What To Remember The Next Time You’re Too Afraid To Follow Through With Obeying Jesus

You’re not alone.

To one degree or another, we’ve all been afraid to do what Jesus says, even when we know he’s right. It can be hard to direct a conversation toward the gospel without committing the classic Jesus Juke or just seeming insincere. It’s even harder to live out your faith in Christ when such a lifestyle is deemed intolerant or on the wrong side of history.

Many before you have experienced the same anxiety. But they obeyed anyway. We would all do well to follow their examples.

Ananias is a good man to start with.

God appeared to him in a vision and said just one word.

“Ananias.”

The man’s response was a classic biblical one. It sort of reminds you of Isaiah (Isaiah 6).

“Here I am, Lord.”

Before knowing what the Lord wanted to say, Ananias made his availability known. “I’m yours Lord. Right here. Whatever you say.”

You can’t help but wonder if Ananias questioned his initial response after considering the danger involved in obeying God’s command.

And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” Acts 9:11-12 (ESV)

Ananias’ response was another classic biblical one. Only this one was more like Jonah.

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” Acts 9:13-14 (ESV)

To put all of this into perspective, imagine God coming to you and telling you to go meet and pray over the terrorist a few blocks away who wanted you thrown into jail for worshiping Jesus. Suddenly, Jonah doesn’t look like such a bad guy.

Ananias’ fear came as no surprise to God. Nothing ever does. But God doesn’t respond the way that we would if we were trying to convince someone to carry out a dangerous order.

He never said, “Nothing bad will ever happen to you. You’re a King’s kid!”

In fact, the Lord’s words don’t seem very comforting at all.

Basically he says, “Go anyway” (Acts 9:15-16).

At first glance, one might think that God is being cruel or indifferent. But some of Christ’s last words before leaving earth help us to see that the opposite is true.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18 (ESV)

Do  you remember Ananias’ initial complaint in verse 14?

“God, I can’t do that. This guy has authority to throw me into jail.”

In his Great Commission, Jesus reminds us who really has the authority. It’s not any set of chief priests. It’s not The Supreme Court, President Obama or Mitch McConnell. It’s not your boss. It’s not you and it’s not the person you fear most.

All authority has been given to Jesus. That means that any authority man has on earth is on loan from God. And just as surely as Jesus gives it to man, he can take it away.

Ananias obeyed Jesus, went to see Paul and prayed over him. But he did not pray over him as an enemy. No, Ananias prayed over him as a brother (9:17). Only the gospel, under the authority of Jesus Christ, can turn enemies into brothers. And typically, God uses small situations and seemingly obscure servants to do great things. Ananias didn’t get the amount of coverage in the Bible that Paul did. He wasn’t the Billy Graham of his time. But he was faithful. And that is enough.

Living for Jesus can be hard. The intimidation from others can be overwhelming. We can even be tempted to think that our little efforts aren’t making a difference. Watering down our faith or shutting down until Jesus returns can seem like the only reasonable options. That’s when it is important to remember something else.

Jesus is in charge.

Obeying him is often costly.

But there is no better place to be in life than in complete surrender to his perfect authority.

So just go anyway.

Global Warming Made Me Sick But The Government Can Fix It

Words matter when it comes to your health. Sometimes there is more to the story than the words may indicate.

Consider the following conversation that may or may not have actually taken place several years ago between two doctors.

Doctor Adams: “I think that I’ve figured out a way to stop people from getting the sick.”

Doctor Smith: “Really! How does it work?”

Doctor Adams: “Well, it doesn’t. At least most of the time it doesn’t.”

Doctor Smith: “Okay, well what’s in it?”

Doctor Adams: “Well, I’m not exactly sure on that one either.”

Doctor Smith: “Have you named your new discovery yet?”

Doctor Adams: “Yes, of course. I’m calling it the NSWIAIDWBJTTSASUA. It stands for, Not Sure What’s Inside And It Doesn’t Work But Just Take The Shot And Shut Up Already.”

Doctor Smith: “This sounds very interesting. But I only have one suggestion.”

Doctor Adams: “What’s that?”

Doctor Smith: “You’ve got to change the name. No one will ever buy a product with a name like that.”

