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Beware the Judas Goat [***]

July 30, 2009 Leave a comment
When it’s time for the sheep to be slaughtered, a “Judas goat” is sent in to lead the herd. When the goat confidently struts up the ramp into the slaughter house, the sheep blindly follow. At the last minute, the goat exits through a side gate, but the sheep continue up the ramp and to their death. 

The “Judas” title comes from Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, part of his inner circle, the one that betrayed Jesus to death. Unlike the sheep, Jesus knew what he was walking into. He did not blindly walk into his death. He boldly walked into His destiny.

How many of us, though, are like the sheep? We are not God and so we do not know the future, nor do we know the hearts of men. Every day, we are forced to trust people (to a certain extent), not blindly like the sheep but not with full knowledge of their hearts either. We trust people according to past experiences- with them, with people like them, etc. A 1999 survey by the New York Times revealed that those polled were almost three times more likely to trust that someone would give them “fair” treatment if they knew them (90%) versus if they didn’t (35%). Generalizing these numbers reveals that once we “know” someone we are more likely to trust them. Have you ever heard this statement? “It’s not that I don’t trust him. It’s just that I don’t know him.” When we feel that we know someone, we are automatically apt to accept their advice or follow their lead even when it contradicts our own judgment. Does this next statement sound familiar to you? “I didn’t think it was a good idea, but then I saw so and so doing it, so I went ahead and did it too.”

Read more…

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The Lion Outside [***]

July 28, 2009 Leave a comment
The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!” (Proverbs 22:13 NIV) 

At this point, you might be wondering the same thing I did. “Eh, what’s a ‘sluggard’?” Fortunately, dictionary.com provides a quick answer:

sluggard (n.): a person who is habitually inactive or lazy

So, the proverb is saying that: a) Lazy people use extraordinary excuses to justify their laziness. b) Justifiable fear can cause otherwise active people to become inactive.

I have seen this played out in a great number of ways. I have seen perfectly healthy men justify not looking for work. I have seen women justify not leaving their abusive husband or boyfriend. I have seen addicts justify their habits. In this article, I’d like to focus on this passage as it pertains to doing the work of God. The following is an Aesop’s fable entitled “The Son and the Painted Lion”.

There was a timid old man who was afraid of his only son’s passion for hunting, for the son was full of courage. In a dream he saw that his son would be killed by a lion. Dreading that the dream would come true, the father built a dwelling for his son of great magnificence, set in a high place where he could keep his eye on him. In order to distract and please him, he had commissioned for his chamber paintings of every kind of animal, and among these was a lion. But looking at all these did not distract the young man from his boredom.

One day, he approached the painting and cursed the lion in it:
‘You damned beast, it’s because of you and my father’s lying dream that I am cooped up here in this prison for women. What can I do to you?’

And, as he said this, he struck his fist against the wall to blind the lion. But a splinter got lodged under his fingernail and he could not get it out. This became greatly inflamed, brought on a fever and swelled up to an enormous size. The fever raged so fiercely that the young man died of it.

The lion, even though it was only a painted one, had indeed killed the young man, just as his father had foreseen.

Building on Sand [*]

July 20, 2009 Leave a comment
House on SandArchitecturally speaking, sand has at least two potential problems as the foundation of a house. First, it can liquefy under certain conditions. Second, sand becomes unstable when it is shaken, such as during an earthquake, wind storm, or heavy flood. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to build a house on sand. With some clever planning and implementation you can certainly use sand as the foundation. Heck, people have built houses on marshes, swamps, stagnant water (see Venice, Italy), muddy mountain slopes (see Malibu, California), rocky cliffs, and more. Most houses, of course, are built on flat rocky soil. The reason for this is simple: Building a house on flat rock is safer, more reliable, and more cost effective than building on any of the aforementioned foundations. Read more…

Can’t Let Go [**]

July 20, 2009 Leave a comment
Cant Let GoFor those that don’t already know, I spend most Thursdays on the streets of Hollywood from 11pm until roughly 2am. I am a member of a group of young people from all over L.A. and Orange counties who have a passion for helping mend the hurting and broken lives all around us. The particular area that we focus on probably has several nicknames but the one I heard when I was first introduced to the ministry was “Boy Town”. It’s called this because this is one of many areas in L.A. where runaway boys (as young as 12, perhaps younger) seem to make their way to. Here they find other young (and old) men who have nowhere else to call home. They sleep on the sidewalks, in 24-hour donut shops, behind and in trash cans, in other people’s homes, and in hotels. 

