Monday, July 29, 2013

Are You a Righty or a Lefty?

The question I pose today is a simple one, “Are you the righty or the lefty?” Immediately, most people think of which hand is their predominate one. They will then either say they are right handed or left handed. That is not the question I am asking. Instead, I am asking whether you are the man crucified on the right side of Jesus, or are you the man crucified on the left side of Jesus? Before you answer this question, let us take a look at the passage in the Bible.
Luke 23:32, 33, 39-43 says, "Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. . . . One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 
So there are two criminals that were executed with Jesus. I have often wondered why Jesus was not crucified alone. Why were there two others there with Him if not for a reason? I imagine there is something for us to take away from the exchange between Jesus and the other two men, or it would not have been written about. What is it that we can take from the exchange that would apply to our lives?
For starters, we see the differences between the man who was saved and the man who was not! One belittled and bullied while the other displayed reverence. One spoke out of arrogance, the other showed humility. Finally, the man on the left of Jesus displayed disbelief while the man on the right side showed faith.  This is much like the world. When presented with the message of salvation through Christ, some mock and belittle while others display humility and faith.  
Next we need to take a good look at both of these men. They were being crucified, which was not your average way to kill someone back then. It was reserved for the worst criminals, as well as slaves and non-Roman citizens. Those who were considered to be less than or had done horrific things, that is who was executed by crucifixion. In a way, that is what Christians are today. We are not truly citizens of this world. We also are looked at as less than by some members of this world. We are not as intelligent as they are due to our belief and faith.
Much like the criminal on the right, most Christians realize what we are. We are sinners, we have done horrible things and we are aware that we are not worthy of a better life. Yet, as we wallow in our sin we reach out to the one whom we know can redeem us. This is akin to the dying criminal reached out to Jesus and asking that Christ remember him when He came to His kingdom.  
So to be the man on the right we must recognize and accept that we are sinners and as such deserve death. We must in all humility take credit for what we have done, not trying to blame our sins on others. Next comes faith, for we must acknowledge that through God’s mercy and grace all we have done can be forgiven. Finally, we must show our complete reverence to the King of Kings. We must also respect our fellow man yet at the same time not be afraid or ashamed to speak out when it is needed.  
We tend to focus on the middle cross, since Jesus was crucified there. The middle cross represents Christ, our Redeemer and the sacrifice He made so our sins could be forgiven. What Christ did when he was crucified was the greatest act of kindness ever done for man.  Lest we forget it, there were 3 crosses that day on Golgotha for a reason. We need to remember the other two crosses as well. For the cross on the left is symbolic of the nonbelievers of this world while the cross on the right those who have faith in Christ.
So again I ask, “Are you a righty or a lefty?”

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Great Commission and Judging Others

Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We have gotten really good at the first part of the great commission. We have no problem going out and making disciples of all nations. Yes, we are doing that. We share the mercy and grace of Christ with everyone we run in to. We even try to practice it in all of our affairs and interactions with others.  
Unfortunately, Jesus did not stop there. In verse 20 he continues, saying “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Many have trouble with that. They have trouble teaching others to do ALL that Christ commanded, then rebuking them if they do not. Instead they stand by and watch people as they live a life that is leading them towards destruction. They can even justify it to ourselves and to others. After all, Jesus says nothing of rebuking in the great commission, does he? 

He implies it when He says we are to teach others to OBEY EVERYTHING!! I have heard many claiming to be Christian say this is not so. I have even heard it from the pulpit. You may be able to mislead others, but you know better. Seriously, are you really telling that lie to yourself to make your life easier. What keeps you from doing the right thing?
Fear................people are scared! They are terrified of it being said they judged somebody. This is for one of two reasons. The first is that they believe they were told not to judge. The second is that they don’t want to offend people. Get over it....................just kidding...............sort not really. 

