Friday, August 25, 2017

Madden 18 Scouting and Draft Guide is Here!!!

Hi all - I'm happy to announce that the Madden 18 Scouting and Draft Guide is here! You have all let me know the past two years how helpful it is, and this year I went all out...over 13,900 data points recorded in spreadsheets and analyzed in Minitab to bring you the best analysis. (How did I get it done so fast? Well, I bought the GOAT edition and downloaded it August 21 at midnight, and have been playing almost nonstop since then.)

I've used it in five drafts so far and it is legit:  using this system the average overall ability for people I draft is a ridiculous 76.  By comparison, in the most recent draft I did, only 5 of the computer teams even had a single player above 76, and it is my average.

This guide is the best ever, and I decided to make a cleaner look to it, too, so it would be easier to use.  Enjoy! As always, it is for free.  Tell others about it and spread the Madden love (but of course, keep it private from the friends in your league so you have the advantage!).

Please use it - just please credit it back to me and send people my way to get their versions. Thanks!


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Personal note:  last year, some of you asked how you could thank me. I don't do this for money,
I do it for fun. But this year I decided to add a Thank You Gift Button to the right linked to
PayPal, so those who are interested can choose from the "Buy me a beer" and "Buy me a soda" option. Every time you get some unbelievable stud after round 4, come and buy me a beer and
we'll call it even. ;-)

A few who know me personally are aware of the difficult family situation we're in this year: my
father in law has terminal cancer and my mother in law has advancing dementia. Financially
I have taken on the burden of paying for most of their mortgage, insurance, etc. during this time.
So to those who wish to help with that, I expanded the Thank You button to include a few more
serious options.


Please feel no pressure or obligation. This is a free guide. But for those wanting to say thanks
for all the work...that's an easy way to do it...I'm confident if you saw this guide in a store you'd be willing to plop down a lot more than this for it. But I tend to be a bit libertarian, so I'm just gonna give it away for free and hope you guys are generous. Give whatever you think is appropriate...
including nothing!

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Overview

Below I will list an image of every single page of the 23-page Scouting Guide that I made for you all this year. However if you want to download it completely to print, for free, click on the link.

Enjoy!

(Note: edited typo on C and RG pages.)




























Sunday, August 13, 2017

Update

Hi all -

I'm doing some maintenance on the site, some possibly big changes. It might be a bit.

So for now I've taken down most of the posts over the years, only leaving up a few of the more popular ones while I figure out what I do moving forward.

Thanks for your patience.



UPDATE 2018 Oct 26: 
Last year, I decided to take most of the blog down. The reason for this was, simply, that I did not have time to maintain focusing on the writing or managing the comments. Life became very busy, and my ministry at my local church expanded. Additionally, after reading excellent books like Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed, I saw little upside and significant downside to keeping most of the website up and running.


That said, I do believe that some of the research-related stuff could be of value for people. Thus I will be re-loading some of these today, and closing comments. Thus it can hopefully serve as a valuable archive for those seeking out specific topics, without requiring any additional work.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Finding the Gospel in Kubo and the Two Strings

Note:  this illustration was used as part of a Christmas sermon on Zechariah's Song in the Gospel of Luke. To listen to the full sermon, go here

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I have two sons, and when we want to hang out together, our favorite thing to do is go to the movies. We see a ridiculous amount of movies each year—it’s just how we roll. 

So a few months back, my boys desperately wanted to see a movie which I thought from the previews looked just awful. But they really wanted to see it, so we went.

It ended up being one of the four or five favorite experiences I’ve ever had at the movies. The movie was called, Kubo and the Two Strings.

(It is still a relatively new movie so I will try and stay a bit vague, so as to minimize spoilers.)









Kubo's Story

Kubo is a Japanese boy who lives outside a small village, with his mother who most of the time is mentally not-there, with occasionally moments of clarity.

So Kubo provides for their family by going down into the local village, where he tells stories and plays on his guitar. But Kubo has a magical power: as he tells a story, the origami creatures he has made come to life and act out his story. The villagers are enthralled, and Kubo has become a masterful storyteller. However, in the process he accidentally reveals himself to his grandfather—an evil spirit who (according to Kubo’s mom) stole one of Kubo’s eyes and now wants to finish the job and kill him completely.

