I Was an Idiot

The Scare…

I knew my blood sugar was high and I ignored it. Why? Other than a pesky number, I had no symptoms. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I let it ride – for years.

And then a couple months ago, I was reading about losing weight and read about complications that stem from Type 2 diabetes. Click this link to read more. Go ahead, I’ll wait right here.

See? The stuff that won’t kill you leads to death.  When I read this Riley was 6 years old. My grandchildren are younger. And my older children want me to stick around a while longer, too. As does Christy.

I was an idiot for ignoring it.

Out of Control…

I bought a meter and resolved to start measuring my blood sugar. Finding myself with numbers, and being the geek that I am, I popped the numbers into Microsoft Excel and then created a chart:

BloodSugar

The blue line is actual readings, the orange line is a running average of the readings. The first three days of readings were, well, scary. I was drinking too many sodas. I cut those way down. I was eating sweets. I cut those way down too. Any engineer can look at those first three days and know those readings represent a process out of control.

I was out of control.

On My Own…

I tried to fix this on my own and you can see the results on that “first shelf” after the three crazy days. I was able to change the numbers by behaving differently, but blood sugar levels above 300 are still dangerous. I realized I couldn’t fix this on my own.

I made an appointment with my doctor. He prescribed a couple medications, warned me – scared me, even more – about the complications of Type 2 diabetes, and told me I was fortunate to be vertical. The medications helped, as did the fear. You can see the large fall-off on the chart after the second disrupted section of the blue line. (When processes respond to change, disruption is normal.) I returned to the doctor two days later and, though my blood sugar had dropped, it still hovered around 200. The doctor conducted an A1C test (which read off the scale, literally – the reading was “>14″) and prescribed a third medication.

Some Stability…

About this time, my (favorite) mother-in-law recommended the book Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman. I started the diet when I started the third medication. The three medications and the diet worked together to bring my blood sugar down to normal. In fact, my blood sugar was actually low at my latest appointment. So much so that the doctor reduced the number and amount of medications!

Dr. Fuhrman’s book has taught me a lot about how my body works. He starts with a formula which appeals to me as an engineer. the formula is H = N / C. Health equals Nutrition per Calorie. That makes sense. Calories are energy. Nutrients contain little (if any) calories but are necessary for maintaining health. So, I can maximize health by consuming more nutritious calories.

I like the idea of this diet because it focuses on what to eat instead of what to not eat. This is a good diet for anyone, diabetic or not.

I strongly encourage anyone interested in this diet to read the Eat to Live book. I have a fruit salad for breakfast that consists of three fruits, at least. I also have some yogurt. For lunch I have a large salad and some beans. For supper I have a little meat, lots of cooked vegetables, and more beans. I try to hold the calories to 1,800 per day.

Running and Weight…

I have been overweight for two decades. I’ve been running for the past three years. I even ran a half-marathon last year. I’m not fast – I run a mile in 12-15 minutes. Many people can walk faster than I run. I’ve been running because, when I started, Riley was 3 years old… (see above). My weight when I started running was 248 pounds. I’ve been steadily losing weight since. I didn’t weigh myself much during the three years; I measured myself by the waist size of my pants. When I started running I wore pants with a 44″ waist.

Depending on who manufactures the pants, I have either a 38″ or 36″ waist these days. My doctor weighs me regularly, and I weigh 219 pounds at the time of this writing.

The Hard Part…

I was embarrassed by the knowledge I have Type 2 diabetes. Although I didn’t know much about the disease, I knew I had been eating poorly most of my life. And I knew that impacted the condition. I was wrong about that:

Eating poorly is the condition. Diabetes is merely a symptom.

I’m past my “dumb Americans” phase in life. (God loves Americans. Christ died for Americans. And Hondurans. And Ukrainians. And Russians. And even members of Islamic State. He died for everyone.)  We Americans enjoy conveniences like no other. We don’t appreciate them because we grew up in an environment saturated with convenient food and drink. Other cultures look at us with a mix of wonder and disgust because of our affluence. Compared to most cultures, most poor people in America are rich.

