Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cautious Critiques

It is strange to me at times what the Lord impresses on me to meditate on and express in my writings.

This one is out of the clear blue sky.

We always need to be careful in our criticisms. It isn't that they are forbidden- that isn't the problem. But we are to be careful.

2 Corinthians 6: 3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,

Whenever we take the time and energy to voice criticism, we are potentially creating an unnecessary diversion to the really important issue.... "Where are we in relation to God's only Son?".

When I think of favorite targets within the Christian world... I worry if we shoot them too often without much thought to the necessity of such a message.

An example of this is the common... 'anti-religion' argument that we often speak so freely in the defense of the gospel. I have heard many godly, well-meaning, believers make the 'Jesus is better that religion' speech. I well know and agree with their intent. Haven't we all said - "Knowing Jesus isn't a ritual or religion... it is a relationship".

But before we shout these things among the rooftops... we should take caution to measure the unintended fruit or impact of our message.

As I wrote back in 2014: "I have spent all of my professional years in service of Christian Institutions. I consider it a great honor, privilege, and challenge to do so. There ARE MANY benefits and good that Christian Institutions do and the stability of an institution is a great benefit to a society that suffers the corrosive effects of sin."

I wince many times at the anti-religion talk because the Bible speaks of a pure and undefiled religion... in James 1:27

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Now, isn't it interesting how the Bible strikes the cord of criticism. This verse is devastating when compared to religion based on pretense , but it does so by putting it parallel to Truth.

Using Scripture is a much better way to communicate the concepts with the understanding that it is used in its proper context.

I also encourage us to be careful with Christian quotes- even though I love them and use them.

If we aren't careful we fall in love with the witty quip to the exclusion of Scripture.

I often find this out the hard way.

Years ago, I was trying to make a similar point and attributed a quote to Augustine- "The Church is a whore, but She is my mother." 

Witty... a concept that might can preach...BUT, as far as my research can tell... Augustine never said it.

Instead, I could make a sounder point by doing an exposition on the 7 letters to the churches in Revelation.

So- be mindful and careful..... hopeful and clear... truthful and accurate as possible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why So Wounded?

I was getting a first hand account of a 'debate' between a few students recently that paralleled much of the dysfunction regarding the uncivil discourse taking place within our culture.

As a few began to push back at the other, there was finally an eruption that accused the contrary opinions of others as... 'persecution'.

The inability to discuss differing views without shout downs or melt downs is more than concerning. 

Christians take the brunt of a lot of this. There is a lot of pent up anger from segments of society who rage against any facsimile of a Religious Institution, especially a Christian one.

I heard it once said that there are a lot of atheists who are extremely mad at God for not being there. And pity the fool who actually does believe that He is there and that He cares.

It would be equally foolish to not acknowledge that there have been horrible things done to people under the guise of religion. I believe hell burns especially hot for those evil doers. "It would be better a millstone...".

But what I am concerned about is the tragic loss of words and truth when it comes to wrestling with ideas and opinion. And if we lay on the ground and shriek at uncomfortable information, how dare we believe we could win in the face of an invading enemy? How about just surviving a tough day or week?

Is there a reason for this shrieking snowflake syndrome?

I think it relates immediately to rancid fruit of postmodernity. As one loses the notion of outside, objective true truth, then all relative 'truth' becomes very personal. So personal, that to admit wrong puts that confession in a vein of identity annihilation. It not only means that the idea is worthless, it is perceived to mean that you are worthless.

If I could plead with anyone (not just millennials) it would be to take some time to consider some world view, paradigm shifts and also, consider the impact that attitude has on people and movements.


I have a quote in my Bible attributed to Calvin: "God limits our knowledge that we may be kept humble and that we may have to deal with our fellows."

I think there are a couple of important thoughts here., and I have written on these before.

 All human beings must accept that we ALL suffer from biased pre-suppositions.

