Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Marathon of Life-Day 30- Proverbs 30

It is early.... I will be leaving for LP field at around 4:20 to ensure my arrival at the finish line parking at 5AM- from there I will shuttle to the start line- pack my gear bag- find my corral and begin a race at 7AM with 30,000 + runners in Music City. Roughly 5 hours later- it will be over- the end result of 3 1/2 months of training.... and still so much is before me- I am running for a number of reasons: I had the time- I feel good- I love a challenge- I love the time to commune with my Father- I pray and think- it gives me release of anger/stress- it helps me to face fear- it is a chance to honor the Williams... etc..

Proverbs 30 is a culminating chapter as well- so interesting... different in style- a different writer or at least another source of wisdom. This chapter reads like a mini-Ecclesiastes- It hits me like a poetic recapitulation of life 'under the sun'. It is the common lot of all men- regardless of spiritual temperature.

I have one more 'strange' proposal here: Just as we saw the influence of Egyptian world-view in Ch 22/23- we now likely see early Arabian worldview and we will add Babylonian worldview in Ch. 31. All men have the divine thumbprint on them- the shadow of language/love/logic/law - the common life of mankind- points us back to the Creator. All men have some of the truth- but there is only 1 TRUTH and LIFE. I know this sounds arrogant- but the Biblical worldview is the likely meta- narrative and it is not afraid to include the common touchstone of all men. This does NOT mean there is neutral ground to debate the truth of Jesus Christ- but we allow freedom of debate and discussion in the marketplace of ideas and lovingly present Christ- enough philosophy....

The marathon of life- I see this chapter as a wise sage- a man who has experienced it all- You know the slogan: I heard and I forgot, I saw and I remembered- I did and I understood.... this man has heard-seen...DONE. And what is his summary?
So as I run today- I will look around at the glory of life- the excitement and thrill of sights,sounds, colors- I will pray prayers- I will think and remember-  I will feel nostalgia-I will feel pain and fatigue- I may get to the point of having to decide to GO or QUIT....regardless- this is life.

Yesterday- I looked at all that was going on- the frivolity and love of the Royal Wedding- the suspense of the NFL draft- the aftermath of tornadoes- and just the energy in the Marathon EXPO- what a world- what a life- let's pray and praise!

It is an amazing journey- and I do hope my Father will let me go longer on the marathon to Mount Zion!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rich Man Poor Man- Day 29- Proverbs 29

In 1976, ABC broadcast its award winning mini-series "Rich Man Poor Man" over a 3 night span. Loosely based on a 1970 novel by Irwin Shaw, it featured Nick Nolte, Edward Asner, Susan Blakely and represented a unique program style that was copied in many ways throughout the rest of the decade.

We are coming to the end of Proverbs- and though the categories have been stated, illustrated, and depicted in similar and repetitive ways- the narrative has not changed. There is a right path of wisdom and an unrighteous path of foolishness. These roads run on perpendicular angles, in full view of one another, but end up with entirely different destinies.

I have taken the principles in Ch 29 and put them in the form of a dramatic dialogue. See if you can find references to the verses in this important scene of our mini-series:

 Two brothers who have lived starkly different lives- night 3 of the telecast and years of turmoil, tragedy, and trial- if you will. Nick is the ruthless one- wealthy in the world's eyes- commanding status. And his younger brother, Daniel- never a blip on the radar screen- simple, kind, patient, resilient.

Their father is long gone and Nick has been far away for many years. In a quiet corner room of a dark house- the two are alone- ready to have a conversation that sums up years of absence and existence.

NICK: I didn't come here to be judged or condemned. If we must have words, them let's not waste them on any self righteous condescension from a brother who can only wish to have experienced all I have come to know.

DANIEL: You are too quick to judge ME- maybe you have already put my face and words to the feelings that must be in your heart.

NICK: do think you are better..

DANIEL: NO- I'm broken and you are too. If there is any virtue in me, it is that I recognize my condition and you hide from yours.

NICK: WORDS! Always speaking words- always the witty one.

DANIEL: You have never been around me enough to repeat even one piece of advice that may come from me...

NICK: No need to- you are the father's favorite- you lived according to his advice- you have conformed nicely to all his pressures.

DANIEL: We are so far apart in our view of things that this conversation is fruitless...

NICK: No - we need to settle our affairs- this may be our only time to attempt it.

DANIEL- All right, my eldest brother, please lead and I will follow.

NICK: What did Father say? Did he even speak of me?

DANIEL: He did. Every mention of your name the last few weeks of his life made his lips tremble and his tears ran as streams.

NICK: Was he bitter.......?

DANIEL: It seemed more like regret to me.... maybe a touch of concern.

NICK: CONCERN! What was there to worry about?

DANIEL: All I can tell you is that he would mumble- something about 'when the stubborn are finally broken'. It seemed like a riddle to me at the first- but over time- as I watched him- I knew he was worried about you. He was worried about when life finally breaks you.. if there would be a hope of healing.

NICK: Well, aren't you the psychiatrist now. I'm telling you Daniel- you are twisting a dying man's words to slay me with guilt and I see right through your wickedness and deceit.

DANIEL: huh- You have called me many things over the years, Nick. I have my faults, but lying is not my nature and manipulation would never work on you.


DANIEL: Calm down....

NICK: Yes, I have known the pain of regret- my pursuits have produced a worthless empire of dust- my staff and workers have always hated me....all my efforts have only made for me enemies who want me entrapped and destroyed- they spread lies and there is NO LOYALTY and a dead father now accuses me through a jealous brother... why do I even want to put up with your crap.

