Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When You Feel Engulfed and Overwhelmed- Psalm 12

Psalm 12 
Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone nutters lies to his neighbor;
with oflattering lips and pa double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all oflattering lips,
the tongue that makes qgreat boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
“Because rthe poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
sI will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the tsafety for which he longs.”
uThe words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us2 from this generation forever.
 On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

We have all been here.

One of the things I love about the Psalms is the honest recording of heart cries.

When I read this Psalm,  I think about feelings of despair. At the core of this cry is the thought of the continual slide into sin and decay. It is a feeling of loneliness. Is there anyone seeking holiness? Is there anyone actually interested in the things of God?

Chuck Colson passed away yesterday. Billy Graham is fading fast. Who is going to fill those shoes?

A wide view of society can push us into thoughts of despair like this. Just flipping the channels this weekend brought to my attention how little impact godliness is having on the current culture. Every subject seems to be supported by a secular world view.

I had dinner last week with one of the foremost authorities on the resurrection of Christ, Dr. Gary Habermas. He had just finished an amazing lecture on defending the resurrection from the Books of Galatians and I Corinthians. You can actually see this presentation at his website. Gary Habermas.com

The issue? Not many are interested. Not many there. Seems like few care. Here is a man who has committed his life on the critical point of Christian faith and he has AMAZING facts...... and he came and left with little fanfare.

I know that Christian Apologetics seems rather stuffy or boring. I get sad to see that evangelicalism has largely abandoned intellectual pursuits, but didn't Jesus say, "love with all your mind"?

There has never been a greater time in human history where such of a wealth of information is attainable. The Bible commentaries, seminary courses, sermons, devotional material, available for FREE is more that one could take in a lifetime.

The fields are STILL white for harvest- but the church seems so lukewarm in a desire to share the truth.

And as we have hidden the light, the mockers are growing bolder and colder.

Look again at verses 2-4. These are ancient words but still applicable today.
Everyone utters lies- (some lies are as bold as I have ever seen- especially in politics)
flattering lips and double hearts-
tongues that challenge God without fear


God sees the result of such a society. The poor are plundered and the needy groan. He hears the cries of His children. At some point, He decides to act.. "I will now arise", says the LORD.

No one really wants this to happen.

I remember what Christ says in Revelation 2 as a part of His condemnation of the church at Pergamum:

  16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

In other words- it is better that you practice discipline in the church and NOT Me. Be warned- one day the Lord will say, "No more delay... the door of mercy WILL be closed.. and He will begin trampling on the winepress of His wrath.
But the main point of this passage is slightly different.

It is not attack the evil doers.. it is rescue of the one who is wounded.

Notice: "I will place him in the safety in which he longs."

And how secure is this promise? How secure are His words?
Purified, 7 times, pure silver. You can take His word to the bank!

Feel the security again:

You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us2 from this generation forever.
 On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.


The only question is if I am willing to believe Him.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pain and Providence- Job 12

I'm sure we are familiar enough with the story of Job to jump right into this chapter.

Job Replies: The Lord Has Done This

Then Job answered and said:“No doubt you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you.
But I have bunderstanding as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know csuch things as these?
We live in a world of 'talking head' opinions. Even in the world of faith, there seems to be an overload of 'how to' and 'you should'. Job is suffering the misguided and uninformed opinion of his friends and he does not back down. He gives proper pushback.

4 I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called to God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock.
 But WHEN we do the right things and the circumstances of life turn harsh.. it is hard. And when God seems to delay in our prayers to remedy a situation, it is harder. And when people mock us in the midst of those struggles or misunderstand us, it seems unbearable.

5 In the thought of one who is fat ease there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for those whose feet slip. gThe tents of robbers are at peace,
and those who provoke God are secure,
who bring their god in their hand.
This is a very similar though pattern to Psalm 73. There are times that it looks like the wicked are living lives of ease and the righteous struggle. And there is a truth contained in here as well in that most people do not want to see the suffering of others. When you are hurting, it can seem to be a lonely place. Sometimes, even our own family does not seem to really sympathize.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;or the bushes of the earth,2 and they will teach you;and the fish of the sea will declare to you.Who among all these does not knowthat hthe hand of the Lord has done this?10 In ihis hand is the life of every living thingand the breath of all mankind.
No man can ever escape the reality of His creation to proclaim his existence. Our greatest shame will be when we see the Creator and recognize that we continually ignore His presence and existence. I had this thought recently looking at Leo and Una, the two lions on display at the University of North Alabama. 

