Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It Begins.....

Yes- it is 4:12 AM.
Up thinking about a new campaign of high school football.
My 18th year as a coach and my 6th as a head coach.

No clue as how it will go.

I honestly believe though, that this is my shape. It is what my Father wants me to do.

Starting Monday, there will be at least 14 consecutive weeks of planning, practice, evaluations, adjustments, and competition. If it goes really well, it might go 5 more after that.

It is impossible to describe the ride. I have included a little journal I kept one week in a recent season that represents the inner life... what is spinning in my brain.

I get real quiet when I am away from the team during these times... but inside, my brain is in overdrive.

If you think about it, please pray for all football coaches everywhere... the madness is about to begin.

A Journal....

I wanted this AM to record what seems to be the annual recurring haunting of my mind during football season.

I think about football almost every day…year round. It’s hard not to, my life is shaped like a football. I developed an early passion for it, I have a lifetime of memories, both good and bad within my football life.

I have been coaching since 1991 and the inner experience has been almost identical each year. I spend an enormous amount of inner energy rehearsing the game in my mind. I rehearse plays, formations, motions, scenarios, injuries, per game talks, post game talks, play parent conversations, pray, anxious thoughts.

My wife points out every season how quiet I am. Inside, though, it is a screaming madness. I love my family and friends, but during the rigors of a week to week football schedule, they seem to me like I am underwater and they are on the surface calling out to me.

I wish for my brain to turn off sometimes. I find that flipping channels on TV gives me some relief. Eating gives me relief too, but it is not good for my weight or health.

About 2 weeks into the season, I get flickers in my eyelids. It is like the film I watch burns a shadow image on my eyelids. I close my eyes and still see the faint outlines of plays, wide angle, in motion.

My week starts on a Friday night- it is after the game and I am about to watch the film of the event that I have worked for all week. After a win, it is the most satisfying feeling in all the world. When we lose, I am anxious to see all the breakdowns.

I am so keyed up on a Friday night that I will usually not get to sleep before 2 AM. I lay in bed and the rehearsal goes on and on. I see it over and over. I hear it. And I start thinking about adjustments for the next game. What about our depth? Who will center if ______- gets hurt? ______ looked sad after the game. I hate that _____is hurt.

Saturday morning I am up early, I am anxious to read about our game and all the other games. I usually swap film with the next week’s team. College football only fuels my mind. I constantly look at what the innovators are doing. I like that blocking scheme for dart.

There are other things to be done, Grass cutting, kid’s activities, social appointments, girls soccer, occasional youth football game I need to attend… Saturday night, I am in meltdown. I yearn for my bed with an enormous longing. I usually crash hard, unless the game that night is really good.

Sunday morning, I actually think about the Lord… Church today, and I am excited, Worship is a release. I do catch myself thinking football plays during lulls in the service, but I am usually caught up in the reality of my sin and the grandeur of God. I thank Him over and over.

I love teaching Sunday School during football season, it forces me to keep in the Word and prayer. It is an accountability measure. I love the fellowship. When we win, I get a lot of fun conversations. When we lose, I get some encouragement- but I am also surprised how some people run from me. Maybe it is awkward for them?… not sure.

Sunday afternoon, my freest day! A nap is welcomed! I feel human again. My family is not separated by water! I eat and rest. Football is on, but the pro game does not interest my imagination- I am a passive fan. I do love the Titans, because I love Jeff Fisher and Mike Reinfeldt!

Sunday night, let me forget football…but if it is a big game, forget it. The bigger the game, the faster the haunting begins. I just hope for sleep.

Monday morning- swamped with anxiousness. I work in a frenzy- I have to get the game plan started. I have to watch the opponent. I have to draft the practice schedules. Travel? Weather? Injuries? Back-up plans? School week- and yes, I am expected to do very well as a classroom teacher....

