Uncharted Territory

This season all of the faithful Cyclone Football fans have seen what a special season this is.  We have trusted in the process that new coach Matt Campbell has been talking about and now we are starting to see some of the payoff of that process and what can be achieved.

No one and I mean no one saw that win in Norman, Oklahoma coming.  What a sweet win that was.  To follow that up with the win again TCU at home at the end of October was just an amazing thing to witness as a fan.

Normally, the pattern is that every decade or two Iowa State will have an amazing upset.  A good example of this is when ISU upset Nebraska back in 1992.  What an amazing game that was.  Cyclone fans would have to wait until 2011, when the Cyclones had an epic upset against Oklahoma State in Jack Trice Stadium.  That is a long time to go between major upsets.  This season, we experienced two major upsets of that caliber not only within the same season, but the same month.  This really is uncharted territory for ISU fans.

Cyclone fans really don’t want to admit it, but really, the Cyclone football tradition is that of losing.  We lose more games than we win.  It can be difficult, but over time, you get seasoned to it and your expectations diminish and you expect less success for your team.  Then along comes a special coach who says, “Enough is enough, we are not going to accept losing.  We are going to start a new culture where winning is expected.”  It sounds great, but how could it change when it has been this way for as long as people remember.

But then we start to see change.  Instead of close losses, we start seeing close victories.  We see going to a bowl game as a yearly expectation, not just a reward that comes every 5 seasons.  We start talking about competing for Big 12 Championships, which has never really been mentioned before in the history of the program.

What is even more amazing than the winning we are seeing on the field is how he is doing it.  Coach Campbell is not about taking short cuts.  He is doing things the right way.  It is just as important how the player acts off the field as they do on the field.  They are expected to excel in the classroom and not just on the football field.  The student athletes are expected to be involved in the community and do positive things and be positive role models.  If a player is not on board for all those things, if they are just here to take from the team and excel on the field and do their own thing, they will not be around very long.  That is the way it should be and that more than any victory or any amazing upset, is what makes me so proud of the state of the program right now.

By no means is the climb over.  We are not yet where any of us want to be.  The team has accomplished so much already, but there is still so much.  We are entering into uncharted territory.  We are witnessing our program going into a place that honestly, it has never really been before.  This is just the beginning of the journey and trust me, I am enjoying every bit of the ride.

In this blog, I wanted to include this transcript of what Coach Campbell said to the team as he addressed them in the locker room immediately following their upset of TCU at Homecoming.  I think his words speak for themselves.

“A couple of things for you guys.  Listen to me and then I will let you go.  So the biggest thing I’ve got to tell you is this.  You are teaching the world, that in this sport, college football, toughness, discipline, and details still matter.  That’s your platform.  Your platform is, it is team above self.  That’s the platform that you’re using.  And no one wants to buy into that in our culture today.  OK.  Our culture says “it’s all about me.  Our culture says “screw process.  I want instant gratification.”

But here’s a fact and young guys listen to me.  If you fall in love with the process…If you fall in love with the process, then eventually, eventually, the process will love you back.  But see here’s what’s crazy about that.  You don’t know when it’s going to love you back.  OK.  All you have to do is be prepared for your opportunity, when it’s ready to love you back.  Now think about that, because that’s powerful.  There’s some young guys in here that are still trying to climb the ladder.  What you guys that have grinded it out, have stuck it out, have believed it out, you fell in love with the process.  And the process is now loving you back.  And if you let it continue on this journey, I’m telling you it’s a dark, lonely road.  You see all this around you, they all want to buy the stock right now.  Alright.  They want to jump in.  They want to be a part of it.  OK.  But you’ve got to shove it away.  It’s a dark lonely road, if I told you, for you to stand on that platform at the end of this and the confetti comes down, and you stayed the course.  It’s really hard to do.  Easy to say.  Well, what does that mean?  That means people will say that this is the biggest game.  Come on.  OK.  We’re not falling for that anymore. 

