Tuesday, December 30, 2008

7 Lbs is Too Heavy a Load for a Man

'this is an upload from my blog www.jayopsis.blogspot.com'

Went to the 10 PM showing of "7 Pounds" with my oldest daughter and good friend Ron Smith.

Stayed awake...

Came home thinking about pennance, mistakes, and the problem of evil, which is a bigger problem with the absence of God.

I know, I know.... it's only a movie.

(This will contain spoilers)

When a person makes a tragic mistake, you have to keep the sovereignty of God in the picture. He can bear the weight of tragedy. We do make mistakes, but He allows them. And He controls them. He can even make it for good (Rom 8:28)

We experience consequences, even major life changes- years of pain and regret.

But the message of hope in God is that we do not have to do pennance. We cannot pay for our debt ourselves. We can't give marrow, and liver, and heart, and money, and eyes and undo the damage or mistakes.

Will Smith's character goes looking for those who deserve his gifts. He looks for good people.

The gospel of grace is so much better- it says we do not have to be worthy or good to receive the gift.

In the end, the main character breaks under the weight of the regret- giving his life so that others may live. It is a noble task... one that the Bible recognizes.

"One may die for a good man"

But again the gospel is better..... "But God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"

In the end... the problem of pain exists whether we put God in the story or not. It is an easier weight to carry when He is present. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Christ has borne the load already.

Do you really believe that God can bear the weight of your mistakes?

Another empty tale, another Hollywood moment, another unnessesary sex scene..... (ever experience sitting next to your 15 year old daughter in those moments?)

We did have a good chat on the way home...

I am off to bed now, thanking God for the gift of forgiveness and I do promise to not text and drive.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Woke Up Thinking Football

Once the season is over, I'm ready to escape the game for awhile. Then, at some point I will come back to it.

It is hard to put into words the pain of the end. When you make the playoffs, you realize that only one team will end without a killing. But you jump in with both feet and fight like crazy to stay alive.

What a great season for our team- it feels good to exceed expectations. The low point was after game 5- but to our kids and coaches credit, we never stopped working and turned it around. We won 7 in a row, won the region title, and ended up a state quarter-finalist.

But that last loss, man... it hurts.

We did not play well in the last game. Not sure why. We had a good week of practice. We took the opening drive down and scored, but even that drive wasn't without mistakes.

We had several assignment busts the rest of the game and we were a beat up team physically. In the end, the other team out performed us, especially their Mr Football running back.

In the locker room afterward, it was really sad. Our guys truly loved the game and one another. We had all the Srs line up and all the other guys came by and hugged them. Our seniors handled it well. They were sad, but did not grieve like their life was over. There was strength and brokenness. They were real in their hurt, free to cry... but showed a lot of dignity also. No blubbering silliness.

The hurt I feel is different. It goes deep. Every loss I have ever suffered as a head coach wounds me to the bone. I truly hate to lose.

When we lose the last one, it hits me for about 2 weeks. I go on living, treat my family well, put on a warm outer front. But inside, I play the game over and over. What would I do differently?

But I am healed now. My mental game is now re-working system- dreaming and scheming- ready to do it all again.

My prayer is that I never lose my desire to put the process under the direction of Christ. I hope that through the joy and sorrow, I continue to preach and model the gospel. Without it, this is all just phantasms of futility.

May God be glorified in victory and in loss.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Question 2: Why are there so many starving people in our world?

This response is part of a series of responses back to the challenge: 10 Questions that all Intelligent Christians must answer.

This is a great question if it comes from an honest and open heart. The tone of the question is important here. Is it a ‘childlike why' that will listen to the response or is it a ‘cynical, angry, bitter why' that represents predisposed experience that will not listen to possible explanations?

Why starving people?

Sometimes it is a ‘religious’ or ‘political’ issue. Some of the starvation in the world comes from people turning their back on the true God to follow faiths that are founded on falsehood.

There is enough resources to feed everyone. The fact that we do not, is our fault and another great indicator of human sin and shortcoming.

A Shocking Statement:
Matthew 26:11 (Jesus speaking) For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.

Free to Not Feed: God allows injustice for a time. He will bring to judgment all who have corrupted mankind by greed and selfishness. Unless Christ covers us, I think we all fail the test. I admit that I have done very little to alleviate hunger. A problem is not world hunger, the problem is me.

KUDOS TO THIS BROTHER: Another Christian responds:

"Brain begins by creating the same straw man in this question that he made (and which I refuted) in his first question. He wrongly assumes that the Bible claims that God promises to grant all your wishes (to be charitable, many professing Christians do make this claim, but I believe that like Brain, they are in error). Then because God seems to be granting a lot of your wishes and not the wishes of starving children, Brain concludes that there must be something wrong with your view of God. If you do believe that God grants all our wishes, then Brain is right and something is wrong with your view of God. Brain's question should make you feel uncomfortable and make you wonder why starving children aren't getting their wishes answered. But as demonstrated in my rebuttal to his first argument, the Bible does not teach that God promises to grant all your wishes.

In this question, Brain tries to trap the believer even more by treating the phrases "a loving, caring God" and "a God that grants all your wishes" as interchangeable. He says, "Then you push it out of your mind because it absolutely does not fit with your view of a loving, caring God." What he really means is that it absolutely does not fit with your view of a God that grants every wish that every Christian makes (or even most wishes that most Christians make). It does not fit with a "vending-machine" God. By making the equivocation, he traps Christians who do think God is loving and caring into his alleged contradiction, but this is really just a bait-and-switch maneuver. He baits with "loving, caring God" and switches to "God that promises to grant most of our wishes." He actually has a good argument against Christians who already agree with his equivocation and who consider "a loving God" and "a vending-machine God" to be synonymous. I agree with Brain that such Christians have a contradiction in their belief system and need to work it out. I'm not one of them.

And notice also that this is not an argument against the existence of God and in no way disproves God's existence or even makes God's non-existence a more likely alternative to His existence. The difficulty he raises is real, but it doesn't prove God doesn't exist. It just proves that a God, Who grants all or most of our wishes doesn't exist. It is perfectly consistent to believe that God exists, is loving and caring, and does not grant us all our wishes.

But if He's loving and caring, how could He let those children suffer?

That's a great question. I'm glad you asked. I'm afraid you just can't pin this one on God. How can you let those children suffer? We have enough food and wealth in the world to feed everybody. The world is verdant and abundant in resources, so there's absolutely no reason why anyone should starve. So why does it happen? Surely you and I aren't doing enough. But even if we did the best we could, it probably wouldn't be enough to solve the problem because of the political situation in countries where people starve. Starvation in the 21st century is mostly a political weapon. Even if you tried to get food to some of these places, warlords and governments would just seize it and feed their army with it.

But shouldn't God be able to do something about it?

God created humans as free moral agents, that means that we have the freedom to choose how to live and interact with each other. Only free agents are capable of Love, which is the highest of all goods, so without our existence as creatures of free will, none of the created world would be capable of the highest of all possible goods, Love. Yet our free agency necessitates that we are able to choose evil and to hurt each other instead of loving each other. That's built into the definition of free will. If all we can do is love, and we have no say in the matter, then we can't love after all- we'd be mere automata. We have to be able to choose not to love, or else we cannot love in the first place. This is why all sorts of evils and suffering exist in the world, because we have used our free agency to choose evil and suffering for ourselves and each other rather than love.

But can't God create free agents that always love? All things are possible with God, or are you admitting that all things aren't possible with Him after all, that He is not Omnipotent?

