Thursday, July 16, 2020


  1. the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something.

I was driving from Nashville to Birmingham in 2011 when I got a phone call from a student who wanted me to start a fishing team at our school.

Sounded simple, and I told him that I would do my best to make sure it happened.

Looking back 9 years later, it was one of the best things I ever did. There have been so many positive things about being an early participant of the growth of high school fishing in the state of Alabama.

There has been way more positive memories than negative.... it has been a joy!

Along the way, I discovered something I had never truly considered... and that is the importance of managing risk in the development of teenagers. As a long time football coach, I had grown accustomed to the idea that the activities  we do on a regular basis can result in injury and pain. I have had the terrible experiences of visiting football players in the hospital for various reasons in the past and I have had players get career ending injuries over the years.

And football can be deadly:

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research publishes one of the most widely referenced annual studies on the subject of football deaths in the US. Its surveys use reports from coaches and other athletic department staff members across the country, as well as media reports and independent research.

According to its 2017 report, more than 4 million kids and young people played some form of organized football that year. Of them, 13 reportedly died as a direct or indirect result of play: four direct and nine indirect. The survey defines "direct" as traumatic results of on-field play: spinal cord injuries, organ lacerations, head injuries and the like. "Indirect" deaths are caused by systemic failures because of exertion: heatstroke and most incidences of cardiac arrest, for example.
That means, for 2017, the the rate of direct fatalities was 0.095 per 100,000 players, and the rate of indirect fatalities was 0.21 per 100,000 players.

It is hard to get a firm number, but the demographic characteristics of decedents reported through national COVID-19 case-based and supplemental surveillance, by data source — United States, February 12–May 18, 2020 for individuals UNDER 18 years of age is 19 people (< 0.1)

So statistically, the risk of serious injury from playing football is very close to serious complications from the virus (yes, I know it can be transferred to someone with worse odds)

Even with those numbers, the fishing team activities seemed riskier to me. Towing a 2500 lb. boat on the interstate and backroads has danger. Putting that boat on the water and blasting off to your first fishing spot at 70 mph in low light conditions can raise the blood pressure.

I also have had the misfortune of having two of my anglers get hooks in them. One in the head and another one in the eyes!.... that one ended up at the Callahan Eye Clinic in Birmingham and, thankfully, ended well.

Any search of the news will also confirm the ultimate tragedy in the sports of fishing.... there have been young anglers lose their lives in terrible accidents, some preventable and others not.

What do we make of this?

Life incurs risk..... every single day.

I have found great joy in teaching young people how to mitigate risks through responsibility, education, and practice. It is a part of maturity and it actually inspires them!

I have seniors who can back a boat up into a space with only inches of margin. I am proud to see them respect the danger enough to take precautions. And as they manage risk, they grow more courageous and confident.

Unfortunately, I am not seeing this spirit being acquiesced during this time of planning and decision making in the midst of the current pandemic. This is a general statement of course.... there are exceptions.

But this 'spirit of timidity' and sadly, "spirit of divisiveness' is a combination of things:
  • Fear of litigation has hampered decisions of mitigation.
  • REAL DANGER- this virus is not a hoax folks.
  • TOUGH CULTURE- every spoken opinion can turn toxic
SO how do we respond?

I will continue to coach football and fishing- as I do, I have to look each parent in the eye and commit to them to do all I can to keep their child safe.... but I cannot PROMISE to keep them from harm.

We can't risk proof life, nor can we make any school Covid-19 free.

And I do understand we are trying to help protect the vulnerable....

The honest question is this....are shutdowns and austere measures on the mass populace the answer?

Every day- if God allows.... we wake up to new opportunities and risk.

This world can be a mean and scary place.... terrorists still plan and wait for opportunities... as do thieves and sex traffickers.

There are cruel people who harass and bully; harmful people who would injure you to simply take care of themselves.

We think we are secure- but the supply chain of both food and water could be suddenly interrupted. We have sworn enemies of our way of life who have mass weapons of destruction pointed right at us.

There are unseen contaminants, carcinogens, deadly bacteria and viruses moving in and out of your body on a constant basis.

If you dwell on these things you will want to run and hide.... that is what fear does.

But no- that is not how we are supposed to live.

We walk with wisdom- we look both ways before we cross a street, we don't play with fire, and we wash our hands and brush our teeth.

We surround ourselves with a loving community of family and friends and we hope to lean on them during times of crisis.

We make plans and have action steps if our house catches on fire.

I teach kids how to tackle with their eyes up and not hit with their head first.

I ask them to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes when fishing and to be careful when casting... especially with treble hooks.

I teach my children how to be aware of their surroundings, where to park, and how to protect themselves.

Here is a strange statement for this post.... I even understand there may be a day where I have to act in 'civil disobedience'- but it is based on principle AND it means I am subject to the consequences of those actions.