11 Does not jthe ear test words
as the palate tastes food?12 Wisdom is with kthe aged,
and understanding in length of days.
Another big problem. We have no clue how to really discern truth from fiction in arguments. I heard recently about a debate where a Christian debated a skeptic at a local university. When the debate was over, the professional critics all agreed that the Christian apologist had won the debate. His points were logical and his evidence was impressive. The department chair, who was not a christian, was not happy with the performance of the skeptic.

But when the organizers looked at the student responses, the skeptic was listed as a slam dunk winner by an almost 4-1 margin. I'm afraid that we are quickly losing the ability to discern truth from error. The justification of knowledge is quietly dying away.
Young people will hardly listen to anyone who seems 'old fashioned' and most people who seem to be 'hip' are given the winning edge in the arena of opinion.

13 l“With God3 are wisdom and might;
he has counsel and understanding.14 If he tears down, none can rebuild;
if he mshuts a man in, none can open.15 If he nwithholds the waters, they dry up;
if he osends them out, they overwhelm the land.

God is KING. He is in charge. NOTHING happens outside of His allowance and permission. And we cannot do anything about that. To stop Him is as easy as jumping into the ocean to stop the waves or tide.

16  With him are strength and psound wisdom;
the deceived and the deceiver are his.
17 He leads qcounselors away stripped,
and rjudges he makes fools.
18 He slooses the bonds of kings
and binds a waistcloth on their hips.
19 He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows the mighty.
20 He deprives of speech those who are trusted
tand takes away the discernment of the elders.
21 He upours contempt on princes
and loosens the belt of the strong.

He seems to be a God of great irony. In His providence, He proves the ability to turn upside things right. No one escapes His will.

22 He vuncovers the deeps out of darkness
and brings wdeep darkness to light.

I can't help to think of Jesus- "What is whispered in secret will be shouted on roof tops". When light shines on the darkness, it retreats. Sin left unexposed, grows. I think light is one of God's great gifts!

23 He xmakes nations great, and he destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and yleads them away.24 He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth
and zmakes them wander in a trackless waste.25 They agrope in the dark without light,
and he makes them bstagger like a drunken man.

So what of this? 

Here I am on a 'blue Monday'. I have seemed a little down... a little weary... playing a small pity party just to myself.

And this convicts me, because my suffering is nothing compared to Job. His pain was in the loss of everything, including his children. He was scraping open and oozing boils on his body.
Why am I down?

In the depths of mild depression, it is good to proclaim the sovereignty of God. He ordains all my days... good and bad... happy and sad.

The key is to hold fast. This King is trustworthy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It is Proper to Celebrate- Nehemiah 12

Nehemiah is one of my favorite books in Scripture. Written by Ezra, it is the last recording of the Jewish historical narrative in the OT. After Nehemiah, all the Psalms and prophets fit back into the historical narrative already covered.

There will be NO NEW HISTORY after this book and the silence will last 400 years. Until John the Baptist begins to prepare the way of the Lord.

And Nehemiah is one of those special heroes of the faith.

A quick reading of Chapter 12 would almost leave you with a feeling that there is little here to take heart. But, as is all of God's Word, there is PLENTY to meditate and wrestle with.


The first part of the chapter is the orderly procession in preparing the dedication of the Wall which has been restored. It is proper to do these types of things. We need formality and honorable decorum in recognizing God's great achievements. It is proper to honor people and occassions where God's truth has been fought for and won.

I love the language:

dedication with gladness
with thanksgiving and singing
with instruments of all kinds
with singers
with honorary guests
with great sacrifices
and we are talking about a LARGE number of people

two large choirs

some of the procession went counter-clockwise and the other went clockwise and sang, and cheered, and proclaimed the beautiful pageantry of VICTORY!

A BEAUTIFUL VERSE: And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away!

quick side note: Did you notice how David is referred to twice?
David the man of God


Do not neglect opportunities to celebrate and spare nothing in the event! It is OK to make it a big deal.

