A Fat Beggars Bible Study (BS Series) Lesson #3

Today’s Text is Mark 6:30-44.  Yes, this is that famous passage in the Bible that says:

FEED a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; TEACH a man to fish, and you make him go away.

Yes.  Jesus really said that.  Of course you have to know the Aramaic behind the Greek to really get that out of there, but yes, he said it for sure.  (Okay, maybe he didn’t really say it, but he should have.)

Open your Bible, and let’s dive in!

As you can see, the Apostles, in vs. 30, return from their first mission trip which must have been successful, because they now have hordes of followers chasing after them like groupies following a Bon Jovi tour.  And these poor bastards – ahem, I mean sheep – don’t bring any lunch with them.  It’s not like they should expect Jesus to get something for them to eat.  The ancient Hebrews who followed Moses did this same thing, and God gave them a miraculous meal, and look what has happened… They keep coming back hoping he will produce for them again and again!  It’s like they never learn.

Jesus, in vs. 37, really has got to break this trend.  God, the Father, read a great little book called When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert, and now he knows that you can’t give your love and wealth to the poor like that; it only hurts them in the end.  So, he lent his copy to Jesus, who now is going to teach these sheep to fish so that they will finally go away!  (It’s exactly what a GOOD shepherd is supposed to do with a flock.)

Jesus is now going to teach this to his disciples, which you can plainly see in vs. 35, where the disciples come to Jesus and suggest sending these people away to get something to eat.  And of course that is the end goal for Jesus too (to send them away), but he knows that if you don’t teach them to fish, they will be back again before you know it.  I mean, what about tomorrow?  If they find out you feed them today, they will expect it again tomorrow.  This is just basic conditioning according to the psych books.

Jesus wants to empower these people to live independent of him forever, not just for a day or two.  And he does NOT want to “enable” them to come back for more.  This is an important difference, you see: empower or enable.  You gotta get this right.

(Now, just so you are clear on this: If you read Corbett and Fikkert, you know that they warn against having a “savior complex”.  And that is exactly right.  You definitely want to avoid that, just like Jesus should have!  This is like the one big mistake Jesus makes, and he really should have read Corbett and Fikkert more attentively!  What ever you do, don’t try to be like Jesus and have a savior complex.  After all, it could get you killed, and you might have to take up a cross and follow Jesus!  But that is just a free bit of advice on the side.)

So, of course the disciples do like Jesus says, and they make fishers of men.  After all, several of these disciples were fishers in their former careers.  They now make excellent teachers for this lesson!  It is practically divine the way God works that out.

As it turns out, one of the former fishermen is carrying a couple of loaves of bread in his old tackle box.  Jesus has the great idea to use it as miracle bait.  So they split up the bait between them all, and this is truly miraculous because there are 5000 men they turn into fishers with those two loaves that day!  And sure enough, they start catching fish!  Once the fish are caught, twelve of these guys form a 501c3 homeless ministry and start teaching street bums to fish so they will learn NOT to have o depend on Jesus.

And they went away satisfied and never came back.

(At least that is what Mark 6 should have said.)

Plotting Revolution (part 2)

In my last post, I began exploring the idea of the church plotting revolution.  I asked what we should be doing now in anticipation of the coming glory.  This question opened up for me as I read N.T. Wright’s commentary on Romans 8.  That in turn made me recall a certain jealousy I once held for the social activist, David Horowitz, and his father as he tells about growing up in the home of American communists in the 1940’s and 50’s.  That father gave his son daring and tenacious kind of faith in the revolution they were plotting that took the very concrete idea that among all the sweeping changes they would usher in, there would be the job of renaming the city streets.

Yes, I was jealous of that scene.  I think that kind of faith is impressive in the face of overwhelming odds and persecution.  It was daring and grounded in THIS WORLD.  It did not retreat or concede ground; it laid claim to the Promised Land ahead of time.

No.  I have no favor for those particular politics, agendas, and plans, but the faith… THE FAITH those people put in that future was something to envy.  But my Dad never took me out on the streets to rename them as an exercise in imagining our world after the Glory comes.  I missed something there.

But, I also suggested that renaming streets might be a rather low order agenda, actually.  Sure, it would be involved, and it is important.  But that is hardly the big picture.  It certainly suggests that the Horowitz family were really dedicated and had plans worked out down to some rather fine details.  Apparently their minds, hearts, and strength were fully devoted to imagining the world ordered differently, and this mundane example shows the lengths to which they had taken it.  But renaming the streets is not where the real thrust of reimagining the world gets its power.

I will not deny my envy of that picture.  A father and son so confident in their shared faith.  But I need to say that actually I share something bigger with my father and mother.  And while my last post borrows heavily from communist faith, I surely do not want to glorify that faith, but rather use it to help point our imagination to a better place.  And in truth, my parents and I shared a moment once that far outshines that of the Horowitz family.  I hope that by sharing it, I can aid my readers to stretch their imaginations (with a hope beyond that for them to in turn come back and help stretch mine).

I believe that the last time my mom and dad and I were all together was the day of my grandpa’s funeral (several years ago now).  It also happened to be the day Mom got her final prognosis from her cancer specialist.  Her life expectancy was outlined that day, and subsequently her final stages of cancer went exactly as planned.  It was with both of those items making up our day that in the late afternoon my mom, dad, and a few close relatives and I all went up to the Knife Edge overlook in the Mesa Verde National Park (which overlooks my hometown).  And there we prayed, sang some hymns, and watched the sunset over the Montezuma Valley below.

It was during that meditative time, as we struggled to imagine our future with God and family (having just buried Grandpa and learned Mom’s prognosis) that Dad and I began reflecting on Joshua stopping the sun in the sky (Josh. 10:12-13).  What can I say?  It was a moment pregnant with wonder.  Knife Edge overlook has long been a favored spot of God’s creation for my family.  The sunset on the valley below is a treasure to behold.  The chance for my family to be together like that was rare, as we all lived so far away anymore.  The fact that Grandpa was now in the ground and Mom’s time with us appeared to be drawing to a close all made us yearn to hold on to that moment – that beautiful moment, and suddenly Dad and I thought about Joshua stopping the sun.

