Thursday, January 10, 2019

Endless Appetite: Sample from Winning Edges Devotions

The Winning Edges Devotional Series on Amazon.com is a product of how I have been blessed by daily time in God's Word in the light of the gospel for over 30 years. Each month has a theme of its own, and the goal is to have every month covered in 2019. I hope each reader is encouraged in the journey!

Winning Edge Devotional Series- Jay Mathews

Here is an excerpt from the new book that will be out in Mid-February: The Temple in Disrepair


Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. [20] But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21 ESV)


The believer’s physical life is greatly impacted by his INNER life.

How do you see yourself?

One area that I have battled my entire adult life is over eating. In fact, I exercise at an above normal rate and would be considered generally ‘fit’. I am on no medication and feel ‘good’ most of the time.

But I also know I can easily let myself go and I can quickly put on massive weight. And though I am more successful now than in my past, I still feel like it is an area I need to improve upon.

The most crucial of all the factors in my struggle is that winning in weight control begins on the INSIDE. I have to admit there are some idolatry issues in this. Food can be a powerful idol, it combines with a longing for comfort and desire to be filled. My quest for taste and fullness, pleasure and excess, with no regard for my body as a temple is a huge deal here.

I have always laughed at how football and eating go together-
when we win- I eat and celebrate
when we lose- I eat and commiserate

And now you know why I tend to gain about 10 lbs every football season.
In fact, I would gain 10 and lose 5 each year…so after 10 years of coaching, it was no surprise to find myself needing to lose 50 lbs!

And these idols are so deeply seated in my heart that I am still very much in danger to be lured and trapped yet again.

I remember the horror of reading the above verse ( Philippians 3:18,19) and knowing that was describing me. I don’t want to be ruled by my appetites…I want to be ruled by Christ!

The beauty of the gospel was that over time, I was able to say – “Lord, this is me. My only hope is You. I trust in Your death to cover me and the truth of the gospel message to set me free.

And yet this was a 25 year seemingly unanswered prayer- but I keept praying again and again. The big things- the important things- take decades in God’s timing. “we await a Savior” –You must search Him out and wait and wait and wait- and be willing to be content that His delivery comes at a much different timetable than we can see. But He is faithful.

There are psychological tricks here as well. One is ‘Human Apperception‘.

In psychology, apperception is “the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole.”  In short, it is to perceive new experience in relation to past experience.

Example:
A rich child and a poor child walking together come across the same ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk. The rich child says it is not very much money and the poor child says it is a lot of money. The difference lies in how they apperceive the same event – the lens of past experience through which they see and value (or devalue) the money.   —Christopher Ott (quoted in wiki)

They way this impacts me is the man in the mirror. If I gain 5 or 10 lbs and look at myself, I feel disgust or anger or shame or hurt. Then if I lose 5 lbs and see myself in the mirror, I feel such victory. The view is always an extreme; and both are a warped stretch of the reality.

Photographs disturb me more than the mirror. Someone will show me a picture of me and I feel so bad about how heavy I look. A year or so later, I feel the same pain at a new photo and look at last year’s and wonder why I couldn’t at least look like last year.

This was a vicious cycle for a number of years:

The amazing difference was in ’10 year’ pictures. I would look at an old picture (that I previously thought was disgusting) and long for being that way again.
All of this though, was a sinful human heart being swayed by my sinful and tainted senses. For example: if my wife told I looked good, my image was accepted for a short time and I was OK. If she told me I had gained weight, it pushed me into that dark hole.

It is important to remind ourselves that we are not regarded by others in these extremes. I rarely notice the weight change on others and in the long run, I don’t care. If you are reading this right now, don’t feel bad about how you look. You are you– people know you as you are- and though we think that appearance is something that indicates acceptance or rejection, it is never as important as we think. A warm smile and bright eyes and a loving spirit shows through way more than what your body shape is. Stop beating yourself up.