It’s the next game.  It’s going to be a great challenge.  You are going to have to go on the road into a really hard place to play.  We have to play again at 2:30.  We didn’t even play our best football today.  There was some great defense.  At times, made some plays offensively.  Didn’t play great on special teams again.  OK.  And there’s some things that we have to correct, but what?  Isn’t that football?  Isn’t that sport?  Isn’t that what this is all about?  Getting better, one day at a time.  But you’ve got to collectively, listen to me, it’s not just the other guys.  It’s you young guys.  You have to make the choice.  OK.  Because the image one here projects the image of all of us.  You’ve got to make great decisions.  You’ve got to come back on Sunday ready to rock n roll. 

If you fall in love with the process, at some point in life, the process will fall back in love with you.  OK.  It will give you everything you want.  Back to January.  Friday night.  Saturday night.  Nobody here.  You could have easily took the hard road, but guys were in here working out.  When no one is watching, that is sacrifice.  It doesn’t just happen.  Greatness doesn’t just happen.  You’ve got to be willing to sacrifice everything.  In between 18 and 22 years old, that’s really hard.  It is.  It’s really hard.  Cause we’ve got a lot of things grabbing at us.

I couldn’t be prouder of you.  Awesome win for us.  It’s great for our family, great for everything, but most importantly, great for you.  Cause you sacrificed.  OK.  Because you sacrificed. 

But it’s not over.  To be honest with you, I could care less, they’re going to talk to you about a bowl, but I don’t give a shit about 6 and 6.  Remember, this isn’t about being 6 and 6.  OK.  Only bullshit programs care about being 6 and 6.  OK.  This is about staying the course, and at the end of it, did we reach our full potential?  And you can do whatever you want.  We’ve got to get better.  We must get better.  And we must demand it. 

Stay the course.  Stay locked in.  Come back tomorrow ready to rock n roll.  I love you, but I appreciate you.  I’m really, really proud of you.”

 

I ready to go play for this guy.  What about you?

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Forever a Pirate

Dear 2017 Hudson Pirate Football Team,

Last Friday, my wife Stephanie, my son Matthew, and my mother Jill traveled to Belle Plaine to see you guys play.  I want to start by congratulating your team on an undefeated regular season.  Just an awesome accomplishment!    Sadly, this was the first time that I had the opportunity to see you play in person this season.  Some would say that makes me a terrible Pirate fan, but someday you will understand if you live out-of-town and have kids of your own.

I had the wonderful opportunity to watch part of one of your practices about a month ago as I was passing through town for work.  What I saw in the first 5 minutes of that practice was only confirmed in what I saw in the game last Friday night.  That is that this football team is special.  This team really has what it takes to be a state champion.

Please understand that I do not throw around the word “special” lightly.  I had the privilege to be a part of a very “special” Hudson football team in 1994 that went undefeated and won a state championship.  I know first-hand what it takes to be able to do something that so few ever get to experience.

That team was a special group.  Please don’t think that us accomplishing that feat was ever easy.  We had a really outstanding team the year prior in the 1993 season and we suffered two bitter defeats in that season.  The first came in a bitterly cold and rainy game at Grundy Center.  Despite that loss, we still made the playoffs and we were determined to win state that year, but suffered a very bitter defeat in the UNI Dome at the hands of Aplington Parkersburg team that went on to win state and may have been one of the best teams that school ever put on the field.  That loss made us absolutely sick and we made a promise to ourselves that we would never feel that way again.

We worked harder in that off-season than we had ever worked before.  We did everything we could to improve ourselves in every way we could each and every day leading up to and during that season.  Despite the athletic talent our team possessed, the biggest factor in our success in that state championship season was that we became a team in every sense of the word.  It was never about individuals or statistics or trying to earn college scholarships.  It was about our team and doing whatever it took to be successful.  Anything less than a state championship was not going to be considered a success in any form of the word.  It did not matter who shined in any particular game and often it was someone different in each game.  We did not set out to beat teams, but to literally break the wills of our opponents.