The hard part was the first step in any 12-step program, admitting I have a problem, and that the problem is more than I can handle alone – that my life was out of control. I would love to tell you it got easy after that, but it didn’t. Maybe the easy part is yet to come, but right now dieting and poking a hole in a finger two or three times each day is hard. Yes, the results are encouraging. Yes, I am incredibly blessed to have not fallen into a diabetic coma when my blood sugar was north of 600.

Admitting my powerlessness is not easy, but it is the right thing to do.

The Other Hard Part…

Christ has used so much of my embarrassment to encourage others that I am now conditioned to respond to embarrassment with the expectation that I will share it eventually. So here goes…

If I can stop drinking a six-pack of Pepsi’s per day and eating M&M’s by the handful between meals, I believe anyone can stop. Look at these symptoms:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

Are experiencing any of these symptoms? Make a doctor’s appointment and have an A1C and fasting blood sugar test.

Trust me: There are people in your life who love you and want to see you continue living, and enjoying life, for years to come. Don’t be an idiot like I was.

Andy

Christianity and Nationalism

I don’t agree with much written in this article by Ann Coulter. I agree that there are poor people in the US and Christians should serve them. I agree that America is consequential and, in human terms, may be the most consequential nation on Earth at this time.

I disagree with the mixing of American nationality and Christianity. I bought into the politics of one US political party that staked (and stakes) a tenuous claim to Christian principles. God grew me beyond a political party as He changed my heart, drawing me closer to Christ. I have more to learn and more growing ahead of me.

But…

I understand Ms. Coulter’s words and thinking some. She appears to worship Jesus*. The * means not-just-Jesus. She appears to worship the American Jesus. She is not alone. The problem is that Jesus isn’t an American. He didn’t come to enlighten only Americans. He didn’t die to restore the relationship between God and humanity for Americans exclusively. He did it for everyone, for the world.

It would be easy, especially given my personal history of agreement with much of what Ms. Coulter wrote and my more recent worldview, to fuss about what she wrote here. But I would be reacting, in part, to some shame I feel for believing as I did previously. And my shame is not Ann Coulter’s fault.

I could take offense because I too send money to help people in other parts of the world. I have traveled to Honduras twice to serve on missions in el nombre de Jesus. I am not alone; many friends behave similarly. I could feel Ms. Coulter is attacking their (and my) good deeds.

It would be easy, but it would not be right. Christ commands me instead to pray for Ms. Coulter, asking God to draw her closer to Himself and to reveal more of the gospel to her, to enlighten her understanding and fill her heart with compassion for those outside the US in addition to the passion and compassion she appears to feel for those within the US.

I believe Ms. Coulter is mixing nationalism with faith. Christianity, as expressed by Jesus Himself and His followers, is without national borders. She is correct in stating that Christians should help those with needs in the next county. We should. My friend and minister at Piedmont Church of Christ, Jerry Sawyer, tells me I should be just as willing to cross the street to help as cross international borders.

Christians should. And Christians do.

Most of the work is accomplished quietly. It doesn’t receive the notoriety received by Dr. Brantly – and I doubt Dr. Brantly served Ebola patients for the notoriety (although I don’t know his heart, and it is not for me to know his heart – to his own Master Dr. Brantly stands or falls and God is able to make him stand). The Christian service I see, both inside and outside the US, goes largely unnoticed by all except those served and those serving. And by Christ, who referred to this as “laying up treasure in Heaven.”

It’s little things, really. Things that take a little time and effort and perhaps a little money. But mostly I see these servants spending themselves, not their money; or not merely their money. Some of the ways they serve are big from my perspective, beyond my personal ability, but the servants just keep serving as if the weight is not too much to bear. Some of it I doubt I could ever do. But, talking with them about their callings to serve, they felt the same way. Now, they give God glory for providing them the strength and courage serve in places like Alabama, Philadelphia, South Carolina, Florida, Seattle, Honduras, Ukraine, South Korea, and Iraq – to name so very few. It is little things – to them, now – but many of those little things are changing the lives of people today.

