Thursday, July 18, 2024

NASCAR, Beer, Football, Bourbon, Bibles- Red Necks and Red Hats

I come from a blue-collar deep south family—NASCAR, beer, football, bourbon, and the Bible. Rugged fighters, loyal to a fault, and also strangely tainted with doubt and a sense of “less than”—athletic achievement in my life experience is a perfect soup to feed this psyche, and the competitive testosterone flows like fire. A lot of my people wear red hats these days, and you sure don’t want to stand in their way when they decide to throw down.

The first epiphany I had of this was finding and reading a book by John Heisman- from whom we get the famous trophy.

John Heisman's book "The Principles of Football" is a comprehensive guide on the sport, written by one of the most influential figures in American football history. Published in 1922, the book delves into various aspects of the game, providing insights and strategies that were innovative for its time. "The Principles of Football" is not just a technical manual; it also serves as a testament to John Heisman's innovative approach to the game. Many of his ideas and strategies laid the groundwork for modern football tactics and coaching methodologies. The book is revered for its historical significance and remains a valuable resource for coaches, players, and football enthusiasts.

But his analysis on the origins of football is what made me pause with wonder!

The relationship between the aftermath of the Civil War and the rise of football in the South offers a compelling lens through which to view the socio-cultural dynamics of post-war America. 

The Civil War left the Southern United States in a state of devastation, not only economically and physically but also psychologically. The defeat of the Confederacy and the abolition of slavery marked a significant upheaval in the social and cultural fabric of the South. Southern men, who had fought for the Confederacy, faced a loss of honor and a crisis of identity in the post-war period.

Football and Success

According to Heisman, football emerged in the late 19th century as a new battleground where Southern men could channel their fighting spirit which had been lost. The sport, with its emphasis on strategy, physical prowess, and teamwork, mirrored many aspects of military combat. For many Southern men, football became a way to reclaim a sense of honor and competition, providing a socially acceptable outlet for the aggression and competitive spirit that had been a part of their lives during the war.

The burgeoning popularity of college football in the South was partly driven by the desire to compete with Northern institutions. Southern colleges and universities saw football games against Northern teams as opportunities to achieve symbolic victories, restoring regional pride. A win on the football field was seen as a form of redemption and a way to assert that the South could excel and prevail over the North in a new arena.

Football also played a role in the cultural reclamation of Southern identity. The sport became intertwined with Southern traditions and values, including notions of honor, bravery, and resilience. By excelling in football, Southern men could demonstrate the enduring strength and character of the South. College football games became major social events, reinforcing community bonds and regional pride.

The Military Aspect

Many early football coaches in the South had military backgrounds, bringing a disciplined and strategic approach to the game. This military influence further solidified the connection between football and the martial values esteemed by Southern society. The structure and discipline of football practices and games resonated with the Southern emphasis on order and hierarchy, reflecting the military past of many communities.

The loss of the Civil War and the subsequent reconstruction period created a void in the Southern psyche that football began to fill. By providing a new arena for competition and honor, football helped Southern men cope with the defeat and loss of identity that followed the war. The sport allowed them to reclaim a sense of pride and regional identity, transforming football into more than just a game—it became a symbol of resilience and a means of asserting the South's place in the broader American landscape. As such, football’s rise in the South can be seen as both a cultural and psychological response to the profound impacts of the Civil War.

Red Hats and The Rust Belt: Should MAGA Hats Strike Fear?

Using this background and understanding of my culture- the modern political landscape, particularly in the Rust Belt,  the Deep South and other traditionally blue-collar areas, has seen a resurgence of a different kind of rivalry and competition. The red MAGA hat, much like the post-Civil War adoption of football, symbolizes a new battleground of ideas and identity. For many in these communities, the hat represents a fight against perceived marginalization and a rallying cry for a return to traditional values and economic security.

For many in this world, these hats symbolize what they want to be... loyal, rugged, and known to have a fierce competitive spirit. The hat also includes a strange sense of loneliness, being left out, pushed down, called uneducated, pre-judged as racists, and other feelings I entitle "less than". It makes people feel the need to assert themselves in a changing world. Just as football provided an outlet for post-war Southern men, the MAGA movement provides a voice and a symbol for those feeling left behind in the modern economy.

