Saturday, December 08, 2018

Why Christmas Includes Sorrow


For many, the approaching reality of Christmas is not ALL childhood bliss and candy cane memories. It can often be a bittersweet time. And I think the older we get, the more we see the reality of the holiday. Each year brings the truth of those who are absent and those who have departed.

My mom read a very sad Christmas story to us almost every year when we were children about the little match girl. Each year I hoped that she would be saved in the end.... however, her version was the one that always ended in sadness. I stared at those same pictures..snow, cold, and a poor girl who never found one person to take her in and warm her life.

I recently re-read the classic published by Hans Christian Anderson in 1845

Here is the summary of the story in Wikipedia:

On a cold New Year's Eve, a poor young girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is already shivering from cold and early hypothermia, and she is walking barefoot having lost her shoes. Still, she is too afraid to go home, because her father will beat her for not selling any matches, and also as the cracks in the house can't keep out the cold wind. The girl takes shelters in a nook or alley and sits down.
The girl lights the matches to warm herself. In their glow she sees several lovely visions, including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward and sees a shooting star; she then remembers her dead grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone is dying and is going to Heaven. As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother alive for as long as she can.
After running out of matches the child dies, and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook, frozen with a smile on her face, and guess the reason for the burnt-out matches beside her. They feel pity for her, although they had not shown kindness to her before her death. They have no way of knowing about the wonderful visions she saw before her death or how gloriously she and her grandmother are now celebrating the New Year in Heaven.


So, the question is WHY did my mom read that story to us year after year, despite us desperately crying NO like we all do when whining about a request we see as torture?
My mom understood that while it was a sad story, but it wasn't a tragic story. 
In a home of some Christmas regrets, there was a deeper truth that was beyond me in the moment, but it took root and faithfully bore fruit in my heart many years after my mom passed away.
In fact, I think the beauty and application of that truth is lost on us if Christmas is just getting everything on our list.
'Getting everything' wasn't the Christmas past I remember. We always got some GREAT things, but it wasn't an overflowing bounty. And in my eagerness to try out the new shiny toy tucked behind the tree, I never noticed that mom and dad never really got anything for themselves.
My mom cried every Christmas when she finished the story which is another reason I fought it like the plague.
Her tears came from more than the genuine love she had for people without means.
Christmas reminds us of the painful times, it is lament of the loss of childhood innocence, and it can be hard and cold in a world of darkness and loneliness.

Christmas is also so BEAUTIFUL, MAGICAL, and SPECIAL that it is hard ...when we observe it without LOVED ONES who are now departed. This Christmas, the sneak attack of a recently departed loved one will press on your soul.... the Bible does NOT SAY says that we do not grieve...it says we do not grieve like the world... the ones who have NO HOPE. (I Thess. 4:13)

I have been told that prisoners often count years in jail by the number of Christmases they miss.

ALSO- never count out that Christmas is a time of great spiritual warfare.... the very 1st Christmas was in a battlefield and Herod was a Satanic pawn trying to destroy the Christ child. We see a picture of this in Revelation 12: 

[4] His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. (ESV)


Satan would ALSO LIKE TO DESTROY YOUR CHRISTMAS... in consumerism, pain, division, and depression- fight the good fight!

JOY STILL WINS

The little match girl has a smile on her face in the end. What is that about?
True hope is one that carries us beyond the darkest day of human existence.
If death is the end, then Christmas is, in a sense, an empty celebration. Gifts disappear...... 

