Monday, December 17, 2012

10 Reasons to do this 3-Day Cleanse

            I am going to do a 3-day cleanse December 28-30 to mark the end of the year and am inviting anyone who is interested to join me. (For the genesis of this idea and specific details, see the previous blog entry, “Why a 3-Day Cleanse?”)

Following are ten reasons why this is a good idea:

1.     Most of us eat lots of sweets, pastries, and other rich foods, not to mention extra portions, over the holidays. Doing a 3-day cleanse before the new year allows your body to process this indulgence, purify itself, and return you to a healthier equilibrium.

2.     Many people make a resolution to lose weight, eat better, or somehow live healthier in the new year. This cleanse gives you a turbo-charged running start to that worthwhile vow.

3.     As your body cleanses and releases toxins, you will (probably) experience a drop in energy. What a great time to rest, relax and let your mind release toxins as well. Plan to set a slower pace, do less, and revel in the forced slowdown.

4.     Many people make resolutions for the new year which are usually vacated before the end of January. Use these three days to think of worthwhile goals for yourself in 2013. Goals are much more powerful than resolutions. Congress makes resolutions.

5.     You have been wanting to break the caffeine addiction. Start lessening intake on the day after Christmas, do the cleanse from Dec 28-30 and you’ll be there.

6.     You have been meaning to live a healthier life. This could be your tipping point to real and joyful breakthroughs in that area. Really.

7.     You’ll have an excuse to spend even more time on Facebook because you will “need” to check in on your fellow cleansers.

8.      I will be teaching a class at West Houston on Wednesday nights from January 2-February 27 called “Your Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul.” This class will be a biblical and practical discussion of how our physical and spiritual selves relate. We will look at how the human body is viewed in the Bible and talk about contemporary issues such as health, fitness, obesity and body image. The 3-day cleanse will be a perfect precursor to this class.

9.     If you are married or in a significant relationship, why not do the 3-day cleanse together? You will either bond or bomb; either way you will get some insights into your relationship.

10.                        What else are you going to do between December 28-30 that could be life-changing. Watch the Taco Bell Bowl Game?


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why a 3-Day Cleanse?
            I am going to do a 3-day cleanse December 28-30 to mark the end of the year and am inviting anyone who is interested to join me. The reasons for this bear some explanation.
            Recently I turned 50 and at the insistence of my wife scheduled a colonoscopy. This involves cleansing the day before the procedure by drinking only liquids and then in the evening imbibing a diabolical potion that flushes you out faster than water through a garden hose. I had heard all kinds of horror stories about this and to be sure it was not enjoyable; but the morning of the procedure I felt incredible! You know how your teeth feel after having a complete dental cleaning? My whole body felt like that. I felt ten years younger and at least a week smarter.
            So I began to think about doing this again on my own, and the end of the year seemed like a spiritually, emotionally and physically opportune time. Here’s what I’m doing:
            I searched “3-day cleanses” on Google and decided on one by Dr. Oz because it is relatively simple and (key element) free. You can print out the ingredients and guidelines on one page, which he helpfully makes available with one click of a button. Go to and search for “3-day detox cleanse.” You don’t have to buy anything from him that I can see. Isn’t that refreshing? He says that the 3-days of ingredients from a local grocery store cost about $48.
            Now Dr. Oz, whom I have heard of but do not know anything about, seems to have more products than General Mills and appears to have an Oprah-like following. I’m not endorsing him, his detox plan, his products, his politics, hobbies, education, hair color or any of his beliefs whatever they may be. But this just looks fairly simple and easy to follow.
            Why not a biblical fast?          It’s a good question. I’ve fasted often in the past. I’ve done 3-day water fasts, 5-day juice fasts, even a 40-day liquid (including soup and smoothies) fast. I have found them to be rigorous and (usually) worthwhile. But what I’m looking for in this instance is a kind of Sabbath, not a mountain climb. I love the idea of resting my body, mind, and spirit for the last three days of the year as a way of pausing to reflect on 2012 and anticipate 2013. In this detox the body’s organs are soothed and rested and the body is cleansed and purified. I just love that idea. I want to accompany this with some intentional resting, thinking, reflecting and praying time.
            Why December 28-30 and not December 29-31?     C’mon. Who wants to be doing a body detox cleanse on New Year’s Eve?
            What can I expect?        I don’t know, I’ve never done this before. Check Dr. Oz’s website. There’s lots of feedback from previous participants. And proceed with adult responsibility (i.e., no liability for me)
            Can I exercise during this?   I am going to exercise moderately; use your best judgment. But remember that the purpose is to REST your body.
            So there you have it, folks. I’d welcome anyone to join in so we can trade notes, encourage one another, and rejoice together in our gloriously cleansed selves. You don’t have to do Dr. Oz’s 3-day cleanse to join me; there’s dozens out there from which to choose. I even ordered a Kindle book ($2.99) by Carol Burnham called “Easy 3-Day Cleanse” but I liked Dr. Oz’s just a little better. Maybe I’ll try Burnham’s another time. Or you can try hers and tell me what you think. Email me at if you’d like to join in this short little spiritual and physical adventure.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Wanna Live Like Arian Foster Runs

I want to live like Arian Foster runs: smooth, unhurried, powerful, effective. Foster came to the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2009, was  released(!), then reclaimed, eventually got in a game, distinguished himself and has not looked back. He led the league in rushing in 2010 and has been one of the league’s top running backs since.

Foster marches to the beat of his own drummer; he’s cerebral, poetic, suave. He’s the un-jock. He majored in philosophy in college and became a vegan in 2012. A vegan in the NFL!

He is of African-American and Mexican-American heritage whose first name is an abbreviated form of Aquarian, which means “water bearer” or “holder of knowledge.” His teammates like and respect him, and they love how he has helped the team rise to the top echelon of the NFL.

But let’s talk about his running. Foster runs like poured syrup. What strikes you is how smooth he is. Nothing appears urgent except his instinct for the opening. Commentators marvel at his patience. He’ll take the handoff, sort of glide a few steps while waiting for the blockers to create a hole, then pour through it like water over a rock. He doesn’t burst through the hole as some backs do so effectively, all pent-up power; he glides through it. He never looks like he is trying hard but there’s a quiet urgency and focus to him. Why waste energy with a lot of froth and fury? Just get the most yards possible.

One time he went around the left side on a sweep near the goal line and at the two-yard line just stopped and walked in! A Texan was blocking a receiver in front of him and Foster knew if he kept running he would crash into them, so he just stopped and took two steps into the end zone while the Texan continued to push on his opponent. When Foster scores he simply hands the ball to the referee, bows quietly to the fans in the end zone (“to show respect”) and heads toward the sideline. As legendary Coach Bear Bryant used to say, “Son, when you make it to the end zone act like you’re been there before.” Foster has been there many times by now; no need to do an izzy squizzy prancy dance.

Smooth, unhurried, powerful, effective. I wanna live like Arian Foster runs.


Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Biblical View of God

In June 2000 at my 20-year high school reunion I asked my good friend, Steve Moroney, who was instrumental in my baptism into Christ in 1983 and who went on to become a professor of theology, if he was working on any books. I knew that professors are expected to write books as part of their work and I knew he was due for one. He told me that he was interested in the subject of God’s judgment. As part of his research he was reading through the Bible and carefully making notes on every scripture that mentioned God’s judgment. He felt, and still does as do I, that contemporary American Christians pay far more attention to God’s grace, mercy and love than to his righteousness and holiness, from which judgment issues.

Nine years later the book came out but it was titled “God of Love and God of Judgment” (Wipf & Stock, 2009). I quickly purchased it, read it thoroughly, and even got Steve to sign it for me at our 30-year reunion! In the preface to the book he explained how he had finished the original manuscript years earlier but had two main reservations. First, it was depressing! Even as he understood that the truth about God’s judgment can be deflating but ultimately is good for us to realize, he still wasn’t inspired to publish it. Second, it was unbalanced. He realized that “A book about God’s judgment that does not include God’s love is just as lacking as a book about God’s love that does not include God’s judgment.”

So he started a new phase of research, this time reading through the entire Bible and noting every scripture that mentioned love. Here is what he found in his Bible reading through The One Year Bible, which arranges Scripture into 365 daily readings:
352 out of the 365 daily readings (95%) dealt with some aspect of judgment.
336 out of the 365 daily readings (92%) dealt with some aspect of love.

63 out of the 66 books of the Bible (95%) reference judgment in some way.
63 out of the 66 books of the Bible (95%) reference love in some way.

Moroney notes that, “Many people have a one-sided view of God as only judgment or only love. In response to these recurring problems, I propose a solution that sounds simple but is challenging to achieve – developing a theology that joins love and judgment together.” And that is what he does in his book, which I highly recommend.

Reading Moroney’s book, and later following the controversy emanating from Rob Bell’s provocative book “Love Wins” in which he takes issue with historical Christian understandings of judgment, and after reading several books written in response to Bell, I became inspired to tackle this from the pulpit. Today and for the next five weeks we will focus on what is a healthy, biblical view of God which includes both his love and his judgment. How are we to understand such disparate scriptures as Hebrews 10:32 (“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”) and I John 4:16 (“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God”). Each is part of God’s self-revelation through the scriptures!

God is neither a police officer with a radar gun nor an indulgent grandparent. He is righteous and loving, holy and merciful, demanding and forgiving. We will start the series today by looking at God’s character as he declares himself to Moses in Exodus 34:5-8. Get ready for a great journey in the Scriptures together.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Two Lifestyles

I like to keep a supply of meal-replacement bars in the pantry so I can grab one on the way out in the morning as my breakfast. As I sat in the drive-thru at the bank this morning waiting for the teller to process my transaction, I decided to read the promotional blurb on the wrapper of the bar. Here it is:

The alarm clock is our starter’s pistol. The new day our stadium. We have no time-outs and we don’t want any. Running, biking, lifting, working, dating, mom-ing, dad-ing, studying, shopping, blogging, 24 hours buzzer to buzzer. Which is why Promax packs its energy bars with 20g of replenishing protein, 18 vitamins & minerals, all natural ingredients and great tasting flavors. No artificial sweeteners, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, maltitol or gelatin. Gluten-free and vegetarian. Since 1996 Promax is the fuel for doing.

Pretty inspiring, huh? Here’s the line that caught my attention: “We have no time-outs and we don’t want any.”

Really? Uh, I’d sure like a few time-outs!

One foot away from the Promax bar on my car seat was a book on tape that I purchased recently to listen to (but have not yet begun). It is called “Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest and Delight” by Wayne Muller. Here is the promotional blurb on the back cover:

Thomas Merton, toward the end of his life, warned of a “pervasive form of contemporary violence” that is unique to our times: overwork and overactivity. In his work as a minister and caregiver, Wayne Muller has observed the effects of this violence on our communities, our families, and our people. On Sabbath, he responds to this escalating “war on our spirits,” and guides us to a sanctuary open to everyone.
Muller immerses us in the sacred tradition of the Shabbat – the day of rest – a tradition, Muller says, that is all but forgotten in an age where consumption, speed, and productivity have become the most valued human commodities. Inviting us to drink from this “fountain of rest and delight,” he offers practices and exercises that reflect the Sabbath as recognized in Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Through this way of nourishment and repose, Muller teaches, we welcome insights and blessings that arise only with stillness and time.

One message is: “We have no time-outs and we don’t want any!” The other message is, in essence, “It is only through time-outs that you find the replenishing rest and peace that feed your soul and allow you to be fully human.”

I know which message our culture tells us to listen to. But I’m pretty sure the message Jesus points us to is the other one.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his work as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Failed Formula

“Less than ten years ago a large Church of Christ with a great preacher and a great youth minister called our campus minister and told him we would have twenty-two of their high school graduates join our campus ministry that fall. Our campus minister worked hard to contact them. He held summer events to introduce them to the ministry. But out of twenty-two students who enrolled at Alabama, not one was active in our church. Not one. And none was active in any student ministry of any church of any denomination. They had a great youth program, loved their youth minister, had Christian parents – and not a one attended a church of any kind while in college. And this is no isolated example.”

So begins Jay Guinn, an elder at the University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, AL in a recent blog (; 7/20/11). He goes on to describe radical changes his congregation is making in how they do children’s and youth ministry so as to help prepare teenagers for discipleship as adults (I highly recommend the article).

This squares with what we learned two months ago when we hosted a seminar at West Houston sponsored by Lipscomb University called, “Faith Search: Gospeling the Next Generation.” We learned about the Millennial generation (born between 1980-2000) and how they see God, faith, discipleship and church. Part of the welcome news was that this generation loves and respects their parents, and is tremendously committed to family. Moreover, they respect older adults. Indeed, in surveys they list the two most important influences in their lives as, 1) parents, and 2) other influential adults. Therein lies the crux University’s strategy, which is to lessen the age-segregation that pervades most midsize to large churches and to structure more (not all) classes, ministries and events so that children and teenagers work alongside and develop relationships with adults.