This gave way to much reflection and meditation on what it means to be God’s image bearer.  In the Bible, the image bearer not only stops the sun in the sky (Josh. 10), but the mountains bow down, the valleys rise up, the crooked places straighten out (Isa. 40:3-4); the flowers bloom along the path as the image bearer passes by (Isa. 35); the image bearer can walk on water (Mark 6:48)!  The image bearer was always meant to rule over creation (Gen. 1:26)!  If all this was true, then surely we could even repaint the sunset over the Montezuma Valley and command the sun to stop as we hold on to that moment.  And if not at that moment, then at least we could plan for it.  So we did.

There on the Knife Edge overlook, my family prayed, sang, and worshipped and plotted revolution.  And my imagination has forever been stretched.

Now, if I can only plant this seed in the hearts and minds of my brothers and sisters in the church.  And especially so that they then begin plotting revolution for the streets – the people living there.

Plotting Revolution

I find myself studying Romans this year much closer than ever before.  It stems from working my way (slowly) through N.T. Wright’s Paul And the Faithfulness of God – a massive two volume book that seems to be exhaustive of all things Paul.  I read it before, and yet found I was unable to coherently regurgitate what I had learned.  So, I am going through it again and pausing at every scenic overlook to ponder all the ins and outs.  And this has me shelving the massive two-volume book and running through Wright’s much smaller For Everyone commentary on Romans (with a glance here and there in his massive Romans commentary too).

Well, enough about all of that.  If you have followed here long, you know what an enthusiast I am for Wright, but there is no need for me to simmer there.  On the other hand, I am absorbing new thoughts, some of which seem relevant to this blog from time to time.  And it is part of his For Everyone comment on Romans 8 that has me jazzed at the moment.  Particularly Romans 8:17 and following.

We are heirs with the Messiah.  We have a fortune to inherit.  But as Wright points out:

“Some Christians speak and live as if everything simply comes to us from God while we sit still and merely receive it.  But God’s gift and call to us are not for ourselves alone, but for the purpose of working through us to bring about the transformation of the world. … We have to live in a particular way, a way which anticipates the ‘glory’, the rule over creation, which we will eventually share with the Messiah.”

Okay, I thin sliced this quote which deals with multiple dimensions of theology, really, but I just want to focus on one, and I highlight the cutting edge of that one with the italic emphasis which I add to the quote.

So the question arises: Just what is the thing we do that anticipates the ‘glory’?

(I am so glad you asked.)

Well, this question has me recalling a much different book I read more than 20 years ago by David Horowitz called Radical SonRadical Son is basically an autobiographical tale of a social activist who was raised by American communists in the 1940’s and 50’s, who as a young adult worked hard to protest and resist the Vietnam War and supported the Black Panther/Black Power movement, but then after several years became disillusioned with liberal politics and embraced conservative politics instead.  I have not followed Horowitz for a very long time, but last I heard, he was still pulling activist stunts, alright, but definitely working for the Right Wing conservatives instead of Left Wing liberals.

I have no desire to debate his politics or mine, but Horowitz describes his passion in a narrative tale.  You don’t argue with narratives.  You can be moved by them to formulate opinions, but you don’t argue with them.  You either pay attention to narratives or turn them off.  But this one is interesting, and so you are not likely to turn it off.

Horowitz was raised by communists.  This is quite a foreign experience for a guy like me to consider, and these were American communists in particular.  These were the kind of people Senator Joseph McCarthy famously witch hunted, the kind that got blacklisted in Hollywood and so forth.  And to be honest, having grown up in the 1980’s, I actually thought such people were the figment of McCarthy’s deluded and paranoid imagination.  I didn’t know such people were real – or if real, I imagined they surely were some truly shallow and deranged people that American society would be foolish to fear.

But no.  Horowitz educated me.  I not only discovered American communists were real, but they were organized and passionate.  And Horowitz describes the hidden library in his parents’ basement, the clandestine meetings they hosted for fellow underground communists, and (the part I really want to feature in this post) the way his father taught him from childhood to plot revolution.

This is the image Horowitz burned in my mind: On summer evenings as the heat of the day dissipated, or even after dark, Horowitz’s father would take his young son for walks around the neighborhood, and when they passed streets and avenues with names like “Washington”, “Liberty”, or “Jefferson”, the two would conspire a plan for renaming them “Lenin”, “Stalin”, or some other names that honored their communist heroes and movement.  (Please forgive me for not making accurate quotes here; it’s been 20 years since I read the book.)

At first I was alarmed just to know there really were people out there plotting such deep cultural changes, which if successful would obviously make a drastic impact on me and everything I know and think – and the same for all my family and friends.  It was a bit frightening, actually.  But, of course, they did not, in fact, achieve anywhere near that kind of ambition in America.  But once I was past the fear, there was still the fascination about how a father would train up his son with such a rich faith – yes, I said FAITH (even though it is not Christian faith).  It was a tenacious faith in a future that would prove to be a longshot.  I mean, if “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, things unseen” (Heb. 11:1), this father was teaching faith to his son alright!  I was a bit jealous.

Jealous of communist faith?

Yeah, I actually envied this kid.  His father had raised him to be a communist in America during the 1950’s, and I envied him?  Yes, I did.  What if my parents were so sure of our Christian faith (an important distinction, yes but with important similarity too), that they took me around town plotting to change the names of “Liberty Street” and “Washington Ave” to “Holy Spirit Street” and “Jesus Christ Ave”?  What if we really believed? …like that???  And what if we colluded in prayer with the Holy Spirit and plotted the unhostile takeover of creation by the Kingdom of God amid persecution?  What would that look like?

This seems to me to be very possibly the kind of thing Wright is suggesting as he unpacks Romans 8.

I dare say, it would have been a far cry from the steady diet of Pie-in-the-Sky passivism coupled with anti-legalist/free grace theology that has, in fact, NOT opened the floodgates for the sinners to come poring in, but instead has made Christian faith more indulgent of every sin on the one hand and all but entirely irrelevant on the other!  But at least we avoided the persecution!!!

(This is not a criticism of my parents actually, but of modern American Christendom, actually, because my parents passed on to me what was passed on to them.  It was only a cosmetic variation on that of practically all the other American Christian families around us too.)

No.  I am a bit jealous of this commie kid and his dad for their faith, which had real grit and real anticipation of a future full of GLORY.  And as I read Wright’s thoughts on Roman’s 8, I find Horowitz’s story coming back to mind.  I wonder if we might not plot revolution for Christ, and just what that would look like both here and now AND when the Kingdom is fully consummated in Glory.