DANIEL: Oh my god- will you stop the nonsense!


NICK: I do vent don't I....

DANIEL: PLEASE- this is not about winning or losing- we are all dealing with pain and loss, This is life and we all have coping mechanisms...

NICK: Stop playing Dr Shrink...

DANIEL: This is getting no where.....



DANIEL: He looked at me for a long time. He said he wished he had been a better dad.

He said he gave us too much and disciplined too little. He said he talked too much and hugged too little.

He was sad.

He told me to tell you that the way to peace is not in wealth and progress- and he was sorry that he did not teach you that.

NICK: And did you correct him? Did you comfort him?

DANIEL: No, I defended him. I told him that he had done those things BUT it was up to us to apply them. I told him WE were responsible for the results... not him. But he didn't believe me.. he didn't listen... He drifted away and began to mumble about being finally broken.

NICK: Well, you were right- this was a waste.

DANIEL: No- Nick, he WAS right. You are successful, and powerful, and have no need of anything- including me. But the best thing you could do today is for once in your life HEED his words. You will fight right your whole life... but one day... you will be all alone, mumbling in pain and regret.

NICK: And thus comes the I humble myself eh! And what do I become? I become like you. And WHY would I ever want to be like that?

DANIEL: You never need to be me. You need to be you. But if you really want to find peace- you are going to have to unset that jaw and remove that chip. And until that happens you will always see- even your own brother- as an enemy. And I still want to be your friend.



Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Want America to Rise and Shine- Day 28- Proverbs 28

We were all deeply saddened by the tragic tornados which tore across the south yesterday. I have great confidence in that great 'spirit' of Americans, especially southerners- to speak well of God, roll up their sleeves, and serve their neighbor. We saw it here in Nashville after the historic flood. I know people ask a lot of 'whys" during times like these and there are better answers in Christianity than any other system- I always ask 'how' do we find the motivation to do it... and the ANSWER is always a WHO....The Risen Savior!

  "I sought for the key to the greatness of America in her harbors; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America ceases to be great.Alexis de Tocqueville - (1805-1859)

You are going to think it is strange that I will write of American values from the Book of Proverbs this morning. But I think one of the deep pains in my heart is the decay and despondency surrounding the country that I do deeply love.

Now, to be fair- in the New Administration of the Covenant of Grace- there seems to be less emphasis on nations and more emphasis put on individuals who live and serve as part of the invisible church- the true church- made up of true believers and sprinkled in various ways among nations and throughout the visible church. The one true church is catholic (universal)- it is unified- and manifests itself as the body of Christ and the bride of Christ.

But even though it is hotly debated- I have no problem arguing that what made America great- what made her version of a republic special- was the large influence and application of Biblical principles deeply rooted in genuine gospel response.

The only way our particular form of freedom can work is that the people themselves are lovingly constrained by the actions of gospel transformed people. For example, capitalism cannot work if the primary heart motive of entrepreneurs is GREED. Our form of free market enterprise was held within beautiful parameters by a positive pressure of godliness.

This does not mean that all Americans have been or are christians- but we had within our founding fathers- within our early immigrants- within our homesteaders- a general consensus that God's moral law- the application of the 10 commandments- and the example of the golden rule was the correct direction for a home, a  business, a farm, a state, and a nation.

When I read Proverbs 28- I get sad- because I see all we have lost. When President Bush was fighting hard to export American freedom to the world because of its universal heart cry- I never really bought into it- because freedom without Christ and His example- and His forgiveness- only produces anarchy.

Quick example from history- the American Revolution was nobel and constructive because of Biblical standards. Soon after, the French Revolution was brutal and destructive because of the lack of the overall constraint of those standards.

Every time I bring these things up, I hear the whiners and revisionists and critics- Frankly, I'm getting weary of hearing their dogma.

What has happened to America?

vs 1- The wicked retreat and very few righteous men are standing firm. Ultimately, it is the RETREAT of the church that has led to fast decay and darkness. The American church at large is fairly weak and irrelevant. There is not much momentum of gospel proclamation and personal discipleship. The causes are many and can be best diagnosed by a close study of Revelation 2 and 3. By the way- don't get discouraged if the church struggles- it has been that way since the first century- but we are far below the commendations of those churches and high in the "I have this against you" lists. A couple of quick points on this: 1) The 'invisible' church is faithful and doing Christ's work- the gospel is never hindered- but it can be hidden. 2) It is never as bad as it looks- though our media messages paint it a much more lost cause. 3) We often point to 'preachers' as the problem- but the answer is not in pulpit proclamation but personal evangelism and discipleship. We will not change America by filling the pews- we will change America by walking/talking/proclaiming/defending the good news of Christ in the marketplace.
I'm sad to report that we think the change comes from a neat slogan printed on a cool sign to advertise our newest catchy program.... no- the only fundamental that effectively causes church expansion is evangelism (1 to 1) and discipleship (1 disciple leader to 2 or 3 disciples who go on to do the same). Sure prayer, prep, worship, Bible study are all in that... but until we are willing to have our boots on the ground in this culture war we will realize that the 'air campaign' is not as effective as we would desire.

vs 2- Weak Leadership. There is a huge leadership crisis in this country. We are bogged down by shareholders and gallup polling. Even a session led church needs a few leaders who stand and sell in wisdom and understanding. Where are the Thomas Jeffersons and Abe Lincolns? Part of the problem is that we have become a celebrity image culture- we choose our leaders on star power and appeal- rather that a solid criteria of courage and character. Now, I will surprise you here a little- the problem is not the politicians- it is the people and the pressures we put as far as expectations are concerned. "When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue." We all need to pray for that man or woman who will lead from truth and stand firm- then we need to follow them even if the road is difficult. This is not just in government- this is in every walk of life.