Even with all that, we had hard times.  We had a practice that we were starting to get a little full of ourselves.  We were listening to everyone else tell us how great we were and we were believing them and we thought we could just let up and coast a little bit.  We were having one of the worst practices we had ever had in my time as a Pirate.  Lineman were missing blocks, QB was making bad throws, RBs were fumbling, and WRs were dropping passes.  Defenders were missing blocks and it was apparent that we were not practicing to the standard we had set for ourselves.  I give Coach Urbanek all the credit in making the decision to not settle.  He decided that there was not any use in practicing like we were so he stopped practice and the coaches left the field.  We were all standing there like, “what is happening?”  We decided that if we wanted to accomplish our goals, we were going to have to do better and that it started with us.  We had to take responsibility.  As a team, we decided that we would go on and finish practice on our own, without the coaches.  I can’t remember how long we practiced, but it seemed like forever.  Our worst starting practice ever ended being one of our greatest practices ever and that day, more than any other I can remember, defined who we were going to be the rest of that season.  We went on with the season, more determined than ever to not only not let anyone defeat us, but more importantly, we were not going to defeat ourselves.  As hard times came, we drew closer and knew that as a team, a true team, we could do whatever our hearts and minds willed us to do.  That led to an undefeated season, a state championship, and one of the best football teams in the history of Hudson.  It was truly a “special” season and one none of us on that team will ever forget.  I had the good fortune to go on and play at Iowa State and played against some of the best players in the country in the first 4 years of the Big 12 Conference.  I was also so fortunate to make it to the NFL and play with the St. Louis Rams.  They had just won the Super Bowl so I can truly say that I was a part of the team, who at that time, was considered the best football team in the whole world.  Those were amazing experiences, but the team that I am the most proud of, my favorite team I was ever a part of in my whole football career, was that 1994 Hudson Pirate team.  That 1994 season at Hudson was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and I will carry that with me the rest of the days I walk this earth.

Enough about me and my memories.  After all, that all occurred 23 seasons ago and none of you players were even born yet.  I want to address why I think that this 2017 Pirate team is so special.  I noticed right away when I watched practice, how great this team really was.  I saw players pushing themselves to their limits to improve themselves in practice.  I saw upperclassmen pushing underclassmen to do better when they needed motivating.  I saw coaches coaching their butts off.

I am an old has been when it comes to the game of football.  I have not strapped on pads since the 2000 season.  But I do know the game of football well.  I watch the game of football differently than most people do.  I see things that most people don’t.  I can see things in teams that make them championship level teams.  Please know that I see some of these things in your team.  For what it is worth, here are some of the things I think are key ingredients to having a state championship football team:

Great leadership is where great teams start.  You have to have good coaches, but more importantly, you must have seniors that lead well.  Players have to push each other to be the best they can be and I see that in your team.

Every player has to have great work ethic.  You have to have the discipline to work hard when no one else is watching.  Each player needs to pick one thing each day they focus on improving and at the end of practice, that player needs to be able to say that they improved that one thing.  Do that each and every day and that is when you will see great improvement over the course of a season.  You never stay the same.  Each day you either get better or you get worse.  You have to be willing to do what it takes to improve as a player.  If every player does that, the team improvement will be good and special things happen.  From the little bit I have observed, I see that happening on your team.

You have to have amazing hustle.  That means that every player gives everything they have on every single play.  It is not just going full speed through your block, but going full speed until you hear the whistle.  If you are a defensive end and the play goes away from you, take the right angle and go full speed to where the ball is going.  You never know when a fumble might happen and if you are going full speed, you might be the one who falls on it.  I see amazing hustle with this team.

You have to play as a team.  It is not about individuals getting the glory, but as a team achieving great things.  A real team is truly in it together.  If one player messes up, the whole team takes responsibility for getting it corrected.  If a RB has an amazing run for a touchdown, each and every player shares in the glory knowing they were a vital part of that play.  There is a reason you do not have names on your jerseys.  It says “Hudson” on the front of your jerseys and no name on the back.  This is because you are playing for your team and not yourselves.  You are playing for everything that Hudson represents.  You are playing for your coaches, your teammates, your family, every player who has ever wore the Pirate uniform, and the whole community of Hudson.  Last on the list is playing for yourself.  Small towns are special.  Know whole town of Hudson supports you and is behind you.  Your team does a really outstanding job of playing as a team.

