Lazy Bones

Alan is a middle-aged man who lives in a depressed area of Michigan.   Alan has had all of the opportunities that are available in the area as well as the support of a loving hard-working family.   Many of his family members have also offered Alan opportunities over the years to work.   Most of them are farmers and while farm work is hard the opportunities to work and excel have always been there.   Over the years the family has offered to help Alan find work, work for them and move into a productive life, but it has had little impact on him.  

Alan’s family is a very close-knit family that deeply cares for each other.   In that care there has been little that they have not done for those in need especially family members.   Alan has had all of the opportunities necessary to live a meaningful and productive life, but “Alan is Alan” as his mother once told me.

Alan has an attitude of “taking!”   In his mind it is easier and more rewarding to “get something for nothing” than it is to set your sights on a goal, work hard for it and then earn it.   “Heck no, why work?”  

Alan has also jumped on the bandwagon of disability.   Now before I start a riot I want to make one thing clear.   If a person is truly disabled and unable emotionally or physically to provide for themselves it is the responsibility of society, especially Christians, to provide for them as needed.   Our goal should also be to provide for them with exceptional generosity and love.   Helping the helpless is one of the most “God-honoring” things we can do as Christians!  

But Alan is lazy.   Over the years I have come to know this young man as one who does not have any physical or emotional limitations.   He is strong and has always been in good health but he chooses to not exert himself.   In this small town you can usually find Alan at most of the local church free community dinners, and the free clothing store where he takes great pride in finding “like-new” clothing.   Alan is quite bold in his “taking” attitude, and going to the emergency room whenever he has the slightest ailment is not a problem, all without ever opening his wallet.   Hmmm, I’m not sure he even has one!?

The Bible tells us that the man who refuses to work should not eat.  

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

When we refuse to use the health, strength and opportunities God has given to us in order to provide for ourselves it is dishonoring of God.   If I am able to use the abilities that God has bestowed on me and yet refuse to, I am essentially dishonoring the gift that God has given me.   As beings created in the image of God we are to have a heart of giving not taking.   We are to do our best as a way of honoring our Creator and establishing ourselves.

In the movie The Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow meets with his first mate to assemble a crew.   At the end of their conversation they repeat the pirate’s code: “Take everything you can!   Give nothing back!”   Such is the attitude that has crept into Alan’s heart.   He finds no reason to give, only take and he refuses the idea of hard work and self-provision.  

As a “taker” from life Alan has chosen to walk away from any sense of responsibility.   In some ways he has become a product of his environment.   Now don’t get me wrong, Alan is not without the majority of fault, but he has certainly been influenced by the culture surrounding him.   This small town has suffered so much over the past several years.   Business’ have vacated the area while drugs and laziness have filled the voids.   Statically most of the residents of the area are either retired from a business that use to be there or they are struggling farmers who can’t compete with the larger farms nationwide.   In this situation neither the retirees nor farmers can financially afford to relocate, they are stuck!

At times I see “takers” as “leeches!”   These people live off the hard work of others.   They spend more time looking for ways to be supported by the government and other social agencies than they do for legitimate opportunities to care for themselves and others.   The idea of being a responsible child of God is far from the realm of consideration.   Unfortunately, drug use has flourished among this group of individuals.   It has become an escape from reality.   It has become commonplace.   It has become blatant!

Alan lives in a trailer park known for drug trafficking and transient people.  Many who live in the trailers are just passing through town, just trying to get away from something or someone.   Alan finds himself in the middle of this culture and goes from trailer to open trailer depending on the night, available food and drugs.

It is not hopeless!   Alan could leave this environment but he chooses not to.   Many times, it’s easier to “take all you can and give nothing back!”   For Allan, it is all about him!   But the good news is that God never gives up, and neither should we!   God will never give up on any individual, always trying to “wake them up” to a life of love, responsibility, servanthood and relationship with Him.   Even when “It’s all about me” God still reigns.

NOTE TO SELF: Love others, but don’t enable them

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith

We, and not I

In the Book of Luke we read these words…

Luke 22:24 “The apostles got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest. 25 So Jesus told them: Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone’s friends. 26 But don’t be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant. 27 Who do people think is the greatest, a person who is served or one who serves? Isn’t it the one who is served? But I have been with you as a servant.”

