Conversations and Confronations: Getting to the Heart of Things

There are conversations; there are satisfying conversations, clarifying conversations, verifying conversations; and there are conversation stoppers.

There are cases presented, arguments made, counter-arguments, and sticking to the point even in disagreement, and then there is arguing.

There is heckling, badgering, harassing, escalating, name calling, fighting, bitterness, and then there is “not talking”.

There is giving space, “cool down”, allowing time to regroup, and then there is the cold shoulder of shunning.

Then there is outright contempt.

Total and complete harmony is not likely between critical thinkers – going in with any discussion on any topic.  But in theory, at least, appealing to reason and shared values should move us closer to that nearly every time.  In fact it would seem idealistic – a worthy goal, really – if this process produces complete harmony every time.

There is no room for kneejerk reactions in such a process – except to forgive them (assuming the perpetrator was briefly overwhelmed with emotion and now is penitent) .  Yet the fact that so little agreement is had, and so little civility in it’s absence (just look at the state of American politics for instance), suggests that either we are not REALLY appealing to reason or not REALLY appealing to shared values, OR it suggests that such appeals are not REALLY as helpful as we like to think.

I get a sense from my close, church friends – especially those with whom I share the most reason and values – that there is some vague (not all that well detailed) method of Christian patience that loves those with whom we disagree and tries hard not to overly (or overtly) challenge them, pressure them, shame them, or dispute them.  We appeal to God’s grace for those with whom we disagree and for us, and only very minimally assert our point of view on things, and then immediately back off, thus giving them room/space to be affected by God (if he will) and come around to our way of seeing things without any manipulation or anger.  And, in fact, anger/frustration is a sure sign you are not in God’s will at all.

But back to my first observation: this is all a bit undefined.  We will call this phenom Vague Christian Patience for our present purpose.  So don’t pin me down on any one point.  Deal with the whole mishmash of it, because it can be a bit illusive.  Except the part about the anger/frustration that makes people so uncomfortable.

So, let me just say that I openly and forcefully challenge proponents of the When Helping Hurts book and philosophy to answer for the harm THEY do BY MEANS of promoting that book and philosophy.  And I challenge them regularly WITH THE WORDS AND ACTIONS OF JESUS.

To me, my challenge seems to appeal to reason AND shared values.  But I have not once met a person who defends against my challenge based on the merits of the case I make.  A couple have come close, but only in a round about appeal to Scriptures I did not bring up.  (We will get to that another time (or upon request in the comments).)

So recently I found a proponent on the web who wrote his own very favorable book review on When Helping Hurts, and I very abruptly replied with very simple observations that Jesus very specifically commands to “Give to all who ask”, that he tells at least one rich guy to sell it all and give it to the poor, and that in fact Jesus himself feeds 5000 a fish for a day!  All of these things fly in the face of the WHH thesis.  (I could have listed more of such instances from Jesus, even weightier passages, and from the rest of Scripture as well, but in the interest of keeping it simple, I figured these would suffice.  Such is my usual practice.)

So when I put these very simple observations in close contrast with this guy’s book review, I expect him to answer each point and refute me or go back to the drawing board and rethink his support for When Helping Hurts.  If he can successfully refute me, he will either have to show that Jesus was wrong or that somehow my understanding of Jesus in those passages is wrong.  But he does neither.

Instead, he charges that I have not read When Helping Hurts and suggests I should do that before making such a criticism.

Ahhh…. but I have read the book!  And I find it incongruent with the teachings and ministry of Jesus himself.  But this guy, who I believe also read both WHH AND his Bible, defends his position without dealing with my case against it.  (Or more to the point, he defends his position without even acknowledging Jesus’ words and actions as I have presented them.)

And this is a kneejerk reaction.

The thing is: it’s typical.

I have offered this confrontation many times in many places with many people.  THEY ALL dig in their heels, but not even one has attempted to analyze this apparent discrepancy between WHH and Jesus.  Not even one.  In a decade of arguing against this book, not one has looked at this case I lay out.

Hey.  If I am being reasonable (which I insist I am), and if you can reasonably show me that Jesus either can’t be trusted at these points, OR if you can show me that my understanding of these points is flawed, then being a reasonable person, I will concede.

But no one has ever even tried.*


Meanwhile, I have friends (poor  and homeless) who get kicked out to the cold of night by practically EVERY CHURCH and practically EVERY CHRISTIAN HOME in Lubbock nearly every night.  In the last three years, two people have frozen to death out there!  But over the last decade, this book’s influence has taken ever deeper root.

There is a dire urgency here going mostly unacknowledged.  Those who endorse and support the When Helping Hurts philosophy are busy trying not to help too much, and they (along with the UN-CARING) make up the vast majority of people leaving the urgency unacknowledged.

But then there are those few who acknowledge the urgency about people freezing to death due in part to this misguided philosophy found in When Helping Hurts, but they resist me and my confrontation because it doesn’t gel with the afore mentioned ill-defined Vague Christian Patience they so highly prize.  They view my confrontation as too rash, angry, impatient, un-joyful – and doomed to fail.  They suggest (in some cases) that it is not of the Holy Spirit (in one case I was said to have a demon).

I wonder if these people have read their Bibles.