Seriously, we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The problem is that most do not do this well. Generally, it is because they do not know how to do it. 
For starters, we need to make sure when we talk to others we do it out of compassion and love, not anger or disgust. Next, we need to insure we are living our lives well. Remember, we are to take care of the   in our eye before we address the speck of dust in our brother’s eye. Finally we need to live our lives Christ-like. Then we are set to talk to our brothers and sisters from a place of love. 

I once heard someone say they were not judging but “fruit inspecting.” I really liked that. I am not standing in judgment of anyone. I am only seeing their actions and the words they speak and drawing a conclusion based on the information I am receiving. Furthermore, it is not malicious. I am merely worried for them and want to help them. I want to insure people find the salvation and hope I have. It would be at the very least simple-minded, petty and selfish not to share that with them. Worst case scenario, it is akin to manslaughter.
Imagine someone is walking and not paying attention. I notice a bus coming by and they are going to step right in front of the bus. How much do I have to hate them not to warn them? How selfish is it of me not to put myself out a little to save them. If I truly believe they will walk in front of that bus and get hit how horrible of a person am I if I just stand there, saying and doing nothing to prevent it? And that is only their short earthly life, not their eternal one. 
This is a lot more serious than walking in front of a bus. We are talking about someone’s eternal soul. How can we justify not talking to them about the way they are living their lives given that? We are not here to be popular. After all, Jesus wasn’t popular. Not to spoil the story if you haven’t read it, but He dies towards the end in the company of criminals!  He even says that we will be hated as He was hated.  

So, the next time that you are running for a popularity contest, remember this. No amount of Facebook friends is going to get you to heaven. What is more, it makes you feel better to know that you are helping those around you. You ministering is nothing more than community to service to a population that is starving for the hope, peace and happiness that you have. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

GOAT - Jordan vs LeBron

I do not normally write blogs about sports that do not tie into either recovery or my faith in one way or another. This blog will take a look at common sense, and nothing else. There are many who argue Jordan and others who argue LeBron as the G.O.A.T. ie Greatest of all Time at his sport. Here is a small list of accomplishments that Jordan has and which make him in my opinion and in many categories the greatest of all time:
  1. Won the NCAA Championship
  2. Naismith NCAA Player of the Year
  3. Jordan's Bulls NEVER MISSED THE PLAYOFFS.............EVER (that means even as a rookie)
  4. Rookie of the Year
  5. Led the NBA in Scoring 10 times
  6. Led the NBA in Steals 3 times
  7. Scored 40 points 212 games
  8. Scored 50 points 39 games
  9. Scored 60 points 5 game
  10. Broke 40 in a game at the age of 40
  11. Failed to score double digits only one time as a Bull
  12. 5 of the top 10 scoring games of all time
  13. As a rookie led his team in scoring, steals, rebounds and assists for the season
  14. Only player to lead the NBA in scoring and win defensive player of the year
  15. First player in the NBA to lead the league in scoring and steals
  16. Holds 6 of the top 10 highest playoff series scoring averages
  17. Went to the NBA Finals 6 times
  18. Never lost an NBA Final
  19. Was the NBA Finals MVP everytime he played in it
  20. 5 Time NBA Player of the Year
  21. 2 Time Winner of the Olympic Gold Medal
  22. 9 All-Defensive First Team Selections
  23. 14 Time NBA All Star
  24. Won the Slam Dunk contest twice
Jordan had one thing that many other players do not. He had the will to finish games and when it was the big stage, he played even better. He averaged more points, blocks, assists and rebounds in the playoffs than he did during the regular season. He played with a desire that was unparalleled, and could put a team on his back and run with it. He never disappeared during the playoffs, averaging almost 3 and a half points more a game in the playoffs than the regular season. If the game is on the line, and it is the last play in game 7 of the finals there is no one better than MJ, period.

Comparisons of MJ, LeBron and Kobie at 28 show us that Jordan scores almost 5 more points per game, one more steal per game while the blocks are about even with LeBron. Lebron averages one more assist per game and one more rebound per game than MJ. Kobe is not even close, as LeBron is ahead of Kobe in every category we just mentioned. LeBron is better than Kobe, MJ better than LeBron.