Oh no. Nothing of the sort. To elaborate, allow me to quote C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain:

"[God's] Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say 'God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it', you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words 'God can'. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God."

If you haven't read the book and have earnest questions about the problem of evil, pain, and suffering in the world, I highly recommend that you get a copy. It's a very short read and an inexpensive book packed full of excellent critical thinking about God and the existence of pain and suffering in our world:

You're just making rationalizations.

Come on, be fair. My answer isn't some strange excuse for God like the one Brain offered that, "God wants these children to suffer and die for some divine, mysterious reason." This is a pretty strange excuse. I agree that it's not consistent to say that God is loving and that God wants children to suffer and die. That's a contradiction. I believe God wants no such thing. It is not a contradiction however, to believe that God doesn't want children to die because He is a loving God, but that children do suffer and die anyways because humans are free moral agents, and it is consistent for a loving God to create free moral agents who are capable of love, and that in order for them to be capable of love, by definition they must be capable of evil. That answer may not satisfy you if you don't believe in God, and I don't consider it to be an argument for God's existence, but you must concede that it answers Brain's challenge. You must concede that it is internally consistent, does not resolve into contradiction, is not an evasion, and actually makes a lot of sense.

Posted by W. E. Messamore"

VISIT HIS BLOG: http://www.slaying-dragons.com/

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why Won't God Heal Amputees?

This response is part of a series of responses back to the challenge: 10 Questions that all Intelligent Christians must answer.

Question back: How do we know he hasn’t? I do not have enough knowledge, time, or experience to investigate all of history to know if God has not healed an amputee.

Amputation is a last resort of the medical science to save the life of a person at the brink of death. A limb or a foot affected by gangrene may cause the death of a person; but because of amputation, people are saved from death.

Question back: How many people have been healed because of amputation?
What if an amputation was God’s way of preserving a person’s life a little longer that they may contemplate eternity?

Any unanswered prayer is at the prerogative of the Deity.

Out first problem is the very concept of a God. He is the Creator and I am a creature. I have asked questions, “God why did You allow this? Why won’t you do this?” I think He hears these cries in a similar way I hear my small children begging to go to the candy store right before supper. At the zoo one time, my 5-year-old daughter wanted to stay and watch the flamingo pool. She started crying when I finally pulled her away to go down the path to other exhibits. It did not bother me at all to see those tears, I knew that something much better was coming. It wasn’t 60 seconds before she was in awe of the full visual of the entire zoo.

The Christian amputee (I’m sorry I know this sounds arrogant)

“Thank you God for my life, look at all I do have. You made my body. Have Your way with me. I am looking forward to the day when I will be whole, body and soul.”

A Shocking Statement:

Jesus says in Matthew 5: 30 "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."

As a rational Christian (I know that is an oxymoron to my detractors) I understand that this is figurative and shocking for effect. But the principle is very clear- God is not worried about the amputee's body, He is very concerned about His soul.


Christian Group Offers Amputees Support
Published: February 15, 2008 OPELIKA, AL NEWS
To make this team, there aren’t any tryouts held and every roster member gets inked to a long-term contract.
The C.A.S.T. Ministries (Christian Amputee Support Group) is a non-profit support group for amputees and their families that officially incorporated in November 2006. Next month, C.A.S.T. Ministries will hold its first ceremony, which will address the topic of amputations that resulted from medical and health-related illness or diseases.
Woody Thornton, 39, is one of C.A.S.T.’s trainers.
Thornton is also a double amputee.
Thornton was involved in an accident involving a train in 1989 that cost him both his feet.
A few years ago, Thornton had a series of revision surgeries on his legs.
While the married father of six - four girls, two boys - leads a very fulfilling and active life now, he knows firsthand the fear and uncertainty of what a life-changing event like an amputation can entail.
“In my experience, most people who suffer an amputation know very little about what to expect or what can be done to help them,” Thornton said.
But through a combination of spiritual faith and family support, Thornton hopes that C.A.S.T. can change that.
One of the services that C.A.S.T. offers amputees are personal visits from C.A.S.T. trainers. They assist with everything from praying with recent amputees to offering friendship and and an ear to listen “With our visits, we hope to come alongside these individuals and their families and offer them support
based on God’s word,” Thornton said. “In the process, we hope to create friendships that will last.”
C.A.S.T. will welcome guest speaker Becky Guinn, a Chambers County native who lost both her arms and legs due to an adverse reaction to medication she received in the hospital in 2002.
Since that time Guinn has returned to her job as an art instructor and is currently in her 11th year of of teaching at Valley High School in Lanett.
It’s stories of courage and perseverance like Guinn’s that Thornton says personify what the C.A.S.T. is all about.
“Our motto ‘Life defined ... Not Confined’ is derived from 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10,” Thornton said.
“Those verses tell us that if we must boast, let us boast about our weaknesses.”
“It took me a while to figure out that sharing my story could actually strengthen others,” Thornton added. “People recognize me or know who I am by my legs, but through Christ I am empowered through this weakness instead of being confined by limitations.”

This question does not bother me. In the end, a person of faith can actually magnify the Creator in the midst of this suffering. God can be honored in spite of such a significant loss! What a miracle!


Thursday, December 04, 2008

My Simple Apologetic

In light of the atheists getting bolder and colder and sensing the growing antagonism to religion in general, I feel it is time to publicly explain “the reason for the hope that is in me”.

My model begins with the existence of God. I believe that all arguments begin with, “Is there a God?” If we begin with man, we start at the wrong place. A lot of people base their whole world view within their own existence, what a mistake!

I answer the question in the affirmative. There is a God. There is too much order, too much beauty, and too much opinion regarding good and evil to explain it away to natural, random occurrences. My own inner life points to mystery beyond me. The world under the microscope is too wonderful for me to accept blind chance and the expanse and beauty of the heavens is too majestic to cynically attribute it to uncoordinated randomness.

General revelation also points to a life beyond this life. Are the seasons merely a coincidence? The life cycle of a butterfly points to rebirth. I was praying one day to see God and as I drove into work on a foggy morning, I saw hundreds of spider webs. They had been invisible for months, but now their design and beauty were clearly seen. The visible world does point to the invisible God.

My next question requires me to ask, “Is there revelation or evidence of specific communication from this God to man?” Again, I believe there are two that give credence to the other. Jesus Christ is a clear manifestation of God and His nature. He did make that claim. He gives support of both the New and Old Testament. Is there valid support of these two revelations? The answer is yes. History supports both in spite of an entire system bent on destroying this precious truth. A seven day work week has been handed down to us from somewhere. The disciples died for a myth? The Bible survives? How?

And no other purported revelation holds water. They are all cheap imitations from a constant enemy.

And finally the message: Who could have made this up?


So there are always the attacks. I’m simple-minded, poorly educated, and have committed intellectual suicide to shake hands with faith. How do you respond to this?

I feel like when someone discounts God on the basis of reason, they are doing the most foolish thing of all. When the Bible speaks of the ‘unforgivable sin’ and ‘blasphemy of the spirit’- it has to be this. When someone says, “There is no God, no angels or devils, no heaven or hell” they are lifting their life experience and powers of reasoning to a god-like status. ‘I must become God to kill God’, Nietzsche understood this.
I’m thankful that I am under-educated enough to keep a healthy self-suspicion of my intellect. Is reason trustworthy enough to gamble on eternity?

What does the Bible say about our ability to reason?