 Poor economic fundamentals. "A poor man who oppresses the poor"- better is a poor man with integrity that a rich man who is crooked- gathered revenue ends up with him who is generous to the poor- a rich man is wise in his own eyes- he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty- whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished- a man who robs his parents and says 'no big deal' is companion to a destroyer- a greedy man stirs up strife- whoever gives to the poor will not want...."

Throughout Proverbs- we see a lot of principles regarding wealth. And a full survey of what even this chapter says will show us how out of wack we are. Our 'love of luxury' has produced a vicious cycle that is now a looming debt crisis. Our growth is dependent on consumerism and not in production. Our only hope is to forsake the lavish lifestyle and live within our means. We need to honor companies that work for more than just the outlay to shareholders. By the way- the thought that we can legislate this is preposterous- capitalism works in a free market with the right to private ownership but it requires an internal, godly pressure toward true, heartfelt generosity. Again, as the church retreats we become dependent on the government to rescue- and that has led to entitlements which we cannot afford. The love of luxury and increased dependency to live off the state is what stretches the gap between the haves and have nots so tightly that it is about to snap. Just a personal note: I think the politicians who play 'race card' and 'class warfare' cards to scare voter are the lowest of the low- and put our Union in jeopardy to win seats of power.

Little thought/actions/models of character. "wicked flee- land transgresses- oppression of poor- forsaking the law- misunderstanding of justice- crooked ways- shaming of parents- ignoring the law- misleading of the innocent- rise of wicked rulers- hardened hearts- oppression- biased partiality- stinginess- strife" and that is just in this chapter. We have to stand up and cry out for a quest of personal and national character- we need to stop honoring people who have a lack of integrity- we need to end this society of the celebrity. We have more our daughters wanting to be Lady Gaga and less wanting to be Margaret Thatcher. We have more of our sons wanting to be Sammy Sosa and less wanting to be Billy Graham. 

Final Thought: When history is finally closed and the American narrative is re-told- my guess is that the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court in the 1960's to remove the 10 Commandments/prayer from schools and secularize all public institutions- will be the day we look back upon and see when our land lost her compass and broke away from her moorings. My guess is that educators see the techniques, policies, and information in America's classrooms have never been better- but the end results have never been worse. Why? You cannot properly educate without an adopted set of universal standards of right and wrong- you cannot secure knowledge without a world view context to sort and apply that knowledge. My guess is that Islamic schools, Asian schools and communist schools are beating us because they teach under the umbrella of clear and accepted standards- a coherent world view- while American pluralism and secularism- combined with a selfish privatization- has left us with a developmental system that functions like a heart in arrhythmia- no flow, coordination, direction, or discernment.

Combined with a destabilized home (suffering from no-fault/easy divorce and pursuit of leisure/luxury) our children are the ones who are suffering and love for America is not being fostered- instead the harsh criticism of skeptics leads them to want to wish it away and find an answer closer to globalization.

 NOTE OF HOPE: I have always agreed with Carl Henry's statement in the 1980's for us to keep fighting until God Himself closes the curtain. There is good soil and good seed in this great nation. I pray all the time for revival and reformation- I have been involved in the Christian school movement since the mid-80's and  I like the product that has been produced. The gospel never stops and I see a new movement of hard charging young leaders on the horizon- that is why I pray today for renewal- and I will never stop walking with Christ- no matter the circumstances nationally- whether we rise or slide out with a sad whimper- my God is in control and I will side with Him.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The "Butter Slide of Praise"- Day 27- Proverbs 27

Title used with gratitude to G.K. Chesterton
"One who is full loathes honey.....but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet" vs 7
"Let another praise you, and not your own lips" vs 2
"Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from home" vs 8

One of the great enemies of creativity and growth is success. C.K. Chesterton comments on this by stating: “the winner most quickly moves away from greatness when he is gliding on the butter-slide of praise. (Paraphrased)” There is a sense in which our human nature cannot help but feed our pride in these moments.
The results are deadly: the butter fills our hunger, the praise softens our drive, and we begin to work for the praise of men and not the applause of heaven. Our focus becomes “me”. It feels so good to lie down and bask in this state of luxury, but if we succumb to sleep we forfeit success. This is because our success tomorrow is dependent on today’s decisions and work.
Does this mean we never stop? Never enjoy? – No- we need the balance and discipline to keep the proper pace in life. But accept the pleasure after the work and do not taste the honey so long it becomes bitter.
What then can one do to prevent the spoilage of success to rob us of progress?