However, should these hats strike fear? While they certainly can represent a divisive and often contentious political stance, it is essential to understand the underlying motivations and emotions that drive their wearers. Just as football was more than a game, the red hat is more than a political statement—it is a symbol of identity, competition, and a desire for respect and recognition in a rapidly changing world.

The people I walk with are embracing, loving, forgiving, and have a worldly common sense wisdom that Ivy league graduates can't get with paper diplomas.

How does a true understanding of the gospel help?

Back in 2016, I wrote a series of posts under the title "Gospel Confrontation"- you can find the very first one here- How Can Good News Be A Confrontation?

In these posts, I played a thought experiment on how the gospel should confront ... including a command to soften and change... all types of people- conservatives, progressives, skeptics, addicts, the self righteous... the list can go on and on and on.

While pundits and social media posts portray these people as fascist and all the other "ist" terms, these labels fall off in the midst of clarion calls to Christ... yes, it is inconsistent and often even opposite of Christ's life and commands, but the self correction remains evident.

The yeast of the Bible moves people forward in very subtle but concrete ways... in my hometown, Birmingham is not what it needs to be, but I promise- it is NOT what it used to be.

The good news of the existence and forgiveness of God is good news for all.

The last 2 weeks have been as crazy as I have ever seen on the political landscape of this nation. 

And sadly, X (formerly twitter) only has human opinion and very little content of help or hope.

We must lean on Scripture and seek to find common ground. We must march on our knees, not with torches on the streets.

We also must NOT stoke fear or attack people... 

Where I live is as deep a red place as anyone will ever find, but I know these people love, forgive, fight, but also have clear boundaries and accountability. There is no need to panic or kill over it. We must compete in the world of ideas and lash out against any harm or lawlessness if we hope to survive.

Freedom to speak and freedom to worship have to be protected!

Too many lies are being told on both sides... it is hurting us as a people.

It isn't the end of the world if one party or another wins.... the end of our country will happen when no one cares enough to fight for it at all.

_____________ update after the RNC convention

This week, I watched the RNC convention pretty closely, I have gotten away from network and cable news for about 2 years now- 

Our political divide is still not healthy for the strength of our Union and a convention is designed to rally a base to unify together.

The RNC is closer to my Biblical values and worldview than the DNC, but no political party aligns perfectly with that worldview and that is OK.

I will vote this year, that is my duty-  but where I live is very deep red and likely will have a majority of republican representatives up and down the Federal and State ballots.

I still wish there was more a desire to reach across the aisle for common good- but some of the issues are so divisive that it will take the grace of God to happen.

Much to pray about......

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Preparing the New Wine

I've often written about this, but I keep returning to the question: How can we effectively share the gospel with the next generation in an increasingly hostile culture?

Mark 2:18–22 (ESV)
Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”


The Context

I have a particular fondness for Mark’s gospel, possibly due to its flow. By this point in the narrative, we see growing crowds:

Mark 1:37: “Everyone is looking for you”
Mark 1:47: “Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere”
Mark 2:2: “So many gathered that there was no room”
Mark 2:13: “A large crowd”


As the crowds grew, so did the conflict.

The Confrontation

The text notes, “Now John’s disciples AND the Pharisees were fasting.” If everyone else was fasting, why weren’t Jesus’ disciples?

Were the people asking honest questions, or were they just looking for a fight? 

The tone seems snarky and accusatory: “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” They implied that Jesus’ disciples were not devout.

Jesus’ Response

Jesus responds with three illustrations:
The Wedding: The bridegroom will leave eventually, but now is the time to celebrate.
Patching a Garment: An improper patch can worsen the tear.
Wineskins: New wine requires new wineskins to prevent loss.

These illustrations emphasize that there is a time for everything. Jesus' presence signifies a time of celebration, not fasting. He is initiating something new and is unconcerned with the Pharisees' approval.

Responding to Conflict and Criticism

In our world, conflict is constant, and negative opinions abound. This has been especially true in the past few years. The landscape seems colder and the trolls bolder. Doesn't it seem that there is a noticeable increase in negative communication?

The Reformation is a powerful historical example of adapting the message of the gospel. Martin Luther and other reformers did not change the core truths of Christianity, but they sought to make it more accessible and understandable to the people of their time. They translated the Bible into vernacular languages and used the printing press to distribute it widely. This adaptation brought the gospel to a new generation and significantly impacted the Christian faith.

I truly believe if we keep a passionate desire to see the gospel take hold in our culture, we can be Biblically accurate and socially effective. Holy Spirit love has a way of taking root even in the harshest of environments. And we can do it without compromise.

