Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Blessing....Don't Miss It...this year

Set your mind right now to not let this season of blessing slip by. Take it and squeeze out every drop... Thanks again to Eugene Peterson:

Psalm 128-A Pilgrim Song
 1-2 All you who fear God, how blessed you are!
how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!
   You worked hard and deserve all you've got coming.
      Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness!

 3-4 Your wife will bear children as a vine bears grapes,
      your household lush as a vineyard,
   The children around your table
      as fresh and promising as young olive shoots.
   Stand in awe of God's Yes.
      Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!

 5-6 Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem
      every day of your life.
   And enjoy your grandchildren.
      Peace to Israel!

How can anyone say that the way is smooth and straight? Isn't Christianity so hard it is painful? No my friend, being a Christian is easy- being an unrepentant sinner is hard.

HH Farmer- go against the grain of the universe and you will get splinters.
J.H. Newman (paraphrase): "If I want to travel north and all the roads are cut to the east, of course I will complain of the roads. I will find nothing but obstacles;I will have to surmount walls, and cross rivers- never finding the end- only failure. So it is with all who seek happiness for their own end- the signposts to Zion are well marked- but we ignore them and stubbornly bushwack our own way. Of course we will meet thwartings, and disappointments, and failure- then we get mad at God for making it so hard- religion is an inconvenience only to those who are going against the compass-."

The above Psalm is just one of the many ways I have experienced the pouring out of mercy by the Holy Spirit this Christmas season. John Calvin used to press his congregation to pursue deeper happiness- seeking the pleasure that goes beyond the world's standard of ease, honor, and great wealth.

So this morning I am reveling in God's great YES. The last few days I have been able to see how blessed I am. The wife He has given me- the children of joy that light my heart with life- the beautiful friends who love me- my extended family who pray faithfully. For one whole week I have been able to retreat from the contrary winds of the pilgrim life and soak in the peace and warmth of God's riches- this is a blessing of Christmas.

My friends- I am calling out to all- right now in your heart see that Christ is right here- He is right there- He has NEVER forsaken you- and He holds no grudge for our ignoring Him- look deep inside and say to Him right now- 'THANK-YOU- Lord, help me sip the wine of your sweet gift this Christmas'.

 The gift is not because we are good- I am a great sinner-the gift is because HE IS GOOD.

At that very moment of that prayer, He begins to pull out the splinters and salve your hurting heart. And you will SEE His provision all around you.

JOY, which was the small publicity of the pagan,
is the GIGANTIC SECRET of the Christian
                           G.K. Chesterton

Hug those who are with you and bask in the riches of His love- MERRY CHRISTMAS!
And let's all walk on that smooth well-worn path of blessing- all the way to Zion!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Re-post "Walking through Wounds"

This is always such an amazing time of year. It is a chance for reflection.
I took a long time today in my blog: and re-read years of journal entries and posts.
This one is from Dec 1- 2008. God's truth is still as true today as it was then. I know this sounds crazy- but I am doing great and have had Christmas cheer all day today. Isn't God good!

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



And here I am 2 years later- And I can fully say LET THE REDEEMED OF THE LORD SAY SO- I WILL SAY HE IS GREAT AND HE IS GOOD! AMEN!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This One Will Be Strange

OK- here we go-.... inspired by Eugene Peterson

Look at me- you laugh and I laugh. But it is too convoluted to sort out.

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

"But I get so tired of constantly defending You against the cynics and criers- especially those who walk around so disappointed in You. Some are sure You are not there- and they are mad at You for that."

"Well I'm tired of you thinking you have to defend me- that's the job of the stars and moon- and they do just fine- Thank-you."

I sit down in the sandstorm and feel the sting- the sandpaper grinds my flesh- a little layer at a time.
As I sit there, the greatest dragon I have ever encountered opens wide. His breath is nasty hot and his fangs are poised to strike.

At that point... I become the most surprised man on the planet.. I look with a steeliness and an anger and a vigor that I never felt before and I strike that dragon with a sword that had been hidden inside me- sharp and deadly.

I stand back up and the sand does not sting anymore. I finally get a little hint- faith is not the good life- it is the God-life.

The skeptics sneer at me still- 'false front' they say.

But my faith is on the line- and my love is on display. "No No" I say "Look at my gospel. It is not pretty and nice... it is authentic and true.- it is scratched, dented, beat up, and worn...but it sure looks good on me and feels so much like home....


Because my lot is really easy and the burden is light..Faith means I have no knowledge of the next minute- there may be death/pain/loss/rejection/sickness/tragedy- but I persevere in the firm confidence that God's love NEVER leaves me.

I prayed about my cold heart- and God breaks it. He binds it back up- but it never stops leaking after that- and that leakage is streams of mercy.

So I laugh at my silly pity party- God smiles.

I look at my girls and thank Him- and discover that is the foundation of worship.

And then I see how good we are- what strong shape we are in- and find the greatest truth of all. It was NOTHING in me- it was ALL IN HIM.

And I laugh so hard I cry.

Bring on Christmas!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Biblical Passages for Those Who Parent or Work with Teens Pt 3

 My blog over the next few weeks will be devoted to my work with students. Next year will mark 20 years that I have been involved in Christian Education and I wanted to reflect a little on my ministry philosophy and set some goals for the future- see the original blog at

PASSAGE 3- The Fruit of Faith Produces Obedience 

Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This last passage is one that will take some very special and careful explanation. We all love this verse- how can it be any clearer? Our justification is purely Christ alone! Nothing can be added to Christ as the atonement for our sin. He paid it all and we simply receive this immeasurable gift by trust. We can not work or earn God’s favor- we do not merit it by good deeds- we can not add to it.

But the Scriptures do present a part 2. We do not believe in faith plus works- but we do hold to a faith that works. The amazing forgiveness we receive and the indescribable love that accomplished this feat compels us to follow the one who gave so much. Over time- an understanding of the gospel and the presence of God’s Holy Spirit should produce a general trend of obedient and abundant living. It is a slow process, it is a frustrating up and down, forward and back, existence- but there is ample Scripture to show that Christ died so that we may live- not to our ourselves- but to Him.


Now, the biggest mistakes we make in this area is when we (1) try to sanctify others or (2) buy into a false belief that education equals reformation.Let’s take these two things separately. As soon as I begin to grow in obedience and receive the blessings of living within God’s design I want others to join me. Often, this is a good intention- and it can serve a dual purpose: I want to celebrate success and bring someone with me. But before long I see a subtle and sinister root take hold- I begin to expect things in others that I have done myself. I begin to compare my successes with failure in others and at some point I begin to demand in others MORE than I expect in myself. In a short amount of time- I have walked away from the gospel of grace and built a prison of legalism and instead of loving others, I am oppressing them. How quickly I have abandoned salvation by grace through faith.

