Monday, July 26, 2010

The Disadvantages of Progress

I still do not have a high-def TV. Our home computer is over six years old. I drive a 1992 Chevy Silverado Pickup; my wife drives a 2003 Chevy Suburban. Our house was built in 1960.

I may have lower expectations than the normal person, but few of us expect to purchase the newest or the best, when it is first released to the marketplace. Most of us are content to wait until the price goes down.

The one exception is health care. If my wife has an undiagnosed illness, I want the newest and best medical tool available to figure what the problem is. If one of my children is ill or injured, I want the best medicine on the market to take care of the problem.

Furthermore, whether it be machinery or medicine, I want the bill to be sent to my insurance company. I want them to pay it. I have very high expectations, when it comes to health care. I think most people are like me.

Since, we are so much alike, and since, there are over 300 million of us, we’ve got a problem. What if we had the same expectation when it comes to computers?

What if, every time a PC company or Apple came out with a new innovation on their computers, we wanted to purchase it—and have the bill sent to our insurance company? It would create economic chaos.

Yet, this is what is happening in health care. If the year were 1910, or 1810, this would be less of a problem. The medical field was offering much less when it came to innovation.

In this day and age, the growth of innovation is exponential: doctor specialization, pharmaceutical drugs, and medical machinery…. even if we formed the world’s greatest insurance company, we would still have price problems.

I do not foresee an easy solution. In some ways, this is a backhanded compliment from our culture to Christianity. Skyrocketing prices reveal, we still place the highest value on human life. For a future easing of tensions, I see five possible scenarios:

1) We decide that life in this world will never be perfect, and we accept fewer years or reduced quality in exchange for lower health care costs.

2) We decide that health care is our number one societal value; therefore, we agree to privately pay whatever costs are necessary to ensure we receive the best and most innovative health care available. This is done in community but not funded by taxpayer dollars.

3) We decide that health care is our number one societal value; therefore, we agree that taxpayers will fund whatever costs are necessary to assure we receive the best and most innovative health care available.

4) We decide that health care is to be placed in the same category as computers and cars: everyone is on his or her own.

5. Some combination of the previous four.

None of these solutions are ideal. No solution will be. For this reason, I feel this issue must be addressed at the spiritual and moral level, as well as the economic one.

As salt and light in this world, what role we will as Christians play? Have we evaluated well the role of the cross in all of this? How do we balance grace and discipleship when it comes to health care? How do we maintain equilibrium between forever and falleness?

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Thank you MacArthur Park church of Christ in San Antonio for sharing with my family and me your wonderful hospitality.

2. Judy, Timothy, Abby and I spent Thursday at Sea World. It was our first time. We were blessed with cloudy skies, temperate temperatures, and a smaller crowd than normal. We all enjoyed ourselves.

3. Something I noticed—all of the animal shows shared a story. Instead of a trainer saying, “This is Shamu, watch him jump in the air…”, all of the killer whale tricks were done in the context of a narrative. The Sea Lions were participants in a play about robbery in a fish factory. There was no exception. The trainers never took time to directly impart information about the animals. This reality accentuates the shift we have taken from being a culture of data to being a culture of story.

4. Every Edge child is at Camp Deer Run this week during the day. Haleigh and Abby stay there at night, also. Judy begins a workshop tomorrow, but I bet she enjoyed today.

5. Dallas Cowboy receiver, Dez Bryant, you’re not giving me good vibes with this, “I won’t carry Roy Williams shoulder pads.” Maybe I read too much into this.

Monday, July 19, 2010

For Whose Glory?

I remember that I was stunned to learn how much of my Christian ministry was based on self-interest when, of all things, I went into business.  I went into business when I was 22, first by taking over and running my father's estate. 

Before, in college, I had studied to be a pulpit preacher.  Thus, because of my field of study and the common knowledge of what I wanted to do, I had many opportunities to teach, preach, lead evangelistic campaigns, etc.  All the time, I assumed I was doing everything "to the glory of God.”  Occasionally, I would find myself feeling hurt, if I wasn't asked to speak at this chapel service or that devotional, all because "I had something to share and was disappointed I didn't have the opportunity to share it." 

Then, amazingly enough, when I began my work in business, I found that the old hurts and disappointments disappeared.  Do you know why?  It was because I had begun to receive most of my ego strokes in business.  And, suddenly, the horrible realization dawned on me, what I thought was disappointment at not getting to "share a message on my heart," was really a bruised ego, disappointment at not getting another chance to be before an audience, practicing my craft, and receiving more strokes.

Now, I don't want you to think that whenever I preached, or preach, for that matter, my primary motive is to have people think that I do a wonderful job and I am an outstanding guy.  Rather what I am saying is, if this is one percent of my motive—that is one percent is too much.  It means there is still too much of self that is alive.

I realize those of us who are on church staffs are the ones, who probably struggle with this attitude the most with respect to "church related activities" simply because we, humans, get so much of our ego fulfillment from our jobs, but guess what?  You, members, who are not employed by the church, are not immune.  I know you have, at times, struggled with this problem because you have told me.

What if, for you and me, Paul’s words truly became real? “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31.)

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. The family and I saw a lot of the Lyndon Johnson legacy in Austin last week. I would highly recommend touring the LBJ Library and the LBJ Ranch. I was shocked at the prices: free admission and parking at the library; $2 for adults 18 and older at the LBJ Ranch—17 and under get in free. My kids really enjoyed these tours, and they are not historical buffs—trust me.