Actually, I know they have, but somehow they too have screened out Jesus’ words and actions as if they do not apply.  Somehow they have tamed Jesus to some ill-defined guru who very gently confronts wayward people and backs off the pressure, the shame, the harsh words, and then somehow with great patience he miraculously affects change in the hearts of others.  Then they think I am supposed to do likewise.

I don’t dispute that Jesus is gentle – with some people some of the time.  The shepherd that leaves 99 in search of one lost lamb and carries that lamb back to the fold ON HIS SHOULDERS demonstrates gentleness alright!  And its not like this is just one strange example of it either.  Jesus touches and heals so many people, eats with sinners, preaches good news to the poor to such an extent that its fair to characterize him with gentleness.

But Jesus expresses anger, confrontation, and even goes so far as to use labels and names in some of the harshest ways.  I mean Jesus says and does things so offensive, inciting conflict or shutting down arguments in ways I never would.  I don’t call people “hypocrites”, “snakes”, or “white-washed tombs”.  I don’t go to parties where I am invited to attend and pick on all the other guests for how they choose to seat themselves or on the host for inviting all the wrong people!  I don’t show up at the place of worship and start throwing tables end over end!  By comparison, my emulation of Jesus is quite tame!

Nevertheless, it is clear to me that Jesus confronts, sometimes in anger and frustration.  Thus such cannot be wrong.

I find him primarily confronting the proud and powerful who oppress and/or alienate others.  On some occasions, he confronts his own disciples, yet it seems clear his hasty confrontation with them happens when they are demonstrating pride.

His confrontations don’t appear to invite further discussion; they appear to shut it down instead.  The exception seems to be humility.  Jesus calls the Syrophoenician woman a “dog”, but she responds in utter humility and finds Jesus’ favor and praise for her faith

It seems to me that Jesus is not some guru who miraculously wins friends and influences people with his Vague Christian Patience, but rather challenges people to the core.  Those who humbly surrender to his confrontation are worthy to be his friend; those who do not marginalize him as far as they can, but kill him when that fails.

It seems to me, I can appeal to reason and shared values when talking about Jesus, but Jesus himself is willing to operate at much more forceful levels that frequently shut down the conversation.  He has a way of calling out either the humility or the contempt in your heart, and then you are stuck with the heart condition you choose to have.


  • My statement above, that no one has even attempted to reason with my confrontation is true, but needs to be qualified.  My observations that Jesus commands to give to all who ask, his command to the rich man, and the fact that he feeds 5000 a fish meal HAVE NEVER BEEN ANSWERED when I juxtapose them with When Helping Hurts.  However, I have had two people (two in a decade) have attempted to argue the case biblically in any fashion at all.  My hats off to them for trying.  In both cases the refutation was utterly anemic (of course that is an interpretive statement, but I am willing to recite those conversations upon request and see if you concur).  Point being,  The attempt at being reasonable about opening the door to the poor proves almost universally futile when discussing it with people in power.

A Van Full of Priests -n- Levites

So the pastor is preaching on the Good Samaritan at the upcoming lecture series.  You know the story; it is one of the top ten most famous stories in the Bible – even gets hospitals named after it.  And the congregation is full of anticipation for this really good sermon about “Who is my neighbor?” that Jesus first preached to a lawyer seeking to test Jesus.

All the elements are there for the drama:  The injured man left for dead on the side of the road, the Priest passing by on the other side, the Levite passing by on the other side, and the Samaritan, of all people, who stops to help!  Oh, yeah, and at great personal expense of time, energy, and money.  Not expecting anything in return for his trouble, but simply doing what is right for a fellow man – A NEIGHBOR.

Yeah.  It should be a good lecture series coming up.

But there is a scheduling conflict for some of the parishioners.

Yeah, it turns out there is a When-Helping-Hurts class meeting just an hour before that all the way across town.  And sure enough, there is a handful of the pastor’s flock planning to attend it so they can learn how not to over do the help, and thus harm people in the process.  (Supposedly there are some Bible passages that outline this problem, but you have to read the Greek to get it from between the lines, but it’s in there.  Oh, IT’S IN THERE!!!)

So they carpool together in hopes of cutting out of the When-Helping-Hurts class a few minutes early so they can arrive at the pastor’s lecture on the Good Samaritan only a few minutes late.  If they coordinate and rush, they can just make it.  They think.

But of course the short cut they take leads them through the poor area of town on the other side of the tracks and up to an intersection known for panhandling.  There is a pregnant pause as they wait for the light to change.  No one in the church van dares to utter a word.  Everyone averts their eyes away from the beggar on the corner, and the driver stares nervously at the red light hoping it changes to green fast.

A van full of priests -n- Levites

This is the state of Christian faith in America today.  Little crisis after little crisis going ignored to the best of our ability.

How do you vote conservative and love your neighbor?

How do you vote liberal and love God?

And yet the “Christians” find themselves empowered by a voting spirit rather than a Holy Spirit at every red light.

Getting Gently Used

Gently used”.

What a phrase!

Ever been asked to donate your “gently used” stuff for the poor?