I won’t ruin the movie, but an epic and thoroughly amazing adventure unfolds.

He learns to harness his power, and he gets help from a living monkey statue and a giant knight-in-bug armor. It’s all very weird and very fun. The movie goes on, and there is magic and there are battles and it’s super great. I highly recommend it (it is totally clean, though maybe a bit scary for younger kids.)



What I want to get to, though, is something which happens at the end.

At the end of the film, Kubo has found his magical armor, he has harnessed his magical powers, and he is facing off against the main villain.

Now, I’m sitting there in theater thinking—this is great, I love this movie...and of course, I know what is coming next.

I’ve seen this kind of movie a thousand times. So have you. And so I thought—and you would think—that you know what’s going to happen. The creature has turned into a big monster, and Kubo has released the full power of his magic…and so you expect that he is about to destroy the evil monster.


But instead something amazing happens—something which was both beautiful and wholly unexpected.


Kubo uses his magic not to destroy the bad guy, but instead … Kubo erases his memory of his past evil deeds.


And then…he tells him a story. 


He tells the bad guy a new story about himself.

Kubo tells the bad guy that he’s actually this really great person.

Kubo and the villagers tell him about how he helps the widows in the village.

That he sings to them every day.

They tell him a story of himself as a kind, generous, loving member of the community.

That he is always smiling.

(One little child in the village is quite clever, and she tells him that he gives the kids money every day.)


And you know what? The villain accepts that story.

His old identity dies, and instead he accepts a new identity, and lives it out.

His evil story is replaced:  he becomes the owner of a new story—a better story.


A New Story


When John the Baptist was at his naming ceremony in Luke 1:67-79, the people at the naming ceremony with John, they thought they knew John’s story.

In their culture, your story came from your birth details: who were your parents, what was your geneaology, and so on. John’s story was obvious. 

Like me in the movie, they thought they knew what Zechariah was going to sing—the story he would tell.

John is a Levite. So obviously he is going to be a priest.

John was born miraculously, to old parents—so obviously, his story will START by Zechariah identifying John’s lineage, his place in society, and his identity and story come from that.


But it turns out…twist ending…that isn’t what happened.

Look with me here at the next verses, starting in verse 76:

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”


Zechariah looks at his baby boy, and the story He prophesies for him has nothing to do with the stories that their society told. 


John's story is – actually – a sub-plot in Jesus’ Grand Epic Adventure. 

John is given a story, but it isn’t SOCIETY’s story:  John’s story is actually a subplot of Jesus’ story.



Your Story's Author 

See, it turns out that we all have this deep, existential need inside, which we need to answer: What is my story?

In Zechariah’s time, the story was generally given to you by society. And it doesn’t work that way for us, but the way it works for us also isn’t Biblical.

In our society, we think that we write our own stories. We think that Zechariah should have said something like: “And you, my child, will have a wonderful life and I wish you all the blessings. You can achieve anything through God and I pray the best for you.”

In both cases, though, the story comes from our level. That is, the stories are horizontal in origin.

It either comes to us horizontally from society, or from us internally…but in either case, our story is earthly in origin.


And yet, the truth is this:  God has written a Grand Epic across the pages of history:  the story of a King, betrayed by His people, who came back and visited them—redeemed them—and saved them.


And IN THIS STORY—He has written a subplot just for you.


You have a story that the Creator of the universe wrote for you.

It has tragedy and triumph.

Times of mourning, and times of laughing.

And—if you choose to accept this story and follow it—then it also has a VERY happy ending.

An ending where NOT ONLY do you live eternally, but you are protected from the very presence of sin and suffering.


I told you earlier:  HE visited to create this. HE redeemed you. HE saved you.

So what is your part? 

(I mean…Jesus is kinda bearing the weight in this relationship, you know what I mean?)



Your part is—just like the villain in Kubo—to make a choice.


Which story will you accept?


Will you continue to write your own story? 

Will you continue to demand to control your life and your future and determine what comes your way?

Or will you accept God’s story for you instead?




Because really guys, this is what Christianity is.

Jesus – in His magic – through His resurrection – wipes clean your past. Absolutely wipes clean the story you’ve been writing for yourself. 