Without sounding ‘hokey’- I also sensed that the enemy used quiet heart whispers to further push the pain. There is a demonic part to the inner voices that say, “You’ll never defeat this” or “You’re just a pig” or “How can you say you glorify God when your temple is a wreck”. Those thoughts were darker and deeper that just my heart.

How that works, I just don’t know. I don’t think it is Satan himself, but the dark forces of evil tend to do these types of whisper campaigns to torture believers.

About 15 years ago, I began to become more aware of these battles and began to confront them. As I began to feel some small victories and growing in confidence, the battle pressed harder. I had some vicious attacks come through false accusations, misunderstandings, gossip, and deadly rumors.

But God kept picking me up and I began to fight consistently and well. Not in words so much as in deep prayer and positive attitudes. When the battle was really raging I would get up each morning and say: “No matter what the devil or world throws my way today- I will rejoice- I am a son of the King of the universe- Jesus Christ my Lord loved me- He died for me- I am a blessed man- I am overflowing with joy, hope, and love.”

I also would begin to pray for people who were being used in attacks toward me. I wasn’t growing bitter toward them. The largest victory came when I felt mercy towards those who misunderstood or disliked me instead of frustration or anger. I felt true love for them. I prayed for their health, I spoke well of them to others, I looked to serve them, and when they wounded me, I copied my Lord’s prayer “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”. 

Now please, I did not do this perfectly… I got angry, at times, in the fight, I slipped at times, I accepted that I sometimes deserved the attacks…. But the Holy Spirit deserves ALL THE CREDIT!  And I slowly grew better in this fight.
I wrote some blog postings during March of 2010 (jayopsis.com). It captures a lot of what I learned in a compressed three year concentrated and intense spiritual battle. I encourage you to spend some time in these if you have experienced some of these same feelings of shame and disappointment in yourself. Remember that you will suffer tribulation in this world and learn how to keep your joy in spite of circumstances.

Isn’t this just some kind of ‘philosophy stuff’…. ‘meaningless psychobabble’? It could be…but I lived it… and when I began to be healed on the inside, it began to show on the outside. When I learned to forgive, and love, and pray for people opposed to me by way of the Spirit… I saw results!

But I have to reiterate all of this. Do you see the long build up? Do you see the deep-seated roots of this problem? Do you understand it is not just physical? It is not so simple to say: ‘Oh well just stop eating and exercise’– and it is offensive when a thin person asks if you want to lose weight and you say, ‘yes’ and then they say, “Push that fat rear away from the table.”

I am old enough now to understand slowing metabolism, insulin resistance, and genetic pre-disposition. But this is no excuse to not fight. God can be glorified as I accept who I am and keep fighting to get better. It is not about ‘appearance’- it is a willingness to accept the mission of Christ. An example of this is in Colossians 1:


[22] he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, [23] if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope
from the hope of the gospel that you heard,


Also- without the life changing, Holy Spirit given, gospel message- what hope do we have?

Jesus loves me whether I am fat or thin. His death covers all of my failings and sin.  Can you embrace that? It is hard… so many people say “I just can’t accept that- it seems too easy” but my friend I am crying to you again-

YOU CANNOT EARN GOD’S FAVOR. YOU CANNOT BE GOOD OR DISCIPLINED. YOU CANNOT DO GOOD WORKS AND GO TO HEAVEN.

It is a sheer gift- we call it grace.

This is a beginning for any issue that keeps holding us back. My desire is for all of us to fall on our knees and cry out to the God of mercy and say to Him: LORD- I give this to You! You are God! You are in control. Take this… take me.. I cannot do any good. If you marked my sin or counted it against me- I am in trouble- But YOU LOVE ME- your death proves it- your resurrection validates Your sacrifice.

 My only hope is Christ. In Christ alone- I have FAITH in HIM- I trust HIM- I don’t even understand how it all works- but I lay everything I have- my life- my eternity- my affections on Him.

And when it is all through- at the end of the day- what I just did is by HIM TOO! What a God! What a Savior! How can I not proclaim this to the world!