And, of course, this has me thinking about the church vis-à-vis the homeless.  I imagine renaming streets would be involved, but loving the poor AS IF they were Jesus himself (Matt. 25:40) strikes me as a bit more meaningful and Christ-like.  But, of course, this blog is full of that suggestion already.  But perhaps there is something deeply subversive and revolutionary about it which before now, I have failed to consider or promote.

So… It’s Easter Sunday Morning! Wooo hooo!!!

So… It’s Easter Sunday Morning!  Wooo hooo!!!

But I don’t feel any different.  What happened?  Did something change?  You mean some women can’t find a dead guy?  You mean to tell me that a couple of sluts (a-hem, okay, FORMER sluts) and the mother of a death row inmate that got executed last Friday are running around in a dither because his grave is empty?

It’s still six months til Halloween, ya’ll.  What has changed?

Here’s the thing: Frank and Ed met up with Junior and Frisco yesterday and found a really sweet spot for a group of homeless men to crash for the night behind some tall weeds and a small grove of trees behind the No-Tell Motel.  It’s just two blocks from church, and it being Easter Sunday, these guys planned to go to Sunday Worship.

This is Easter Sunday, but they have the hope of COFFEE and DONUTS in the morning!

But here at pre-dawn out back of the No-Tell Ed just really needs to spring a leak.  So he stumbles over Junior and Frisco, waking them both up, as he makes his way over by a nearby dumpster.  It’s not bitter cold, but the forecast called for possible rain, and sure enough it is damp and cool.  Once he is up and relieved, it sure would be nice to get that coffee.  And once Junior and Frisco are awake, they too need to pee, and then smoke a stub of a cigarette between them, which wakes Frank up too… and now he is jealous that there ain’t no more smoke left.

Now, I would really LIKE to tell you some beautiful parable about how God moves among these humble beggars and bums to advance his Gospel message to their city (you know, like he does in II Kings 6 – 7), but this is America!  No.  Sorry, this is an uneventful story.  A story that yearns for a climax like an old man in the No-Tell Motel with a hooker but who forgot his Viagra yearns for one, but none is forthcoming.

No.  This is Easter Sunday Morning, and Frank, Ed, Junior and Frisco have all peed now, but it will be three more hours before the deacon has the coffee ready and the doors are unlocked on the Jesus-celebration.  Three more hours before the women come, not looking for the Body of Christ, but hoping to show off their new dress, corsage, purple leather-bound Bible with monogram and matching shoes!  Three more hours before they find Jesus.

The boys from the sweet spot behind the motel will get in, alright.  All four of them will manage to get a cup of coffee, but Junior will find all the donuts gone by the time he muscles his way through the holiday crowd.  And by the Benediction, our boys will be wandering up to the library to look for friends.

But before they get out the door, the deacon will say, “Happy Easter”, and that will be a proper celebration, I am sure.

So, like I said… It’s Easter Sunday Morning!  Wooo hooo!!!

…but what has changed?


Jesus Locked Out of Church

I published several photos at the end of yesterday’s post.  I don’t know if you looked them over or not.  A couple of them haunt me.  (Well, actually all of them haunt me….)  But as I reviewed them, I thought I might put just a couple of them in context with a word or two and let their story unfold.

Both photos are old now – taken 3 – 5 years ago.  I really must preface that, in order to be fair.  In fact, the first one is the older one, taken in 2012, I think.

As you can see, I obscured the identity of the subjects who all agreed to be photographed.  But you can also see that these men are bedding down for the night.  What is not obvious, but which I will now reveal, is that this “spot” is about 30 yards (just across the alley) behind Lubbock’s premier homeless church and about 40 yards in front of (just across the street (Broadway) from) the support church that founded the premier homeless church to begin with.  I will let you guess where these men attend church.

The second photo is not far away, but again the same two churches are adjacent to the subject matter.

The impromptu tent city here is built up just beyond the fence from the premier homeless church on the neighboring property.  The premier homeless church is obscured by the trees in the back ground, but it is the structure at the left side.  The much larger support church is also obscured, but the bell tower can be made out behind the trees at the right side.

This impromptu tent city (not to be confused with the “legit” tent city located just East of downtown) cropped up briefly near the church, but was not allowed on the property.  The city, with the help of the land owner and church leadership, was able to dismantle this smaller tent city after just a few weeks.

So…. you can see the church here in these pictures, alright, but I really must question: Where is Jesus?

If I Were A Prophet

If I were a prophet, what vision would I share?

God was just stretching my imagination recently when I considered for a moment what it would be like if I were a prophet of God sent to Lubbock, Texas.  Jesus was a prophet, you know?  Yeah, a prophet mighty in deed and word (Luke. 24:19).  And he came to show God’s people just what it looks like when God comes to his own people to be crowned king.  And this being Good Friday – coronation day – I was imagining him coming to my town.

Do you remember that Joan Osborne song – What If God Was One of Us?

I am not sure, really, just what Osborne thought she would achieve with that question and song, but irrespective of her offering perhaps with my own take on it, it is still a good question.  How would God come to Lubbock, if he were coming to visit?  And what if Jerusalem had asked and sincerely considered that thought on that original Good Friday so long ago?

If Jerusalem had been on the button, I think that city would have recognized the day of their visitation, but they did not (Luke 19:41-45).  That city was visited by it’s God in the form of a young prophet riding into town on a donkey amid the cheers of waving palm branches, and according to St. Mark’s account, he moved immediately to the Temple to check things out (Mark. 11:11), but then turned around and left again without event.  This is quite amazing when you consider how Ezekiel, another prophet of a much older time predicted the day (Ezek. 43:1-5).  That triumphant return was the stuff of Jerusalem’s dreams.

Well, maybe, just maybe, Ezekiel saw what those who do not recognize the day of visitation fail to see.  But those of us reading Mark see Jesus return the next day and curse the fig tree on his way in and find it withered up on his way out – a metaphor symbolizing the uselessness of a temple not fit for God to live in.  But, of course, the wild actions that young prophet takes in between those stops at the fig tree might well be what the much older prophet saw – and is, after all, something akin to that scene when the Glory of the Lord first entered the place (II Chron. 5:13-14) – by that I mean, the priests could not minister in the Temple because of the Glory of God taking over!