Romans 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

I Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. [6]

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

If you are raising your fist against God, please reconsider. The promise is that those who repent and believe will be rescued. Cry out to Him before it is too late!

“The riddles of God are more comforting than the answers of man” G.K. Chesterton

Monday, December 01, 2008

Walking Through Wounds With Joy and Hope

Life wounds….. there is no getting around it. It isn’t always tragic, it sometimes just pricks like a thorn. But it’s those little tears that can add up the most. Life lets you down.

I want to thank Bill Delvaux for opening a window to explore this, because it is these hurts that point us eventually toward heaven and it is pain that inexplicably keeps the heart alive.

Life is often a series of disappointment: Robert Frost correctly asserted that ‘nothing Gold can stay- even the good moments are fleeting and drift away in slivers. I always thought it was appropriate that Pip experienced all the shock of seeing his world collapse in “Great Expectations”.

“All the truths of my position came flashing on me; and its disappointments, dangers, disgraces, consequences of all kinds, rushed in in such a multitude that I was borne down by them and had to struggle for every breath I drew.”

But it was the subtle letdowns that he noticed first:

My (new) clothes were rather a disappointment, of course. Probably every new and eagerly expected garment ever put on since clothes came in, fell a trifle short of the wearer's expectation.

A big part of Christian maturity is accepting the ‘beautiful letdown’ as a reality that does not dampen joy or hope.

The apostle Paul makes this point vividly clear in Roman 8:18 “ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because [6] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…”

But it is not an easy lesson to learn. It must be experienced by faith over time. It means silent suffering and patient endurance. It really is like birth pangs that ebb and flow with variations of intensity.

I have had my share of deep hurts.. including the loss of my mom.

But it is the subtle wounds that can exasperate, partly because they send mixed messages. Is God angry with me? Is this deserved discipline? Is He protecting me?

I look back over old notes regarding a time in my life where I sought a head coaching job. I ended up being the runner up four times in a row! My reactions were all over the place… sometimes anger, sometimes laughter.

Look at some of my former journal entries:

There has always been a cry inside of me. It’s hard to describe exactly, something akin to a hunger. It throbs and fluctuates, groaning to be born. But it always stops. I am somewhat afraid of it…is this the evil part of me? Is it an unquenchable thirst for pleasure and self-satisfaction that wants to destroy all the good intentions of my creator?
I am afraid because I know it is tied to my ego- that part of me that wants to matter, to be noticed, to be applauded as the winner of whatever race I am in. Is it evil? Does it miss the mark- what the English termed a sin?
I am also afraid because it may turn out to be a sham. Some wild excuse to sound pseudo-philosophical and be nodded to by the brilliant. It is so funny, I am a roller coaster between self-assertion and self-denial, self-confidence and self-condemnation…. and now I chastise myself for self-absorption.
I have lived long enough now to have more questions than answers. I have read the great writers and realized that I can’t even read, much less write. I have heard the great preachers, and realized I can’t hear. I have mulled over the great thinkers and realized I can’t think. The only really good thing I do is forget.
Then I soothe myself by finding someone lower than me, only to realize that I perceive him to be lower, I can see no farther into him than he can into me. So what is my premise?
I am glad I am not a mathematician or a scientist. I am glad I am not a lawyer or a doctor. Lord knows we need all of these. I am glad I am not a mechanic, or a plumber, or an accountant, but I am glad my wife is an accountant.
I am glad to be me. I enjoy appreciating the dull things. I do love life and all in all it is an easy one. There is a part of me afraid of God. Afraid that He will look down at me one day and say, “suffer”. I know there is pain a comin’- death of loved ones (update mom passed away in Jan 2004, brother in drug rehab 2004). I feel a knee twinge now, or get a gas pain in my side, or have heart burn and I pause..”is this cancer? A heart attack? Arthritis? Lou Gherig’s disease?” Then I pause again and say, “What a poor view of my Father I have”. God design is not zapping people out of their mirth; it is getting me to trust Him enough to ascend the mountain of His pleasure.
But I’m writing today to say that I fell trapped. I am a gold fish swimming so hard against the edge of the bowl that I am fagged out- (thanks for letting me reclaim the term). I am punching against golden puppet threads and am tangled. I see the air on my gauge at critical, but am too far under the surface to survive. And so I am crying out.
I do not want to be cut loose from my wife or my girls. I do not want away from my Lord. But I need to get away from this sanctuary. I have been too safe for too long. It feels so good to lie here and soak, but I’m afraid that if I stay too long I will lose my desire to ever move again. I’m too young to pull in my reins and rest. Will I then find I have saved all I have, risked nothing, but never gained anything?
So how do I approach this? How does God’s sovereignty fit in with my knack for manipulation and coercion? Can I push so hard that I go where God cannot bless me? Do I sit back and find I never arrived where He could use me? One has faith to sit and wait – am I showing faith by swatting every gnat in my eye?
I am discovering that the truth of God that states that He put eternity in my heart (Ecclesiastes) can feel sometimes like a curse- it is a madness that tortures me. So I am crying to you- Oh my Father- get me out or take me out or take out that part that wants out….just please help…. I am not demanding…. I am begging and it probably sounds like a whimper.

It is now more than 6 years later… and I see God’s purposes more clearly. But I am still a man who hurts… cut me and I still bleed.

Losses still hurt…. Arguments still frustrate…. Rejection still wounds me.

But I am more able to at least say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”.

I see that the granting of tears, teaches compassion. Ravi Z is right, I will feel no passion to change until I feel the pressure in my own soul. There are seasons- A time to laugh and a time to cry- My prayer is that we always show compassion and love first- it is actually more important that the truth that comes later?

The question will come: Why?

There are a lot of wrong answers to the question of wounds and a few wrong responses to these happenings. I don’t have time to go into it in detail- but there is a growing Heresy within the evangelical church that is a new spin in age old unbiblical answers to these issues.

These heretics are not bad people- but unfortunately are giving advice that sounds good to the human ear, but really offers no real hope- in fact, in the end it robs them of a path to true recovery.

So hear me very clearly-God is great and God is good/ Great in that He is in control- He ordains these dark times and will use them to His glory. The very second you say that God is not in control, you began to rob Him of His Godness and you begin to believe that He is not trustworthy.

A surprising help to me is Psalm 107
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so- what is the so? Oh Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His steadfast Lord endures forever. Whom He has redeemed from trouble.

4-9 Some wandered- became hungry and thirsty- He led to straight way satisfies the longing. All of us are wanderers.
10-16 Some sat as prisoners- shadows of death- for they rebelled- example of substance abuse - you cannot escape- there are all kinds of dependency- the heart of the addict.
17-22 Some foolish- sowing and reaping-
23-32 Some just experienced storms of life- not making the team/ injury/ sickness
33-42- The general providence of God- divorce/bankruptcy/cancer/crime/ school authority and decisions of those in authority

Hear the promises in this Psalm:
Cry to the Lord and He delivered
Thank Him for His steadfast love
He satisfies- He fills the hungry
He brings them out of the shadow of death
He breaks the bonds- shatters iron and bronze bars
He delivers from distress
He sends His word and heals them
He delivers from destruction
He controls nature
He prospers
He shuts the mouth of the wicked

43- Attend to these things- consider the steadfast love- and SAY SO



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude

Psalm 144:12 May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
cut for the structure of a palace;
13 may our granaries be full,
providing all kinds of produce;
may our sheep bring forth thousands
and ten thousands in our fields;
14 may our cattle be heavy with young,
suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;
may there be no cry of distress in our streets!
15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

How can we not be thankful this year? How much has God given to me!