This is one of a number of points in Proverbs 27- 
Don't boast about tomorrow- you do NOT know what a day may bring
Don't praise yourself- let others do it (and know how to handle it)
Don't provoke with your mouth
Take open rebuke and use in constructive ways

How can we stay on top when things are going well?
There are a few points to ponder:

• Do not let sophistication rob us of appreciation
Have we forgotten the simple pleasures that used to really get us excited? Can we not recapture the joy of the mundane? Does it all have to be perfect to suit our fancy? A simple man can still enjoy the sunset without the limousine and caterer.
• Do not allow the critics to choke us, frame us, or create fear
Critics by nature find flaws, do not let them steal your joy. Critics have no capacity to see the 95% good, they work overtime to explain the 5% that is bad. They have no answers, but do a beautiful job describing the problems. These people are never a pressure point to those who evaluate under the mighty hand of God and live for His approval.
• Never lose the ability to wonder, discover, and learn
It is a gift of “childlike faith” to wonder and marvel. The humble man never gets tired of contemplating the wind and still shudders at the design of his hands, feet, or eyes. He is not the expert – “the fool who thinks he already knows it all”. He is a lifelong learner- and humble enough to be taught by a child.
• Practice the phrases of edification
There are more negative words in English than positive. The man of perseverance works hard to cultivate the praise of God and others. There is always new energy about this person because people are encouraged and “built up” around him. It is always “OPERATION CAN DO”
• Do not let fads discredit tradition, do not let tradition stifle improvement
The long-term winner is never afraid of change, but never changes just for the sake of it. He is wary of fads, and sees that a truly great idea does not wear out in time. He never clings to tradition, but does honor it. He is a little behind the fast pocket of progressivism, but a always ahead of the dust of the dinosaur
• Direct the butter of praise to God and seek godly humility, not self-deprecation.
In the long run…..all praise is due to HIM. It keeps us hungry, humble, and holy. We need not practice “aww shucks” humility, but say “we are great because our God is great!”

A final favorite proverb in this chapter:
"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another"- yes, sparks fly- but you need an equal or greater  challenger to make you better-

Nothing is easy- in fact, the life that God calls us to is impossible- yet through Him is achievable.

It takes HUNGER to get to the top- but a HOLY HUMILITY to stay there- and it is a battle, but one well worth it- especially if we hear one day, "Well done my good and faithful servant".

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Ultimate Loser?- Day 26-Proverbs 26

Is there a type of person who grades out lower than the low as far as the Bible is concerned?

The proverbs of Solomon have repped the idea of the person you want to avoid- and especially the type of person you DO NOT want to be. You should be so wary of this type of person, that you don't even spend much time with them for fear of developing the habits that haunt this type of person.

Avoid these at all costs:

The Fool
The Sluggard
The Liar

and sadly, some have the tendency of all three!

The Fool: no honor- will not learn even if severely disciplined- time to help them is spent in vain- not dependable- brings disaster to those who trust him- his words and wisdom is useless- will produce about the same as a drunkard in his employments- messes up over and over and over again- constant drama and extreme behavior- silly-

The Sluggard: uses any excuse, including lying, to avoid work- too lazy to even feed himself- thinks he is too smart to work-

The Liar: Likes to stir it up- covers up his lies by swearing he was 'only kidding'- whispers lies and says them boldly- hides an evil heart- smiles through his venomous lies- deeply deceptive- uses flattery to his own gain

Now you may say, "But we are to not judge and love these types of people!"

No, we must be wise- there are times when even Christ sees some as 'vipers', and 'sons of Satan', and 'white washed tombs', and 'hypocrites', and 'swine'- the admonition to not judge is an admonition to make sure you are willing to live by the standards by which you judge others.

It is OK to pray for the conversion of anyone we see as foolish or lazy or a liar- but it is also OK to withdraw from them- you do not have to be destroyed in their wake.

Now the good news: The gospel is great news even to the ultimate loser. It allows forgiveness and a new beginning- a new heart. Spiritual poverty is step #1 to being born again. To miss this is deadly.

If you reject this good news- you are the ultimate fool.
If you are unwilling to repent- you are the ultimate sluggard.
If you think you are OK/fine/good- you are the ultimate liar.

Let the Spirit rend your heart and run to the cross.... TODAY!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Throne, A Court, and A Broken World- Day 25- Proverbs 25

The text of Chapter 25 turns back to Solomon's proverbs and there seems to be a geographical arrangement of the wise sayings of truth and advice.

Verses 1-7 deals directly with being in the presence of a King.
Verses 8-13 could be inferred to represent courtroom proceedings
Verses16-28 is the various ups and downs of life in the marketplace

God created a perfect world- it was GOOD. Part of the goodness was real freedom- the creatures did have autonomy of choice- and real freedom provides an environment for real love. Love that has initiative and self attachment.

But for freedom to be real- the alternate choice must be real as well- we see this on a smaller scale with our first amendment- as soon as you begin to limit speech, it is no longer free. So, there is a lot of unpleasant, unhealthy speech that is protected by our 'freedom of speech'.

Man's freedom was allowed, and man's sin was not prevented. Why? I have often felt that God allowed evil to protect love and to demonstrate love. If man had never sinned, we would know God's power and authority- evil allows us to see God's mercy and justice. When we get to heaven- why will we not choose evil or rebellion? Because we will be in full view of the Lamb who was slain- how can you reject that kind of love?

But evil exists- and God has seen fit that man has developed a set-up that mirrors (in a very accommodating way) the organization of God. We have to have laws to restrain evil- punishment to correct evil- and procedures which make the everyday affairs of man manageable.

Government/Law/Criminal Justice is nothing to play with. Once you are out of the marketplace and in the presence of the Magistrate...everything becomes a little more serious. In my new role as Dean of Students- I am trying to give constructive advice and consequences to students as a precursor to real life. As serious as a suspension seems- that is nothing like standing before a judge. My prayer is that the consequences, given in love, will teach them how to choose more wisely and discern where trouble lurks. A big mistake at age 16 is one thing- those mistakes at 21 or 31 can be life destroying.