The second mistake is to accept the notion that education is the key to reform. This is a tough one, because my entire professional life has centered round the value of education. There is a noble use of education and also a diabolical one. In its purest noble application, education is about teaching skills of observation, communication, thinking logically, reading, writing, and mathematical computations to allow for a greater degree of knowing God and evaluating all of life by His truth.The potential problem of education and its diabolical application is producing knowledge that creates pride and artificial division of people. A Christian is NEVER anti science/technology/or knowledge- but he must see this pursuit as what it is- a result of the Biblical mandate to subdue and rule the earth as a good steward and not a power grab. 

I guess the clearest example of this is what has transpired to human society in the wake of the enlightenment- once we elevate education over piety – it creates and unintended competition where we judge men according to academic credentials and not the content of character. And we begin to believe that advancements in knowledge will solve man’s biggest problems. The enlightenment, with all of it’s great achievements, unintentionally lifted up elites and gave them a voice based on knowledge, but not necessarily wisdom or morality. High intelligence has a hard time keeping an ego in check- and slowly trades questioning to cynicism or skepticism- and enthrones reason.As reason generates knowledge- it also creates power- and power in the hands of a man, especially one without a moral compass – can quickly generate oppression and greed.

Now, let me stop here and clarify what I am NOT saying. I am not saying that education is evil. I strongly lament the retreat that has happened in the evangelical world in regards to educational excellence and participation and I sadly admit to the intellectual laziness that places God in the gaps of knowledge and indulges in distraction and distaste for hard questions- we have no excuse here. What I am saying is that the church continues to evaluate progress on the city of man’s standards of intellectual arrogance and not the humility and gratitude of acknowledging that ALL TRUTH IS GOD’S TRUTH and placing everything under the authority of His Word.

Here is a subtle hint of how this is not ingrained in our current thinking. What do I spend the most time on and give the weightiest praise to? My daughter’s knowledge of the high priestly prayer in John 17 or her ACT score? What gets me more excited- her ability to speak in Spanish or her ability to quote Romans 1? Again- we should praise God if our children make a 29 on the ACT and get excited about foreign language… but wouldn’t it excite us if they loved the Bible so much that they read it….memorized it…used it… taught it…? And believe me, I am condemning myself as a parent as I write this.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Biblical Passages for Those Who Parent or Work with Teens Pt 2

My blog over the next few weeks will be devoted to my work with students. Next year will mark 20 years that I have been involved in Christian Education and I wanted to reflect a little on my ministry philosophy and set some goals for the future- see the original blog at


II TIMOTHY 3:1-9  "1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone."

Passage 1 (yesterday) was more optimistic- be patient- God will get them where they need to be.

Passage 2 is more pessimistic- there is a downward spiral that doesn’t offer much promise to change.

Every time I read the above passage I get sad. I grieve over the slow decay of society and pray for renewal. Oh Lord please rend the heavens and delay this decay! 

Yet, it is important to be realistic- the city of man will have a consistent testimony throughout history- and the bottom line is not a pretty picture.

G.K. Beale has a very interesting quote regarding this: “Worldliness is what any culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness seem strange.” 

The list above is where all of us are headed without an intervention. Don’t I see these base impulses in myself? At my core nature I am selfish-materialistic-arrogant and boastful- autonomous- slanderous, especially of the weak or downtrodden- an addict- an animal self and a diabolical self- pursuer of leisure and pleasure more than a pursuer of God- living in a Christ haunted land – holding to my rituals- but cold in my relationships. I am manipulative. The more I learn, the less I know. And the fruit is shameful.

The application of this verse is to combat the decay and the trend. What tools are at my disposal to see that this ‘default mode’ is resisted at every point?

Fortunately, the gospel takes aim right at the root of the issue. The renewal that comes in by embracing justification by grace through faith strikes a mighty blow to this cycle of cynicism and addiction. The employment of all the means of grace can stop and reverse these deadly trends and issues.  

For me personally, and for those who dwell in these communities of faith, it is incumbent to encourage and stir one another up in love and good deeds- to memorize, study, and meditate on God’s Word, to assemble for worship, to proclaim Christ, and participate in the sacraments to fight against the domain of darkness.

Have we not grown weary of the ineffective programs and snappy slogans? We must all agree with Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones “ I am never tired of saying that the church does not need to embark on some new methodology or program but must herself start living the Christian life.”

What can we do to inspire young leaders to fight against this 'default mode'? This is my largest goal and constant prayer!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Biblical Passages for Those Who Parent or Work with Teens

My blog over the next few weeks will be devoted to my work with students. Next year will mark 20 years that I have been involved in Christian Education and I wanted to reflect a little on my ministry philosophy and set some goals for the future- see the original blog at


Luke 5:33-39: 33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” 

This passage has always helped me in my work with students AND as a parent. I know that the applications may be less direct in my line of work, but some clear principles are here both for the teacher/parent and for the students. And even though the context here is the nature of the New Covenant Kingdom- the applications are valid.

Context and Overview: Jesus is being carefully watched and critiqued. It is interesting how the flow fits here, and you almost paint a narrative though I admit it brings in some speculation. Jesus is getting active and drawing interest and the implications of His ministry is causing uneasiness. The status quo is being challenged and it always attacks rivals. The key word is found right above this passage, in verse 29 “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect ‘complained’. What is the difference in a complaint and a question? What is the dividing line of helpful critique and a damaging complaint? We know the answer- matters of intentionality.
Their first critique is that they are eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus answers the sinner issue. The second criticism is that they are eating and drinking. In their understanding, religious zeal is regulated and evaluated by ascetic lifestyle. I find it interesting that Jesus uses a wine analogy to answer the charge.
Of course the biblical principle centers around the timeliness of behavior and allowance of the pleasurable when appropriate. Basically Jesus is saying- sometimes the time is right and sometimes the time is not right. Ultimately we enjoy pleasure at the allowance of our King who also is our Father. We serve at his will and not ours. There are times for feasting and there are times of fasting- it’s not important what we do, it is important why and for who we do it.
This seems to be an important point of the New Testament and the emphasis on conscience and concern for the weaker brother- or in other words- not using freedom as an offense (another day and another topic).
Jesus implies that He is involved in a process and the first step is preparation. You prepare a new wineskin, then fill it with new wine, as it ferments both the wineskin and wine are changed. The structure influences the substance and the substance changes the structure. The process takes time and involves pressure and constriction and contraction.
At some point, the wineskin is opened and the aged, desirous, aromatic and beneficent drink is used.
To put new wine into an old/used wineskin is foolish. The old skin cannot withstand the new process – it can only take so much for so long. And it is senseless to patch an old with a new piece- you ruin both. You must make allowances for time and pressure to produce the good stuff.
The overall point is that Jesus is bringing in a new administration of the covenant of grace and these disciples are going to carry this new wine into a new structure. They will face pressure and suffering- they will fast in time-AND the product will be beautiful.