Parts of being a Christian in post-Christian America aren’t pleasant. Ms. Coulter rightly points out Christians in the US are often referred to as “homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots.” Does being called names hurt? Yes. But bearing insults (reproach) is part of the mission Christ commanded us.

Please understand that John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – is an awesome verse of promise and God’s love for us. But it has been taken out of context by many and maybe over- or “mis-”emphasized. It’s not the only verse in the Bible about the relationship between Christians and Christ. Another relationship verse is Luke 9:23 – And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In modern terms Jesus is saying if you want to follow Him, you need to put yourself last, pick up and carry a water-board or electric chair or lethal injection needle – *all day every day* – and then follow Him. This isn’t a happy call to fun. It’s a call to die.

So when people who do not love God call me names, that’s really nothing. I’m called by Jesus to not merely put everything I own and everything I am at His disposal, every single day I remain on Earth, but rather to acknowledge that everything I own and everything I am is truly His – and act accordingly. I am a trusted slave to Christ. A steward of some stuff; some time, some talents, some money. What He commands I strive to obey. Even if that offends some or is unpopular. Where He commands I go, even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient or costly.

Some of what Christ commands appears impossible right now. The obstacles appear insurmountable, the odds of success low and waning each minute.

I am not called to succeed. I am called to follow. To obey. With Christ’s help, I will obey or die trying. Perhaps a better way to express that is: I will obey *and* die trying.

One last note (with apologies for the length of this post): God used several people and books to bring me to this place in my journey. Most of the people are Christians but some are not (at least not yet). I encourage you to listen to the people God places in your path. The books are: the Bible (read daily, God speaks to us in day-sized chunks. I like BibleGateway.com, Radical, and Anything, to name a few. There is no substitute for the fellowship of other believers and meeting regularly with them to worship.

Again, apologies for the length of this post – especially to those who read to this point.

Enough

While they lived in the desert, the Lord provided manna to feed the children of Israel for forty years. Six days per week, manna appeared in the morning. The children of Israel were instructed to take only as much as they needed each day. If they gathered too much it would rot overnight – except on the sixth day. Manna collected on the sixth day would remain edible for two days. (Exodus 16:4-26).

God provided enough manna.

When the children of Israel reached Canaan, the manna stopped. It stopped on the 16th day of the month of Nissan, two days after the nation celebrated the first Passover in Canaan. Why? Israel had enough to eat from the land God had provided them:

While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.
- Joshua 5:10-12 (English Standard Version)

God provided enough.

God continues to provide enough. He does it in day-sized chunks, as He provided manna for Israel in the desert. Christ commanded His followers to remain focused on today in Matthew 6:34:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

God’s provision is enough.

God is enough.

Do Not Turn

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:7 (English Standard Version, emphasis added)

It is interesting that the Lord told Joshua to follow the law God gave to Moses and not to turn to the right or left. This is not a call to moderation but a call to focus.

The author of Hebrews, writing to Jewish believers in the first century AD, complemented these words with instructions to “run… the race that is set before us.” I have run in some races. There is a plan – a course – with a start line and a finish line. The runners don’t meander, we do not deviate to the right or left – we keep to the straight path because that path is the quickest and best way to reach the finish line.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Each of us is running a race in this life. Where is your finish line?

On Human Error

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Genesis 2:15-17 (New King James Version)

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’”
And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’’” Genesis 3:1-3 (New King James Version)

The first sin of humanity is described in these verses. There was a simple command: a broad use case (of every tree you may freely eat), one exception (but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat), and a warning (for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die).

The serpent began by quoting God. That happens today. Individuals who wish to bend God’s Word in order to justify sin often begin by quoting God. This isn’t surprising; C. S. Lewis proclaims “evil is a parasite” in Mere Christianity. Sin is unoriginal, so it is unsurprising when sinners quote scripture. (God is more powerful than sin, and when I see scripture misinterpreted to justify sin I pray the truth – rather, the Truth of God’s Word will do what it always does – defeat sin.)