I had a chance a few months ago to ride around one evening with the Nashville Metro police- their cruisers are fast- armed to the hilt- and loaded with laptops, radar, gps, and radio communication. A person is crazy to resist that or fight that- you can't outrun a radio.

So let's take the settings in reverse and see how it gets more serious with each change:

DAILY LIFE ON THE STREETS: There are those out there without self-control (vs 28) and they are headed to trouble. There are selfish people out there (vs 27). There are weak people, who know what is right, but never stand up or speak up in fear (vs 26). In the midst of this, there is good news and good things- we long for them. God does allow His common grace to give us breaks from the grime (vs 25). There are homes full of strife- boiling- mix in alcohol or drugs and you might be calling 911 to report a domestic disturbance (vs 24). There are dishonest people and mean people who say mean things (vs 23). And again, there are God's people out there- inconsistent- sometimes part of the problem, sometimes part of the cure. They are either being wise to learn how to navigate through these streets or foolishly ignorant or participatory or co-dependent in many of these situations. I love vs 21- Believers are to serve their enemies- and let God take care of the rest. The rest of the passage is advice- good advice- be disciplined (vs 16)- don't wear out your welcome (vs 17)- don't trust those with faulty character (vs 19) and speak the truth in a world of lies (vs 18).

 IN COURT: This is where it gets serious. I get sad when I see court proceedings at times- it seems it is more about winning the checkers game of loopholes and not finding the truth- but mans' systems will always be flawed in this life.
Exhibit A: Don't be hasty to go to court- avoid it if possible. Do your confrontations privately, man to man, and don't lawyer up if at all possible.
Exhibit B: If you end up in court- pray that the testimony will be just and be tough enough to take harsh attacks.

THE KING: An even higher point is the King. He is the ultimate Lord of the court and his presence is super serious. There is a 'glory' about him- a heaviness- He can do as he wills- He likely will destroy/remove all the evil he can so things will run better. Don't put yourself in front of him- let him summon you.

Now, pause a bit, and see the reality of what this pace of proverbs points to:

This is our course- we are scheduled to meet our Maker:

Hebrews 9: 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment....
our only hope is Christ:

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

And the tough part is- no one knows when their 'appointment is'... to see THE KING!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Either Way, You're in a Fight- Proverbs 24- Day 24

Jeremiah 6: 14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”                        Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
The Awakening (1980) is a 70-foot statue of a giant embedded in the earth, struggling to free himself, located at National Harbor in Prince George's County, Maryland, USA, just outside the District of Columbia.

I'm less than 1 week away from running my first (and likely my only) marathon. I have trained well and I am in a period called 'tapering' which is getting my body as rested as I can- hydrated- full of glycogen- totally recovered from all the training.

I have followed a training plan by the book- I have run 20 miles twice- and have done all that my advisor ( has told me to.

But regardless of all I have done- I do know what is coming. Whether I feel great or not on Saturday- at about mile 17/18/19 (I'm praying not sooner) I will hit the point where it is time to just keep going. I have experienced this on a smaller scale during my training- the worst run I had was an 18 miler where I was already struggling on mile 5 (one of the most miserable experiences of my life). Bottom line- I have a fight coming- and it will push me- but WHEN I cross the finish line I will feel a tremendous sense of triumph.

Proverbs 24 outlines the 'fight' of the wise and the righteous. I'm sorry to report, but no one gets out of this war. You are either on the side of evil or good- but you hit the ground running everyday in an all out spiritual battle with eternity at stake.

I am going to list some of these attributes from this chapter:

1 Do not envy the wicked,
   do not desire their company;
2 for their hearts plot violence,
   and their lips talk about making trouble.

Here is your enemy- they never rest- and lust after your destruction.

5 The wise prevail through great power,
   and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
6 Surely you need guidance to wage war,
   and victory is won through many advisers.

How can you win if you do not plan or do not get help? I think my biggest failure in things in not to enlist help and strike out on my own... BIG MISTAKE.

 10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
   how small is your strength
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
   hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
   does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
   Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

Sadly, this is the general experience of a lot of believers- soft and frail- and more willing to beg out of the fight. One day, I will get to further elaborate.But it is an encouragement in my new job to be willing to step in and lovingly, boldly confront- I may get to help save 1 starfish in the process. One life matters!

16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
   but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

We will get knocked down in this battle.This is EASTER, it is all about rising up in victory- don't STAY down (look at the picture again at the top of this post- struggle well- keep digging!) I am posting the famous Balboa speech to his son as motivation to get back up.

Life Ain't All Sunshine and Rainbows

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
   when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the LORD will see and disapprove
   and turn his wrath away from them.

As believers we win and lose with class! Let God handle what consequences need to come. Be sober when they happen.

 21 Fear the LORD and the king, my son,
   and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,
   and who knows what calamities they can bring?

Whose team do you want to be on?

3 By wisdom a house is built,
   and through understanding it is established;
4 through knowledge its rooms are filled
   with rare and beautiful treasures.

This is what I want........What about you?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Life We Long For? - Proverbs 23-Day 23

Posh and Plush- Mansions and Millionaires- Limos and Leisure

I think there is a part of us that has been trained to desire the finest and fastest. A lifetime of commercials and movies has given us (especially the western world) a high standard of status. Every item, destination, and activity has that certain level that we refer to as "The cadillac of..."