Monday afternoon/evening:- team meeting- recap of Friday- Good/bad/ugly- watch film- teach-teach-teach- lift weights-introduced the new opponent- conditioning- kicking game- 7 on 7. Coaches meetings- go over each player- how are we doing? What are challenges? What are tweaks? How do we size up the opponent? Phone calls. A parent is not happy with me and another is thrilled.
I wrap the day up between 7 and 8PM. All the way home, my mind is scheming. I play scenarios over and over. How do they see us? What will they be thinking? What might be their plans? What do we need to rep? Monday night football helps- Bill O’Reily is an excellent distraction. He is provocative and it shuts off my brain. I close my eyes. The flicker is there. I pray. I feel so sorry for my wife, she needs more of me. But I am possessed. Lord, keep it together until the season is over. Help me take advantage of breaks and opportunities. I love my wife and children more than football. It is hard to prove that right now.

Tuesday morning- I got about 7 hours sleep unless it is a big game. If it is a big game, when I wake up- I am up. I hope is is 5:45, but sometimes it is 4:30 or 4 or sadly, sometimes 3:30. I toss and turn, pray, think, and get up.

Last time to really get opponent down- I watch the film again- who are their danger guys? Where are the weaknesses? What are the tendencies? Do they see them? How does the match ups work?

Tuesday Afternoon- BIG DAY/WORK DAY- Meetings and weights- install the plan- teach/teach/teach- Are we focused? Full pads- long, hard practice…tempo tempo- Lord, please keep us healthy-
6:30- practice ends. Usually I feel really good or bad right now. Good practice is a must! It is darker now- we are all tired. I love the laughter in the locker room- great spirit! Coaches laughing- such a great time! Thank you lord!

Tuesday night- I re-engage with the kids- so good to see them! How was the day (and I usually mean 2 days)- I look at my wife- thank you Lord for such a good woman. No words can relate the love I have for my wife of 21 years- see just can’t see it much during the haunting.

Wednesday morning- Deadlines- Scouting report finished- SS finished- playcards have to be finished, printed, laminated, distributed, I spend most of Wednesday on School and Sunday School- grading- recording- planning-

Wednesday afternoon- shorter practice- rehearsal- last reps- sometimes we review Tuesday practice tape- last weightlifting day- usually a fun practice- over at 6PM- church dinner- assistant coaches start painting the game field.

Wednesday night- I start calling the game in my head- 1st and 10- 2nd and long- 2nd and short- good runs- good passes- 1st play- kickoff or receive?- I study the weather map and forecast- big games I start to get nervous- my stomach feels queasy-

Thursday morning- I’m pumped- it’s Thursday! Thursdays are good. I rehearse the game plan. I’m getting a mental rhythm. Time to call next week’s coach and arrange a film swap. I will sometimes take a sneak peek at the next opponent.

Thursday afternoon- quick meeting- walk thru- team devotion- get them out of here ASAP- feel good- Hay’s in the barn.

Thursday evening- I like a good college game or middle school game. Hopefully I will sleep. I work hard to have no caffeine after lunch. Good family time- End of the week is here. If I lay down and fall asleep quickly- YEAH!- If I start playing the game mentally, it may be a long night. Please don’t wake up before 5:00.

Friday morning- I’m juiced! No tie day- YES!- Quick look at weather and our equipment. Were headsets plugged in? Mom’s prayer group list…DONE! Thank you for those prayers! Good to see our team in ties- I don’t feel badly at all to be in a golf shirt- LUNCH WITH BOOSTERS- fun,light- have to hurry back to class-

3:00 Coaches devotion- the most spiritually intense hour of my week. We lay it out to the Lord- a great time of fellowship- I love my coaches!

4:30 Players arrive- food arrives- I don’t want to eat, but if it is good- I do- I usually feel heavy pressure and adrenaline- I pray- I pee a hundred times from 3-7- I sometimes feel sick- The first few games I feel out of breath because I am not used to the adrenaline. Later in the year, I handle it better- pre game- I look at the other team- they look a lot better in person- I watch my team- are we focused? Smooth?

Meet with officials- I give them captains- I give them information and go through my checklist- and study their faces- is this crew going to be good to us? For some strange reason, I never feel nervous after the official’s meeting- I guess I’m fully now in the combat zone.

The locker room before the game is cool. I always pray very earnestly, Lord I can’t do this without you.

We go out and the game is always a blur. It is never predictable. Highs and lows and a roller coaster of emotional shifts in momentum. I have gotten a lot better about thinking well during the game and cutting mental mistakes down.