do you remember what you got last Christmas? The one before?
Christmas is about a gift that came wrapped in poverty and darkness...AND  caused the angels to sing in exalted praise.
The birth of the Christ-child unleashed violence and over 2,000 years later bombs still fall on children in places like Aleppo and we still wipe away tears of pain and regret.
There is a warm welcome waiting for those who walk to the other side clinging to the simple but glorious promise of why the Child came to earth.
My mom is not crying this Christmas.. her body is perfect, her home is full and warm. She is basking in eternal joy and sunshine.
Neither is Granny, neither is Lee, neither is Terry..... or Jim, or Grammy, or Dennis, or Mr Stegall, or Coach Farris, or Coach Berry, or David
So yes, I sometimes cry at Christmas....but that is OK with me....  the gift that God gave I will never forget....
If that is all He ever gave me, I would still have reason to praise His Holy name for all eternity.
He gave me grace upon grace, a beautiful family, and we will have some great times very soon.
AND because of Jesus .... I know that this is just a small taste of what is to come.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Cannibal Effect: Every Dart You Throw Hurts You

I have been reading quite a few articles and books this quarter on team culture and what coaches and captains can do to influence and impact this vital aspect of championship programs. Jeff Janssen has a website and excellent books that help athletic leaders to think through the dynamics of athletes, parents, coaches, and teams.

I have also had a chance to have some amazing and productive discussions with coaches, parents, and students at my school as well.

And though I am still learning, I have felt inspired to write out some thoughts on what I call, Cannibalizing Your Team. Cannibalization is literally 'eating your own team'. And cannibals can be found among any and all parts of a team or surrounding community.

By the way, the cannibals are always there..... human nature is always breeding more. The existence of cannibals is not deadly unless there are too many OR the cannibals are KEY CONSTITUENTS of a team or organization.

Cannibals eat away so many things.... but the overall impact is a loss of opportunity, a loss of positive momentum/energy, or the erosion of core values.

SELF-FULFILLING DOOMSDAY

I once worked with a coach ( a great coach by the way) who was very upset about the way we did a certain aspect of our football team. This practice was a by-product of a fundamental piece of our philosophy.

As the season went on, he would say in the head-sets, "This is not going to go well". And he said it EVERY SINGLE TIME the game situation dictated that decision because of our philosophy. And this went on.... game 1, game 2, game 3,4,5,6..... and then, in game 7... his prediction finally happened. Oh my goodness!....the 'I TOLD YOU SO' that came from him was as loud and obnoxious as any I have ever even IMAGINED.

The next coaches meeting, he was armed and ready. When we got to that place in the film, it was obvious that the decision was what it was.... but the execution of the decision was the major problem for failure.

I stopped the film.... "you know... I have been listening to you on the head-set for 7 games in a row. You have predicted this EVERY SINGLE time. Your prediction FINALLY happened... but that is like me predicting rain everyday during a five year drought until it finally rains for 5 minutes. Congratulations!" You could have cut the tension with a knife.

And that coach did not stay in the program after the season was over. As good a coach as he was, his unwillingness to buy into this was a constant corrosion. He wanted to be SO RIGHT... that he was DEAD RIGHT.

WORK TO MAKE IT WORK

Here is an OPPOSITE illustration of this.

In 1999, we lost our ALL-State Tailback on a freak play to a torn ACL... the last play of the first half. It was mid-season, we lost the game, and people were beginning to wonder if we could win back-to-back state titles. It looked doubtful.

We played two more games with a quality back-up and personnel packages and won those. But we were not the dynamic offense we had been. We still had an elite defense and as far as our record, we were still a favorite to win it all.

Our head coach, Fred Yancey, surprised all of us in week 8 of the regular season by announcing a DRAMATIC move. We were going to take our starting SAM linebacker and move him to Fullback and move our Fullback to Tailback. What made this even more startling is that neither player had played those positions ALL YEAR! And the linebacker had never run with the football in his entire football life!

Immediately, there was the typical assistant coaching pushback...but Coach Yancey was adamant. This was a HC decision and he walked out.

I was offensive coordinator... but both defensive assistants AND offensive assistants kept pressing me to change Coach Yancey's mind.

I simply looked at them and said, "Guys, this is his team.. this is his decision. So, we have two choices.... gripe and moan OR get to work to make this work." And we did.