PATIENCE- wineskins are in process. As sophisticated as a senior seems, they are still just a new wineskin that will be filled and capped in time. My guess is that they will pour out the gospel in whole new structures and I have no clue what it will look like. I will not be able to work in that new structure- I just need to pour out my wine in faithfulness to my Father.
PROPRIETY: In a weird twist- we should teach the teens to serve at the Lord’s will, not their hasty whim. The bridegroom is away for now- so we need to fast and practice self discipline- enjoying pleasure- YES- but in His timing and in His way.
So we have a strange application- the trials of life are coming- be patient. I do not expect my senior daughter to have the sanctification of a 30 year old. God will fill her and ferment her in circumstances and time to produce a beneficial fruit. She will be changed and the world will be impacted- at His pleasure and for His glory.
At the same time- trust God in this timing by obeying Him. There is a reason He wants abstinence and soberness- pleasure is not sinful- using pleasure outside his allowances is sinful. As a parent/teacher I am to be patient with their spiritual immaturity and they are to be patient with God’s restrictions. Both are points of perseverance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Movie Review: 'Collision' with Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson

I don't know why it took me so long to see the movie 'Collision'- but I downloaded it from and finished it today. It is a beautiful and fun movie. The stuff being put out today in the area of Apologetics is great because the film makers understand how to use fast moving editing and music to make dry debates interesting.
    These types of interactions are good. I see Hitchen's in such a better light and I confess my admiration for him and have found myself praying for him, crying out to God for him, especially in light of his recent fight with terminal cancer.
I also have to say how impressed I am with Doug Wilson, his patient and calm defense of Christianity through pre-suppositional apologetics, his reformed theology, and his great training puts him as a man called for such a time as this.
As I continue to see the whole debate coming to cosmology, teleology, and morality- I keep wondering why the apologist never presses the skeptic being created in God's image. Why can Hitchen's know good and do good even though he does not believe? Because he cannot escape the fact that he is an image bearer. He is a beautiful creation, regardless of his rebellious state. I'm sure there is a tactical reason that the apologist does not go there- but I would bite.
I love the bottom line for Wilson: 'The Christian faith is good for the world because it provides the fixed standard which atheism cannot provide and because it provides forgiveness for sins, which atheism cannot provide either. We need the direction of the standard because we are confused sinners. We need the forgiveness because we are guilty sinners. Atheism not only keeps the guilt, but it also keeps the confusion.'
May we continue to step into the marketplace of ideas... no need to hide. The greatest opportunities in these debates is not a love of ideas, it is not to win arguments, it is the ability to love people- and that is where we make the biggest impression.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Good-Natured Young Earth Views are Evolving

"Science gives us the full accord of facts- It costs the church a severe struggle to give up one interpretation and adopt another- but no evil need to be apprehended- The Bible still stands in the presence of the whole scientific community, unshaken”
Charles Hodge- Princeton 1829
I vividly remember my first encounter with evolution in the classroom. I was in 6th grade at Robinson Elementary and the mere mention of an unguided process that over eons of time turned a germ into a monkey and then into a man was laughable.

I don't know if the two visceral reactions were connected- but my 'red flag' aversion to evolution was equally comparable to my anger toward racism. At the core of my being, these views collapsed right in front of my deep grained instinct that the Creator was there and He was just and good.

This class was prone to tough debates and I remember the interesting realization that I was in the minority. It's funny, but my weakest argument to these elementary debaters was my firm stance on the 6 day creation account. But my God was big enough for the miracle... He could have done it in 6 seconds!

"Everyone knows that the universe is millions of years old"
"Oh Yeah?" I said.

Do you believe me? I so remember it and I specifically remember being a science skeptic from my early years. I trusted God and I did not trust men. If God's story and man's story were in conflict...I'm taking God.

As I got older, and actually became a Christ follower, my argument grew more 'sophisticated'-

'A very smart man still has little perspective on time. He may know 75 years....possibly a select few know 100....but no one truly can perceive 1,000- let alone 1 million"

I will tell you that a young earth believer in Genesis has a pretty simple apologetic. God said it and that settles it. He was there and you weren't. I believe in 1 miracle GOD. You have to believe in millions of miracles without Him.

My next interesting skirmish was in Birmingham. I was teaching at a Christian school and we hosted Hugh Ross for a weekend. It seemed to be fine until Hugh got an audience with our Bible department. I remember sitting in the school library. My recollection was the audience was very small- three or four Bible teachers, our pastor, and a history teacher.

Hugh Ross had barely started before the odium thelogicum attacked with their guns blazing.
"How dare you teach this day age stuff?" "You are out of your field and have no right to make theological applications." "You have undone Romans, you have destroyed the gospel, in your view there is death before sin and death cannot happen before sin."
I was shocked and I was embarrassed. Though I still held to my literal, young earth view- I saw Hugh Ross as a man who proclaimed Jesus and taught a high view of Scripture.
I also need to say that I have deep respect for the Bible teachers- they loved Jesus and the gospel and knew the Bible so deeply. But this was a hot button topic.
It even got to the point that some in our Bible department would not label a college 'christian' unless it taught a young earth and a literal 6 day creation.

My questioning would get me small splashes of indignation. It is the mischievous side of me that kind of sadistically enjoys the turmoil.
 "Who says there can't be death before sin?"
"What if it meant spiritual death... or human death?"
"Did Adam not step on an ant?"
"Did the serpent eat bananas?" I know...stupid!

But they were settled- the slippery slope to liberalism begins when a person compromises Genesis 1. Once you begin... where does it stop? If the day is not literal- how can we say Adam and the garden are not figurative?

For a long time after that, I was the 'good-natured young earth  guy'. I held firm to my position, but did not question the faith of any 'old-earther' I ran into. There were times where I didn't know what was more shocking to them- the fact that I was young earth or the fact that I was accepting of others who weren't.