Nothing is more thrilling than a big win. It is the ultimate coming together of plan, work, brotherhood, and fight! Nothing wounds more than a heartbreaking loss.

After the game, I go around and hug a lot. I love seeing our players and fans happy. I see my wife and girls. They soothe me well in the losses. Thank you for being here!

And the film turns on. More flickers are burned.

When the season is over, my body totally shuts down and I get sick for about three days. A few days after that the flicker is gone and the madness is over…until next season.

Is this serving the Lord or a convenient distraction?
Am I sacrificing my family for my obsession?
Have I misplaced priorities?
Can someone help me?
Am I just a typical idolater?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Important Book- DKG

Just finished a three week study of John Frame's book, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.
1987- P&R Publishing

It may be the most important theology book I have ever read.

I want to say first of all, how impressed I am with John Frame. He deserves to be ranked up there with the greatest of the great. He reminds me of Calvin in that you admire his humble heart more than his intellect. This is a man who loves and bears with people to the glory of God.

Secondly, though- I would love to see John Frame debate the so called anti-christian experts of today. Oh my goodness... it would be a slaughter! I imagine Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Christopher Hitchens coming out totally exposed in their psuedo-scientific rants and circular prejudices.

My favorite part of John Frame, however, is his ability to evaluate both christian and non-christian pre-suppositions in a fair light. The man is a genius in the application of philosophy and world-view. At the same time, though, he writes in a way to be understood.

Frame is not seeking to subdue the reader with his intellect- his goal is persuasion and change - and it shows.

I would give anything to see a generation of young people fall in love with thinking, articulation, reading, and persuasive defense of the faith and, more than defense,- a targeted offensive against the fruitless shield of post-modern speculation in which men continue to hide from a Holy God.

We need a new outpouring of God's Spirit- yes- but I get worried that we have missed the boat in Christian education as well. We build our structures on the cracked foundations of the enlightenment and continue to spin into philosophies of learning that add a lot of red tape and weary warriors.

I call on all christian educators to spend a few weeks in this book and see if your view of education is impacted.

I ask that we read it and ask ourselves honest questions regarding where we are letting the next generation down.

My last point... this book explains what my growing frustration has been with education in general these last 20 years. Not that we aren't doing good stuff... I just hate 'good' when 'great' is still in our grasp!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

7 Lbs is Too Heavy a Load for a Man- Re-post

'this is an upload from my blog'

With the DVD out in mass right now, I wanted to re-visit my thoughts on the Will Smith movie.
The original post was 12/30/08

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

Stayed awake...

Came home thinking about penance, 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. God can bear the weight of tragedy. We do make mistakes, but He allows them. And He controls them. He can even make our mistakes work for good (Rom 8:28)

Though we are forgiven, we still 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 penance. 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.

And self-murder is never an answer...... a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

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 unnecessary 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...

Clever movie- it had post-modern multiple layers of 7 pounds. And the number 7 is a very significant Biblical number. I also think of Shylock and the 'pound of flesh'.

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

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

30th and Final Post on Romans

Thanks for putting up with my 'Run Through Romans'. This is in prep for a new class I will be teaching THIS FALL (thought it was going to be Spring) at CPA called Romans and Revelations. We will spend 9 weeks in the Book of Romans and 9 weeks in the Book of Revelation. The students will be reading, discussing, charting, reading commentaries, and even have some intro to New Testament Greek.

Both books have been part of about a 3 year study. I have 35 lessons on Revelation that will soon be a part of our church's website and hope to eventually provide the same for Romans.

I would love prayer as I seek to honor God in the teaching of His word at our school. The last 5 years have been amazing... the spiritual warfare involved in being an everyday Bible teacher at a Christian school is like nothing else I have ever encountered. It is a full frontal assault on both student and teacher. Please pray for me if you ever think about it.

In Romans 1-8 Paul presents the glorious picture and explanation of the good news of Christ. There is a righteousness that comes from God that swallows up our sin. This was accomplished by Christ and is received as a gift through faith. It is from Him, by Him, and through Him that we can find freedom and peace with God.

In Romans 9-11, Paul gives us his personal presentation- I almost see this as his sermons in the synagogues of Asia.