That said, LeBron is a beast and he will continue to get better. I may be prejudiced, since I grew up in Illinois during the Jordan era and was at a game where he put up 50 but so far I choose Jordan based on his statistics and the sheer willpower he brought to win the game.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Weight Loss Wednesday - Starting the Visalus 90 Day Challenge

We can just get this out of the way right now. I did not factually report something to you in the previous weight loss posts. I told you that I was not going to use anything to help me lose weight other than diet and exercise. I would use no pills or powders or programs, that is what I said.

Guess what?

I lied!

 I am tired of fighting my food addiction and I have found that I cannot do it on my own. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I had thought it would be easy to do. After all, I had quit drinking and doing drugs after 24 years. I had quit smoking cigarettes after 26 years. That was 4 plus years ago, and I am still doing great.

If I could quit those, surely I could stop comfort eating. It was the same thing done for the same reason, intake of something for a desired outcome. I used drugs and food the same way, to help me escape and numb. So it should be just as easy, right? Wrong!!

I forgot that when I did drugs and smoked cigarettes, those were not needs. They were things I wanted, and due to some changes in brain chemistry over time something that I needed, but they were not true needs. They were not required by me or I would die. I might feel horrible for months after I stopped, but I would not die if I didn't have them.

Food is a different creature all together. I NEED food in order to live. I HAVE TO EAT. There is no way around that. I didn't have to eat the things that I did, but I had to eat. Being required to do something several times daily gives you several chances each day to mess up. Maybe I messed up because fast food was more convenient, or maybe because I had a client who died and needed to insulate myself.

Relapsing was easy, because food is much more "in your face" than my other vices are. Due to the ease with which I have been messing up, something needs to change. I work with those struggling with addictions and my job is to deal hope to them. I talk to youth and young adults in the community about how there is a better life in recovery!

When some of my clients and some of the people I speak to use drugs to lose weight, it is hard for me to get them to listen to what I say and it impact them when I am obese. Furthermore, how can I feel that I am equipped to give them sound counseling and inspiration to overcome their addictions when I am still struggling with one? I could not. I have found that I can not do it on my own.

So, I am doing the Visalus 90 Day Challenge. I have had several friends try it and lose weight successfully then keep the weight off. I figured it is my turn. It seems easy enough. I get to drink two shakes, eat one moderate meal and then have 2 or 3 snacks throughout the course of the day. That is eating 5 times a day, which is more than I am eating now.

I have a goal of losing 25 pounds in my first 90 days then I am going to lose another 25 in the next 90 days and if that works and there is still more to go than another 10 pounds in the last 90 days. That is me losing 50 pounds this year and 60 pounds by next Spring. If I am successful, that will be me at 185-195 pounds.
 I have not weighed that since I was 3 months off of meth. When I stopped using meth I was underweight. I had gotten to probably 145 pounds. I needed to gain 40-50 pounds to be healthy. Unfortunately, I quickly gained what I needed and then rapidly doubled it. I have held on to it ever since.

 That is going to change NOW!

 I am going to change this shack back into the temple it was made to be!

 The truth is, I started the 90 day challenge two weeks ago. When I started the challenge on the 27th of August I weighed in at 244.8 pounds. We round that up to 245 pounds so that my goal of 25 pounds puts me at 220 and the next 90 day would put me at 195. When I weighed yesterday, I weighed in at 236 pounds. That means that I have lost 9 pounds in 13 days. That has me pretty excited. What will be telling is two things:

1.Will I continue to lose weight
2.Will I stick with the program even after I lose the weight and not put it back on

We can at least answer the first question the next time we address weight loss in August on the first Wednesday of the month.

Talk to you soon!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lack of Accountability Kills!