I think this applies to worship. Why not plan a large victory celebration on the Lord's Day? Sure, there are days for sobriety and times for solemn reflection.

But the gospel is the greatest achievement in human history!

Take in the moments... they are fleeting.

Stop at the end of chapter 12 and you can smile a great big smile. But don't turn the page!

Chapter 13 is after some time has past, Nehemiah has been absent, and the people already had sunk back into sinful practices. The victories a few and fleeting in this world of sin. Until Christ comes back we will have some great days AND we will have some dark days.

Nehemiah is back in the trenches fighting battles.. literally pulling hair and chasing unruly people out of the fold!

Talk about an amazing ending to the historical narrative..."Remember me, O my God, for good".


Are you free to celebrate the goodness of God? Are you taking time to celebrate? There is way more liberty here than you can imagine.

Are you open to worship that celebrates?

Are you willing to rejoice with brothers and sisters who celebrate big victories?

Sure- the battle will soon return... but today we dance with joy........

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Discipline IS Grace- II Chronicles 12

I know this keeps getting repetitive, but the direction of this blog is to comment on all of the chapter 12's in the Bible for 2012. So I have to take them as they come!

II Chronicles 12 is another view of the difficulty that Israel/Judah experienced due to the splitting of the kingdoms and the leadership that led to a downward spiral of moral decay and ultimate destruction.

Verse 1 is especially sad: "When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him."

I could spend all the rest of this blog post applying this one verse. Think about how we got here. The people wanted a King. They were wanting to be like the rest of the world. God really wasn't good enough for them.

God grants us our desires at times, even if He knows the likely result. Indeed, allowing the King was a part of the plan. But it doesn't excuse most who desired it for all the wrong reasons and out of a sinful heart.

In our freedom.... we ARE free to choose. But we cannot choose the results of our choosing.

The people in the wilderness complained about the manna and God gave them the meat- but the results were deadly.

Divorce was rampant and Moses allowed the certificate of divorce- but Jesus made it clear that it was man's hard heart and not God's wishes. (Matthew 19:8)

The people cried for a King. And the result has not been good.

In this particular case, the rulers are strong. My guess is that Rehoboam fits all that they would desire. I bet he is tall, strong, articulate, and persuasive. Many walk around and speak of what a great leader he is.
Worst of all... he knows the religious jargon. He is in the midst of God's people and he can talk His way through situations with references to the religion. He is a man's man.

But He is not God's man. Take away that living connection with the God of the Universe and a strong man will be a big problem. There is NOTHING to check his ego. There is no reason to do anything except what he wants to do. There is no pressure to compassion.

Finally, there appears to be great success. My guess is that all the economic indicators are that this guy is wonderful! He is ruthless enough to keep the peace. He is rigid enough to collect the taxes. He is cunning enough to massage the political winds of good times.

But NEVER forget the verse: Galatians 6: 7,8

zDo not be deceived: God is not mocked, for awhatever one sows, that will he also reap. For bthe one who sows to his own flesh cwill from the flesh reap corruption, but dthe one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.


It took five years for the judgement to show up. But God never forgets to keep His word and His heart is full of justice. We should always be careful to announce success in a decision in which the Lord is ignored... we measure in days and God measures in decades. We judge the stats.... God judges the heart.

Here comes Egypt.. one of a number of nations that God uses in Scripture to bear the sword of His wrath. God is not the author of evil, but He does channel it and use it for His good purposes. His integrity is never compromised and evil will be destroyed. The key is to understand that it all happens on His clock and not ours.

And He makes sure that the rulers hear it straight from His prophet: "Thus says the Lord, 'You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of (the Egyptian King).' Is there ANY more chilling phrase to come out of the mouth of the Creator. What does it mean to be abandoned by God?

The Biblical term we never want expressed is "Ichabod" meaning the glory of God has departed. His loving, sustaining spirit has been driven out by unrepentant sin.


In full view of the wrath, these men of pride are torn and fall to their knees in humble repentance.
They say in humility: "The Lord is righteous" and then God makes a change.