Here Are My Key Takeaways:

Patience: Trust that God's timing is perfect.
Presence: We must be found in the company of the culture.
Resist Enabling Negativity: Avoid participating in or encouraging whisper campaigns.
Steadiness: Stand firm and celebrate the gospel amidst storms.
Expand Your View of God: Embrace His timing and sovereignty.
Challenge the Status Quo: Be prepared to face opposition for your allegiance to Jesus.


Engaging the Next Generation

The teenage world faces numerous negative influences. Instead of blaming the youth, we should recognize our own responsibility and the impact of the current culture on everyone. 

Jim Elliot, offers a compelling example to this concept. Elliot and his team sought to bring the gospel to the Auca (now known as the Huaorani) people of Ecuador. Despite the risks and the cultural differences, Elliot and his companions approached the Aucas with respect and a desire to understand their culture. They used innovative methods to establish contact, such as dropping gifts from a plane. Tragically, Elliot and his fellow missionaries were killed by the very people they sought to reach. However, their legacy of sacrificial love and cultural sensitivity eventually led to the Auca people embracing Christianity. This story underscores the importance of engaging with cultural sensitivity and perseverance.

Similarly, the Apostle Paul, when preaching in Athens, connected with the culture by referencing their own poets and philosophers, making the gospel relatable and understandable. These examples remind us that while the message of the gospel remains unchanging, our methods can and should adapt to effectively reach our audience.

As Christ said, new wine (the truth) needs new wineskins (new structures)... it isn't just practical, it is essential!

Key Proposals:

Clearer Communication: Be specific about what constitutes appropriate behavior. Use Scripture to guide discussions.
Closer Relationships: Build trust and understanding with the youth. Take time to know their lives beyond superficial interactions.
Cautious Judgments: Apply consequences fairly, keeping context in mind. Offer the benefit of the doubt and address issues with patience.

I also recommend that we press the new generation participate in this process, we can mentor and guide without a fear of heresy... God's Word will self correct the errors. The Holy Spirit is living and active.
When young people start sharing the gospel, their own personal faith becomes a great adventure... it is exciting!

We Can Do This!

We must adapt our methods without compromising the gospel’s truth. The mode of salvation—faith in Jesus alone—remains unchanged, but our approach to reaching this generation must evolve. Clear terms, close relationships, and cautious judgments are essential.

Ultimately, the power of the gospel endures. Our goal is not to win arguments but to win souls, recognizing that this is a spiritual battle. Christ will be victorious, and our mission is to model His love and truth in a world that desperately needs both.






Thursday, June 27, 2024

Colorado Summer Journal

Had a wonderful time going to see my daughter, Melissa and son-in-law, Conner June 18-27 in Colorado.

I was so excited about getting a break from work that I couldn’t sleep the night before departure. I decided to go ahead and get a Peloton ride in at 2:30 AM and ended up doing a X-Fit workout in Craig, CO on the day of arrival.

I also made video journals of the trip and the playlist is on YouTube

Colorado Video Playlist 2024 


We flew into Denver and rented a car for the drive to Craig. Most of the route in Hwy 40 that we eventually went as far west as you can in Colorado for the trip. It is a glorious drive, winding through vast landscapes and a steep ride over Rabbit Ears Pass just before Steamboat.


At times during the week the highway was stained with the blood of billions of Mormon Crickets migrating and meeting an end on the asphalt of Hwy 40. The convergence creates a unique smell, popping noises, and a very slick surface- talk about a sign of the apocalypse!

Our first stop in the rental car was Silverthrorne and we were freezing from the wind. I quickly put on a sweatshirt and we knew we had escaped the record heat in Birmingham.

Conner, Melissa, Roan, and Millie were awesome hosts!

The Tuesday evening cross fit exercise was tough in the elevation, but I am so glad that Lisa and I did it.

WEDNESDAY (June 19)

We woke up Wednesday to a chilly, beautiful Craig, CO morning and we decided to see how far we could jog uphill (Melissa’s street is a straight climb) without stopping. We both fell out after only going .25 miles! My heart was in my throat and we walked the rest of the way for about a 2 mile morning experience.

We then drove into Steamboat for a 25 mile bike ride through Steamboat bike trails and hiked a little bit at the Steamboat resort. In the video you can see us stopping at the botanical garden which was in full bloom and beautiful.


