Friday, November 26, 2021

Selfies and Soul Deep Beauty

Forgive the title!

I sometimes think of the pushback that some people must have to all of us loons who post selfies with fish pushed out to the camera to enhance the view. In a world that for generations has called all fisherman 'liars' this may be the last gasp effort to include the genetic need to embellish the story.

But very few, except hunters and anglers themselves, understand what that pose has meant- going all the way back to your grandfather and his black and whites of impossible stringers.


2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 

Bass fishing is one of the ultimate joys of walking by faith. Even though there are small moments of 'sight fishing' (that has its own exciting reward), there is a pure deep joy of having life bump your lure as it sinks into the unknown abyss.

As you are working the lure, you do receive 'information'- current, a sense of depth, rocks, branches.... but suddenly there is a tap.tap of life. It is exhilarating.

In mere minutes, the angler responds to that sometimes subtle 'hello' with a rather violent and explosive hook-set that will result in 'game on' or the agony of defeat.


But that photo represents and even greater message- it is proof of victory. Bass fisherman in particular go through long lulls for sudden and swift battles to land the beast.

Years of experience and the expectations of competition can change the prolonged enjoyment of it all. In the past four or five years I have become better at using the rod and patience to enjoy the fight more than the landing.... but it is a core pleasure of the prize.


Psalm 24
[1] The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
[2] for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

It would take a poet to truly capture the majesty of fishing. Wind, waves, clouds, birds, sunrise, deer... even the design of the fish and their lateral lines and muscular agility.... how can you capture a beauty that resonates deep in your innermost being?

Emerson came close.... (from Nature)- a few lines have been paraphrased....

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature....The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. 

Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration.I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods (on the water), is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, -- no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Creator circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, -- master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

The greatest delight which the fields and waters minister, is the suggestion of an hidden relation between man and creation. I am not alone and unacknowledged. The creatures nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

So next time you see me post a picture, smiling, and holding a bass..just know... it isn't narcissistic pride as it well looks like...

It is a poor expression of the worship and beauty of this rich experience that is more than therapy to me.

P.S.- I enjoy seeing your pictures and videos as well LOL

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Is There A Thanksgiving for the Hurting?

Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving.

Over the years, I have a way that I pray for people that may seem odd, and even possibly open to criticism. After a short silence and then some sort of pre-amble with the Lord, I just write down names. And as I write them down, I'm am giving their situation to God and pleading with Him to do what I can not do but He can. 

In these post Covid times, and possibly the fact that I am late 50's in age and tend to 'rub shoulders with the older', the lists grow long these days. The list today includes little babies in the hospital, and grieving families. It also includes a hurting nation with a landscape of division, strife, and want.

And you know well the foundation verse of the pre-amble- Philippians 4:5–7

[5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; [6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

But there is a question at the top of this post.... can there be Thanksgiving today for those in pain? 

Those in grief? Those who are lonely? Those who would give the world to forget or those who would pay it all to remember and see one more time?

And the answer? For those who refuse to give up faith, hope, and love..... YES!

Even if there seems to be no relief in sight... Remember the example of Abraham in Romans 4:17–22

[17] as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. [18] In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” [19] He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. [20] No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, [21] fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. [22] That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (ESV)

I don't know when, who, where, how someone may read this short post today- but here is Thanksgiving for the hurting:

If your marriage is in trouble, grab your spouse look them in the eye and say, "I am thankful for you" and count those positive traits instead of the downward spiral of transgressions and failed expectations.

Is there a broken relationship with years of distance and regret? Use today as a way to say "love, forgiveness, and thanks".

Is this is your first holiday without a loved one and the bitterness is so raw that you can't see a way to go on?  Bend your knee in thanksgiving and faith as you say , "Lord, they are not coming back to me, but one day I will be with them" and then rise and know that God knows your pain and He is patiently awaiting that day as well.

At the table today... though it is quite Ok to be thankful for what you have. To me the smell and taste of my coffee this morning is something to be thankful for... be even MORE thankful for the PEOPLE  in your midst and tell them, "I am thankful for you".

When we say thanks, we are actively showing faith, hope, and love because an attitude of gratitude is the fruit of those amazing virtues sprouting roots in our sinful hearts that are always prone to wander.

I find it interesting that 'gratitude' is not listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 and I believe that part of that is that gratitude is a response to a perspective, a way of seeing. Without the fruit of the Spirit there would not be a chance to show gratitude in the waste land of the works of the flesh including  "enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy" and the list goes on in Galatians 5:20–21and it is not exhaustive because Paul adds "And things like these"!

So there is a beautiful table today- one that has a Biblical perspective of God, His grace and mercy, and pain is seen as a reality under his Sovereign control to be put away at the close of days, and we still bow and say 'thanks' and are thankful for His people and His purposes- then that is a HEALING table of Holy fellowship. We believe in His promises... including eternal life in His Son.

There may be a place and time today that the table is just one soul, all alone, with meager means and little to eat. Yet that person bows with gratitude and hope and rejoices in the promises of God.

Perhaps another place today. Feasting and luxurious... prestige and power. But if there is no true divine perspective, it will be another disappointment as the day ends in disillusionment and emptiness.

May your table today be overflowing with thanks. 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

How the Wineskin Illustration Constantly Confronts Me

 I have written about this topic on other occasions, but I always come back to it when I think about HOW do we get the gospel to this next generation is a culture that is increasingly hostile to it?

Mark 2:18–22

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” [19] And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [20] The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. [21] No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. [22] And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (ESV)

The Context: 

I love reading Mark  more than the other synoptic gospels for some reason. It may just be the flow of it....
but as we read to this point, we see growing crowds

1:37 “Everyone is looking for you”

1:47 “Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere”

2:2 “So many gathered, there was no room”

2:13 “A large crowd”

And the growing crowds always seem to increase the growing conflict.

These particular verses seem to indicate concern that the disciples of Jesus were not living up to the EXPECTATIONS of the status quo. The sin of the followers of Jesus is that they weren't going along with the rituals of everyone else.

2:18 “Now John’s disciples AND the Pharisee’s were fasting”

If everyone else was doing it- why not the disciples of Jesus... what is wrong with them?!

The Confrontation:

Speculation regarding the questioners
- ‘And people came ….” - human nature never really changes. Dishonest questions are as brutal now as they were then... were these people asking an honest question or was their question merely a cover for their already hardened hearts?

No- they are just constantly looking for a fight.

I can't help but read the tone of their questions as plain SNARKY!

“Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 
You think you are holy? You may think you are all that- but we live the Bible code... y'all just seem so laissez fare about the whole thing? When we were your age, we memorized the Bible and attended meetings, and didn't hang with sinners. We were tough... y'all are just lazy puddins' We used to care that people noticed our devotion! We were disciplined!

Jesus answers the questions by providing 3 illustrations:

Illustration 1- Wedding…… The Bridegroom will leave, hard times will come at their appointed time,  but don't live in the future...celebrate the NOW.

Illustration 2- Patching a garment- the age of the patch needs to match the age of the garment and an improper repair (application) can be a worse fix. The patch must match the hole.

Illustration 3- Wineskins……again, new versus old. The new wine will need to stretch under pressure of fermentation or the result will be a great loss.

All three illustrations together suggest a common principle.... the time for fasting will come, but the time is not now. Jesus is in process of something new and He didn't really care about what the Pharisees thought about it.

There are MANY principles from the passage: patience, authoritarian tendencies, ritualism... but I wanted to focus on how we respond in conflict and criticism and still maintain a posture for gospel proclamation.


Unfortunately, we never escape THE FRAY... it is always there. The battle never rests and we live in a world of endless opinions. I don't know if you can see it or feel it..but it screams at me. The amount of negative emails and reports I get on a daily basis has tripled in the last decade. Since Covid-19 first hit in the early spring (Feb/March 2019), I feel like the anger, conflict, attacks are more acute.

Negative opinions brew in the dark, they are often spread in whisper campaigns!

The Lord of Time

As humans, we don't do time very well..... I have always quipped...“God is never LATE….. but He is seldom early”.  It is SO HARD to wait on Him. Can we embrace God’s sovereignty as it relates to HIS TIMING?


Never Aid, Comfort, or Enable the Enemy.
 If you participate in whisper campaigns or believe that your right to know is an entitlement, you are helping negativity to sap life out of all that is around you.

Be Steady in the Storm…. And Celebrate THE GOSPEL! Jesus stood firm and stood above the fray. He was not naive... He knew the hearts of the critics... but He was never dismayed or knocked off mission by them

Ask God To Enlarge Your View of Him. It is OK to live with a God who operates on a 'need to know basis'... He is big enough to handle your waiting game

Never Underestimate the Power of the Status Quo. As a follower of Jesus, never be afraid to upset the apple cart in your allegiance to Him. Many will hate you for that, but God supports those whose hearts are set on Him.


The teenage world is reeling right now. The entertainment streaming services, sinful adult role models, confusing gender and sexual messaging, music without morals, availability of use of banned substances, and social isolation has come full assault on those who are just trying to figure out their place in the world. 

This is a complex issue and I feel like we make them the bad guys when I blame the adults more than the kids... actually I blame myself- can't I see myself as more worldly - this culture impacts me!

Do we hear the call of Jesus in this passage? Don't PANIC! The gospel is still good, God's Word is still true, He is still the sovereign Lord, and what we need to do is find the conduit- we need to find the wineskin and he will fill it with new wine... and the fermentation will come in His timing.... not ours!

If we think we will win this generation with the old tactics... we will fade away.

NOW BEFORE YOU FREAK OUT... I am not saying we lower standards or compromise truth. We can't.. the mode of Salvation can not change- Saving Faith in Jesus Alone. And we can't water down the word... sin still kills even if we think we can play with it. God's love constrains us to teach God's holiness because the consequences of sin still wrecks lives.

Here is WHAT I AM PROPOSING: (1) We have to be clearer in our terms, (2) closer in our relationships, and (3) cautious in our judgements.

1) Clearer in our terms. In the 1980's I think you could simply tell a kid - Do Right and Don't Do Wrong and the general culture could guide that in a lot of cases. NO MORE. I found this out the hard way- I tell my students "Don't be stupid"- "Don't be inappropriate"- "Treat people right" and this is NOT clear enough. The average high school kid I work with compares himself to other students and thinks "I am not doing all they are doing"- "I am less sinful than that kid"- :"Our school acts better than that school" and wonder why I am disappointed in what they allow in their midst. 

We need to open the Scriptures and have honest dialogue about what inappropriate behavior looks like in real world terms, and we can't fall apart when we realize that they are engulfed in all kinds of things. I have teachers tell me what 4th graders are exposed to these days and the language they understand and sometimes use to sound grown up... don't fall to pieces... TEACH! And then CORRECT in love. Be patient in these discussions and be encouraging. Speak about honest struggles and let them understand consequences that are real... especially damaged relationships.

2) Closer in our relationships. How do some coaches get away from yelling at their team and others become enemy #1? It is the trust the players have that the coach loves them and working in their best interests. A distant authoritarian coach who uses the 'whack a mole" approach to getting the cats in order will get run off in a week these days. Keep swinging and before long there will be nothing left to hit.

But the teachers and coaches who TAKE TIME to know, listen, love, laugh, explain will over TIME win the trust of those they are trying to lead. Once they love you or maybe just trust you, they will allow you to push them hard. 

I still think a coach can get away with screaming at a whole team, but almost no coach can put an individual kid in a tongue lashing dog house. And I can't justify sarcasm anymore from an adult to a kid.. all you do is call their peers into their defense.

My personal challenge right now is "Do I really know them?" I never ask them the name of their girlfriend, what they like to do on the weekends, what are their favorite eating places, what do they order. I never ask them 'why' questions. If all I talk about is how to read this play against man free coverage... then yes, we are spending time together but I have no clue that they are wrestling with deep anxiety.

(3) Cautious in our judgements. This is the one that could cause the most misunderstanding. Transgressions to clear and reasonable boundaries have to get consequences. However, things are more gray today than ever. We live in a toxic soup of fast flying information, and the information has the speed of the internet and the accuracy of a weatherman. Does anyone preach anymore that lying and gossip are killers? Rumors are spread by demons to hurt everyone. There seems to be a lost art in our midst... we used to call it "the benefit of the doubt".

The Salem Witch Trials (1692) were set ablaze when young girls started telling lies (to hide their own transgressions) and the authorities started with the premise that it was true and the consequences were so heavy that soon everyone was telling lies, slandering, accusing, and believing the worst. And these men were Bible loving Christians... but they were in full panic mode! It did take wise Christian men with sound Biblical doctrine to END the mess... but the damage of that terrible time must always govern our temperate responses... be patient, trust God and protect people, not reputations nor even institutions. Don't be hasty to protect a brand. It is OK to admit that we have sinners in our midst and even sin in our own hearts.

 God wasn't panicking.

Satan loves it if he can cause division between parents and those who are employed in education, training, and development of their children. God wants both to be on the same page... it doesn't have to be 100% agreement- but the spirit is that we are all on the same team!

I looked back over the emails I send and receive- they are always about issues... I don't take enough time to tell people 'thanks' what they are doing right because I am so busy trying to correct all the wrong.

At the heart of all of this is a willingness to be humble, open, and wrong. You know what? I don't have to keep sanitizing and protecting my name... before long it too can become an idol.

I don't care if you think I am great, or holy, or skilled... all I care is that you know that God loves us and demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us. This allows me to listen, put down my defenses, and even say 'sorry' (and I am learning it is OK to say sorry if I don't feel like I did anything wrong). God and His Word defend themselves quite well.

Please pray for me as I still struggle with all of this... it is MESSY. There is a lot to get wrong here... but Jesus wasn't upset that His disciples weren't following the past paths... the truth never changes... but the vehicles and mechanisms have to change. And God brings along those culture changers from the very toxic culture ready to live unstained and fruitful lives.

Sin let's everyone down at some point. We never want our children to even be introduced to it. But the ministry of the gospel isn't that we won't encounter sin, it is the antidote to when we do. And it is the only hope we have to live through the experience. Sin smiles and lures, but it is not our friend. And it doesn't take long to feel it's sting and the built in consequences of either doing something God knows will destroy us or not doing something that will bring goodness and healing into messy situations.

Fasting will come... disillusionment greets everyone who attempts to live apart from Christ .. the key is have we shared where the true water is found and convince them that it can be taken from any humble and penitent sinner at any time? Or are we still whacking at moles?

I wanted to end that I am not discouraged in the fight... it gets wearying of course. But the gospel is too good and life is too short for us to be pretenders. I live in a great country and the culture who dreamed it, planted it, and nourished it with blood deserve my effort to stand for the truth and preach the love of Christ to the lost. But more importantly, I need to model the love of Christ for the sake of the lost as well. I am not trying to win arguments, I want to win souls and that is a spiritual battle.

And the best news of all.... Christ will be victorious.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Holding On When You're Slipping


I normally don't like to borrow someone else's great illustration, but this is the exact image I need to capture for the expressions of the moment. So I must credit Pastor, David Filson (Nashville, CPA) for the image because he was the first one I ever heard use it.

A friend was visiting his neighbor's pool with his very young son. Young enough to still have 'swimmies' on the arm. After a lot of fun with dad in the shallow part, the boy mentioned, and the dad coaxed, the lad to possibly try the deep end.

We aren't talking about the diving board, that was a boundary still too distant. This is simply a 'jump in from' the side to the arms of dad where the water was way deep over the boy's head. After several minutes of encouragement, the young boy, sans the floats, stood and trembled.

The dad stood in the middle, he had his arms open for the boy to leap to him and kept saying, "You can do it!" "Jump!"

And after minutes of stance and stops, almost jumping and retreats.... he jumped!

A big splash and underwater for a second, the panicked boy flailed at the dad.. and the dad just picked him up.

But the boy didn't feel secure...sunscreen, broad shoulders, and water have no handholds.

"DAD!" "Help me, you are so slippery!"

And I pause here with the promise to finish the quite common occurrence all through the summer season that we will all long for soon but grew tired of as well.

There are times that my father, my faith feels so slippery. I'm trying to hold on.

At times, faith feels like that stupid bar of soap I drop in the shower and curse the fact that I have to bend over again to wrestle with it.

And it is so weird where the help to hold on comes from. Scripture on the end times.

I first read Revelation when I was 17 and I hated it. It was weird, terrifying, and there was nothing about it I liked.

Now I read it at 57 and find it a healing and a hand hold as I once again have to look in the mirror and wonder aloud at pain, and suffering, and sin. The world's sin and my sin.

It isn't just Revelation.. the Bible is full of descriptions about how it is going to end. It has clear warning that our life is just a vapor and we are not guaranteed even one more heartbeat. There are people TODAY who will not have a tomorrow on this planet.

And the Bible is also very clear that there will be a day, one day, where the Lord will say "NO MORE DELAY" and the end will come with a sign in the east and a universal blast of trumpets and angels. The invisible will suddenly be visible. Faith exists without sight and the appearance of Jesus is the closing of the door of salvation based on grace through faith.

In my Bible reading today, I stumbled on the BEST of all apocalyptic messaging... the so called "Little Apocalypse" in Matthew 24. And I could put on my Eschatology glasses and explain my 'partial preterist' views of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and on and on and on.

But this morning... three stark statements jumped off the page at me:

Jump 1

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. (Matt 24:9,10 ESV)

I feel the chill of a cold fall... daylight saving time ends tonight... as the days get darker and colder I worry about the coming persecution to those who refuse to give up a simple belief in Christ and the truth of God's Word. The less the Scripture is read and proclaimed, the more likely that we will see this in our midst. It is there now, but it is getting bolder and colder.

I have accepted the fact that there are people who hate me just because I am aligned with Christianity.

But it doesn't mean I like it. It doesn't mean it doesn't bother me. 

What hurts the most is when the animosity comes from within. I don't want to ever see betrayal and hate on the inside... but at times it happens. And it is grievous. But I also have to admit that I can also be a problem and not a solution.

One way this truth helps is to realize it as a fact... this gets me to a place of forgiveness sooner.

Jump 2

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. [13] But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12–13 ESV)

Boy, this one will preach. Does anyone really know LOVE? I say "I loved that pizza we had for lunch" and then turn  around and say "I love you" to my wife, family, and friends.

Love, like pizza grows cold. And unconfined, unbridled, unconfessed sin hinders the tindering of love.

Love must be stirred, remembered, stressed, demonstrated.

Why does increased lawlessness make love burn down to embers? Because lawlessness is ultimately selfishness.

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is the last line of the Book of Judges.

 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25 ESV)

Look around you and see this reality with your own eyes. And it isn't true of just you or the 'world'... it is also true of me.

We have all kind of opinions and politicians on what needs to be done to turn our land from hate to love. Unless we bow to a King and dethrone self... love will continue to shrink.

But Jesus never ends on that last line, he adds the truth:

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

"DAD!" "Help me, you are so slippery!"

Jump 3

 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14 ESV)

When will the end be? For some it could be today. For a dear and loving man I know it was on Thursday and I am still hurting for his family.

But there seems to be ample Biblical support that THE END comes at the end of the plan of proclaiming the gospel, possibly when the last of the elect bows his or her head in obedience to faith, the curtain will drop and new beginnings of the eternal plan will commence.

So I am the relentless optimist who ends some days in clouds and gloom, but I arise to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.

"DAD!" "Help me, you are so slippery!"

You probably know the punch line by now..

Can you hear the laughter of the father and the joy in his voice.

"You are OK my son, I am holding on to you!"

If you are His Son, He has a bond sealed in blood, guaranteed by the Spirit, eternal GRIP on you.

And that is our only hope.....