2. Austin is a great city to visit—lots to do and very historical. But the traffic is still too much for me. Also, we were surprised at how many lots in the city looked tacky—like uncared for pastures. I could never imagine Tyler letting that happen.

3. We don’t eat out much, but we did some last week. One place we had never experienced before was Pei Wei. They served good Chinese food for a nice price. We enjoyed the ambiance as well. The Edge family gives Pei Wei twelve thumbs up.

4. Unless my daughter, Haleigh, was holding something back—and I don’t think she was—the UT Volleyball Camp was a good experience. The staff had a good grip on teaching, placing girls in the appropriate levels of competition, and offering adult supervision. I am pleased we were able to send Haleigh.

5. I have had a lot of fun speaking at different churches this summer. If any of you reading this blog are from the MacArthur Park church of Christ in San Antonio, I am looking forward to spending time with you this Wednesday night.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What If I Had Faith In Jesus?

One of the hardest things to do, in the Christian life, is to allow Jesus to be relevant. Dallas Willard, in his book THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY, addresses this challenge.

Willard says Jesus seems otherworldly to most of us. He is a good person, out of touch with reality. He is like a cheerleader constantly shouting, “We are going to win,” even though the score is 98 to 3 and the clock is ticking.

The problem is many Christians have faith in faith; the challenge is to have faith in Jesus. It seems to me, so many times in my life when I have failed to be what I should have been, or when I blatantly acted sinfully, I instinctively knew what Jesus would have me to do. The problem was, I did not trust him with the answer. Often, I believed in my gut he was right, but I did not want to pay the price of acting, as he would have had me act.

My mistakes have accumulated. Could it be I am finally reaching the age, where I am willing to risk all, put my faith in Jesus, and imitate him as I have imitated other men in my life?

What if, instead of:

Believing in believing
Believing in an ideal
Believing in morality
Believing in America
Believing in marriage
Believing in family
Believing in work
Believing in play
Believing in rest
Believing in activity
Believing in a religion
Believing in a church
Believing in a creed
Believing in a doctrine
Believing in a Bible

I, first and foremost, made the decision to believe in Jesus?

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. So Lebron and Chris are moving to Miami, and Dwyayne is staying. Got anybody to rebound inside and play interior defense?

2. The Rangers get Cliff Lee in a trade. Now there’s a Blockbuster!

3. I want the world to know I picked Spain to win the World Cup yesterday, on Facebook, at the beginning of the match.

4. Judy took our oldest daughter, Haleigh, to Austin yesterday for the UT Volleyball Camp. Judy will return today, hopefully. I never cease to be amazed at how younger children get anxious when their mother is away. Boy, does it ever come out in their behavior.

5. We’re going to Austin later this week to pick Haleigh up. Anybody know a good, natural swimming hole around Austin? That would be a memory maker.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Rh Factor

J. H. Traver was a scientist, who did research on blood. Several years ago, I read an article Traver wrote. It was dated, but it still symbolically made an impact on me.

It was in Traver’s work that I first became aware of the fact that when a man, whose blood contains the Rh factor, and a woman, whose blood lacks this factor produce an offspring, the blood of the baby often carries the Rh factor, which causes the mother's body to produce antibodies. These antibodies can cause destruction of the red cells in the fetal bloodstream.

Ultimately, this can become a threat to the life of the baby. Years ago, options were limited to basically a blood transfusion. Someone else’s blood had to serve as substitute for that of the baby.  In other words, in order to save the child's life, most of its blood had to be removed while being replaced with blood from a suitable donor.

I cannot help but think, in a sense, that is the way it is for every person on earth. There is something wrong with our blood. It has been tainted with sin. There needs to be some sort of heavenly transfusion. No blood from this planet is good enough. There has to be something better, extra, supernatural.

One came from another world, and came to this world and gave us opportunity to receive a transfusion—a spiritual transfusion of his blood. He was the Son of God.

Now, allow me to tweak this metaphor.

We cannot make ourselves be born. What it takes is the effort of those, who help in the birthing process. It takes, ultimately, literally, one person and the shedding of her blood, to bring that baby into the world.

That is the way it is for a sinner. A sinner can try all he wants to make a difference to get to heaven. But, it will not work. There has to be a birthing process. Someone else has to give birth to him. Someone has to shed blood to bring him into this world. Jesus shed his blood to birth this new creature (see John 3:3-5).

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Last week, I finally saw the movie UP. My kids had been trying to get me to see it for a long time. I really enjoyed the movie. Their opening, five-minute summary, of the married life was one of the most moving I have ever seen. Virtually without words, they painted, onscreen, what it means to live in love until death do you part. I’m making that sequence a required viewing for any couple I marry.

2. Thank you Westhill congregation in Cleburne. I had a great time with you Wednesday night. And I really like the coffee house concept.

3. I finished my yearly listen to SANDY KOUFAX, A LEFTY’S LEGACY by Jane Leavy. I thoroughly enjoy the book, obviously. I think part of the reason is Jane Leavy is an exceptional writer. She is truly gifted with words. Why she is not more famous, I do not know.

4. Argentina loses to Germany 4-0. That was so lopsided, I did not even feel bad after the match.

5. I hope you are enjoying a marvelous July 4th weekend.