The serpent fashioned his quote of God as a question. “Has God indeed said…?” That also happens today. The beginning of many attempts to justify sin begin with “Has God indeed said…?” or a variation; “Doesn’t the Bible say…?” or, “If the Bible says…?”
The human responded by misquoting God – adding to the original command. Where did the modification originate? In Genesis 2, God issues the command to Adam. Eve is created afterwards. God told Adam and Adam told Eve. Where was the additional clause inserted? When Adam told Eve.

The addition seems like a good thing, doesn’t it? What is the addition? “Nor shall you touch it.” This makes a lot of sense, really. It’s logical. You have to touch the fruit first before you eat it, don’t you? Maybe, I suppose one could eat the fruit directly from the tree without touching it. God needs a little help with His original proclamation. He doesn’t understand. He’s out of touch with the modern scene in the Garden of Eden. A little interpolation is required, a slight modification to make the command more relevant. More applicable. “Don’t touch it.”

Except…

Except that wasn’t what God said. And since it wasn’t what God said, maybe Eve touched the fruit and didn’t die. Think about Eve’s experience with God to date. She has a single command: Eat from every tree, except the one tree, and don’t even touch its fruit, or you will die.

She touches the fruit and doesn’t die.

God has lied to her.

The command is wrong. So God must be wrong.

God no longer informs her reality. God no longer applies. Everything God said is now subject to doubt.

This exchange in Genesis is often the topic of discussions about literal vs. figurative. I’m not going to take that detour. Look at the results, instead. Compare those to the very literal misquoting, misapplication, and misinterpretation of God’s Word you can read on Facebook every day. Are the results identical? Do we question God, find His commands uninformed? His explanations awkward and indefensible? Don’t we make the leap that God then must be wrong and irrelevant and inapplicable?

Is logic sin? No. But like humans – even humans living in a sinless paradise – logic is fallible.
Can the Bible be interpreted to mean anything? No. Along with being interpreted to reveal what God has said (and continues to say) the Bible can misinterpreted to mean things God never said and does not say. Sometimes misinterpretation is mere error with the best of intentions; other times it is justification of sin with malicious intent.

Things haven’t changed much since that encounter in the garden, literally or figuratively. Many repeat the mistakes of humanity in the garden over and over again, with much the same results.

Don’t fall for the deception. Seek Truth. Sow truth. The rewards are eternal.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” – the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, chapter 6, verse 7 (New King James Version)

In Church Today…

When I arrived at worship this morning I saw a building filled with sinners. Dressed as well as they could, trying to be polite to one another. Sinners all. I fit right in. I am a sinner.

Then we started singing praises to the Creator of everything.  And then we prayed that everything we would do and say during this gathering would please Him and glorify Him.

Next we remembered Christ’s sacrifice by breaking bread and drinking the fruit of the vine, followed by more singing, followed by a reading from the Bible. This was followed by more singing and then a message based on the Bible reading. The message was about life, teaching, serving, and suffering.

There was an opportunity for those in attendance to respond. A collection was taken amidst more singing. The service closed with prayer.

As I watched people leave the place of meeting, I witnessed sinners (yes, still sinners) answering a Call to abundant life, seeking to learn so that we can share and teach what we have learned, serving and pondering other ways in which to serve, some suffering physically; others psychologically and socially; all having been insulted or reproached or dismissed or disrespected by others because of our faith.

As I watched us all leave the place of worship, I saw Jesus in disguise on this side of eternity. I saw His Body and realized love alone is worth the fight in this existence between “the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’” (from the story behind the song).

Peace.