But what, exactly, did Jerusalem think they were seeing when this young prophet came along like that?  They certainly were not asking: What if God was one of us?  And if they had, they certainly were not thinking he would show up like an uppity peasant from Galilee throwing tables!  Oh sure, the other homeless drifters and peasants considered the idea for a day or two, but by the time he was arrested, even they, along with everyone else, forsook him and fled (Mark. 14:50).

So… What if God was one of us?  What if God visited Lubbock, Texas.  Would he visit as an uppity, yet humble, prophet?  And if he did, what would he see?

I am just spit-balling, I know.  For who can know the mind of God? (Rom. 11:34; I Cor. 2:16).  But what if I dare…?  What if I look at my town through a Bible lens?  Could I come close?

The first thing I see in this vision is a homeless man hopping out of the back of a clunky old pickup truck as it reaches Lubbock’s city limits or maybe down at the Flyin’ J truck stop.  Like before, he comes to his own very humbly.  Perhaps there would be fan fare if Lubbock had fan fare for the homeless, but I don’t know of any.  So, I presume he comes hitchhiking in an old Chevy.  As he passes through town on the way to the drop off spot, he sees dozens of steeples – many of them poking out above the treetops.  Some of these churches are monolithic monstrosities with steeples and bell towers stretching forty or fifty feet into the sky.  Some are sprawling complexes covering whole city blocks.  Our homeless prophet (God incarnate) is eager to enter his church, but which one?

He finds his church splintered and spread out all over the place.  Some of these sanctuaries have names like Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Christian Church, Church of God in Christ, and so on.  Some say Baptist, but all have distinguishing designations such as First, Second, Primitive and so forth.  It can all be a bit confusing.  Where will this prophet throw tables?  And which bunch does NOT want to host him???

So he goes down to Broadway street where a lot of these denominations are represented and he begins turning door knobs.  But the doors don’t open!  They are locked.  He tries again.  Nope.  Still locked.  How can he throw tables if he can’t even get inside? What is a Master of a House to do???  Apparently the servants watching the door(s) have fallen asleep (Mk. 13:35-36).  Hmmm…

So, the vision reveals three things – all of which are addressed in the Bible: 1) God is the humble stranger we might have invited in (Gen. 18:1-21; Mt 25:31-46; Heb. 13:2), or not; 2) Jesus’s desire that his disciples all be of one accord (instead of splintered into denominations that cannot worship together (Jn 17:21)) seems to be under threat: 3) thus his house is not served by alert servants (Mk. 13:35-36).

Do I sound judgmental?  I try to imagine if God were one of us and if I were in his prophetic shoes, and so, is the prophetic vision I get just distasteful judgementalism that should be dismissed?

Or is there sin we should be addressing?

Perhaps Good Friday is a good time to think about it.

Jesus is crucified at the edge of town again tonight.  If you want to find him and … say apologize for not being ready to receive him in the HOUSE he gave you to live in, you can find him at Tent City on the corner of 13th and Ave A or under the Interstate overpass below the Flyin’ J.  You can find him all around the Wal-mart on Ave Q and the Marsha Sharp Freeway.  And if you look very carefully, he has a crash spot behind the bushes on the southeast corner of the South Loop and Slide Road – yeah, look close right up in the bushes there on the corner across the lot from the old Rooms To Go store.  Look around the playa lake behind the Stripes truck stop on 50th and Ave A.  Check out back of that little church by the Sonic and Family Dollar on 34th Street.  Walk around the park below the Park Tower Apartments on down Ave. Q and 27th.

He stays there too.

Go now.  The night is young.  There is still time to pay homage to your prophet King on Good Friday when he receives his crown.

Yeah… What if God was one of us???


The Lost Lamb

If I have any readers… Go check out Tom’s post.

Hard Times Ministries

If the extreme destitute could ask you one last question, “Do you want me.” Most Christians, if they were honest would say “No”.

In actuality for America alone I am speaking of several hundred thousand people at least, but for this article, I’m only speaking of one.  The lost lamb.

And if that lost lamb were a homeless girl with three kids or more the answer becomes even more emphatic.

And since we will never tend to the thousands that are lost, let’s concentrate on the one.

Our answers still vary:

“We are sorry, we understand but there is nothing that I can do.  Peace be with you.”

“It will work out for you in the end.”

“God bless you, little girl.  I am sure God will help you.”

“Count this all joy.”

“I am sure it is most difficult for you.  I’ll keep you in my prayers.”

As anyone…

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The Story of Jason/David (Jesus)

The post below is a series of publications from THE FAT BEGGARS’ SPOT.  Four issues copied and pasted together and republished here.  They tell the story of a young man who came to church homeless and left WHOLE.  They tell the story of a church wrestling with how that would work, and of one family rising to the challenge.  They tell the story of several lives transformed – not the least – MINE, since I had a front row seat to the action.

The post is long, I know, but it is broke up in segments.  I hope you will find it worth your time (and I suggest taking a break from it at each segment and coming back as it is convenient).  But mostly I hope it challenges your imagination and blesses your efforts to care for the homeless.


Year 1                                                                      Rocktober 9, 2014                                                                        Vol. 25


The Fat Beggars’ Spot

A Revolutionary Rag


Jason (Part 1)


His name was Jason. At least we thought it was. Even he thought it was. Why would I question it? He was 16 and homeless. He did not know much. Not even his real name (as we found out much later). But he knew enough to come to Jesus – and that meant reaching out to the church – the little church where I used to worship when I lived in Phoenix, Arizona 20 years ago.


I said Jason didn’t know much, but he knew enough to come to Jesus. It meant he reached out to our little church in Arizona. And that is where I saw the difference between Jesus and the church. I learned a lesson about love that I want to share with you in a 4-part series.


Let me tell you something about little churches. In fact, let’s not limit this to little churches; let’s focus on American churches – conservative particularly. I am about to make some blanket statements. There are exceptions to be sure, but they are the exceptions – not the rule. So don’t go thinking this does not apply to your church. It probably does.


We conservative, American churches (especially Protestant) tend to find ourselves trying to “be like Jesus” on the one hand and hold tightly to conservative politics and economics on the other. (I have to throw politics into the mix because sometimes there are issues that are not so blatantly economic in nature but which still push and pull on the hearts and minds of people, but mostly the economics are involved too.) And this puts American churches right smack dab in the lurch Jesus warns about when he says, “No one can serve two masters. For either he will love the one and hate the other, or he will devote himself to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money!” (Matt. 6:24).


