Being Like Bacon

We had a long talk about commitment this week. Jesus in a letter to the Church of Laodacea laments that they are ‘lukewarm’ not hot or cold. Their commitment to Jesus’ lordship had flagged.

Commitment makes all the difference in any relationship. I often tell guys about three frogs sitting on a log. One makes up his mind to jump off. How many frogs are on the log? Three! Deciding without decisively committing to that decision, accomplishes nothing!

I recall the story of a French tightrope walker Blondin walking over Niagara Falls Gorge. As the crowds gathered he asked if they thought he could take someone across in a wheelbarrow. They enthusiastically yelled back “Yes! We believe you can do it!” He then asked for volunteers and the throng went silent. They believed but were unwilling to commit. I believe that, too often’ the Church is like Blondin’s crowd. We may energetically affirm our belief but we do not commit. I have been asked how it is that I have persevered with first the Church Army and now with Threshold Ministries, for so many years. How is it that, recently, we pushed through all the obstacles to open Threshold House. My answer is I want to be committed like bacon. Bacon is in ‘whole hog’ with no caveats or hesitations. That is commitment. The hen may lay eggs, but the bacon demonstrates true commitment!

There are many attempts at softer and easier ways of following but Jesus’ invitation is to come and die and in dying come to experience full abundant living. I want that life of surrender, or at least most of the time I want that life.

This Season of Lent is a time for me to reflect on the state of my surrender, a time to re-examine my commitment, a time to realign my priorities with His. This can be a painful experience. I do not die easily! But just as I look to Easter as the light after a dark reflective season of Lent, so I see past my self-denial to the resurrected, full, and abundant life. This is not a joy for the faint of heart. It is not a delight to the lukewarm. It is ‘well done’ life of the committed.

I want to be like bacon. How about you?


This coming week will see Threshold House full until we do more renovations or install bunk beds. We will have seven residents and one staff member. Earlier this week were considering expanding our mandate to include some folks who had not yet been through a treatment program. As we prayed about this God answered by filling our beds who those who fit our earlier criteria, so we had our answer!

These past two weeks, we have been looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans. Our goal is to see these guys grow in faith and Romans has much to say to us on this subject. Last week in our ‘Life’s Healing Choices’ we looked at chapter 7, which speaks to our inability to help ourselves. I am reminded of an old collect that says to God “As much as without thee we are not able to please thee.” This tells us that apart from God we cannot be successful in living the life God intends for us. In this seventh chapter Paul says that he knows what is the good and right thing, and he wholeheartedly agrees that it is good, and then he goes on to admit that he does not do this ‘right thing’ but rather chooses the wrong time and time again. This is a description of the life lived ‘under self-rule’.

I invited the guys to imagine themselves as shareholders in a business that continually made poor decisions squandering resources and losing money without ever meeting its goals. They agreed the manager should be fired and competent management engaged. Then I said that the poor manager in our analogy is them. They had managed to squander opportunity and fail to lead the successful lives for which they were designed. Romans seven asks the pertinent question, “Who can rescue me from this body of death?” and the answers “Jesus Christ Our Lord.” The word Lord clearly can substitute for ‘manager’. Choice number one is to fire our incompetent, unhealthy manager.

Choice number two then is to engage Jesus as our new manager and Lord. This is a choice to exercise faith and belief. To illustrate this, I drew my best stick-figure-like chair. As we looked at it we saw it had four legs, a seat, and a back. We agreed that it represented the concept of a chair. We believe in the concept of ‘a chair’. Then I pulled out a physical chair. We were no longer dealing with a concept but something much more substantial. We came to the place where we agreed that this indeed was a chair, with four legs, a seat, and a back. We still were a bit short of true trust and faith. Finally, I sat in the chair, and it held me! We talked about times that we may have encountered a chair that looked flimsy. One of the guys recalled a plastic lawn chair. We talked about how we might sit very gingerly in that chair but eventually relax into it as we experienced it supporting our weight.

This is what it is to trust Jesus! He invites us to come to Him and find rest. God invites us to ‘taste and see’ and so we may sit very gingerly. We grow in trust over time until God proves entirely faithful. He is the manager we need. We dare not trust ourselves. Our best thinking got us into the worst pickles!

To say I am happy to have these gentlemen living in the community of Threshold House is a tremendous understatement. I am over the moon! We will be quite diverse crowd, but we can find a sense of unity in our purposes, both individual and corporate to grow in faith and usefulness.

This morning was a busy time. Our local foodbank is very helpful to us, and we got a call to come pick up a large load of groceries before the predicted ice storm. Pastor Andrew dropped by with the third installment of  his study on Colossians. The guys love Andrew! We had a time of prayer and then I had to run out and purchase two more dressers and pillows for our new residents. So it is not until midafternoon that I can get to my Friday morning blog.

The Potter’s Wheel Turns

We welcomed a new resident this week. Frank is an artist, he creates out of clay. Jeremiah tells us that God is that kind of artist as well. God is imagined as a potter, and we are his clay vessels. He moulds a us and forms us.

I have been fascinated with formation for years. I recall a time during my formation during my years Training at the Church Army. We were in a Bible Study led by Ernie, our Training Officer. He asked us what kind of ministry we wanted down the road. I glibly answered, “I want your job.” Answering glibly was very much my immature self’s style. Instead of being upset, he seemed really pleased that God might be calling me that way.

Seven years later I did take his job. By then he was no longer Training Officer but had become Field Secretary (Personnel Officer). It was not for another fourteen years that I had an opportunity to step into the training role as a teacher of Evangelism Studies, and a number of more years before I was named Director of Formation for Taylor College.

I was tasked with overseeing the formation of ‘missionaries for the twenty first century.’ Those were halcyon days. I felt like I was finally doing what I was designed to do. Not long after, the supply of students dried up. A Director of Formation without any one to ‘form’ is a sad being. But through the dark days that followed and the myriad of questions came a fresh understanding. Formation does not require formal classes and curriculum. If I had truly been fashioned by God for this purpose I only had to apply myself to the opportunities God brought me.

Threshold House provides a brilliant opportunity to be involved in God’s transformative work in the lives of men. I get to be a bit like Frank and be involved in formation. The men I get to work with are being transformed. Lives that were once ruined are becoming brilliant and useful. Sometimes this process is painful and painfully slow but sometimes it is otherwise. Last Friday I met T. for the first time. Steve had invited him to our drop in. He came but was not open to any ‘God talk’ after a few hours of fun and wholesome fellowship with a group of Christians, he eagerly listen to my “Word from Our Sponsor.” On Sunday he went to church and his heart was strangely warmed. I saw him again last night and he was changing before our eyes! He is going to detox this week. An anonymous Christian has provided the funds necessary for him to go to a long term treatment centre. He is excited about coming to live with us at Threshold House after treatment. Last night he asked me for a Bible which I was overjoyed to give him. He asked where he should start to read and I pointed him to the Gospels where he can encounter the ’Life Changing Saviour’.

Witnessing T.’s transformation and the more subtle discipleship of the guys of Threshold warms my old heart and keeps me getting up and going.

We started our ‘Life’s Healing Choices’ last night. I gave out journals to everyone with loads of room to write about each decision. I do this in the hope that participants do not see this as an eight week course to get through but the formation of new healthy habits and choices. It is ours to chose Jesus and his way over and over again not merely once. This repetitive practice forms character in us, the character of Christ, and it is that character that will set us on a good and useful path.

It is amusing to look back over the years and identify the fingerprints of the Potter all over my story. The potter’s wheel turns my tragedies and disappointments into the stuff dreams are made of. Too often I lose perspective and let my passing troubles loom big but God invites me to remember that I have been raised with Christ and seated with him in the Heavenlies. From that lofty perspective I can see what my time bound myopia misses, and I discover anew God is faithful!