The last 7 years in Nashville has been the closest I have ever been to observe that kind of lifestyle. The 'homes' themselves are startling to look at- we spent our first few months just driving around and gawking. And I know that there are higher areas still- levels beyond my comprehension of caviar, yachts, pearls, and luxury.

What does Proverbs say about this? The largest contributor to theses aphorisms is purported to be Solomon- a royal indulger himself of wine and women.

1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
   note well what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
   if you are given to gluttony.
3 Do not crave his delicacies,
   for that food is deceptive.
 4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
   do not trust your own cleverness.
5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
   for they will surely sprout wings
   and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
 6 Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,
   do not crave his delicacies;
7 for he is the kind of person
   who is always thinking about the cost.
“Eat and drink,” he says to you,
   but his heart is not with you.
8 You will vomit up the little you have eaten
   and will have wasted your compliments.
 17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
   but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
18 There is surely a future hope for you,
   and your hope will not be cut off.
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
   or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
   and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

 29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
   Who has strife? Who has complaints?
   Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine,
   who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
   when it sparkles in the cup,
   when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
   and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights,
   and your mind will imagine confusing things.
34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
   lying on top of the rigging.
35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
   They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
   so I can find another drink?”

Who can deny that the beer companies make the best advertisements? But have you ever really pondered the life they sell? Does it really satisfy? 

If you read a lot of biographies you will find that many times the wealthiest and most famous in the world are often the most miserable. They get to the top and find it all and realize that they still haven't found what they are looking for.

There are countless tales of these. One of the saddest is the last words of Guy De Maupassant-famous french writer in the 19th century. His talent, handsome appearance, wit, and charm led to his accumulation of great wealth and status. A famous womanizer- he entertained and dined in the most luxurious ports on the mediterranean- travelling on expensive yachts and enjoying the best that life could offer. 

On New Years day of his 41st year of life- Maupassant was already ravaged by his lifestyle. Experiencing the attack of syphilis and distraught by his loneliness he cried out in chilling starkness, "I HAVE COVETED EVERYTHING AND TAKEN PLEASURE IN NOTHING!"

The next day he tried to commit suicide by slashing his own throat, was committed to an asylum and died in depression a year and a half later.


The verses we point to above give a clue to how we are to live and one of the keys is to be careful and not fall into a lust to live extravagantly- we need to learn discipline and godly contentment. This is such a tough deal- it is such a subtle slide. Enjoying the 'good' life and 'longing' for the good life are small gaps. Having good things and NEEDING good things is just a silent slip.

My constant message is that is is not a sin to have wealth- no one needs to feel guilty- we just need to be grateful.

So we have these YEARNINGS and DEEP THIRSTS- love, significance, companionship, security, meaning.... and we sometimes go to the wrong fountain to fill those thirsts: Fortune, Fame, Power, Pleasure- only to find us more thirsty and more addicted.

The key is to find the LIVING WATER- your thirst is for an answer to your fatherlessness- the only Being to fill that hole of eternity in your heart is God Himself. That is why we are told to seek God and all these other things will take care of themselves. (All kind of verses here: Matt 6:33, John 4, Jeremiah 2:13)

Finally, I think all of us struggle here- it is so easy to substitute for God- our hearts do, as Calvin said, constantly manufacture idols. So do I never put on a tux, or eat on fine china, or sip tea on the beach in a luxury resort? Heavens NO- enjoy God by enjoying all of His blessings- but allow the Holy Spirit and His word to wrestle and purge the dark side of the longings.

Here are a few tips to help:
1) Honor and serve those who have less things materially. Not for show or guilt removal, pray for a heart to see them as worthy and important. It is not hard, most of the blue collar-common folk I rub shoulders with are by far more admirable individuals as a rule. In the previous chapter we read -

 2 Rich and poor have this in common: 
   The LORD is the Maker of them all.

2) Cry out to God for the balance between contentment and complacency. The Proverbs have a tight tension- we are NOT to be apathetic and lazy but at the same time we are not to wear ourselves out for riches. What drives us? Why? Where is God's will in our pursuits? These are deep, life long questions.

3) TITHE- I know of no greater way to slay the dragon called greed than to give. God does not need my money- He has provided the command to give of my first fruits for my benefit and a healthy heart. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. I Timothy 6:10

4) THANKFULNESS- When you get to do lush things- play on a golf course- fish in the gulf- drive a fancy car- PRAISE GOD and be thankful- hold it all with an open hand and ask how you can bless others as well. I have been a huge recipient of wealthy believers who have decided to bless me- I have done things and experienced things that a man of my lot could never afford.... And the whole time my heart just leaps with joy and praise to God and I pray for blessings on the giver.

Consider the testimony of the apostle Paul here in Philippians 4:

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Well, time to close.... I will forever struggle here- I live like a King- and I need to constantly do a 'heart check' for gluttony and greed. But I hopefully have experienced enough to know that what we long for sometimes is not all it promises to be......

Friday, April 22, 2011

All Truth is God's Truth- Day 22- Proverbs 22

We live in a compartmentalized world - our homes, cars, calendars, activities are segmented. I sometimes liken this to a world of bubbles and we just float through with much less exchange and interaction that I understand former times to have been like.

It is getting worse- we don't even look at one another anymore. I am by nature an introvert (I know you don't believe that) but my Meyers-Briggs (see 4/26/2007 post) confirms what I have always known- that I live more inside than outside. But, in a strange way, I love to interact with others. Usually, just an eye contact and a nod, or smile.