I moved to Nashville and began teaching apologetics. My department leader was old-earth and he seemed ok with my young earth view. The only time I got him riled up at all was my 'young earth that appears old' argument. He said it makes God deceitful. I never really agreed with that rebuttal because general revelation only declares that God is there- it takes special revelation to give out the details that He wants us to have. It would not bother me at all if I found an antique storage chest in my father's workshop.
"Wow, dad, this is amazing."
"How did you make this? It looks 200 years old!"
"I finished it this morning, son."
So a 5 minute tree in Eden had 35 rings... and it keeps a Biblical theme.. things are not always what they seem.

My apologetics study led me at first into evidentialists and the weapons against macro-evolution. You have to understand, that getting arguments against Darwin were thrilling to me. I hated what Darwin had done to the church. I remember that sheer anger I felt when I watched 'Inherit the Wind' and saw the biased attack on my faith. So how could I not cheer when I read about irreducible complexity, and the Cambrian explosion, and the faulty Miller Urey experiment.. and on and on.

But a funny thing happened- as I read the evidence I had to admit that there was no doubt that evolution was true. The slight, successful changes in species was studied and proven.
But the extrapolation of that theory into a naturalistic world-view which helped kick God out of classrooms and relegated faith to a 'stay at home' private thing was offensive. It didn't help that all of the neo-darwinists would take all kinds of explanations for life.... including aliens.. as long as God wasn't mentioned.

My young earth views were greatly helped by Douglas Kelly's excellent book "Creation and Change". But I also was helped by reading Einstein's biography and going back into Hugh Ross from time to time. I saw the two camps (young and old) as being tools to spread the gospel. Young earthers reach traditionalists and old earthers reach post-moderns. God had people in every sphere with a high view of Scripture and a love for gospel proclamation.

I even developed a 'power point' where I helped to clarify a lot of mistakes we make. It demonstrated how the Big Bang theory actually helps a theistic world view and how ID could be a rival to macro-evolution in the science classroom.

My next funny moment was when I was asked to speak at a Creation Conference at a Christian school across town that was also a big sports rival. I knew that my power-point was going to be picked to death by the 'Answers in Genesis' people. My mentioning of Intelligent Design was anathema and they took me to task in the gymnasium. The students loved it! The CPA football coach was getting grilled! After I answered their main criticism a few other panel speakers came up to me. 'I thought you made a great point". I thought 'thanks for speaking up for me'. But in a weird way, I enjoyed it.

Fast forward three years later and the growing evidence for an old universe and the slow erosion of young earth arguments have me reconsidering the whole thing. The only way I can stay young earth is to keep my "looks old, but is young" view. But most of the other supporting elements are easily explained away.

So I will spend some time going back to Genesis and considering again: Day Age- Analogical Days- Fiat Days- and Framework Views. I will pray and read and wrestle. I am not a scientist or a theologian... so I doubt I will ever be the last word on anything. But I enjoy the process and am so confident in my Heavenly Father that He and I will enjoy the process.

I started the background of this study by reading the Holman book: "Understanding Creation" edited by Jeremy Howard and designed by Doug Powell- two great local resources.

I am starting off with some honest questions:
How does Moses' background/education play into the way God spoke to him?
God dictated to Moses information- how does giving the info relate to the real time-line of the events?
Was there a purpose in God using current cultural structures as the best way to prepare the world for His solution for sin?
In what ways did God place himself in competition with false gods and rivals only to show His power and victory? Did He have to set up a parallel structure so we could see the difference?
If we adopt accomodist views of Scripture- where does the figurative stop and literal begin?
At what point do we end up in old-fashioned liberalism?
Is it possible for any man to think clearly here? Aren't we all influenced by presumptions? What if all the thoughts about the age of the universe are faulty models that don't take into account the possibility of fluctuations in time/space/history?
Is all of this battle over the beginning that important? Isn't the real skirmish over the life/death/words/ and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

Should be a fun run!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Comments on "The Last Christian on Earth" by Os Guinness

I'm going to paraphrase and comment on some of Os Guiness's book that was originally published under the title, "The Gravedigger Files (IVP, 1983). This is a little like C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, but more direct and informational.

The problem with this blog is to differentiate Guiness's points of brilliance and my random rambling. So anything in BLUE (italics in facebook notes) and  is me- and if Guinness contradicts my BLUE... choose Guinness!

Memorandum 2 is a phenomenon labeled 'The Sandman Effect' and is presented as an enemy tactic versus the church.

In this tactic, the church digs its own grave while Christians sleep.

The major premise of the Sandman Effect is to infiltrate the church by use of culture- which exposes the defensive vulnerability of the church. Instead of the church becoming more aware of the damaging effects of popular culture, she falls into a deeper and deeper sleep.

The first experiment with this tactic is confusing the nature of belief. The impact of the enlightenment produced unexpected and unintended results.  The pomp and pressure of those who presented themselves as the intellectual elite offered much promise, but only produced exclusive caste systems and cynicism. The ultimate fruit of intellectual oppression is a quest for power and the greatest use of that power is cynical, dream killing, skepticism.

I love how Guinness describes this: "Yes, there was brilliance, but its darker side was the empty rhetoric, the hypocritical poses, the shabby compromises. the betrayal of friends and causes, with some people fellow-traveling with the communists, and others more or less sleeping with fanaticism...The legacy of this kind of general mood became a more effective inoculation against faith that a hundred (Voltaires)". The desire for truth went out of fashion..... which led the way for post-modernism which is not a clear philosophy... it is also a mood.

And here is where we (Christians, especially in the south) go wrong- we fail to see what has happened among those who are not the traditionalists. Traditionalists have a strong sense of right and wrong- they have a foundation of TRUTH.

But we are increasingly living among those (especially the young- media savvy- who tend to think by sight and act by impulse) who judge truth not by objectivity, but degrees of plausibility.

In Guinness's words- "we have created a climate in which a thing's seeming to be true is often mistaken for its being true."

And what is the means of this change? By changing the definition and standards of 'belief'.
We allow and even applaud people who believe or disbelieve on non-rational or psychological grounds. YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID AND YOUR ACTIONS ARE JUSTIFIED BECAUSE THEY ARE PLAUSIBLE, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT CONNECT TO REALITY OR TRUTH.

I love Guinness's analogy here: we accept a person who is an atheist- not because they have weighed truth and fallacy- but simply because their father was a religious hypocrite who alienated the family from God as much as himself.