What a message!

Finally- the fruit of victory always comes at the exact right time. It is God’s timing. He prepares us for it.  Even after years of failure… if you just keep after it… the breakthrough victory will be even sweeter. Never give up!

This is an old saying that I always use:
“It matters not if you try and fail and try and fail again.
What matter is if you try and fail….
and fail to try again.”


So, I will list it out like this- How do you change from the inside- out?
Here is what happened to me…..

STEP 1- SPIRITUAL GROWTH.. I began to apply the Word more, pray more, and fight

STEP 2- RELEASING FEAR AND PAIN FROM DAILY LIFE. The realization of this was when in 2009 we finished 3-7 in football. I can’t remember a time that this had ever happened to me. Every coach in America fears these types of years.

But, it was a blessing to understand that I’M OK- I DID NOT DIE! Instead of running to food and poor self-esteem I actually found a huge desire to get better.

I stood in front of the new group of seniors in Jan of 2010 and said “Watch me- you are going to see me change- I am going to work and compete- follow my lead” and I began to take it day by day- but I was determined to be the hardest working person on our campus- and I went after it mentally, physically, and spiritually. It felt good to fight!
Every day as I ran, all I did was to pray for those seniors… I wanted them to have a great year and I wanted to lead everyone I could by my example. I had a huge set-back that year in December when I was let go as the head football coach…but I kept going!

It fueled me to run a marathon. When tough things happen it is natural to run to addictions as comfort…but  we should be seeking what the Lord wants and be willing to trust Him to break the cycle.

STEP 3- CELEBRATING SMALL VICTORIES– I did not gain weight during the 2009 season- which was significant. It did not dawn on me until after my meeting with the rising seniors. Don’t ever discount small victories in areas which you are battling.

STEP 4- FACING THE REALITY OF POOR HEALTH – When my weight got out of control from 2004-2008, I knew my blood pressure was growing and my wife kept up her concern- this was a silent killer- and what would my family do? I have to keep trying to fight the good fight here for the sake of my family.

STEP 5- GETTING INTO THE ROUTINE– In 2009, I had a good exercise routine going- I was finally healthy enough to run without pain and smart enough to know how to pace myself and cross train. (Take days off, do elliptical training, swim, ride a bike on sunny days).

I was also smart to not start a diet in January. I decided to let my body get in shape for a month. I needed to fuel my workouts. The plan was to get an initial weight in February and begin to slowly change eating habits. I started with breakfast every morning, a lot of water, and eating 5 or 6 small meals a day. I did this February and March and I lost about 10 lbs.

An April ‘Miracle’  – I have documented previously what happened in April of 2009 (I lost 60 lbs from April to August that year) but I have still struggled up and down since then. But every April since then has been an invitation to ‘do it again’– and that is my hope again even this year!

As we take a day-by-day journey…. let’s always pray that real change happens from the inside-out.

When we repair on the inside… it helps us repair on the outside.

When we feel better physically, we have more energy to devote to God’s mission.

And we discover that God’s power is a power of endurance……..


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Why the Term 'Fade' is a Poor Description of the Route

With the growing popularity of back shoulder throws and match up zone - I notice that very few teams actually throw good looking vertical shots anymore. But taking a good opportunity to go deep can be a great way to take the top off of a defense!

I call it a ‘fade’ myself- but if you understand how to run a deep vertical, you understand that to 'fade' is a weak and worthless description. But it may be better to say a 'GO' route or a 9 route or a vertical.

Understanding the Need and Use of a Deep Throw

I personally don't think teams throw outside vertical routes enough. The worst thing that can happen on a deep throw is an interception. If the tackle is made quickly, that failure is as good as a punt.

Amazing Paradox: An off corner is easier to beat on a deep throw than an up corner. It used to bother me to see our Qb or rec's get discouraged if we called a vertical throw and the corner was way off. It wouldn't work because their lack of belief did not allow for full speed and excellent execution.