"They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them (His original intent), but I will grant them SOME deliverance (emphasis mine)." "Nevertheless, they shall be servants to him."

Very interesting- the punishment is reduced, it is restrained- and we read that they are plundered but left intact. It was still a hard punishment, but survivable.


This year, I have been in a position to dish out punishment. To say it is not easy is a gross understatement.

I spend a lot of time thinking through Proverbs 21:11:

When oa scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.

 and reviewing Hebrews 12:

f“My son, gdo not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For hthe Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. iGod is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, jin which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject tokthe Father of spirits land live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, mthat we may share his holiness. 11 nFor the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields othe peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Because discipline produces pain- you can imagine some of the feedback I get.

But if it is not total destruction.... punishment IS grace.

It reminds us about sin. It helps us see the cross. It instructs us and others.

If we receive it in humility.. if we are repentant. And it is God's patience.

The end of the chapter?

Rehoboam reigns for 17 years. The Bible report? "And he did evil, for He did not set his heart to seek the Lord."

And then he died.

Now comes the real consequence.

Where are we? How do we act? What do we love? What do we do when we fail? Who do we admire?

Our only hope is Jesus Christ.

What have we done with Him?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Man You Want in Your Corner- I Chronicles 12

What is it about warriors that so inspire me? I sat riveted as my wife and I recently watched Act of Valor at the movie theatre. I read over and over the biography of Joshua Chamberlain, Soul of the Lion. And a lot of my reading in the OT recently have been warriors in the Scripture.

I realize that as a football coach, I have 20 years of frontline experience watching competition and battles, and that interests me.

But something else is here... deeper.. and I fully believe it is this- a mighty warrior, the kind with deep convictions and character, is so....rare.

Mark Twain once quipped in Huckleberry Finn that the mass of men are cowards. And, sadly, I have found that to be true.

The remarkable part of I Chronicles 12 is not the mighty King David. The remarkable truth is that great things must be done by teams.

I LOVE verse 38- "All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with full intent to make David king over all Israel. Likewise, all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David King."

Wow oh wow! Every coach understands this great principle. Give me 30 boys united in one solitary purpose- so much so that they will sweat and bleed and sacrifice for some purpose greater than themselves- and they cannot be beaten!

This is so rare today...getting rarer by the day. Why?

We have become jaded...skeptical....highly opinionated.. and we are highly impressed with our opinion.
We are quick to tear down, quick to believe the worst, quick to pass along the dark rumor.
And everything I just wrote is the height of cowardice.

There is no business, no organization, no team, no church, no nation that can survive long term without the unity of purpose and the courage to fight and the character to persevere in the storm.

Don't ever be fooled by the short term success of the quick fix or the temporary glow of ill gotten gain... only time reveals the true champions.

And who do I want to go shoulder to shoulder with? I want men like these mighty men in chapter 12. Look at these descriptions:

Mighty men who help
skilled warriors- adaptable and flexible
faces like the faces of lions
swift as gazelles on the mountains
the least was a match for 100
the greatest a match for 1000
they go headfirst into tough conditions
put the enemy to flight
join their hearts to righteous purposes
rebuke adversaries
they strive for peace
they rely on God
all mighty men of valor
commanders in the army
they add to their number-building to a mighty army of God
mighty in valor (repeated 5 times)
they understand the times
seasoned troops (3 times)
ready for battle
arrayed in battle order
all bring provisions
they bring JOY to Israel.

The cool thing is that I get to work in an environment on a daily basis where I am surrounded by these types of people. I am a part of one great organization- these are my type of men and women.

I am coaching with these types of men.

I watched workouts today with these types of players.

Not to say it is perfect... but the mindset is rare..... very rare.

Now for the next step... we want to usher in our King. We want to stand firm and win the spiritual battles.

What if I paraphrased verse 38 like this:

"All these, godly people of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Birmingham with full intent to make Jesus king over all America. Likewise, all the rest of Alabama were of a single mind to make Jesus King over all the world."

I know this is superfluous in the fact that JESUS IS KING- but what kind of army could we build if the gospel really got going.

We could join Bubba Watson... praising his savior after the Masters.
Tim Tebow... praising God after a playoff win.