Unfortunately, we fall into this trap when we begin to elevate psychology over Scripture or only accept interpretation and application of Scripture as it fits the latest psychological models.
See how subtle it is? We agree with truth if the support structure is strong. But if the support structure is weak, it is harder to believe.
"Coach it with care and and plausibility will upstage credibility"- this is a scary statement.

The church has become a heart suffering from fibrillation - the rapid, irregular, and unsynchronized contraction of muscle fibers- 
one spasmodic side is the Christian philosophers- who expound the theoretical- and the other meaningless motion is the 'just give me Jesus' anti-intellectual crowd who throw out doctrine.

Then Guinness shows how the Apostle Paul provides a framework for the fight. He knows that the church is the pillar and bulwark of truth... not theory. "Paul would have believed his faith was objectively true if he had been the last one convinced of it."
The truth of Christianity is NOT dependent on a strong church.. but a weak church hides TRUTH as it seems less credible, and a less credible church is a less plausible church.

A Two-Legged Stool: Guinness also shows how apologists only use 2 of three tools of analysis in unveiling this issue.
Leg 1- The history of ideas
Leg 2- The climate of culture and custom
and the missing...Leg 3- the justification of knowledge

In the post modern world- cultural pluralism and relativism offers confusion in leg 2 and the rapid flow and dynamics of information makes Leg 1 seemingly archaic and irrelevant (and BORING). But if we pressed more into Leg 3 and make the post-modern man justify his knowledge beyond the perspective of personal experience and evaluate truth claims in a more logical framework- we would see some progress and usefulness of the other 2 legs.

A huge roadblock in this mess is the frenzied pace of communication technology and global mobility. I love the quote about the Kenyan saying "All westerners have watches...  but Africans have time."

"A culture of mobility plus convenience leads quite naturally not only to (drive-in food) and banks but also drive-in churches"

See how it works? Overlay upon overlay- the effect of molding lives through culture has all the advantages of a revolution and none of the disadvantages of intellectual sweat.

As our children see belief as a feeling of plausibility and relevance- as they are spun dizzy by infinite activity- as they are enticed by the promise of convenience- as they are distracted by new cool tools of transport of information tsunamis- they cannot understand that TRUTH is TRUE even if no one ascribes to it. 'When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?' He won't, if we have lost what 'faith' means. What will He say when we respond "It just didn't 'seem' right... It didn't feel true"?

'Subtle compromise is always better than sudden captivity'.

Father- we need help. We need to slow down- we need to read the WORD- chew it- meditate on it and mull it over- we need true WORSHIP to lift us out of the trivial pursuits and insulated hearts.
In short- we have loved things and ideas that have not loved us back. We live for pleasure while the King suffered and died. 
Culture makes godliness seem strange, but without truth... justification of life is meaningless- 
Our children need to see us forsaking our idols- because the idols will soon forsake them.
But we also need to train our children how to ask the right questions- make men justify their beliefs.... make them follow the consequences of their faith.....and Holy Spirit...PLEASE illumine the TRUTH.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Pure Freedom and Fun- the 2010 CPA Football Team

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

It has been a long time since my last post and way too many ideas to share at this time.

I will be drafting some ideas after football season about all that I have been learning...reading..etc. I especially want to write about the Transcendental Argument for God at some point and press into some ideas from our recent apologetics conference.

But this post is about football and the sad end to our season against Goodpasture in the TSSAA football state playoffs.

I am so proud of my football team- if you have a facebook account, I encourage you to find "QB Club" on facebook and take in the pictures and videos of this special group of winners.

This team took the foundation of last year's team and pushed it further. This team worked hard and lead well. And we are had more fun than a person should be allowed.

If you showed up in our locker room or attended our practices, it would would strike you as strange. This was s a 'loosy goosey' bunch- but NOT to their detriment.

This team is clearly bore the fruit of what we hope to produce in this program: these young men have  a warrior spirit and a loving heart. They fight hard and know how to show love as brothers.

An example of this was last week against Pearl-Cohn, one of the most physical football teams we have ever hosted on our field. We attacked those guys with absolutely no flinching! I'm telling you that this was a senior stacked team going against our guys (12 freshmen and sophomores starting) and we matched them blow for blow.

In the end, we fell short 17-14. The PC head coach called me over the weekend and we marveled at how hard hitting the game was.

But let me tell you the 2nd big thing- our guys were and are undaunted. We have had some heart-breaking losses this season and some thrilling wins- ending up 5-6. Don't get me wrong- we have hurt when we have lost- but not like it is the end of the world. This team cannot be defeated- knock them down- and they keep coming.

Why? Because they have understood what this is all about- and it has NOTHING to do with football. This team has embraced what we are really about and that is glorifying God by enjoying football and embracing the challenge of getting better and playing hard.
Does that mean we are sinless? Heaven's NO! Were we bad at times? YES
I have had to correct our guys about language, attitude, silliness, coarseness, and this head coach has manifest sin inside and out.
But they are not afraid to bow to the King and acknowledge our only hope- the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This team sang "A Mighty Fortress is our God" by their choice and they hit the door with a mission- LEAVE IT ALL ON THE FIELD.
It wasn't in God's plan for us to move ahead- don't expect us to live like life is over. Our battle has only begun- and we will smile in adversity and celebrate success.

You ought to look at the last few pictures in the album below- see guys who fight hard and love well. I especially encourage you to look at the last pictures of the seniors- they cried hard- and then they pulled it together- and the last sounds in the locker room as joy and celebration. How many high school seniors get to do that?

Personally, I will take a break from it- and then I want to keep getting better. We have young linemen who need to have a great offseason and we were a young team. Spring football begins in 6 months.

update:  Pearl-Cohn sends 10 football players to college ranks

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Cold October Mornings

I have never liked early morning running.
But, this has been my routine now since school began in my effort to keep all the weight off I lost from Jan-August.

Lisa and I hit the pavement around 5:05 or 5:10 and go. We have had this standard run for a minimum of 3 days a week consistently since Mid-August. We have run in all types of conditions- even got drenched by rain one morning.

Slowly I have gotten better at it- more used to it- almost enjoying it....

But these last two morns have been my biggest enemy yet- darker and cold. Brrrrrrrrr.
I dislike cold.

We changed the route up a bit to get off the trails because it seems darker this week (the moon has been just a sliver).

But I am always amazed by creation- the stars have been spectacular and the owl greets us with his hoot.
It was 38F this low can I go?

I guess I'll have to wait to see what I do in November.......

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Real Hope and Change

OK, OK- I am getting a little more equipped to send my oldest to college. It has taken more than the average amount of prayer and late night sessions with the Lord.

It is remarkable though how often I hear these little tunes in my head:

I wanna go back and do it all over but I can't go back I know.......

If I could turn back time...If I could find a way....
So how am I doing it?
I am becoming more intentional in the present and more expectant of the future.

All I have is today. All I have is now. Am I using it in ways that will lessen regret?

I need to know that I have shown a willingness to love, to listen, to engage, to serve.
And I need to be thankful- I have a great girl and our time has been beautiful.
And, Lord willing, there will be much more- in quantity and quality.

And a much bigger hope is in the future.

My wife put up some baby pictures on the wall yesterday and I just stared. And those tunes started up again.

And then I thought- "One day, the Lord will say 'NO MORE DELAY' and it will all be made BETTER THAN OK." And that is our hope.

What are the alternatives? How can they live without Jesus?

So I have a heart today that rejoices in the fall sunshine and the spectacular blue and my heart cries out: Thank you O my King- O my Father- O my love- You have us in mind and our hope in You is good.

So I can't rewind and there is no need to fast forward.
I just step and pray into today.........

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trip to Duke 2010

Friday night we had a TOUGH loss- one of those where your gut feels like its been kicked in and you would love someone just to put you out of your misery.

Right after that my wife and 1 of my daughters packed a big suburban and headed toward Durham, NC with a friend and his son. 5 weary travelers, pulling out about midnight and wanting to get just east of Knoxville. I was about as miserable as a man can be- so tired that I actually passed out for about 2 hours.
We found our hotel room for the night and grabbed a few hours and headed out again, hoping to catch a pre-game tailgate of the Duke-Alabama game and a 3:30 EDT kick-off.

We made the tailgate right at the end, but I still had a chance to get a good hamburger- and the healing had begun. It was a beautiful Saturday on beautiful campus. Because I had been to Princeton a few years earlier, I immediately sensed the similarity.

It was fun traveling with Stewart and Andrew Shoffner- and it was fun to see Stewart's son, Robert, run out of the Duke tunnel wearing #66. That had to be great for them!

It was also good to see Coach Cut. My game Friday and the Alabama game on Saturday was a real life illustration of the old coaching cliche- "it ain't about x's and o's- it's about Jimmys and Joes". Alabama has some huge and fast 'Jimmys and Joes'- it was the first time to see them live with the championship personnel they have and all I can say is wow.

I wanted to say that I was very pleased with the Duke fans- a lot of appreciation for their team and their coach. It was refreshing.
I was so thankful to see Karen Cutcliffe after the game and did get to see Coach Cut just long enough to hug his neck and commiserate a little.

We had a lovely dinner at the Club afterward and the bed felt like heaven.

Sunday- we visited the campus- got to hear the end of the Sunday service at the majestic chapel- and had a fun, story telling- over 500 mile ride back to Nashville where I lay my head down at 10:35 PM.

The weekend had been a healing getaway... I was ready to get rolling again.

I think next time I will fly- but it was a wonderful time by all.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

My Daughter is a Senior and I Can't Get Life to Slow Down

I just walked in the door about 8PM, another late night getting a game plan together- it is what I do this time of year.

Right behind me is my sweet Julie, working hard on her homework- and I just get hit by the sneak attack... she is getting ready to leave..sooner than I ever hoped.

I cannot believe it- I'm trying to grasp it- I'm not handling it very well at all.

There is this sad ache that seems to say, "Can't I just freeze frame it for a moment?"

There is so much more I want her to know- I wish I told her more with how much I love her- I wish I had been more compliant and less pig-headed.

I wish I had prayed more and stayed more.

So ready or not, here it comes. And I wonder why I get so bent out of shape about a football game.
 I'm reminded of a little poem I wrote when my senior was just a little girl......

Her Eyes

“Why don’t we even look at one another?” Emily- Our Town

“The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matt. 6:22,23

I can’t connect eye to eye with you.
Your eyes desperately want me to.
They flicker to points of wisdom same
And slide away in pain and shame.

Some eyes look down on me.
Your eyes look up in wait.
Some eyes don’t notice me.
Some are filled with hate.

You look up for need.
Looking for me to lead
Seeking for me to fill
Looking with mold-able will.

His eyes search within.
Shining on shadows of sin
Her heart needs His leading.
Her eyes search me, pleading.

I seek other eyes’ approval
And yearn for their attention.
My soul seeks their solace
Rubles of respect - no dissension.

His eyes move to and fro
And scans the depths of hearts.
To support the loyal will
And strengthen unified parts.

Little eyes are on me still.
Desperately wanting some time.
I’m scanning all the world
Expecting adventure sublime.

Oh, Lord! - If my heart is truly yours
I’ll seek the treasures unseen.
And answer this child on my knee
And know you’re looking at me
And she will start staring...
at Thee

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Change and Big MO

Been too crazy to post. The start-up of any football season is nuts.

It has been tougher this year than any of my previous 19.

Part of it was that we re-designed the offense to better accommodate our personnel- this is what high school coaches have to do from time to time. We made adjustments in language- formations- communication- protections- so it was like starting all over. The change has been beneficial- the question will be if it is just a 1 year change or not.

We also completely re-did the kicking game. That  has been our biggest improvement. It needed new energy and new emphasis. Hidden yardage is our new battle cry.

And there were late and crazy changes to our staff. We are coaching this season with 2 guys who have never coached football... ever. One in middle school and one on varsity...and they are doing well. But we were without 2 coaches in the first week of camp and I was coaching every position in a new system.

We are building a new high school- so the daily construction issues were an unexpected thorn. We lost water- we lost part of our practice field - and took long walks to get back and forth everywhere. I called it the 'price of progress'.

We are young- we have 12 players who 'start' that are freshmen and sophomores (2 freshmen- 10 sophomores with 6 of those being linemen). That will keep you up at night.

So- it is so interesting- I have never worked harder and never had so many 'loose ends'- but I feel good. I'm running nearly every morning at 5AM with my wife and actually enjoying it. I'm keeping my weight under 200 lbs, though I'm trying to break it with stress eating. And the little attacks of the enemy to produce doubt or dissension haven't taken root.

And we are 2-0. Funny because in some ways we have played MUCH better than last season and in some ways worse. Alas, football is a funny game.

This week is huge. If we could get East Lit at our place- we start 3-0 for only the 3rd time in school history and we will be on a roll. I cannot put into words how much I want this one- but I also know that none of these games are easy... East Lit is a very quality opponent and it looks like they are better than last season- but so are we.

I'm taking the Qb's to see the Titans tonight (pre-season vs the Saints) we are going to look at coverages and concepts..have fun.

But I doubt I will sleep tonight.... the churning is growing. We are on the verge of some BIG MO.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Getting anxious thinking about a new campaign of high school football.
My 19th year as a coach and my 7th as a head coach.

Never had more loose ends to start- never felt better at the start.

These players and coaches have worked... and I mean WORKED!

On Friday I weighed in at 198 lbs- accomplishing my goal to break 200 before the season begins.
That is a total weight loss of 48 lbs and I will post later on how the Lord helped me do it.

Today I ran in a 5K.
Tomorrow I will teach Sunday School and meet with our coaches 1 more time..

AND Monday..... it begins again. I am a blessed man!

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 23 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?
How can I be better? How can I do it better?
Soli Deo Gloria- To God Alone Be the Glory!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Count Me In! I Want to Be the Next Greatest Generation!

This was from an e-mail I received today:

I don’t know if you have read the new book “Pacific” by Will Ambrose or watch the HBO series. Tom Brokow called them the ‘Greatest Generation!’  Dr Sidney Phillips, one of the six men  depicted in ‘Pacific’ is from Mobile Alabama and recently visited with our Governor, Bob Riley, When Gov. Riley listened to Dr Phillips recount some of the happening of WW II, he made this comment. “ Your generation was truly the greatest Generation ever!” To which Dr Phillips replied, “ Governor I beg to differ with you, but the Greatest Generation is yet to come. It will be that generation that will again stand up and say Stop! No More! We are taking our country back; our Government back. We want God back in this country!”

I want to declare right now, that until my dying breath, I will try to be an instrument where God may allow this to happen. I confess my love for my country- but NOT at the expense of honoring the living, Triune, God of the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ! This is what is truly American. Only this spiritual life can give the moral foundation for a strong country and the blessings of liberty.

Liberty is not the American commodity that we export- Liberty comes only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is our KING.

Watch me as a dad- a husband- a coach-a teacher... I am ready to fight the good fight. Who is with me?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Football Fun Time- CPA Youth Football Camp 2010

We had an incredible time this week with our youth football camp at CPA.

Three years ago we made a decision to move to a full contact camp for rising 4th grade through rising 7th grade. My desire was to take our varsity staff and give these kids a positive first experience with hitting.
That first year we had 25 or 30 participants and actually only ran half-line drills to get a scrimmage feel.

Nevertheless, it was a fun time and we felt like it was something worth doing.

Year 2, we grew to around 40 and actually got in an 11 vs 11 scrimmage for both age groups. We match up 4/5 and 6/7 for practice purposes (and still have to watch body size match-ups).

This year though, was really sweet - we started Monday with 74 and ended the week with 80!

I especially like how we do the week.

Day 1- We carefully check the fit of the equipment and let them hit the big stand-up dummies. We then teach our warm-up drills (having fun HOORAHS). I then have them pick a partner about their size and we go through teaching stations- ball security, blocking, throwing, catching, form tackle, and SNEAK ATTACK. Sneak attack is a drill we developed based on a Marine competition called 'wooded engagement'. It is two teams of 5 who hide behind these big landing mats turned on their side. Each round a coach picks a number 1-5 and that represents how many players will go onto the battlefield.

One side is offense, the other defense and the battlefield is a 10 yard x 7 yard rectangle.

I say "Ready, Ready, SNEAK ATTACK" and then guys come around from behind the big mat. At that point you see the odds- completely random- 5 vs 5 or  5 vs 4 or 3 vs 2 ... endless possibilities including 5 vs 1! And then they just go at it. There is a ball carrier- maybe 1 or more blockers- and then between 1 to 5 defenders. Fun stuff! We love when a guy fights as hard as he can to make a play against tough odds!

After the teaching stations- we do some group teaching and then play "Smash and Crash"- smash and crash is backyard football in pads. Each player is an eligible receiver and there are unlimited forward passes and laterals per play. The best games are on smaller field and a consists of numbers about 12 vs 12.

Day 2 and 3- we teach offensive and defensive groups and put in plays from a playbook that we show in the huddles. We take time to scrimmage and always end with sneak attack.

Day 4 is fun. We start the day with a variety of hitting drills: One more chance to encourage good/safe techniques contact. (One more round of Sneak Attack).

I then take them into the locker room, teach them about the Football Creed- teach the chant- teach our silly celebration song- and show a varsity highlight tape (about 6 minutes). We run out of the locker room motivated to have our best practice and scrimmage yet!

We do live scrimmage (2 at a time 4/5  and 6/7) and end with one last 'SMASH and CRASH'

We close every practice with stretching and prayer.

It was a blast seeing these young boys gradually face fears- fight fatigue- learn how to encourage and persevere- and slowly embrace the contact part of football.

The end product? After 4 short days (9-11:30 AM)- these guys walk off the field- red faced- sweating- feeling a lot of satisfaction that they had faced a challenge and won- that they had done something special- a looking forward to doing it again in the fall.

"Father, thank you for keeping us safe and thank you for the ability to have fun in football."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Goal of the Gospel

Ephesians 2:8-10 "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

I want to throw out an idea that has been stirring in my little pea brain for a good while. Faith and works. We all wrestle with this. What is my relationship to the Law of God? What is my commitment to the moral law? How can the ceremonial and civil law of the Old Testament serve me?

Church history is full of ideas and experiments. The Monastic orders where men of God mortified the flesh in hoping to save their souls. We also see examples of antinomian (anti-law) philosophy where men drank deeply of grace and adopted an almost anything goes mentality. Go to the far right of them and see the Theonomists wanting to adopt the Civil codes of the Old Testament in society and drawing tough stances in honoring the Holy nature of God.

I even see this in current trends in the church. I don't know how familiar you are with the terms 'emergent church' or the 'new perspective of Paul' trends- but each in some ways wrestle with grace and works.

When I read N.T. Wright's commentary on Romans, I felt like the Bishop was just tired of licentious living among Christians and this 'new perspective' was an effort to push believers into thinking that they do need to add to their salvation by accomplishing righteous deeds. (Please believe me when I say that I could be dead wrong on that one- but it was a strong impression I had while reading him.)

And don't we feel that pressure ourselves? As a Bible teacher, I would love somehow to inspire my students to Holy living and a desire to honor God in our choices. A purer, more disciplined church would be more distinctive.

And yet, time and time again, Scripture calls me back to a very clear reality. The ONLY thing I add to my salvation is my hideous sin. To try and justify my record to God actually dishonors the sacrifice of Christ. To think I can compete and improve my sin trends to make God love me more is the religion that all idols demand.

So over and over, and over again. This is a gift. It is from God. I simply receive it and take Him at His word. My only claim on justification and adoption is Jesus.

And that is so clear in the above passage.

And then comes verse 10. Arrrrggggghh- there's that work again 'works'. God prepared works. I am a work. I am created in Christ for good works. And I should 'walk in them'.
No different from James... 'Faith without works is dead'.

Can someone help me?

In an attempt to be even more confusing, I wanted to write about some of the things I have experienced over the last couple of years and some thoughts. But none of this violates the gospel message: "I am a sinner, saved by God alone through Christ alone by faith alone."

Stage 1- The Ping Pong Ball. A lot of my early experience with grace was a back and forth bounce between the ditches of license and legalism. I play the role of the sinner and the pharisee, the addicted younger brother of the prodigal story and the cynical elder brother. My personal experience is one of fast jumping between the two and then finding longer periods in both (but also more stability in the sweet middle). I may write more on this one later, but there are amazing lessons and consequences in this teetering wobble. The freedom offered to the pharisee is pure joy and the grace offered to the sinner is pure hope. But this is a rather immature stage. A lot of excuse making, hiding, comparing to others, rationalization, compartmentalization, and pathetic pride.

Stage 2- The Shepherd's Tool. I was reading a new book by Timothy Witmer, entitled 'The Shepherd Leader', when I ran across a neat concept.
He visited the Nix Besser farm and asked Mrs. Herr, "What is the Shepherd's most important tool?". Witmer thought it might be the rod or staff or dog or voice. But Mrs Herr without hesitation said, "The fence".

And this describes a second stage in this concept. At some point I began to see that God's law is not obstructive or fun robbing rules. Not at all, time and experience begins to show God's law as a beautiful boundary of protection and peace. I am hemmed in for my good. Part of growing in the trust of my Father is believing that His ways are the best ways. It creates some internal motivation for improving in my ability to follow Him.

The funny thing about this stage is that I begin digging in to what the Word really says. The more I trust the fence, the more precise information I want to know. And the more precise, the more beautiful it becomes. This is a fine tuned balance that we always miss. And I laugh because I actually have way more freedom than my fears ever believed. I have missed out on no fun or pleasure that this life affords. But the boundaries keep these from sending shoots of idolatry into my heart on so many levels.

Stage 3: The Ideal Standard, the Good Gospel, and the Heart of Flesh. Lately, the fence has been less of a boundary and now becoming Standards to pursue. But the cool thing is that I see these mostly as unachievable. Something like going into every football game with the mindset of 'no turnovers'- but rarely achieving this crucial goal.
The neat thing is this- this is where the gospel serves me so well. My family, my marriage, my self discipline, my worship, my unselfishness, my giving, my prayer life is NOT what it needs to be. But I am under the precious atoning sacrifice of Christ. This gap does not discourage me- I am loved and forgiven. So I get up and run a little better tomorrow. And when I do make progress it is all due to the Spirit and the ministry of the Word, and His gift.
I am not what I need to be... but I am not what I used to be. And I am not arrogant about that, I am so thankful. All praise and credit goes to Him!
The Rule is good. It is worth pursuing. It hurts so good to sweat toward that prize. There are great examples to follow.
But here is the neat little secret.... all of this has a heart beat now called love.
The most amazing gift I have been given in these stages is the ability to love someone other than myself. When I gush at my wife and melt with my girls. When I have warm thoughts of friends and cry over their pain. When my insides smile at the lofty thoughts of my heavenly Father, all I can do is say is 'amazing'. And this honors my Father and gives proper credit to the work of the Son.

Last thing- even this blog post is an ideal that I fall short of. You may catch me tomorrow sulking over what someone said or did. I may be licking the wounds of defeat and hiding from the fray. But the Father of the glorious gospel says, "Come on, my Son, and let's get going." And I say, 'Wow, I wonder what's gonna happen next?' The old hymn says 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word'. I say "This is just too cool!"

Love to get your thoughts........

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Our Bus Trip and the Middle Tennessee Flood of 2010

(This will be the first of a few posts from the historic, Nashville Tn Flood May 1-3, 2010- as always this is an upload from my blog: Facebook doesn't always pick up my entries, so I suggest you become a follower at the main site)

  I was a chaperon this weekend (May 1) with out Middle School band on a bus trip to Atlanta. It was a great time by all. I want to really brag on our band director, Max Fulwider. This is a man who loves the Lord, loves kids, and loves music and works wonders in his program.
  After a morning competition, we spent the rest of the day at Six Flags- an almost perfect day. Cloudy, a little humid- but not packed. We rode almost every ride twice. Our first two stops, Batman ride and Superman ride was about a 3 minute wait. By the way the Goliath and Superman roller coasters at Six Flags are the most amazing rides ever!
  The  real adventure came, though, as we began to get information back from Nashville about an epic flood event taking place. There were severe thunderstorms, tornado warnings, and closed interstates to the west of us.
   I want to mention here about how well technology served us- a huge blessing from God- to be able to pull up video, maps,  pictures, to instantly text updates made it possible to plan a route and make good decisions.
   We were especially thankful for contact with an EMA director and very helpful parents. In God's goodness, we were able to get back with very little rain- we were granted a window of travel and were prepared to shut it down at anytime and hunker down in a hotel for the night.
   Our route was directed from I-24 to Murphreesboro and then we had to cut west to I-65. We then had to negotiate open roads hoping to get to Hillsboro Rd just south of Fieldstone Farms. Our plan was going fabulous, we even skirted a huge storm as it passed just north of 840, until we got to the last 30 yds.
  Here I was, looking at Hillsboro Rd- our route to freedom and we were stopped by water coming over the road- stuck. The Franklin police stopped us and suggested an alternate route.
   We had to BACK the bus up about 1/2 mile to Hwy 31 and go south. When we got to Franklin, we began to see the devastation this day of downpours had produced- flooded homes, businesses, and floating cars were startling enough to even make the middle school students watch in silence.
  The final mile had to be connected by a Police escort going up the southbound lane of Hillsboro.
We pulled into Publix to a bunch of grateful parents. The bus continued on to our school.
  The last student made it to their stop at 1AM. Our last parent chaperon was the last car to go over a bridge in downtown Franklin before the bridge was closed. The city got over 12 inches of rain that day and there was another 8-10 inches predicted for the next day. I woke up the next morning (Sunday) to tornado warnings and we would watch our town get slammed by flooding. But I was so thankful to be home..... so thankful to be home... so thankful to be home!