It seems that having no accountability is the “in” thing today. I can understand that, because fads and styles always come back into fashion. Lack of accountability has been around forever. It is actually recorded in Genesis; the very first book of the Bible.  In Chapter 3 verse 12 Adam blamed both the woman and God for the choice he made. In verse 13 the woman blamed the serpent for her choices. They were both told not to eat fruit from a certain tree, and they both failed to comply………..but it wasn’t their fault. It was because of someone else.
You blame your problems on everyone else, because that causes you very little pain. That is the cool thing about having no accountability. Things can never be your fault and you don’t have to feel terrible about the outcome because it was due to some outside factor, anyway!
“If traffic wouldn’t have been so bad, I would not have been late to work.”
“If she wouldn’t have said that, I wouldn’t have hit her!”
“If she wouldn’t have gotten high, I never would have relapsed.”
Does this sound familiar? Well, if he/she/it wouldn’t have (fill in the blank), then I wouldn’t have (fill in the blank). You pretend that you are not responsible for your own actions.  This kind of thinking actually implies that someone else controls what you: say, do, think, feel, etc. This is how negative behaviors are formed.
If it is someone else’s fault, you have nothing to change. There is nothing wrong with you; it is instead the fault of other people, places and things. This mentality traps you in a prison.  This lack of accountability eventually meets up with victimization. It is not only someone else’s fault, but someone is out to get me and that is why all of this is happening to begin with.
“Everyone is out to get me,” and “they are all persecuting me,” become our favorite responses. Another popular one is blaming it on your childhood, “It is just the way I was raised, what do you expect me to do,” as if that forgave everything. Once again, it is not my fault. “This happened because of something outside of me that I cannot control.”
Now we welcome our enemy rationalization, whereby you look at what you do and justify it by saying things like, “Everyone else is doing it,” to which you might add “they just don’t get caught.” There is my personal favorite, “well at least I am not doing (Fill in the blank).” Here a meth user says, “at least I’m not using heroin” in order to justify his drug use and how he feels it could be worse, so he must not be that bad.
Next comes in justification. You can feel better about anything that you do by justifying it. A thief might say, “I only steal from rich people that can afford it” and a drug dealer might say, “It is the law of supply and demand, they are going to use it anyway. At least I know that my drugs are not cut with stuff that could kill them.”  
Out of these come our attitudes, habits and beliefs. As you walk on your journey through life, this is how support the jacked up choices you make. After all, they were not really choices to begin with. You have now learned ways to manipulate the situations and people you come into contact with, using them as a way to avoid any feeling of responsibility. My hope is that you are no longer at this place in your life, and if you are still here that you do not want to be. I hope that you want real change in your life.
If this is to change, there are things you must do in order to change. The first is to avoid old friends and places that are conducive to you once again returning to the person you once were and no longer want to be. It is much easier not to do meth when I am not at the meth dealer’s house and a lot easier to not eat cheesecake when I do not go to the Cheesecake Factory.
Next you begin to utilize the 5 Pillars of Recovery. You must develop a relationship with a Higher Power, and I have found that God is the most effective one. Then you begin to attend meetings or small groups and actually get invested in them. The next pillar is gaining accountability partners, which are people that you give permission to call you out and help you continue moving in the right direction. Another pillar is having a set of actions to guide your life. I have found the 12 steps and the book of James from the New Testament to be very effective. Lastly, obtain a mentor/sponsor that can help you begin applying the 12 steps/James to your life.
From there you only have a couple more needs. You must learn the strength of prayer and meditation. You need also learn that community service is not something that a judge or probation officer has you do. It is something you do in order to make the community around you better, because it is the right thing to do. Finally, begin sharing the hope and strength you have found with others, both those with similar struggles as well as everybody else.
Never forget, everybody needs to hear what you have to say. Everyone needs to buy what you are selling, and you are selling hope. Without it, life is seldom worth living. The only way to come to terms with your past and understand why things happened as they did is to have the opportunity to use your experiences to impact the lives of others positively. And that is the best job I have ever found.