Monday, July 06, 2020

Wage War on Your Sin, Not the Sin of Others

We live in times of great conflict. Understatement of 2020.

Is there more now than the past? Or are we simply reaping the rotting fruit of mass communication technology? The speed and shallowness of most information coming our way has interrupted and changed our pattern of life

As communication and informational technologies (CITs) explode; a big casualty is TIME.  David Lyon, in his book, Jesus in Disneyland, gives a remarkable summary of what sociologists are seeing in the compression of space and time for over three decades.

The speed of life has passed warp dimensions. Instant communication, insatiable consumer appetites, and the extended present of cyberspace has put us in a world more liquid than solid. A rolling stone may gather no moss, but our culture’s tread is fractured. There is no long lasting stability. No life long careers or marriages. And change comes so fast, we don't have time to evaluate truth through logic and discourse.

“To disrupt time is to generate uncertainties, to loosen anchors, to dissolve meanings.” 

In this soup, even life becomes more disposable. Is it any wonder that stress and exhaustion is at an all time high? 

We have squeezed minutes into seconds and, seemingly, pushed God out in the process. 

In late February, early March we had a GIANT stop sign thrown in our path and everything ground to a halt (the first US Corona virus case was Jan. 20 and 1st reported death was Feb. 29). It was a strange, 'separate peace' that made us anxious- but also shut down the activity wheel.

The shut down did not sit well for long, especially in an election year. The blame game started up quickly and gained momentum. The daily Covid press conferences held our attention for a while, but it soon became useless rock throwing.

In that sea of disruption and partisanship, the worst possible spark hit the gasoline of conflict. It was like a multi-stage stage missile.... on Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while running in Georgia. It was just nuanced enough to create a divide and more questions than answers for people in the middle. (When the video surfaced on May 5, it really ramped up even more).

On April 15, demonstrators gathered in Michigan to protest that state's Covid lockdown measures.

And then on May 25, the video of George Floyd's death hit the exposed nerve and pandemonium erupted. Demonstrations, riots, looting, hit and run cases, autonomous zones, demands for immediate police reform, and shouting matches are now daily and continuous.

And I am beyond grieved.... I am discouraged enough to cry out to God almost daily... are we about to lose our republic and what kind of world are my children living in... and what will their children find?

As a believer in Jesus Christ and someone who trusts in the Bible as my authority.... that is where I run to. At times, I don't feel like it. I have spent some time daydreaming about life in Costa Rica or Bermuda.... but it is impractical and foolish. This is no time to sit quiet and hide.

This is the part where my wife would interrupt with a very practical observation.... "I know the problems. What are you going to do about it? What are the solutions?" And she is right to emphasize that.

This is why I write... and if given the opportunity to discuss with others. My desire in 2020 is to not give up or give in.... not matter what happens. The MINISTRY I am called to should not change, regardless of how long Covid stays with us and no matter what happens in an election in November. The mission or truth does not change, whether we live in times of plenty or in want. If I truly believe that Jesus is our only hope and answer, what do I do about that?

And as I read God's Word, I am helped and encouraged. I am also corrected.

In my quiet reading and prayerful considerations, I have been pressed into some questions and actions.

First Questions - Am I in tears about the right thing? Am I in grief over what God is in grief over? Am I in anger over the thing that angers me or am I angry over the thing that angers God?

What made apostle Paul grieve? What did he shed tears over?

It wasn't HARD TIMES or HARD CULTURE.

[2 Corinthians 7:5] For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

I hope you don't mind if I quote in length from John McArthur here- he says it MUCH better that I ever could:


At the time that Paul wrote this letter (2 CORINTHIANS), right up until the very time he took the pen and sat down to write, he had been nursing a broken heart. You might assume that that broken heart came because of the tremendous outside pressure of a hostile world. And I mean he had really had to endure a lot. And he chronicles that in this letter.
Let me remind you, back in chapter 1, verse 4, he talks about his affliction. Verse 5 of chapter 1, he talks about his sufferings. Verse 6, again his affliction. Down in verse 8, his affliction, “being burdened excessively beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.” Verse 9, “We had the sentence of death within ourselves.” Verse 10, he was delivered from a great peril, a peril of death.” And you’re really not very far into this epistle until you get the picture that this man is in the midst of severe persecution from a hostile world.
We come down to chapter 4, in verse 8, and he continues to chronicle some of this, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus” – that is to say he was always on the brink of death for the same reason Jesus gave His life, and that is the preaching of the truth.
Verse 11, “We are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” Verse 12, “Death works in us.” Over in chapter 6, he goes back through the litany again, verse 4, “Endurance, afflictions, hardships, distresses” – verse 5 – “beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, hunger.” And down in verse 9, he says, “As dying yet behold we live, as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” I mean that was life for him. There was tremendous external persecution and difficulty.
Over in chapter 11, verse 23 – you know this section; he talks about his labors, imprisonments, his beatings – so many beatings he couldn’t even remember them, the danger of death. Five times receiving 39 lashes, 3 times being beaten with rods stoned, 3 times shipwrecked, a night and a day in the deep. And then he talks about the dangers from every quarter in verse 26 and 27.
And then over in chapter and verse 10, he says, “I have learned to be content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties. And that was basically his life. And that might have been, at least in some people’s mind, enough to make a pastor lose his joy and be discomforted. But that wasn’t really the difficulty that broke his heart; that wasn’t really the hard thing to deal with. What was really difficult - chapter 11, verse 28 – “Apart from such external things is the daily pressure upon me because I have such care for the church.” It wasn’t what the world did to him that crushed him; it was what the church did to him.
Back in chapter 2 and verse 4, he says, “Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears.” The world really never made him cry that I know of. None of his persecutors made him cry; it was his people that did that. This Corinthian group to which he had given over a year–and-a-half of his life where he had deposited the truth, and himself, and his heart, and they had kicked it around as if it was a football.
To be honest, when I read this- I was shot by the Holy Spirit right between the eyes.... we think we are tough and often criticize the so-called 'snow flakes' of our culture. But have I suffered even close to what Paul did? or the other apostles?

And at the brink of possibly giving up... God sent Paul help- in the person of Titus.


[6] But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, [7] and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
Who was Titus? Titus was a gentile (greek) convert that Paul had led to the Lord, eventually becoming a valued partner and co-worker. The gospel message had made the two like brothers . Titus was an early model of a gentile who did not conform to the ritualistic action of outward circumcision. All biblical mentions of Titus showed that he was faithful and loyal, even staying close to Paul through Paul's imprisonment.

Titus brought Paul news that the Corinthians had received the sorrowful letter of rebuke and had embraced the stern admonishment for noticeable change.

Paul sent back his encouragement through Titus. It has a message for us today.


[8] For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. [9] As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
[10] For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. [11] For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. [12] So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. [13] Therefore we are comforted.
We have people in our culture struggling through important issues... a HUGE key is what is the grid of action by which we respond?

Personal godly sorrow leads to healing and freedom. But 'worldly grief' - a system built on shame and destruction perpetuates a vicious cycle of 'gotcha'.

Paul's letter to the Romans gives me a BIG key regarding the difference.


[12] So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [13] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 


[15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [16] The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:12–17 ESV)

Can you follow the logic here?

A Christian (a child of God) has God's Spirit living in them and that Spirit leads us to wage war on our sin. This battle is impossible, life is hard, and WE SUFFER- but this same Spirit gives us a HEART CRY to our DADDY.

And this hard life has a payoff, we become HEIRS- we become the OWNERS of all of God's beautiful creation and we will ENJOY that inheritance TOGETHER.

I point you to another hero of mine, John Piper who expounds on these thoughts here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In9HQDwQc4U

SO what makes God angry? Sin and all that accompanies it, including decay and injustice. What makes God sad? To see his children walking away from Him and leaving our ONLY hope of salvation.

We are a watershed moment where we can actually live in one of two realities.

We can be overcome by worldly grief, live by our lust and greed according to the standards of the worldly system, and become a prisoner of fear and bitterness, inflicting pain and wrath to our brothers and sisters, cheapening life, and destroying people made in the image of God.

OR

We can be lead by the Spirit, motivated by godly sorrow, and cry out to our heavenly Father. Willing to wage war with our own sin, in humility, confessing to God that we have sinned against Him, and be willing to WAIT on His deliverance in His timing, and live NOW according to HIS standards.

And the key is that I am more willing to change the man in the mirror for good, than count the sin in other people around me.

Easy? NO

Do we fail in this most of the time? YES

But if we wait on Him, adore Him, and follow Him... even in very dark days... the payoff is eternal!

Revelation 7:9–12

A Great Multitude from Every Nation

[9] After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, [10] and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” [11] And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, [12] saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (ESV)

We need to see and hear from the Paul's and Titus' within our midst. We need God's Word to help us rightly navigate the difference in movements and organizations. We need to throw off the negativity of the blamers yet still embrace the call for change as the Lord would have us do.

Yes... standing for these things will invite wrath.... but suffering for righteousness is never a waste. In fact, it is a beautiful badge of honor to the ONE who has loved us and purchased life eternal.

Never forget what Peter said:

[8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

[11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [13] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:8–13 ESV)


There will be a day, when the Lord will say, NO MORE DELAY.















Friday, June 26, 2020

Tribute To My Dad


Cannon Gary Mathews, 81 (Oct. 22, 1938- June 16, 2020), also known at the fire hall as “Slick”, went to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ on June 16, 2020. Gary was a retired Birmingham Fireman and graduate of Woodlawn High School.

This is how the obituary starts....

And I am putting the final piece together in this post to somehow convey the nuances and intricacies of parenting and father/son dynamics.

My earliest memories of may dad are fun and good. Sure, there are times all fathers have- times he lost his temper with my mom or us, times he may have punished us in anger... but the good memories FAR outweigh the bad.

My dad was a fireman, a noble profession but not a glorious life. He worked 24 and was off 48. In his 'off' times, he worked various part time jobs over the years to make ends meet. My mom stayed home trying to hold down my brother and me (and another brother born when I turned 10)... and it was not easy for her. Over the years, we broke all of her china, knocked holes in the sheet rock walls and would have driven her insane if it wasn't for the fact that she had the love and patience of a saint.

I really feel bad..... my brother and I would be playing and then we would hear the car door shut... my dad was home and we just ran in the room and hid. He would walk in and my mom would point to the bedroom and say, "kill them" and then before he could even put his bag up, he would give us our well deserved spankings because we had just tortured our mom for the previous 24 hours.

At the memorial service, it was firemen who came up to me- men who had served with my dad and they didn't tell me their real names. "I'm 'Chubby'.... "I'm 'Fats' ".... and they called my dad, "Slick".- that is what firemen did back then...great nicknames... and maybe still do.

I would go to the firehall every now and then and spend the night there... we played ping pong and chess, I crawled up in the firetruck, I watched them constantly check equipment and fire hydrants... and yes, the alarm would sound and they were out the door in seconds.

These men were a team and their job was to rush in as others were rushing out. They played jokes on one another, they teased and harassed each other.... but there was a bond that few understand.

We got a call one night that a wall had fallen in on my dad, but he got out with just some smoke inhalation. My mom went to bed with tears that night and for the first time I understood that there was danger in what my dad did.

I knew dad more as 'coach' as he coached football and basketball for my teams from 2nd to 6th grade (Football) and up to 8th grade for basketball.  He trained me as well. He persuaded me at an early age to do push ups, sit ups, even wall pushups- upside down. He bought me a jump rope and said it was an important training aide.

We threw baseball in the backyard for hours. He taught me to chip golf balls in a plastic swimming pool, he taught me how to play poker, dominoes, and chess.

He was a master coach- especially in basketball. He was a quick study in football, but he didn't know it was well.

People don't really understand this- but he loved ALL his players. They were all his sons. And he was not ever going to be accused of playing favorites with his son... so I had to hustle twice as hard and play harder that everyone else to just get in the game!

My 5th grade year, I was a wingback and had about 10 carries the entire season and scored a touchdown about every two times I touched the ball. I had more touchdowns on defense than offense.

His longtime assistant, Coach Cockrell, said to him one day, "Slick, you need to give the ball to your boy more." My dad put his hand on my head and smiled, "Nah, he would just get the big head!"

My 7th grade year, he sat me down to tell me that he wasn't going to coach football that year. They had found a really good football coach named Bill Berry to coach us. I was ecstatic! On my first day in Coach Berry's practice I won every drill. Coach Berry stopped and yelled at the team... "Are you guys just going to sit back and let Mathews win everything today!" But I had a fire that had been building. He moved me to fullback and we won the Shug-Bear Bowl at Legion field. I scored a lot of touchdowns that year running just one play called 26 dive.

Basketball didn't go so well. Early on my dad looked at me and said, "Son, I love you... but you are NOT a basketball player." And that bothered me because it was my favorite! But he was right.

One quick basketball story- I have more of them than football stories with Dad. We played our games in the old Woodlawn high school gym and it was majestic! We had a really good basketball team... I started at forward, but was just a hustling rebounder...

We were set to host a team called "Our Lady of Sorrows" late in the season. We were undefeated and my dad knew we need to be humbled. He went to see them play and added them to the schedule.

Before the game, we were laughing at the name...'Our Lady of Sorrows" and by halftime... we weren't laughing. They were up by maybe 20 points! With our pride popped, dad did not even give a halftime speech. But he did call timeout in the 3rd quarter.

We walked over with our heads down and he told us to look up at him.

He said, "I could care less about whether you win or not, but your effort is a LOSING effort. You guys backed down when things got tough. That is what LOSERS do.".... then he said the one thing he probably should not have said... "I haven't even seen a hard foul."

Out of the timeout, their point guard crossed over and penetrated our zone... and I took him out.

It was such a hard foul that every parent in the gym... theirs and ours,  started booing me. The official threw me out of the game.

As I walked off the court to the opposite end of the bench from dad, he looked at me.

"That is NOT what I meant."

We recovered...learned another great lesson..We even played the Banks Jets freshman team that year under a very young David Cutcliffe. They both grew to love one another.

