Opportunity

So, I mention a restaurant in the area that serves good food, and I am flooded with reader feedback!  Everyone likes to hear about a new place to eat, I guess.  That’s not surprising, though.  We all eat, and we all prefer (all things being equal) to eat food we like.  So why not jump at a new opportunity?

If only I could use that little snippet of life as an idea for an article …

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Why?

I am fascinated by the “Why” of things.  The “What” is usually more important, but it is also usually self-evident.  I don’t need people to explain the “What” in most instances.  I ask my children, “What are you doing?” all the time, but usually I know already — either nothing at all, something that makes no sense, or something that is taking the place of what they are supposed to be doing.  In other words, it’s a “Why” question in disguise.

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Free life advice from a cheapskate

My propensity for frugality is not a secret.  So when I saw an article online about the biggest cheapskates ever, I had to read it.  You know me.  Always looking for ideas.

Paying for a muffin out of the tip jar.  OK, that’s not cheap; that’s thievery.  I oppose that. Driving all over town to find gas two cents cheaper?  That’s penny wise and pound foolish.  But washing out jars to use as drinking glasses?  Saving soy sauce packets?  What’s wrong with that?

An interesting side note: Lots of the cheapskates mentioned in the article were rich.  Their friends seemed to think that was an indication of a character flaw, and perhaps it was.  On the other hand, is it possible that their cheapskate ways had something to do with them having a lot of money in the bank?  Seems at least possible.

Plenty of people are willing to envy the success of others while thinking themselves morally superior to them for avoiding the measures that made the others successful.  That’s perverse.  The reason people underachieve is that they refuse to make sacrifices in the short term.  They want to have their cake and eat it too — and lose weight in the process!

If you don’t want to stoop over to pick up a penny, that’s perfectly justifiable.  You don’t owe me an explanation.  But don’t resent me for picking it up and then ask me to borrow a penny an hour later. 

I say all that to say this: my life, all in all, is pretty fantastic.  Much of that is because I have been spared some of the indignities and pain that plague the lives of others, including other Christians.  And yes, some of that “just turned out that way” — attribute that as you like, whether to God’s blessings, my parents’ influence, or simply being in the right place at the right time.  But it’s not all just the luck of the draw, the roll of the dice, the whim of fate.  Much if not most of my fortunate circumstances are a result of deliberate choices I made along the way. 

In short, I worked hard to get this lucky.  I found a good wife because I worked at it.  I reared godly children because I worked at it.  I made and maintained friendships because I worked at it.  I grew my faith because I worked at it.  Not all of my circumstances were of my choosing.  But plenty of them were.

This is not meant to brag.  This is meant to inspire.  You are not a prisoner of fate.  Perhaps you cannot control your destiny, but you can certainly direct it.  If you want to marry well, you first set your eyes on your values system.  Seek a Proverbs 31:10-31 kind of woman — or be that kind of woman yourself.  Seek a man who thinks “provide for his own” (1 Timothy 5:8) means more than making a lot of money — or be that kind of man yourself.  If you want godly children, be a godly person.  If you are blessed with children, show them what it is to live under God’s authority.  Show them with the “rod of discipline” if necessary (Proverbs 22:15).  If you want closer relationships, make them!  Go the extra mile in doing so (Matthew 5:41).  Each of us is under obligation to love his neighbor; no one is issued a “sit on your couch and wait” exemption as far as I can tell.

The hidden glory of this plan, God’s plan, is that it succeeds even when it “fails.”  In a worst-case scenario, you are left as a better Christian, more grounded in your faith, more prepared for heaven, but not in the precise circumstances you would have chosen.  Could it be better?  Obviously.  Will it get better?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  In any case, your situation, whatever it may be, is  not only one you can learn to live with, but also one you can learn to rejoice in (Philippians 4:4) and find contentment in (Philippians 4:11). 

God has given you that power in Jesus.  Don’t squander it by sitting by idly, hoping to get struck by the lightning of good fortune.  

Restaurant

We tried a new restaurant the other evening.  We all disliked pretty much everything.  The place looked like your grandmother’s house — that is, if you are in your 80s and your grandmother was a sharecropper.  The paneling on the walls was ugly.  The décor (if you would even call it that) was worse.  The location was inconvenient.  The menus were cheap.  (Ironically, the prices were expensive.)

