Thursday, December 27, 2018
Monday, December 24, 2018
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.
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.
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.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
Friday, December 14, 2018
DON'T FEAR THE QUESTION:
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.
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.-
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
Saturday, December 08, 2018
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.
Saturday, December 01, 2018
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.
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!
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
THE REFORMATION IS STILL NEEDED:
“ 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.
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.