Doctor Adams: “Okay. Any ideas?”

Doctor Smith: “Have you considered just calling it something like, oh I don’t know, the Flu Shot?

Doctor Adams: “Brilliant!”

Words matter when it comes to your health and politics. Sometimes they carry an ounce of truth with tons and tons of devils in the details.

Obamacare has a real name. It’s called The Affordable Care Act. Who could oppose something with a name like that? It’s sort of like passing a ten thousand page bill called the Puppy Dogs Are Cute Act that no one has read. Actually, it’s a lot like that. What politicians really meant when they called the healthcare bill The Affordable Care Act was that the folks in D.C. would act like they could afford to care for you. Clever, huh?

And finally, words matter for the environment. Especially when the truth gets in the way.

Several years ago, when we were all burning up in 90 degree heat, people were holding summits and conferences to encourage us all to fight global warming. They told us that the ice caps were melting and polar bears were being orphaned and it was all the fault of our Ford Explorers. In a matter of months we would all be swimming from point A to point B if nothing was done to fix the problem.

But a funny thing happened on the way to certain global destruction.

The planet’s regular weather cycle made it cold again. So after a few global warming conferences in 12 feet of snow, organizers decided that it was time for a name change.

Exit global warming. Enter climate change.

That’s the final lesson of why words matter. If they get in the way of your scam, I mean agenda, don’t bother with changing the agenda. Just change the words.

Here’s the moral of the story. If you catch the flu from being outside in 12 feet of white, powdery global warming, excuse me, climate change, you’ll probably have to go see a doctor. But don’t worry. The Affordable Care Act can get you a really good deal at the medical offices of Doctors Adams and Smith.

Get well soon!

Grace For Bad Singers And Broken Instruments

It seemed like a good idea. But, like most ideas that one comes up with in the 5th grade, this one didn’t go as planned.

We were auditioning for the school chorus. To me and the other boys in my class, that was about as appealing as applying for a job to clean the bathrooms at Hardee’s. It’s not that we didn’t like singing. We sang all the time. But we sang what we wanted, how we wanted and where we wanted. That is to say, we sang Bon Jovi and Beastie Boys songs while we were on the playground. We had no desire to  get dressed up to sing songs in public that had not previously been performed by Bon Jovi or The Beastie Boys.

So one of us came up with an idea.

We would intentionally turn our individual chorus audition into a dumpster fire. At that time, American Idol hadn’t been invented yet so we didn’t know about bad singers who made fools of themselves at auditions but that’s what we were going for. Our rationale was simple. If we didn’t make the chorus squad or team or gaggle or whatever it’s called, we’d have more time on the playground. This was an easy one for me seeing as how my natural voice sounded something like a duck getting in a fight with a sore-throated Bob Dylan.

If there was ever a person created to do bad on a singing audition, it was me. So that’s what I did. All by myself. With my buddies sitting on the front row and the chorus teacher and her clipboard a few rows behind them.

All she had to do was put the appropriate marks in the appropriate boxes on her paper, frown say something like, “Bless your heart” and the playground was ours to enjoy.

But there was one small problem.

Everyone made it. Long before we had ever stepped on that stage, the decision had already been made. No matter how bad we sounded, we were going to be in the chorus. So several months later, instead of laying around in my pajamas and watching wrestling while listening to Bon Jovi and The Beastie Boys, I was wearing church clothes on a school night and singing to a room full of adults about a boy who played the drums for Jesus. Although our plan had failed, I still learned something from my chorus ordeal.

Our audition had more to do with the judge than it did our performance.

This lesson extends beyond the world of elementary school chorus. It gets to the heart of salvation by grace through faith.

Not one person was saved because of being baptist enough, good enough, promising enough or by winning God over with a stellar performance during some spiritual audition. By God’s grace, those who belong to him were secured before they ever had any say in the matter.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

Salvation by grace through faith means that our standing before God has more to do with him, the Judge, than it does our performance.

Kyle Dillingham couldn’t be more different from me. He’s an expert in music, specifically the fiddle. He once played a fiddle that was worth several million dollars. I’m not sure but I think at that point, the fiddle becomes a violin.