Listen carefully here.  I am all in favor of donating “gently used” stuff.  “Gently used” is way better than donating your trash.  Sometimes people use charity as a dump – a haul-away-my-trash service – in disguise.  That is such a lousy thing to do, and it prompts people in charity service to tactfully stipulate they are interested in your nice (“gently used”) stuff rather than your garbage.

It’s so sad that the phrase had to be invented, but I guess it did.  “Reasonable” and “caring” people (at least in some cases) wouldn’t get the hint any other way.  (I wonder why no one writes a When Helping Hurts book about that!  No doubt the title could cover that aspect of charity problems too, but no one seems to think of it.)

But we are already running off in a CERTAIN KIND of direction with this, a direction I am not convinced even needs to be considered at all, much less presented as the only option.  Maybe it does matter, but it sure shouldn’t be the only way considered.

What do I mean?

(Glad you asked.)

Well, here’s the thing: No doubt we Americans already have enough stuff and sharing it is a good idea.  My home has five televisions and at least four computers, two toilets, and five drivable vehicles with four drivers!  We have stuff to give!  We could part with some of our stuff and hardly suffer it – most of it is even “gently used”.  However, if I went out and purchased any of these items new to give away, as great and wonderful as the gift would be, the sacrifice would be very intense AND unnecessary.  Donating the “gently used” stuff would be adequate and generous for most people in need.

Can you see the direction this takes?

Yeah, there is a whole conception revealed here.  A certain kind of worldview that really misses the point, I think.

We start by looking at all the stuff WE already have and the tremendous need THEY (the needy) have.  We feel concern for the needy and guilt for our own extravagance.   Then we take the seemingly very loving/caring step of redistributing the wealth.  The rich guy (us) gives the wealth to the poor (them).

This isn’t bad.  In fact, it’s rather biblical, as far as that goes.  But…

But there is a subtle superiority complex at work here too, and I am not zeroing in on a “savior complex” either. (When Helping Hurts does exactly that).  No.  Hear me out, because the attempt to side step the “savior complex” will ironically prove elitist in all the wrong ways.

No.  We now feel a burden, maybe even a bit guilty because we are glutted with stuff – too much stuff we don’t even need in the face of poverty.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?” we ask (along with the original murderer in all human history).  We are the beneficiaries of God’s blessing and our own wise stewardship.  Apologizing for it doesn’t seem right.  So we tell ourselves that we should not feel guilty for this; on the contrary, we should feel proud!  Our lifestyle should be celebrated!  Thus, on the one hand there is a sense of responsibility to be acknowledged there, but on the other, there is a sense of power, wisdom, elitism as well.  And what a relief to consider it all in terms of the latter?

But all I have done so far is point out how jumbled up these otherwise good ideals are with a latent selfishness.  And honestly, if we are stuck in this worldview, it seems there is no clear way of avoiding a bit of entanglement with a little necessary evil, thus we will happily choose the lesser of two evils, and hold a class at church about “seeking shalom” or read a book about “when helping hurts” that reinforces for us the bright side of this dilemma.

And that is the direction – the CERTAIN KIND of direction – we go with, and thus the tactful insistence on “gently used” stuff becomes a necessary distinction in hopes of weeding out overtly selfish or thoughtless people who abuse charity.

But there is another way.  A way even more biblical, actually.  And it involves a different concept of God, of Jesus and an appropriate worldview to go with it.  And that concept goes like this:

What if that needy person/those needy people is/are not, in the ultimate reality, simply “down on their luck”, or lacking self discipline (and by virtue of that, deserving of discipline by the rich – of being manipulated and leveraged with NOT HELPING TOO MUCH so as to NOT HURT BY HELPING).  What if instead (or better yet, by way of paradox) the needy person/people actually are Jesus (Matt. 25:35) and/or angels (Heb. 13:2 anyone???)?

Yeah.  What if?

If that bum you drove past on your way to the When Helping Hurts seminar is really the Matthew-25 Jesus, and not just a no-good bum, then why are you wasting your time on “gently used” stuff?

I mean, think about it like this:  Who is your favorite movie actor?  Who is your favorite novelist?  Rock star?  Politician?

Have you ever met this person you so admire?  Most of us have not.

I think Tom Hanks is one of the greatest actors in Hollywood movies, but I never met him before.  I bet he would be a very interesting person to share dinner with one evening!  If he knocked on my door, I would flip out!  I would be embarrassed that we hadn’t dusted the furniture in a few days, that the carpet is cluttered with kids toys, that I don’t have a fine steak dinner prepared to offer him.  I would be embarrassed to offer him a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, but some evenings that might be all I am having.  So…

But then there is this really extra strange idea at work in this more biblical worldview:  What if Tom Hanks stopped by incognito, and I didn’t recognize him.  Would I welcome him in?  What if he didn’t reveal his true identity to me?  Would I invite him in?  There is a chance I would, and a real chance I wouldn’t feel bad about giving him PB&J for dinner!

But what if after I rejected him, he went to my next door neighbor’s house and they welcomed him in to eat?  And what if during dinner, he revealed his true identity to them?  And what if my neighbors were so excited about having Tom Hanks in their home to eat that they then called me on the phone to insist I come meet their guest???

How would I feel when I put it all together???  I just missed my chance to host Tom Hanks!  And now I am even more embarrassed that I rejected him, and so I have to take my foot out of my mouth and explain my jerk-behavior to everyone at the party.