If the receiver will attack the technique of the corner, he can run up on and by a corner who flips his hips too late. Also, we should come down with the ball more often because of having more experience in those reps.

FADE CROPPED.jpg

Release at line of scrimmage (Diagram on the top): It is so important to get full speed in a hurry. If pressed, take the outside release as the preferred release, but no need to run through a wall. If the corner is hard outside, take the easiest route. The key is to get by and stacked on top of a press corner. Be strong on top of him and DO NOT GET FUNNELED.

Releasing Downfield (Diagram at the bottom): The WR needs to slip the off corner with the easiest release with as little friction as possible. But he wants to quickly STACK the corner and not weakly fade to the sideline. TELL THEM TO BE POWERFUL AGAINST THE CORNER.



The Importance of the POWER STACK- Teach your wideouts to run with a strong body that wants to leave the corner late. Corners are taught to rub, slap, and tug to slow the WR down. Keep the rec. working with hard pumping arms and driving knees


IMPORTANT COACHING POINTS:

QB’S- “DO NOT THROW IT OUT OF BOUNDS!”- I know our Qb’s must think we are crazy because we act like no big deal if a deep ball is intercepted...but we yell at them when they throw it out of bounds.

RECEIVER’S “NO FRANKENSTEIN ARMS”-  HUGE MISTAKE is to have a WR run downfield with his arms stuck out stiff. Teach them to keep pumping their arms while the ball is in the air and stretch late for the catch.

FIGHTING FOR THE BALL- I try to stress to our wide rec's that this is THEIR ball and they need to aggressively fight for it with both hands and laser eyes. Out hustle and out jump. Most interference calls go against the defense.

SAFETY FIRST- I do not let our rec's dive for long balls in practice. Use jumping pits or mats to safely practice.
But to not lay out in a game is a loaf.

Protecting the Throwing Lane: This is huge. I do NOT want to rec to 'fade' wide. I want him STACKED vertical. I also want him to leave the QB room to throw it a little wide. Some coaches say that the receiver owns the numbers and the Qb owns the sideline. But I caution all coaches to not over coach the outside throw. Of course we do not want it inside- but I like the idea over the top of his head- downtown with air. Throwing the ball out of bounds is worse than throwing it inside. Make sure rec's provide a minimum of 4 yds, even after double moves.


Throwing the DEEP BALL with air. A high throw allows more room for error and adjustment.The only time I allow a ‘5 iron’ shot over a ‘9 iron’ shot is when the cover is blown. Cover 2 hole throws need to be a ‘2 iron stinger’. I like using trash cans in the summer to work on throwing the deep ball with good air.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Christmas War

This will seem like a strange post during a time where we sing, "Peace on Earth"

And my prayer IS for you is to rest with your loved ones these next few days.... it is peaceful and we do need to enjoy and celebrate. But make no mistake, the enemy recognizes NO requests for a Christmas ceasefire!

If you are experiencing Christmas conflict, understand that there is one who rages against you and his desire is dark and dangerous.



Revelation 12

And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. [5] She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron........[7] Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, [8] but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [10] And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. [11] And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

 [12] Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! 

But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

[13] And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child....... [17] Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (ESV)

The Bible is pretty bold and clear- all humans have to declare allegiance to one of two kingdoms.

One kingdom is the City of Man- symbolically called 'Babylon'- it is ruled by the Dragon- and this Dragon wages war on the Lamb and those who follow Him. Citizenship in this kingdom is secured by a refusal to bow, rebellion, hatred, and defiance toward the Creator and Savior. 

The other kingdom is the City of God- symbolically called 'Jerusalem'- it is ruled by God and is a glorious eternal kingdom of love and peace. Citizenship in this kingdom is secured by humility and submission- it is receiving a gift of grace as a child by faith.

The ruler of the City of Man wages war on the citizens of Jerusalem.

The Ruler of Jerusalem will pour out wrath on the followers of the dragon in response to the cruelty and destruction of the one called 'Accuser'.

Whose wrath do you choose?