But the truly bottom line? I NEED to trust in my heavenly Father... what does He tell me to do and how to live-

[25] “Therefore I (Jesus) tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

[34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25–34 ESV)

Let us all be in prayer for our leaders and nation as we
mitigate... not subjugate
mitigate..... not risk proof life
mitigate.... not live in fear
mitigate.... not attack others
mitigate.... not forsake our duty to live by faith.

And then let's carry on in confidence, service, compassion, and hope!

Monday, July 06, 2020

Wage War on Your Sin, Not the Sin of Others

We live in times of great conflict. Understatement of 2020.

Is there more now than the past? Or are we simply reaping the rotting fruit of mass communication technology? The speed and shallowness of most information coming our way has interrupted and changed our pattern of life

As communication and informational technologies (CITs) explode; a big casualty is TIME.  David Lyon, in his book, Jesus in Disneyland, gives a remarkable summary of what sociologists are seeing in the compression of space and time for over three decades.

The speed of life has passed warp dimensions. Instant communication, insatiable consumer appetites, and the extended present of cyberspace has put us in a world more liquid than solid. A rolling stone may gather no moss, but our culture’s tread is fractured. There is no long lasting stability. No life long careers or marriages. And change comes so fast, we don't have time to evaluate truth through logic and discourse.

“To disrupt time is to generate uncertainties, to loosen anchors, to dissolve meanings.” 

In this soup, even life becomes more disposable. Is it any wonder that stress and exhaustion is at an all time high? 

We have squeezed minutes into seconds and, seemingly, pushed God out in the process. 

In late February, early March we had a GIANT stop sign thrown in our path and everything ground to a halt (the first US Corona virus case was Jan. 20 and 1st reported death was Feb. 29). It was a strange, 'separate peace' that made us anxious- but also shut down the activity wheel.

The shut down did not sit well for long, especially in an election year. The blame game started up quickly and gained momentum. The daily Covid press conferences held our attention for a while, but it soon became useless rock throwing.

In that sea of disruption and partisanship, the worst possible spark hit the gasoline of conflict. It was like a multi-stage stage missile.... on Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while running in Georgia. It was just nuanced enough to create a divide and more questions than answers for people in the middle. (When the video surfaced on May 5, it really ramped up even more).

On April 15, demonstrators gathered in Michigan to protest that state's Covid lockdown measures.

And then on May 25, the video of George Floyd's death hit the exposed nerve and pandemonium erupted. Demonstrations, riots, looting, hit and run cases, autonomous zones, demands for immediate police reform, and shouting matches are now daily and continuous.

And I am beyond grieved.... I am discouraged enough to cry out to God almost daily... are we about to lose our republic and what kind of world are my children living in... and what will their children find?

As a believer in Jesus Christ and someone who trusts in the Bible as my authority.... that is where I run to. At times, I don't feel like it. I have spent some time daydreaming about life in Costa Rica or Bermuda.... but it is impractical and foolish. This is no time to sit quiet and hide.

This is the part where my wife would interrupt with a very practical observation.... "I know the problems. What are you going to do about it? What are the solutions?" And she is right to emphasize that.

This is why I write... and if given the opportunity to discuss with others. My desire in 2020 is to not give up or give in.... not matter what happens. The MINISTRY I am called to should not change, regardless of how long Covid stays with us and no matter what happens in an election in November. The mission or truth does not change, whether we live in times of plenty or in want. If I truly believe that Jesus is our only hope and answer, what do I do about that?

And as I read God's Word, I am helped and encouraged. I am also corrected.

In my quiet reading and prayerful considerations, I have been pressed into some questions and actions.

First Questions - Am I in tears about the right thing? Am I in grief over what God is in grief over? Am I in anger over the thing that angers me or am I angry over the thing that angers God?

What made apostle Paul grieve? What did he shed tears over?


[2 Corinthians 7:5] For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

I hope you don't mind if I quote in length from John McArthur here- he says it MUCH better that I ever could:

At the time that Paul wrote this letter (2 CORINTHIANS), right up until the very time he took the pen and sat down to write, he had been nursing a broken heart. You might assume that that broken heart came because of the tremendous outside pressure of a hostile world. And I mean he had really had to endure a lot. And he chronicles that in this letter.
Let me remind you, back in chapter 1, verse 4, he talks about his affliction. Verse 5 of chapter 1, he talks about his sufferings. Verse 6, again his affliction. Down in verse 8, his affliction, “being burdened excessively beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.” Verse 9, “We had the sentence of death within ourselves.” Verse 10, he was delivered from a great peril, a peril of death.” And you’re really not very far into this epistle until you get the picture that this man is in the midst of severe persecution from a hostile world.
We come down to chapter 4, in verse 8, and he continues to chronicle some of this, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus” – that is to say he was always on the brink of death for the same reason Jesus gave His life, and that is the preaching of the truth.
Verse 11, “We are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” Verse 12, “Death works in us.” Over in chapter 6, he goes back through the litany again, verse 4, “Endurance, afflictions, hardships, distresses” – verse 5 – “beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, hunger.” And down in verse 9, he says, “As dying yet behold we live, as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” I mean that was life for him. There was tremendous external persecution and difficulty.
Over in chapter 11, verse 23 – you know this section; he talks about his labors, imprisonments, his beatings – so many beatings he couldn’t even remember them, the danger of death. Five times receiving 39 lashes, 3 times being beaten with rods stoned, 3 times shipwrecked, a night and a day in the deep. And then he talks about the dangers from every quarter in verse 26 and 27.
And then over in chapter and verse 10, he says, “I have learned to be content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties. And that was basically his life. And that might have been, at least in some people’s mind, enough to make a pastor lose his joy and be discomforted. But that wasn’t really the difficulty that broke his heart; that wasn’t really the hard thing to deal with. What was really difficult - chapter 11, verse 28 – “Apart from such external things is the daily pressure upon me because I have such care for the church.” It wasn’t what the world did to him that crushed him; it was what the church did to him.
Back in chapter 2 and verse 4, he says, “Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears.” The world really never made him cry that I know of. None of his persecutors made him cry; it was his people that did that. This Corinthian group to which he had given over a year–and-a-half of his life where he had deposited the truth, and himself, and his heart, and they had kicked it around as if it was a football.
To be honest, when I read this- I was shot by the Holy Spirit right between the eyes.... we think we are tough and often criticize the so-called 'snow flakes' of our culture. But have I suffered even close to what Paul did? or the other apostles?

And at the brink of possibly giving up... God sent Paul help- in the person of Titus.

[6] But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, [7] and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
Who was Titus? Titus was a gentile (greek) convert that Paul had led to the Lord, eventually becoming a valued partner and co-worker. The gospel message had made the two like brothers . Titus was an early model of a gentile who did not conform to the ritualistic action of outward circumcision. All biblical mentions of Titus showed that he was faithful and loyal, even staying close to Paul through Paul's imprisonment.

Titus brought Paul news that the Corinthians had received the sorrowful letter of rebuke and had embraced the stern admonishment for noticeable change.

Paul sent back his encouragement through Titus. It has a message for us today.

[8] For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. [9] As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
[10] For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. [11] For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. [12] So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. [13] Therefore we are comforted.
We have people in our culture struggling through important issues... a HUGE key is what is the grid of action by which we respond?

Personal godly sorrow leads to healing and freedom. But 'worldly grief' - a system built on shame and destruction perpetuates a vicious cycle of 'gotcha'.

Paul's letter to the Romans gives me a BIG key regarding the difference.

[12] So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [13] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 

[15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [16] The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:12–17 ESV)

Can you follow the logic here?

A Christian (a child of God) has God's Spirit living in them and that Spirit leads us to wage war on our sin. This battle is impossible, life is hard, and WE SUFFER- but this same Spirit gives us a HEART CRY to our DADDY.

And this hard life has a payoff, we become HEIRS- we become the OWNERS of all of God's beautiful creation and we will ENJOY that inheritance TOGETHER.

I point you to another hero of mine, John Piper who expounds on these thoughts here:

SO what makes God angry? Sin and all that accompanies it, including decay and injustice. What makes God sad? To see his children walking away from Him and leaving our ONLY hope of salvation.

We are a watershed moment where we can actually live in one of two realities.

We can be overcome by worldly grief, live by our lust and greed according to the standards of the worldly system, and become a prisoner of fear and bitterness, inflicting pain and wrath to our brothers and sisters, cheapening life, and destroying people made in the image of God.


We can be lead by the Spirit, motivated by godly sorrow, and cry out to our heavenly Father. Willing to wage war with our own sin, in humility, confessing to God that we have sinned against Him, and be willing to WAIT on His deliverance in His timing, and live NOW according to HIS standards.

And the key is that I am more willing to change the man in the mirror for good, than count the sin in other people around me.

Easy? NO

Do we fail in this most of the time? YES

But if we wait on Him, adore Him, and follow Him... even in very dark days... the payoff is eternal!

Revelation 7:9–12

A Great Multitude from Every Nation

[9] After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, [10] and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” [11] And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, [12] saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (ESV)

We need to see and hear from the Paul's and Titus' within our midst. We need God's Word to help us rightly navigate the difference in movements and organizations. We need to throw off the negativity of the blamers yet still embrace the call for change as the Lord would have us do.

Yes... standing for these things will invite wrath.... but suffering for righteousness is never a waste. In fact, it is a beautiful badge of honor to the ONE who has loved us and purchased life eternal.

Never forget what Peter said:

[8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

[11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [13] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:8–13 ESV)

There will be a day, when the Lord will say, NO MORE DELAY.