Well, that is the way God’s creation works, and the worldview Jesus invites us to have as Christians.  And yet we may never really know (until the great day of Judgment) which of those bums were really Jesus in disguise and which were his angels!

Ever read who comes to dinner with Abe and Sarah in Genesis 18?  How about Luke 24?

Yeah, it turns out this stuff is peppered all through the Bible.  This stuff is actually BIBLICAL!!!

Look.  I am not down on “gently used” stuff at all.  Neither the rich nor the poor should be too proud to deal in PB&J and in “gently used” donations.  Those things are well and good as far as they go.  But we have allowed ourselves to use such a phrase like blinders that inhibit our love for Jesus.  And I really, truly, deeply, urge my church and any church leaders reading here, to consider teaching this worldview when you go “seeking shalom”.

Otherwise, you are getting gently used by the devil, and that is just wrong!

Remaking Jesus In Our (Consumerist) Image: He Doesn’t Open The Door To The Poor

Its a phenom I have had familiarity with for years.  It came clear to me in the work of N.T. Wright when he described Albert Schweitzer’s Quest For The Historical Jesus and detailed several scholarly attempts, especially from the 19th Century, to historically reconstruct a proper portrait of Jesus and get to the essence of who the man was and what he did.  Even now, some scholars emphasize the wisdom of Jesus and call him a “sage”; others emphasize his gentleness and call him a “shepherd”; while others emphasize his upheaval and call him a “rebel”.  And sure enough, there are plenty of important passages of Scripture to support any and all of these emphases.

The trick (if we can call it that), it seems, is to not reduce him to any of our pet categories, because when you do that, you essentially remake Jesus in your own image (or in the image you admire).  And that is a sure sign you have put your own desires, fears, and flawed self into the picture and labeled it “Jesus”.  Essentially a Jesus idol.

This is exactly backward from the process faith should produce.  You should uncover Jesus, the real Jesus, and you should be remade in his image!  Your life should, in theory, be more and more like his!  We should be able to look at you and see him!  That is the way its supposed to go.

The fact is that we all engage in this reductionist idolatry.  The world in which we live is not immune, and there is no such thing as pure objectivity – some spiritual vacuum where our own biases do not impinge on our attempts to see, hear, and know Jesus.  There are of course, measures we can take to correct it, but no universal precaution exists where we can study Jesus and leave all our fears, desires, and flaws aside.  No.  They must be engaged as we deal with him and he with us.

Wright shows me that at the turn of the 20th Century,  one scholar (Schweitzer) came along and called the bluff on all the others, and basically shut down the Quest For The Historical Jesus with his attempt to reproduce him for the modern mind.  The scientific rules for knowledge just cannot cope.  And for most of the century, scholars pretty much threw in the towel on the Quest.

As I wake up this morning to news of a Pittsburgh synagogue shot up, and see interviews with Jewish survivors, I am reminded of Jews I have met over the course of my life and of my visit to synagogue meetings.  Here in West Texas such encounters are rare for Protestants like me.  We have a quiet synagogue, but I have never visited, and I do not personally have ongoing relationship with any Jews – nor do I know of any of my friends having such contact.  But I know a lot of Protestant Christians from a dozen or more faith groups all of whose religious faith descends from Jewish heritage.

Yet, I have met non-observant Jews and observant Jews, liberal, conservative and Hasidic.  Not all Jews are alike by any stretch.  And surely Jesus, a Jew of the First Century, was not like all the other Jews (different in significant ways).  Nevertheless, they share a heritage and many cultural/religious trappings, story, and artifacts in common.  Certainly all Jews are aware of historical hostilities against them simply because of their faith and heritage.  They all uniquely share this!

And so I am looking into the faces of people with whom I share some deep commitments.  I, along with all my Protestant friends, have adopted the heritage they were born into by race.  We worship the same God and recite the same stories about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Yet we look, sound, and behave very differently.  We have all put ourselves into the portraits of faith we remake.

Among my Protestant friends, with whom I share an official embrace of Jesus (unlike MOST of our Jewish friends), I see major differences here too.  One Christian heritage thinks God wants us to be rich and have a lot of money, that he blesses America with power, troops, and white-Anglo-Saxon privilege and promotes conservative politics.  Another faith heritage emphasizes strict Bible interpretation.  Yet another emphasizes God’s grace to the point that there is no Judgment on evil.  And I find practically everything in between.  (Cowboy church anyone???)

This is all starting to remind me of the Mall of God (which I posted about a few months ago).  In the Mall of God, you are a consumer of faith – of Jesus junk.  You can glut your life with tee shirts and bumper stickers, with best seller books and gold-chain, cross necklaces.  You can devote yourself to 40 Days of Purpose (remember that fad?) by purchasing a copy of Purpose Driven Life, reading it with your small group, and while you’re at it, get the “handsome, leather-bound Purpose Driven Journal” and the coffee mug too!  Or maybe you can read Left Behind (remember that fad?), and in fact just get the whole series if you are extra spiritual.  Watch the movie and even play the “Left Behind family board game” if you just really wanna take it to the next level.

Fortunately (hate that word, but…), none of the Jews (to my knowledge) are making board games out of their faith.  But we American consumers have reduced ourselves and our Jesus to a few consumer whims.