Here’s the thing: American churches want to be respectable. Not so much in the moral or charitable sense, but in the white-middle-class, conservative sense. And we do not want to give up our money unless it makes us look good doing it. This means, when push comes to shove, most American churches love money and hate Jesus (like Jesus says in Matt. 6:24). You just cannot have it both ways – if you could then Jesus is a liar. Thus the unspoken strategy for this dilemma is to keep distance from the poor (or keep them out of sight).


Well, of course this idea is deeply troubling to a group that is trying to have it both ways. And the Phoenix church, where I was attending, was proud to be situated at the corner of 3 brand-new subdivisions with oceans of brand-new, fancy, custom-built, white-collar homes on all sides. Homelessness was not an ongoing concern for this congregation.


But then Jason showed up at our door.


Jason had joined a homeless “family” in Florida, his home state, and headed west for California. This “family” had a run-down, old jalopy crammed full of junk (everything they owned) and had made the trip three quarters of the way across America by hitting up churches in town after town for “gas money” or “food money” to finance the trip. This “family” had hit up our church for “help” about three times before Jason showed up alone without the others.


Well, let me tell you something else about our little church. The policy set in place there allowed our preacher, the only guy at the church building on a daily basis, to give away $100 a month for such needs that arise from time to time. This policy put this money at the preacher’s discretion without having to convene leadership meetings. It made this small charity expeditious. Thus it kept (so everyone hoped) leadership from having to bother with the poor. (It kept the poor at a distance and out of sight).


This meant that the “family” had already used up the preacher’s discretionary fund about 3 times before Jason showed up. The money the preacher gave the “family” had not been used to get them on the road to California; rather it had backfired, and now Jason was seeking special favor. Jason was coming to Jesus, which meant reaching out to our little church. A church that did not even know we were helping him before that time; a church that was happy for him to be out of sight and out of mind.


Jason came asking for help to get back home to Florida. He complained that the people he was with were not really his family at all, and that they seemed more interested in wasting the church’s money rather than actually going to California like they said. But since our church had been so generous, Jason thought we might help him get back home now. It had been a mistake, he said, to ever join this “family,” and now he wanted out. Could we help?


Suddenly, our little church had a homeless problem that could not be bought off with $100. Homelessness was not out of sight; it was in our face! Poised to catch fish from all the surrounding white-collar homes, we were instead attracting homeless teens from Florida. This required our attention. It required our care and energy. The poor would not remain out of sight. A meeting of leadership would have to be convened. Choices would have to be made. Would our church, the very body of the Good Shepherd in our community, tend to this lost lamb? Or, would we try to serve two masters – God and money? Thus shortchanging the poor.


Jason exposed our heart. He came like a surgeon’s blade to open us up and see what was inside. Jason became Jesus to us (Matt. 25:40) knocking at the door our little church (Rev. 3:20) in disguise. He showed us which master we loved and which one we hated.


Do you want to know what happened to Jason and our church after that? Then catch the next issue of The Fat Beggar’s Spot and find out!


Imagine That!


Year 1                                                                       Rocktober 15, 2014                                                                      Vol. 26


The Fat Beggars’ Spot

A Revolutionary Rag


Jason (Part 2)


His name was Jason (if you recall the previous issue of FBS). And he came knocking on our little church-house door in Phoenix, Arizona after travelling all the way from Florida. The “family” he was with had burned church charities across 6 states before reaching us. They burned us too. After “wasting” $300 we gave them before he broke away, Jason came back wanting even more. We were his cash cow! Or so it seemed. (Did our help “hurt” him?)


Burning other peoples’ money leaves a bad taste in their mouth. And so, as my story began in the previous issue, I said I saw the difference between Jesus and the church. I explained how actually it is common for conservative, American churches to try to serve two masters despite Jesus’s warning against it (Matt. 6:24). The American church luuuvs money! And the strategy we use to handle this dilemma is to keep distance from the poor – or keep the poor out of sight. Like the elephant-in-the-room, this enables us to pretend the dilemma’s not there.


So, how did our church respond when Jesus, appearing as Jason, “one of the least of these” (Matt. 25:40), came knocking at that door (Rev. 3:20)? Well, glad you tuned in to find out.


I was part of the leadership meeting convened to deal with him. I remember that Agent S (a fellow church leader) and his wife Agent J brought Jason to our attention and pleaded his case. Agent S explained that Jason was a teenager a long way from home who had joined up with the wrong crowd – a “family” who burned through our money repeatedly already. Our help had not achieved the stated goal of aiding the “family” in its travels. Rather, it attracted them back for more money. And wouldn’t you know it? Jason was back asking for our help again. He came to us, the church – the body of Christ, asking for money yet again.


Jason wasn’t a poster-child for church charity. He did not dress conservatively. His Mohawk, his rock-band tee shirt, his pack of cigarettes, his missing tooth, and his ripped blue jeans, all suggested that Jason was not one of us and did not share our conservative values. We had a stated mission to reach out to all the white-collar homes of our neighborhood (the rich), and Jason did not fit that agenda. Helping him had already proved futile 3 times before. So, it was no surprise when the church leaders asked him to step out to the lobby as we discussed his urgent request. We needed him out of sight while we talked about him behind his back!


Almost immediately, one good brother spoke up with a growl in his voice and stated, “It’s too bad Jason didn’t go to the church over in AJ to make his request; they know how to deal with his kind!” Then one of the more level-headed, dignified men spoke up pointing out that Florida was a long way off. Funding his travel would not be cheap. Then another wise voice cautioned, “If we buy a plane ticket, it will be expensive, but if we buy a bus ticket… well the bus stops at every town along the way. Jason might just get off at the next bus stop and come right back to us and ask for help all over again.” We sure didn’t want that!


I couldn’t believe my ears. We were the church, the very body of Christ, the body of The Good Shepherd himself. I never read in the Bible where Jesus spoke this way about lost sheep. I didn’t know what we should do, but this didn’t sound like the Jesus Way to me.


Don’t get me wrong. I see all the wisdom OF the world in us church leaders. We followed good conservative ideals right down the line. We already had a “mission” – for the rich. It didn’t matter that those home owners were NOT in fact beating on our church house door, the poor did knock. But Jason only detracted from our “mission.” And on top of that, he had wasted our help at least 3 times before. No. We did our part; they squandered theirs! Jason wasn’t a wise investment opportunity. In fact, his Billy Idol snarl (and the eye he gave the daughters of our church when he came in) suggested we should protect ourselves from him!