THURSDAY

Lisa and I did the Panorama Park Hike as an early warmup for a travel day to Crested Butte, CO. We took all the adults and 2 dogs in the Jeep Cherokee Laredo and loved the drive. We stopped in Glenwood Springs for a Japanese dinner and I was super impressed by the towns we went through to get to Crested Butte. (Meeker, Rifle, and Carbondale).


Once it got dark, we went over Kebler Pass (fairly rough gravel road) in the rain and it was a crazy experience! It was my introduction to gravel road driving, but thankfully the Lord knew the car we needed for the trip! And that practice helped me throughout the week.


FRIDAY

Woke up to a MAJESTIC morning view of Crested Butte. Our air BNB was perfect and no picture or video can truly capture my view for the 3 day trip.

It was perfect as the days went from cloudy to clear blue skies and sunshine.

Brush Creek was our first hike and it was evident why the call Crested Butte the wild flower capitol of Colorado. The trail was a moderate walk about a mountain stream and the Lord took care of me by putting in my spirit a desire to get some hiking shoes- I would not have survived the week without them!

After the hike, we went into town and were so happy with the vibe. In Crested Butte we sampled a Secret Stash pizza (amazing), Ryce, Teocali, and all were incredible.








SATURDAY

The toughest hike of the entire trip was trying to summit Gothic Mountain. After a long gravel road drive, we started on the hike already in surviving snow (June 21 y’all!) on this 3 and ½ hour hike we climbed 2,168 feet in elevation. We got to a ½ mile from the tip top but was prevented from going further because of the steepness of the trail and snow. We did get up to 11,600 feet and I was DEAD after that!




SUNDAY

For the last day in Crested we went on the Snodgrass Mountain hike It was lower in elevation but the 6.5 miles (2 ½ hours) was tougher than predicted because of the day before. A BEAUTIFUL hike indeed and the dogs loved it as well. We went back to Craig with a full heart and tired legs!



MONDAY

Hard to believe that Conner and I drug ourselves awake at 5 AM on Monday to go fishing at the Craig Steam plant. It never disappoints! The video shows how beautiful the small mouth are there and we caught some big crappie as well.




After fishing, Lisa and I went back to Steamboat for a day at the Old Towne Hot Springs. A day pass there gets you a locker, weight room, and huge steam pools where we did a recovery upper body workout and stretching in the warm springs.

TUESDAY

Lisa and I drove to Vail and I was so impressed with the organization and beauty of that interconnected ski village just off I-70. We hiked the town, got German food at Pepe’s and walked over 10 miles- I especially enjoyed Ford Park and the Ski Museum.




WEDNESDAY

Lisa and I went west to Dinosaur National Monument and hiked the Harper’s Corner Trail and then took the Jeep down the steepest gravel road of the week into the bottom of the Canyon and Echo Park campground. Dinosaur is a jewel without many visitors… it has the beauty of Zion National Park without the crowd!



We also got to do a 2nd Cross fit exercise on the last day as well.


THURSDAY

A sad drive back to Denver and I am posting this blog in the Denver Airport.


God was so good to us on this trip and we are trusting Him to land us safely in B’ham and hope to be in bed by midnight.


“Don’t be sad it is ending… be happy it happened” - Dr. Seuss



Insider Quotes:

"Don't touch me Conner, I'm having a panic attack"

"I'm following your footprints, but because I'm fat I'm sinking lower!"

After I fell in the snow - feet in the air.. "How did you do that?"

"We took way longer going up because of the GoPro"
"The GoPro is not what is slowing us down!"

"Can you go any faster? There is a hail storm coming!"
"If lightning struck me in the ass, I couldn't go any faster!"

"No way we could have brought Millie and Roan to Gothic"

"We are out."
"Do you remember where the backpack is?"
30 minutes later "Hootie Hoo!"
"Where are y'all?"
"Lost"
"Found the backpack!"

"Gothic Mountain- uphill both ways in the snow with the in-laws"

"Aaaargggh"
"Stop being so dramatic!"

POST TRIP UPDATE

One thing I didn't mention is that right after we got to Crested Butte, I had an episode in my left eye (flashing and then floaters that looked like a lint ball). I called my optometrist and he advised me to monitor the situation closely and see him ASAP when I returned.

Sure enough, the morning after I returned, It was evident that I had 2 small retinal tears and the floaters was actually a small amount of blood.