Now don't get me wrong... THIS WAS NOT EASY... and the early results were flat ugly... but we worked it with positive energy and we won the State Championship. The tailback was MVP of the game and the fullback scored on 3rd and goal at a critical time early in the game.

Winners, champions, and competitors learn early in their battles that cannibals never win. Dream killers and blame game hand wringers are always examples of self-fulfilling prophecies.

We do it to coaches as well..... I wonder how many programs would be more successful if they embraced their coach instead of tearing him down in endless opining of opinions. You know what a good play call is? One that works. And a bad play call doesn't.

I'm not saying that you never make changes... but I KNOW of teams who stole away their opportunities to be good because of cannibalism.

Now, one more important point is this. A lack of virtue is a type of cannibalism. we live in a world that seeks to tear down our rivals.

COMPETING WITH CLASS AND  HONOR

Coach Bryant taught the State of Alabama to do it differently. He taught me as a fan and later, as a player to show class and respect toward the opponent. It is more honorable to beat a worthy opponent than to beat an unworthy one.

But we tweet 'hate week', and we spew venom, and we ridicule and mock the opposing team... so is it really a great victory if we beat them?

An example 1965 ALABAMA:

Alabama opened against Georgia on a blistering hot day in Athens for the 1965 season. Tom Brakefield was with the Bear Bryant show film crew, wiping away sweat, and enjoying every snap of a fierce contest pitting Coach Bryant against Vince Dooley.

Even though Alabama struggled all day, even going in at halftime down 10-0, Alabama rallied in the 2nd half and took a late 17-10 lead.

What took place next in the game was recently ranked by The Bleacher Report as #3 of the 12 greatest plays in college football history.

Coach Dooley called it 'flea flicker' but today is more known as a 'hook and lateral'. Kirby Moore threw the ball to Pat Hodgson who then flicked it to Bob Taylor who ran for a 73 yard touchdown to bring the score to 17-16. Georgia converted the 2 point extra points to win 18-17!

The problem was.... it looked very clear to the Alabama faithful that Pat Hodgson's knee was down, thus making the play 'dead' on the catch and the touchdown should have been disallowed!


You have to think that Alabama fans felt snake-bit. It was the first game since Joe Namath had seemingly been robbed of a game winning TD in the Orange Bowl and now they lost the opening game to a missed call in Athens!

Tom Brakefield saw a clean angle and knew he had a camera all over it. He carefully noticed which canister was going to have the field level proof!

Sure, enough, the Bear Bryant Show crew had indisputable video evidence that 'Bama had been robbed by the Bulldogs!

When Coach Bryant came in that Sunday morning to prepare for the live telecast that afternoon, he shocked everyone! As soon as he saw the clip he stopped and said as clear and forceful as he could:


"Men, I never have won a game on Sunday because of film. Please take this clip out and give it to me."

When the show went live from Channel 13 that Sunday, Coach Bryant taught the entire state on how to lose with class.

And Tom Brakefield used it to teach an even bigger lesson!

"You want to know the biggest part of that story?  We lost to Georgia, we TIED Tennessee- but still upset Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to win the National Championship. At Alabama, Coach Bryant started a lesson that, even today, we understand.... if you do it right... you always have a chance!"

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

I am going to make a plea to every athlete, coach, and parent reading this. Don't be a cannibal! Don't be that person who always focuses on the flaws. Don't create small circles of whiners and complainers who whisper in the dark and throw darts.

A winner is hopeful... even to the very last snap, he believes he can find a way to win. And in the end, that relentless optimism gave him MORE of a chance... where a doubtful pessimist robbed his team of the opportunity.

Competition with honor is rewarding... win or lose.

Winning without honor... is never really a victory.



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rediscovering the Reformation in A Post Everything America


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Happy REFORMATION DAY- October 31, 2018

As we live in a culture that continues to slide away from doctrine and slide down to the Easy Believism of the Good Lord and Good Deeds and Cheap Grace Church of Cappuccino and Concerts (yes- really snarky I know).... is there still room and relevance to the grand gospel truths birthed by blood during the reformation?

I say YES... in fact, the reformation is the authentic lumber and substance of the Biblical doctrines of grace that we long for!

The Sola's still ring true in my heart and jump off the pages of my Bible....

Sola Scriptura: My Only Foundation
Solus Christus: My Only Mediator
Sola Gratia: My Only Method
Sola Fide: My Only Means
Soli Deo Gloria: My Only Ambition

Endless political soundbites that saturate cable news and Netflix binge watching have robbed us lives that run on protein power instead of kool-aid.

 THE REFORMATION IS STILL NEEDED:

#1 THE SOLA'S PREVENT US FROM HYPER-ANYTHING- God’s Truth is a balanced truth.

The reformation proved that authentic relationships are enhanced by sound doctrine. Truth is enlivened by God's Spirit- and the truth of truth compels an authentic response of service!

#2 THE SOLA'S EMPHASIZE OBJECTIVITY OVER SUBJECTIVITY.   

Truth is homeless in our world. We suffocate for lack of honesty. As a result man dies even while he remains alive, though idle he remains convinced of his achievements. Even as he lies dying he persuades himself that he is alive.”  Abraham Joshua Herschel, American Jewish Philosopher

The ideas of the reformation make us grab hold of truth that is OUTSIDE our own little mind. 

 I cannot shape truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. C.H. Spurgeon

 A subjective faith is really NOT the gospel. The gospel is ground into space, time, and history of a true man, proclaiming a true message, suffering a true cross, and was exalted by a true resurrection. This is not a 'feels like' faith. This is not a 'seems like' lifestyle. This is simply, Jesus is Lord and King and the Sole Substitute for sin and rebellion.

If you build your life around the comfortable false religions of this age,  you will never bump into any surprise or adventure or amazement.

Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn have continued to promote the distinctives.....


 There is no way of getting around it: The American Religion is not Christianity. I'm not saying that Reformation Christians are the only people we'll see in Heaven, but I am saying that the American Religion is sub-Christian in many of the facets we've been considering over these past several weeks. And there's a common thread running through it all: Man-centeredness instead of God-centeredness; a theology of glory rather than a theology of the Cross; moralism instead of Christ; sentimentalism and pragmatism instead of the Gospel; marketing instead of truth.

Many historians look back to the Reformation and wonder at its far-reaching influences in transforming culture. The work ethic, public education, civic and economic betterment, a revival of music, the arts, and a sense of all life being related somehow to God and his glory: These effects cause historians to observe with a sense of irony how a theology of sin and grace, the sovereignty of God over the helplessness of human beings, and an emphasis on salvation by grace apart from works, could be the catalyst for such energetic moral transformation. The reformers did not set out to launch a political or moral campaign, but they proved that when we put the Gospel first and give voice to the Word, the effects inevitably follow.


What is the best way to celebrate Reformation Day? I plan on eating a snickers and reading Romans.

What about you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wineskins, Witness, and Waiting: Jesus Responds to Critics ( Mark 2:18-22)

Mark 2:18–22

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” [19] And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [20] The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. [21] No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. [22] And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (ESV)


The Context: 

I love reading Mark of all the synoptic gospels for some reason. It may just be the flow of it....
but as we read to this point, we see growing crowds


1:37 “Everyone is looking for you”

1:47 “Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere”

2:2 “So many gathered, there was no room”

2:13 “A large crowd”

And the growing crowds always seem to increase the growing conflict.

These particular verses seem to indicate concern that the disciples of Jesus were not living up to the expectations of the status quo
2:18 “Now John’s disciples AND the Pharisee’s were fasting”


The Confrontation:

Speculation regarding the questioners
- ‘And people came ….” - human nature never really changes. Dishonest questions are as brutal now as they were then... were these people asking an honest question or was their question merely a cover for their already hardened hearts?

I can't help but read the tone of their questions as plain SNARKY!

Jesus answers the questions by providing 3 illustrations:

Illustration 1- Wedding…… The Bridegroom will leave, but don't live in the future...celebrate the NOW.

Illustration 2- Patching a garment- the age of the patch needs to match the age of the garment and an improper repair (application) can be worse .

Illustration 3- Wineskins……again, new versus old. The new will need to stretch under pressure or the result will be great loss.

All three illustrations together suggest a common principle.... the time for fasting will come, but the time is not now. Jesus is in process of something new.

There are MANY principles from the passage: patience, authority, ritualism... but I wanted to focus on how we respond in conflict and criticism.

The World of CONSTANT CONFLICT...
Unfortunately, we never escape THE FRAY... it is always there. The battle never rests and we live in a world of endless opinions.

Negative opinions brew in the dark, they are spread in whisper campaigns

The Lord of Time
As humans, we don't do time very well..... I have always quipped...“God is never LATE….. but He is seldom early” . It is SO HARD to wait on Him. Can we embrace God’s sovereignty as it relates to HIS TIMING?

Applications:
Never Aid, Comfort, or Enable the Enemy. If you participate in whisper campaigns or believe that your right to know is an entitlement, you are helping negativity to sap life out of all that is around you.

Be Steady in the Storm…. And Celebrate THE GOSPEL! Jesus stood firm and stood above the fray. He was not naive... He knew the hearts of the critics... but He was never dismayed or knocked off mission by them

Ask God To Enlarge Your View of Him. It is OK to live with a God who operates on a 'need to know basis'... He is big enough to handle your waiting game

Never Underestimate the Power of the Status Quo. As a follower of Jesus, never be afraid to upset the apple cart in your allegiance to Him. Many will hate you for that, but God supports those whose hearts are set on Him.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

A Humble and Holy Hermaneutic

This blog repost is by request to analyze the principles of Biblical interpretation I use - formally referred to as 'hemeneutics'.

As always, I am a firm believer in showing my cards early- I come from a conservative, reformed tradition of Christianity.... but I firmly believe the Bible has guided me there... Scripture has shaped my theology much MORE than theology has interpreted my Bible.

There are two important hallmarks of any right reading of Scripture:

HUMILITY- this is way more difficult that anyone can imagine. 

1 Corinthians 8:1 "we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. (ESV)

A humble approach actually must be examined BEFORE we even open up the Bible. Without humility, we are not in a state to accept what the Bible will be saying to us.

I encourage you to carefully read the conversion of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield in both of her two first books ..... she rightly acknowledges that her most grievous sin... the one keeping her from salvation... was not the sexual sin she was living in- it was PRIDE.

As I read critics and trolls of Christianity... I am not saddened by their statements, I am sad about the PRIDE they take in their opinions... we live in a culture where we have made OUR OWN MINDS our own GOD and truth is what we say it to be.

I encourage all readers of anything to create a context of HEALTHY SKEPTICISM of self... the smarter you are, the more you are in danger of ever discovering that you may be DEAD WRONG.

BY the way, the best antidote of pride is LOVE. A love where you are willing to sacrifice for another. I have quite a few friends who have radically different views of religion and politics... I especially pray for wisdom that I speak and post in a way that shows my love for them and I pray for them.

So, even as I write this post, I need to be aware that I may be incorrect in areas as well.

Thus HUMILITY has allowed me to discover the authority and beauty of the Bible. And if I read it with humility, it corrects me.... I do not correct it.

A second hallmark of my hermeneutic is simple: READING. I am reading literature and as I grow in my ability to read literature, I gain wisdom in analysis. 

I taught literature for almost 20 years. During that time I read and taught hundreds of classics... over many different genres.

The Bible is unlike anything else in this world..... so different than even the greatest works of all time.

The Bible is a supernatural document- transmitted in so many ways, protected, and delivered to a world in easy to understand fundamentals. God exists... so a communication from Him is not a stretch.

It reads like no other writing in history... even when I read the Book of Mormon or other religious texts... there is no comparison.

The original languages of Scripture is also important- it is so amazing to me to see that beautiful Hebrew poetry and figurative language of the Old Testament reads that same way in English. And also impressed that the GREEK of the New Testament has such a technically sound grammar and linguistic that you CAN"T make it say what you want to if you do honest analysis.

So over the past 35 plus years, as I have read the scriptures in an honest and humble way...  it is quite clear. Though I must always thank God for the Holy Spirit WHO I believe has provided that ability.


CAN WE MAKE MISTAKES IN INTERPRETATION? YES!

But if we continue to READ in HOLY HUMILITY false interpretations are melted away as we continue to see all of Scripture being hinged to one enduring foundation: Salvation by faith in Jesus Christ as a merciful gift to sinful and dying people.

BATTLE OF WORLD VIEWS

I first read "Christianity and Liberalism" by J. Gresham Machen in 1993 (it had been published in 1923) and I did a detailed study of it around 2010.
I got to where I couldn't read it at night, because I would lay awake until late haunted by the prophetic words Dr. Machen used in warning us about the sad consequences if the Orthodox faith slipped in our midst.

Sadly, I feel more and more like a dinosaur- his words are so powerful, but resonates so little in this current culture. Is there anyone who feels this pressing on them the way it presses on me?

I have copied his final few paragraphs of this very important work. Can there be some men who will rise up and once again proclaim the old time gospel? The true one? The one that sparked the reformation and changed the world?

From the last chapter, The Church:

The rejection of Christianity is due to various causes. But a very potent cause is simple ignorance. 

In countless cases, Christianity is rejected simply because men have not the slightest notion of what Christianity is. 

An outstanding fact of recent Church history is the appalling growth of ignorance in the Church. Various causes, no doubt, can be assigned for this lamentable development. The development is due partly to the general decline of education--at least so far as literature and history are concerned. 

The schools of the present day are being ruined by the absurd notion that education should follow the line of least resistance, and that something can be "drawn out" of the mind before anything is put in. They are also being ruined by an exaggerated emphasis on methodology at the expense of content and on what is materially useful at the expense of the high spiritual heritage of mankind. These lamentable tendencies, moreover, are in danger of being made permanent through the sinister extension of state control. 

But something more than the general decline in education is needed to account for the special growth of ignorance in the Church. 

The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever be the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. 

Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is; and the fair and logical thing is to learn what Christianity is, not from its opponents, but from those who themselves are Christians. That method of procedure would be the only fair method in the case of any movement. But it is still more in place in the case of a movement such as Christianity which has laid the foundation of all that we hold most dear. Men have abundant opportunity today to learn what can be said against Christianity, and it is only fair that they should also learn something about the thing that is being attacked.

Such measures are needed today. The present is a time not for ease or pleasure, but for earnest and prayerful work. A terrible crisis unquestionably has arisen in the Church. In the ministry of evangelical churches are to be found hosts of those who reject the gospel of Christ. By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith. And now there are some indications that the fiction of conformity to the past is to be thrown off, and the real meaning of what has been taking place is to be allowed to appear. The Church, it is now apparently supposed, has almost been educated up to the point where the shackles of the Bible can openly be cast away and the doctrine of the Cross of Christ can be relegated to the limbo of discarded subtleties.

Yet there is in the Christian life no room for despair. Only, our hopefulness should not be founded on the sand. It should be founded, not upon a blind ignorance of the danger, but solely upon the precious promises of God. Laymen, as well as ministers, should return, in these trying days, with new earnestness, to the study of the Word of God.