This is a journal I wrote just a few days before the first marathon I ever ran:

I have trained well and I am in a period called ‘tapering’ which is getting my body as rested as I can- hydrated- full of glycogen- totally recovered from all the training .I have followed a training plan by the book- I have run 20 miles twice- and have done all that my advisor (halhigdon.com) has told me to . But regardless of all I have done- I do know what is coming. Whether I feel great or not on Saturday- at about mile 17/18/19 (I’m praying not sooner) I will hit the point where it is time to just keep going. I have experienced this on a smaller scale during my training- the worst run I had was an 18 miler where I was already struggling on mile 5 (one of the most miserable experiences of my life). Bottom line- I have a fight coming- and it will push me- but WHEN I cross the finish line I will feel a tremendous sense of triumph. 

And even though I thought I knew the struggle- it was much tougher than I imagined. I have run two marathons in my past and both of them were quite a battle.... at some point it just becomes a fight to the finish.
I was always helped by those who encouraged me to keep going!

PROVERBS 24- A CHRISTMAS DEVOTION?

Proverbs 24 outlines the ‘fight’ of the wise and the righteous. I’m sorry to report, but no one gets out of this war. You are either on the side of evil or good- but you hit the ground running everyday in an all-out spiritual battle with eternity at stake.

1 Do not envy the wicked,
do not desire their company;
2 for their hearts plot violence,
and their lips talk about making trouble.


Here is your enemy- they never rest- and lust after your destruction.

5 The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
6 Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers.


How can you win if you do not plan or do not get help? I think my biggest failure in things is not to enlist help and I foolishly strike out on my own… BIG MISTAKE. This is a fight for a team and not for individuals.

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!

11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?


Sadly, this is the general experience of a lot of believers, including myself WAY TOO OFTEN!- soft and frail- and more willing to beg out of the fight. 

Passive people think they are avoiding the crisis…but it is coming to them and will be worse the longer they wait.

16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.


We will get knocked down in this battle, it is all about rising up in victory- don’t STAY down!

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the LORD will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.


As believers we win and lose with class! Let God handle what consequences need to come. Be sober when that happens. It may take time, but justice will win in the end!

21 Fear the LORD and the king, my son,
and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,
and who knows what calamities they can bring?


Whose team do you want to be on?

23 By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
24 through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures. 


The gifts we open this Christmas will fade in time-The gift of wisdom lasts and bears fruit. And we have to have it, if we want to win the war.

This is the gift I want……..What about you? 

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT- MERRY CHRISTMAS!
-->


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Have I Received the Greatest Gift Ever Given?- Things to Ponder on Christmas




DON'T FEAR THE QUESTION:

As we spend a season contemplating the Christ-child and gifts... it is quite OK and I encourage us to explore the question. Doing it is an evidence of God working in your heart... this is going to be great....The greatest gift ever given!  I want to thank God for giving me the gift of 'saving faith'- a gift I would not have were it not for Him.

How do I KNOW I have true saving faith?- the starter question

And the answer is strange. Part of the initial evidence is that I dare even ask the question. I believe a big key in sorting out true faith is that a true believer wrestles with whether or not he has it in the first place. If you aren't willing to put it on the table for inspection, you might be face to face with reality of knowing it is not there.


So ask God to give you Holy Spirit eyes and place what faith you think you have, as weak and small as you think it may be- and do some comparison and investigation.


ONLY 1 SOURCE:

Before you enter this exercise- you need to make a declaration: "I am going to use God's Inspired Word as my only rule of faith." If any part of this analysis is conjecture based on my feelings or flawed logic, I pray that may be put away. This is not what I think, or how I feel- what does God's Word say? I will not be quoting exhaustive Scripture in this blog post (but I should)- but my hope is that it reflects the entire scope of Biblical counsel.


ANALYSIS A: COMPARISON TO FALSE FAITH


I need to run through my list of faiths that are not true, Biblical saving faith. I need to be willing to look at my heart/mind/will/emotions/experience/memory/word/deed and see if I fall into some of these categories.