This means that ALL of us need to have a healthy skepticism that we may be wrong. The Bible supports this.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Prov. 14:12

This allows me to make very honest statements... I am a Christian, it means I have a particular world-view. Yes, God has conditioned me toward this belief and I am called to proclaim a message of truth. This truth claim sounds very exclusive, as all truth claims do.

Study me closely, and you will see my failures. The Bible is honest about that. A failure to fall short of the Holy standards of God is not hypocrisy. The hypocrite lies about his report card.

But I also say, don't give up on the message because of the follower, put Jesus Himself under your microscope. Reject Him on His terms, don't reject Him because of my failure.

Do you see the subtle but IMPORTANT distinction? The Christian points to objective truth OUTSIDE the person. In fact, there is a very important distinction that always must be made between God and man. The Creator is distinct and separate from Creation. Yes, He interacts and channels creation according to His providence.

Christians (and in a sense, all monotheists)  only believe in one miracle.. the existence of a loving and powerful Creator, a spirit with personality and eternal immutability.

The existence and longing for law, love, liberty, logic, language is explained simply by, it came from the Creator.

Those who reject these beliefs, do so in a lot of pride and security in their own ability to comprehend the un-comprehendible.

Now, these people are conditioned as well. The skeptics I encounter in todays world are very well trained in their reasons for rejection. But for every person who rejects the story of the gospel, they fail to realize that they have the same questions to answer and are also responsible for the implications of their choices.

I will be the first to admit that I seem boorish, prideful, mean spirited to stand on this truth in today's world. It should not be that upsetting, there will never be a day where gospel believing Christians will be forcing conversions on people- though that may be a real sin in ages past.

I admit the sin of wanting to win an argument to the detriment of winning a soul too many times. I admit hurting people when my desire was to help them. I don't give enough cups of water in the name of Jesus. I shrink away too often from sharing the message of life and hope.

But if SPEAKING words like repentance, sin, salvation, forgiveness, and truth are 'persecutions'- then we all are in trouble.

Words seems so cheap to me in today's world. We throw charges around like  'racist', 'homophobe', 'misogynist', 'anti-semitic' so easily that I believe the words have been watered down in meaning. That is sad to me, because there are those kind of evil people out there and need to answer for those sins.


This is a tough one to articulate. Regardless of your worldview, no one benefits from a negative, bitter, or poisonous attitude. Some groups hurt any chance of their movement being persuasive because they have chosen hate and destruction as their calling card.

MLK understood this as well as anyone. I was speaking to a pastor in South Africa a few weeks ago and he spoke in the same respectful and admiring position regarding Nelson Mandela.

Choosing peace, forgiveness, and hope instead of hatred and violence not only saves the world.... it actually saves the person themselves. Jesus' admonition to forgive isn't as concerned with the perpetrator of the sin, it is to protect the victim from wallowing in bitterness and darkness.

Forgiveness means patience... forbearance... but the fruit is beautiful.

The saddest part of what is going on is how the media always perpetuates the darkest side of these issues.... "if it bleeds... it leads"

That is why I have created a self proclaimed "Global Whatever is Worthy Day" annually on April 8.

Global Whatever is Worthy Day

Based on Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.

I am going to ask all my social media friends to help me promote this campaign-April is still a long ways off- but aren't we all tired of the nothing but negative news? Share a victory on that day! Encourage a brother! Forgive! Dwell on what is good. It can make a difference.....

SO ... as I close... why so sad?  why so angry? why so wounded? why so hopeless?

Ask the Father... the One who has proven His love... to embrace you, forgive you, restore you, and set you on a path of righteousness.

You will fall off the way often... but His love endures forever!

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Fishing Adventure and A Lifetime of Memories

You never know when opportunities will come your way........

Early last fall, the owner of a private lake we help manage outside of Troy, AL asked us to come help host some MLF pros and sponsors. We took a few guys from our team and had an amazing two days of watching, spending time with, and fishing with some of the world's best fishermen.