The last few years at the school where I was teaching, I began to notice that a significant number of students did not look up and catch eyes a lot- not to me or anyone else. I would even do a little experiment where I would and say a subtle but pronounced 'morning' as a student walked by and they never acknowledged any receipt of it.

Now this was in no way scientific or provable, but my fear is that privatization/compartmentalization has created isolation, especially in young people. And isolation is not good- "it is not good for man to be alone"- the darkness, loneliness, and silence can be deadly.

The church fares no better here. We have totally lost the concept of being in the world but not of it. Sure, some are 'in the world and OF the world' but just as extreme and fruitless are those who are totally 'out of the world'. This is not easy, it is messy, and it is a struggle- but we have to stay engaged or we will lose everything. And if Christ's voice goes silent- the darkness and decay will spread like gangrene.

Proverbs 22:17-23:11 is interesting because it seems to borrow/use/parallel wisdom from an Egyptian pharaoh, Amenemope. Some people really get bent out of shape by this. These Egyptian influences can be argued to include some of Moses' writing as well. Skeptics or critics will use this as evidence that Bible is myth- Hebrew mythology no different than Egyptian or Greek mythology.

None of this bothers me- in fact if you study other faiths you will see that almost ALL belief systems contain some truth and can be articulated rather rationally and follow the laws of logic with some coherence. That is because at some point, everything lands on what is TRUE. If there is no final land or mass of substance i.e. truth- then all of it is endless mirrors and smokescreens. Some people supposedly got rich selling Amway distributions, but down the line someone actually had to buy some soap or there was no real revenue.

This does NOT mean that you can believe whatever faith system you want to and be OK. No- there are right and wrong answers. Just because something has some truth does not mean it to be THE TRUTH. And this is a point where we get hammered by popular culture- isn't is ARROGANT of me to think that I am the one holding the real deal? As politely as possible we respond- All truth claims are exclusive and can be construed as arrogant because truth does not budge. But it can be construed as well that ANY truth claim can seem arrogant even if the truth claim is that there is no truth. Saying Jesus is the only way to heaven is bold and exclusive, but saying ALL paths lead to God does the same thing. Our job is to speak this truth boldly, but also in love. Right, but not dead right.

Final point in this- God made all things- there are a lot of neutral things that He made that we have turned into evil things by elevating them into ultimate things or abused them by breaching the boundaries of what the Creator intended. As christians, full of grace and mercy, we can stand in full frontal view of these things and use them as teaching points- as education- and launching points for the gospel.

Sure, there is danger here- we are men who are as easily entangled with the world as anyone. But I wish we were less prudish sometimes and addressed real life issues, not with cringing embarrassment, but with beautiful gospel proclamation. Example: I would constantly ask my players to consider the language that they allow on their ipods. I would land on them pretty hard if I ever heard it by way of their car speakers or weight room surround sound. I don't allow it- but I don't freak out if they have it- I don't act like they are superbad for allowing it. Instead, I try to teach through it- why is this inappropriate? How do others see them? What does this message say about women? and what if they were a dad? And the conversations eventually lead back to the gospel.

My weight room rules are not the gospel- it is my way of creating a healthy environment for the best, long term benefit- but I don't fall on the ground shrieking about their horrible sin. We turn it off, I give consequences to make sure they understand the boundary- and we move on.

But believers tend to be their own worst enemy here- I have been bashed over the years by Christians. Why do we teach "The Great Gatsby"? It had bad words. Why do we allow secular music on our highlight tapes or at our stadiums? Why did I reference a particular movie? My response is always measured and I have to be careful to try not to offend- but the bottom line is still- There IS truth here and I am reclaiming THIS TRUTH AS GOD"S TRUTH. This is an extreme example, but when Mick Jagger sings 'I can't get no satisfaction'- he is giving a gospel opening here. Paul even used this technique on Mars Hill with a pagan altar. "Shrewd as serpents- innocent as doves"- not removed...ENGAGED!

Does this mean we can't create greenhouse buffers for children and education? No, I fully believe you should protect the innocence and not be the one to spill the conscience- but the reality is that culture does filter in by osmosis- you find sin/worldliness in christian institutions usually in correlation to the mores of the culture. These places are not cocoons- they are labs to teach God's word and proclaim the gospel and instruct students with age appropriate material about how to discern. We don't scream 'unclean' - we teach and admonish. It is a tough balance and cannot be done by policy, it has to be done by leadership. It has to be a community effort as well.

The point here is that we can use Seinfeld, Simpsons, and even Satanism to teach God's truth- what He desires and why we should respect Him. But this means we see it as well. Now I know that could mean that I am using worldly wisdom as an excuse to see it all or do it all and justify it as educational- NO- How can we who died to sin still live in it? I just want us to be real and 'turn on ALL the lights' of God's creation and truth. The writer of Proverbs is wise to parallel wisdom of other cultures and faith systems because ultimately all men are in God's image and all truth is God's truth. All men have a capacity to know God- All men have sin- and all men need God's grace and mercy through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ- and all men will appear before the Creator who is a just, wise, and fair judge. Am I a universalist? NO. Is it OK to hope that Christ will suffer none to perish?- YES (even Know Chamblin of RTS agrees with this). Will there be men and women who by utter defiance and rebellion send themselves to hell and foolishly turn down the free offer of forgiveness by repentance and faith? The Bible seems to say, sadly, YES.

WOW- that was a rambling.....