1) COMPARTMENTALIZED FAITH: This is a big one. We live in a highly post everything culture where we shish-kabob our lives according to our fancies and whims. We have to understand that a multi-cultural, relativistic American society does corrupt our understanding of 'saving faith'. Add to that American roots of rugged individualism and powerful autonomy and we have a recipe for what the Bible labels "holding to a form of godliness, but denying the power within (2 Timothy 3:5)".


No- we have to fight this one. Saving faith is taken as a whole. As Paul Helseth powerfully defended in his book, Right Reason and the Princeton Mind, "They (Princeton Reformers) recognized that the operation of the intellect involves the 'whole soul'- mind, will, and emotions-rather than the rational faculty alone, and as a consequence they insisted the ability to reason 'rightly' i.e., the ability to see revealed truth more or less for what it objectively is, namely glorious- presupposes the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit on the 'whole soul' of a moral agent."


How we compartmentalize faith:
I tend to do it by making it merely a mental exercise. I can get fooled into believing if I learn more facts, I am increasing in saving faith. So my compartment is AN EDUCATIONAL FAITH- but others can trend into non-attached FORMS as well. I believe there is EMOTIONAL FAITH, getting revved up for Jesus and worked into a frenzy. There is a DO GOOD faith- where maybe the service or mission trip is the feel good event of the summer.


No- we need to guard ourselves from staying detached in these things. Saving faith connects all of the areas. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Shema, Deut. 6:5)".


2) LOGO FAITH: One of the icons of our 'post-everything' culture is the sloganeering of causes. 

Sometimes called the "Disneyfication of America" sociologists have written in mass about how mass communication technology has created a 'world of simulation' where high culture and low culture are combined and any sort of grand narrative is lost. I have always thought that Grant Lyon's book, Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times, captured this idea very poignantly.


The overarching image that Lyon's attaches to is a Harvest Day Crusade day that was hosted by Disneyland in Anaheim, CA in 2000. This Christian festival seemed innocuous enough. One of the event organizers had a great quote: "We saw Disneyland as an opportunity to bring God's kingdom to the Magic Kingdom. We felt that, as they opened the door to us to share Christ, we wouldn't turn down the opportunity just because other things take place there. Jesus is the example for this."


I am not being critical of this at all. Christ needs to be going EVERYWHERE. But the symbolic image of Christian marketing in the Mecca of consumer marketing could not be ignored by Lyons.


"A bizarre sounding collaboration...an ancient, premodern religion is found... interacting with the epitome of post modern culture- the artificial, simulated, virtual, fantasy world of Disney."


I need to be careful here- there were huge parts of Lyon's book that were instructive and thought provoking. I do think the biggest flaw of Lyon's approach is confusing the visible and invisible Church.


The bigger point here is what the Disney culture influence has done to 'virtualize and simulate' faith by transforming it into slogans and fancy logos. Spy magazine defined it this way:

 "Disneyfication is the act of assuming, through the process of assimilation, the traits and characteristics more familiarly associated with a theme park....than with real life."


So what does this mean? Here is how Disney has impacted church ministry and caused some to hold to a faith more characterized with logos and slogans than saving faith.


Theming: Everything relates to an overall 'theme'. The problem is that the theme is always a sanitized and organized abstraction and not reality. In themes, everything fits. But we all know that real life carries conundrums and problems.


Merchandizing and Consumption: It doesn't take long to realize that the theme can sell. I still get shudders sometimes when I walk through Christian bookstores. What are we selling? Why are we selling? I am not against selling books and books have ministered to me in so many amazing ways- but the packaging and theming should make us wary of what is missing.


Prescriptive Empathy: This is a tough one to define. Disney employees are taught to smile and interact in such a way that park attendees think they are having fun and not working. A logo faith teaches us all the proper terms of endearment- but it is an act. I say, "I will pray for you"... do I actually do it?