The food, however, was outstanding.  Interesting.  Attractive.  Tasty.  The worst thing I could say about it was that there was too much of it.  We will be back.

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Would an idiot do that?

One of the speakers at my nephew’s recent graduation quoted Dwight Schrute, a character from The Office (because no one on television has said anything worth quoting in the last ten years).  Dwight said, “Whenever I’m about to do something, I ask myself, ‘Would an idiot do that?’’  And if they would, I do not do that thing.” 

As simple and irrefutable as that logic is, I can’t help thinking it is needful in our day and time. 

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Let's get serious about Jesus

In the late spring of 1994, as I rooted on the Houston Rockets on the way of the first of two “Thank you, Michael Jordan, for trying to play baseball” world championships, most of the world was watching another sport.  The World Cup had come to America.  (That’s a big soccer tournament, in case you were unaware.)  And the American home crowd got a thrill when the Yanks pulled off an upset victory over traditional power Colombia.  The 2-1 win was helped along when Colombian defender Andres Escobar scored an “own goal,” giving a point to the Americans and effectively eliminating Colombia from the tournament.

In related news, Andres Escobar was shot and killed in his hometown of Medallin a few days later. 

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Flashy

There is a barber shop in India where they will set your hair on fire.  On purpose, I mean.  People ask for it.  They douse your hair with fragrance to retard the smell of smoke (as if that were the main objection).  Then they blowtorch you.  The top of your head ignites.  Flames shoot up, maybe six or eight inches.  Then the barber just sits back there and combs and cuts, combs and cuts, like it’s the most normal thing in the world.

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Drama at Mark 16:16 Airlines

The scene is the lobby of Mark 16:16 Airlines.  A worker stands behind the counter, smiling, waiting to assist someone.  A man approaches.

Worker: Good morning!  Welcome to Mark 16:16 Airlines.  How can I be of assistance?

Customer: Yes, hello.  I would like a ticket, please.

Worker: I would be glad to assist you.  Would you like a ticket to heaven or to hell?  We are proud to offer both.

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If at first discipline doesn't succeed, ... Try, Try Again!

Discipline fails oftentimes because the disciplinarians quit too early.  Junior is grounded because of bad grades, then he goes and sulks in his room, determined to do even worse the next test just to spite Mom and Dad.  Junior makes out on both fronts; he does do worse, and Mom and Dad get so frustrated that they quit grounding him because it “doesn’t work.”

It’s not supposed to work.  Not like that, anyway.

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Important

A school shooting was foiled this week in the Chicago area.  A former student crashed a graduation practice and opened fire when a police officer confronted him.  The officer returned fire, and the incident was quelled.

“Nobody important was injured in the shooting.”  That’s a quote from the article I read, posted on an unapologetically pro-police website.

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Abandon Faith! Three arguments, asked and answered

Following up with last week’s article in this space: The “sister” in Christ to whom I referred — the one who prompted the article regarding society’s idea of “sex education” vs. God’s idea — claims now to have lost her faith entirely.  Whether her views on this particular subject helped her along those lines are not, I could not say.

I asked her what was the specific cause of her apostasy, and she was glad to answer directly and respectfully.

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Requests

I always appreciate getting requests for articles and sermons.  I do not always follow through; sometimes I think the subject is best left alone, and sometimes I just forget.  Sorry.  But the requests themselves are a blessing, in my eyes.  One of the ongoing challenges in my position is coming up with new material.  If a subject is thrust upon me, it naturally comes with the benefit of having at least one person interested before I ever put pen to paper.  Nothing wrong with that.

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Abstaining from Sin: 100 percent effective 100 percent of the time

American efforts at sex education are ridiculed by many for a strong emphasis on abstinence.  “We know kids are going to have sex,” the argument goes, “so we should teach them a safer way.”  Whether this curriculum “works” or not is irrelevant in my view, as it avoids the central issue.  The problem is not kids getting pregnant or getting STDs; the problem is kids going to hell.

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Receiving Jesus

I was called on the carpet recently for using the term “receiving Jesus” — a term frequently used by those in the denominations to refer to finding grace, particularly in the absence of baptism or any other concrete act of obedience.  I then caught myself saying it twice in the very next sermon I preached, so I suppose the observation is valid.

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