But no one ever stopped to ask what Jesus thought about him. This meeting kept us late at church – interrupting the Cardinals/Cowboys game! We were in a hurry, so we didn’t even pause to pray. No one opened a Bible to consult God. Instead, the tone of the meeting turned grim for Jason, but by god it upheld good, conservative economic ideals! (Honored Mammon.)


Though this experience happened 20 years ago, I was there. I am a witness, and it made a lasting impression on me. Like Jason, I was young and looking for LOVE in this world. I was looking for Jesus. Like Jason, I thought I would find Jesus in that church. And I did. But not like you would think. I mean no one ever used the word LOVE! No one even mentioned the name Jesus! No one asked, “WWJD?” No one in that church opened a Bible to see if Jesus might challenge the agenda we had already set for ourselves. No one questioned whether we were trying to serve two masters and have it both ways.


Agent S left that meeting with absolutely no resolution. No one in this rich church spared a dime for a plane ticket, a bus ticket, a sandwich… NOTHING! After 10 minutes of discussion shoring up our conservative ideals, it became clear that Jason was only a burden we didn’t want. Someone patted Agent S on the shoulder and said, “I’m sure you will figure something out.” And we all went home – to the game …finally. But at least we served Master Mammon!


Later that night, Agent S and Agent J invited me to their home where I witnessed Master Jesus speak to Jason and, and I saw the treasure chest of God open up. Yeah. I saw Jesus enter Agent S’s house (Matt. 25:40/Rev. 3:20) and eat with us. I found LOVE alright. It was a party!


And if you want to read about it, then be sure to catch the next issue of FBS.



Year 1                                                                       Rocktober 21, 2014                                                                      Vol. 27


The Fat Beggars’ Spot

A Revolutionary Rag


Jason (Part 3)


His name was Jason (if you recall from the last 2 issues of FBS). At least he thought it was his name. He was homeless at 16 and had traveled across America from Florida to Arizona burning church charity wherever he could get it. Then he showed up at our little church.


I told you he came to church looking for Jesus. I said I saw a difference between Jesus and the church. I described how conservative, American churches typically struggle to serve two masters – the very thing Jesus warns against (Matt. 6:24). I explained how this creates a dilemma for such churches whose unspoken strategy is to keep the poor at a distance and/or keep the poor out of sight. And I told how our church shunned Jason rather than showing him LOVE, as we struggled to serve two masters. Sadly, we remained faithful to conservative economics and politics, but we let go of Jason!


My heart was hurting as I left the leadership meeting where the decision not to decide was decided. Our church did not pray. We did not consult the Bible. We did not consider what it means to LOVE Jason. We did not ask, “WWJD?” We were no shepherd to this lost lamb.


But later (after the leadership meeting) Agent S called and invited me to his house. What I witnessed there revolutionized my imagination. It was a lesson in LOVE.


Agent S and Agent J lived in one of those fancy, custom, white-collar homes a few blocks away from our church. Their home had giant walk-in closets, a fine dining room, a huge TV with video games for the kids, a backyard swimming pool, and an unused, guest bedroom (complete with pretty doilies and all!). And after that meeting had adjourned, they took Jason (this scary-looking, homeless kid) home with them. And they threw a party! A Jesus-Party!!!


Jason joined the kids playing video games in the den while Agent J ordered pizzas. We laughed and played and began showing LOVE to Jason while we waited for the pizza delivery.


When the food arrived, Agent S called us all around the dining table. Then (for the first time) we prayed! Agent S thanked God for sending Jason to his house. (Imagine that!) As we began eating, Agent S made a proposal. He said, “Jason, you came all the way from Florida to be here in this house. You asked for help to go back, but we think God is leading your life. It’s no accident that you’re here. We don’t want to hinder his will for your life. What if God wants you here in Arizona for some reason we don’t know? We think you need to ask him about that.”


Then Agent S invited Jason to stay as a special guest in their home for one solid week. During that week, Jason was welcome to play all the video games he wanted, eat all the food he wanted, swim in the pool, and play with the kids and the dog all he wanted – as long as he abided by house rules. The one condition Agent S placed on Jason was that Jason should spend that week praying, and ask God if he should stay in Arizona or go back to Florida. Agent S did not want to send Jason back to Florida if God had plans for him with us. We needed know.


Then Agent S said, “If, at the end of the week, you determine God is calling you back to Florida, we will find a way to get you there. If, on the other hand, it is God’s will for you to stay in Arizona, then you will live here with us. But if you stay, then we will help you find a job or go to school – whichever is right for you.”


When Agent S stated the terms of this proposal, it seemed good to Jason and the rest of us. So Jason stayed and played with Agent S’s family the whole week. I mean this kid lived high-on-the-hog! He played video games; he ate pizza and casserole and hamburgers and every other wonderful thing Agent S’s kids ate. He swam in the pool. He slept in the guest bed. He lived like a king! He was treated like royalty! I can only imagine that after living on the streets, God had this boy’s full and undivided attention. I mean they really LOVED that kid!


(It’s just simple LOVE ya’ll! This is not complicated! It ain’t ROCKET SURGERY!!!)


Then we reconvened a week later for another party and asked Jason, “What is the Lord’s will for your life? Should you go back to Florida or stay in Arizona?” Wanna know what he said?


…I will give you one guess…. (You might argue Agent S stacked the deck! What choice did Jason really have?)


Jason said, “I sense that God wants me to stay here in Arizona.”


Imagine that!


And Agent S and Agent J spent two weeks trying to get proper identification for Jason so that he could get a job or go to school. And like the Peace Corps used to say, it was the toughest job they ever LOVED. Back then, we didn’t have the internet – it was a tough challenge. And when Agent J finally got a proper I.D. for him, Jason found out his name was not really Jason at all.


His name was actually David.


And this pleased the boy very much, because in all his newfound life, he had been reading a Bible someone gave him. And in that Bible, he found the name of one of the great heroes of the faith: David. And from then on, he wanted to be called David.


And if you want to know what happened next, you will have to catch the next issue of The Fat Beggar’s Spot! (Imagine that!)


Imagine that!