Either way, Dillingham knows his stuff.

How else could he take a box of broken fiddles and use them to make beautiful music? In one performance, Dillingham blends together the sounds of several broken fiddles to play the song How Great Thou Art. And somehow, it sounds really good. He says that the multi-million dollar fiddles he’s played, as good as they are, just can’t make the same sounds that the broken ones can.

That’s because the end result isn’t really about the instrument. It has more to do with the skilled musician playing it.

You may not feel qualified to carry the title of Christian. Here’s the bad news. You’re not. If God required an audition for entrance into heaven, you wouldn’t make the cut. Neither would I. None of us would.

Now for the good news.

You’re not required to audition your way into heaven. Jesus’ perfection is enough for you. All you have to do is trust in him.

For our sake he made him to be sin rwho knew no sin, so that in him we might become sthe righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

Maybe, even since becoming a Christian, you’ve developed a few scars, and perhaps even open wounds, from your sins, shortcomings and stupid mistakes. Thankfully, the good news isn’t just for non-believers. Its for imperfect believers like me and you who experience our own set of struggles and success stories. Christians need repentance and grace too.

And we need to remember that we are all, as broken as we may be, secure in the hands of the Master Musician.

The song our life produces has less to do with us and more to do with his great grace.

The Monday Morning Quarterback

Here are a few quick takeaways from the world of football last weekend.

1. Every now and then I use the wrong terminology to tell my kids to do a job. It goes like this.

Me: “One of y’all needs to pick up those clothes in the middle of the floor.”

Son 1: “They’re not mine.”

Son 2: “They’re not mine.”

Son 1: “You pick them up.”

Son 2: “No, you pick them up.”

The NFC South is a lot like my kids. The pile of clothes is the NFC South division championship. No “kid” wants to “pick up the clothes” and by the time the job gets done, it will be way too late to be considered an accomplishment.

2. If the Florida State Seminoles accomplish nothing else this season they can hang their hats on this. On Saturday they managed to make the normally hated Miami Hurricanes look like The Salvation Army. Everyone in the country without a tomahawk tattooed on their ankle or lower back was cheering for Miami to win that game. A lot of that has to do with the fact that between the alleged points shaving, the alleged sexual assault and the police corruption the Seminoles are about as endearing as a commune of convicted felons being led by Pete Rose, OJ Simpson and whoever was responsible for all of those The Fast and the Furious movies.

3. Even still, watching Florida State play Miami is sort of like watching Breaking Bad. Considering the fact that there are no redeeming characters involved, you have a hard time figuring out who to cheer for. So in the end, you decide to identify with the most likable drug dealer. Go Canes!

4. Notre Dame lost. That means that they’ll only get 15 first place votes this week.

5. Georgia beat Auburn. I don’t know what that means. But I like it.

6. Why does Clemson even bother with football?

7. Earlier last week, Malcom Gladwell said that football was immoral and an abomination. 98% of all Dallas Cowboy fans agreed with him.

8. I’m starting a new website. It’s going to be called www.bringronzookbacktothegators.com.

Until next week, happy footballing!

I’m Glad That One’s Not In There

What if Paul had written the following to his Philippian friends?

Base your joy on your circumstances. I’ll say it again in case you didn’t get that. Allow whatever situation you are facing to dictate who and how you worship.

Snap. Lose it on people. Fall all to pieces because this is as good as it gets for you. No one is coming to rescue you.

Worry yourself sick over everything. Don’t even bother with prayer. There’s nothing in it for you. No one is listening. 

Your heart and your mind will eventually be consumed with fear or perhaps even the very thing that you fear. 

You are on your own.

I’m glad that one’s not in there. But it does help us to better understand what is in there. And what is in there is a word from God through Paul to pull us away from our obsession with worry and fear. It goes like this.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

We want to live like this. We really do. But too often we believe our worries and fears when they try to convince us to buy in to what isn’t true. That’s why it’s important to marinate in the Scriptures. When we do, we will be reminded of the truth whenever our worries and fears try to convince us to believe a lie. We will be reminded of truths like these.