Finally, in Chapters 12-16- he presents a 'To Do' list that encompasses how Jewish and Gentile believers ought to be unified in their service and love in the church. These things are not to make us righteous, these things are in response to the gospel and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I listed these "To Do's" in the following way.

1) Lower your view of yourself...true Biblical humility. I no longer have to compare and compete. I am who I am because God knows me, made me, chose me, and loves me. I do not feel shame or condemnation. I am free! I see my strengths and my weaknesses.. it is who I am. True humility is not throwing aspersions at yourself.. it is not thinking less of yourself... it is thinking of yourself less. I can get out of my little self and start living.

2) Find my shape and use my gift. God made you good at something.. find it and use it for Him. The happiest people in the world are those who act in accordance with their heart desires to serve others to God's glory not worrying about what others think.

3) Love... I didn't cover this in full- but I Corinthians 13 is the checklist here. This is huge and one that I am still an infant in. But this includes enemies...Please pray that my love will not grow cold.

4) Submit... yuck. We think only kids and teens are rebellious. Hah! When an authority tells you to do something that you don't want to do... how do you feel? What do you do?

5) Live soberly and simply, in expectancy of Christ's return. Be moderate and careful... BTW- Today could be judgment day for us individually. We have to always be ready to meet our Maker.

6) Learn to choose in light of the 'weaker brother'- don't flaunt freedoms. I may come back to this down the road. This is huge... especially in the 'Christ-haunted' south.

7) Choose peace over criticism and condemnation. Seek unity with other believers.

8) Proclaim the gospel to all in word and deed. This was the sum of Paul's life.

9) Live joyous lives... have fun... embrace your circumstances and dance.

10) All of this together is........ WORSHIP

I can't say enough what this journey has been like. If you have never done it, I encourage you to go deep with a book in the Bible sometime. Read it several times. Pray. Begin reading good commentaries, articles, and listening to sermons on that Book.There are more good (and bad) resources on the web that ever before in history. Remember that I recommend the info at Chart it and start taking notes. Then start at the beginning and begin applying it to your life.

When you finish- you will be amazed at the growth. God's Word is that good!

As you may know football is fast approaching- between teaching and coaching my life gets super crazy. I will post as time allows, but today I am already going to start on our 7 on 7 playbook for July. Will see you down the road... Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, July 06, 2009

"Yes Sir" is Hard- A Romans 'To Do' List

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

I don't know of any more difficult 'to do' than submission to authority. The older I get, the harder it is.

I also believe that 90% of our fragmentation and lack of unity comes from this very principle.

The principle of submission is a very interesting study. I think I could write an entire book about it and this blog will not do it justice at all.

The basic premise is this: God is the sovereign King. I owe my allegiance to Him.He is in charge of my circumstances and has put His ordained authority over me. My duty is to obey, even if I don't feel like it or agree with it. In fact, I am to obey it in such a way as to make the decision successful. I serve those in authority like I am serving the Lord.

And my grade for this principle: D- at best.

There was a time I was a little better at this- and then I became head of a household and a head coach- so I love to lead, but really hate to follow. But I also know how crucial it is in my leadership positions to have loyal followers.

A couple of stories:

I was a youth pastor 'in charge' of a trip to Colorado. It was MY trip. We had done it a few times and it was successful. Our staff wanted to do a few different things and one activity in particular was, in my opinion, just dumb. They vetoed me and went with the idea anyway. My attitude went from bad to worse as I wanted the activity to fail. I wanted to be right, more than have the event succeed. So I offered no help, even when I saw a flaw in the materials and organization of this activity.

As expected, the scheme went south and we ended up with a lot of hurt feelings. I sat with my arms crossed, halfway between gloating and the worse case of 'I told you so' I had ever had. But there were tears and frustrations- and it soon was being directed at me. And it suddenly dawned on me- I was a huge part of this failure. My selfishness caused a lot of problems. I could have helped it be better, maybe even a success- but I let my team down. Fortunately, we all forgave each other and moved on.

I was even worse towards my bosses in my early days. If my boss agreed with me, I was his best friend. But if they ever went against me, they all were morons!

Are you beginning to see the drift?

A big change in that happened as I became an assistant football coach. God began to show me that it is better to submit and work to make it work. Even if I did not agree with the decision, my responsibility became to submit and obey with a great attitude.

One time our head coach made a personnel change that all the assistants hated. We thought he was doing something very foolish. But God allowed me to work hard to make his wishes work. I took a great attitude into that situation. And that player helped us win a championship. I helped make his decision work- our head coach looked like a genius- and who cared? He was right! We won!

That one change allowed me to become one heck of an assistant football coach.

But past success does not mean future success. My default pattern is to push back and complain.

I have had, within this past year, to work on this again and have had some small victories.
This principle also involves serving, loving, and lifting up those in authority over us. Have you been nice to your boss lately? Try it- it is not sucking up- it is obeying the Lord.

By the way, this does not make me a big pile of spineless jelly.

During the decision time I fight hard for what I believe in, but if the decision goes against me- I submit according to Romans 13.

But think of all the areas this means: Driving the speed limit, fulfilling all my job duties, paying attention to God's Law- even in minor things. It means supporting our nation when the government seems to be going in a wrong direction.

Two last balancing points:
Is there a time to disobey? The answer is 'yes'- but it must be done very soberly, with counsel and prayer. The disobedience should be done 'out in the open' with explanation. And, I must be willing to accept the consequences of disobedience.

And finally, the Trinity is a picture of mutual submission. The Father/Son/ and Holy Spirit all mutually give way when the other's role become prominent. It creates that bond of unity and love.

My prayer is that we would all become less abrasive, less critical, less negative and willingly submit. Build up our leaders and pray for them.

When it is time to vote- vote. When it is time to debate- debate. But when the decisions are final- see them straight from the Lord and yield. May we become great followers to our rulers in both church and state. This pleases the Lord!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Practicing Patterns in Romans- YOUR SHAPE

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

I am in the beginning stages of applying Romans 12-16- Today is #2:

2) Find my shape and use my gift. God made you good at something.. find it and use it for Him. I will talk later about this. But the happiest people in the world are those who act in accordance with their heart desires to serve others to God's glory not worrying about what others think.

I wish who I knew who to give credit to for this acronym of "S.H.A.P.E." but it is a neat idea.

We all have a shape and it is a make-up of several things:
S- Spiritual gifts
H- Heart Desires
A- Aptitude (or ability, skill)
P- Personality
E- Experiences (especially early life experiences)

These things are our shape. It is how we are wired.

My shape happens to look like a football.

But, the bottom line is this- we all have a unique pattern, it is God given, and we need to seek out the Lord in having our shape fit into His puzzle, for His kingdom, and for His glory.

As someone who has been blessed enough to know God and know myself- I can now unreservedly push my direction into what I have been called to do. I need to let the 'pressure' come from Him. Again, not squeezed by the world, but transformed by the renewing of my mind. This is the fruit of the gospel and it leads to a beautiful life. Not easy... not without disappointments and failures, not without the need for mercy, not without the dependency on the Spirit.... but true joyous freedom in Christ.

Discover your shape (it takes some time) and start utilizing it today!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Heart of Humility: Free to Be Me- A Romans “To Do” List

This is part of an 'unpacking' of Romans 12-16. I listed 10 things to practice in response to the glorious information in Romans 1-11. In light of God's mercies, Paul paints a picture of our response. Today is humility.

1) Lower your view of yourself... I no longer have to compare and compete. I am who I am because God knows me, made me, chose me, and loves me. I do not feel shame or condemnation. I am free! I see my strengths and my weaknesses.. it is who I am. True humility is not throwing aspersions at yourself.. it is not thinking less of yourself... it is thinking of yourself less. I can get out of my little self and start living.

Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

“Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”
(I Peter 5:5,6 NKJ italics mine)

Under the umbrella of Christian love is the pursuit of Biblical humility. It is a commitment to submit to God, and in doing so, eliminates self-promotion or selfish ambition. This attitude of humility lays a beautiful foundation for developing and fostering relationships that the world indeed marvels. A humble person is approachable, calm in stressful situations, and contributes to a positive environment.
Humility cuts across the very core of sinful human nature- pride. A proud person is hard to love and is incapable of loving anyone other than self. Biblical history is full of God’s wrath against man’s pride. We see it dealt with in individuals and nations. Pride promotes factions and dissentions along with it fueling bitterness and isolation.
What are some of the benefits of humility when modeled by followers of Christ? First, humility generates a spirit of unity and cooperation. Truly humble people seek a common good that exists outside of personal desires. When people care more about improving a situation than whether their personal agendas are being met, it creates a great sense of community and cooperation. People are more willing to volunteer and sacrifice when the Spirit has given them a heart of humility. I have observed in our school a teacher who always checks to see if our detention hall has a teacher there to monitor it. Occasionally, one of our faculty members forgets that it is their turn to monitor this hour before school. I have seen this teacher fulfill the duty willingly and never mention to the other teacher that they did this for them. Only a heart of humility allows for such a service to be made without strife or dissention. When Christians seek Biblical humility, there is enormous unity within the entire body.
Secondly, Biblical humility promotes honesty in communication. Truly humble people speak the truth in love, and listen to truth in love. When receiving admonition, a humble person remains patient and demonstrates great forbearance. I know of a faculty member who was confronted by an explosive parent. I watched with admiration as this teacher accepted the criticism in sincerity and love. This gentle spirit turned the wrath of this parent in a useful discourse of the situation. By the end of ten minutes, it was the parent who was apologizing for having incorrect information and an ungodly attitude. In the same way, humble people can show great courage to speak truth when it may not be politically expedient to do so. A humble person is not afraid of men, but has a quiet confidence in the protection of the Lord. A humble person will say what he feels is the truth, and suffer consequences in doing so. These types of people eliminate political environments that so easily enslave us.
Thirdly, Biblical humility provides a framework for forgiveness and understanding. I think this is the winning edge among Christian relationships. All successful, long term relationships depend on an understanding of Biblical forgiveness. We forgive because Christ has forgiven us. I know of a teacher who practiced Biblical forgiveness toward a man who murdered his brother, and another faculty member experienced the peace and victory of forgiving someone who killed her father. These are extreme circumstances, only accomplished by a supernatural outpouring of God’s spirit. They serve, however, as a model for us to forgive when wronged.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32)
If Christian communities practice this kind of forgiveness, supported by a heart of humility, they will see dramatic impact on the atmosphere of any church, school, or nation. This humility also allows us to understand a situation with great love and compassion.

False Humility

Part of the problem in developing a heart of humility is the deception of the flesh. The Bible warns believers to search out and eliminate false humility, which is an appearance of spirituality, but with no true inward power. Ironically, these people actually take pride in their humble appearance.

“ Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels…These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col. 2:18,23)

Biblical humility is not self-deprecation, the so-called “aw-shucks” false humility that resonates so emptily in relationships. You know that person. He is the one who can never take a compliment and always understates an achievement or accomplishment. “Aw shucks, I am so poor and lowly, and I am absolutely worthless.”
I think the Biblical model of humility is selfless. It seeks to build God and others up, but not bring yourself or your institution down. True humility is not afraid of proper, Biblical boasting. Biblical boasting is an active desire to point out the Excellencies of the Father. It is a decision to give up a right or entitlement for the glory of God and service of others. “Thank-you for that compliment, but I couldn’t do it without the Lord, isn’t He great!” or “I am so thankful to be the teacher of the year, this award deserves to be shared with all my fellow colleagues. They give me inspiration daily to pursue excellence, as unto the Lord.”
A telling sign of false humility is how one responds to questions of concern or criticism. A truly humble person is not reactionary, but patient and loving in conflict. A person of false humility cannot keep a gentle spirit in these circumstances. A person of false humility is generally negative, and leads complaints or dissentions. A person filled with false humility does not have very many deep or loving relationships.

The Great Model of Humility

Our model of course is Jesus. The glorious passage in Philippians Chapter 2 teaches us that Christ willingly let go of His rights for us. A test for this humility is found only in by searching the inner man. How do you feel when a fellow teacher gets a reward or a break? How quickly do you defend a colleague if a student or a parent is criticizing him? How often do you get upset if it seems that you are not being noticed or you have to give up a privilege? How quickly do you volunteer to help a need, knowing it may cost you some time and effort? May the Lord grant to all of us through His spirit the attitude of submission and humble service to the Lord. If we do that, we are promised His blessings and grace. He will honor the effort “in due time”.
Today, make a commitment to build others up and worry less about yourself. Ask the Lord for a heart full of true, Biblical humility. The only one that will notice is your Savior, but, in reality, He is the only one who needs to know.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Practicing Patterns- Romans 12

In Romans 12 - after recognition of our sin and shortcomings, the futility of moral righteousness, the gospel, conversion, and the gift of God's spirit - we see an amazing verse. It is a strong imperative.

2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When a Christian is converted, there is an abrupt invasion of God's spirit into his spirit. It is many times a 'rude awakening'... a realization 'what am I doing?', 'where am I going?'.

It also presents a line of demarcation- which kingdom are you going to declare?

If US citizens have a child in another country, that child actually has dual citizenship until he is 18 years old. At 18, there has to be a declaration about his citizenship. This is a similar picture here, we are citizens in heaven but live on the earth. At some point there has to a declaration.... What is your home? Who is your king?

Now the Spirit helps to make it real clear... there is only one good choice. It isn't easy. It many times means sacrifice.God's people have a history of being pushed down, ignored, counted out, passed over, persecuted, mocked and ridiculed. The fact that I live in the US has been a great blessing because of the free environment and large number of common believers. But I feel the air changing... ever so slightly.

The key now is to use a renewed mind to produce new choices that reflect my actual citizenship.

The moment by moment choices I make everyday are creating patterns in my life. The patterns are producing my character. My brother Jerry Harwood loved to quote his coach, "Practice does not produce perfection... practice makes permanent."

I'd like to show you the world's pattern from a Biblical perspective. This is where the pressure is on... to squeeze us into a certain mold. But this pattern is seen as far as its fruit is concerned. Read what Paul says is II Tim. 3.

3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

When I get in front of my players or my students, I want them to see this as the people they do not want to be. Because of sin, though, this is our default mode.

It's in me. I love self.. I am materialistic and lust for luxury..I am arrogance just bursts out of me from time to time.... I can be verbally abusive.. I disobey authority all the time.. do I have to go on? One day just sitting in my car at a red light the realization hit me "I have violated every commandment of God" and my life wants to always get pulled in that direction.

So we have to stop... think.. and pursue a pattern that 'breaks the mold'. We repent of the direction we are going and practice righteous choices instead.

Romans 12- 16 gives us those practices. Things to do. Things to break tendencies.
The cool thing is that it is almost moment by moment and day by day. It is not a list in a notebook, it is not a sheet on the fridge.. it is living... dynamic.

"Then you will be able to test and approve.. what pleases God"

Romans To Do's:

1) Lower your view of yourself... I will cover this in more detail later. But I no longer have to compare and compete. I am who I am because God knows me, made me, chose me, and loves me. I do not feel shame or condemnation. I am free! I see my strengths and my weaknesses.. it is who I am. True humility is not throwing aspersions at yourself.. it is not thinking less of yourself... it is thinking of yourself less. I can get out of my little self and start living.

2) Find my shape and use my gift. God made you good at something.. find it and use it for Him. I will talk later about this. But the happiest people in the world are those who act in accordance with their heart desires to serve others to God's glory not worrying about what others think.

3) Love... more on this later. But this is huge and one that I am still an infant in. But this includes enemies...

4) Submit... yuck. We think only kids and teens are rebellious. Hah! When an authority tells you to do something that you don't want to do... how do you feel? What do you do?

5) Live soberly and simply, in expectancy of Christ's return. Be moderate and careful... more later.

6) Learn to choose in light of the 'weaker brother'- don't flaunt freedoms. More later...

7) Choose peace over criticism and condemnation. Seek unity with other believers.

8) Proclaim the gospel to all in word and deed.

9) Live joyous lives... have fun... embrace your circumstances and dance.

10) All of this together is........ WORSHIP

That is Romans 12-16 in a nutshell. All of it is simple... but profound. Easy... but impossible. It is a lifetime labor of love.

I will put a little more into these To Do's later... let's encourage one another to not get squeezed into the losing pattern of this world. But break the mold..... start today. It is never too late!