Some specific points in CH 22:

verse 1 (Here we go again- something about verse 1's here)- A good reputation is more important than great riches- We all desire for our NAME to be a good name. Once our NAME is ruined- we have lost so much that not even great wealth can heal. I know this sounds like a broken record- but this again is why gossip is such a deadly sin. Satan is always attacking good men- and if he can't get them to sin- he will next start the whisper campaigns and see if he can tarnish their reputation with innuendo and even lies. We must all seek to eliminate that!

Famous verse 6- "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." #1 This  Proverb is a principle and NOT a promise. #2 Teenage rebellion is not necessarily a trend- it is funny how kids do end up like parents for better or worse. #3 Have your home filled with the things of God- in attitude and love as much as music and rituals- and your children will develop a taste for God and an ear for God. #4 This is a path you are engraving- a way- a habit- repetition is good- but at some point all you are doing is pointing and praying- you are not responsible for the product- you are to pray and press the process.

Finally, I love the END of Ch 22:

28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
   set up by your ancestors.

This is one huge reason why I study the reformed fathers of the faith- we can glean from our previous heroes- progress is not always progress in the right direction.

29 Do you see someone skilled in their work?
   They will serve before kings;
   they will not serve before officials of low rank.

This is my biggest encouragement to just keep my head down and keep running. I just want to get better every single day. At some point, God will do as He wants- but my greatest joy is that today I serve at the pleasure of MY KING!

Today is Good Friday- the reason my King is worthy of worship is proven by what He did for me... what He did for you.. Click on link below and ponder what he did.

For You....

Sunday is Coming....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation- the Bible Way- Day 21- Proverbs 21

It happened again today... how many times I have read Proverbs over the years- and one jumps out at me like I had never seen it before. I look forward to geting to that one!

But let's chat a little about a beautiful aspect of God's Word- and that is endless treasure hunting. I challenge everyone to seriously dig into God's Word- go deep- and you will get hooked in its immensity, breadth, and depth.

The internet has made serious Bible scholarship only a click away. I can go to a greek text online and click on the individual words to get verb tenses and root definitions- I have great access to Bible commentaries. Sure, there is a lot of garbage on the internet- but there is also legitimate and serious Bible research and discussion.

I usually start at, it is the #1 site for reliable content than any other on the web.
I have the link on the right side of my blog.

I also like to listen to seminary courses online. I have taken apologetics, history, and exegetical courses from Reformed Theological and Covenant Seminary... free of charge. I could go on and on. I just download stuff on my ipod or iphone and listen while I run or cut grass or cross train on the elliptical.

The more you study the Word- the more you start to see the supernatural connections and the overall narrative- and you can never exhaust the deep application to the heart. I admit it- I'm hooked. The problem is, the more I know the Word, I realize that I am not getting less sinful- I'm becoming more as the Bible peels away my agendas, and ego, and selfishness- so after every Bible study, I pretty much have to run to the gospel- I quote Romans 8:1 about 5 times a day.

A few thoughts on Proverbs 21

Verse 1- It seems like verse 1 of each chapter is a good one! "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord"....I have never had power and very little say so. I am a 'little man'- barely even in control of my house. So whenever I need anything, I am relying on a higher authority to help me. This verse says, "Don't worry- your dad is in control, and he cares for you." This is why we pray. Now, be very clear- God is NOT an expedient- and He resists us if we try to manage life through Him. That is why we sometimes hear NO or He goes slow. He does not want us pushing buttons- He wants us to yield to Him.

Verse 3- "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice". Here is where the "Six Degree Game" comes in. We say, hmmmmm where else is this type of language used? 

22 But Samuel replied:
   “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
   as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice

Psalm 51: 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

John 14 (Jesus speaking) vs 15  If you love me, keep my commands.

See how it works? Better than finding Kevin Bacon. This is one of many reasons why I accept the Scriptures as God's Word. Critics try to say the Bible is full of inconsistencies- I find the message surprisingly unified. Next time someone says, "The Bible just contradicts itself all the time" you politely ask them to show it to you. It is (most of the time) a smoke screen.

Let's do this a different way with verse 14- "A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath." Does the Bible condone bribery? When these 'red flag' thoughts jump on you, I encourage you to do the 'Six Degree' game and see what other passages are similar. This one makes me immediately think of one of Jesus' most intriguing parables- The Parable of the Unjust Steward:
1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’   3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’   5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’   6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.   “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’   7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’   “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.   “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’   8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Now, to be fair- there a few verses after this that help the context here- especially the audience sneering at Him- but this is very similar.

The point is twofold- 



The proverb and the parable is not teaching us to bride and fabricate- but it is commending street wisdom and pragmatism. I think the biggest unintended consequence of education is that everything become theoretical- I am posting a you tube clip that pokes a little fun at this:

Back to School Economics Class

Finally, the verse that jumped out at me like I had never seen before:

Verse 4: "Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin."

What is our lamp? What shines forth?

Six Degrees-

 Matt 6: 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"

Psalm 119: 105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

WOW- Two different lamps for two different people:
The Wicked's Lamp: Proud Eyes and Heart- internal source- no real guidance
The Righteous' Lamp: God's WORD- external source- light for the path

The Big Application- Proverbs is about finding wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is the reverent yielding (fear) of the Lord- this leads to us being molded by His WORD- our hearts are soft and ready to conform to His desires.

The proud reject God- they cannot go outside of their world- they are squeezed into fleshly molds and hardened- never really acquiring the treasure that produces life eternal.

Which lamp do I want? It starts by eating the WORD. Chew on it, meditate on it, and find the path of life......