Self-adulation:
The toughest consequence of a logo faith is that I buy into the ultimate consumer mindset- all of this is for ME and my pleasure.


So here are my questions about LOGO faith. Do I just recite the Jesus answers? Have I learned all the themes, present a clean put together life of faith, but in the end.... there is little or no connection to the Holy God of the Universe. Do I measure my growth in how I feel? Do I evaluate worship based on what I get?


3) INSTITUTIONAL FAITH: It is hard to separate a LOGO faith from an INSTITUTIONAL faith because they are bred in the same petri-dish. An institutional faith is where I have allowed my daily work in a Christian environment to substitute for personal, saving faith. Do I read my Bible? Yes, in faculty devotions, writing blogs, teaching Sunday School, preparing lessons. Do I pray? Yes, weekly prayer meetings. Staff meetings. Opening and closing events. Do I worship? Yes. We have a chapel every week.


This is one I have to fight. And when I leave the institution for vacation or the weekend. Does my faith follow me? Do I have a personal prayer life, Bible study, or worship? Do I share my faith?


4) BIBLE BELT FAITH:
Oh boy! Another tough impostor! This is one where we are all good people and acknowledge the good Lord. We attend church and don't rob banks. We give money and sing Amazing grace. But there is no real spiritual recognition of our depravity. There is no real hatred of sin. There is no felt desperation of the reality of hell. God is warm and furry, a cosmic Santa Claus ready to dish out good gifts but absent in times of distress. It will all just work out, let it be.


There are other types of false faith: religion, liberalism, status, in fact all idols are held to by a type of 'faith'.


ANALYSIS B: PRACTICES TO EXPLORE BIBLICAL SAVING FAITH:



A SIMPLE GOSPEL:

I JOHN 5:11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.



1) SIMPLE TRUST: It is so important to remember that faith has an object- faith is not a work. The power of our faith is not faith- the power of our faith is the power in what our faith is in.

Saving faith is simply I TRUST JESUS- what he says and what He did... and nothing else.-

 In Matthew 17 Jesus says:

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I have always applied this as it is not the amount of faith applied- but the source. A great comfort in your fight of faith is a quiet voice that says, 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus- just to take Him at His word."



2) FITFUL FIGHTING: Jacob wrestled with God until daybreak. We must be willing to engage Him the same way. God, I will not let you go until you show me. I think He enjoys that. A willingness to wrestle is actually evidence of the Spirit.


3) DEEP ROOTED DOCTRINE: If you want to dissect whether you have a saving faith versus a merely speculative one- you have to be willing to dive into the roots of God's Word. If you haven't done so in a while- you may need to freshen up on Romans or find balance in I John. You may need to let Jesus's commands in the gospels hurt and heal.


Again, I turn to Helseth here:


The Princeton theologians approached the task of theology not as arrogant rationalists would have done, but as Biblically faithful Christians have always done. Indeed, they sought to discern the difference between truth and error not by appealing to magisterial conclusions of the rational faculty alone, but by hearing the text with 'right reason', which for them was a biblically informed kind of theological aesthetic that presupposes the work of the Spirit on the whole soul of the believing theologian.


Finally, saving faith is a gift that we receive by saving faith.

Heb 12:12 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Want to be blessed this Christmas?

Here you are, presented once again with the Christ in the manger. Even as Christmases past have slipped by..... here is that offer once again.

You and I have messed it up again and again- over and over- falling short of all that God intends us to be.

Even as you feel your pride wanting to justify and excuse away- even as you feel the deadness of rejecting it- please review these beautiful doctrines of salvation by God's grace.

Reach out to Him right now- Your sins have been cancelled and removed. Do you trust that?


Simply trust. "God I cannot do this. You have to do this. I am a rebel and you have not been my King. Is it too late to come home?" You know the answer.


Fight for it. There are those who will tell you you are too bad. You think in your heart you are too good. Don't let it go. Capture the childlike magic of new birth! Don't let Him go!