And that disturbs me.

And I think this stupid charade is what my church is really protecting from the homeless.  This is the garbage we don’t want to interrupt by opening the door to the poor.  The poor consume worse than the rest of us (actually they don’t worship at the altar of consumer purchases in the approved liturgies); they don’t know how to do it with the same je ne sais quoi that we appreciate in the Jesus we remake in our image.

No.  When the poor and homeless come in our door, they stink of B.O., of piss, of cigarettes and alcohol, and they eat us out of house-n-home.  They are as worthless as a losing scratch(ed)-off lottery ticket; like a booger on your finger, you can’t seem to get rid of them.

So when you are ready to have quiet time with your Purpose Driven Journal, you sense your are Left Behind with them.  After all, they don’t have a home to go home to, so they never know when to go home.

And caring for people like this just does not fit with the Jesus we have remade in our own image.

Acceptable Levels of Fecal Matter

Let me disgust you for a minute… if I can.

I remember when I was a Freshman in high school, one day some of my friends began discussing FDA standards that allow for flies or feces in ice cream.  I had never heard such an idea before.  I didn’t eat ice cream for a week!

What exactly are safe levels of poop in your food?  Well, if you want to know, here is a link that might get you started:

Good luck with that.

Let me ask you this:

What are the acceptable levels of fecal matter in your living room?

Do you have a zero tolerance policy on feces on your sofa?

Really?  You have a policy for this???

I didn’t think so.

How about your church?  What are the acceptable levels of fecal matter where you worship?

We will get back to that.

I have covered this topic before, actually, but it seems pertinent again today at the Agents X household.  (We have foster babies – infants and toddlers.)  And the fact is: people poop.

Potty training:  The yardstick of civilization!

How very important it is to master this business!!!

But you know what?  Incontinence hounds more of us that we care to admit.  As a small child, you need diapers, AND you need someone willing to tend to them for you.  When you are an adult, you can lose control through injury or disease, and there is a good chance you can handle it discreetly, but no doubt would wish for the control.

But EVERYBODY, if they live long enough, will outlive their control at some point.  EVERYBODY.  And a long life is a blessing from God!!!

And so if you have an elderly parent or grandparent living with you, then you know what I mean.

But people living on the streets frequently suffer severe alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, OR suffer diseases and injuries that the rest of us risk too, but without the support system or medical attention to help them manage their incontinence discreetly.

Yet if you open your door to the stranger – “the least of these” – in the street (Matt. 25 anyone?) very often, then pretty soon you will discover someone (or more than a few) who struggle to manage their pee-n-poo.  And when you open your sofa to sofa surfers, this means you will adapt to fairly liberal FDA standards of acceptable levels of fecal matter in your home!


But keep in mind this:  On the great day of Judgment when the King separates the goats and the sheep for destruction or salvation, that fecal matter is presented as forensic evidence – submitted by the defense, and may very well sway the Judge to favor you!

Now… What are the acceptable levels of fecal matter where you go to church?



Happy Cold, Rainy Morning! Now Go and Be Blessed!!!

The web reports our temperature in Lubbock at 48 degrees this morning, and it is raining with a 90% chance of rain most of the day.  This is not freezing, so most of us will complain about the cold as we run from the house to the car to the door at the office, school, or wherever we work.  But since it is not freezing in Lubbock today, there will be no official efforts to bring the homeless humans in for emergency shelter.

Instead, if you are homeless and lucky (what a concept?) you can receive a sleeping bag rated for freezing temps, possibly a blessing, and then you will be sent away to deal with the conditions on your own.  This is the “grace” endorsed by the church of Lubbock and dealt to the poor by a conglomeration of charities, government agencies, and funding organizations on behalf of Jesus.

But let’s look at this a bit closer:

According to WebMD, a fragile, elderly human CAN develop hypothermia in a 60 degree temp.  And that is still not accounting for getting wet.

So, if you are a homeless woman of middle age toughing it out on the streets of Lubbock today and tonight, you stand to obtain a free sleeping bag, but now you must find a place to snuggle down in it.

Where will you go?  Where would you send her???

It will be important to find a place with some cover from the rain.  However, Lubbock has begun taking down gazebos in some of the parks – especially those where homeless people are known to gather.  So odds are good our homeless friend will need to find a place where she will not be welcomed if she is found out.  Hopefully she will keep quiet and out of sight when she trespasses someone’s private property.

Being a woman, living on the streets, she is already more vulnerable to unwanted sexual abuse from her male counterparts (or any sexual predator), but she also stands a better chance of bartering her body heat (and thus sex) by sharing her sleeping bag with another – hopefully someone who will provide a measure of protection too.

So, imagine with me that this woman finds a secret spot that keeps her dry.  She snuggles down in her sleeping bag and builds up warmth.  She is quiet and out of sight.  It looks like she will be able to survive the night.

But what if she needs to go to the bathroom?  What if she gets hungry at meal time?

Either of these basic needs dictates that she must emerge from her sleeping bag, and her secret spot, and risk revealing her otherwise secure location.  It also dictates getting wet in the rain all over again.