He sent me immediately to the eye Dr downtown and I had laser surgery immediately to 'suture' the tears. It was an uncomfortable experience, But I was so thankful that the Lord protected me until I was able to get help.

In the picture below, the two green dots are the retinal tears.

I'm grateful to the Dr's and the technology to diagnose and treat what could have been a serious situation.

I put on a bionic contact lense and got hit by what seemed like 20 green laser blasts.

No one really knows what causes these things, the aqueous fluid in the eye can become 'sticky' and pull some of the retina with it.

I was in high altitude and under some duress driving over the pass in the rain at night... but no one really knows.

Psalm 30:2

[2] O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me. (ESV)








Thursday, June 20, 2024

Message to Me from Ecclesiastes

 

Dear Jay,

This is what you looked like in 1980, when God knocked on the door of your heart and the message of forgiveness, love, and hope flooded your heart. It wasn't an end... it was a beginning with many failures and foolishness ahead.

I wish I could go back and steer you away from many mistakes during that time.... pride, laziness, selfishness, envy, jealousy and a multitude of sins can tear a boy apart.

You made good grades and mostly had a good name.... but these aren't as important as we are led to believe.

 Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. 

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.

But there is always a danger.... the effort to build and keep a good name is pretty self focused, dependent on the applause and recognition of others. It can be a false facade, and unfortunately can be a sinister idol. Sadly, there are times I have neglected the right thing because my reputation was in danger. Scripture calls this fearing man more than God.

But no need to dwell on the past. Learn from it and lay it at the foot of the cross of forgiveness.

What has been is what will be,

and what has been done is what will be done,

and there is nothing new under the sun. 

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 

This August, I will turn 60 years old. It hasn't been easy at all! But after a few months of sheer panic, the Scriptures and God's love and people have gotten me in a good frame of mind.

There is no remembrance of former things,

nor will there be any remembrance

of later things yet to be

among those who come after.


I was born, I now live, and will die -  ultimately everything passes away.

For in much wisdom is much vexation,

and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. 

Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity.

As time continues to march, it puts me in a strange place. I don't have time to try and fool myself or tell myself things as a sort of trick- all I have to rely on is the grace and mercy of God.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 

I have to acknowledge that God has blessed me beyond anything I deserve- I have lived a very rich and beautiful life and my gratitude to Jesus is not impressive.... The best thing I can do is live. And living for things that don't love back is a waste. Living for myself is unsatisfying... living to love God and others is joyous.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 

What an amazing world! My family is a treasure!

So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him? 

My job has been a fun one- yes, it is cursed work- plenty of thorns!

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 

This verse brings in Lisa. I don't have words to describe her beauty and strength! My best friend and my partner on this journey.

A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.

This verse can actually be dangerous. There have been times in my life where I don't follow Christ the way I should because I want to protect my reputation. SO yes, a good reputation is good, but it should never be an idol.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. 

This is the simple plan of life and has strengthened my now in my approaching senior years.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. 

On that day of judgement, the accuser will want to take me down and I know my many sins. But the message of grace through Jesus Christ will be my only hope.... and that is a glorious thought.




(Scripture in this post from Ecclesiastes ESV)

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

God's Mountains and His Simple Truths

Throughout the remainder of June, I'm immersing myself in reflections from a book I've been reading.

David Bodanis's exploration of The History of E=MC² delves into the profound impact of Albert Einstein's equation on our understanding of the universe. Bodanis begins by referencing the term "annus mirabilis," originally used to describe the remarkable events of 1666: London's survival of the great fire, recovery from the plague, and the British fleet's victory over the Dutch. This term, immortalized by John Dryden's poem, later symbolized the extraordinary discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton in the same year, marking 1666 as pivotal in scientific history.

Similarly, 1905 stands as Einstein's "annus mirabilis," during which he published four groundbreaking papers revolutionizing physics. Among these was his work on special relativity, introducing the iconic equation E=MC². This equation, revealing the equivalence of mass and energy, reshaped fundamental principles governing the universe.

Bodanis's book not only explores the equation's scientific implications but also delves into its historical context and the individuals whose contributions paved the way for this revolutionary insight. As I explore the elements leading to Einstein's breakthrough, I'm struck by the uncanny convergence of scientific discoveries, technological advancements, and historical events. This alignment does suggest to me great evidence of divine sovereignty, orchestrating natural phenomena and human endeavor toward profound revelations.