I want to get a glimpse of what is happening here.   Jesus had been with the disciples for over three years.   They had witnessed His many miracles, heard His teachings and been privy to many of the intimate unknown messages He delivered and modeled.   Jesus was with the disciples in the upper room celebrating the Jewish Passover, but He was instituting the first Holy Communion.   He took the bread, broke it, gave His Father thanks and explained to those gathered around Him that His body would soon be broken just like a loaf of bread is broken in half to eat.   It was a powerful metaphor but it left the disciples with the familiar “deer in the headlights” look on their faces.   Then Jesus took the cup, gave God thanks and praise and told the disciples that the cup represented His blood.   His blood was going to pool on the ground under the cross for the sins of humankind.   Through His sacrifice He was going to establish a new and everlasting covenant between humankind and God. But the disciples were clueless!   They didn’t get it!   I’m not so sure I would have either.   How about you?

Instead of putting two and two together they were only focused on themselves.   It was all about them!   In this Scripture, Jesus is talking about saving the world and they’re fighting over who would be the greatest!   Have you ever heard the phrase, “a box of rocks?”   Jesus knew that it was time for extreme measures.   All of the on the job training they had had over the past three years was getting ready to disappear into oblivion.   It was still all about them!   Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and as He knelt down to wash the disciple’s feet. I can’t help but wonder what was going through their minds.   I can only image the silence that must have taken over the room.   “What in the world is He doing?”   “He’s not supposed to do that!”   “That job is for the servant of the homeowner to do!”   “Jesus is our King … not our maid!”

Jesus continued that night to individually go to each disciple, humble Himself and wash their feet as the master’s servant would normally do.   Jesus had just shared a meal with them, but now He was on His knees washing their feet.   As He continued going from one to another, He finally came to the stubborn one, Peter.   “You’ll not wash my feet Jesus!”   “You’re the King!”   I wonder if Peter actually thought that Jesus had momentarily forgotten who He was?   Ridiculous!   But then Jesus stuns Peter with a rebuttal that should send shivers down our spines.   “Unless you allow Me to wash your feet, you will have nothing to do with Me!”   Could it really be that Jesus was serious?   What Jesus was essentially saying to Peter and to us is that unless we allow God in human form to serve us, we can never be forgiven and be in an eternal relationship with Him.   God has to serve Humankind in order to accomplish His will.   Think about it!

As a believer in Jesus, I have to allow God the opportunity to do His work. And God chooses to work as a servant in many cases.   In this scenario, one had to accept that “It was not about you” in order to comply with Jesus’ request to serve in love.   You had to give it up, to let loose, to throw away, to trample upon our own sense of pride, arrogance and self-worth as the King of Kings knelt down before the disciples to wash their feet.   Humility and Lordship mixed perfectly!

NOTE TO SELF: Let Him work, I can’t do it myself

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith

Expect Opposition

As a Christian you will always find opposition just as Jesus did.   There will always be those that chose not to believe in the Scriptures and how they represent God and His character.   Even in the church today we find this.   Currently the United Methodist Church is struggling and striving over various issues of lifestyle.   Questions surface in this debate like; “Isn’t God a loving God?” “Would God really exclude someone from a loving relationship with Himself?” “If so, is God’s word still relevant in the culture today?”

TRUST seems to be the heart of the issue.   Do we really take God at face value and trust in Him or not?   Do we really believe that He can dictate His Word for humankind and deliver it to us in the Holy Scriptures?   Do we believe that His Word is timeless and still applies to life today?   If we really trust Him how can we deny what His Word declares?   Does not trust in God mean trusting in something that we do not comprehend or necessarily agree with?   In the Garden of Gethsemane didn’t Jesus say “Not what I will … but what You will?”   How about us?

Realize this: opposition will come from good hearted well-meaning people that firmly believe in what they are upholding.   For the most part they are not evil or trying to undermine God’s Word, but are people that have been misled, just like in the garden of Eden when Satan asked; “did God really say not to eat from that tree?”   Hence, the introduction of doubt!   Is it possible that many of the disputes in the church today and in our personal lives are simply based on a lack of faith and trust?