At the end of that trip, we got to meet Brent Chapman and he talked to us about his TV show, Pro vs. Joe. As we looked at the calendar, it looked like a trip to Lake Caroline would work very nicely between his tournament at Cherokee Lake and the next event at Lake Okeechobee.

One of our seniors, Jack Flemming, put in a video challenge and Brent accepted. One thing I will tell you about Brent- he was very committed to making sure the process of his show is fair and square. He is a man of HIGH integrity.. which is probably the most important quality a professional fisherman must possess.

I took Jack and his partner, Grayson Morris, to Lake Caroline where we helped in the filming of his Pro vs Joe program.

I will save most of what happened for the show itself, but I did want to relate my chance to fish against Brent in an episode.

After pre-show instructions and interviews, Brent and I started the competition. The way it works is 1st fish, big fish, and most fish.

The conditions were mixed- it was pre-spawn- as pre-spawn as a lake can be before the spawn. All along the banks, the beds were under construction... but not fully occupied. But the temps were rising, a decent wind was blowing, and there were enough clouds to give us a chance for a great show.

Brent started off throwing a jerkbait and I wanted to try and sneak a 1st bite. I threw out a small finesse set-up on my spinning rod and got a bite on my 1st cast. I had the fish on and had him on the way back to the boat. About 2 feet out, the fish shook free as Brent hooked his 1st fish. I ALMOST got that 1st fish, but Brent was up early and ready to put the beat down on me.

I was in trouble at that point. He had a hot jerkbait and my technique was too light and too slow to keep up his pace. At that point I was fishing a jerkbait with him and all I could think about was Barry Wilson telling our team ... "if you are ever a co-angler, don't fish the same bait as the pro or you won't get a bite".

Brent quickly caught 6 fish to my nil and I began wondering if I was ever going to land one.

I had been in this same predicament on the very same bank before when I was with one of my BCS guys. The Lake Caroline fish can be picky, and Brent's jerkbait was just enough different and his presentation was MUCH better.

So Brent, in a move of great mercy and grace decided to give me his jerkbait. And finally I landed my first fish- it was a huge pressure reliever!

But no sooner did I begin to catch when Brent landed, and I netted, a 4.5 lb beauty!

I will have to wait and see how the edited version come out, but I did land 7 or 8 keepers and a few more that did not measure.

Now, the most interesting part of the week was when I took Brent's son, Mason, out on day 1.

He hooked a 12.6 lb MONSTER! I couldn't find the net, so I just picked him up out of the water.

How about this one?!

Finally, the chance we had to hang out with Brent, his family and Aaron Martens was incredible.

It will be an adventure I will never forget!

Who would have ever believed when we started our fishing team just 4 years ago, that this would become such a highlight of stories and fun!

Here is a link to the show:


Friday, February 10, 2017

Pray for Me

I see social media posts often asking for prayer. Every time I see one, I like it and quietly ask the Lord to minister in that moment.

Prayer requests are interesting opportunities..... in some ways they are dangerous.

Our senior Pastor at Briarwood, Harry Reeder, alluded to this in a sermon comment lately. "You can pray for humility, but then you better duck".

I always struggle in sharing prayer requests. I tend to be personally private (hard to believe that when you see all of my blog posts. But they tend to be universal and public... not often deep and personal). I also have a hard time sharing about my needs when I see so many hurting and difficult situations around me.

It is analogous to me asking for prayer for the blister on my thumb while my neighbor is sorting through the rubble of a burned up home.

I also hesitate to share prayer requests because they can sometimes turn into gossip sessions. I want to caution all of us to keep prayer groups in STRICT confidence. Leave them at the throne of God and do not carry them out of the prayer closet.

So I have a prayer request.... and it is not general at all, it is very personal.

I had the beginning of this prayer spoken over a group of my colleagues and me when we recently met with a head of school in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was a beautiful prayer... the preamble to Colossians 1:9... hearing it in his accent was a special moment. BTW- I am NOT going to South Africa, please don't start those rumors LOL.

So I am asking for prayer.... I really need it.. thank you!

Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you: This is my prayer request...

 asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will - I really need to see His plan- not mine

in all spiritual wisdom and understanding- making decisions on spiritual metrics not worldly ones

so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord- this is important- I need to carry myself in a way that honors HIM

fully pleasing to him- I do not want to be living according to a system- I want to it to be a relationship

bearing fruit in every good work- accomplishing things for a reason- the glory of God and good of others

and increasing in the knowledge of God- not knowledge about Him- I want to KNOW HIM

being strengthened with all power- my human energy runs out way too soon

according to his glorious might- supernatural radiance and power

for all endurance and patience with joy- God is hard to wait on. He is never late but seldom early

giving thanks to the Father- I will praise Him and cling to Him and thank Him NO MATTER WHAT

who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light- I am already qualified for His work

and this section ends with a beautiful testimony- so true of me

He has delivered ME from the domain of darkness and transferred ME to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

In the end that is all that matters.... will you take time to pray that for me today?

And my prayer is that it will return double for you.

Thank you!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

The Stage of Opportunity... Truth on Trial

SO much of this post has been inspired by meditation on the life of Jacob and some journaling I have been doing on competition and faith.

I re-read a strange post that I wrote in December, 2010..... I stumbled on it a few weeks ago and had forgotten I had ever written it.

Though it was one of the harder times in my life, it has an important place in my list of 'beautiful letdowns' that were orchestrated by the hand of God. A reminder that Jesus kept His scars even after the resurrection.... scars are not ugly, they are important tokens that we are warriors and conquerors. An unscathed life is an un-lived life.

Now that I am so far removed from that particular battle, I can see God's faithfulness, presence, power, and love in an even clearer way. And I always need to be careful.... no need to be overly dramatic... nothing un-common about my journey... indeed, God has to treat me very gently because I am no hero.

The following thoughts are meant to be an encouragement to any believer who is on the ground after a defeat.... a God-allowed defeat... a God-purposed defeat... a loss that hurt you deeply, but God is going to use it to work a miracle in your life- do you dare believe that?

You just have to do two main things...

1) Never give up on Him.... even if you feel the entire world mocking you in your humility.

2) Be willing to keep swinging the SWORD of His truth... even if the enemy looks stronger than you could ever imagine.

As I have been watching the world burn lately and prayed through the unhealthy division in America these days I have been encouraged that there has never been a bigger or  better stage for authentic Christian living than right now.

All of the mass communication technology is ready to take the story to places before that were unthinkable.

As little snowflakes of self-absorbed, ivory tower humanistic thinking evaporate in the heat of trial, you could stand firm in the storm - mystify this current generation- and magnify the God of truth and grace as never before.

Here is how it felt to me just 5 years ago....


Look at me (lying here in humiliation and defeat)- you laugh and I laugh. 


But I am OK.... I just figured something out.... I realize now that the way God cares is so alien to us.... it is his strange ministers that make up His HOLINESS. He does seem at times intolerable careless about my scars and crosses- but He should be. Things I tremble at, He just shakes His head. Do I really know of loneliness and pain? 

"Come on,"  He says, "Give me a break. Your powder puff- magic dragon God of expediency does not exist".

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

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

I sit down in the sandstorm and feel the sting- the sandpaper grinds my flesh- a little layer at a time.

As I sit there, the greatest dragon I have ever encountered opens wide. His breath is nasty hot and his fangs are poised to strike.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

I look at my family and friends and thank Him- and discover that the humble attitude of gratitude is the foundation of worship.

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

And I laugh so hard I cry.

I never know who may read these things, but as I finish this up on a dark February morning, all I can say is that God is there and He does care.

As I read comments on facebook posts or classless commentary on news stories, I know that the mockers and cynics have never seemed worse.. but you have to never stop praying for them and never give up in our true hope.

Don't lay there and waller in your misery. Stand up and live as a child of the King.

Those are the testimonies that gain traction in this world. Life on life.... one day at a time.. until He returns.