And then He does what Kubo did:  He writes you a new story. A subplot of his grand epic.

And the question is: do you accept it?




Being a Christian is not primarily about a belief system or a moral code (although, Christians of course do end up accepting new beliefs and living differently).

But that’s not what makes one a Christian.


Being a Christian is, primarily, about who gets permission to author the story of your life.  Is it you?  Or is it God?


When you are tempted by sin…who has permission to write your response?  

When you are hurt…who has permission to write how you grieve?

When you love...who has permission to write how you move forward?

Who gets to decide your worldview, your ideals, the things that bond you, your personality?



We all stand—like the villain—with someone else's work offering to erase your past and give us a new story.



And your only part in this is simply—to decide…who will be the author of your Story?


Monday, September 5, 2016

Breaking the Code to Madden 17 Scouting

One of my most popular posts ever is actually not about apply my mind to Christianity or politics or philosophy...but to Madden NFL video games. Oh well, I'm not complaining about readers, so let's update it for Madden 17!

What's Changed

For Madden 17, scouting has gotten much tougher in several ways. They are onto us! They changed four major things that make it harder...although not impossible. :-)

  1. Instead of spending 5 scouting points for the first attribute, now you have to spend 15. That makes initial inquiries eat up your scouting points REALLY fast.
  2. The Combine is no longer exact:  the combine has perhaps 10% variation built in, so someone who runs a 4.24 instead of being 99 speed is somewhere between 91-99 speed. This makes it more difficult to rely exactly on the Combine.
  3. There are more players in the pool, giving you more people to scout (and therefore, a lower overall percentage of players can be scouted).
  4. The number of "stud" players is much less. In an average draft, I'm seeing about 33 players who are above 78 overall, with only 12 of those having "superstar" or "quick" development traits. Only about 11 players in an average draft are 80+ overall. So it's much tougher to get a great draft.

But never fear...I do believe I've cracked the code again. And to be honest I think that the changes make it more realistic, more challenging and more fun. So I'm fully behind it.


Overall Strategies Recommended

  1. Start with the coach type who has the Expert Scouting Package. You're going to need all the points you can get.
  2. Scout every week. Otherwise you lose half that week's points--they don't all carry forward.
  3. Only scout players you actually want to know more about. If you are stacked at HB, don't waste points on HBs.
  4. Never spend points on FB, K, or P.
  5. Follow my guide below exactly. :-)
  6. Use your WATCH LIST to capture players who "pass" all the Scouting trials below. That way on Draft Day you can simply sort by "Watch List" and you have all your players.

Specific Details

For the specifics, you can download the entire guide here, or you can just bookmark this page (photos embedded below). 



PRE-COMBINE SCOUTING

Because we have to be picky on Scouting Points this year, we will wait on scouting certain positions until the Combine, using the 'free info' we get from it to help us sort out people. (If you get everything below done for the positions you want before the Combine, feel free to move forward to the "After Combine" section.)


For best results, follow the below order exactly, only deviating to "skip" positions of strength.

If someone fails to meet the criteria of the first bullet point, DO NOT WASTE ANY MORE POINTS. Move on to the next person.


1.  Quarterbacks
  • Throwing Power A- or higher
  • Minimum score B- or higher
  • At least Accuracy score (Acc Short, Mid, or Deep) should be a B
  • Don't get excited about:  Throwing on Run (only 2% of overall score)

2. Offensive Linemen
  • At least one B
  • Minimum score B-
  • For left tackles I strongly recommend a Pass Block of B or higher 
  • Don't get excited about:  Speed or Agility combine drills (all < 6% of overall score added together)

3. Free Safeties (I've rarely found 78+ FSs, so this is based on a very small sample size; just be aware it's a bit riskier)
  • Zone coverage B
  • Minimum score B-
  • Don't get excited about:  Hit Power (only 3% of overall score)
4. Halfbacks
  • Carrying B+ or higher
  • At least one B in:  Elusiveness, Trucking, or Ball Carrier Vision
  • Minimum score:  B-
  • Don't get excited about:  Stiff Arm (only 2% of overall score)
5. Defensive End
  • At least one B+
  • Power or Finesse Moves B-
  • Don't get excited about:  Hit Power (only 1% of overall score)
6. Outside Linebackers
  • Block shedding B+
  • Minimum score B
  • Don't get excited about:  Hit Power (only 2% of overall score)
7. Middle Linebackers
  • Tackle B+
  • Block Shedding B-
  • Minimum score C+
  • Don't get excited about:  Power or Finesse Moves (only 2% of overall score each)
8. Strong Safety
  • At least one B from the following:  Tackle, Zone Coverage, or Play Recognition
  • Minimum score:  B-
  • Don't get excited about:  Hit Power (only 4% of overall score)





POST COMBINE SCOUTING I

The first thing we do after getting scouting combine results is to REMOVE people from our watch list. Some of those above qualify until we see their measurable combine ratings, and now should be removed.

9.  Offensive Linemen
  • Remove anyone from your Watch List with less than 32 reps on the bench press. (This correlates to their Strength score.)

10.  Free Safety
  • Remove anyone from your watch list with a 40 yard dash slower than 4.60 seconds. (Speed)
  • Remove anyone from your watch list with a vertical jump less than 30". (Jumping)

11.  Halfbacks
  • You don't have to remove anyone here, but look at the 40 yard dash 3Cone, and Shuttle times.  Anyone who is very fast at all of these, and made it to your Watch List in step 4, is going to be very good.
  • (3Cone + Shuttle are the predictors for Agility and Acceleration).

12.  Defensive Ends
  • Add together 3Cone + Shuttle times.  If it is over 12.04, remove the player from your watch list; if below, they will have good enough Agility and Acceleration.

13.  Outside Linebackers
  • Remove anyone with 3Cone + Shuttle score over 12.04. You want them to be agile.

14.  Strong Safeties
  • Remove anyone slower than 4.76 in the 40 yard dash
  • Remove anyone with vertical jump < 30"



POST-COMBINE SCOUTING II

As a final step (if you have any points left!) we will look at those who we have not yet scouted.

15.  Cornerbacks
  • 40 yard dash must be faster than 4.60 seconds
  • 3Cone + Shuttle time added together must be less than 11.32
  • Man Coverage B-
  • Zone Coverage B-
  • Minimum score C+
  • Don't get excited about:  Press (only 3% of overall score)

16.  Defensive Tackle
  • Minimum weight:  300 pounds. (NOTE:  I don't think this matters....but so far I've not found a really good DT less than this. Could be coincidence, but I'm using this as a factor.)
  • Bench press must be greater than 32 reps
  • Block shedding B- or better
  • Minimum score C+ or better
  • Don't get excited about:  Pursuit (only 2% of overall score)

17.  Wide Receivers
  • 40 yard dash must be better than 4.60
  • 3Cone + Shuttle must be better than 10.80
  • Minimum score B-
  • Don't get excited about:  Spectacular Catch (it is only half as important as Release or CIT, and one third as important as Catching or Route Running)

18.  Tight Ends (Along with the Safety positions, this is the hardest to predict in my model)
  • 40 yard dash must be faster than 4.68 seconds
  • 3Cone + Shuttle time added together must be less than 11.56
  • At least one B in a catching skill (Catch, CIT, Route Running, etc.)
  • Minimum score C+
  • Don't get excited about:  Release (only 2% of overall score)




TIE BREAKERS

So on draft day, if you have two players in the same round or at the same position and can't decide, what do you do?

What I do is look at the heatmap below that I made, which pulls together how each position is calculated. I pick the one who, based on the info I have, I think will be best at the most key skills:





Conclusion


I hope that this is helpful for you guys! If you don't like it, remember that you didn't pay anything for it so get over it... ;-)

If you do like it, I would love for you to do the following things for me:

  1. Comment. Tell me that you like it.
  2. Post elsewhere about it. Reddit forums, Madden forums...let others know!
  3. Read other things on my site! I have a...unique way of looking at the world, which has given me tremendous spiritual peace and helps me avoid a lot of the stresses of this world, particularly politically, etc. I apply this same level of nerdity not only to Madden, but to how I live my life as well...and maybe you can benefit from it, too. If so, that makes me happy. :)

Happy drafting!






Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Christian Disciplines, Part V: Service

This is Part 5 of a five-part series on the Christian Disciplines. It is a "how-to" manual, or "what mature Christianity looks like." It borrows heavily from Richard Foster's, "Celebration of Discipline" and I highly recommend it. A new post will be made each Wednesday. To view them all together, click on the "Series: Christian Disciplines" link on the right.

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So far this series, we have discussed the brokenness of our world, and the need for us to serve the world and help take part in God’s mission to bring shalom. We have discussed the importance of having the right attitude for service (an attitude of submission to each other). We have discussed the necessity of simplifying our lives so that we can serve.

Well then--let us talk about how to serve.

As with fasting, the Bible is clear that it is the heart which makes the biggest impact in serving: why do you do it? Jesus says that you will be rewarded for serving…but if you are doing it self-righteously, for honor or gains here on Earth, then those will be your only reward: this is not Biblical service. Serving someone Biblically means doing the right thing for them no matter who they are, no matter what they need. True service is indiscriminate—Jesus was the servant of all (Mark 9:35).

This is something Christians often miss: often we are willing to serve but only if someone agrees with us; we are not willing to meet the needs of those who disagree with our faith or our values. We justify it as ‘taking a stand’ for our faith. Yet taking a stand for our faith would be evangelizing the person who is in need—not withholding service from them. The mark of Christians is that we willingly give up our rights and serve everyone, so that we may win as many as possible for Christ (1 Cor 9:19). We must challenge ourselves to serve those who are enemies (politically or otherwise)—but also share with them the Good News that they need not stay that way.

The calling to serve others reminds us that we are here to be God’s hands and feet to those whom He loves—and God loves all. We fail our task if we withhold our services for any reason, just as we fail our task if we serve but desire recognition or prestige or payment for it. No, Christian service is the outpouring of a life of simplicity and submission: we are untied to the things of this world and we do not care what others think of us…therefore can truly and radically aid those in need. 

Also, avoid the error of thinking that it must be “big” things. A church in Ohio made a name for themselves because one small group did random things for the community without cause or cost each Saturday—one week scrubbing all the gas station toilets in their area, one week using umbrellas to walk people through the rain from the local grocery store to their cars, etc. Many were shocked by the discipline of service and felt loved by them.

The world is broken in small ways (like dirty gas station toilets) and big ways (like major orphan problems in Romania and Ethiopia). We, as God’s people, are called to be the ones bringing healing and wholeness…we are called to fix the brokenness. Be active in bringing the much-needed shalom.

There are three primary things that God gives you to serve. If you have been following with us up to this point, then you are in communion with Him through meditation, prayer and fasting; you are aware of your responsibility to help the world through your study; you are not attached to the things of this world or burdened with an overwhelmed schedule due to the practice of simplicity; and you care more about others than yourself due to the art of submission. As a result, you are now ready to serve the world as a disciple of Jesus.

Time:  We all have time that we can give to help others, and there is always a need. The church grounds always need maintenance; children’s ministries and guest service need volunteers; you can go give out donuts or sodas to those stuck in traffic jams; you can help people load their grocery bags into cars; roadways need trash picked up; hand out Gatorade at biking trails; clean up at food courts in the mall. We all have 168 hours of every week. Assuming you are spending 8 hours a day sleeping, 8 hours a day working, and 3 hours a day in commutes and mealtime, that is 35 hours per week of available time. I’m not guilting you to say it should all be service, but it is really hard to look ourselves in the mirrors and honestly say we don’t have time to serve when we manage to have time to binge-watch Netflix or play a new video game or watch three movies. The mature Christian makes giving your time to others a priority.

Talent: The ideas above require no special talent, just a giving of your time. But each of us have special gifts that can help bring shalom into the world—indeed, it is why we were created. We are each instruments of an orchestra with a slightly different sound, and your talent is needed. Whatever your talent, there is a use to it. In the Didache, it seems that many first century Christians actually tithed their talents to the church body—bakers brought a tenth of their bread to feed the congregation on Sunday, tailors made 10% more clothing and gave it to the poor, doctors spent part of each week giving free medical care/advice to sick parishioners, scribes and scholars translated documents, artists painted for the church. Whatever your talent, there is a way to serve your church body and community with it—be creative, it’s why God made you!