You see, trust in God does not come by way of complete understanding, He is incomprehensible.   His ways are much higher than ours.   Trust only comes when we are willing to accept what He says to us and to let it settle in our hearts as in the heart of a trusting little child.   Jesus asked the father to forgive those that were persecuting Him because they didn’t know what they were doing … so what’s changed… nothing that I see …

NOTE TO SELF: I’m as guilty as those that persecuted Jesus, trust in what God has said, not on my own understanding … even when I don’t like what He said …

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith

A Story of Grace

I was attending a large contemporary church in Grand Rapids Michigan.   At the time I was also heavily involved in a Prison Ministry.   Every month, volunteers would meet at my house for a pizza party and stuff over 1,000 envelopes with Christian materials that were being mailed throughout the country.   This was tedious work, and after several years the number of volunteers started to dwindle.   So I told the staff at the church that I was looking for more volunteers.

One Sunday after the worship service a very disheveled lady approached me as I was pouring myself a cup of coffee.   “I would like to volunteer.”   “Excuse me” I said, “What do you want to do?”   “I want to help with your prison ministry, you know, mailing your letters!”   Grace was a middle aged woman with some staggering physical issues.   She was extremely overweight and her clothes looked like she had drooled all over the front of them and then slept in them.   Grace appeared to have a great deal of emotional baggage also and frankly, I wasn’t sure I could trust her to do what needed to be done.   The blouse she was wearing had food stains all down the front of it and her shoes were worn out and muddy.   But there was more, Grace had problems speaking.   She would stutter and stumble over her thoughts and at times seemed to be unaware of all that was going on around her.

I explained to Grace that each month there were almost a thousand envelopes that needed to be stuffed and over five thousand sheets of paper that needed to be folded.   A daunting task!   “OK,” she said.   At this point my chin was dragging on the floor picking up crumbs from the table next to me!   Was this really God’s answer to my prayers for help?

I decided that I would box up all of the materials for the next mailing and take them to her house and just see what happened.   This is ridiculous I thought!   She looks like she can hardly take care of herself much less stuff all these envelops and keep it all straight!   But…. whatever!

The following week I had a hard time finding the address that she had given me.   When I finally found the address I thought I must be on the wrong planet!   The house at that street address looked like it was condemned!   As I made my way through the debris splattered yard I felt a sense of shame.   My house was very nice, but this one was a mess!   Could this really be where she lives?   As the door opened there was Grace.   This time she had on a different dress but it still had the tell-tale food stains flowing down the front of it.   Oh man, what am I getting myself into? I thought.   As I went through the door the reality of Grace’s world struck me.   It was a barren room, with a large TV blaring.   There was an unfriendly smell of stale food and mold, and the place looked like a hurricane had gone through it!   Was I going to leave my precious prison ministry materials with her?

But then I met the source of her dilemma, her children.   Grace was the mother of two severely autistic Children.   The television was their source of engagement with the world.   As the children would move around through the house they would always end up back at the TV.   When it came to meals, the stains were tell-tale signs of trying to get her severely handicapped children to eat.   As I made my way into her world, further and further I questioned if she would be the best choice with which to leave such responsibility.   I had to make a decision: is God the captain or not, was it about me or God?   Immediately the children were drawn to the new obstacles that were in their way.   Boxes of letters, envelopes and stamps.   What have I done!

Grace was a woman that faced daily challenges I rarely had ever considered.   And as her name implies, she did it with grace!   In her own way, Grace wanted to follow the calling that Christ had placed in her heart.   She was already caring for her family as best as she could, but she felt God calling her to help with the prison ministry.   It was a humbling experience that day to walk out of her house realizing what challenges I would face that week compared to hers.   And she still wanted to answer the call of God in her life!   In reality, God was her captain!

For many months Grace did a fantastic job!   The envelopes were stuffed and organized, placed in the mailing trays properly and always ready to go at the agreed upon time.   Grace was truly a measure of God’s grace in my life.   Wow, did I learn a lot about myself, God and others through that experience!

NOTE TO SELF: Stop judging others, let God do His thing!

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith