Monday, January 31, 2011

Deep Distractions and Deceit- Why Following God's Call is Difficult

Still working through Os Guinness's book, The Call.  Each new chapter contains a greater challenge.

And as I approach a decision about what God has next for our family, I have been a little unsettled at how difficult the process really is. I spent a good part of last week grieving over the likelihood of selling a house and moving- but that is nothing compared to the next few weeks of wading through a maze of information and settling on a path of faith that will culminate in : this is God's will.....

The good news is that once we decide- it is settled. Kind of like getting married- say 'I do' and it is God's plan- work to make it work. Once you put the hand to the plow it is full steam ahead.

But up to that point.... it can almost be scary. And I am being very honest when I say that I need prayer because of some heart issues that I am discovering can be obstacles.

One thing I am struggling with, and I just have to be honest here, is a little distrust I have in light of recent experiences. The testimony of man is not a good one, and I do include myself in the profile.

Guinness has spent the last few chapters diving deep into the twisted black holes of the human heart. Pride, self-flattering ambition, moral cowardice, lackluster leadership- all of these things envelop all of us.

Sadly, even something like a 'call' can subtly turn into a warped sense of self-importance or abnormal absorption with a personal 'destiny'- like we are the heroes of our own stories.

God had to bring Jacob face-to-face with his uncle Laban to see how hurtful power and manipulation can be. Jacob, the master manipulator- had to see it in action as he worked 7 hard years only to end up with Leah when he really desired Rachel.

My 22 years in 'professional' ministry (19 as a teacher and 3 1/2  as a youth pastor) has allowed me to see the good, bad, and ugly of the church. In fact, Guinness, in this one book has told stories of people who symbolize a lot of what I have encountered as well. But none of this is effective unless I see these 'flaws' as a mirror into my heart. It is possible that my next assignment will be some type of administrative position- am I willing to be different? Am I sincerely desiring to act in a more upright way? Then I will have to begin now asking the God of grace to allow the deep heart changes that I will need to avoid the actions that I have witnessed that causes a lot of pain and suffering in a lot of people.

One of my favorite stories that could be 'so me' if I am not checked by Christ is the one that relays the work of Sir Stafford Cripps. Cripps was Winston Churchill's president of the Board of Trade during WWII. He was a type of 'Mr Perfect': vegetarian, health nut, very high moral standards- Cripps had been a cigar smoker but announced to the cabinet that he was giving up that pleasure for the war effort. Just after he made the announcement of his 'sacrifice' to a wartime rally Winston Churchill whispered to a colleague, "Too bad..... that was his last contact with humanity."

Cripps proved also to be an example of where Calvinism can create problems. I have been searching out my heart for weeks now about two deadly mis-uses of a strong sense of God's providence. The first one is that we often hide behind God's sovereignty. We look at a situation and see that it is 'not right' but we wring our hands and quote Romans 8:28. Guinness chastises the modern mega-church movement not for what it does good, but for the ferment of human pride that seeps below. The most diabolical pride is not the one that needs the applause of man, but one that doesn't care what people think at all. The practical outcome, according to Guinness, is a lack of genuine accountability for leaders. The worst type of leadership is one where leaders are surrounded by 'groupies' instead of tough-minded peers who have a true power to push-back.

The 2nd deadly mis-use of God's sovereignty is where Cripps example comes back in.  Guinness mentions that Cripps "sense of the providence of God had seeped across into his own sense of self-importance. His self-regard, we might say, was a trifle high." Don't we all fear this? Here I am writing a blog- isn't there some ego attached here? Isn't there a fine line I am cutting myself on?

The quote that stings the most is what Churchill said about his President of Trade. One day Cripps left the cabinet room and Churchill quipped: "There but for the grace of God goes God."

All of this just throws me to the ground and makes me so thankful for the gospel. The good news is that God loves me. But I sincerely want His Holy Spirit to lead me into a heart for others without a fear of others. I don't want moral perfection, I want roads to relationships. I don't want to point people to me- I want them to meet the God of grace and beauty. Only He can protect me from myself.

There are tiny twists of the human heart, so sick and desperately deceitful, that turn leadership into lordship and calling into self-flattering ambition. It can even happen corporately and nationally. There is a small subtle smidgen between mission and media-stars or American exceptional-ism to American exploitation.

So here I am praying- out of my pain and experience, out of my pride- out of a realization of my sinful ways- and asking God to shine a clear light through.... What do you want me to do? And the clock is ticking loud enough now to hear it........

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Convergence of Chaos- Waiting on the Dust to Settle

As I Wait, Listen, and Pray.....
Every now and then, the God of the Word, throws one out that totally spins my little brain.
Isaiah 48:14-15 (English Standard Version) 
14"Assemble, all of you, and listen!
  Who among them has declared these things? 
The LORD loves him;
he shall perform his purpose on Babylon,
and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. 
15I, even I, have spoken and called him;
I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.

When I read this I had to stop- and then I had to go back and search out other English translations of the Bible here. The majority of the translations use the term 'love' here though the NIV uses 'ally'.

Who is this 'him'? This is Cyrus- the chosen instrument of siege and destruction- founder of the Persian empire. Now there could be an obvious reason in that Cyrus freed the Israelites and anyone who does good to His children get loved and blessed- but there is something even deeper here.
It is  the mystery of God's sovereignty, I have never had a problem with language that denoted God using the choices of man to accomplish His purposes- but here is the language of relationship - "I love him and will see to it his prosperity". Things that make you go - hmmmmmm. There is much more I could go into here- including our natural propensity to 'domesticate God and elevate man' but for now I will just leave it as hmmmm.

Typical of me- I am reading about 4 books at one time and they all end-up flowing together.

In Os Guinness'- The Call- He makes a point out of the controversial novella, The Portage to San Cistobal of A.H. by Steiner ( a Jewish writer). I had not heard of this work before- but it is a scathing story of Nazi hunters finding Adolf Hitler hiding out in Brazil and the book allows Hitler to defend his actions. The scandal of this book is that Hitler justifies his regime by pointing to the mono-theistic, transcendental God of the Israelites and the implications of their faith and practice.

Critics were mixed on how to respond to such a work. Some praised Steiner for creative ingenuity and some were appalled.

Guinness uses this work to explore the idea of 'letting God be God' and how far removed we are from the concept of "God' and the ability to accept "authority'. I felt like Guinness was pressing two major points:
First, is that ideas, philosophy, and beliefs have consequences. As we make decisions- they ultimately flow out of what we believe and who we are- so we need to always be molded in these areas by TRUTH. We must stay in the Word and seek to reason by the Spirit. We do not need to fear in our straining at the details of theology. Yes, it has to be more than reason- but it is OK to search out these things and seek a God-honoring articulation of the system. And you know by now that I am biased. All the struggle will never produce anything close to the Westminster Confession of Faith- but no need to fear in our chewing on it and struggling to apply it to our current culture. I love this quote by the Rev.Art Azurdia:

"We must crush the spirit of this age under our feet that says,  'I don’t want to think, I want to feel'. You may say, 'Who can understand domain of theologians?' But theological lumber is something you cannot live without. It is not a philosophical conundrum for the intellectual elite. God’s sovereignty is a soft pillow for a weary head. It is comfort to a church under attack and Christians facing opposition, even martyrdom.”     


Secondly, and this is crucial, we must be 'self-suspicious' in these decisions knowing that our hearts are deceitfully wicked. We can rationalize and choose solely based on our selfish desires and wrap them in words of light and beauty. How dangerous is this? How vulnerable am I to this? Look at the quote below from a review of Steiner's book.

“The organizer of Steiner's posse is careful to warn his agents by radio not to let their prisoner speak while they march him out of the jungle (A.H.). "When He made the Word, God made possible also its contrary," says Emmanuel Lieber,…"He created on the night side of language a speech for hell ... There shall come a man who ... will know the grammar of hell and teach it to others. He will know the sounds of madness and loathing and make them seem music’.”
Lawrence Malkin,Otto Friedrich -Teaching the Grammar of Hell- Review of The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (Steiner) Time Magazine 3/29/1982

Knowing that I will making a major decision in the next few weeks has put me on high alert to seeking God out. I will need supernatural intrusion to step in the right path. It will never be a perfectly marked road and there will be parts that will not match up like a piece of a puzzle.

I am asking my wife to join me in this and we must spend time reading the Word, praying, and even desire to have some fasting involved. It is an active pursuit- we must do our homework. At the same time- we need to ask that God will make it clear.

I have developed a 'decision grid' to help make the call- and will share it at some point.

The bottom line is that it will be a step of faith as well. A simple trust that we tried and now have to believe that God will be with us. It is hard changing ladders- but God has clearly spoken- there is another path that He has for us that will lead higher.

I am also open to the idea that I have to be working and God may throw me a curve ball even at this late stage. It always brings me back to Emerson. The quotes below are beautiful IF they are put in the right context of following Jesus as Lord. I see God's mysterious sovereignty differently. Some men hide behind 'God's will' and never really act. They see God working while they sit slow and still.

I want to see God's providence take place as I GO HARD. Yes, willing to wait on clarity. Yes, willing to submit and be joyful even if the way is hard. Yes, willing to go against the grain and possibly be misunderstood. It also means choosing when I am not trustworthy to choose. It means acting where I may not be 'qualified' to succeed. But there is something beautiful in the process. God does not call the 'qualified'; he equips the called.

All of this is chaos and it will converge (one day) on one big "Green!... Go!.... Who will I send?.... "
"Send me Lord, the foolish one who is willing to trust....."

From 'Self Reliance":
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. ...We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace...Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most requests is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs...A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
Ralph Waldo Emerson-  

And I hope I mean this when I say it: 'Not for me, not for me- but for God's name be the glory. Let the light He has given me shine before men so that they glorify Him. ' So easy to say. Impossible to do......without Him to do it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

New Thoughts on 'Answering the Call'

In this 'mini-sabbatical' I have been enjoying a very refreshing time, part of which has been re-evaluating my calling. It looks like we will be moving (not 100% sure, but likely) so I have been packing and purging in preparation for the probability.

I was going through some old files and stumbled on some handwritten notes from 2002 and the darkest underlined sentence was 'callings are subject to change'.

So, typical of me, I picked up a book to investigate this idea. I found a great one in "The Call" by Os Guinness. I have been perusing this one slowly, writing a lot of searching questions as I read and prayerfully meditating on the principles Guinness outlines.

Guinness repudiates my old notes in this sense- as Christians we operate within 'two' callings. Our primary calling is to follow Jesus Christ in a lifelong path of discipleship- building His kingdom wherever He leads. This calling NEVER changes.

Within this primary calling, however, comes a secondary calling of where, when, who...etc. These callings can change. God can and usually does change the assignment.

I have a quick side note to answering a call. Every time this 'jargon' comes up I can't help but think of former Briarwood Christian volleyball coach, Barry Walker. He used to tell a story about his girls 'sleepwalking' through a match one time. He turned out a lot of state championship teams during his tenure. Anyway, uncharacteristically, these girls were losing point after point after point. He was struggling with what to do when a parent in the stands yelled out , "GIRLS, THE PHONE IS RINGING- WILL ANYONE ANSWER THE PHONE?". He used to smile when he told the story as he recalled these girls being shaken out of their slumber and staging a huge comeback victory.

After six fairly predictable but good chapters- Guinness takes an abrupt turn in Ch 7 and revamps the idea of call by calling us to an awareness that it is  'Time to Take a Stand'. This is one of the more inspirational pieces I have ever read by Guinness. He starts by re-telling the Leonidas and his 300 man Spartan stand against the Persian King Xerxes. These warriors fought against impossible odds, eventually suffering betrayal, and defeat just beyond the famous Thermopylae (Hot Gates). At their last gasp efforts- out of armor- and literally biting and scratching until their dying breath- they sent out a famous epitaph: "Stranger, tell the Spartans that we behaved as they would wish us to- and are buried here." No surprise when you consider the training and cultural mindset 'Come back with your shield or ON IT".

Everyone loves a winner- we strive like crazy to win and fear like crazy to lose. But sometimes a heroic defeat inspires change. We understand the end of this story, it was the passionate last stand of the Spartans that finally rallied the Greek states to action and unity- culminating in ultimate victory.

Setbacks are just platforms for comebacks. Sacrifice can be more inspirational than leisure and comfort. The hard road means more in the long run. (I have no shame that in my last two seasons as a coach we ended with 'losing records 3-7 and 5-6 because I know we inspired many by the way we played and the loving bond we shared.)

What in the world does this story have to do with 'answering the call'? Guinness tells us that there has never been a more strategic time in human history to take a radical stand for our Savior. Christians never despair in crisis because they know that the very crisis itself presents the greatest opportunities.

Think of it this way: "Passerby, tell our Lord that we behaved the way as He would wish us to behave- and we are buried here." We stare in the face of pluralism, consumerism, secularism, rapidly changing communication technology and risk being swamped by the global rejection of absolute truth.

The primary call has not changed- the odds seem unlikely- but there has never been a more exciting time to be a bold witness for the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

And what if the tide does not turn? What if we are slowly relegated to the ruin of irrelevance and rejection? We have no need to despair.

I have been supremely inspired by an old hymn written by Frederick William Faber (he also wrote 'God of Our Fathers') in 1849 called Workman of God:
1. Workman of God! O lose not heart,
But learn what God is like;
And in the darkest battlefield
Thou shalt know where to strike.

2. For God is other than we think;
His ways are far above
The heights of reason, and are reached
Only by childlike love.

3. He hides Himself so wondrously,
As though there were no God;
He is least seen when all the powers
Of ill are most abroad.

4. Thrice blest is he to whom is giv’n
The instinct that can tell
That God is on the field, when He
Is most invisible.

5. Blest too is he who can divine
Where real right doth lie,
And dares to take the side that seems
Wrong to man’s blindfold eye.

6. Then learn to scorn the praise of men,
And learn to lose with God;

For Jesus won the world through shame,
And beckons thee His road.

7. God's glory is a wondrous thing,
Most strange in all its ways ;
And, of all things on earth, least like
What men agree to praise.

8. Muse on His justice, downcast soul,
Muse, and take better heart ;
Back with thine angel to the field,
And bravely do thy part.

9. For right is right, since God is God;
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.

There is no shame in standing up for Christ and being wiped out in the stand. There is great adventure and satisfaction in answering the call to stand for right.

I used to teach the Sermon on the Mount to seniors as they began their last semester of high school. After one week on the Beatitudes (based on the latin 'Beatus' or 'blessed') I would have the students write a paraphrase of what Jesus is saying. I always started mine with a re-drafting of 'Blessed are the poor in spirit" with my version "Congratulations, you realize now what a loser you are" emphasizing that the beginning of spiritual progress is in admitting your own spiritual bankruptcy.

After a week of discussing this idea I put my introductory phrase on the board. One of my colleagues walked into the room at that moment and boldly proclaimed to the class, "I'm NOT a LOSER, I'm a WINNER" and walked right out. Each student looked at me for my reaction- I just said, "It won't take long for this truth to come to light. We are winners in Christ, but until we learn that we are losers without Him, we will never join Him. Paul said, 'I am crucified with Christ'. (my fellow worker) knows this...just walked in at the wrong time."

Bottom line for all of us is this: It is better to lose with Christ than to win without Him. Do you believe that? My prayer is that all of us will. The phone is ringing.. who is going to wake up and answer the call? It may be that foes may wear us down, it may be that we wear championship crowns. But we will in the end be one equal temper of heroic hearts.
We may be misunderstood, mistrusted, or mocked- but my dear brothers and sisters- there is great honor in responding to the call to stand! To do anything less is actually not living at all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let's Presuppose a Narrative Shall We?

 Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 
You are considering the 'story' you have been told your whole life. All around you is evidence that this story has a long history with humans. So you ask me to tell you why I believe it is no mere myth.

'Let's assume for the sake of the argument that the Creator does exist. He not only created all of the natural world- but He also supernaturally revealed, watched over, protected his written communication to mankind. This narrative is the creation, fall, redemption, and ultimate consummation of all things. The story is pieced together in a variety of ways- Nature itself is a piece- The history of Israel and their Sacred writings are a piece- The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the apex of the story- The God-breathed writings of eye-witnesses are another important part- sealed with martyrs blood. According to John Calvin- knowing yourself is a piece of this mystery- the shared deep inner life and complex outer life of human beings throughout history.

I want to mention another important part of this tale. There is such a vast difference between the Creator and the creature that He must reveal Himself in an accommodating way. This 'teaching technique' is NOT pretense for it does reveal truth and reality. But it is revealed truth in a way that can be understood. And the understanding takes place in time and history.

The grand story contains another plot development- this is where you and I come in- we show up in the story and find ourselves in a world gone wrong. How did that happen you ask? The Creator created a good world (without Him we wouldn't even really know what 'good' is)-  part of life's goodness was pure freedom. The capacity to love and have relationship is maximized in the power of choice. The King gave the subjects unbound freedom- not only the 'possibility of evil' but a 'probability' of evil because of the amazing talents and powers of these creatures.

Previous to the human story- there seems to have already been those who chose the 'NO' option:' I will do it my way'- the true character of the Creator requires consequences for violation of His nature. Notice He does not choose here- this is what He is.

This fateful rebellion also happened in the human realm. SO that all of creation bears the marks of a 'curse'. One result of this curse and rebellion is the emergence of three distinct enemies to the Kingdom of the Creator. The world ( the unified system of rebellion)- the flesh (the default mode of the rebel)- and the devil (a supernatural leader of a powerful army of rebels).

One more item in this story is a 'transferable disease' in the creature- a natural desire to rebel - which results in a separation from the Creator. Indeed, the core of this message is the Creator's actions to restore the divide.

The great character in this story is the Hero- the Creator/King/Father- giving up His begotten (not created) Son- who emptied Himself of His Royal Rule- becoming a creature Himself- living in perfect obedience in the face of enemies- and then paying the punishment of a rebel- fulfilling the shadows of the sacrificial system that has been practiced throughout human history- appeasing the wrath of the Creator by the shedding of blood and offering sacrificial worship.

The Creator accepts this great sacrifice as a substitute for rebellion. His wrath is satisfied in the blood of His Son. This King affirmed His acceptance by raising the son from the dead and bestowing on Him universal honor- salvation is in His name alone.

So there is now a way back to the King. Those who were once rebels may lay down their arms and come home. The creatures have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Son. The once sworn enemies are now not only cleared of their crimes but even adopted into the royal family. These sons are now heirs. The terms of this covenant? A willingness to be ruled and a trust in the Son's sacrifice.

Though many still refuse- they will get better and better at refusing Him- ultimately sealing their eternal state. The Creator Himself overcomes the rebellious spirit of some- allowing many to accept restoration. Their stories are strikingly similar "I once was a rebel determined for death but now I am a royal son and a high priest to my Father the King. What a gracious ruler He is."

Now here is where the story gets almost "Inception" here.

Though you have been exposed to the narrative, you come to point in your life where you begin to weigh whether this story is real or myth. How on earth can you validate a Creator who is seen only by the accommodating structures He has used? People tell you all kinds of things, but who is trustworthy? How can you know what path to choose? Is it important.

A huge problem is that IF the story is true then you are going to be infected with the problem of resistance. One friend whispers 'hogwash'- 'another man says 'trust'- your inner voices are pulled and there is a mighty battle being waged way down deep- so deep that we have to use a metaphor... the heart. Yes-I'm telling you that you should also regard yourself with a healthy suspicion.

This battle takes place over time- it is a fight for years- there is weariness and doubt and inconsistencies all around.

But once again you come to a quiet moment and ask the most dangerous question a man can ask- "What if I am wrong?"- "IF the story is true then I am deceived and cannot judge the validity of the message in a neutral way- I am biased- I don't evaluate evidence- I twist it- I rationalize it- What am I to do?"

Soon, though, the thoughts slip away and you notice something- you are stronger now in your doubts. You meet others who are stronger still. It is not long before you meet some who reject the story as myth and even mock the claims.

You see that there are staged debates where each side offers up their arguments and evidence- but no one is ever swayed. The loyalists celebrate their 'slam dunk win' and the 'rebels roll their eyes at the foolish faith of the 'believers".

Then you met me, and you somehow venture into this battle that now only feels like a routine of ideas in your 'heart'. It doesn't take long to see that I am a 'believer'. After a series of meaningless points and counter points, you ask me the deadly question: "Aren't you just biased and hiding behind your 'faith'."
My response just astounds you. "Of course I am biased. Of course I am living by faith. But you are too!"

This frustrates you:"I am not a person of faith- I have facts and science."

I respond again: "You are confident in your evidence. I am confident in my evidence. But do we really have proof as we discuss evidence? If we stop here, we both are left with probabilities."

Something strange begins to happen- you are opening yourself up just a little. You feel weak on the inside but would never show it on the outside. It is a quiet thought- He's right- we are both biased and I am putting some faith in my logical arguments and evidences.

Then the most dramatic question you have ever pondered comes screaming into your soul.

I say, 'Let's try something different- You know, we have spent all of this time arguing the King's narrative of why the things are the way they are and why we are here.
Tell me this- Let's remove the Creator completely out of the picture. Tell me your grand story. How did all of this get to be. How do we even have grounds to share our story. Where do the rules of logical analysis come from to evaluate the story? Where does the will to reject the story come from? Why does it even matter? Remember- no miracle allowed."

You know that there has to be a big bang in there somewhere- but other than that - you realize that you have a lot of fantastical statements you are about to make. And deep down you know that not even you will buy it.

You look at me and even have a sense of anger. You think I am an arrogant, foolish, prude. If I say I care for you- you won't believe it. And if you watch me long enough you will see my inconsistencies. But you also see that I really believe the message of grace.

Once more you consider the narrative- What if I am in rebellion to the living Creator/King? And you want to fight the cynic in you that says 'it just sounds to easy to be true."

I continue to pray for you. I know you can't win this battle- I am asking the real Father- the Creator- The King to shine His love deep down and open your eyes to His glorious love and truth. "Father- please do for him right now what you have done for me. I don't deserve your grace- please welcome this lost son home."

You attack again with questions: What about the hypocrites? I say look at the Son. What about injustice? I say look at the Son. What about those who never hear? I say "You have just heard- what are you going to do? Look at the Son."

And a little tear forms in your eye- you want to come home- it is too weary a fight and without hope. You want the despair and fear to leave. You want an embrace. It is no longer about an argument of ideas- it is now about the deepest thirst of your soul......

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Danger, Aim, and Quandry of Christian Scholarship

I guess you can tell that I think I found a 'home run' book in Right Reason and the Princeton Mind- An Unorthodox Proposal by Paul Kjoss Helseth. This one has pressed deep and has me mulling and 'amen'ing  more than I have in a while. The last such book to grab me in this area was John Frame's classic 'Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (DKG)'

I am growing more convinced that in order to keep a legitimate platform for the gospel in the academies, we must always demonstrate a valid epistemology. We need a cogent, articulate way to justify the norms of knowledge. I especially hope to hammer out a way to teach it to teens where they can confidently express a viable Christianity in the marketplace of ideas.  I am thoroughly convinced that this is where Christianity excels.

Time and time again, I am reminded that no one has ever done Christian scholarship better that the Princetonians who had a golden age of gospel proclamation, missionary zeal, and world class academic accomplishments from 1812-1929.
The latest chapter in "Right Reason" was a defense of B.B. Warfield's apologetic. But once again, I came away gleaning a side fruit of unexpected application.

Helseth does a wonderful job of showing the razor-thin danger zone of the connection and restraints of academic pursuits and the authority of Scripture. In the long run, not even Princeton survived the land-mine filled battlefield (with a lot of blame due to Woodrow Wilson I'm sad to say).

B.B. Warfield is lifted up as a model of academic zeal constrained by orthodox faith.

My favorite quote from this chapter is as follows:
Warfield argued that the believing academic has in his hands the norm of truth in the Word of God. This is the Ariadne clue by means of which he can thread his way through the labyrinths of the world's thought; this is the touchstone by the art of which he may choose the good and refuse the evil. So long as he clings to it he will build up the temple of truth, whence soever he quarries the stones. When he loses hold of it, however, he descends into the arena and takes his hap with other men; and going his own way, it is not strange that he is often found with his back turned to God. (B.B. Warfield- Heresy and Concession)

The reformed idea of all truth is God's truth should propel the Christian to seek out both the general and special revelation of God with eager excitement and passion. It should also make Christians slow to wring hands and despair when contrary views are propagated. The truth has no need to fear or hide from the truth. I believe that science does have a self correcting mechanism if honesty and integrity is enforced. The variable is time.

There is so much more to say about this: but under the authority of Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit- regenerated believers should be the champions of knowledge- knowledge with a purpose- the beautiful and sweet glory of God.

Which "R" Word Do We Want?

Day 2 in a "Right Reason and the Princeton Mind- an Unorthodox Proposal by Paul Kjoss Helseth.

Though the intent of this book is to challenge the critics who have relegated the Princetonians to a 'rational' only theology, I'm finding it to be a summary statement on the nature of saving faith- the capability and limitations of the unbelieving mind- and philisophical foundations of apologetics.

Today's chapter used the writings of BB Warfield to advance the premise.

But it only continued to press me a little on finding subtle but crucial distinctives between historical, speculative, and saving faith.

Eventually, most of this will be put into application in my work with teens. But the fundamentals will not change if they are based on truth.

I would have to confess that many times, my faith is of a speculative or historical nature. I see it as a slight wandering into an area where I love ideas or concepts more than the presence of the Living God.

C.S. Lewis mentions this in his book, Miracles:
An impersonal God- well and good.
A subjective God of beauty, truth, and goodness inside our own heads- better still.
A formless, life surging force...a power we can tap- best of all.

But God himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps  approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband- that is quite another matter.....

There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling with religion suddenly  draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant to come to that! Worse still, supposing that He had found us?

This then is what we desire- we want to move beyond a historical or speculative faith into a saving faith. And the reality is this: it has to be a regenerative work of God's Spirit.

I thought it was interesting that Warfield saw value in the historical faith. He saw part of apologetics as staging the ground for saving faith. I see this in my work with students. I am not trying to argue them into the kingdom- I am actually demonstrating that my faith is reasonable. But mere reason will never produce saving faith just as writing/speaking about fatherhood serves as a substitute for the actual birth experience.

At some point- we ask that God intervene and pour out His Spirit on an individual and change their inclinations- a heart that responds in repentance and saving faith.

This is where I am the silliest- I prepare my chats- my words- my writings- my arguments- my analogies and stories- but how often do I pray? Have I ever fasted for it?

I end today with a sincere question- Do I want revival? It seems like a simple question. But I am not so sure. A.W. Tozer argued that a revival of the current Christianity would be a tragedy which would set the church back a hundred years.

So let me re-think this. What 'R' word do I want? Reformation? Renewal? Restitution? Revelation? Realization? Resolution?

No- let me start with regeneration. Lord, keep regenerating me- Holy Spirit empowered sight and hearing. Let this regeneration lead me to repentance. Let repentance lead me back to You! Then there will be reformation. Then there will be renewal. Then there may come revival. I will drink in deep refreshment!

Move our faith/ my faith off of the merely speculative or historical- I'm tired of 'holding to a form of godliness but denying the power' (2 Timothy 3:5).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Excited About a New Book- Surprised at an Unexpected Find

Been taking some time today to begin a new book, "Right Reason and the Princeton Mind- An Unorthodox Proposal" by Paul Kjoss Helseth. The premise is a defense against contemporary criticism of the Old Princetonians for compromising the reformed faith under the influence of Scottish Common Sense Realism.

Though I am enjoying the book immensely, a secondary surprise is that the book will afford an excellent summary to another research project in which I am currently engaged.

I have been praying through, journaling, and reading a lot about the effect of the enlightenment on current educational theories and looking at two ditches that the church has fallen into.

The first ditch is anti-intellectualism and doctrine disdain. This had been adequately documented by Mark Noll and others. The effect this has had on our culture is devastating. Never before has the church been so impotent in providing Biblical answers to contemporary questions. The church has even lost a clear, objective, articulate gospel message.

It sounds overly critical and harsh, but our retreat from doctrine has even conservative churches espousing a social gospel and an accommodating social posture in a world devoid of shame. A lot of Christian literature today is heavy on the heart and short on the head.

But I am also finding a deeper ditch on the other side of the road. This is one I am labeling "The Grace answer game". This is more subtle and deadly. This ditch is where we 'teach the answers' and find comfort when the church knows the right 'buzz words' and jargon. It doesn't unsettle us to find the Lord's charge "These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me." (Is. 29/Matt15). The book I am reading brings home foundational thoughts about the nature of saving faith. Both Charles Hodge and Archibald Alexander delineated between speculative faith, historical faith, and saving faith. I worry that we are finding a lot of speculative faith and historical faith in the marketplace- but less and less saving faith.

One side is all heart and no head. The other side is all head and no heart- both are in danger of missing the gospel message.

I will write more on this as I finish the study- but let me close with this. We all need to pay closer attention to the gospel and cry out to God for informational clarity and heart passion. I want to find God sweeter tomorrow than today. I want to see His beauty and know Him deeper. We have to have the Spirit to make us ache for righteousness and fight for justice. At the same time, we have to know the Word and rightly divide it for truth. We need to read, pray, and obey. Obedience that is not attached to the gospel- for we are saved by Christ and His grace alone. But an obedience that grows out of the relationship we have with the Father and the indwelling of His Spirit.

If we do not figure this out soon, I'm afraid we will all share the guilt of having 'the faith of the fathers ruined by the children'- This culture has never needed repentance and revival more than right now. It must start with me and my household. What say you?

The Waiting Game

This will be a quick and general update on where I am and what is happening. Sorry, no details yet.

On Dec 9, God allowed one of those  'knock you to the ground kicks to your teeth' that  left me in the dust. One day I will try to detail what I think happened- it is too soon to unravel now- and would require a lot of speculation at this point.

The bottom line is this- I woke up that Thursday morning with full confidence about where I will live, where I will work, and was routinely doing my daily tasks of getting better, teaching, and planning for the future. I went to bed on Thursday night not knowing anything about the next day, week, month, or year.

When life slaps you to the ground like that- there are a number of complex things going on- deep things. And it is not just about you- this effects an entire family and group of people- it impacts close friends- it creates a stir in the community.

My visual was of a big, red dragon that had just landed what he thought was a death blow and I was laying in the dust of debris- and he was bowed up and hovering over me, sneering, and challenging me - "What you going to do now? What you going to do now?"

The pain is real- the shame hangs like a banner- and the weariness and emptiness of life is so thick you taste it. The nights are lonely, even the sweetest wife a man has ever known eventually falls asleep- and all you have is the darkness there to accuse. I cried out for sleep and I yearned for mornings- but each tick of the clock was spent in despair.

Now the cool part- God shows up. He shows up in a real way. He shows up in a sincere way. But He does it His way. He is not there to rescue me from the immediate pain- He wants me to hurt for a little bit, He doesn't desert me, but He is no quick fixer on purpose.

The medicine is there - the comfort is there- the Spirit is there. But the purpose of the medicine is to allow the pain to go deep and settle for a bit. It has now been 39 days- and I am doing so much better- but the pain is still present- I just know how to live with it- I don't have to hide from it- and I no longer fear the nights- and I no longer fear the dreams- and I have very little fear of the future.

What helps? God does- but here are some of the details.

First, my family rushed to my side and hugged me and loved me and we embraced God's plan with confidence and courage. Part of the fruit of walking with Christ is that He gives us others. In my case it was my amazing wife and children. It was also genuine friends- God's on-earth ministers.

Second, was God's Word- I can't say enough of what a Spirit-breathed Word of comfort does to a wounded soul. God's Word has the right amount of anger, cries, pain, and promises for His people to successfully navigate these waters.

Third, the testimony of God's people. It wasn't long before I began to hear the stories. It seems like that between the ages of 30-50 God allows men especially to be kicked down by life- it may be cancer, divorce, bankruptcy, addiction, problem with children, joblessness- and the purposes of this is manifold. I heard great stories of how men would say' the best thing that ever happened to me' and I saw the sincerity in their eyes and heard the echo of pain in their voice. These were not men saying cliche's - these were men who saw my cracked heart and remembered. It wasn't "I told you so" it was "I know". And it all helped me.

I made a list of these men who rushed to me and supported me in words and deed. I will pray God's blessings for them for the rest of my life. I want to do the same for others in the future.

So, slowly, day by day- I got up. I exercised. I read the Word. I prayed. I listened to praise songs and good Christian music. I sent out my resume. I made phone calls. And Jesus never left me.

Going back to worship was also important, though we needed a new venue for a myriad of reasons. God allowed Brentwood Baptist to be there. The sermons were God directed and Spirit enforced. The ministry of the Word and music were fresh breeze in tattered sails.

Now the summary of all of this: through the music, sermons, Bible study, prayer, testimonies, I heard a clear and strong message from God....WAIT.

It was hammered home again today:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40: 28-31

Ray Ortlund comments on this: "To wait for the Lord means to live in confident, eager suspense. It means to live with the tension of promises revealed but not yet fulfilled. This waiting is not killing time. It isn't sitting around, drumming your fingers. It is waiting on tip-toe, waiting with eager longing. It is forgetting what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead, and pressing on toward the goal (Philippians 3:13,14). It isn't erratic bursts of hyperactivity within a general pattern of boredom. It is steady, rugged progress, sustained by the conviction that the display of God's glory in Christ is yours."

So this is where I am. Learning how to sit still and wait yet remain in motion. A good friend gave me another visual... I am a running back and I have just received the hand-off- I am in slow motion and the line is blocking in front of me. I have to wait for the hole to open- but I have to be ready to hit that hole with all the explosion that I can muster.

My next post (in a few days?) will be about the decision grid I will be using to choose from the options I have before me. I am very grateful to have options.

When my enemy was hovering over me, baiting me, laughing at me, and accusing me "What are you going to do now?" I slowly stood up and replied, "I will trust my King. He is my Father and He loves me." And that dragon cursed and shrunk back in the darkness waiting on his next strike.

And so I wait.......God is good......

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Beautiful Letdown and the Presence of God

I guess you can tell that I write out stuff. Why? It has always just come out of me this way. It started my freshman year in college when I began to keep a journal- and I found it healthy in two ways: 1) It is good to articulate/record what I am thinking and feeling and it is a great resource to look back from time to time and see where God has taken me- memories- good times and bad.

In 2004, I began to do it online- and I always wanted to be honest and real with it. Why would I do this? Isn't it highly self serving and narcissistic? I think there are some who see facebook posting and blogging as symptoms of the the most self-absorbed generation in the history of man. Is this just a big altar to SELF?

I have always wrestled with this and prayed about it- I think I hold it with an open hand to God. It is so interesting to look back and see even where already some of my views have changed. I see typos and stupid posts. But I will leave it as it is- look inside and see a man- foolish and prideful- but sharing my heart- without fear because I am dead anyway- My life is hidden in Christ. I don't fully understand that but I accept it as my only hope.

I recently re-watched Gone With The Wind- (I thought of my mom- she was so happy when they showed it on TV one year many moons ago- and we watched it over a two night period.)

So I watched it again- and like all classics- they grow with age. The older you get, and the more life happens- you see all the innuendo and political punches- and you appreciate it. Vivian Lee with all of her little facial cues gives my favorite acting job of all time. The irony is that Scarlett is usually pretending- so this in some way must have been one of the most demanding parts of all time.

What does 'Gone With the Wind' have to do with what I am walking through?

God is a master director- all people, believers and unbelievers, are living out a real life and telling a real story. In the end, the director will show up and the drama will be finished, and it will be a grand story to His honor and renown.

In every life, God ordains dark days- and these are complex things. Sometimes it is of our own making, sometimes it is suffering for righteousness sake, and sometimes it is just 'rain falling on the just and the unjust' - as 'Calvin would say the luck of life' (stole that one from a friend).

When it happens- it is impossible to know all of the reasons why. And my guess is that we are NOT supposed to know all of the mystery.

So without any details or reasons- I do want to talk about what to do when this happens and what God does for His children when it happens.

The summary is this: When God allows your whole world to crumble- it is at that moment when you have a chance to discover Him as the most Beautiful Person in the entire universe and find a deep joy in the pain that allows you to treasure true value in this crazy life.

Now, we have 'mini-letdowns' all the time- little thorns that are designed to turn unbelievers to God and believers to focus on heaven and love the world less.

But what I recently experienced was a biggie. One that cuts too deep for words and shakes you down to the core. It is one of those things that make nights seem long and lonely. The visual is George Bailey on Christmas Eve- all alone- trembling, sweating, crying and wondering if there is any meaning or hope to life. When your inside pain makes your eyes feel too deep to see and your prayers seem in vain.

All of this seems so dramatic- and we all tend to over-dramatize personal pain. It even makes us angry that the rest of the world goes on.

But I want to give a personal testimony to anyone who God allows to read this with an open heart. I would have NEVER chosen what has happened to me- I wish it on no man- I will not accept that it happened for sound reasons- but I am resigned to accept it as God's plan. (One day I am going to flesh out how 'God's Will' gets us in trouble- but I'm still searching Him out right now).

But let me write about what I did and what God did for me and why I sing songs of praise to Him in the midst of the carnage.

For a short time- He creates a distance. Usually during the long, dark nights. It has not been unusual for me to pass out dead tired at 10PM and wake up at 2:30 or 3:00 AM- my heart is beating defeat in my inner ear. And I lay there for hours replaying words and deeds- and all I can pray is "Help, I am hurting" and I say it over and over. (The Raven comes to mind as I write this).

Now the good stuff- every morning as the Sun came up- He met me in such a real way. And here is how it works- Read the Scriptures and pray- for some reason the OT really painted my heart with soothing medicine. The Psalms of Ascent (120-134)- The Book of Isaiah, and Ezekiel were the most helpful to me. I also encourage you to play Christian music during this time. I would put my ipod in my ear and run and run and run- Praise music just flooded my heart with grace and promises.

My family- wow- what a treasure! There is nothing like having your wife and children hug you and pray over you. My friends- thank-you. There were those here and far away who reached out as God's ministers. I heard beyond their words and felt their love- and my loyalty to them was cemented forever!

There are also some tangible things God did for me- right away- that were clear signals that He was in the midst of my pain.

I don't know if this is appropriate for every situation- but God's clearest message to me in this time has been "WAIT"- in other words be careful and not hasty. Speak less and pray more. Don't think about what I am going to do- instead seek Him and search Him out.

I am going to list one other tool- if you ever find your life has been pushed down to the dust in defeat- here is something that has helped me.

I am a theological junkie- read it all the time. I am one of those 'weird doctrine dudes' who actually study Bible commentaries. I am just being honest here when I write that- in my amateur and limited opinion- the greatest commentary ever written- the most readable- the most relevant- the most useful for the layman- the one that offers pure medicine for a crushed heart- is one on Isaiah: God Saves Sinners- Edited by Kent Hughes, and written by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.

If you want to find God is a deeper and richer way- after He allows the beautiful letdown- read Isaiah and read this commentary and you will fall on your knees everyday and cry out worship to God. Christ is that good. He is all I ever need and I'm sure I will have to re-learn the lesson over and over again until He appears. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

I have attached it as a link- you ought to buy it and try it. I will finish this blog out with some quotes from this book.
"Self salvation makes a lot of sense, until you try it. No one anywhere, even under ideal conditions, has ever figured out how to live well without God... even if you are (on a beautiful beach or resort) you will still need God. And being there without God would be hell. And being here, or anywhere with God can be heaven."
"Never outgrow the humility of brokenness before God. In becoming a Christian, you admit that your whole life has been wrong. As you grow in Christ, never leave that realism behind. Your failure is God's opportunity. Your sin is God's moment."
"The crisis of life is over. We find rest, not because we can cope with our attackers but because we are at peace with God."
"And that startling sense of our  acceptance in Christ is how we become the trusting people we should be, the broken people we should be, and the renewed people we should be. That's when nothing can hold us back from the newness of life, not even our own second-rate repentance."
Whether this post has been narcissistic or witness- whether it is psychological manipulation or Holy Spirit confirmation- I will never stop proclaiming the incredible news... God saves sinners like me and it is never too late to cry out a simple prayer..."HELP!"

The Blog Everyone Was Asking About- Final Thoughts

Some final thoughts:

Just like any addiction- this will be a lifelong struggle for me. My wife and children have been great to watch out for me and keep track- sure it gets bothersome at times- but I know they are doing it for my good.

One thing I have done is to continue weighing and I set a 'red flag' weight for myself. As long as I stay under 200 lbs I am NOT on a diet. I live, eat, and exercise regularly. But if I hit 205- I must go back on a diet  until I get below. I would like to stay between 185 and 195.

Here are my new goals below:
New Eating Habits:
200 lbs is red flag- URGENT!
I want to split entrées at restaurants and leave food on my plate
No sugar in my drinks
As long as I am above 200- NO SWEETS
If I exercise- I get to eat a little more
If I don’t exercise- I have to eat less

I wanted to mention 2 foods that help me:
1 is almonds- they are low carb and a filling snack
2- is 'Carbmaster Yogurt' which I have only found at Kroger. Cheap and tastes good. 80 cals 4 carbs

Fall 2010- I was grateful to my wife, Lisa, who got up with me at 5:00 AM four days a week and ran with me during football season. I stayed below 200 all during the season, but I still didn't eat great.
2011 I want to hit it hard again in April and see if I can hit a new low or not. It takes warmer weather to assist the body in burning calories in my opinion.

I listed some of my stat keeping below:

             Fat % 
Fat Mass 
246.6 lbs
80.4 lbs.
121.6 lbs.
237.0 lbs.
73.2 lbs.
120.0 lbs.
231.4 lbs.
73.2 lbs.
115.8 lbs.
228.2 lbs.
70.8 lbs.
115.2 lbs.
220.8 lbs.
62.2 lbs.
116.0 lbs.
217.6 lbs.
60.0 lbs.
115.4 lbs.
214.4 lbs.
57.2 lbs.
115.0 lbs.
213.4 lbs.
59.4 lbs.
112.8 lbs.
208.6 lbs.
54.8 lbs.
112.6 lbs.
206.6 lbs.
54.6 lbs.
111.2 lbs.
205.8 lbs.
53.0 lbs.
111.8 lbs.
                                                                                                *source Medi-Weightloss

My lowest weight in 2010 was 194.9 on Aug 18th on Wi Fit

Documenting June 2010
Start 216.9 – Finish 207.7 (9.2 lbs)
 Ate Approx- 32,500 calories (1050 carbs)
 BMR-  55,000 kcal
Exercise- 14,800 kcal (total 69,800)
 <37,300 deficit> (3500 cal in lb) =10.6 lbs
Exercised 24 out of 30 days – 130 miles running/biking/walking/lifting

Like always please consult your Dr before going to any extreme eating or exercise changes. Go slow- learn to be patient- and Keep me updated on how you do!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Using Logic to Prove God

There is an argument out there which seems to  suggest that the existence, recognition, and use of the laws of logic point to the existence of God.

The use of logic and the declaration of something as 'logical' or 'illogical' points to a pre-existent, unchanging, and prescriptive tool of evaluation and communication.

The laws of identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle- though sometimes misused with fallacy and faulty presumptions- point to a transcendent standard and come close to touching the mind and attributes of God.

In other words, if you use logic to argue against God, you are actually proving His existence because where would the universal standards of logic come from that you are using?

We use logic all the time, understand it, and point out when it is sub-standard in our rationalization.

We use it without ever considering what its origin might be.

It is harder to explain the existence of logic without the existence of God. Start with the materialist view of the universe- just matter- no personality- no plan- only time and chance in the future.

Were we just that lucky to have law, and language, and logic, and love come to be?

Was there this strange bug like a spider that accidentally a silk thread came out of his butt and he thought "Hey I can use this to catch bugs?" I just need to know how to build it- and after 1 million years he perfected the web?

Are you really that smart or are you really that presumptuous? I know, I know - you think I am the foolish one to believe in the loving, sovereign Creator. You hate my God- but I don't follow that God. I don't believe in the same God you don't believe in. But would you be open to finding the ONE who is there? He wants to show Himself to you......

A final thought- they teach in math a concept called 'imaginary numbers' - (take the square root of a non positive number) it is labeled with an i- usually it is combined with a bi (b is a real number and i is imaginary). So you say that God is imaginary- what if it is like an imaginary number- it has to be there to fill out the equation. In the variable above b is the man? and i is the mind of God?

I will stop there- the hard hearted will call me a fool and point out my sin and inconsistencies. I am a fool- but my King is a beautiful being- I wish you would walk with Him for a little while.

You can reach out to Him today and say, humbly- "I want to acknowledge you as Lord today- would You show Yourself to me?" and then (I know this sounds silly) open the Scriptures (The Bible) and say "I think this is a silly book of human propaganda and myth, but I do humbly ask that You show Yourself to me- overcome my intellectual pride, rebellion, and skepticism- help me get over the hurts that men have caused- help me see beyond the churches failures- help me to see truth"- and then quietly wait as you read. 

My prayer for you:
Father- You have shown Yourself to me in a powerful way- please do so for the one who would do this today" AMEN There is NO SIN that Christ cannot forgive you of-if you will acknowledge Him.

The Blog Everyone Has Been Asking For - the Diet (pt 3)

update- March 2021
this post is frequented a lot- here is an update- I moved back to Bham and over an 8 year period gained back all of the weight and more (Covid shutdown didn't help)- However, good news, I have lost 20 lbs since Dec 18 2020- slowly, and feel really good.

The low carb, austere diet works but is difficult to live with. Also, the body adjusts- I do credit great information from Noom- so I think I am doing it by a better way... but everything below is still the record in 2010- though I can't endorse everything below:

 Please see parts one and 2 as background info. In 2010 I lost more than 50 lbs and wanted to document what I did- this is an inside out change that must take place, over time.


(Ok- First let me say that Medi-Weightloss is the best choice here. It is expensive, and I was blessed by a benefactor on this- but I will give you how I would do it without the Medi personnel. But the Jan/Feb plan was my plan alone and medi came in April 16.)

JANUARY- Great time to think about a change. But you can do this at ANY time. Today is a good day.
For 1 month- do not think about doing a diet. Think about a paced and consistent exercise plan. This is a long process- get an improved state of fitness first.


WATER- DRINK ONLY WATER FOR AT LEAST 3 WEEKS. You can still have coffee- but think about drinking only decaf after 9AM. No diet drinks for a while.


Here is what Jan 2010 looked like for me.

Breakfast- Yogurt with pecans or walnuts, Fruit. (Don’t do a lot of bacon, eggs because you will get sick of those when you start the low carb phase.) I loved cream of wheat and Oatmeal on cold Jan morns.

Mid-morn- small apple or nuts- or 1/2 protein bar

Lunch- small salad

Mid-afternoon- apple or nuts or 1/2 protein bar

Evening- small portion meat and three (vegis) w/ glass of milk.

EXERCISE: YOU HAVE TO DO SOME SORT OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY 5 0R 6 TIMES PER WEEK. It is Jan, so if the weather is the least bit good- get outside. If weather is bad do a gym workout. Vary what you do. I would run- walk- hike- treadmill-elliptical- Start slow. Try some of those workouts on your TV- they are good. Vary what you do.

JM Secret to Success- One exercise I really believe in is a straight arm squat- Start with a broom stick, and hold it high with 2 hands and straight arms over your head and do 10 full squats holding the broom stick over your head with straight arms. Work up to 3x10 and do it twice a week. Add weight slowly. Do not go over 45 lbs.
I got to where I was doing the bar (45 lbs) 3x10 with really good technique. It did wonders for my core!

Do this for 1 month. Pray that God will remove the idol of food. Try not to binge, but if you do- just come back the next day.

The Goal of Month #1 is to build a fitness base. You are eating and drinking water to fuel your body as a workout machine.

FEBRUARY: This is a short month.
Day 1: Weigh In on a good scale- one that you will use a lot. No cheap bathroom scale. One great tool I used was Wii Fit- it was a good scale and keeps the record for you.

Psych Prep- Before you weigh… you cannot worry about that number. Your mind will play tricks on you throughout the process. Today is a beginning- you are worth more than what a scale says about you.

Goal: Keep improving in exercise and eat consistently good choices. Begin to limit portions from time to time. Eat slowly and enjoy it- enjoy the company more than the food. Add multi-vitamin-multi-mineral.

Exercise- get outside as much as possible. Pick one day a week to go long and hard. Vary the workouts and be smart. An injury or bad tendonitis will set you back. Listen to your body. Stretch.

As the weather gets better- learn to praise God as you run and revel in the glory of nature!

March: Spring Break is coming and you will need a break. Do 1 week normal. The week before spring break try to eat the least you have eaten the whole year. Feel some hunger pains and try to drown them with water or decaff coffee. Don’t skip meals- just cut the portions back.

Spring break- Take the week off- run or walk only for fun.

If you have a week after spring break- get back into an exercise routine.

APRIL: This is the serious time- time to go for it! YOU CAN DO THIS!
Week 1: 800 calories and no more than 20 carbs. You are going to be miserable for about 4 days.
Almost like you have the flu. Exercise will be really hard, but try to do it even though you will do less.
WATER/WATER/WATER- Smart water for electrolytes (64-128 fluid oz)
EAT all 800 calories and try to keep it about 5 carbs per meal.
Buy some ketostix at pharmacy and test for ketosis- you want to get in ketosis by day 3 (turn it moderate at least) and you want to be in ketosis for about 45 continuous days.
YOU MUST WRITE DOWN OR RECORD ON YOUR SMART PHONE TO KEEP UP WITH THE CALORIE COUNT (there are great apps for this - I use 'daily burn' but there are other good ones. )

Here is a sample day for me:
Breakfast-eggs/bacon/sausage with cheese
Snack- 3 cubes of cheese
Lunch- Grilled chicken breast (2)
Dinner- Grill a BIG steak and eat fat and all

If you do not drink a ton of water- you will have a hard time with BM’s. You may want to slowly add some benefiber. But  don’t be shocked if you go 2 or 3 days without a BM once you hit this phase.

JM Success Secret- The Ketosticks will excite you- a dark color means you are burning fat. Weigh every 3 days. You might drop 9-15 lbs in 1 week- but it is mostly water weight. BTW- You will pee non stop for about 2 weeks. And enjoy grilling meat- eat fish- big ham- pork chops- ribs- lavishly eat red meat. Eat big omelets.

Things that will save you: Hot sauce- 0 carbs- Mustard.

Week 2- 800 calories and slowly add more carbs but try to stay in ketosis- Dark green vegis and almonds. Do not go over 30 carbs a day in week 2.
One thing that really helped me was the internet- you can google almost any food and get the nutritional info.

Some huge finds:
Kroger has a yogurt called Carbmaster- 80 cals and 4 grams of carbs- it is cheap and tastes great!
Almonds were my survival food- 24 nuts is 170 cal and 5 carbs

One thing I noticed was that my body adjusted by week 2 to the exercise- I was running fairly well on No carbs- Why? No idea- but it worked fine for me.

Week 3- I had my first challenges with eating out;
A lot of Salads- no croutons- and I tried to eat just ½ of it.
Hot wings and side salad kept me in ketosis

Now by week 3- I was totally hooked and in the zone-
Start- 246.6
Week 1- 237
Week 2- 231.4
Week 3- 228.2

I was feeling great and rolling.

Around weeks 4 or 5, I began trying more calories and exercising harder. I would eat a ½ apple with peanut butter about an hour before running. Grapes tasted like candy.
I felt the best and kept the stick dark with 1200 cal and 35 carbs a day.

I added a few treats- Soy milk with Stevia if I ran well that day
I found a 9 carb bread and did a few ½ sandwiches and burgers

I stayed in Ketosis from day 3 to day 48. And lost 29 lbs in 45 days.

On Monday, I will post how to transition off and some thoughts about maintenance.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Blog Everyone Has Been Asking For.... (part 2)

 The next few days I am going to document how I lost over 50 lbs in 2010- this is what worked for me- but it begins with 26 years of failure. I hope you are encouraged. Because there is some background here- let me give you the January goal- don't diet yet- eat normal- but SLOWLY begin to get your body in shape. Fuel your body while you build cardio endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility. Your strict diet will not begin until April- so gear your mind for a LONG process and it will happen.

Psychological and Spiritual Factors in Weight Loss:

I need to address the most crucial of all the weight loss factors in my struggle. Losing weight begins on the INSIDE. I have to admit there are some idolatry issues in this. Food can be a powerful idol, it combines with a longing for comfort and desire to be filled. My quest for taste and fullness, pleasure and excess, with no regard for my body as a temple is a huge deal here.

And these idols are so deeply seated in my heart that I am still very much in danger to be lured and trapped yet again.

I remember the horror of reading Philippians 3:18,19 ( For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.) and knowing that was describing me.

The beauty of the gospel was that over time, I was able to say – “Lord, this is me. My only hope is You. I trust in Your death to cover me and the truth of the gospel message to set me free.”

And yet this was a 20 year seemingly unanswered prayer- but I say again and again. The big things- the important things- take decades in God’s timing. You must search Him out and wait and wait and wait- and be willing to be content that His delivery comes at a much different timetable than we can see. But He is faithful.

There are psychological tricks here as well. One is Human Apperception.

In psychology, apperception is "the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole."  In short, it is to perceive new experience in relation to past experience.

A rich child and a poor child walking together come across the same ten dollar bill on the sidewalk. The rich child says it is not very much money and the poor child says it is a lot of money. The difference lies in how they apperceive the same event – the lens of past experience through which they see and value (or devalue) the money.
    —Christopher Ott            (source wikipedia)

They way this impacted me was the man in the mirror. I would gain 5 or 10 lbs and look at myself and feel disgust or anger or shame or hurt. Then I would lose 5 lbs and see myself in the mirror and feel such victory.The view was always an extreme; a warped stretch of the reality.

Photographs disturbed me more than the mirror. Someone would show me a picture of me and I would feel so bad about how heavy I looked. A year or so later, I would feel the same pain at a new photo and look at last years and wonder why I couldn’t at least look like last year.

The amazing difference was in '10 year' pictures. I would look at an old picture (that I previously thought was disgusting) and long for being that way again.

All of this though was a sinful human heart being swayed by my sinful and tainted senses. For example: if my wife told I looked good, my image was accepted and I was OK. If she told me I had gained weight, it pushed me into that dark hole.

It is important to remind ourselves that we are not regarded by others in these extremes. I rarely notice the weight change on others and in the long run, I don't care. If you are reading this right now, don't feel bad about how you look. You are you- people know you as you are- and though we think that appearance is something that indicates acceptance or rejection, it is never as important as we think. A warm smile and bright eyes and a loving spirit shows through way more than what your body shape is. Stop beating yourself up.

Without sounding 'hokey'- I also sensed that the enemy used quiet heart whispers to further push the pain. There is a demonic part to the inner voices that say, “You’ll never defeat this” or “You’re just a pig” or “How can you say you glorify God when your temple is a wreck”. Those thoughts were darker and deeper that just my heart. How that works, I just don’t know. I don’t think it is Satan himself, but the dark forces of evil tend to do these types of whisper campaigns to torture believers.

About 3 years ago, I began to become more aware of these battles and began to confront them. As I began to feel some small victories and growing in confidence, the battle pressed harder. I had some vicious attacks come through false accusations, misunderstandings, gossip, and deadly rumors. 

But God kept picking me up and I began to fight consistently and well. Not in words so much as in deep prayer and positive attitudes. When the battle was really raging I would get up each morning and say: “No matter what the devil or world throws my way today- I will rejoice- I am a son of the King of the universe- Jesus Christ my Lord loved me- He died for me- I am a blessed man- I am overflowing with joy, hope, and love.”

I also would begin to pray for people who were being used in attacks toward me. I wasn’t growing bitter toward them. The largest victory came when I was so full of mercy at those who misunderstood or disliked me. I felt true love for them. I prayed for their health, I spoke well of them to others, I looked to serve them, and when they wounded me, I copied my Lord’s prayer “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”. Now please, I did not do this perfectly… I got angry, at times, in the fight, I slipped at times, I accepted that I sometimes deserved the attacks- But the Holy Spirit deserves ALL THE CREDIT- as I began to get better in this fight.

I wrote some blog postings during March of 2010. It captures a lot of what I learned in this three year concentrated and intense spiritual battle. I encourage you to spend some time in these if you have experienced some of these same feelings of shame and disappointment in yourself. Remember that you will suffer tribulation in this world and learn how to keep your joy in spite of circumstances.

Ok I have taken a long time talking about this ‘philosophy stuff’.

But I have to reiterate all of this. Do you see the long buildup? Do you see the deed seated roots of this problem? Do you understand it is not just physical? It is not so simple to say:’Oh well just stop eating and exercise'- and it is offensive when a thin person asks if you want to lose weight and you say yes and then they say "Push that fat butt away from the table."

Also- without the life changing, Holy Spirit given, gospel message- what hope do we have? 

Jesus loves me- fat or thin. His death covers all of my failings and sin. Can you embrace that? It is hard… so many people say “I just can’t accept that- it seems too easy” but my friend I am crying to you again- YOU CANNOT EARN GOD”S FAVOR. YOU CANNOT BE GOOD OR DISCIPLINED. YOU CANNOT DO GOOD WORKS AND GO TO HEAVEN.
It is a sheer gift- we call it grace

I could care less if this inspires you to lose weight. My desire is for all of us to fall on our knees and cry out to the God of mercy and say to Him: LORD- I give this to You! You are God! You are in control. Take this… take me.. I cannot do any good. If you marked my sin or counted it against me- I am in trouble- But YOU LOVE ME- your death proves it- your resurrection validates Your sacrifice. My only hope is Christ. In Christ alone- I have FAITH in HIM- I trust HIM- I don’t even understand how it all works- but I lay every thing I have- my life- my eternity- my affections on Him

And when it is all through- at the end of the day- what I just did is by HIM TOO! What a God! What a Savior! How can I not proclaim this to the world! What a message!

Finally- the fruit of this latest victory came at the exact right time. It was God's timing. He got me ready for it. And now I see that He had a BIG reason for giving me this victory after 26 years of failing.

So I will list it out like this:

STEP 1- SPIRITUAL GROWTH.. I began to apply the Word more, pray more, and fight

STEP 2- RELEASING FEAR AND PAIN FROM DAILY LIFE..The realization of this was when in 2009  we finished 3-7 in football. I can't remember a time that this had ever happened to me. Every coach in America fears these types of years.
But, it was a blessing to understand that I'M OK- I DID NOT DIE!. Instead of running to food and poor self esteem I actually found a huge desire to get better.
I stood in front of the new group of seniors in Jan of 2010 and said “Watch me- you are going to see me change- I am going to work and compete- follow my lead” and I began to take it day by day- but I was determined to be the hardest working person on our campus- and I went after it mentally, physically, and spiritually. It felt good to fight! Everyday as I ran, all I did was to pray for those seniors... I wanted them to have a great year and I wanted to lead everyone I could by my example.

STEP 3- CELEBRATING SMALL VICTORIES- I did not gain weight during the 2009 season- which was significant.It did not dawn on me until after my meeting with the rising seniors.

STEP 4- FACING THE REALITY OF POOR HEALTH – I knew my blood pressure was growing and my wife kept up her concern- this was a silent killer- and what would my family do?

STEP 5- GETTING INTO THE ROUTINE- I had a good exercise routine going- I was finally healthy enough to run without pain and smart enough to know how to pace myself and cross train. (Take days off, do elliptical training,swim, ride a bike on sunny days). I was also smart to not start a diet in January. I decided to let my body get in shape for a month.I needed to fuel my workouts. The plan was to get an initial weight in Feb and begin to slowly change eating habits. I started with breakfast every morning, a lot of water, and eating 5 or 6 small meals a day. I did this Feb and March and I lost about 10 lbs.

GOD'S MIRACLE  –In April 2009- Out of the blue- one of my best friends – inspired, persuaded, and sponsored  me to join Medi-Weightloss in Brentwood in April- it was a perfect time of year to begin the journey. I can't say enough of what he did for me. I hope I have the means one day to do this for someone else.

The other things had to have taken place for this to work. But I do know that my commitment to not let my friend down and the great plan at Medi was huge. I will talk more about what I learned from them tomorrow.

From March 15- June 30- I lost an additional 39 lbs. The fun part was that as the days got warmer and I saw real weight coming off, I got great motivation to keep going. When I finally had my metabolism and eating right I was losing about 2-4 lbs a week.

Without the gospel- without the timing- without all of the above- it would have been a waste of time. Please see that this is a process- a long time… a lot of failure. Then, at the perfect moment, God takes over- HE IS NEVER LATE- BUT HE IS RARELY EARLY.

Tomorrow I am going to share a ‘diet’ plan.