If the Word of God be heeded, the Christian battle will be fought both with love and with faithfulness. Party passions and personal animosities will be put away, but on the other hand, even angels from heaven will be rejected if they preach a gospel different from the blessed gospel of the Cross. Every man must decide upon which side he will stand. God grant that we may decide aright!

What the immediate future may bring we cannot presume to say. The final result indeed is clear. God has not deserted His Church; He has brought her through even darker hours than those which try our courage now, yet the darkest hour has always come before the dawn. We have today the entrance of paganism into the Church in the name of Christianity. But in the second century a similar battle was fought and won. From another point of view, modern liberalism is like the legalism of the middle ages, with its dependence upon the merit of man. And another Reformation in God's good time will come.

But meanwhile our souls are tried. We can only try to do our duty in humility and in sole reliance upon the Savior who bought us with His blood. The future is in God's hand, and we do not know the means that He will use in the accomplishment of His will. It may be that the present evangelical churches will face the facts, and regain their integrity while yet there is time. If that solution is to be adopted there is no time to lose, since the forces opposed to the gospel are now almost in control. It is possible that the existing churches may be given over altogether to naturalism, that men may then see that the fundamental needs of the soul are to be satisfied not inside but outside of the existing churches, and that thus new Christian groups may be formed.

But whatever solution there may be, one thing is clear. There must be somewhere groups of redeemed men and women who can gather together humbly in the name of Christ, to give thanks to Him for His unspeakable gift and to worship the Father through Him. Such groups alone can satisfy the needs of the soul. At the present time, there is one longing of the human heart which is often forgotten--it is the deep, pathetic longing of the Christian for fellowship with his brethren. One hears much, it is true, about Christian union and harmony and co-operation. But the union that is meant is often a union with the world against the Lord, or at best a forced union of machinery and tyrannical committees. How different is the true unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! Sometimes, it is true, the longing for Christian fellowship is satisfied. There are congregations, even in the present age of conflict, that are really gathered around the table of the crucified Lord; there are pastors that are pastors indeed. But such congregations, in many cities, are difficult to find. Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes into the Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one finds only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of meditation and power, not with the authority of God's Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861, which are to be found in the back part of the hymnals. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, And sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus' name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world.

My prayer is that we be found faithful in the humble reading and proclamation of His Word until He returns (and I hope soon!)



Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Story of 'Winning Edges'

We are literally days away from the 1st high school fishing team to debut on Jimmy Houston's digital network JHL.TV

The reality of this has been a wild ride and I am still look at the circumstances of this adventure with a smile and incredulity.

The very fact that I am a fishing coach period is quite a story.... but let's stick with the origin of the show.





LAKE CAROLINE AND BRENT CHAPMAN



It started as our fishing team met Brent Chapman as I was a part of his season 2 of Pro Vs Joe ( Coach Em Up ) in 2017 . We challenged Brent and he was familiar with that special lake in Louisville, AL. Getting to see a high quality show up close for filming was a beginning of this process.  We loved getting to meet Brent, his family, and his amazing film crew.

But again, it was fun to be a part of that- but I would not have EVER thought I was interested in doing ANYTHING like that. In fact, I was super impressed with how hard it is to do!

Meeting Brent was a special time and it resulted in 3 more episodes of his show : One with Jack Flemming, one with Grayson Morris,  and one with Aaron and Jordan Martens.

But the process was ahead.....It takes A LOT of time and planning to do a show right. And that doesn't count the equipment expense!

CONVERSATIONS ALONG THE WAY

I also have to link conversations I had with Coach David Cutcliffe, Brent Chapman producers Anthony Crivelli, and Tom Leogrande- and Montgomery, AL sports promoter, Doyle Powell all together about current culture, training young people,  and how hard it is to target teens with messaging. Each conversation put some thoughts in my mind of how I can get better as a coach and help elevate our fishing program.

JIMMY HOUSTON AND PAT TURNER

Doyle Powell called me about joining Jimmy for filming in Feb. of this year. We had an amazing time and Jimmy Houston is such an inspirational person. The guy still has such great passion for fishing and he understands it as a calling on his life.