So, she decides to risk it and heads over to the Ave O meal service cafeteria provided by the Methodist Church downtown.  She must travel 8 blocks in the rain to get there.

Does she take her sleeping bag with her?

If she does, it will get all wet along with the clothes she currently wears.  If she leaves it behind, it could get discovered and stolen by another (or disposed of by the property owner) while she is gone, and then she will be without even this minimal protection.

She decides to leave it behind.  It is the only chance she has of a warm, dry bed tonight.  So it is a risk she is willing to take.

She goes to get a meal.  On the way there, she gets soaked, and at 55 degrees, she begins to shiver.  While inside the cafeteria, she begins to warm up, but after the meal service is concluded, everyone must leave.

She has bumped into some friends there.  Someone has scored a bottle of hard liquor they are willing to share with a woman who will keep his sleeping bag warm tonight.  It is a tempting offer, but our homeless lady has made some wise choices already today, so she keeps this winning streak alive.  She quietly heads back to her secret spot.

When she gets there, she finds her sleeping bag undisturbed and resumes hiding there quietly.  She strips her wet clothes off and slips into her sleeping bag where it takes a while for her body heat to build up warmth again.  She shivers there alone for three hours.  And then the sun begins to go down and the temperatures begin to drop.

The rain has continued all day and pooling in the streets is getting bad.  A homeless person walking along the sidewalk is getting soaked by the rain that gently drizzles, but when a car and truck come racing by, the rooster tail of water splashes all over this person and drenches them to the bone.  And anyway, the pooling isn’t restricted just to the streets.

Yes, the pooling around our homeless lady hiding in a secret spot begins to invade her sleeping bag.  She needs to find higher ground.  But by the time she wakes up to realize the damage done, her bag, her clothes, and everything she owns is soaked through and through with cold rain water!

She gathers up her belongings, puts on her wet clothes, and finds that a waterlogged sleeping bag is very heavy and useless.  She quickly abandons it.  She sets out looking for another option.  She starts walking down to the Walmart that is open all night.  They have a restroom that will provide a measure of relief even if only for a few minutes.  She might find others with whom she can exist.

She finds a friend who has enough money to go into the all night diner and purchase coffee that they can sip until dawn.  They walk in the rain past four locked up church buildings to get there.  They thank Jesus for his blessing on their life.  Thank God she found a friend who will share a cup of coffee.  Her only other desperate option at that point would be to shoplift the Walmart or vandalize the place so that she could get arrested and go to jail where she would get shelter.

The night is survived!

Of course the sleeping bag is now lost.  She will not receive another from the charitable organization that crossed her name off a list of recipients because they don’t want to give multiple sleeping bags to a single person who might sell it or lose it irresponsibly.  After all, the charitable organization must be accountable stewards of the resources they manage, and they must teach “these people” to take responsibility for their poor choices.

Just imagine if our homeless lady was a mental patient off her meds.  She wouldn’t probably have made even the first good decision.

Behold! I Knocked… And A Camper Trailer Opened (Please Pray!)

Three days ago (long enough for a Savior to lay in a tomb and the disciples to find it empty) I sent an email/letter to the shepherds of the church knocking on the door.

3 Days.

I have not received a call, a reply, a text, email, personal visit – absolutely no response.

Could it still come?  Could we still get a favorable outcome?


There is nothing stopping a response or favorable outcome except contempt.  And we can pray about that!

If this knock at the door had not been ignored but instead received with ANY sense of urgency, I could have/should have received some kind of reply by now.  Even if it merely said, “We hear you and are talking about it….”.

But before the wagons circled to block me out and shun me several months ago, I received a very angry, wrathful response to a previous effort to open this dialog.  In that response, my shepherd ripped me a new one and told me:

If you ever hoped to persuade me or the other elders to hear your voice, let me now make this clear and distinct…
Your voice has no volume.  You may scream at the top of your voice, but it will not be heard.

So… I am not holding my breath.  I am buried beneath the contempt of the shepherds of the church.

Meanwhile, there was a powerful response to the knock at the door from somewhere else.  I encourage you to look at the previous post and study the comments there.  One in particular stands out.  Actually, more than one, but one stands out as a response to the knock in a most powerful way.

Here is what it says:

I have been one of the people on the streets, I have been lucky enough to have agent x and some of the people on here,help me to pay for my camper trailer and am very grateful, I have opened my door and am allowing a couple to stay with me, they have been struggling with addiction and now they are expecting a baby in February. I may not have much to offer but am grateful to be able to help someone else since I have been lucky to have people help to keep me off the streets since I am disabled. I often pray for the churches and others to open their doors for even one night and help,thank you Agent X and the others who have helped me,may you all be blessed, much love from agent MDJ

Yes, one of the readers here, Agent MDJ – a reader who has benefited prayerfully and financially (from deep sacrifice too, I might add) – has answered the knock at the door that the shepherds at the church are committed to ignoring.

I invite my readers here to pray for Agent MDJ.  She has opened her tiny, broken home to the “least of these” – risking everything she has to love others.

Oh… and talk to me about STEWARDSHIP now too, PLEASE!  This secret agent took the hundreds of dollars donated to help her last year and bought her home with it.  And now she is paying it all forward with everything she’s got.  She is investing in heaven!!!  How is that for stewardship?