Year 1                                                                       Rocktober 25, 2014                                                                      Vol. 28


The Fat Beggars’ Spot

A Revolutionary Rag


David (Jason Part 4)


His name was Jason (if you recall from the last 3 issues of FBS). But much like God changed the name Abram to Abraham or Jacob to Israel, God had now changed Jason to David! If you read these last few issues, you know that I said I saw a difference between Jesus and the church. Then I showed how conservative, American churches try to serve two masters, both God and money – the very thing Jesus warns against (Matt. 6:24). I showed how we handle that dilemma by distancing ourselves from the poor and/or keeping the poor out of sight.


But… To be fair, Agent S and Agent J were part of the church that shunned David to begin with (as was I). That never changed. And so in that sense, the church actually did open its doors to Jason/Jesus (Matt. 25:40). And Jesus did come in and eat (Rev. 3:20). But even though Jason, now known as David, began worshipping with that church on a regular basis, I cannot deny that I see a difference there between Jesus and the church! (I think you see it too.)


Agent S and Agent J risked everything on this homeless boy who did NOT show ANY potential. They bore the burden, and a beautiful thing happened! And it happened right under the nose of the church that could not see it (reminds me of the water-turned-to-wine story where the headwaiter did not know where the wine came from, but the servants who poured the water knew…(John 2:9)). So, yes, I see a difference, but David found Jesus in this church despite itself!


A nice church lady helped David get a job as a pest control tech where she worked, and he lived with Agent S and Agent J for a few months. I got to know him then. I spent a lot of time with him. But the church lady was able to report independently on his employment progress and status (something of a benchmark for conservative types). And David’s reputation grew, and he became known as “the hardest worker the company had ever hired!”


David lived with Agent S and Agent J until he had saved enough money and bought his own van. Then one day he approached Agent S saying that he wanted to get an apartment of his own down in Phoenix close to where he worked; it would cut out his morning commute. That was a sad day when David moved out. It meant Agent S and Agent J did not get to see him every day. It also meant David did not regularly attend worship with us anymore. But the nice church lady who helped him get the job kept reporting on him, and all the reports were stellar!


David worked hard and got licensed as a pest control tech. He got raises and praises from his boss. He saved money and lived like a good conservative would hope. In time, he met every benchmark a critic could desire or dream up, and he did it with finesse.


Then one day after many months, David drove out to see Agent S and told him that God was now calling him back to Florida. He said that since he now had a skill, a van, and some money saved, he was marketable there. He wanted to go back, find his mom, and take care of her.




And two weeks later, David packed up and left. We had a send-off party and watched him drive out of Phoenix in his own van – bought with his own money! He did not need a plane ticket. He did not need a bus ticket. And he did not stop at the next town, come back and beg for more money. No. He just needed LOVE. And then David disappeared from our lives. I weep now just thinking of it. I miss him, and so does Agent S and Agent J – even after all these years.


Jesus came to visit us, like in Luke 24, and when our eyes were opened and we saw him for who he really was, he vanished – but our hearts burned within us! (See Luke 24:13-35). Agent J later said she thought David had been an angel of God who visited us unaware (Heb. 13:2). How can you argue with that? We never heard from David again. For all I know, he really was an angel who pretended to be a homeless boy in need – a test of the LOVE of our hearts. A witness for the defense – come Judgment Day!


Agent S had not distanced himself from the poor; rather he invited the poor in his open door to eat. He invited Jesus into his home and into his life (Matt. 25:40). The whole reason for keeping the poor out of sight is to deny them our LOVE without feeling bad about it.


Ask yourself: Why does Lubbock need a church FOR the homeless? Doesn’t that kind of arrangement merely keep the homeless out of the rest of our churches?   If someone asks, “How do the Christians of Lubbock serve the poor and the homeless?” Then every church in town can easily say, “Oh… we have [Such –n– such] Church for them down at [such –n– such] street.” Or “They go to [such –n– such] to eat.” Or “They stay out at [such –n– such].”


It has the unspoken effect of keeping the poor and homeless at a distance. It keeps the poor and homeless out of sight and out of mind. It keeps Jesus out of church (Matt. 25:45) while it upholds conservative values! (Matt. 6:24). And when the homeless church runs homeless people off church property and scatters them to the wind rather than providing a sheepfold, who will know? Who will care? After all, the poor and homeless are out of sight and not our problem! Btw, this is the driving force behind big fundraisers! (Thank you, Master Moola!)


David’s story may be anecdotal. It may not represent all cases well. But it does represent Jesus well. It’s a lesson in LOVE. And that’s what matters most – if you want to be a church, if you want to be the body of Christ. Imagine that!


Confessions of an American Christian Home-Owner

“Why did I keep the car?” – Oscar Schindler

You know that scene near the end of Schindler’s List as the Allies are liberating camps in Poland and Schindler bid’s his Jews goodbye?  As he makes his farewell statements, he breaks down confessing how much money he wasted and regretting how many more lives he could have saved?

Schindler, according to the movie – after watching three full hours of unflinching Nazi horror, breaks down in tears and bemoans the fact that he did not sell the car.  If he had, he could have saved 10 more lives.  His lapel pin could have purchased two.  And as the world is changing from darkness to light before his eyes, he laments how much he wasted on himself.

This post is my Schindleric confession – my practice run for the Great Day of Judgment when the King separates the goats and sheep (Matt. 25:31-46).  Like practically every American Christian I know, I will be reduced to throwing myself on the mercy of the court.  When the King calls forth the sick, the prisoners, the homeless and questions them about whether I showed charity, I will be hanging on every word!

But if I take a page from Oscar Schindler, perhaps I will confess my wayward home-owning like this:

What I Could’ve Done…?

…closets…  I had closets.  So many closets.  Walk in closets.  Even had a storm-shelter closet.  A closet in the garage.  I could have prayed in my closets (Matt. 6:6), but I did not.

… and the kitchen, the dining room, the china cabinet, and all those dishes.  Oh, how I complained about washing those dishes.  A table that would seat eight, and yet we ate in front of the TV or at the drive thru.  I could have thrown parties – and I did!  But I invited my rich friends as I tried to impress them with my wealth!  But I could have thrown Luke-14 parties and invited the sick, the lame, the blind and the poor!

… the guest room… Oh my God!  The guest room.  How much did we spend on the Amish-made quilt with the matching drapes, and of course we had to send off to Singapore for those delicate doilies we placed on the night stand to decorate a room only five guests slept in for the last 27 years!  And then when the kids left for college one-by-one, their rooms opened up too!  They resumed their lodging at the holidays for a few years, but once married, they began staying at the Marriot whenever they came home to visit.  And night after night those guest rooms went empty while Jesus slept on the street across town.  We could have invited those cold, lonely human beings to join us for the night, or we could have hosted foster children, but obtaining a cabin in Ruidoso somehow seemed better at the time.  What was I thinking?