Treasure:  We also each have been given finances and we are entrusted as its stewards. Its purpose is to bring others into the faith. As I have taught several times before, I do not hold that tithing a set value (10%) is required; instead, we are each to examine ourselves and give cheerfully and sacrificially. Interestingly, I have found that being freed from the idea of tithing, I actually give more than 10%, not less! Whatever you can give, do so: it is the heart and sacrifice that matter, as Jesus makes clear (Mark 12:42). Jesus fascinatingly says that where we spend our money, we will find our heart caring more about that thing…so where do you spend yours? (Luke 12:34; Matt 6:21)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Christian Disciplines, Part IV: Simplicity

This is Part 4 of a five-part series on the Christian Disciplines. It is a "how-to" manual, or "what mature Christianity looks like." It borrows heavily from Richard Foster's, "Celebration of Discipline" and I highly recommend it. A new post will be made each Wednesday. To view them all together, click on the "Series: Christian Disciplines" link on the right.

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In 1961, Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story about the future called Harrison Bergeron. In it, Vonnegut pictured a future where everyone was forced to be perfectly equal so that no one was below (or above) anyone else. In order to equalize those who were of high intelligence, they had to wear earpieces. Every ten seconds or so, distracting sounds were blasted into the ears, so that no one could actually have time to focus and think about topics deeply or meaningfully. In a lot of ways, Vonnegut described us, today.  We live in the most distracting, overwhelming society which has ever lived. Every minute of your life, you swim through a river of sensation—radio waves, Wifi, television, phone calls, texts, ads on buses that drive past, blogs and tweets and vines…every day you are bombarded with a million signals vying for your attention, forming a near-impenetrable and always-present noise around you.

Our society thrives on distraction through complexity. We are, in many ways, enslaved by it. Some people have clinical anxiety problems, but most of us deal with panic and worry and anxiety for other reasons. If you were to make a list of your anxieties, what would you find? I would bet that most of your anxieties have to do with one of three things:  (1) getting some new thing or experience that others have; (2) maintaining the things that you have already gotten; or (3) keeping what we have gotten for ourselves.

Seriously, think it through. If you make a list of your anxieties from the past week, it is usually one of these things. Maybe it was stress about how to get your family to all of the sports your kids are signed up for; maybe it is a hassle because the new pool you’ve always wanted to build is causing problems; maybe it is the need to work a second job to pay for a lifestyle you really can’t afford; maybe it is obsessing about how to make your vacation Instagram-worthy instead of just enjoying it. We are fish, swimming in a sea of complexity.

I’m not saying that we all go join monasteries; however, for most of Christian history, serious Christians were known for their extreme simplicity in life. That is no longer the case today—much to our detriment. We spend money we do not have, to buy things we do not need, to impress people we do not like. Instead, the idea of Christian simplicity (to paraphrase Kierkegaard) is this:  purity is to will one thing—and only one thing.

Simplicity is freedom, and we must fight for it. Because…without simplicity, serving others is impossible. How can you stop and help the person whose car broke down when your schedule is so packed that a ten minute delay throws off the whole day? How can you build a sense of community if every minute of every day is filled? Haven’t you had a number of times when someone asked you to hang out, or you saw someone who could use help…and you had to pass the opportunity by because your schedule was just so busy? We must seek simplicity in our lives, intentionally.


In the fantastic Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster suggests several principles to help reach Christian simplicity; I will include 7 that really apply in our time below:

1.       Buy things for usefulness, not status. Don’t buy things for their status or fanciness—why spend triple for a Bentley when a Camry will do? Why buy a Camry if a bicycle will do? Buy new clothing because your old ones wore out or do not fit, not to keep up with the latest fashion trends.  Living simple means less debt, less waste, and more freedom.

2.       Reject anything that addicts you. If you cannot do without something, then get rid of it: imagine how much simpler and freer life will be if you break that addiction from Facebook or caffeine or whatever dominates your day.

3.       Become a habitual giver. Give things away. CONSTANTLY. Every month, take boxes of still-working things out of your house to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Every paycheck, give a sizeable amount to charities—if that sounds like us asking for cash, then by all means give it all to a charity. But give it somewhere. De-accumulating leads to freedom of the soul.