I am sure you can see the risk involved.  It is the same risk my shepherds are unwilling to face and will hold me in contempt for pointing it out.  The risk is enormous!  The odds are exceptionally long!!  The outcome is almost certain failure!!!

And that is exactly what St. Peter thought of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 8:31-32).

Which means either God is at work in this or why bother?  (The shepherds are not bothered.)

So… again.  I ask you for prayers for Agent MDJ and the guests she has taken in to her tiny home.  The Christmas season approaches, and a child is on the way.  A peasant child in the belly of a young, peasant girl claiming she is a virgin! (or a woman battling addiction!).  A child is on the way and there is no room at the church!  But the child is on the way!!  The parents find lodging in a barn (or camper trailer big enough for one or two), but that is where the door opened.

And that door needs our prayers.

Behold! I Stand At The Door And Knock! (a letter to the shepherds)

The post below is the message (edited to hide identities) I sent to the leadership where I attend Church.


To [Agent G] and the Shepherds of [the] Church [I attend],

As you already know, I certainly don’t need to inform you, the Fall weather in Lubbock has turned cold and wet in recent days and weeks.  We have now had our first freeze of the season, and thus it is ever more important to open the door to Jesus who is “the least of these” on our streets.  But the knock on the door, as yet, has not been answered.

I am writing to you today to be that knock on the door yet again.

I appeal to your heart, the heart of a shepherd, the heart that loves Jesus and devotes itself to being about his Father’s business.  I know others are appealing to your sense of stewardship and matters of resources, of liabilities, of psycho/social impact and other heady things that masquerade as the Father’s business but are not.  When does Jesus ever say, “We can’t open the door to the poor because of liabilities”?  When does Jesus say, “Good stewardship means keeping the door closed to the poor”?

But if you listen to certain leaders, read certain books, and look at the cost of discipleship, it becomes easy to shroud the matters of your shepherd’s heart with these important sounding, yet selfish concerns.

I watched the reports on local TV news this past week.  I see that efforts are made to hand out sleeping bags by local charities.  I am grateful for every crumb that falls from Lubbock’s Table.  But meanwhile Jesus knocks at the door.  And the LOVE of God is far richer and more lavishing than sending the sheep away, scattered to the winds with a sleeping bag to face the cold and wet.

If your son or daughter knocked on your door tonight and said, “I have no where to stay”, I bet you would take them in to your very home.  If your son or daughter knocked on my door tonight and said, “I have no where to stay”, I think you would hope that I would take them in or call you.  If you, being evil men, know how to give good gifts, how much more God the Father?

Well, God’s Son, “the least of these”, is knocking on your door.  He says, “Behold!  I stand and the door and knock.  If you open up, I will come in and party with you!”

Imagine that!

Jesus will come in and party with you.

I hope you will imagine that.  I hope you will find it in your heart to open the door.


Agent X
Fat Beggars School of Prophets
Lubbock, Texas (USA)

Calling it for What it Is: A Cockroach in the Icing (Hand to Hand with Agent X)

Every now and then I feel a little lonely – being shunned by my church and all does that. But Thanx to Tom and a few others, I am reminded that like Jesus before me, I have lots of friends in low places! I am not nearly as alone as it sometimes feels. Thanx Tom!!!

Hard Times Ministries

Agent X with the Fat Beggars School of Prophets has been fighting the establishment for a long number of years: decades over the issue of the church taking in the homeless.

To that effect, Agent X has mostly lost the battle with the churches as simply put; all those ‘good’ people don’t want to mingle with all those ‘bad’ people.

In easy terms: the homeless are a group of cockroaches that stream out of the woodwork and do nothing but contaminate the beauty and purity of the church buildings and congregants.

Nobody loves a COCKROACH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As much as we Christians say we love others and love all and possess the love of Christ: WE DON’T!

Sorry, but I call things the way I see them and we simply haven’t arrived when it comes to intimating the love of God through His son, Jesus.

We make excuses: we appear inept…

View original post 403 more words

For Every Effect, There Is A Side Effect

Take medication?

See the ads for them on TV?

Each medication comes with a list of “side effects”.  No?

“May cause bleeding”; “May cause dry mouth”; “May cause diarrhea”; “shortness of breath”, “unexpected weight gain”, and so on and on.  One medication may negatively interact with another.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Does any of this mean you no longer take medicine?  Does it mean you stop seeing a doctor?  Do these complications stop pharmaceutical companies from producing new medicines or advertising them?


We try to give these complications due respect and deal with them appropriately, but we have become so desensitized to the complications that really, they are barely a speed bump in the fast lane to obtain them.

And here’s the point: Sometimes Helping Hurts.

Oh… did X just say that???

Yeah.  Your anti-depression medication lists “suicidal thoughts” as a “side effect” of the drug supposedly helping prevent suicide!  And when you get to the psych ward, they will get a court order and force it in your mouth.


It’s not just meds either.

Pass a law and see what happens.  The intended consequence seems to work great for a while, but then all the unintended consequences start cropping up.

Do we stop passing laws?


We amend them.

But here is the underlying point: Sometimes Helping Hurts, but that notion is a double edged sword.  It cuts at least two ways.