That calling drives him to be an instructor and mentor of this sport he loves. Our similarities were not fishing as much as it is for educating and mentoring young people.

As we fished and filmed, we also talked about how to connect with teens- who really watch their peers on you tube more than connecting with a high profile 'star'.

Pat Turner, Jimmy Houston Outdoors producer, and I had a lengthy conversation about their network and his desire to create content to help young anglers.

The more we talked, the more I thought 'I don't know HOW I can pull this together, but we can do it."

WINNING EDGES IS BORN

When I got back to BCS in Feb, I talked with Coach Matthew Forester, the head of our school media class. Coach Forester and I had already been working together to use the creativity of his students to produce original content and graphics for our athletic programs.

The difficulty in producing our own show started with equipment- the quality we would want to produce wasn't gong to be cheap- so we put together a 'wish list' of audio, video, and editing needs.
The entire package was about $20,000. So immediately, the Lord was going to have to provide before we could even think about it.

GETTING OTHER SCHOOLS INVOLVED

We have GREAT anglers at BCS. These guys have worked hard to become great. But I also know that our area in Birmingham has some high school HAMMERS when it comes to competitive bass fishing- so I knew that I had to involve these students as well.

That has been my favorite part of 'Winning Edges"- being around some amazing kids at other schools. High School fishing in Alabama is pretty cool- competitive? YES- but there is also a friendship between anglers at other schools. Even the college guys help the high school guys. We have a GREAT SPIRIT in fishing right now.... if I can get some of the parents to join us, it would be the healthiest competition I have ever been a part of.

PREMISE OF THE SHOW

The main mission of 'Winning Edges' is 'hands on' educational and inspirational video content. It provides an opportunity for our students to be creative and LEARN. It is as much video training as it is fishing training.

It helps us to showcase WHAT IS GREAT about high school fishing- God, Country, Fishing...and the relationships between schools is very healthy. Watching these guys compete, but also SUPPORT one another is impressive.

We also have great support from college anglers who are teaching and training the high school guys as well.

High school, college, and professional fishing is a very positive thing in our country today! Nothing is perfect of course, but we could not be happier with the support of some great pros like Aaron Martens, Randy Howell, and Brent Chapman along the way.

Also, the manufacturers are starting to realize it is possible to market to this generation by jumping into social media using the young guys as representatives.

ISSUES, PROBLEMS, AND CHALLENGES

So we started... we travelled to Pickwick, Logan, Caroline, and Lay Lake with student film crews. I did start to get donations and we just went with it. We had audio issues, camera shaking issues, and we were filming in the summer during VERY TOUGH conditions.

When we downloaded the hours of b-roll and digital sound... we all went "OH BOY!"

But Coach Forester never wavered, we split the students up into editing 'teams' and just had the guys " Here is your show- get going!". The result was cool- each episode has its own look and feel.

I am very pleased with the outcome- you can tell a difference in the early shows and the last ones- we are all getting better.

We filmed a lot in the summer, so we haven't gotten in a variety of techniques...but our plan is to film a minimum of 2 shows each fishing season (fall, winter, spring, and summer).

WINNING THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

When Grayson Morris and Tucker Smith won the natty with JT Russell as their boat captain, it was super special.... AND all of a sudden...Wining Edges was going to have a chance to have a larger impact.

This was evident this past week where we were hosted by Shimano at the Bass Hall of Fame in Springfield, MO. Our guys were introduced  to major leaders and personalities in the world of fishing.


I was able to talk a lot about Winning Edges and solicit advice about the project.

 




It also helps that Grayson and Tucker stopped at Drake of the way home and  signed an apparel agreement with Drake Performance Fishing. We will be filming new shows featuring Shimano and Drake soon.


TV DEBUT- Mid to Late OCT 2018





So THIS will be up and going VERY SOON-