4.       Keep your schedule clear. Don’t overpack your schedule (parents we are really bad about this with our kids!) It leaves no room. Embrace the principle—long taught in Christianity—called holy leisure. It is only through purposefully protecting your schedule from constant busy-ness that you are capable of hearing from God.

5.       Gain a deeper appreciation for nature. Garden. Take a short walk each day. Sit on your porch with a beverage every night. Purposefully take some time without distraction, without electronics, to simply hear the birds and marvel at the beauty of God’s creation.

6.       Be wary of debt. “Buy now, pay later” sounds great in theory, but here’s the thing—that massive soulless corporation isn’t offering you that because it’s a good deal for you, they are offering it because it is a good deal for them. If you can’t afford something you ought not be buying it.

Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain honest speech. “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no—all else is from the Devil.” (Matt 5:37) Our lives get a whole lot simpler when we just speak the truth, plainly and simply, instead of always having to figure out what each other really mean. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Christian Disciplines, Part III: Submission

This is Part 3 of a five-part series on the Christian Disciplines. It is a "how-to" manual, or "what mature Christianity looks like." It borrows heavily from Richard Foster's, "Celebration of Discipline" and I highly recommend it. A new post will be made each Wednesday. To view them all together, click on the "Series: Christian Disciplines" link on the right.

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Shalom


In the past two posts, we learned how to study Scripture and how to pray. Those are hopefully by now your daily rhythms of your life, and please do not abandon those. Today we will talk about the discipline of Submission, but before we do, let's stop for a moment and learn about a particularly important Biblical concept.

One of the key ideas in Scripture is the idea of shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word which appears in the Old Testament over 200 times, and it is usually translated as “peace.” Shalom, however, has a much more deep meaning than this.

Shalom has the idea of wholeness or complete health. Medically, the term shalom implies that someone is of sound mind and body—there are no diseases or pains affecting him, he is “whole.” To be in shalom means to be in harmony with our design by God.

Ancient Jewish commentators on the Bible point out that the entire purpose of the Old Testament is to show the brokenness of peace and return us back to it: “All that is written in the Torah was written for the sake of shalom[1].” It is even part of the name Jerusalem (which literally means, “peace is found”). Proverbs 3:17 says that wisdom always leads to shalom.

The lack of shalom shows up in our marriages as divorce, in our families as abandoned children, in our politics as war, in our society as injustice toward the poor or other races, in our bodies as sickness and suffering, in our sexual relationships as adultery or homosexuality, in our relationships as hatred or mean-spirited talk, in nature as deadly disasters. All the suffering and sin we experience are the results of a world whose shalom is broken.

When God designed the world, all was in harmony with His will—until Genesis 3. At the Fall, we find that God’s shalom is broken. All our suffering, all our rebellion, only increases its brokenness. And we know that all of God’s creation is groaning, eagerly anticipating the day that Messiah will return and bring lasting shalom (Rom 8:19).


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.       (Matt 5:9)

Jesus called being a peace-maker a “beatitude” or supreme blessing, and said that these are the people who would be called the children of God. And Romans 8:19 tells us that “creation waits in eager anticipation for the children of God to be revealed.

So when Jesus blesses His followers who are peace-makers, or shalom-makers, He is speaking of us actively seeking to create shalom in the world: to actively seek to restore the earth to the position it was supposed to be.

You see then that peacemaking includes everything as widespread as healing broken marriages and restoring addicts and protecting the environment and preventing fighting and war. By using the word “peacemakers” in this passage, Jesus is directly stating that peace is something to be made—He is saying that those who have this worldview actively seek out opportunities to make peace, to bring reconciliation.

In fact, what is fascinating about Scripture is that if wronged someone, it is your responsibility to make things right…and if you were wronged, it is your responsibility to make it right. It is always your responsibility!  No matter what, a peacemaker always sees it is his or her responsibility to bring unit, no matter who “started it.” (Matt 5:23, Matt 18:22).

So if we are to learn to serve others and be Shalom-makers in our communities, how are we to accomplish this? All true service begins with a particular attitude—an attitude taught to us by Jesus Himself. It is called submission.

Submission is among the most powerful, and most abused, spiritual disciplines. The discipline of submission is the willing release of your power, your rights, and your interests and instead to focus on the power, rights, and interests of others.

It is perhaps most easily understood by those who have recently had a baby. From the moment that the baby is born, the parents make willing choices to change their entire lives—they put their own desires, schedules, needs, and rights on hold and instead serve willingly and passionately this small child who can do nothing to return the love. This is a great picture of submission, and it is this which we are supposed to exhibit to the rest of the world.

Christian submission is to hold others above ourselves, and to give away our interests. Jesus implies that this is the most noticeable outward trait of a Christian, saying that the very life of a believer is to give his own life away (Mark 8:35).

Do not underestimate the radical nature of Jesus’ teaching on submission; it is almost beyond question the most amazing and shocking thing He said, and He said it often. Jesus completely flips the power structure of the world upside down. He says that a believer understands that true power comes by giving away your power; true status is reserved for those who give away their status and privilege; Scripture says that you are at your best when you consider everyone else better than yourself (Phil 2:3)! And He applies this posture equally to all Christians: men and women, Jew and Gentile, slave and free.

Jesus lived a life of submission and therein defeated even death; if we wish truly to exhibit God’s power, we must submit and give away all the power and privilege that we have.  Unlike other religions, with their powerful priesthood, the elders and pastors were, according to Christianity, mere shepherds—servants doing the ‘dirty work’ to make the sheep’s lives better.

Submission is not popular in our society—it is the opposite of our society, in fact. Submission requires true humility: thinking of others before yourself, being willing to allow others to prosper even if it costs you everything. Submission means caring more about shalom than about your own personal rights and privileges.

Here are seven areas to focus on submission in your lives. Read and discuss each as a group.

1.       Submission to God. The first and key area of submission comes in submission to God. The very act of salvation, at its heart, is this step—the willingness to say that I am no longer going to seek to be my own god, but instead will follow the one True God. “Thy will be done,” is the basic foundation that is at the base of every believer’s heart.

2.       Submission to Scripture. The ordinary way that God speaks to us is through His written word. By submitting to Scripture we are willing to not only hear the word of God but also to do what He tells us to do. As we discussed in weeks 5-6, it is important that we are properly interpreting Scripture so that we are actually submitting to what it says and not what we wish it said.

3.       Submission to Family. Ephesians 5:21-33 and Colossians 3:18-22 both discuss how to submit to each other in the household—and yes, it is submit to each other (Eph 5:21). To the readers of these texts, women, children, and slaves were required to submit by force of law; however, the Gospel freed them from these positions (Gal 3:28). The Gospel frees them from their earthly chains. Now, however, the Scriptures say—freely submit to one another, not because the law demands it, but because you love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Freely and graciously the family is to make allowance for each other and give each other love, respect, and everything that you have.

4.       Submission to Neighbors.  Human nature wants to stereotype and look down on those who are not part of our ‘in-group’; a Jesus-shaped spirituality sees everyone we meet as a neighbor and, like the Good Samaritan, we are willing to give everything and share everything to love them.

5.       Submission to the Church. We all are also part of a new family, a universal church, and we are to submit to each other. This might come in large ways such as serving as a missionary or giving sacrificially to support missionaries; or it may come in small trivial spontaneous acts of service like cutting the lawn at the church or emptying a trash can or giving a youth kid a ride home each week.

6.       Submission to the Despised. One of the best ways to judge your submissiveness is to ask yourself this question honestly—“What am I doing to help those who are invisible to society?” Our society makes the elderly, the orphan, the immigrant, the poor, and the prisoner (among others) invisible to “polite society.” People want to be able to ignore them by giving a bit more in taxes and letting the government handle them quietly, out of the way. This was not Jesus’ way. We are to seek them, submit our lives to them, and better them.

Submission to the World. We are not only to concern ourselves with those in our sphere of influence. All of humanity bears the image Deo, and is worthy of being a recipient of our love and submission. We are submit ourselves to all, even those who would kill us or harm us. This was Jesus’ way, and the foundation of all service and, therefore, the foundation of rebuilding shalom.





[1] Tanhuma Shofetim 18