing (fancy name for MLM). The Slight Edge is aimed at helping build yourself and your business, but its techniques could be applied to so many things. I would love to hear from you about how these techniques could be applied to Evangelism.