Look.  I didn’t invent the idea.  I didn’t write the book, When Helping Hurts.  That was Corbett and Fikkert.  I certainly don’t promote it.  But I don’t deny the general phenom either.  I am aware that a lot of bums in the gutters of our streets are addicts and mental patients out of control.  I am aware that frequently the people living like that have almost no self discipline and live for instant gratification.  Thus giving someone in such circumstances $5 with the idea that they might get a meal frequently translates into a bottle of booze or a bag of dope.  The concept is called ENABLING, and it is a real phenom.

However, my problem with the book and the concerns it claims is first and foremost that Jesus doesn’t care about them.  He really does not care about them.  Jesus runs around giving, healing, and celebrating the Kingdom Come amid the poor, the sick, the broken, and demon possessed at every turn and yet NEVER warns his disciples against ENABLING.  He never delivers one single sermon outlining how your help might hurt and warning against this phenom.

On the contrary, numerous places Jesus warns, preaches against, and demonstrates the exact opposite.  If you want to have life in the Age to Come, he tells one rich man, sell everything you have, give it to the poor, come follow me, and count your riches in heaven!  Give to all who ask, and don’t expect repayment.  He literally feeds five thousand people a fish for a day!

There are a couple of passages from St. Paul that SEEM to dovetail with the When-Helping-Hurts philosophy, but even there it is clear that such a concern is not Paul’s primary concern, not even secondary.  And this leads some of us to look again closely to determine if the dovetail we SEEM to see there is even accurate at any level.

On the contrary, Jesus and the prophets before him go to extraordinary lengths to blame the rich for the suffering of the poor, over and over again.  This blame of the rich actually is a major facet of Bible teaching.  (Yeah.  Blame.  Look into it.)

So why is this worry about ENABLING suddenly a major facet of Christian ministry to the poor and needy?  How did this worry become the main thrust of Christian charity?  And why are Christians running so fast to the Wisdom of the World to address it?  And why is it that neither the authors of When Helping Hurts nor any of their promoters don’t guard against the side effects of their own worry about side effects?  After all, as I said above, the phenom cuts two ways!

Yes, it turns out that even if the local, regional, national, and international charities are truly honest, and account for every dime you give them, there are huge administrative costs to deal with.  That’s right.  Paperwork, staff salaries, electric bills, office space, vehicles, inspections and many more gremlins and demons possess the money you give to them – money that will never find its way to the direct benefit of the bum you hoped to help.

And that’s just for the honest!

Let’s face it, when you give money, the odds are someone will take a dishonest slice of it for themselves somewhere along the way.  Even the biggest most reputable charities in the world have uncovered corruption within their own organizations.  Thus giving to a charity is risking that your alms will wind up buying a six pack for the secretary ever bit as much as if you gave it straight to the bum on the corner!

Do you think that just because the organization presents itself as a service to Jesus staffed with Christians that this cannot ever happen?  Think again!  This kind of corruption dates all they way back to Jesus’ original 12 Apostles!  (Just look at John 12 to see what I am talking about.)

This brings me to my point within the underlying point: When Christians and the charitable organizations they promote start majoring in worries about ENABLING poor choices of the poor rather than feeding, healing, and celebrating the Kingdom Come in their midst, they have gone off Script.

We may as well hold these organizations to the same scrutiny to which they hold the poor.  When we do, we will find, whether honest or not, that the phenom cuts both ways!  And the continued insistence of covering that over raises questions of corruption – questions of the heart.

Do you see poor, needy people in the assembly you attend for worship?  Where are they?

If Jesus was walking dusty Galilean trails from village to village, would you find bums mobbing him?

Of course!  Read your Gospels!!!  You see this everywhere on nearly every page.

But when you get to church worship in your town, you join the Body of Christ, the same Body, The Same Spirit of God that Jesus incarnated indwells this assembly too – right???

So were are the bums?

Across town?  In a barn??  The other side of the tracks???

Yes.  The bums (the lost sheep) are scattered under bridges, “no trespassing” signs, and suspicion all over town, but not in the assembly.

Does this sound like Jesus?

No.  Of course not.

The phenom has cut both ways.

I am not denying that giving $5 to a bum ENABLES bad choices.  It certainly does.  But it ENABLES good ones too.  And anyway, the money is not the most important part of the exchange anyway.  The sacrificial love is.  The AGAPE is missing!  And every time a Christian charity insists you trust them with your money instead, or every cup of charity coffee you purchase, inhibits the sacrificial love you might have shown.

And anyway, Jesus parties with the poor.  In fact (see Luke 14), he demands we do it too!

This brings me to my NEW POINT: We do not need to be ENSLAVED to a fear of ENABLING.

If we want to be free of fear, suspicion, worry, we really can do like Jesus and seek out the lost sheep of our community, touch their unpleasantness (leprosy anyone???), share our meals, our empty guest rooms, our assembly, our parties with the poor and needy and find a NEW THING – AGAPE!

The poor (it turns out) take to partying with the Jesus (or the rich) like a duck takes to water!

Don’t believe me?  Try it!

Read about it in your Gospels!

Trust Jesus with your alms.

This phenom has the power to actually change the world!

(Now talk to me about “stewardship” – a code word for God-sanctioned selfishness in most settings.)