You have to have really great lines, both offensively and defensively.  No offense to the other position groups, but championship level success starts with the lines.  The offensive line has to have the ability to move the line of scrimmage into the defensive backfield and get the play to the second level.  Each OL has to occupy the DL and LB and the goal is to get a pancake, not a stalemate.  The defensive line has to get penetration and disrupt the normal backfield of the offense.  Don’t let them feel comfortable running their offense.  Make the RB think he is going to get hit the second he gets the ball.  Make the QB wonder where the hit is going to come from on this play.  Make the other team adjust from what they are comfortable doing and you have them.  We had a dominant offensive and defensive line on that 1994 team.  We were able to do what I just described on most plays.  I do not say this lightly, but from what I have seen, your offensive and defensive lines are just as good as or better than the lines we had.  Just amazing line play in that Belle Plaine game.

Maybe the most important key, especially when it comes to the playoffs is how you handle adversity when it hits.  Trust me, you will experience adversity at some point.  Now you are in the playoffs and all the teams are good.  There will come a time when something does not go how you had planned it would and you will get knocked down a bit.  How you respond to that will determine if you are able to take it all the way to the state championship.  If you don’t respond well, it can often mean the end of your season and regret for not reaching your ultimate goal.  For our 1994 team, the adversity hit us in the first couple of minutes of the state championship game.  Our defense had been dominant all season long.  Pocahontas had the ball on offense and on the second or third play of the game they ran a dive play right up the middle.  This should be one of the easiest plays to stop, but a bad angle here and 2 missed tackles later they ran the ball for a long TD.  I believe it was the only time we trailed all season.  I could be wrong though, my memory is fading.  At that moment we had been exposed and felt a huge shift in momentum swing to their favor.  They had never lost that season either and could well have taken control of the game.  Instead, we were the team that responded and we came back and marched right down the field and put momentum back on our side.  We continued to dominate the rest of the game and won the state championship by a large margin.  How we responded, in that moment, is what won us the championship.  I saw how you responded as a team when Belle Plaine came out in the second half and tied the score at 14. Momentum was clearly in their favor, on their home field, at that time.  Your team responded in that moment and you took the game over from that point and won the game in dominating fashion.  Adversity will come your way again in the playoffs.  How you respond will determine your success.  You have already shown you are capable of responding well.

I know that you won’t truly appreciate what I am about to say until about 20 years from now.  I know because it was that way for me too.  Being able to put on those pads and play the game of football is such a special gift.  There will come a day, very soon, when you will be taking off those pads and never putting them on again.  For most of you, high school will be the end of your football experience.  For some of you, you will extend your career on into college, but know that time goes fast and before you know it, you will be putting on those pads for the very last time.  Once you take them off, they never go back on.  Know that I would give just about anything, to put on my pads and go out there for just one more series and play this great game.  But that will never happen and that is OK because that is life.  My point is to enjoy the moment.  Enjoy each day that you do get to play this great game.  Know that when you do take those pads off for the last time that you gave it everything you had.  If you can’t say that, it will haunt you the rest of your days.  You are doing something right now that so many Pirate teams from the past have never had the chance to experience.  Enjoy every minute of the ride.  You will remember it the rest of your lives.

Most importantly, the relationships you develop with your teammates, will be with you for life.  Once you are a Pirate, you are a Pirate forever!  Even today, some of my closest friends are my teammates from the Hudson teams I played on.  We stay in each other’s lives because we love each other and we have a bond that will never be broken, even by time.  We experienced things together that no one else will understand.  It is the same for you and that is also something you will not truly appreciate until later in your lives.

Football is the best game ever created (in my opinion).  It is about so much more than just the game.  It teaches you about how to handle life.  Ups, downs, wins, losses, how to handle victories with dignity, how to handle defeats, set goals, never quit, work as a team, never, ever quit.

The values, morals, character, attitude, and discipline learned in football is immeasurable in life.  Football is like a miniature game of life.  Football teaches life lessons that make us better men.  The most important lessons don’t always affect the score directly.  Loyalty, respect, the concept of being a team member (it’s about us, not me).  Treating everyone as equals, regardless of abilities.  Serving others, overcoming adversity (both as an individual and as a team).  You will carry the lessons you learn in football on into your lives.  Long after you hang up the pads for the last time, you will use what you learned from your days of playing football in your own lives.  Those values you have learned through football will set you apart from others as you live your lives.  These are some of the core values that make football such a special sport.

You can’t control what comes your way.  How you handle it is what defines you as a person.  When you step off that field, you should have no regrets.  Go all out on every play and know that you did everything you could to be successful and you are a winner no matter what the score is.

I am writing this letter on behalf of every member of that great 1994 state championship team and for every player who has ever wore the Pirate uniform.  Please know how proud we are of what you have accomplished, but know that your journey is not yet over.  The most important part is yet to come.  How you finish this season will define who this team is.

Your team has all the elements you need to win a state championship so why not you?  Why not be remembered as one of the greatest teams ever in the history of your school?  You have everything in place you need.  Now go do it!  I wish you only the best in your upcoming battle with Pekin this Friday.  Let that game just be another chapter in your great story, not the conclusion of it.

All of Pirate nation is with you and behind you!  I could not be any prouder of you!

 

Forever a Pirate!

Bill Marsau

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The Perfect Marriage is Yet to Come

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Revelation 21:1-7 (NIV)

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

 

We are told several times throughout the Bible that God want to relate to His followers as a husband relates to his wife.  He wants to know us intimately, to love us, and unite with us.  He is the Bridegroom of the church.

If you’re married and a man, you probably remember the day you stood anxiously as your bride walked down the aisle toward you.  I remember this day well.  Stephanie looked so beautiful and all our family and friends were there.  It was a day I will never forget.

While that day seems so perfect, it seldom lasts long.  It is very easy for discontentment to creep into our lives, as well as our marriage.  Those who aren’t married might long for the day that they will be married, while those who are married sometimes question whether they made the right decision to get married.

We live in a society where marriages often end up in divorce.  Relationships tend to be based more on “What can you do for me,” rather than a “What can I do for you” mentality.  People want to bail at the first sign of difficulty instead of addressing the issues.  Many couples would rather quit than commit to the hard work it takes, on a daily basis, to grow a strong marriage.  Make no mistake, marriage is difficult!  Seeing the failure of so many marriages all around us, it can be difficult to even understand what a perfect marriage even looks like.

No matter how perfect your wedding day might have seemed to you, it does not even compare to the wedding day that all believers will get to experience someday.  In the above verse from Revelation, it gives us a perspective of what the ideal marriage is and what it looks like.  None of us, no matter how good we think our marriages are, has a perfect marriage.  Because the perfect marriage still awaits us.  It hasn’t happened yet.

John C. Broger said, “The relationship between Jesus Christ and His church is the supreme example of the committed love that a husband and wife are to follow in their relationship with each other.”  I do agree with that, but why can’t we achieve a perfect marriage now?  The answer is a one-word answer: sin.  As long as there is sin in the world, nothing can be perfect.  Until Christ returns and takes away sin, a perfect marriage or anything for that matter, simply can’t be achieved.

Your spouse can’t take the place of Christ.  Marriage has ups and downs, conflict, sin, misunderstandings, and pain.  However, it can also be a foretaste of the ultimate consummation, the eternal embrace, when the Lord will wipe away every tear, right every wrong, and bring everlasting peace to His followers.  We can see this list of promises in the above Scripture in verse 4.

Rest assured, a day is coming when Christ’s followers will “walk down the aisle” to Him, and He will receive us with unconditional love as His beloved bride.  And that will be the perfect marriage.

 

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God Speaks Through Disappointments

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Numbers 14:17-24 (NIV)

17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared:18  ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

 

I don’t know about you, but I find that too often, I become so focused on something or someone that I’m unable to hear what God is trying to tell me.  In those times, one of God’s most effective yet painful methods of getting our attention is through disappointments.  But don’t we really hate this approach?

Disappointment is one of the ways God spoke dramatically to the nation of Israel.  In Numbers 14, He directed His people to the Promised Land.  However, fear invaded their hearts and they were scared of the inhabitants, so they refused to enter.  As a result, God told the Israelites that “not one of them will ever see the land” for 40 years, until after the death of the generation that had been too fearful to enter.

The postponement was so disheartening that they decided to change their minds.  Sadly, though, it was too late; God had already settled the issue.  As a result, the people were distraught with grief because of what they had missed.

At that moment, when they were in the midst of their disappointment, do you think God had their attention?  Absolutely He did.  The next time He gave Israel a command, don’t you imagine they listened a bit more intently?

Tragically, failure is a rather common in situations such as this.  Instead of looking to God when disappointments occur, we are quick to blame circumstances, other people, fate, or even the enemy, Satan.

We are hesitant to believe that our loving Father could be responsible for our frustrations.  Yet He is willing to use disappointments to realign our thoughts and plans with His.

Take a minute to think back on some of the difficulties or major disappointments that you have faced in your life.  Do you think that God might have been trying to say something to you in the midst of those trials?  You may not be sure and since you most likely were not listening for God during those times, you probably don’t know what He was trying to tell you.

I want to pose a challenge for all of us: the next time we come up on some major trial or experience some disappointment in our lives, instead of trying to blame the world, let’s look to God and listen very closely to hear Him.  He might be trying to teach us something very important.  That is a lesson we don’t want to miss!

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Looking for God Outside the Bible: The Real God vs. Our God

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Do you ever find yourself not getting what you need from the Bible?  Society would say, “That’s OK, just listen for God’s voice elsewhere.”  It is true that God will speak to us through sources other than the Bible, but just a fair warning, we often do a pretty convincing impersonation of God.

A page torn from an inspirational daily calendar of Bible verses is making its rounds these days on the social media circuit.  It features a pretty purple flower and a quote from Luke 4:7:

“If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

It is meant to inspire.  The only problem with this verse comes to light if you at the surrounding verses and figure out who is saying this.  This is a quote from Satan, spoken to Jesus, when he was trying to tempt Him.  I’m not entirely sure if this was an oversight by the calendar designer, or a clever Photoshop job, but either way the takeaway is the same: Context matters when it comes to Scripture.  There is an even deeper problem today with how we use the Bible and its verses, and a recent article in the Huffington Post offers a sad example of this.

Brandon Robertson, a young Bible institute graduate, recounts in the article how his faith was shaken when he couldn’t find what he needed in the pages of Scripture.  “Every time I found myself in turmoil,” he wrote, “I would reach for the Bible, but I was coming back empty-handed most of the time.”  That disappointment, he explained, left him “radically disinterested” in God’s Word.

Describing a moment of particular personal crisis, Brandon looked to the Bible for comfort.  “With tears in my eyes,” he wrote, “I opened up the Scriptures and landed on Isaiah 3 – a chapter about God judging and destroying His enemies…not exactly the encouragement I was looking for,” he said.  “I turned to the typical ‘encouragement’ passages like Romans 8 and Philippians 3, but they didn’t seem to be working.”

Brandon recounted that his disappointment continued on into college, until, during a lecture by biblical critic Peter Enns, he had an epiphany: “We need to be training our children to cultivate a relationship with God, not a relationship with the Bible.”

I agree, of course, that at face value this statement is true.  The purpose of the Bible is to reveal God.  But for a growing number of progressive Christians, the God they want can’t be found in the pages of Scripture, so they look for God elsewhere.  They look for God in personal experience, through relationships with other people, and through private interpretations of when they say God “speaks into” their life.

Effectively, this approach untethers God from the Bible.  It makes the stories found in the Bible to be about God, but not a living Book in which God reveals Himself to his believers.  It essentially makes the Bible simply a historical narrative.  For example, the United Church of Christ recently insisted that “God is still speaking.”  This is another true-at-face-value statement, until you realize they’re actually suggesting that God changed His mind on issues like morality and marriage, and that their ideas of who God should be trumps the God that the Bible reveals to us.  God never changes His mind.

Many people point to Jesus Himself as their alternative to Scripture.  For example, Enns, in his book The Bible Tells Me So writes that “for Christians, Jesus, not the Bible, has the final word.”

But in response, Christian blogger Derek Rishmawy asked a very important question: To which “Jesus” are these folks referring to?  “…The only real Jesus we have intellectual access to,” observes Derek, “is the Jesus revealed to us in the Bible.”  That Jesus reaffirmed the exclusitivity of natural marriage, endorsed everything that was written in the Old Testament, and talked as much about hell and judgement as He did about the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Jesus that progressive Christians claim has not source other than themselves, their own feelings, beliefs, and preferences.  J. Gresham Machen wrote back in 1924, “The real authority, for liberalism, can only be…individual experience; truth can only be that which ‘helps’ the individual man.  Such an authority is obviously no authority at all.”