Reading books on the history of science not only strengthens my faith but also inspires a sense of worship. I'm currently in Colorado, surrounded by God's mountains and truths of the universe, I'm humbled in adoration!

I've always maintained that the best evidence for God lies not only in the fine-tuning of the universe but also in its inherent "discoverability." God invites us to explore and uncover His truths, despite His transcendent nature. It's intriguing to consider how the universe's structure facilitates its discoverability and comprehension by humans. This concept is often discussed in philosophical and theological contexts, hinting at a deeper design or intentionality in the cosmos.

As I progress through Bodanis's book, I continue to uncover insights. For instance, Michael Faraday's pioneering work on the Law of Conservation of Energy provides a compelling example. Bodanis writes:

"The word 'energy' is surprisingly modern, emerging in its current sense only in the mid-1800s. Prior to this, diverse natural powers like static electricity or gusts of wind were seen as unrelated. Michael Faraday, unaffected by linear thinking, drew inspiration from his Sandemanian religious group's belief in the circular interconnectedness of humanity. This perspective guided his study of electricity and magnetism, leading to his groundbreaking discoveries in 1821."

Faraday's conceptual use of circles to visualize magnetic fields illustrates interconnectedness, echoing philosophical and theological themes of cyclical patterns in human and spiritual history.

I first used these thoughts to teach Revelation last semester, I am finding more and more encouragement that the symbols in revelation are indeed birth pains (terms also used by John and Peter) to keep believers ready... the growing intensity is evidence of Christ's eventual return.

This parallels Faraday's use of circles to understand the dynamic nature of magnetic fields, reflecting interconnected cycles in both physical and spiritual realms.

Michael Faraday, celebrated as the father of electromagnetism and nanoscience, seamlessly integrated deep religious faith with his scientific endeavors. His discoveries, including electromagnetic induction and field theory.

I look forward to sharing more insights from this captivating read as I continue my journey through Bodanis's work.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Pondering Proverbs 30

I came across an old post recently (2011) where I finished a month of devotions in Proverbs. This particular post was ironically on the day I ran the Music City Marathon, and I titled the post, "The Marathon of Life".

I wrote 16 statements on that post that stayed with me after that time in Proverbs-

Here is how I described it then:

The marathon of life- I see this chapter as a wise sage- a man who has experienced it all- You know the slogan: I heard and I forgot, I saw and I remembered- I did and I understood.... this man has heard-seen...DONE. And what is his summary?

so recently, I wanted to see if these statements had some other Biblical references.... here is that original list with other references.

 THE MARATHON OF LIFE

  1. LIFE WEARS ME OUT

    • "I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears." (Psalm 6:6)

    • "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16)

  2. I HAVE LEARNED ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW MUCH I DON'T KNOW

    • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

    • "For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears." (1 Corinthians 13:9-10)

  3. WHEN I CONTEMPLATE GOD- I AM TRULY HUMBLED

    • "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4)

    • "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:10)

  4. GOD IS TRUE

    • "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19)

    • "Let God be true, and every human being a liar." (Romans 3:4)

  5. MAN IS A LIAR

    • "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

    • "They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak." (Psalm 12:2)

  6. THE CLOSEST POINT TO FULFILLMENT IS MODERATION

    • "Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil." (Proverbs 15:16)

    • "Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand." (Philippians 4:5)

  7. I AM INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH PERSONAL SIN

    • "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." (Psalm 51:3)

    • "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

  8. THE MASS OF MEN ARE MIXED BAGS- BLESSING AND CURSING

    • "Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be." (James 3:10)

    • "There is none righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10)

  9. THERE ARE EVIL MEN- THERE ARE GOOD MEN

    • "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." (Matthew 12:35)

    • "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit." (Luke 6:43)

  10. THE HEART CANNOT BE SATISFIED IN THIS LIFE

    • "Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

    • "You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." (Psalm 145:16)

  11. WE OFTEN TREAT THE PEOPLE WE LOVE THE MOST-THE WORST

    • "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them." (Colossians 3:19)

    • "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:14)

  12. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL- CREATION SINGS GLORY TO THE CREATOR

    • "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1)

    • "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

  13. MAN HAS A GLORY AS WELL- HIS DIGNITY COMES FROM GOD

    • "What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor." (Psalm 8:4-5)

    • "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27)