Coach Cutcliffe called me when he heard about my dad. I think he would be OK for me to share a piece of that conversation.

"Jay, your dad was one of the best quarterback dads I ever had in my whole career. In fact, I put him up there with Archie Manning. He was calm, supportive, positive....." as he kept on, the tears just poured out of me.

I have coached Qb's now for 30 years... and I immediately realized that my dad was as good or better than every Qb parent I have worked with. And I have worked with mostly great ones.

Can I mention one more thing about those teams? We were integrated... white and black... competing together. My dad never saw color in his players. And we were ALL a team.

Now that I know more about the times... that was a beautiful gift my dad gave us.

I also need to mention fishing: I still tie the same fishing knot my dad taught me. I still put the Texas Rig worm on just like he told me to. We have some amazing fishing memories- from banks, from inner tubes, a beat up John boat at Lake Mitchell for years!

A TURN

I guess I need to mention a struggle now... and I blame myself for this more than dad.

In the summer of my junior year, I became a born again Christian... and it created issues almost immediately.

I started reading my Bible, going to church, and even changed over to Christian music.

My dad was so worried that I had joined a cult!

And sadly, I quickly began to judge him. After all, he was a smoker... he drank beer, he used profanity at times and now I was holy and he was still a sinner! As I write this, tears are flowing... I was so stupid ....

We got into HUGE arguments about sin and salvation. He threw a chair at me one night as I proclaimed in my self righteousness that he was going to hell.

Then my senior year, we had an even bigger falling apart! I had been given some small college scholarship offers. My mom and I went to Northeast Mississippi Junior College and I had been impressed by it.

On the night we got the papers, I was going to sign them. My dad and I were not getting along at all. I judged him a sinner and he judged me a crazy fanatic. And I was much worse than him......

Dad took the scholarship and ripped it up right in front of me... "My boy ain't going to a JUNIOR COLLEGE".

And I walked out... left home for two weeks, and stayed with friends. My mom knew where I was and she was torn up!

She called me one night and said, "You need to come home tonight. Coach Donahue from Alabama is calling you."

I came home and Coach Donahue called. He offered me a preferred walk-on and said I could report at the same time as the scholarship guys.

I committed to him that night... thinking dad would be happy. I also had a deep desire to play for Coach Bryant.

Dad wasn't happy, but there was nothing to tear up.

He said, "I'm not giving you a penny. All you are going to be is a tacking dummy."

Mom took me to First Alabama Bank the next day and we signed a school loan. Later I found out that dad did support me, he was just still aggravated about my stupid behavior.

I did well enough at Alabama, that we actually patched things up and he enjoyed coming to our JV games that fall of 1982.

I was growing in my faith as well... And the Scriptures were doing what they are intended to do.. properly humbling me and replacing self righteousness with a better understanding of my sin and God's grace. In full disclosure... I was no saint. Starting the spring of my senior year and throughout my time in college, I was a mess when it came to lifestyle. I have written on this... but I was not consistent at all... but God's grace is real and I was maturing.

In the spring of 1987, I was set to graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Physical Education. But instead of going into teaching and coaching... I took a job as a youth pastor.

When I told Dad about it, he was concerned. "Why do you want to do that? I thought you wanted to coach?"

Fortunately, I was more patient and loving and I had been praying for my dad... when you pray for someone in love... it helps you even more than them! I also knew that I was a much worse sinner than my dad was... and God's grace was good enough to trust and God was faithful.

I got married in 1988 and my dad LOVED Lisa and her family, especially her dad! My dad also loved my boss, the Rev. Tom Caradine. He was getting pretty happy with where I was.

My dad gave me GREAT advice on the night of our rehearsal dinner.... "Son, when you spoke tonight, you said a lot of "I's"... you better start replacing "I" with "We'... and instead of fighting his coaching, I hugged him and said, "Thanks Dad, you are right."

In 1991, I called Dad with some exciting news, I was going to teach English and coach football at Briarwood Christian School.

His response was classic! "Why would you want to do that! Christians can't win football games!"

And for a while... he was right! He patiently came out for every varsity and JV game from 1991 on... and we struggled!

One JV game, I got so mad I threw my clipboard into the fence and it exploded.

After the game he said, 'If you ever do that again, I won't come back. That was embarrassing and not appropriate for a Christian coach." Boy, was he right!

But some amazing things started happening.... One is we started getting pretty good in football and two, my children were loving on their Papa... and his heart was melting.

After a Grandparent's Day at Briarwood, the girls were singing songs about the love of Jesus and my dad had tears in his eyes.

My dad grew in love for my 3 girls and he loved Briarwood. He loved Coach Yancey and all of our coaches.

Beginning in 1996 through 2003 we won 100 games, lost 12, and won three state championships. No one appreciated that run more than my dad! And I often wonder if God did it to make sure my dad knew that Christians can win football games....

But the entire purpose of this post is to tell you what happened on June 2 of 1998.

My dad called me and asked to play golf. He picked me up and we played 18 holes. I shot and 80 and he shot a 78! He birdied the last hole and I made a bogey.

When went to the clubhouse for lunch afterward. As we sat there, he got some tears in his eyes.

"Jay, I wanted to tell you something. Last week when we went to that prayer breakfast where Coach (Jeremiah) Castille spoke... well... I gave my heart to Christ."

And he turned the scorecard over and wrote on it, 'I believe in Christ. I told Jay on this date."

HERE IS THE CARD.... I went to find it the day he passed away.






We both sat there and cried for a little bit.... I had been praying for him for 15 years... and to be honest, had given up on it.

Now, you would think that right after a man committed to Jesus, God would immediately make his life better.. but that is rarely how it works.

Over the next few years, my dad had to live through some hard times; including my youngest brother's battle with addiction, the death of my mom, my leaving Birmingham for Nashville, my being fired in Nashville after 7 seasons, and eventually the death of my brother, Lee, by an overdose to heroin and fentanyl.

But dad never wavered in his faith... he wasn't perfect by any means... but I could see he was better and improving.

The next falling out was that dad re-married 'too soon' for most of our family after my mom died. And we had some tough years of transition. Holidays were not pretty as I was now juggling 4 families... my family, my mom's family, my wife's family, and my dad, step-mom and her family.

I don't think I handled any of it very well.

But over time, things got better.... some things were patched up. But I was the typical 'too busy for my dad' son who was caught up in his own kids and a very busy job.

But we all got better... and especially my dad.

From his late 70's until his passing at 81, I saw my dad become a man very happy and at peace. He could laugh at himself and he ADORED his grandkids. He loved my step-mom, Delores, and she adored him. Her family was so good to Dad.... actually they loved him better than I did.

He was going to Sunday School, was in a small group Bible study, loved his garden, and loved life. He had given up, started back, and given up smoking again. And he took a lot of teasing from the over 21 grandkids and spouses about his constant supply of Natty Lights in his fridge.

But my dad wouldn't budge... it was free to them so they shouldn't complain.

My last conversation with my dad was on Monday, June 8- he passed away without me talking to him again on June 16.... I sure wish I had called him one more time.

But we did have a longer than usual conversation. Usually it was the same 3 questions- same three short answers, then hang up.

But that Monday, we talked for almost 30 minutes. He was so proud of my girls and he was so good at telling me that he was proud of me. We talked about my blog, he was reading it a lot. We talked about Covid-19 and football. We talked about his garden. We talked about Delores' grand kids. We even laughed that he had recently zoomed with us on a family zoom meeting.

We also talked in depth about his Bible study... he was really enjoying it.

On Monday, June 15, my dad worked in his garden. After he finished, he sat on the back porch with his little dog, Bruno. My step-mom opened up the back door and said, "Gary, you want to come in and watch some TV?"

He said, "No, I want to watch my garden grow."

Then around 3AM on that next morning, he woke up and told Delores he was having a hard time breathing.

He walked to the living room and she and her son called 911.

My dad closed his eyes and went to sleep. It was not a struggle at all!

When the paramedics found out he was a retired fireman, they worked themselves to exhaustion trying to bring him back!

Another son called us early that morning and things were a blur for an entire week.

Here is what I know- there is regret.. there always is...

The day he died, I took pictures of his garden and decided to make a photoshop picture for my step-mom. Right after I made this photoshop picture, I wished I had done it while dad was still alive.... 



Then I made the slideshow we used at his service.... same regret.


My girls were amazing all week AND at the service- they especially took care of me on Father's Day.

Thank you for letting me post all the links for posterity sake... again, this blog is a documented account mainly for my children and one day, maybe grandchildren.

But here is what I know.... my dad went to heaven because he trusted in the promise of salvation through faith in Jesus. He did not go because of good deeds, he went trusting a payment for his failures and his sin.

My dad is in glory, with my mom, my brother, and many other loved ones.

And we are left to grieve... but not as those without hope.

And without Jesus... I don't know how people do it.....

We continue our sojourning here... without him, but blessed to know him!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Competition- A Winning Edge More Needed Than Ever!

In 2018, we had an excellent chapel at BCS from Dr. Travis Coblentz who teaches in the UAB department of philosophy. His message was one that no one ever gives to teens.... why it is good that they embrace suffering. Suffering provides opportunities and direction to a life of meaning. When we spend our lives pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain, we end up with a rather uninspired existence. We do hard things and endure hard things for the cause of Christ and the pain is so worth the reward.

I'm not sure if it resonated.... we often waste the best literature and truths on the young- I hated these types of things as a 16 year old... if someone asked me "Why is there air?" my only answer was to "pump up footballs".

And speaking on suffering is dicey... there is so much HARD suffering around us and in the world that creates issues when we voice our 'problems' ... my suffering is nothing compared to the intense suffering around me.

So in God's good timing and providence, right after that chapel,  He sent me to the emergency room one night with a bout of diverticulitis that comes my way every decade or so. I have enough experience with it to notice the symptoms and if I get the diagnosis and antibiotics quickly, it is painful, but I can endure.

 A lot of pain in that ER... and my cold sweats and surges of pain (all of this 2 full years before the term Covid-19 even existed) did not give me much time to empathize or minister. I did however hear the voice of Christ... especially from the Book of Revelation...

[17] When I  (John) saw him (Jesus in His exalted state), I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, Fear not, I am the first and the last, [18] and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17–18 ESV)

Here is what is interesting to me about Jesus...he doesn't do relativistic comparisons.... He doesn't judge me that I am hurting but doesn't try to say, "But over there is real suffering"- at the same time , He is sovereignly in control of ALL issues- He has experienced them and He has a plan for them. I also need to be more aware of how I can minister to others in pain.... knowing that a student hurting because their parents are divorcing IS REAL PAIN.

At the same time, we waste a lot of energy trying to take all discomfort away from young people. I never want to inflict ANY hurt on anyone, but I also know a pain free life is a risk free life.

Pain WILL come though... and we all need to be trained to endure it.... even embrace it with a faith that says like Job "Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face". (Job 13:15 ESV)- don't leave out part B to that verse...God can handle it.

The best training ground I have ever seen to train snowflakes into warriors is sports. Any discipline (work, fine arts, academic) works as well. But sports, especially those with contact, help train the muster it takes to make it.

Here is how Paul said it:

 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. [26] So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. [27] But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25–27 ESV)

As many of you know.... I do have a lengthy philosophy on competition....
Where and how competition fits in within the Biblical guidelines for people has always intrigued me.

A competitor is enhanced or held back by those he surrounds himself with.

And this may sound simple, but a competitor competes with others….

The natural instinct of any competitor is to get the energy drainers out of their way.

Often these ‘energy vampires’ are those who don’t want anything…. they aren’t hungry, they aren’t dreaming, they aren’t striving. It isn’t that they are content, it is simply they have become too complacent.

Competitors grow by surrounding themselves with passionate, confident, and motivated people….people who are unstoppable… and,to be honest, they are often illogical and unreasonable in the passionate power of their pursuits.
True competitors are the kind who dare to battle the demons of the status-quo and get a lot of detractors from doing so.

Competitors exude a passion to either conquer or die- they are ones who will push back against all conventional wisdom….. and enjoy going against the grain.

and, competitors often  achieve what was thought to be previously impossible.

When you read that kind of description- who could argue against that?… those are the winners of the world.

But the qualifying questions are: by what means and by what cost?

Ultimately, a Christ honoring life results in scars.... that is OK, Jesus kept His scars after the resurrection... think about that

I have always been intrigued by this statement from Paul:

" From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus". (Galatians 6:17ESV)

From the context, it is in part his reference, I believe, to his on going eye condition, being surrounded by detractors and imposters, and the nature of the glorious fight he was in.

He EMBRACED the aggravations and pain- and because of that, he lived in fear of no one.

As a head football coach in Nashville in 2006, David Cutcliffe- my high school head coach and now Duke Head Coach- visited us.

He looked at our football coaches and said, "I need men like you to push my son in ways that I can't do as a dad." We weren't coaching his son, he was speaking metaphorically, but the point was well made.

Coaches are part of God's strange ministers to push and prod... it is getting harder and harder to keep the parental protections out of the mix... I never hold that against a parent by the way- I know parents love their kids!

But if you are a parent, let the sports arena be tough- don't wish pain... but allow the process to shape a warrior. And please don't send an email to complain that your kid is going through hardship.... coach him on how to handle it like a man.

I firmly believe sports (especially football) is an important opportunity to develop a rugged disposition to fight. Putting on gear and experiencing fear, pain, exhaustion, victory, and defeat is an experience offered in few other places in society.
A coach pushes his players beyond where they think they can go and when they get there, they realize they could have even done more. These tough teachable moments can happen in the weight room, in the film room, on the practice field, and in games. It is not easy as a parent to allow that ‘push/pull’ type of coaching to take place…. But young men NEED that grind under caring mentors that our coaches are always intending to be.

That is why I call it a 'strange minister'.

I first penned these thoughts far removed from some of the struggles we are seeing today... but the need to compete is more needed... not less.

Competition is a rugged disposition to fight, even when the chips are down- ESPECIALLY when the chips are down. And we have to discipline ourselves to develop this ability to keep steady in the storms of crisis.

It will help us win in the 4th quarter of a tough game, BUT EVEN MORE SO WHEN THE TRIALS OF LIFE COME... be it a tough job, a struggling marriage, a divided culture....

The current strife we are in will melt snowflakes at an alarming rate... and it saddens me to see leaders who retreat when the heat gets hotter.

But I was inspired today to watch our athletes ache and strain through a really tough workout. One young man was a freshman who I have watched for two years now.... and he is so much tougher today that he was as a skinny 7th grader... he failed at times today... but he got back up and kept grinding, HE NEVER QUIT!

One of my daughters gave me a book for Father's Day called, The PUSH. It is the story of a rock climber named Tommy Caldwell.

He says this early in the book:

After all this time, I finally realize that these years of training, rehearsing, memorizing- they're as much, or maybe more about building belief as they are about getting stronger. (pg. 4)

As I close, competition without character and virtue can be misplaced and abusive....we always have to be careful about that.

But our cultural norm right now is to try and make life 'risk free' without any pain or disappointment.

And if we don't allow teachers, coaches, mentors to challenge this- the tragedy will be staggering and the misery will be overwhelming.

We need to open up, loosen up, and let these kids compete...... yes, we have to be smart, but raising a boy in a bubble is not preparing him for the reality of a world with hard issues that need bold, courageous leaders who are willing to stand on principle and face injustice without flinching!

I see a lot of fear right now:
fear of lawsuits
fear of the ire of the 'cancel culture'
fear of job security or finances
fear of the future

Hand wringing and anxiety are not going to get rid of these issues.... we need competitors for truth and righteousness right away and sadly, there isn't time to grow them up gently.... the time is now.


If you want to delve into more thoughts on competition... visit these posts:









Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Last Monument ( A Parable)

It was a rather odd piece to remain.

I had looked at it numerous times, but had never taken time to study it or consider it. It was simply on the horizon of my lunch breaks when the weather was good and work was slow.

But one day, the sandwich and crisps were stale and life was that subtle type of blues you drift in and out of from time to time. 

There was a green mildew on the base and pigeons had done their best to add their own graffiti and color.

My guess is there was a time that it rose from the earth in a clean glory and the artist was proud to have his or her work available to the critic and admirer alike. Were they pleased with the response? Was there a ceremony? Did it appear similar to their original vision or was it in the end a disappointment?

I looked around.... there were plenty of people in the park that day, but I was sure that I was the sole person taking note of it. It was always there, it just did so little to garner attention. It had no plaque, no lighting, likely was just a shield to the light, an obstruction of a view, a shadow from the heat, or a back rest for a runner who had just finished the concrete trail that encircled the lake adjacent to the park.

I never know why the mind connects curious thoughts and memories, but I suddenly remembered my spiritual reading from that morning. I was half asleep and barely thinking when I read it in the twilight of the dawn, but the words came alive and jarred me out my stupor.

It was from a fragment called "Joshua".

 “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’. And though I couldn't make out what it said after that, I pushed the phrase on this tall monument... "What do these stones mean?"

I looked harder at it and said it one more time in my stream of consciousness...

"What do these stones mean?"

It made me want to know more about this relic of the past.

I tried asking a few people in that park and at work over the next few weeks, but I never got a clear answer. 

When I brought up the question to strangers, they looked at me like I was a madman and my friends made fun of me.

The most common answer I got was, "No one knows" or some said with confidence, "there is no meaning".

I did get some dime store philosophers who explained it was "Whatever I wanted it to be", but I felt like they weren't talking to me as much as they were enjoying listening to themselves.

Whenever I googled it, there was no mention of it. It was even more curious that all pictures of the park never showed the monument. The Apple map satellite view did not have it either.

I would forget about it for times. I dared not ask about the Joshua passage because I never knew who I could trust to let on that I was reading the prohibited papers.

On the first Sunday of each month, they let the seasoned citizens out to be in the park if the temperatures were right. I put on my helmet, shield, and gloves and went there one morning. After all, Joshua said to 'ask the fathers".

But it was useless. None of the handlers allowed me to get close enough to speak with them. It would have been in vain to do so anyway; every head shield displayed a red light which meant the hearing enhancements were turned off.

I made an appointment at the adjacent media center, but there was no image or record or account of what the structure was supposed to be.

I sent an electronic communication to the Parks Enforcement Agency but there was no receipt that it had been opened or read.

I do think that communication did result in some action as a crew came out one Wednesday lunch and cleaned the monument and pressure washed the pigeon droppings.

It was on their break that I finally was able to glean some info.

"What are you guys doing?"

The younger guys kept hitting the vapes, but the older one finally replied.

"Just cleaning, the feces may be contaminated."

I just nodded and played it casual.

I tried my next move.

"I've been coming here for years now, and it's crazy, but I just started wondering..... what is this?"

He stooped down to buckle his suit. "It's the last monument."

"And is there some reason, it is the last one?"

He laughed and judged me a fool. He pointed to the top.

"You see the top?"

I squinted in the sun, and looked at it.

"Yeah?"

"It's flat. This was just a pedestal."

"Oh... right.... so there was something on top of it?"

He was just about through with me.

"Yes, there was something on it." His sarcasm was not hard to miss.

"Well.... what was it?"

He motioned to the others.... the break was over.

"No clue."

A few weeks passed and my madness subsided.

Maybe I will be old enough one day and come to the park once a month.

Maybe then, someone will tell me what these stones mean.









Friday, June 12, 2020

The Most Neglected 'Winning Edge'

During my time as a head coach in Nashville, we were blessed to test a program sponsored by the NFL called "ATLAS" and "ATHENA". The program was part of a 1.2 million dollar initiative to develop a teaching and training program in schools. The ATLAS (Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids) and ATHENA (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives) was a great program.... we took a lot of time to educate athletes in small groups about nutrition and especially the dangers of supplements.

But the thing I noticed was,  as I stood in the lunch line day after day, too many of our athletes were choosing cheeseburgers and fries in the lunchroom line, even after we had covered the benefit of 'better choices' and the need to fuel the athletic machine even on that same day!

This post is my best attempt to simplify a plan and motivation for teen athletes to develop a lifestyle of hydration, nutrition, and flexibility that would be the MOST NEGLECTED areas of athletic development.

I want to encourage an approach that is realistic and achievable by ALL ATHLETES. I recognize that we can always do more, and I encourage that. But is there a basic approach that can provide a winning edge?

STARTING FUNDAMENTAL- All athletic WORK is diminished if an athlete will not allow the REPAIR of the work to be magnified by water, rest, and good food. A good work out does not build up... it tears down. So, YOU HAVE to get rest, water, and good nutrition to repair and grow and heal from that good work!

I could write a whole book on the need to turn off screens, carry a good water bottle, do great dynamic stretching BEFORE working out and great static stretching AFTER a good workout. But this article is primarily on NUTRITION. I will say though, that I advise every athlete to take a few minutes to static stretch every time they take a hot shower.

But let's think through EATING LIKE A CHAMPION.

The research in athletic nutrition is off the charts. I have been reading on it for over 20 years, and will never even scratch the surface of all the info that is out there. And you can get as technical as you want to...  if you want to get your meal plan to a 'science' then you can calculate your (REE) - resting baseline energy expenditure and add your activity factor based on age and the frequency, intensity, and duration of an activity....this gives you a micro/macro nutrient spectrum.... well you see where that is going.....

I'm wanting to promote some basics that is easy and sustainable... yes, we need all five food groups, we need the macro-nutrients, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, phytochemicals, and pro-biotics. But is there a way to make is understandable, repeatable, and realistic?

A PLAN:

The first step to eating like a champions is to determine what your goals are. Most athletes want to gain lean muscle weight, but there are some who need to actually lose weight. So getting a goal is important.

Your goal should be measurable and realistic. There needs too be a deadline and it needs to be a body composite rather than just a weight goal.

Regardless of gaining weight or trimming down, this post is a general choices plan.....


STEP ONE- Learn to enjoy drinking water, learn to make it your beverage of choice.

I found out a few years ago that sports drinks were not all that they report to be. Especially if they are pre-mixed and sold over the counter. Most sports drinks that are pre-mixed lack the electrolytes that are marketed in them. Pre-packaged sports drinks can actually have sun damage to the product, which can neutralize the efficacy of the electrolytes and nutrients.

One mentor of mine suggested watered down fruit juice over gatorade or powerade, but I still like water plus  good food. Though sometimes, when sweating a lot, a good electrolyte mix can help.

Recently, I have come to see the sports drink, Body Armor ( a coca-cola product), as a great sports drink to provide electrolytes and the packaging is designed to limit sun damage.

In all of this, be aware of caffeine... it can de-hydrate you!

Make yourself drink water.... even if you are not thirsty.

COMPLEX CARBS-- BE NOT AFRAID!

CARBOHYDRATES take a constant beating in our slim body ideal culture. As an athlete- YOU NEED CARBS! Carbs are the energy you need to work! Carbs should make up 55% to 60% of an athlete's diet.

We tend to think of carbs as only potatoes, but many of the good carbs come from grains, orange vegis, and citrus fruit. The complex carbs provide healing from muscle damage and provide needed free-radicals.

PROTEIN- MIS-UNDERSTOOD AND OVER-USED.

For aggressive, explosive athletes... protein is critical. The recommendation for protein is 0.8 kilograms per body weight per day, but for athletes it can go as high as two grams per kilo . Protein's best benefit may be the contribution of nitrogen. This is where the problem can arise. Too much protein will NOT produce additional growth. If an athlete is consuming more protein than carbs, athletes will have less energy for workouts. Some studies suggest too much protein can have adverse effects on bone density and cause the kidneys undue stress. An athlete must balance protein with other healthy needs. One study suggested a balance of carbs and protein after a workout allowed consumption of amino acids because it balanced the insulin in the system.

All of the studies do suggest an after workout meal of protein and carbs does accelerate healing and growth.

FAT- IT IS NOT EVIL... IT IS A NECESSITY

Our messaging in society today often neglects the fact that we need fat..... especially an athlete! Healthy fats can come from peanut butter, fish, dairy, nuts, and eggs.

A BALANCED APPROACH......

Here a simple suggestions.....

1) EAT BREAKFAST.... THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL


It is so easy for an athlete to learn to cook breakfast, fast and easy. I have an interesting theory, if you exercise before you break the fast... you actually trigger a weight loss metabolism. If you exercise AFTER you break the fast, the body is still in a weight gain mode.

2) DRINK WATER .... ALL THE TIME

Every now and then mix it with a supplement of electrolytes and vitamins... but learn to LIKE h2o!

3) EAT MORE THAN 3 Times a DAY

A young athlete should eat some healthy snack between meals. Try to not have it processed... it is easy to make your own trail mix and energy bars. Even a peanut butter/jelly sandwich is good. Keep fruit and veggies in your snack trays.

4) Try to eat WHOLE foods.... the less processed your food is, the more nutrients it packs.

5) Experiment with food before, DURING, and after competition.
Athletes who have trained their bodies to consume a light snack at halftime of football games, have more reserves. Don't wait to try it on your first game, simulate it and evaluate it BEFORE actual games begin!

6) The DAY/NIGHT BEFORE competition is more important than the pre-game meal.

Again, I think you need to rehearse and evaluate your tolerance of the type pre-game meal that fits you. Over the years, a lot of our guys like a basic subway about 4 hours before and then an easy to digest energy bar 2 hours before. But you have to practice it. If you have too much food on your stomach when competition starts, you have blood pooled in the digestive system and not in the muscles.

The food you eat the DAY before is much more important to provide maximum glycogen load.

7) Gain weight? Eat before you go to sleep. Lose weight? Don't eat anything after dinner.


What have I NOT MENTIONED? You guessed it.... supplements.

I do NOT recommend ANY supplement beyond a multi-vitamin/ multi-mineral - except possibly a pro-biotic.

ANY MIX YOU BUY.... I don't trust it! Creatine?.... it is simply water weight gain and the dangers outweigh the benefits.

In 30 years, every athlete I have ever had have to go into the hospital with heat issues are the ones who were on creatine.

I also believe that an athlete who uses steroids or other un-natural supplements can actually 'outgrow' their joints and ligaments... and are more susceptible to injury!

Finally- I think it is VERY important to change your diet immediately after your competition days are over. It will be the best time to trim down and stay fit.

I am a living testimony as a person who stopped college football but kept eating like I was still a player... and it has been a struggle my entire life since!

What are we building? 

I want our athletes to be bullets.... not bowling balls.
Powerful? Yes
Good body mass? yes

But if you can't move fluidly and explosively, you will never be as good as you can be!

And diet is a HUGE PART OF THAT!

note: long distance runners and swimmers may need a different make-up of calories and nutrients. Please consult with your individual coach about those differences!



Thursday, June 11, 2020

How It Ends- The Rock Speaks Vol. 2 (7)

The Day of the Lord Will Come

[1] This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, [2] that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, [3] knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. [4] They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” [5] For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, [6] and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. [7] But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

[8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 

[10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

[11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [13] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

[14] Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. [15] And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. [17] You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. [18] But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3 ESV)

It is ironic that I am finishing up this series with threats of anarchy in the air.... I do feel the chill of a contentious Fall season.... maybe like nothing we have ever seen!

Peter is not surprised... nor should we ever be!

I have read and pondered this section of Scripture for decades.... man oh man, is it loaded!

God is not slow in keeping His promises.... He is patient.

But there will be a DAY
When the Lord will SAY
NO MORE DELAY!

The images we see of cities burning are nothing like the cosmic force of God's Holy wrath... HIS SETTLED, UNSWERVING, judgement on all sin.

And when we see Him, no one will  be able to cry 'injustice'.... there will be a universal bowing of every knee and every tongue will confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, for too many.... it will be too late.

Who are those?

It is right here in the passage:
scoffers
people who follow their own sinful desires with no regard for God
those who deliberately deny the truth
those who have no fear of eternity or the God who owns the keys
the ignorant
the unstable
the lawless
those carried away by the children of destruction


AND who will be saved?
those who pay attention to the Word of God
those who repent
those who desire to live and grow toward holiness and godliness
those who wait and hasten the coming of Jesus
those found without spot and blemish by the washing of the atoning blood of Jesus through faith
those growing in the grace and knowledge of God.

No one is perfect.... but which list characterizes the trend of your life?

If you are worried.... that is actually a good thing!

If you sneer and mock.... I tremble for you when He returns.

The time for repentance is now.

God has been so good to wait for you.... what are you waiting for?

Which camp are you willing to stand in?

So here is how I am closing... it is time for me to finally write out some of what is happening around us right now.

I have written, posted, edited, and eventually retracted this post a number of times.

A blog is a tough place to write about some of these complex things, because I often find that my point isn't clear enough, and I promote divisiveness when my goal is gospel unity.

But now our nation has had tragedy after tragedy... and still has potentially more tinder for a fire that not only ravages the citizens of the city- it has national implications as well.

but the bottom line is this... the George Floyd tragedy is a microcosm of real problems. And we are not helped to try and work through these problems in a world of social media and 24 hour news for profit.

One of the dangers in today’s society is screen manipulation or deception.

In his mesmerizing book, Future Crimes (2015/Doubleday), Marc Goodman devotes an entire chapter to this phenomenon. It is Chapter 8, “In Screens We Trust”


He uses an attention getting quote to begin the process:
“The world isn’t run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money. It’s run by ones and zeros—little bits of data. It’s all electrons. There’s a war out there, a world war. It’s not about who has the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information—what we see and hear, how we work, what we think. It’s all about information.
AS STATED BY COSMO (BEN KINGSLEY),THE VILLAIN IN SNEAKERS”
Excerpt From: Marc Goodman. “Future Crimes.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Bv_F2.l (emphasis mine)


This chapter is another example about our vulnerability when it comes to bad guys and technology. Malicious hackers can cause great destruction by having ordinary people just follow what their screen tells them to do.


We see this honestly when we follow the GPS directions in google maps without any concern that the sweet girl’s voice coming out of the device may be dead wrong. Before we know it we are heading to Paducah, KY instead of Kentucky Avenue. Any alert person would recognize that they needed to travel 25 minutes and not 5 hours! But many of us will follow her voice way beyond the alarms in our brain going off and saying to us that ‘this ain’t right’ !


Goodman’s examples are way cooler than mine. Did you know that the virus (or more precise the computer ‘worm’) that damaged the Iranian Nuclear facilities messed up centrifuges, but kept faulty information on the sensors? The engineers were blindly believing their screens that all systems were ‘green’, when the real data should have shown them that everything was red lining. We have to understand that the screens may not be telling us the truth!


Every screen we read…. whether it is airport flight information or our latest bank statement look so smart...great optics….colors, bars, pictures...but the screens are dumb. They are only as good as the information is accurate.


How fake is our online world? Here is what Goodman uncovers:

“According to Facebook’s own 2014 annual report, up to 11.2 percent of its accounts are fake. Considering the world’s largest social media company has 1.3 billion users, that means up to 140 million Facebook accounts are fraudulent and these users simply don’t exist. With 140 million inhabitants, fake Facebook-land would be the tenth-largest country in the world. Just as Nielsen ratings on television sets determine different advertising rates for The Walking Dead versus the Super Bowl, online ad sales are determined by how many eyeballs a Web site or social media service can command—if only the data could be believed.
Want 4,000 followers on Twitter? They can be yours for $5. Want 100,000 fans on Facebook? No problem, you can buy them on SocialMediaCorp.​org for a mere $1,500. Have even more cash to burn? How about a million new friends on Instagram? “For you we make special deal,” only $3,700. Whether you want favorites, Likes, retweets, up votes, or page views, all are for sale on Web sites like Swenzy, Fiverr, and Craigslist. These fraudulent social media accounts are then used to falsely endorse a product, service, or company, for a small fee of course[…]”


Excerpt From: Marc Goodman. “Future Crimes.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Bv_F2.l

What impact does all this make?

Sadly, the culmination of the speed of information, the amount of information,  the erosion of critical thinking and non-political education, the trend of resisting an authorized Truth and having no consensus of values is killing our country.


Of all the screens, which one is the MOST deceptive?

The cable news screen.

America… we have a problem, and a study of our current civil unrest is a clinical on the cancer.

THE POWER OF PRESUPPOSITIONS

I still can’t believe I am writing this… because I feel like Nietzche’s madman…  how can I articulate something so complex when I too suffer the symptoms? And how can I do it without being misunderstood?

I am haunted by a quote by Ravi Zacharias everytime I speak and write:

How do you reach a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings?

But here is my question..my attempt…

Are ANY of us willing to challenge our preconceived and settled judgments AND be willing to change those as the evidence directs?

The human condition doesn’t give us much hope to believe this to be so.

How many times in your life have you presented solid arguments and facts to try and persuade someone to alter a view only to find that you did almost nothing in altering that view?

But at the same time, how many people have ever swayed your opinion?

We all believe that facts should shape our perception, but the reality is that most of the time we collect only the facts that bolster our perceptions.


YIELDED AND STILL


Let me preach and then I will move to my point.
We used to sing a hymn many years ago…(remember hymns?).


  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
  • Mold me and make me after Thy will,
  • While I am waiting, yielded and still.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Search me and try me, Master, today!
  • Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
  • As in Thy presence humbly I bow.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
  • Power, all power, surely is Thine!
  • Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
  • Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
  • Christ only, always, living in me.

  • (Words: Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907. Pollard believed God wanted her in Africa as a missionary, but she was unable to raise funds to go. In an uncertain state of mind, she attended a prayer meeting, where she heard an elderly woman pray, It’s all right, Lord. It doesn’t matter what You bring into our lives, just have Your own way with us. At home that night, much encouraged, she wrote this hymn.
  • Music: Adelaide George C. Stebbins, Northfield Hymnal with Alexander’s Supplement1907-source: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/h/t/h/hthineow.htm )


AMERICAN RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM AND CHRIST

American rugged individualism and Christ followers have always been at odds and yet Alexis de Tocqueville has been one of the few who saw the tension as paramount in the success, prosperity, and continuation of the American experiment.



“As I see it, only God can be all-powerful without danger, because his wisdom and justice are always equal to his power. Thus there is no authority on earth so inherently worthy of respect, or invested with a right so sacred, that I would want to let it act without oversight or rule without impediment.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (p. 290)


Our only hope as a nation is that we would temper our personal freedom by a willingness to acknowledge a higher cause to yield to. America proved the world right that no human king is worthy of that power. American democracy is a compliance to be governed by a consent of the governed. The power is in the people, but if the people are polarized and not unified, there is no power to progress.

When America submits to Jesus (not 100%, but a large %) as their spiritual king, there is a consensus of value and these values, if they are true Biblical values are NOT in any way a threat to those who do not agree with those values. Because humans are involved, it is never a perfect and uniform obedience, the Bible celebrates diversity. Unity does not mean uniformity.

But even we lose our moorings. Our desire to spread ‘freedom’ to the middle east and other places seems benevolent, but is misguided. In a final analysis, ‘Liberty’ is not a high enough virtue. Freedom without virtue and self submission is ultimately selfishness.
Capitalism without virtue is greed. America without virtue is chaos.

Political freedom without a self submission to an outside absolute is a recipe for disaster.
I have quoted the last line of the Book of Judges too many times… but the broken record sounds the same:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

(Judges 21:25 ESV)

I fully believe in the existence of God and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But even if I did not… that is the One world view that I would want to dominate any culture without fear. It is a call to die to self and live for others.
The problem is that a nation does not fare well in a theocracy… because ultimately men have to rule.
Again, understanding I may be misunderstood-

What I am advocating is a full endorsement of the American constitution. It has a wise self correcting mechanism built within the separation of powers.


But without self governance of individuals, even the American constitution is corrupted.
There has to be an ideal bigger that the Constitution… our founders understood that.

The Declaration of Independence lays it out… read it again for yourself:


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


The only way for our nation to last is a willingness for people to be ruled under submission to their Creator, then they give consent to be governed. But when ANY form of government becomes destructive to those ends (not ‘light and transient causes’ i.e. all humans suffer) there has to be change.
Again… Life, Freedom, and Happiness are not in a vacuum… they are in the context of a Creator. Self rule is governed by Him, and that gives men the ability to submit.

And whether Deist or Calvinist.. the founders view of the Creator was the God of the Bible- the Judeo-Christian God… love, justice, peace, and moral law.

MUTUAL SUBMISSION IS A HIGH STAKES AFFAIR

Any hope of human reconciliation must begin with a healthy self suspicion and a willingness to say, “I was wrong… I am sorry...please forgive me.”

Can a marriage be saved by looking at a spouse and saying, “You are wrong..but if you confess, I will consider it”? This attitude is a quick trip to the divorce court.

All human reconciliation begins with a willingness to lay down my rights for the sake of others.

I also think it takes a relationship to truly understand the complexity of FREEDOM. Freedom is not "I get to do all that I want to when I want to"- actually that turns into a bondage without love.

Freedom is only true freedom when one is willing to lay it aside for the sake of another and the other person is willing to do the same. Freedom is not doing what I want... Freedom is ultimately a freedom to serve someone else out of love and not compulsion. And God has demonstrated that Love.


Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)


And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

(2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)


I personally believe that this type of love is not possible apart from the beautiful example and message of Jesus.


For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(Romans 5:6-8 ESV)


FINALLY- Let's get to Racism and Social Justice

In many ways, in our current situation, goes back to the story of the shooting of Michael Brown (Aug. 9, 2014), the media coverage, the public outcry, the criminal investigation, and the DOJ investigation was and continues to be a microcosm of all we are suffering from as a nation.


And we have had far too many incidents where law enforcement has not acted in a decent and humane way. Yes, I believe the majority of our men and women in blue are good, working in a very difficult environment.... but we MUST come down hard on those who violate the code of conduct.






On March 4, 2015 the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division released their report of the Ferguson Police Department. You remember that case right? Leaving Baltimore burning?

This report is one of many facets, or factors that need to be weighed.

What a perfect storm! And we are not improving!


The Floyd killing (a tragedy and a disgrace) is a combination of these SAME factors (along with the problem of presuppositions and factors I tried to flesh out).
  • Socio-economic issues. Poverty rate is very high
  • Law Enforcement Patterns of Concern. Policing for profit. Read the report!
  • Widening gap between the rich and the poor. Fractured homes and ineffective education.
  • Media hype. Media for profit sensationalizes. If it bleeds it leads.
  • American pastime of opinions/perceptions devoid of facts.
  • Leaders with agendas. A good leader will correct and counter for good of all.
  • Victim mentality- we have been hurt so we can hurt and destroy without consequence.
  • Abuse of authority. If you question me I will make you miserable.
  • Finger pointing instead of personal responsibility.
  • Liberals and conservatives distrust and blame one another.
  • Race baiting and excuse making on both sides.
  • Talking heads… all problems and positions… no remedies.
  • The agenda is to win my viewpoint… not find healing.
  • T.V. is deceptive… it over hypes and ultimately trivializes real problems.
  • No perseverance… we left Ferguson to  be consumed by Baltimore.. and soon we will ponder flood victims in Texas. Who stays to help improve and change?
  • The circus came to town and piles of debris a left in its wake.
In the end, a lot of  the opinions that come out during these times are wrong. Sadly, we jump on any salacious  tidbit to prove our presuppositions about what really happened. We need to wait and respond to solid facts- the police officers have been charged and there will be a court to consider the case! However, some refuse to budge on their positions even in the light of real facts. EVERYONE needs to alter their narrative based on these truths. Shame on the leaders, shame on TV news organizations, but shame on us as well.... we have to be better than this.

We have some severe issues in our nation, and polarization squashes any momentum to find progress and healing.


IS THERE A ROUTE OUT?
Yes…
Here is how it works…. EVERYONE MUST AGREE TO BE HARD ON SELF AND UNDERSTANDING OF OTHERS.

and we cannot resort to anarchy.... it must be done through law and order.... and it must be done person to person.... no institution can help us here.

This is not a 50/50 deal… it is you bring your 100% and it doesn’t matter if nothing comes in return.


Everyday, I must wake up and say:


I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20 ESV)


and then I need to live each day with an earnest, energetic, and honest quest to serve and love others under the direction of God’s Spirit.


Do I encourage people? Do I give to those who are hurting or needy? Have I been faithful to my family? Can I speak and live to promote unity.. racial healing… hopeful and not pessimistic? Do I speak words of life or death? Do I honor authority? Do I pray for my leaders? Do I work hard as unto the Lord? Do I always have to get my way? Am I willing to consider I am wrong? Do I initiate reconciliation? Do I forgive? Do I judge without looking at myself? Am I willing to die for my belief in the Bible and the good news of Jesus? And am I willing to suffer for standing on truth?

And the big problem is... the answer to those questions show me how much of a sinner I am. I can ONLY say yes to those questions if I have God's Spirit in me.


At the end of every day, because I failed, and fell short I pray this prayer:


There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

(Romans 8:1 ESV)


As Peter has said....I do believe there will be a judgement day and a new heaven and earth… but that doesn’t mean I don’t work to make this world a better place today. It is our calling… to be salt and light… not divisive and cruel.


Finally,


This does not mean that I withhold speaking Biblical truth. Not everyone will like or accept that truth.

There will be those who will want to silence me because the world view I ascribe to. Often because the message means we have a responsibility to God, we are accountable to Him. Men know God is there… but they, naturally, do not love that view.

But even then, it is not my job to be ‘dead right’ or to kill others with truth.

God loves me even though I am unlovely.

Shouldn’t I be willing to do the same toward others?

Jesus said it best… what good is it if you love those that love you?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

(Matthew 5:43-47 ESV)

I am concerned about where this is going... we must pray and stand.... there are too many out there trying to pull power plays and exploit others...

The gospel is our only hope.