1. In Christ, there is always a reason to rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (ESV)

2. Christ is coming back to rescue those who have put their faith in him.

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5 (ESV)

3. Prayer is the remedy for worry.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (ESV, emphasis mine)

4. God really is listening to you.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (ESV, emphasis mine)

5. More than that, God is giving you what you need the most.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (ESV, emphasis mine)

6. And all the while, Jesus is fighting for you.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (ESV, emphasis mine)

It all comes down to belief. Will you believe those verses, the ones that aren’t in there, that your worries and fears constantly quote to you? Or, will you believe the verses that really are in there? Will you trust the one who has always been there, fighting for your good?

Worry, much like worship, isn’t a matter of circumstances. Both are the answer to one simple question.

Who are you trusting?

Watch What You Say At Chick-fil-A, Cuz

A Chick-fil-a manager has made a splash on social media because of a list of words and phrases he is forbidding his employees to use. Eric, the manager, doesn’t want his employees accusing each other, or customers for that matter, of having Ebola. He doesn’t want them referring to others as cuz or Felicia or claiming to be legally blind.

As you can imagine, the Internet has gotten its collective undergarments in a bunch over this. Eric is the bad guy. He’s taking away his employee’s right to free speech. He’s on the wrong side of history. He’s racist. He’s homophobic. Boo, Eric!

But I say that Eric deserves a big hooray! We’ve all been in stores before where employees  fall all over themselves not to help you. And the one who loses and has to help you has the communication skills and business sense of a bucket of hammers. Eric is trying to stop that. Again, hooray for Eric! And we wonder why the Chick-fil-a parking lot is always full while the crowd over at Hardee’s is just a tad larger than what one would find during the 2nd quarter of a Georgia Tech football game.

Along with saying hooray for Eric, I think that we should carry this plan out in other areas of life. More leaders need to demand proper verbalization and respect from their employees. So with that in mind, and in honor of Eric, I’ve developed my own list of words and phrases that should be phased out in certain areas of life.

The Media

You shall no longer use the phrases boots on the ground, from Wall Street to Main Street, Breaking News, News Alert, Breaking Now or similar variations. I’m looking at you, Fox News. If even 15% of your News Alerts were actually worthy of your hype, we’d all be living in The Walking Dead right now. No one needs to hear a Fox News Alert about how Eminem said something meant to Anderson Cooper.

Church

The word, fine shall no longer be used in church buildings. When you go to church you will be asked how you are doing. This cannot be avoided. But the same old answer can. If you don’t like the question, just give it an honest answer and you probably won’t be asked it again.

Greeter: “Hi, Chuck. How are you?”

Chuck: “Terrible. I stayed up all night in a fit of rage after watching my favorite team, the Auburn War Criminals, fumble away a certain victory. To settle down, I spent a few hours listening to Ray LaMontagne on vinyl. That sent me into a bit of a funk and the next thing I knew it was 10:00 in the morning. I figured that this was as good a place as any to sleep so here I am. How are you?”

Problem solved.

Sports

Athletes, fans and coaches shall no longer be allowed to use the following words and phrases.

“One game at a time.”

“It is what it is.”

“I was misquoted.”

“I apologize to those who may have been offended.”

“Not guilty, your honor.”

“At the end of the day.”

“War Eagle.”

“Roll Tide.”

In other words, there will no longer be any sports interviews and ESPN will have to cut back to two channels and only show the games without their standard six hours of commentary and debate.

You can see my plan working already!

Eric, thank you for your example. Don’t listen to all of the naysayers. Continue to hold your employees accountable. Know that we are all behind you on this one. And together we will never forget one of the most important phrases known to mankind.

“Eat more chicken.”

What To Expect When You’re Done Expecting: Six Things New Parents Can Plan On

Nobody knows everything about being a parent. But everyone knows this much. Having a child will change your world.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we read a lot of books. Most of them had something to do with breathing techniques to help keep women from strangling their husbands during labor, how long you can get away with keeping your kid in a dirty diaper and what babies are trying to say when they cry. Very few words have been written to tell parents what to expect once they’re done expecting. Here are a few.

1. Your house will be dirty.

Cleaning your house with kids living inside of it is sort of like walking out in your front yard to kick over all of the ant beds. As soon as you’re done, the occupants are going to get to work undoing what you just did.