These last two places (homes and hotels) are interesting because these boys, most of them anyway, have never learned a trade. Very few have finished high school. Some haven’t even finished elementary school. They are victims of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. They have been through foster homes, group homes, prisons, and more. They have not only seen the dark side of America, they have lived and are still living in it. …So what do most of them do in order to afford food and lodging? They prostitute themselves. Furthermore, over time, these “boys” become more and more like “girls”. They cover all areas of the spectrum, from wearing a little mascara or walking a certain way all the way to having body parts added and removed. The bulk of our team’s ministry is simply being (hanging out) with these people and letting them know that they are loved, by the creator of the Universe and our small group of, relatively speaking, wealthy young people. We do pray with them, feed and clothe them, discuss the Bible, and even have church services in a parking lot near a 7-11. But if all we do on a given night is listen to and sympathize with someone as they share a heartbreaking story about how their parents kicked them out of the family because they were gay, then we have had a fruitful night. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is just be with them. Read more…

Too Self-Absorbed to Care

July 19, 2009 Leave a comment

2 million children under 14 years old are HIV positive“The essential feature of irony is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which it occurs.”

I live in Orange County, and I recently heard that if Orange County were it’s own country, it would be the 5th wealthiest country in the world. Earlier this week, I was invited to attend a fund raising event for some organizations whose goal is not only to raise awareness of dire issues in Africa and other parts of the world but also to do something about it.

Tonight I attended the event which was held at a local outdoor mall. The event took place in an area about the size of half a football field. The central focal point of the event was a stage where a handful of musicians performed songs to entertain the crowd. Behind the stage was a Ferris wheel. Read more…

Breaking Free (Part 2)

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Earlier this week, I wrote Breaking Free Part 1 in which I describe my decision to get rid of 70% to 90% of my possessions. So far I am making decent progress sorting through the “keep” and “give away” piles. However, this has already been a very emotionally draining process. I am discarding books that I have been wanting to read for years but haven’t and throwing away photographs that I have only looked at once or twice before. One wall of my living room is lined with furniture plus seven boxes to give away. A smaller wall is lined with things that I am keeping (currently two bookshelves, nine boxes, a lamp, and a poster). I still have over 20 boxes to sort through. 😦 Read more…

Breaking Free (Part 1)

July 8, 2009 Leave a comment

In a classic Aesop’s Fable entitled “The Miser”, a man buries a piece of gold in the ground and then comes to visit it every few days to gloat over it. Someone figures out what he’s up to, digs up the gold, and takes off with it. When the man eventually comes back to gloat over his gold, he finds it missing and immediately has a panic attack. A passerby sees the man freaking out and inquires about the situation. Upon hearing the details, the passerby says “Take a stone and put it in the earth instead. … For, as far as I can see, even when the gold was there you made no use of it.”

My parents divorced while I was a sophomore in high school and I moved out with my mom thus beginning my life as a nomad. Since that year, the longest time I have spent in a single residence is two-and-a-half years, with an average of one residence per year. I learned quickly to not bother unpacking my boxes. To complicate matters, I have acquired stuff from two of my grandmothers, both of my parents plus a stepmother, and several ex-roommates. Oh yes, and let’s not forget about birthdays, Christmas, tax documents, etc. Needless to say, I have acquired a great deal of useful but unused stuff over the years, most of which is perpetually stored in boxes.

I am always throwing away unusable items, and I have had yard sales, used eBay, and more to get rid of some of the other stuff. But some stuff is just really difficult to sell and too valuable to throw away. So, three or four years ago, after yet another move, I decided to start giving away all of my useful but unused stuff to places like the Goodwill. In that time, I have given away 30 to 40 boxes, or roughly $2000 to $2500 worth, of stuff. It has been painful every single time, yet also unexplainably freeing.

A series of recent events combined with what I have just shared with you have caused an idea to form in my head that I am going to act on. You could say it’s an experiment, but it’s not one that can be easily undone if it goes awry. In the short-term it is very painful and time-consuming. I am giving away, and possibly selling, all of my stuff (used and unused) except for what I can fit into a single bedroom! This means I am getting rid of a 32-inch TV plus stand, an extra bed, 100s of CDs, over 50 books (many of which are classics), DVDs and VHS tapes, and on and on. I will still have to keep some boxes to store financial records and such, but my hope is that doing all this will be like taking chains off of my hands, feet, and chest.

This immense weight that I have been carrying all these years will be lifted and I should be freed.