Advice for Graduates

It’s graduation season and I thought I would share some thoughts on the topic, and perhaps a little advice:

  • Be yourself. Jenny asked Forrest Gump: “Don’t you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re going to be?” Forrest replied: “Aren’t I going to be me?” When I was a young whipper-snapper, the cool thing to do was “find yourself.” I always thought that should be a brief search. You are who you are. Roll with that.
  • Identify your a passion. You can have more than one and it’s very likely your passions will shift throughout your life. This is not only ok, it’s normal. How do you identify a passion? Imagine it’s Saturday and you have nothing to do. Your chores are complete. You have zero plans. Everyone you know is out of town. What would you do? The answer (or something related to the answer) may be a passion.
  • If at all possible, let a passion become your vocation. At least allow a passion to influence your choice of vocation. This is especially true if you intend to be self-employed. Running a business is a full-time job. And then you have to do the work. Those last two sentences may not make sense to you now, but if you start a business they will make perfect sense. If you are doing something – anything – just to make money, you will run out of motivation. But if you are doing something you love, you will find motivation easily. Do what you love. Optimally, …
  • Do what you are. I hope you see what I did there; I just tied the previous bullets together into one. This one. Right here.
  • If you are successful, some people will not be happy for you. They may express their unhappiness in any number of ways, including (unhelpful) advice, cynicism, snark, and outright criticism.
  • If you are successful, it helps to have friends whom you trust and who trust you. Good friends will be truly happy that you are successful. They will provide helpful advice. They will be there for you during the best and worst of times. Friends are truly a blessing.
  • Learn to listen to people’s hearts.
  • Listen to what people do.
  • Stuff happens. You can either try to avoid it or learn to manage it. You cannot predict it. Everything changes.
  • Pain is part of this life.
  • This life is part of eternity. A very, very small but very, very important part.
  • Take risks. Risk is the difference between living and existing.
  • Cultivate the ability to recognize good advice.
  • God is calling you. Listen. Please.
  • Follow good advice.
  • Love people. We are stuck on this planet with each other. For now.
  • Help people.
  • Be a good friend.
  • Dance.
  • Pick battles worth fighting and fight them until the end.
  • Realize that failure is not just a part of success; failing is vital to success.
  • Divorce the idea that “I was wrong” from failure. Celebrate failures as another step on the path to success. Why? Because all you did was fail. Everyone fails. When you react poorly to failure you create a metaproblem. Get up. Clean up the mess to the best of your ability. Move on. Success awaits.
  • Discover several hobbies. If a hobby stops being fun, stop it. Find the next hobby. It’s out there.
  • Wear sunscreen.

:{>

 

“Why Costa Rica, Andy?”

A few years ago, God led us to leave the US. Not immediately. Just “I want you to leave the US.” So Christy and I began searching for places to live outside of the US.

We asked God to lead us where He wanted us to go, and started considering options. We considered Europe and did not feel led to move there. We considered Malaysia, no dice. We considered Uruguay, nothing. After Stevie Ray and I returned from a mission trip to Honduras, we started looking at Central America. We considered Panama and then Costa Rica.

And something clicked inside.

Christy and I made a one-week trip here (I’m writing this from Playa Jaco) in August 2012. We survived. More than that, we found the people to be awesome and friendly. The climate was somewhat muggy, but it was August. We returned to the US and Christy began taking private Spanish lessons.

I spoke at SQL Saturday – Costa Rica in April 2013. We planned an 11-day family trip here around SQL Saturday – Costa Rica 2014. We are about 2/3rds done with that trip as I type. On this trip:

  • We found an area we really like (Atenas).
  • We established a relationship with a realtor we trust.
  • We found a couple candidate schools for one or more of the kids.
  • We established relationships with local folks who are able and willing to increase our knowledge of the transition ahead of us.
  • We got a better handle on the costs of the transition.
  • Christy served as our translator.

“So Why, Andy?”

I don’t know. The only thing I know at this time is, “Leave the US. Go to Costa Rica.”

I understand completely how crazy / dumb that sounds. How do I know it’s God leading me? I think that’s a great question. Allow me to share another story by way of an answer:

“Withdraw Your Application and Start a Business”

In September 2010, God led me to withdraw an application for a promotion to director at work and to start a business. I had zero prospects in September 2010. Zero. But that changed. Christy supported the move. We had some savings we could coast on until business started coming in. Mostly, we had peace God was leading. By November I had three weeks of work booked for after 1 Jan. I remember distinctly praying, “God, this makes sense everywhere except when I look at this cash flow projection spreadsheet.”

God’s response? “If it did not require faith, I would not be part of this.” That was enough pushing for me. I submitted my notice in early December 2010 and jumped out on my own 1 Jan 2011.

Now there was more. God told me starting my own business was not what He had for me, but that He needed me on my own so that I would be ready for what He had for me. Once I was out there, Brian Moran and I connected and began working on SQLPeople. We had a lot of fun working together – we were (and are) a great team. Brian and I formed Linchpin People in April 2011, and this was the thing God wanted to happen – the thing for which I had to start my own business in order to prepare for.

When I shared this with folks nearly four years ago, some thought I was nuts. Why should I turn down a shot at being a director? For three weeks of work? Crazy, right? Wrong. God. And it’s obvious sitting on this end of the events and looking back that it was and is God speaking and leading. Is life rainbows and unicorns? No. And it never will be. There are challenges now and challenges yet to come. But did I hear and obey God? Yep.

Same God, Different Thing

God is leading us to leave the US and move to Costa Rica. Is it to start some mission work? Is it because something bad is going to happen to the US? I don’t know. I don’t have those answers.

And I don’t need them. All I need to know is God is leading.

Will life be easy during and after the move? No. God doesn’t usually lead people to lives of comfort. Inner-peace? Yes. Provided-for? Certainly. Enabled? Yep. Easy? Not required. Obedience is required to follow.

What Who I Know

That’s what followers do, we follow. Those verses we quote and songs we sing mean something. Wherever You Lead, I’ll Go, for example. And when we call Christ “Lord,” we are calling Him “Master” in the sense of identifying Jesus as our Master and us as His servant or slave. While I understand the social and political ramifications of this kind of relationship – especially in US politics – especially as I write this at the beginning of May 2014 – I am compelled to share that being a slave to Christ means I am freer than I was when I was not His slave.

Servant-hood to Jesus cannot be examined in isolation. It cannot be parsed from either God’s Sovereignty in and over the universe, nor can it be compartmentalized from Him paying for my sins on the cross at Calvary. No; it must all be taken together; whole, in total; together. I am His. I was bought with a price. I didn’t define the relationship – Christ did. He gave me a choice: follow or not.

I choose to follow.

How About You?

Is God leading everyone to move to Costa Rica? I don’t know. He may not be leading you to leave your home. He may be; God doesn’t tell me how He’s leading other people or His plans for them. In fact, He told one disciple, “What is that to you…?”

That said; if God leads you to leave your home, will you go?

A Better Life

A Story

Back in the 1980′s I participated in an evangelism outreach on the streets of Richmond Virginia. Around sunset on Friday nights, a team would assemble, pray that God would send those whom He willed into our path, set up some speakers and lights, play loud Christian rock music, and talk with whomever God sent. For those familiar with Richmond, we set up on Broad Street, one block north of the fan district.

I remember overhearing part of one such conversation. One of the team members said something like, “If you are not worshiping the God of the Bible, you are worshiping a dead god.” The person to whom he spoke this took offense, and I heard him very clearly refute: “MY GOD IS NOT DEAD! YOUR GOD IS DEAD!” Everyone within a hundred yards or so heard him refute our team member.

I do not know the details of the conversation that lead up to the confrontation. If memory serves, the conversation ended with the evangelism team member praying with the gentleman after he had calmed down.

We are all learning and growing. Some of the things we are learning are truth and truth always leads to growing towards God. Some of the things we are learning are not truth and are leading us away from God. It’s easy to confuse the two.

The gentleman in the story was enduring an adjustment in his beliefs. Correction is painful, no matter the source. But correction towards the truth and away from error yields good fruit. the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews states it thus:

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11 (New King James Version)

Many resist “chastening” as the gentleman cited above. I sure did. Some do it loudly, as he did. Some do it by debate, as I did. Resistance takes many forms but it produces the same fruit. That fruit is not the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Why Share?