This will take some doing. For years I have joined with youth ministers, parents, preachers, and elders in lamenting the “Mickey-Ear” reality of the Youth Ministry as a sort of attached-but-separate appendage of the larger congregation. We know it’s not best for the students or the church but we devolve to it easily. Systems are hard to change! And yet we owe it to the next generation to help them form their faith so that they have a compelling vision for adult Christian life.

At our seminar, Dave Clayton, the lead preacher for Ethos Church ( in Nashville, a congregation of mostly Millennials, recommended four things mainstream churches can do to help connect this generation:

1. Raise the bar of expectations. Stop babying them. Stop setting the bar an inch above the ground and applauding them for stepping over it. That bores them. Challenge them in a positive and winsome way. They have enormous capabilities.

2. Drop your assumptions. Don’t assume just because they have attended church for years that they know what the gospel is, know the Bible well, or have a formed Christian worldview. Heck, most adult Christians don’t. Engage them where they are.

3. See yourselves as ministers of this generation. Just like a missionary does with his/her population, learn about their hopes, dreams, and passions.

4. Give them permission. Especially permission to dream, to own their dreams, and then to fail and pick themselves up and try again in pursuit of their dreams.

These are exciting times in the church, just not for the status quo.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wise and Intelligent

Years ago I was working with a woman on a church project. She was intelligent, attractive and charming. She and her husband were good friends with Angela and me. One Sunday afternoon I was talking to her on the phone about our project and Angela was in the room with me. She caught an extra little note of excitement in my voice, a tiny little bit of flirtatiousness, an added trace of affection. After I hung up Angela said, “You need to watch yourself. You two are getting too close.”

Angela was right. I had developed a crush on this woman, and possibly that was reciprocated. I backed off, things cooled off, we completed our project and the four of us remained friends. Now you might be thinking to yourself, “C’mon, Matt, a crush? At your age?” The answer is yes, and it happens all the time between men and women, married or not. Don’t be naïve. The question is, what to do about it?

Last week I talked about the litany of recent revelations of adultery and/or sexual immorality among powerful and visible men (Schwarznegger, Edwards, Weiner, et al.). I promised this week to write about how to guard against adultery and infidelity. Following are the plainest, clearest, strongest suggestions I can make.

1. Examine yourself. Regularly. All marriages go through dry periods characterized by monotony and predictability. An attractive and charming co-worker, neighbor, or fellow church member can easily begin to intrigue you so that you want to spend more time with them. Be very, very careful. This is the point where it is prudent to back off, long before anything “happens.” Heck, long before anything even gets close to happening. To use a fishing analogy, this is where the hook sets. That’s why you have to examine yourself and be honest about your feelings. If you are naïve (or in denial) you will keep nibbling on this bait while convincing yourself you won’t get hooked. The Bible calls this being a fool. (see Proverbs 5-6)

2. Related to this, and many people will disagree with me on the following but I stand by it, if you are married you should not have any close friendships with a person of the opposite sex. Period. It’s just too laden with possible temptations. If your spouse has a close friend then of course you will be friends with that person. But this should be a derivative friendship. As for meeting alone with another man (wives) or woman (husbands) for anything other than a brief, task-oriented reason, avoid it. This goes back to being self-aware and wise. The Bible tells us to flee temptation and resist the devil (I Corinthian 10:13; James 4:7). There’s a reason it’s not the opposite. If you stand in the presence of temptation too long you will fall. Don’t be so prideful and stupid. Why would you knowingly flirt with disaster? Do you need some thrills? Buy a dirt-bike or go bungee jumping or come mow my yard.

3. If you find yourself talking with a woman (men) or man (women) about your unhappy marriage, and he/she gets all sympathetic and supportive about your terrible predicament, RUN. This is the oldest story in the book. Empathy turns into support turns into intimacy turns into heartache and pain.

If all of this sounds harsh or draconian, well, it’s a question of guarding what’s important and protecting those close to you from betrayal and pain. Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Protecting yourself against infidelity involves both of these. Unless you just want to play with fire.