Dig Deep. Spend time this holiday break searching the Scriptures.


Thank God for the gift of saving faith.
Tell someone else what you have done.
It will be the best gift they get this year as well!


John 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me,

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Smats Hates Cats

EVERYONE KNOWS IT!

Some people are more bothered about it than others. But as sure as the sun comes up in the east, no one really questions that Mr. Smats hated cats.

It becomes more tangible when you see his tombstone. The infamous mausoleum projects an eerie gloom on the horizon of the  town. It is almost a rhythmic reminder, every time you pass that way. The sheer number of repetitions beat on our brains over time the melody of unrivaled truth...Mr. Smats Hated Cats. 

However, a dead man feels no wrath or indignation.

The objects of the venom of reprisal are his two sons. Their last name is  forever forced into the rhyme..."Smats" and "Cats".

Sam and Will Smats have consciously and unconsciously done all they could to escape the mantra.

Sam Smats had climbed a tree to rescue a frightened kitty only to have fallen and broken his leg so severely that he walked with a limp. It is so peculiar that you can identify Sam Smats from as far a distance as his dad's eternal resting place.

Will Smats keeps cats in his home. But NO ONE buys it. If you REALLY LOOK HARD enough you can find the sure enough evidence. Will Smats' cats are not cared for. Often people comment on the 'ragged fur', 'hungry eyes', 'timidity', and poor health of any poor cat in the care of Will Smats.

And then the very worst fears became true when the newspaper printed an accusation  that Will Smats had buried a cat in his backyard. The pressure on City Hall to investigate was immense and an investigator was dispatched to collect information on the abuse. Sure enough, the man had done it! And Will Smats was given the largest fine in town history for burying a pet in a backyard without a permit.

So- Sam Smats limps and Will Smats pleads his innocence to deaf ears and angry hearts. 

"Yes, our dad hated cats.... but we reject such a horrible view. Will someone please stand up for us?"

I thought about it for many days. I talked to a friend over coffee...

"What if Sam were trying to help that kitten?"

He looked at me in disbelief. "You are kidding me..right? Didn't you hear what the people said about his features? He was angry. He was going to kill that cat. Thank the Lord, that he fell out of that tree before harming him!"

I tried again... "But we weren't there! What if he wasn't mad? What if the cat was just scared of heights?"

My friend interrupted again in a huff! 'So why was Sam climbing that tree? Why go to all that trouble if he didn't just HATE that poor creature!"

I tried again....

"What if he was so sad about how his dad treated cats, that he wanted to go out of his way to help one?"

He glanced at me with a suspicious eye as he sipped again on his brew.



One day I did find someone who agreed with me.

As I slowly approached the subject, I felt his support rather energizing!

He had the biggest smile I had ever seen as he stated it rather confidently, "Yes, yes, yes! Mr. Smats hated cats - but Sam and Will Smats love cats!"

We laughed together and talked again in whispers.

'Crazy!, I wonder why don't people see that?"

"Maybe it will just take time!"

But that concerns me... I don't think time is going to help us. I had heard it on the playground just yesterday.. 'Sam Smats hates cats' by a little girl jumping rope. A little boy echoed it in baseball practice  "I swing my bat like Will Smats does at my cat."

I looked at my new friend... "Will you come to the coffee shop and talk to my friends? Maybe they will listen to us together?"

A block down the road, the coffee always smells so good and fresh!

We sit down and lay out the best argument we can..... 'Mr. Smats hated cats. Will and Sam do not'.

We do almost all the talking and they just drink coffee.

My newfound friend shakes the hand of my old friends and walks out. I am confident that we have made some progress for truth and goodness.

But I now see two suspicious eyes over the coffee cup!

"What! Do you not believe us!"

"Why should I? You have no clue who that was...do you?"

"Well, I just met him", I replied, "his name is Mark."

"Ha! You fool!" He smirks. "You have been deceived by no other than Mark SMATS... and a nephew hates cats as much as a son."

And I just stare in disillusionment... why even try?