Thank you for my sweet wife of 21 years... my best friend
Thank you for three beautiful daughters.... how they reflect Your love and grace
Thank you for a job that allows me to serve Your kingdom
Thank you for Your Holy Word that guides me in the truth and sets my paths straight.
Thank you for a way of forgiveness- who can understand that sacrifice?
Thank you for a nation of freedom and laws- may we not lose our way.
Thank you for a life full of sweet memories and good times!
Thank you for health and health care.
Thank you for music and beautiful places.
Thank you for laughs and peaceful faces.
Thank you for rest for the weary and salve for the pain.
Thank you for Jesus!

I could go on and on and on.... the bottom line is:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Raging Against the Night

We won in the second round of the state playoffs last night. It was a very physical and difficult game. There was rain and mud, hard hits and turnovers, we had to come from behind and hold on at the end.

I talked to our team before the game about fighting against the night. Colossians 1 says, "13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

The dominion of darkness is our enemy's kingdom. As these seniors see the sun setting on their career- they can feel the darkness. I want them to fight it all the way.

Darkness contains depression, doubt, despair and even death itself. Symbolically, the end of a football season contains all of those feelings. The days are shorter, darker, wet and cold.... but we don't lie down and just close our eyes and die.... we fight like hell, we swing our fists, we live as proud warriors in service of our King.

This is how light dispels darkness- brotherhood and confidence- cheer and celebration.

We did our victory chant... it was a sweet locker room!

And we will stand up against the sunset again next Friday.

And we will fight...

One day it will be the sunset of life. Will I be old? Will I have to walk into that sunset in a wheelchair or a walker? Or maybe, I will have to face it in my younger days.

I want to finish with a fight of faith. Giving all the glory to my Savior.

In that way.... there is nothing but victory! AMEN.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Clouds and Darker Days

Revelation 10:1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

What do you think of when you read this verse? If you study Revelation, you know that this is a vision that John receives from Jesus. The word "revelation" means "unveiling"- meaning that the purpose of the book is to make it clear. Look at the Prologue again:

Rev. 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

When I see this figurative vision of this angel I see the clouds and the rainbow, both of which point back to the OT (as much of Revelation does). The rainbow a sign of God's promise and the cloud as a witness to God's presence and glory.

When you look at creation, do you think of God?

We should.

Romans 1:20 For (God's) invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

During the fall, I see the colors, and the clouds as clear evidence of God and His creation. But the clouds also hide... and they hide for our good and His glory. In our mortal and sinful state, without the clouds- we would be struck down.

So I see God is the clouds, even though it is "murky".

And I experience Him in His word.

As you read Revelation- see the clear message.

There will come a day... when the Lord will say.... no more delay.

The time to repent is NOW.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

There’s a Fire Breathing Dragon In Your Garage

A Twist on "A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage" by the late Carl Sagan

Don’t open that door Carl- there’s a fire breathing dragon in your garage and he will destroy you!

“No No” (says Carl)- I have been told that but I am sure he does not exist.

"You don’t see any evidence?”

I've been told that this dragon has no real physical properties I can test here and without physical evidence, I see no real danger.
I mean come on, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?

But Carl- the heatless fire is destructive; it is beyond anything we can test. If you open that Door without a proper safety suit- you will be completely obliterated. There will be no evidence left of you.

Come on- you don’t believe that silly nonsense do you?

Yes I do.

What evidence do you have?

I have this instruction manual.

Oh yes- that old silly wives tale. It is so antique and has been rejected.

But Carl- look what it says. It points to the evidence. You are suffering from the dragon’s radiation already.
Your eyes are clouded from the dragon’s rays.
No No- It is just my old age.
Your ears have been diminished.
No No- too many rock concerts.
You even smell a little singed.
No I considered that- but I think it is just a coincidence.

Look at all of the people wearing the protective suits- don’t you think that they have discovered the dragon?

All of those stupid people- I want us to get rid of those silly suits. It greatly hampers life.

Please Carl- the suit is your only chance for life- don’t go through that door without that protective covering.

NO NO- listen people I am walking through that door confident that the dragon is not there.

Where is Carl?
He is no longer with us.

BTW- The Dragon DID become corporeal- "The Word became flesh"
The dragon leaves a lot of evidence and people who have seen it.
Is it a lack of evidence or an unwillingness to receive it?

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Football as a “Strange Minister”

2 CORIN. 1: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

I think the greatest team builder in the world is suffering. My closest football teams have been teams that experienced some type of shared pain. None of us want it that way and we want to avoid it as much as possible. But at the end of the year, we got enjoyed good times when we celebrated, but we grew together when we cried or hurt. Football pain, whether it is a hard practice, a tough loss, or physical injury, is often used by God as a ‘strange minister’ in our lives- producing fruit of perseverance and love.

I’m not exactly why this is true. It may be the first time we see one another without masks or we see how much individual’s truly care- but pain is a useful tool in forging a team of one heroic purpose. That is one reason why I push them so hard in summer camp- they have to experience hardship to break down all the barriers to brotherhood.

The above passage contains that same sentiment. When pain comes, we should be urgent and diligent to support each other and comfort one another. The best comfort is time and understanding. It is not an easy road. We recite the words, but it is hard to live them. I never really ever want to preach to my team following a loss- it is usually a one on one evaluation of who needs support the most. It is a time to seek out the injured and quietly stand with those that are taking it the hardest.

When we receive God’s comfort, it helps us to be sensitive to others in similar pain. We have had a of injuries this season- I think we have 8 starters out. We have an outstanding senior leader on our team this year in Landon Scott. He had an unfortunate injury this summer that has prevented him from playing a large part of his senior year. Landon is the hardest working player on our team and we were all saddened by the news of this injury. To his credit, he gave thanks to God and has served our team well since then. He is a source of inspiration and encouragement.

In our football creed we have a line that says: “We suffer together so that we WILL persevere together”- which is related to Romans 5:3,4 which says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

When we suffer and comfort, we eventually heal. That healing produces unity and strength. If you ever have to compete against a team with this type of unity- look out- it may be a tough night!

If you are hurting, go comfort others. If you see someone hurting, comfort them. You will reap a great harvest of hope!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Post Dark Knight

I'm still groggy from a 10:20 PM showing of the Dark Knight last night.... I enjoyed it, but it sure seemed long. Just first blush, it seemed like this was going to be two movies with the Joker and Two Face but Heath Ledger's untimely death pushed it into one.The Joker forever alive on plasma and Ledger never to return.

Excellent and clever movie- I loved the play on words about the Dark Night/Knight and the twists.

But with every new movie I feel us drifting farther from the Judeo-Christian world view. Recently I heard someone state that our current trend is to make immorality seem cool and righteousness seem strange. The lines of good and evil are blurred in such a way the plot lines are hard to follow and impossible to predict.

Is this a conspiracy? NO- It is the natural flow of the human heart magnified by the Maestro of the world's system. Think of the emphases: No God- conspicuously uninvolved and absent. The ad campaign is "A World of No Rules"- a final rebellion versus the forms that grant us freedom.

The anti-heroes and illogical reliance on a "good" society? The atoning sacrifice of Two-Face and the final sacrifice of Batman to play evil, knowing it is good. Ultimate good corrupted or forced to play evil- it is a world gone mad. The scarred smile and twisted heart- a fantastically disturbing movie.