I was thinking of the Jones’s and how to keep up with them, and of living the American Dream.  I was thinking of myself, and I forgot Jesus.  I am so sorry.

I was an idolater.  I told my friends and family that I was committed to following Jesus, that God, the Father, was my God, but really I worshipped at the altars of Mammon (money), Aphrodite (sex), and Mars (power).


Money.  I could never get enough money.  Everything, it seems, begins and ends with money.  Money was my alpha and omega.  Money was my highest ideal and my bottom line.  Yes, I loved money.  I even chose a college education I hoped would earn me more money.  I was addicted to money and could not imagine a day without it.  I really thought money made the world go round while I looked down my nose on people who did not have it and did not know how to worship it properly.  Yes, when it came to money, I was a… a… LEGALIST!

And then I bought a house.  I shopped for a mortgage that would get me more house for less money so that I could keep more of it for myself.  I wanted a nice house.  I wanted to live on the nice side of town and send my kids to the best schools. And I did.  And when I saw my neighbors (the Jones’s) purchasing golf carts to use dumping the trash or rolling around the neighborhood, I had to have one too.

I drove a 4X4 truck with a big V-8 engine that sucked gallons of gas to the mile, and my wife drove the oversized SUV.  And we usually went to church in separate vehicles.  But at least we showed off our nice cars down at the fancy church that recently moved out to the white-flight side of town and constructed a million dollar, stained glass sanctuary in an effort to keep up with the Baptists.

All of this costs money.  Lots of money.  And we worked long days and weekends to ensure we had it all covered.  But when the Jones family, next door, put in new landscaping, it seemed like we had better do it too.  And we shopped around and found a service that employed illegal aliens for $5/hr, and that is how we afforded it all.  And then we put in a pool out back, which of course meant we needed an 8 ft. fence instead of the 6 ft. fence we had at first.  And that seemed to cut into our giving at church a bit for about a year, but when the pastor delivered a rousing sermon on tithing, we managed to get that back on track.

But then there was the sex.  And isn’t that why you go to so much trouble to get the money?  You want a hot wife, no?  She wants a rich man!  (I know that.)  But then the first wife and I didn’t work out so well, so I had to leave the first house to her and start again.  But fortunately the business took off a couple years after that, and I got a trophy wife and a bigger house.

The ex-wife and I still go to the same church, but we can no longer tolerate each other as a family, so at least I only have to see her once a week.  Meanwhile I am getting a good deal out of the hot, young thing I traded up for.  Except that I need Viagra to keep her happy, and well, she is just way more energetic than me.  And I am really not into the same music and all.  So, I guess as long as I am confessing… I might as well admit that I spend a lot of sexual energy on the internet and cable TV.  Have you seen those ads for the sex toys they send to your house in discreet packaging?  Well, its true.

And my wife… well… she does seem a bit obsessed with her appearance, alright.  The shoe rack in her walk in closet is enormous.  I can’t count that high.  And her vanity is full of high end cosmetics.  She is planning for surgery to fix her neck and nose next spring.  Personally, I think she looks great, but the pool boy made a remark about it to her, and she can’t let it go.  In fact, come to think of it, he seems a bit aloof around me since she brought that up.  And well, actually, I did have a tryst with that babysitter one night a few years ago.  (She was eighteen, I am pretty sure.)  So, I really can’t complain about it.

You know what?  That’s enough about sex.  I will get in trouble if I tell all….  Any confession I make about myself implicates others who don’t want to be outed.

Finally, I will confess my worship of power.  And I can’t help but think of my three-car garage right off the top.  Yeah, I usually drive the 4X4, even though it’s a gas guzzler and even though there are no trails or mountains between home and work.  But we have a classic Corvette under a cover in the third stall.  That thing is a treasure.  I got it up to 134 mph once.  That’s power!

But really, the ironic thing is that we have a “Welcome” mat at our front door.  But it lies really.  It lies because the little home security sign in the flower bed lets you know that you are, in fact, not really welcome.  Again, I think of those guest rooms going empty night after night while Jesus sleeps on the streets, and I wonder if a homeless person walked by my house, what would suggest they are welcome here?  Because the “Welcome” mat rings a little hollow, huh?

We have a flag pole out in the front yard too.  Yeah, we blend our Christianity with our patriotism and fly the flag of apple pie and American freedom.  Ole Glory brings a tear to my eye, even when Jesus can’t.  We even sacrificed a child to Moloch, I mean, homeland security, when he joined the United States Marine Corps.  We mix the humility of Jesus carrying a cross with American Pride as if the two belong together, and thus we worship at the altar of power with all we’ve got.

And honestly, that 8 ft. fence turns our castle into a fortress, really.  And we protect the place with a Glock 9 mil, security cameras, and a security service with a 4 minute response time.  Yeah, when it comes to owning a home, we definitely worship at the altar of power.

Rich Man and Lazarus

In Luke 16, we get the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (the beggar at the rich man’s gate).  They both die and enter judgment appropriate to their lives.  If the rich man had taken a page from Oscar Schindler, then maybe – just maybe – he could have redeemed himself.  But when he passes the point of no return, he begs that he might send word back to his brothers who are still living in the excesses of wealth.  He is not given that chance, but in this post, I am given the chance he was not.

There are sins that, though not inherent to it, go with home-owning like peanut butter and chocolate.  Being a home-owning Christian in middle America is ripe with idolatry.  I will come clean, finally, and confess, that I have done wrong.  And if I, like Oscar Schindler, can come to my senses and measure the car in lives lost, I find that I have been a murderer who can only throw myself at the mercy of the King.  And if there is still time, maybe – just maybe – I can move into the House of God.

In My Father’s House there are many mansions (John 14:2).  Oh, how I long to go there.  Oh Jerusalem, our feet shall stand within thy gates! (Psalm 122:2).

What if, and I am just spit-balling here, what if the house I live in is God’s house after all?  What if he is the Master of the house where I live?  Is such a thing possible?  Oh, how blessed I would be!  What would it look like if that grand place were His and not mine at all???

May the servant not be found sleeping when the Master returns! (Mark 13:32-37).