The approach we take when it comes to the Bible is vitally important.  God’s inspired word is not a calendar of inspirational, therapeutic quotes.  When we open the Bible, we are stepping into God’s story, understanding our place in His design, and encountering Him on His terms.  When we don’t find what we’re looking for, we should ask whether we’re looking for the real God or remaking a god in our own image.  At the very least creating God to be who we want Him to be instead of who He really is.

A relationship with a god we have created is not a relationship with God at all.

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Jesus is Our Rock

rock 1

Malachi 3:6 (NIV)

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

People will sometimes say, “The only constant is change.”  Fortunately, this is not true.  There is One who never changes: Jesus Christ always remains the same.  What a comforting truth!  But it’s hard to find refuge in someone we don’t know well.  So let’s explore the Lord’s actions to learn more about His nature.

 

Jesus Forgave Others.

Jesus showed mercy, not judgement, to those who recognized their sin.  For example, Jesus had compassion on the woman caught in adultery and stopped her death penalty with a few wise words.  Then, instead of condemning her, He said her sins were forgiven.  We see this story here:

John 8:1-11 (NIV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

 

Jesus Comforted the Hurting.

Jesus visited Mary and Martha, who were mourning the loss of their brother Lazarus.  Here is how this story played out:

John 11:1-45(NIV)

11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

 

Jesus Provided for Needs.

After spending three days healing all kinds of disabilities, Jesus was concerned that the large crowd that had gathered had not eaten.  He could have sent all 4,000 people away to find their own food, but instead He provided more than enough food to satisfy their hunger.  Check out this amazing story:

Mark 8:1-10 (NIV)

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied.

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

 

Jesus Interceded for His Disciples.

Just before Jesus was crucified, He asked God to protect and sanctify His followers, which not only included all of his disciples, but you and me today as well.  Check it out in the following passage:

John 17:15-21 (NIV)

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

 

Jesus Strengthened Believers and Gave Them Power to do God’s Work.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus sent His disciples out to share the gospel, assuring them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”  Check out the scene:

Acts 1:4-8 (NIV)

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

Jesus still forgives, still comforts, still provides, still intercedes, and still empowers.  What a blessing that we can find refuge in our amazing God!

 

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Setting a Foundation of Unwavering Faith

faith 3

Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

In our ever-changing world, families move, friendships drift, allegiances shift, and technology advances by quantum leaps.  If we seek security in people, possessions, or positions, we’re doomed to be disappointed.

Yet we all need somewhere to turn during the storms of life.  The one true anchor for our soul is Jesus Christ., who the Bible assures us will never change.  To find comfort in Him, we must learn who He is, what He does, and how He works.

In this blog, I want to briefly hit on a few details about His life and character.

 

John 1:1 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Frist, John 1:1 reveals that Jesus was Deity from the beginning.  Jesus was there at the beginning of creation.  Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He was born of a virgin (Mary), lived 33 years on earth as a man, was crucified despite His innocence, and rose after three days from death to life.

 

Secondly, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  We see this expressed in the following two verses found in the Bible:

John 14:6 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Matthew 16:16-17 (NIV)

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.

 

Thirdly, God fulfilled countless prophesies in the Old Testament through sending His Son Jesus, to earth.  A good example of a prophecy fulfilled can be found in Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53 (NIV)

53 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes  his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life  and be satisfied;
by his knowledge 
my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

Fourth, like us, Jesus has feelings too.  He wept for hurting people and felt angry when people misused the temple.  He felt thirst when he was on the cross.  We truly was fully human.

 

Finally, and most importantly, His resurrection defeated death, and He still lives today.  Jesus lives on in the souls of every believer.  By believing in Him, we accept the sacrifice that He made for our sins, and we receive the gift of eternal life.

 

God’s character never varies.  Of course, as situations change, He acts accordingly.  But the merciful, loving, compassionate, and holy Jesus we know from Scripture is the same Messiah that we cling to today.

Where do you turn in trying times?  Difficult circumstances are inevitable.  Prepare yourself for them by learning who Jesus is.  He’s the only true shelter and rock that will not change.  He is a wonderful Savior!

 

 

 

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