I gave my money to it- is this a vote for the message? No- it is a reluctant admission of where we are headed.

Can the Lord's light come crashing through the dark night? It is my last prayer of hope.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Hero of Mystery

In his book The Strong Name, Scottish nobleman James Stewart speaks of Christ with words that, like Jesus himself, reach out both powerfully and personally:

“He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of man, yet He spoke of coming on the clouds of Heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at His coming, yet He was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with Him and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed He would not break, His whole life was love, yet on one occasion He demanded of the Pharisees how they were expected to escape the damnation of Hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism He has all our sheer stark realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in His eyes. He saved others, yet at the last himself he did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.”

The Haunting Begins

Well..here we go.

I am beginning my 17th year as a football coach and my 5th as a head coach. Too many practices and games to count. A lot of wonderful memories and special people. Many heartaches. I'm ready to go.

This time of the year begins the haunting... it is my overactive brain. I pray that I will not wake up before a normal time, but this morning, like many between now and December, I had something stir me into consciousness and the clicking and flickers begin.

It could be a dog barking, or a pop, the AC turning on, my wive turning over, a kid's cough, or just a need to pee... but my eyelids open and I begrudgingly have to accept that my day has begun.

I wish I were spiritual enough to just lay there and fellowship with the Savior. I do try to include Him early in my thoughts... "Thank you Lord"..."HELP".. "I ask Him to bless and help in some of the prayer requests that bounce along in my mind.

But eventually, football takes over... I start to think over the millions of thoughts and concerns of a football team. I mentally rehearse speeches and play plays in my head. I think about personnel. I become well aware of all the dangers and pitfalls. I play best case scenarios in my head....they are fun. I prepare for worst case stuff... my heart starts pounding and I pray "HELP" again.

So here we go.... it is 4:13 AM as I type these words.

Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.

Lord- a new season- I need You to build our house.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


To End All Wars, the autobiographical account by Ernest Gordon, a British Army officer captured by the Japanese during World War II and assigned to the building of the Burma-Siam railway. Each day Gordon joined a work detail of prisoners to build a track bed through low-lying swampland. If a prisoner appeared to lag, a Japanese guard would beat him to death or decapitate him. Many more men simply dropped dead from exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease. Ultimately, 80,000 prisoners died.

“Death was everywhere. Men collapsed in their tracks, from thirst, exhaustion, disease, and starvation. But death did not work fast enough for the Japanese, so they tried to assist him in his grim harvesting, as they drove the work of the railway.” (67)

“Death called to us in every direction. It was in the air we breathed, the food we ate, the things we talked about…It was so easy to die. Those who decided that they had no futher reason for living pulled down the shades and quietly expired. (72)

“Cholera victims were not buried as were those who died daily; they were burned. On great blazing pyres were placed the remains of men who had once been husbands, sons, lovers, friends. While the flames crackled around them in shimmering heat, they would turn, kick, bend and reach, then rise in a macabre dance- their eerie dance of farewell” (73)

“As conditions steadily worsened, as starvation, exhaustion and disease too an ever increasing toll, the atmosphere in which we lived became poisoned by selfishness, hate and fear. We were slipping rapidly down the slope of degradation… The weak were trampled- the sick ignored. When a man lay dying we had no word of comfort for him. When we cried we averted our heads. Men cursed the Japanese, their neighbors, God. Cursing became such an obsession that they constructed whole sentences in which every word was a curse.

We had no church, no chaplain, no services. Many had prayed, but only for themselves. Nothing happened. They has appealed to God as an expedient. But God had apparently refused to be treated as one. We had long since resigned ourselves to be derelicts. We were the forsaken men- forsaken by our friends, our families, by our Government. Now even God seemed to have left us.

Gordon could feel himself gradually wasting away from a combination of beriberi, worms, malaria, dysentery, typhoid, and diphtheria. Paralyzed and unable to eat, he asked to be laid in the Death House.

The floor in the hut was a sea of mud. And there were the smells; the tropical ulcers eating into flesh and bone, overflowing latrines, unwashed men, sick men. Worst of all was the sweet, evil smell of bed-bugs by the million, crawling over us to steal the little fresh air that still clung to our bones. The swarming flies struck me as obsene.


This time death seemed so much more matter-of- fact. I was resisting the idea.
When? For me was NOT NOW.
ERNEST: Doctors are naturally pessimistic. They are wrong. I am not going to die.
REASON: In case you kick the bucket- leave your affairs as tidy as possible- write your parents what to do when you die. There is no escape.
ERNEST: Life has to be cherished. I’m not one to surrender. But what do I do about it.
THE VOICE OF FAITH: You could live. You could be. You could do. There’s a purpose to fulfill. You become more aware of it each day you endure. This is your task and your’s only
ERNEST: GOOD ENOUGH- I’ll get on it.


A Christian named Dusty appears in the Death House- talked, cared, comforted, washed, soothed, salved- “ I’ll clean out the pus”- fed- served- sacrificed- indomitable optimism- gets Ernest to a clean hut


“On occasions we marched into the countryside on labor details- we saw the difference in Christian natives, we saw the differences between the Christian way and the Oriental one.
Usually we were treated with indifference and contempt. Our plight meant nothing to the yellow –robed Buddhist priests. Why should it? They were on their way to salvation by non-attachment… there was no place for mercy in their philosophy.

But we once came to a village where we received a treatment so different it astonished us. There was mercy in their eyes. We were given cakes, eggs, bananas, medicine, and honey. Later we learned that this village had been converted to Christianity by missionaries. The Japanese found out about their friendly behavior and punished them severely for it.”


One event in particular shook the prisoners. A Japanese guard discovered that a shovel was missing. When no one confessed to the theft, he screamed, "All die! All die!" and raised his rifle to fire at the first man in the line. At that instant an enlisted man stepped forward and said, "I did it."

Enraged, the guard lifted his weapon high in the air and brought the rifle butt down on the soldier's skull, killing him. That evening, when tools were inventoried again, the work crew discovered a mistake had been made: No shovel was missing.

One of the prisoners remembered the verse, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Attitudes in the camp began to shift. With no prompting, prisoners began looking out for each other rather than themselves.

ERNEST: Why doesn’t God do something?
DUSTY: Maybe He does… maybe He does… but we just can’t see it right now. Maybe our vision isn’t so good right now. “for we see as in a glass darkly”. I suppose that eventually we will see and understand.

BEGINS TO HEAR THE BIBLE- Dusty reads John out loud.

“I lay back on my sleeping platform and let my mind dwell on these words. There was truth in them. Both Dusty and Dinty exemplified it.

For the first time I understood. Each man had a faith that lent a special grace to his personality. It was a power and presence greater than themselves. There was a life infinitely more complex and beautiful that I had ever imagined. True, there was hatred… but there was also love. There was death. But there was also life.
GOD HAD NOT LEFT US. HE WAS THERE WITH US- He was calling us to live the divine life in fellowship. I was beginning to be aware of the miracle that God was working in the Death Camp by the River Kwai.


ERNEST: I can’t possibly do that.
“Our men think you can do it. They know you are a fighting soldier and you’ve been to the university”
ERNEST: What good will it do?
“Perhaps we haven’t understood Christianity right in the past. We need to know if it’s absolute ‘dingo” or not.”

“I had to throw out the doctrinal expression that Christianity was only for nice people who had been brought up in nice homes and gone to nice schools where they had learned to do nice things. Heaven for this group was a kind of perpetual tea-party with thin cucumber sandwiches and smoky-tasting tea served in fine bone-china cups.”