Clean houses are pretty. By all means, work hard to train your kids in the fine art of cleanliness. Teach them that dirty socks go in the washing machine, not on the floor. Or in the refrigerator. You should just know going in that it’s not always going to work out like you planned it to. Your floors will be covered with Legos. Your kitchen table will have permanent milk stains and those little circles that get left behind from glasses of water that outstay their welcome.

But there’s another thing that you should know.

In a way, a dirty house is a sign that you’re doing it right. Again, don’t turn into the crazy cat lady in the neighborhood and start collecting old TV Guides and used coffee filters. But don’t let your preoccupation with a clean house keep you and your family from enjoying that little place you call home.

Sometimes a dirty house means that you’re doing it right.

2. Things will slow down. 

When your kids are small, you do all of the cleaning for them. After a while, you start to develop your own system. And you get pretty good at it. But you shouldn’t get too good at it. Before long, you’ll have to blow that system up. Instead of picking up clothes and taking out trash, you’re going to need to teach your kids how to do those things.

This will try your patience. What once took 3 minutes will now take the better part of the afternoon. When your kid takes the trash out to the street, he’ll come back an hour later with two frogs and a bruise on his forehead. The job, if it even gets done, will be a messy one. You’ll be tempted to just do it yourself next time.

Don’t.

You’re kids are learning how to work. And serve. And you’re learning how to be patient. Some jobs are more about the skills and character they develop than the tasks that they accomplish.

3. You’ll learn a new language.

For the parent of a six-month-old, there is no such thing as a pacifier. No, it’s called a binky. Or a bop-bop. Also, your kids don’t have grandparents. Your mom and dad are no longer mom and dad. They are now Boe-Bop and Linky. You’ll have a hard time referring to your father, the Marine, as Boe-Bop. Just play along. But not for too long. The last thing you want is for your grown daughter to tell her boss that she was late for work because she had to take care of her Boe-Bop.

4. You’ll think that you are invisible.

This will happen when you volunteer to chaperone your son’s field trip and find out that he would rather hang out with his friends than you. It will happen when you have to beg your daughter for a kiss before you drop her off at school, knowing that she’s wishing for the gift of invisibility as she politely accepts your request in front of all of her friends.

Don’t let this get you down. It’s part of the process of slowly getting them out of the nest to develop their own flying wings. But while they’re still in your nest, hang out with them, kiss them and talk to them as much as you can. Once they’re gone, you’ll want to look back with a peaceful, easy feeling instead of regret.

5. You’ll think that you are doing something wrong.

You’ve tried all of the techniques. You’re read the books. You’ve gone back and read them again. You’ve asked friends for advice. You’ve tried being nicer. You’ve tried being meaner. But nothing seems to be working. It just feels like you’re doing something wrong.

You are.

All of us are.

But God didn’t make you a parent because you were perfect. He had other reasons. Better reasons. Whatever they are, you can be certain that God is in the business of doing good and big things through small and broken people. He did it with you’re parents and he can do the same with you.

6. You’ll love like you never thought you would.

The little kid on the soccer field is your new favorite athlete. When he comes over in the middle of the game to give you a kiss, your heart melts. Who cares if it cost his team a goal? You’re in love.

The love a parent has for a child, just like any other genuine love, involves sacrifice. It means getting messy. It means moving your schedule to the side. It means slowing down to take a mental picture that you’ll need later on.

Parenting will be hard. Expect that. But there’s more to it than that. Much more. It’s also the most rewarding job you could ever have. And most of those rewards come in the ways that you least expect.

The Monday Morning Quarterback

Brady’s Team!

Remember that episode of The Brady Bunch where Peter got made fun of by all of his buddies on his football team because he was in the glee club? In case you forgot, Deacon Jones showed up and told everyone that he liked to sing so they all quit making fun of Peter. A few things stick out about that episode.

First, there were somewhere around eight people on Peter’s team. Second, they were practicing in shoulder pads, helmets, sweat shirts and jeans. Jeans! What kind of a football team practices in jeans? The guy at the gym wearing jeans is off base enough but the football team practicing in jeans takes it to another level. Anyway, here’s my point.