Christians share the Gospel for many reasons. The Great Commission is a command from Christ Himself to His followers to share the Gospel wherever we go. In fact, we are explicitly commanded to “go” and “make disciples.” To people who do not know Christ, this may sound like a strange compulsion. But many find this an extremely easy command to follow due to an abundance of joy and peace in their hearts. 

Christ gives us a better life. By nature, people seek a better life and most desire to share it once they’ve found it. When someone recommends a recipe they found for a new dish they enjoyed, this is sharing a piece of a better life. When one begins to enjoy the fruits of physical exercise and shares tidbits about the new energy they experience or reduced pain and stress or the weight they’ve lost, this is sharing portions of a better life.

Now we may find people sharing such information annoying. And, no doubt, some may in fact be annoying. But many others just want to spread the goodness they’ve discovered.

the same holds for many Christians: they simply want to share abundant life in Christ. That’s their motivation for spreading the Gospel – their relationship with Christ is so awesome they cannot help but to share!

An Invitation to a Better Life

Today is Good Friday, the day we remember Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on our behalf before any of us knew Him. While we were yet sinners, He died for us. That’s a powerful truth. Because Christ died for us and was resurrected, we can live in a relationship with God. That’s one of the things His sacrifice means for us. But Christ’s sacrifice means so much more.

If you don’t know Christ, I encourage you to seek Him. How? There are many ways. Praying, studying the Bible, attending a Bible study or worship service, or simply talking (or emailing) with a Christian friend.

Christ offers a new life – today. It’s a better life.

:{>

Wake Up, America

I was in South Carolina a couple weeks back. Some friends picked me up from the airport and we had a long lunch, enjoying each other’s company, catching up on family, community, and friends. We left lunch and, while stopped at a light on the way to our next stop, we saw a man wearing a sign that read “END ABORTION NOW.”

He was screaming at the top of his lungs, “WAKE UP, AMERICA! WAKE UP!” as he walked past cars stopped in the left-turn lane, handing pamphlets to anyone who would take one. “One of us is crazy,” I thought, “either him or me.”

So I did some research. The Centers for Disease Control collect statistics on abortion from 52 state- and territory-based centers in and around the US. The CDC’s annual summary references statistics collected by the Guttmacher Institute, where I found this paper dated December 2013 (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html).

The latest year for which there are compiled statistics is 2008 – 5+ years ago. They show a total of over 50 million abortions have occurred in the United States in the past 41 years (not counting the last 5+ years).

50,000,000.

If we look at the populations of the 244 countries of the world listed at this Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population), the number of those aborted in the US alone would populate a nation ranked 27/244 – or roughly the 11th percentile – of most populated countries on Earth.

Taken another way, the US has not experienced the contributions to society of 50 1-in-a-million lives – lives that would have been considered by many to be “winners of the birth lottery” simply because the children would have been born in the US. What would these extraordinary have achieved in the fields of technology, science, engineering, or philosophy? What advancements in medicine are not present in 2014 because of these missing contributors? What stories of inspiration, overcoming obstacles to achieve greatness in sports or business or philanthropy will never inspire our generation or generations to come? What have we lost in these 50 one-in-a-million lives?

A lot, I believe.

What can one person do? What can I do? I can actively support the local Crisis Pregnancy Center. I can contribute money, sure; but I may be able to do more – like my friend Mike – who serves on the board of a CPC local to him. I can support sensible legislation to limit abortion as a means of birth control. I can support young women – and young men – who find themselves at the crossroads of a decision that appears, at the moment, like a no-win scenario. I caused a crisis pregnancy at age 17, and have some perspective on the immediate vs. the rest-of-your-life. I can find other ways to make a difference in these statistics. I want to help.

As my thoughts return to the screaming South Carolinian, my initial assessment appears accurate. One of us *is* crazy. And it’s the one content to sit in the vehicle. The one satisfied it’s enough to write Facebook posts sharing statistics, no matter how sobering – even when we disregard what the devastation those numbers mask.

I’m awake, sir. I’m awake.

Wake up, America.