  14. EVEN ANTS AND LOCUSTS PROCLAIM THE MAJESTY OF GOD

    • "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!" (Proverbs 6:6)

    • "There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise: Ants—they aren’t strong, but they store up food all summer." (Proverbs 30:24-25)

  15. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS

    • "So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God." (Romans 14:12)

    • "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." (Ezekiel 18:20)

  16. CONNECT THE DOTS- YOUR ACTIONS HAVE INTENDED AND UNINTENDED RESULTS


    • "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7)

    • "Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace." (Psalm 37:37)

You can find the original post here and the other 31 days of devotions backwards down the list:


The last post of that series was on May 1, 2011

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Wedding Dress



Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

[8] it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints
(Revelation 19:7–8 ESV)



Every now and then, when you are reading in the Bible, a verse will stop you in your tracks. That is what Rev. 19:8 did to me recently.

I love the reformed tradition that I have been instructed in most of my spiritual life. No theology is perfect and a solid theology gives man the best chance to live a profitable, stable, and balanced life. The Bible presents the best environment for man to live in a sin cursed world. 

And I have said for years, bad theology strays from a Biblical balance and quickly can run a man into two ditches that I frequently make reference to .... legalism to the right of me and license to the left of me.


And though we stress a salvation free of works, we do need to be careful to stray from a salvation free from works. We are saved by grace through faith... not a result of works, but we do need to understand that true salvation will produce works of righteousness.

 "So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. [18] A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:17–20 ESV)"

In the passage above, what adorns the beautiful wedding dress of the Bride of Jesus? The fine linen of righteous deeds!

Yes, my grandmother was so right... "Christian is as Christian does!"

Now, here is a subtle point that we often miss.... ALL righteous deeds count. These includes evangelism, giving, digging wells, and building hospitals.

But it also includes simple things... small things... things we often overlook.

For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. (Mark 9:41 ESV)

As we move into the summer... what can you do to weave in some fine linen to adorn the beauty of the Bride? Smile, hug children, give a word of encouragement, say a prayer for the sick and hurting, clean, organize, love, laugh, live with gratitude, forgive, give grace and patience.... 

These threads matter! 

Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Promised Blessing of Revelation

Blessed
is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. ( Revelation 1:3 ESV)

I have 2 weeks left with the One Accord Sunday School as we have been digging through the Book of Revelation this quarter. It has been quite a journey and, to be honest, we haven't spent nearly enough time on it.

Just the Old Testament references alone require a lot of exploration and careful examination.

But peek back at that top verse on this blog- Rev. 1:3. Notice the instruction to read the Book out loud, hear it, and keep it. The reward is "blessing".

I may have already written this, but when the class shepherd asked me to do my series on Revelation, me heart sank a bit. I have between 10 and 15 Sunday School series that I have written and taught over the last 35 years.

At our church, you are usually booked a year or two out and I will normally wait on them to tell me (remind me) where I will be for a quarter and what I am supposed to teach. I tend to do the same series over and over (I am kind of the "Isaiah' guy).

This time, I assumed I was doing my series on Isaiah, until the shepherd asked, "Do you do anything else?"

And I emailed him my list of series and WAY down the list is "Meditations on Revelation" that I originally wrote in 2009 and had last taught in 2014.

When he picked that, I thought "I don't even know where my notes are!"

And I didn't! For a while..... I finally found the old large orange hard drive that had notes, articles, files, and the 31 day devotional I wrote for the series. And it broke... thankfully our IT guy at school recovered the files and now they live in the cloud! (He is coming in the clouds- see how the apocalyptic mindset works? LOL)

But now I had to re-learn this material- and when I come across stuff like this from that long ago, it is like reading from a stranger... there are times I say 'I remember that guy' with a laugh. And I miss that young man as well!

Now before you accuse me of living on perpetual re-wind... I start each new series fresh. I re-study and update. I'm a different man with perspectives and change. God's truth does not change, but I may have deeper understandings or better perspective than I did when I was studying and writing (and sometimes I am much worse!).

There are tools that exist today that were not available to me even in 2014. For my newest venture, I actually utilized podcasts, you tube, and even Chat-GPT (A.I.) to help me. The information available to study the Bible today is exhaustive. There is a lot of bad theology out there as well.

Typically, when I teach Sunday School, I spend my devotional time just reading the Scriptures and praying for 'fresh eyes' and 'true truth'. The Lord usually wants to teach me...not others... and then have me lead discussions about how these truths may apply to our lives.