Peter Brady’s football team could easily win the Big Ten.

Ohio State won their one and only big game of the year on Saturday against Michigan State. Usually, an Ohio State win is bad news for America, our allies and all other freedom loving people on our planet. But there just might be a ray of hope in all of this. The top ranked team in the Big Ten getting beat could mean that there will be no Big Ten team in the playoffs. And that’s good for America, our allies and freedom loving people all across our planet.

Here’s something else that fans of the Big Ten won’t like. If Ohio State ends up winning their conference, not only should they still miss the playoffs but there is a good argument for a two loss, non-conference winning SEC team making it to the final four. Think about it. Who deserves a shot at a national title more, a team that beat LSU and Ole Miss but lost to Mississippi State and Auburn or a team that couldn’t get double digits against The Fightin’ Brady’s?

Quick Hits

1. Why are the Chicago Bears allowed to have a football team and whose idea is it to keep putting them on television?

2. Georgia will beat Auburn 28 to 17.

3. Now that we’ve gotten rid of the political commercials during football games, can we also get rid of those two guys in the Sonic commercial? The folks from ISIS have to be behind these things.

4. At this very moment, somewhere in America, a person inside of a Home Depot is using the word thing-a-ma-jigger. Also, somewhere in America at this very moment, a current or former Florida State football player is wearing a suit and using the phrase, “Not guilty, your honor.”

Until next week, happy footballing.

If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right In Fort Lauderdale

When I first heard about Arnold Abbott getting arrested, I thought it was a hoax. It just had the feel of one of those news stories someone makes up and posts on Facebook so that his website will get a lot of hits that day. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story and tons of web traffic.

Unfortunately, this was no hoax.

90-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested for feeding the homeless.

It’s a new city ordinance in Fort Lauderdale. Groups that feed the homeless in public will find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and perhaps, the wrong side of a jail cell. The people of Fort Lauderdale can now rest easy knowing that they are safe from the dangers of, wait for it, soup kitchens.

Theft? Rape? Murder? Sorry, you’re on your own. Really. You can check Fort Lauderdale’s crime rates here. Just know that while you’re getting mugged in Fort Lauderdale, the mayor and his henchmen are doing everything that they can to ensure that you won’t have to deal with those pesky soup kitchens as you fight for your life.

There will always be bad laws. That’s the result of living in a fallen culture where good men stay silent while evil men reach for more power. And there will always be mayors like Jack Seiler in Fort Lauderdale who smugly warn of their power grabs while acting as though they are doing us all a favor when their absurd laws are being carried out.

But it’s the being carried part out part that we should not have to expect.

Arnold Abbott says that one police officer told him, “Drop that plate right now!” How that officer was able to say such a line that sounds like it could be straight out of a Sylvester Stallone comedy without laughing is perhaps one of the great legal mysteries of our time. I guess that once you’ve sold your soul, it gets a little harder to see the humor, or absurdity, in things.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans we heard one horror story after another. Some of those horror stories involved police officers who left their post to either get out of town or to join in with the looters. It was unnerving to hear of those who have been charged with protecting and serving acting like the ones they should have been protecting us from.

The police in Fort Lauderdale who were given the command to arrest Arnold Abbott and his friends should have followed the example of their brethren in New Orleans. They should have chosen to walk away from their post rather than carry out their orders. Only in this case, instead of succumbing to fear and evil, these men and women would have shown great courage. They would have shown the world that it’s okay to do the wrong thing when evil leaders like the ones in Fort Lauderdale have outlawed the right thing.

In his best Wyatt Earp voice, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale said that, “We enforce the laws here in Fort Lauderdale.”

Congratulations, Mr. Mayor.

It’s just too bad that you disregard a much more important law.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

Why I’m Not Picking A Fight With The IRS

I’m not a fan of the IRS. I don’t even think that there should be an IRS.

But I’m not picking a fight with the IRS.

A lot of my fellow pastors are. It’s called Pulpit Freedom Sunday and many church leaders are using the opportunity to voice their support for specific candidates. That’s a big no-no for churches wishing to continue enjoying their tax exempt status. But these pastors don’t care. In fact, they welcome a lawsuit.

That’s not why I’m refusing to pick a fight with the IRS. My reasons have nothing to do with the fear of a lawsuit from a government organization that likes to bully its subjects into submission. My reasons have more to do with the guy on the back row.

I rarely ever get to talk to him and the five or ten others who are like him. I don’t see them until I get up to preach on Sunday mornings. By the time I’m done preaching and talking to people, the building is cleared out. The guy on the back row is gone. Even though I don’t know his name, I think about him every time I prepare and deliver a sermon.

Why does he keep coming back?

What’s he going through?

What is his standing with God?

I assume that he’s hurting. I could be wrong. Statistics tell me that I’m not. The old saying among preachers is that there is a broken heart on every pew. Personal experience has shown me that it’s more like three or four broken hearts on each pew. My guess is that the man on the back row has a broken heart.

And that broken heart doesn’t need to hear what I think about David Perdue or Michelle Nunn. It doesn’t need to hear my thoughts on foreign policy. It doesn’t need to be told how to vote.

It needs the gospel.

I think that’s why the guy on the back row keeps coming back.

Perhaps the man on the back row is being routinely beaten up by an addiction. Maybe that’s why he’s by himself. Maybe his addiction has cost him his family. That could be why he comes every week by himself. It could be that he’s coming in to hear what the Bible says about hope. It would be a real tragedy if all he hears is what I say about Governor Nathan Deal and Jason Carter. What broken hearts need is the gospel message that has been handed down from the God of the universe. What too many churches settle for delivering is a message that people could have gotten if they had just stayed at home and watched Fox News or MSNBC.

We’ve forgotten something. In all of our political passion, we’ve failed to remember that it is possible for someone to vote like us and still have a broken heart. We’ve forgotten that there are intelligent voters in hell right now. I don’t want to be a part of more going there just because I wanted to play the role of political pundit rather than gospel proclaimer.

That’s why I’m not picking a fight with the IRS.

But, as is the case with most bullies, sometimes the fight comes face to face with you anyway. A first century follower of Christ named Stephen found himself on the wrong side of the cultural elites without picking a fight. All he was doing was ministering to widows and sharing the gospel. It cost him his life. And then he saw Jesus standing and welcoming him into heaven (Acts 6-7).

May the same be true of us.

If we find ourselves on some IRS hit list, may it not be because we picked a political fight. It should be our devotion to the gospel, not a political party or candidate, that gets us a visit from the IRS.

There are times when pastors have to talk about politics. Marriage, abortion and corruption are just a few examples that are frequently addressed in Scripture and that regularly sprout up in our political landscape. By all means, pastors must speak up on these issues. But we must do so out of a devotion to Christ, not a political persuasion.

A few months back I was listening to a couple of guys talking about church. One guy told of how his pastor regularly received death threats for sharing his political views from the pulpit. The other guy said something along the lines of, “Well, that’s what happens when you preach the word.”

True.

But that wasn’t preaching the word. It was just a political rant that made people mad. As pastors, we are called to do more. We are called to speak to those broken hearts on the back row. And even above that, we are called to lift up the name of Jesus, not our local congressman.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday shouldn’t be a day on a calendar. In this country, it should be practiced every week. But instead of using the opportunity as a chance to brag about our favorite candidate, we should use it to proclaim the power of the One who holds every politician in his hand.

I am a very opinionated person. I have strong political beliefs. Some would even call those political beliefs fanatical. I can appreciate that. Like most people with an opinion, I like to make mine known. That’s part of the reason why I maintain this blog. But it’s important to remember that with strong opinions comes the discernment to know when and when not to share them. Sunday mornings are not the time for a pastor to ramble on and on about his opinion. Instead, we ought to be about the business of passionately pointing people to the Way, the Truth and the Life. People like the man on the back row.

The courageous pastor isn’t the one who makes bold political statements and then dares the IRS to do something about it.

The truly courageous pastor is the one who boldly proclaims the gospel to the man on the back row, caring not what the IRS, the deacons, his old seminary professors or the pundits think about it. For him, love, truth and the glory of God are his motives, not politics.

Now that’s real pulpit freedom.