At each successive meeting the numbers grew.

Through our readings in the gospels we gradually came to know Jesus. He was one of us. Like us, He had no place to lay His head, no ffod for His belly, no friends in high places. He too had known bone-weariness from too much toil; the suffering, the rejection, the disappointments that make up the fabric of life.

As we read and talked, he became flesh and blood. He was suspended on the cross and tormented with the hell of pain; but he had not been broken. He remained free and alive, as the Resurrection affirmed.

We experienced His love…passionate, other-centered…in fellowhip of freedom and love we found truth, and with truth a wonderful unity, of harmony and peace.


Organized service teams- they start to minister and improve conditions. Assign duties- visit sick- listen- encouraged- diligently did our daily charge-

The cross became central- God was not indifferent to suffering- He suffered so we could serve. No one knew the answer to the mystery- but we saw that much of suffering was caused by man’s inhumanity- selfishness- greed- some suffering was inexplicable- but we knew that God was not indifferent to pain.
We stopped complaining- we were not absent from pain, but faith allowed us to walk through it. Suffering was no longer locked up in our house of self-pity.

Laughter was heard in the camp- Worship services were started- A school was started- language and music was taught. Christmas came to camp.



We were beginning to understand that there were no easy ways for God- so there were no easy ways for us.

Carloads of Japanese wounded begin to pour in. The Japanese did not care a tinker’s damn for their own wounded. These men were in a shocking state. I have never seen men filthier. They were the enemy, more cowed and defeated than we had ever been.

Without a word most of our officers begin to help them.

An Allied officer screamed from another section in the train, “What bloody fools you are! Don’t you realize that those are the enemy?”

“Have you never heard the story of the man going from Jerusalem to Jericho?”

“That’s different- that’s in the Bible- these are swine!”

“We are called to the least of these whether we like it or not.”

It was time to let Jesus be my Savior and my LORD.

“As I journey with those of the Way I see the victory over the impersonal, destructive and enslaving forces at work in the world has been given to mankind because of what Jesus has done. This is good news! God, in Christ has shared his suffering. He has not shunned the responsibility of freedom. He shares in our saddest and most painful experiences. He comes into our Death House to lead us through it.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On Being Inspired to WIN

Ernest Shackleton is most noteworthy for leading the unsuccessful Trans-Antarctic Expedition, often known as the "Endurance Expedition", between 1914 and 1916. Although Shackleton failed to achieve his goal of crossing the Antarctic continent on foot, he demonstrated the qualities of leadership for which he is best remembered when the expedition ship Endurance became trapped in the ice and was destroyed. Shackleton, known by his contemporaries as "the Boss", led his men to refuge on Elephant Island before heading across 800 miles (1,300 km) of the Southern Ocean to South Georgia, in an open boat with five other men. Upon reaching the remote island, Shackleton and two others crossed severe, mountainous terrain to reach a whaling station, from which he was able eventually to rescue his men on Elephant Island. All the men on Endurance survived their ordeal after spending 22 months in the Antarctic.

In the book, “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing there is a lot of insight to what made ‘the Boss’ such an inspirational figure.

“ Shackleton was not an ordinary individual. He was a man who believed completely in his own invincibility and to whom defeat was a reflection of personal inadequacy. What might have been an act of reasonable caution to the average person was to Shackleton a detestable admission that failure was a possibility.

This indomitable self confidence of Shackleton took the form of optimism. This set men’s souls on fire as some said just to be in his presence was an experience. It was what made Shackleton so great a leader.

As a football coach- I will be having some open discussions on this will to win. Where does it come from? What gives a Tiger Woods or a Michael Jordan that competitive fire? How can it become more evident on a team?

Shackleton gives us a little insight into some of the seeds of this attitude:

1) Preparation and Experience
2) No thoughts of even the possibility of failure- no bailout
3) Willingness to rise above the ordinary
4) You take defeat personally

I will be including our coaches and players on this over the next several weeks. I have to give proper inspiration from Ernest Gordan and well as Ernest Shackleton.

Friday, July 04, 2008

MEDIAMANIA- Attitudes, Signs, and Self-fulfilling Prophecy

I just finished an incredible book entitled “Endurance- Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Albert Lansing. It is the true story of survival in Antarctica during the years of 1914 and 1915.

I will include in later blogs some of the great quotes from the book and a look at Shackleton’s undefeatable will- but I was struck this morning with a quote by one of the crew in his journal.

While the men were locked on an ice flo- they began to exhibit an unhealthy obsession with the wind reports. They were dependent on the wind to move their flo closer to land. If the wind went in one direction they were closer to freedom, if it changed, they were pressed hard to hold on to hope.

This obsession with the wind was labeled ‘amenomania’ – literally, ‘wind madness’- The crewman commented “ This disease may be exhibited in two forms: Either one morbidly anxious about the wind direction and gibbers continually about it, or else a sort of lunacy is produced by listening to the other amenomaniacs.

As I read this, I couldn’t help to think of our modern disease of ‘mediamania’ where we are constantly bombarded with 24 hour cable news about the state of the world and nation. Then talking heads waste hours gibbering about their worldviews and pre-suppositions.

The constant drumbeat of the messages has produced division and cynicism in our world today. Our extreme negative views are supported and encouraged in the news desire to sell the things that make us watch. We are disturbingly drawn to the tragedies and bloodbaths.

I’m getting closer to believing that we may need a media-fast to pull down this influential and destructive idol in our society.

Shackleton's Endurance

This must be the summer of survival stories:

I just finished my second book of summer break- 'Endurance, the Story of Shackleton's Adventure' .

Sir Ernest Shackleton's third polar expedition came in the wake of the tragic death, in the Antarctic, of Robert Falcon Scott, the famous English explorer, and as Europe was preparing for the First World War. With England having lost both poles to the Norwegians, Shackleton was determined to be the first to cross the Antarctic by foot and claim the last prize in polar exploration for Britain. A week after the war began, Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven seamen and scientists set sail on the Endurance, not to be heard from for nearly two years.

It was a particularly cold winter, and the pack ice of the Weddell Sea extended further north than anyone could remember. The Endurance began following leads to navigate through the pack ice, on route to its intended landfall. Just one day's sail from the Antarctic continent, temperatures plummeted and the ship became trapped. Frozen fast for ten months, the Endurance was about to be crushed by ice pressure, forcing Shackleton and his men to abandon ship.

After five months of camping on drifting ice floes, open water appeared, and the men sailed their three lifeboats through stormy seas to a rocky, uninhabited outcropping called Elephant Island. Knowing that his men would never survive on the desolate spot, Shackleton decided to attempt an incredible seventeen-day, 800-mile journey, in freezing hurricane conditions, to the nearest civilization - South Georgia Island. The James Caird lifeboat miraculously landed on the island, having achieved what is now considered one of the greatest boat journeys in history.

Once on land, Shackleton and two of his men trekked across the mountains of South Georgia, finally reaching the island's remote whaling stations where they organized a rescue team, and returned to save all of the men left behind on Elephant Island.

Shackleton's words, written after the expedition, express the enormity and the extremity of the adventure: "Not a life lost, and we have been through Hell."

In comparing Ernest Gordon's survival in the jungles of Thailand and Shackelton's survival in the antarctic region I see many similar themes:

The Will to Not Lose- In both stories, the men refused to lose. It was not allowed at al- thoughts of loss were forbidden.

The Value of Team- In both stories, the men worked as a beautiful team with toughness and good cheer in horrible circumstances.

Skill Needed- Hard Work Required- Great skill of talent was shown in both stories including navigation skill, ingenuity, resourcefulness.

A Base of Faith- The Bible and prayer seems to always show up!

I'm on the story of Stanley and Livingstone now!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Through The Editor's Eye to End All Wars

I just finished one of the most inspiring biographies I have ever read. I picked up Ernest Gordon's true story of his experiences as a POW in a Japanese Internment camp during the building of the death railway in Thailand during WWII. What a story! It is the same circumstances that spawned "Bridge Over the River Kwai".

Originally entitled "Miracle in the Valley Kwai", the book is now sold under the title, "To End All Wars". The book is a master piece- Ernest Gordan writes his story with a warm humility and honest truth that is stark and troublesome at the same time. He tells a journey from skepticism to faith and shows how the Christian faith overcame the most severe of human conditions.

I will have many more posts on the book in later blogs.... it is now time to address the movie. I had my doubts that hollywood could tell the story as it is written. I rented the 2001 release that included Keifer Sutherland and made under the title "To End All Wars".

Positives: the movie did attempt to keep the themes of redemption and forgiveness. It did weave a storyline of endurance of good over evil.- But in the attempt to globalize the message- it lost all the power.

The directors had to do a few things to make the film more politically correct.

First, they had to elevate the Japanese. In the documentary included with the DVD- the director explains that he had to show a more sensitive side to the Japanese and tell their side. He had to do it to secure top, authentic Japanese talent- it would have to be sold to Japanese audiences, and I am sure has Japanese financing in the structure.

They did this by inventing a soft, warm Japanese guard who speaks english and sympathizes with the POWS. The book did have a Columbia trained guard in it- but Gordon mentioned his utter hatred of them. Gordon had no warm fuzzy about the Japanese at all in the book. He saw their religion and worldview as false. He saw their tactics as barbarian. His hardest step of faith was to follow Christ down a path of forgiveness... which he did slowly- but make no mistake, the Japs were true enemies.

The movie shows a real life meeting with Gordon and a Japanese captor that happened on the site. The movie tries to point out that Gordon became a Presbyterian minister and the Japanese man became a hindu priest- like they found two sides of the same coin. I will point out later that Gordon saw an infinite abyss between Christ and the other religions. It was only the real Jesus who addressed the atrocities of human suffering. The real Christ, the one who hung on the cross and suffered was the only one who causes Ernest to forsake skepticism and make reason be ruled by his savior and Lord.

The movie removed this Jesus and replaced Him with Plato. Yes, there was a school started at the concentration camp- but only after the real Jesus was discovered. It was Jesus who was the reformer, not Plato. The education was a gift from the Lord- but it was not the Lord. There was a resurgence of service and the arts at the camp- but it was a result of worship of the Creator. The movie elevated deed over Creed, which is our biggest sliding point. We pervert the gospel of grace into a social service. The greatest testament to God's grace in the book was Christmas in the camp. Never mentioned in the movie.

Finally, America had to be pushed down in the movie. Keifer Sutherland's character, "Yanker", was never in the book. The first American we see is almost at the end and it is a paratrooper who confirms the end of the war.

Yanker is invented to show greedy American capitalism and bravado. He is the barter, the stealer. Yes, Yanker is converted... but only through suffering and humility. Do we have to play that message over and over. Is it so important to tell that we actually place a fictitious character in a movie based on facts?

So Hollywood took one of the best books I ever read on the reality of human suffering and the glory of the cross of Jesus Christ and.... cut Jesus out, lifted the Japanese up, bathed in a pool of multi-cultural feel good, took a nice slap at the Americans, paid lip service to redemptive themes- and patted themselves on the back for a job well done.

I am beginning to grieve more and more that we are being pulled away from any chance of truth and revival by the single eye of media world view. There is an editor- and his story is often not the truth. How can we get through? When the son of man returns... will He find faith on the earth?

“I See Through the Eyes, Not With Them.” William Blake

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Freedom and Fear

Well, I have been having to fight the fear factor lately. My oldest daughter is driving. She got her permit and has been on the road. On top of that, she just left this morning for a 10 day short term mission trip in Central America- her first time out of the country.

Whether I am next to her in the car or watching an airplane icon travel over the gulf of Mexico- the feeling is the same....HELPLESS.

All I can do is give her to the Father- she is His. When she was a tiny baby, I used to rock her to sleep and pray so hard as I held her 'Lord, put Your angels over her- please protect her' and that prayer has not changed in 15 years.

I just tremble a little more now as I say it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Subtle Sin

“Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”Isaiah 6

G.K. Beale does an excellent job in pointing out that 'sensory organ disorder' is the language that Scripture uses in reference to idolatry.

In all cases- we become what we idolize. In this case, the Israelites had become the same as their gods. Eyes that could not see- Ears that could not hear- Mouth's that could not speak- spiritually inanimate- a form of godliness with no power.

His phrase is "What we revere- we resemble- either to ruin or restoration."

I am guilty of idolatry. It is when I run to anything but the Lord Himself for comfort and security. I take good things and cling to them.
It leaves me powerless and prayer less.
My gods can be a simple as food and complex as my children. I use a smorgasboard of gods to numb the pain of living in a sin sick world.
When god becomes silent, I get angry at Him. But it is not His fault- it is the betrayal of my false idols.

Lord, help me smash my idols of this world. Teach me to be more aware of their consuming power. Let me stay empty and long for You. Let me long more for heaven.
Nothing in this world satisfies....... this is not a morbid statement- it is the reality that leads to true joy.

Friday, June 06, 2008

McCain and Ellen

John McCain appeared on Ellen’s show recently and had to answer questions regarding his opposition to Gay marriage. Whether it was a good decision to appear on the show will be left to the pundits. I wanted to comment on his answers- He really gave no reasons for his stance.

Part of the problem in this post-modern relativistic anti-absolute age is we just say “this is my belief” without compelling information for ‘why’ we believe this to be true.

As the debate continues about homosexual/lesbian issues- we must pray through and reason through (with Scripture as our guide) why we believe what we believe. It is the measure of truth itself that causes some arguments to stand while others fade away.

We must also be ready to attack the pre-suppositions and arguments of those belief systems that are contrary to the truth.

Ellen portrayed McCain’s view as an antiquated dogmatic and unenlightened. She respectfully compared her plight to those of who struggled through women’s suffrage and discrimination. She sees homosexual rights as equal to the civil rights battles of the 60’s.

As Christian’s we applaud the removal of slavery, racism, and sexism. Scripture approves of those who stood on the truth and prevailed. However, no sincere reading of God’s Word gives any allowance for a lifestyle that is characterized as perverse, not progressive.

One question for society is always where to draw the line? My question for Ellen would be what type of behavior is legitimate and what behavior is not? If we are in a civil rights type of battle for sexual preference- what type of sexual preference is taboo? Sex with animals? Sex with children?

There are a number of good reasons for supporting the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman- the number 1 reason is for the stability of our culture.

When you allow rights based on behavior and not birthright, you open up tremendous problems for society. To categorize or legitimize someone based on sexual preference presents several ethical dilemmas.

One Christian social commentator defined “worldly” as any culture’s attempt to make sin seem normal and righteousness seem strange.

I know this view is seen as mean and archaic…outdated. But I must say, in love, that there is no way I can compromise on this issue.

If I did have that ability- I often wonder- If I said, I will accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle IF the gay community would make a commitment to monogamy, I doubt I would get any takers.

Ellen has such a warm personality- but the message for her is the same for all of us. Without the covering of Christ- there is a terrible judgment coming. The time for repentance is now.

Homosexuality is a sin as is adultery and covetousness is a sin. But we have lost the fact that God hates sin. The best proof of this is the cross of Christ.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Value of a Mother

Who can count the value of motherhood? What an impossible task!
During this time of celebration we want to do two things:
1) Try to communicate our gratitude…. Impossible!
2) Try to support moms in the promised pain of Genesis 3:16

To all the moms out there I say, “You do not have to be super mom. It is still the work of the Lord. The Proverbs 31 woman is a checklist like I Corinthians 13 on “love”. Trust God to see you through day by day. Ultimately, He blesses through the circumstances of your life and you will be blessed by leaning on Him.

I hold up as an example Sarah Edwards, the unknown, beloved wife of famous theologian and pastor, Jonathan.

Sarah had a hard life. Much of it is recounted in a wonderful book entitled “Marriage to a Difficult Man- The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards”, written by Elisabeth D. Dodds.

The mother of 11 children, Sarah had the typical puritan wife’s role of hard work at home and support of a husband who spent a lot of his energy to ministry (I’m not condoning that, by the way. I need to be a great helper to my wife and children).

In the book, there is a reference to a study done by A.E. Winship comparing a family named ‘Jukes” and the Edwards family. The ‘Jukes’ (anonymously named to protect the family) were a notorious band of renegades who cost the state of New York 1.2 million dollars in welfare and custodial charges. They all originated from one immigrant who settled in that area in 1720 and produced a ‘tribe of idleness, ignorance, and vulgarity”.
Only 20 of the 1200 Jukes had ever had gainful employment!

Compare that to the legacy of Sarah Edwards. Her humble reliance on God allowed her to be a vessel of greatness to God’s kingdom. Of the 1400 Edwards linked to Sarah, the family produced:
13 college presidents
65 professors
100 lawyers (including a dean of an outstanding law school)
30 judges
66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
80 holders of public office including,
3 US senators
Mayors of 3 large cities
3 state governors
a vice president of the US
a controller of the US treasury.
Along with 135 authors and hundreds of missionaries!

Mr. Winship commented: “Much of the capacity and talent, intensity and character, of more than 1400 of the Edward’s family is due to Mrs. Edwards.”
My prayer is that our moms will see the fruit of this hard, frustrating, and beautiful labor of love!
Bless you!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

John Calvin On Enjoying Life and Enjoying God

“Scripture gives us plenty of teaching about proper use of earthly blessings and as we plan our lives, we must not ignore it. If we are to live at all, of course we need certain essential supports. But we should not exclude many things which seem to have more to do with pleasure than necessity. We must find a happy medium, so that we use everything in the right way, with a clear conscience.

(The Lord says)… that this life is a kind of pilgrimage through which we press on to the heavenly kingdom. If we are only passing through we must, of course, use temporal blessings only as they assist our progress and do not hinder us.

This world is a slippery place and there is real danger of falling, so let us set our feet where we can stand securely.

There are some good and holy men who when they saw constant overindulgence wanted to curb and correct it, but thought there was no other way than to allow men only the bare necessities. This is godly advice but unnecessarily severe, because it binds our consciences in closer fetters than they are bound by God’s Word.

Necessity, according to them, meant abstinence from anything desirable, so that bread and water was the rule.

At the opposite extreme, many today look for an excuse for excessive self-indulgence in the use of material things. They take for granted their liberty must not be restrained in any way, but that it should be left to every man’s conscience to do whatever he thinks is right.

I agree that conscience should not be bound by rigid laws, but because Scripture has laid down general principles for the use of material possessions, we should keep within the limits laid down.”
John Calvin
From “the Institutes of Christian Religion”
Book 3 Ch 10
How to Use the Present Life and Its Comforts

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Obama Should Say

I am a Christian first. This means that I willingly submit to the governing authorities (Rom 13) but I do not believe that the government can solve most human misery. The church is God's instrument for serving man's misery . The welfare state is a drain and massive bureaucracy is a burden.

I have voted republican all of my adult life. My decision to side with conservatives is that they presume to be for smaller government and traditionally have stood for values that confirm my world view.

The republicans have not followed the Reagan formula, in my opinion, and have not fulfilled my desires for what government should be.

All of this is a lead in to what I believe Barak Obama should say in regards to the Wright controversy. If he said this, and meant it- I might be persuaded to support him.

He won't say this- but it was fun typing it!

My Fellow Americans,

I’m standing before you today as I have throughout my campaign for President wanting to serve this country and lead.

My faith has been a foundational part of this quest and strengthens me even now. I know that I am in the exact place where God wants me. I wish the process were easy, but I also know that an easy process would not be a proper preparation for the office.

I addressed the nation some weeks back in an effort to make sense of the controversy surrounding my former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He calls me a member and a politician and I call him a mentor and friend.

My relationship with Christ compels me to bear with others and forgive. The message of the gospel is one of universal flaw and individual responsibility. The gospel message is Christ’s atonement that covers man’s sin. Christ himself spoke of the potential divisive applications of his message. A holy God and flawed men creates constant dilemmas. This current dilemma regarding my pastor actually foreshadows the dilemma of being the highest executive officer of a pluralistic and free nation.

I am a Christian, and yet I will lead the hopes and dreams of people of many faiths. I am an African American, but will have to make decisions with no regard to color. The political lobbyists will hope to assume their usual roles in drafting the game plan for their President for what they want him to be. I am under no compulsion from any special group.

When Rev. Wright’s statements first hit the media, I realized the difficulty of the position I was in. To distance myself outright would appear disloyal and political, the very ideals I want my presidency to escape. It also puts my relationship with the black community in jeopardy because Rev. Wright couches his views behind the curtain of the black church.
I used the last situation with Rev. Wright to make a commentary on the complex issues of race in our country today.

I recently reviewed what I have said in my response to my former pastor. The words I spoke were true and filled with a desire to bring healing to our land.

Then I heard Rev. Wright’s answers to the media yesterday and I am appalled. I held out an olive branch, and he stripped off the leaves and used it as a switch to brow beat the American people.

I now am fully convinced that part of my Presidency should be to bring an end of this race baiting- not from the white community, but, sadly, from the black community.

I now openly condemn the bitterness of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and many others who see America in the lens of hatred. I believe firmly in their right to proclaim their views, but I boldly accept my responsibility to condemn it. In this country we treat addictive behavior, but we have an equal problem with cynical hearts.

America is not a terrorist nation. America did not invent the aids virus to use against the poor. Any person who espouses some of these ridiculous conspiracies, including the self-demolition of the World Trade Center, should be silenced by objective evidence and civilized discourse.

It is my faith that had me bear with Rev. Wright. It is that same faith today that has me denounce his venomous, non-biblical message. I want to be a human being who spares coat and service to those in need. However, I have erred. My mistake was walking miles too long with a man who I love for pointing me to Christ. This man has now pushed Christ out of the spotlight and is enjoying it all to himself.

I want to lead this nation past the debate of race. Dr King’s dream of’ judging the content of the character’ instead of the color of the skin needs to be seen in my desire to lead.
I ask your forgiveness in waiting too long to carry the mantle well and, as President, I will make sure it is a mantle for all Americans.