Then at night, I just spend time doing what I call 'thought experiments' where I ask questions and then see if the Bible as a whole can support the thoughts. I read and watch opposite viewpoints to my views. And then about Thursday or Friday, I begin to try and formulate how that 25-30 minutes may go on Sunday. My friends and family notice how quiet I am, they will even ask if I am OK- but I am just lost in the thoughts of my introverted self.

It is a lot of time, but honestly it is a selfish thing.... I benefit from teaching even if no one else does.

People have asked me about the thought experiments, because it seems wrought with danger. I was impressed about this when I read a biography on Einstein (I am no Einstein) where he would lay in a meadow and do thought experiments- for example he would think of a bucket filled with paint on a rope and imagine how it might swing in the wind and the principles that governed the movements and patterns it might make. 

Then, he would use math as the boundaries and proofs of the experiment. If he couldn't justify the experiment by math... it couldn't stand.

I try to do that with Scripture- what could this mean? But if I can't find supporting thoughts in other parts of Scripture, then it just can't hold water with me.

I am not smart enough, nor do I trust myself enough... so I also depend on outside teachers and counsel- the beauty of today is the internet allows me to consult Calvin, Warfield, Hodge for the past and people like Keller, McArthur, Piper, and Sproul (and many others) who are more present.

My early love for reading and years of reading literature helps me here... part of God's design to give me a skill set to use me... but a healthy self-suspicion keeps me out of the ditches!

Back to the blessing- 

Once I start back into Revelation, it can become a mess. It makes a mess of me- the apocalyptic mindset is real... news cycles are immediately compared and contrasted to the images in the Book and I can almost hum twilight zone theme music when I see how eerily synchronized they are.

My dreams become fantastical... and I wake up remembering them. And I mean STRANGE stuff. things I can't even put into words. 

It also drives me back to the minor prophets where I get a taste of the same metaphors and style that the genre represents.

I also get more conscious of my ever present and many sins and my entanglements with idols. I find I am less satisfied of them and much more afraid of the consequences that come from sin.

Who/what are my idols? Sadly, my biggest idol is often a false idea of God Himself. I wrote about this back in 2010 - 

So I realize now that the way God cares is so alien.... it is his strange ministers that make up His HOLINESS. He does seem intolerable careless to me about my scars and crosses- but He should be. Things I tremble at, He just shakes His head. Do I really know of loneliness and pain? 'Come on' He says, "Give me a break. Your powder puff- magic dragon God of expediency does not exist".


Bottom line: Reading Revelation creates a 'beautiful mess'.

And I truly believe this 'beautiful mess' is the ultimate blessing of the book. It keeps us on our toes... it keeps us more awake and ready... soon is soon and near is near.

I also find it makes me more energized to share my faith... I find my daily conversations with even strangers going more naturally to the things of God and I am more willing to take the openings to ask others about their faith and where they are with Christ.

This August, I will turn 60. I am in the worst physical shape I have ever been in and that is solely my fault and a result mostly from letting my job (stress) impact my health. When I look at what I have been through personally and professionally from 2019 until this year, I am thankful and humbled by the grace God has given me to just keep going. It wasn't ALL bad, believe me I have more good days than bad and my troubles aren't critical. 

Just look at the picture I posted to go with this blog.... I have a great life- but getting older is no joke either! I don't know how people live without Christ.

But Revelation is so good, it has also has inspired me to pick it up physically as well. Hard to explain it and I think it has something to do with my grandchildren- I want them to know Jesus and experience Him as I have been able to all these years. I want them to know God's grace, His love, His patience... How in the world a sinner like me has been so rich in life... hard to believe! (By the way, 'blessing' isn't financially or materially, it is much better than that!)

Thankfully, my work place is moving to a place of healing and positive momentum... I may be wrong, but I feel like the pruning is done for now though the battle will ever rage. The kingdom of darkness hates the light. We have great things happening and good days ahead.

If you would like to experience the blessing of Revelation (though it will feel like a curse at the beginning) feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to share thoughts and notes with you.

I am somewhat sad to only have 2 lessons left and the class has been so loving and wonderful to be with.

Maybe my dreams won't be so crazy, and maybe I will celebrate a break from the apocalyptic mindset after this study is over.... but I won't be as blessed. We need more Revelation in these days... not less.