We could join Franklin Graham, Chuck Norris, Mike Huckleby,  Michael Reagan, Dawson McAlister, Deborah Norville, Bobby Bowden, Joe Gibbs, Darryl Walrtrip, Kurt Warner, John Smoltz, Truett Cathy, Steven Curtis Chapman, Alan Keyes, thousands of pastors and missionaries and laypeople.....

Never retreat and never be discouraged... the gospel is still on the move!

And how do you join in?

Trust Jesus as Savior and Lord
Fight for your marriage ( LOVE that wife)
Disciple your children
Read the Word
Worship in a Bible believing church
Share the gospel
Pray and serve
Stand for truth and justice
Show mercy

What if we did that .... today.. with fire and courage!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades- II Kings 12

And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 3 Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places. II Kings 12:2-3

The last couple of inches on a window is always the toughest to close. Why is it so hard to FINISH?

It was said to me that character is the ability to carry out a resolution long after the emotion is gone.

I wrote in a blog a few years ago:

At football practice, we talk a lot about being a ‘line toucher’. This is a reference to running gassers or other drills where a player has to touch a line before changing direction. We always station coaches at these marks to check for athletes that may miss the line and come up short. This is a severe penalty to us. Players who miss reps or don’t finish will usually fall short under pressure, when the game is on the line. 
Jehoash was not a finisher.

19 Now the rest of the acts of Joash and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 20 hHis servants arose and made a conspiracy iand struck down Joash in the house of jMillo, on the way that goes down to Silla. 21 It was kJozacar the son of Shimeath and Jehozabad the son of kShomer, his servants, who struck him down, so that he died. And they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, land Amaziah his son reigned in his place.
 We would rank Jehoash as a good King- but his work was left a bit shy. He did good work- especially under the influence of Jehoiada the priest- but when the influence went away... Jehoash finished just a tad shy of a great work.

I wish I could report that I was better. The haunting of 'not finishing' has always intrigued me. Years ago (1990) I wrote a poem that tried to use the analogy of all the coffee cups on my desk as symbolic of my lack of a finishing drive.

One day I was just overwhelmed with half finished projects and a jumbled maze of excited beginnings in a sea of these half-filled, unfinished cups of coffee.

Here is my rendition:

Quarter - filled Cups of Coffee
”I have measured my life in coffee spoons” -Prufrock“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.What advantage does a man have in all his work which he does under the sun.”Ecclesiastes 1: 2,3

Quarter - filled cups of coffee,Shadowed stains below the band.Cooled liquid, thick and soiled,Etched foam, marked by hand. 

Appearance of apparent progress,Concrete marks of constant time.Accompanied by piles of paper,Crumpled calendars, plans sublime. 

Of what reward do hours meed?Riches and honor untold?What state does watched time translate?Unused potential to save and hold? 

Three - quarter empty cups of coffee,Symbols unfinished and undone.Epochs spent on early ambition,Numerous laps short, the race not won. 

Lurking depths of unrequited desire,Taciturn anger behind the smile,Endless action churning piles of perception,Steps no closer to the next mile. 

Will the minutes always last?What price is one to pay?When activity is ambiguous and prostitutedand success is a shade of gray.

The trap has sprung inescapable.The suction stronger than my will.No one there to loose or care,Fractions of effort to close the sill.

Those dreams seem marathons away.No tunnel light, no ray, no rule.Only a vast wasteland of utopian ideas and funny ambition.I laugh at myself - the fool.

Now- the good news is that I have, with God's help, gotten so much better in the discipline needed to finish well. But there are still challenges.

My new job is interesting because there is a way I can do it as far as just hitting the transgression- what I call the 'whack a mole' technique.

But I feel God calling me to a deeper role. One that takes a lot of time and is messy at times. And that is seeking to see Him create renewal from the inside out.

Of course I have to hit the moles- HARD- and they always pop up.

So unlike Joash- I am asking God to help me go after the high places as well. Sins of idolatry and cynicism. I'd love to see Him change mockers into mourners over sin and create new hearts.

It is easier to just get everyone in a line and march. It is easy to just cast off the ones who can't. And yes, there are times it has to be done for the sake of others.

But Lord, my cry is to see real change in our nation... one heart at a time.