More Than Just A Coach


When I was younger, I spent some time covering high school sports for local TV stations. The experience taught me something about coaches. Coaches are influencers. When all of the plays are over and the screaming is done, one of the few things that remains is the influence that a coach has on his players. A coach has just as much, if not more, influence over the life of a young man as a pastor does.

Walking up and down sidelines with a camera in one hand and a microphone in the other, I saw that play out in a couple of ways.

Some coaches are scoundrels. They treat their players like slaves who exist for nothing more than that coach’s job security. No racist remark, no amount of verbal or even physical abuse is off limits for these types of coaches on their way to a bigger paycheck or a better job.

Still, the influence of these coaches is powerful. And it’s usually not very pretty. It produces a culture of win at all cost athletes who are coddled into their young adult years and hit their 30s with nothing more than an arrest record and a few boring stories about that touchdown in that one game in a time that has long since been forgotten by everyone else.

But there are other coaches. These are the coaches who have integrity. They pile kids who would otherwise have to walk home after practice into the back of their trucks. They support their players by showing up at events that have nothing to do with football because they know that there is more to life than a game. Sure, they push their players to excel but they also remind them that everyone will play their last game someday and it’s what goes on in those days that far outweighs any touchdown or championship season. In some cases, coaches like this change the culture, not just of their team but of the entire community that they represent.

Mark Richt, the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, is one of those coaches.

Everyone agrees that Richt is a nice guy. For some, it’s that niceness that will keep Georgia from ever winning a national championship.

I say, so what.

I was five years old the last time Georgia won a national title in football. Since that time, there have been many teams who have won multiple championships. Some of them have won with players that Mark Richt kicked off of his team. Georgia has come close a few times in the Richt era. But the ultimate victory was always just out of reach.

In 1982 and 1983, I cried when Georgia lost their bowl games to Pitt and Penn State. For the better part of three decades now, I’ve been saying, “We’ll get ’em next year.” Next year hasn’t come yet.

On Saturday, Georgia will play Alabama. Even though Georgia looks stronger, most people are saying that Alabama will win. And if they do, people will blame it on Mark Richt having too much character for his own good. Some will call for his job.

I still remember the last time Georgia played Alabama. It was in the SEC Championship Game in 2012. The victor was a lock for winning the national championship against a very overrated Notre Dame team. Georgia had no business winning that game. But they almost did.


When the final whistle had blown, my six-year-old son cried. I thought about watching Georgia lose when I was his age. And then I almost cried too.


I want my sons to be around winners. I want them to be shaped as men, husbands, fathers, leaders and athletes in a culture of winning. But that’s kind of hard to do when their dad cheers for the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Falcons. So I give them some breathing room. In the NFL, they cheer for whoever won the Super Bowl the previous year. In the NBA, they like LeBron’s team. I’m okay with that.

But Georgia is different.

I want them to cheer for Georgia.

Mark Richt is the reason why.

He may not have any national championship rings from his time at Georgia but he’s still a winner. He’s a winner because, imperfect as he is, integrity means something to him. He’s a winner because he sees the guys on his team, and even the ones on other teams, as men in training rather than mere athletes fighting for his job security. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see Georgia win it all but there’s something more important than that.


Positive, godly influence.

Mark Richt has that and it makes me proud of the Georgia Bulldogs.

But that’s all pie in the sky, right? Who cares what happens to these kids after they leave school? That’s the mentality of the typical college football fan. They get all worked up every year in February when an 18-year-old, they otherwise would not care about, decides where he wants to play college football. But when he is gone or if he doesn’t quite measure up like they wanted him to, he’s nothing more than sports memorabilia. Use him while you can and then forget about him. It seems as though many college football fans are a lot like some of those scoundrel coaches I met over the years, minus the influence.

But Mark Richt is different.

I’m thankful that he’s at Georgia and I’m honored to watch him with my sons. No matter what the scoreboard or a drunken fan on the Internet says after the game, we are all watching more than just a coach.

We are watching an influencer.

We are watching a winner.

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Walking Billboards


“You’re a walking billboard for what you believe in.”

Turk Holt is one of my mentors and he told me that several years ago. Back then, I don’t know that I really understood what he meant. Now I do.

It’s one thing to say that you believe in something. You can even put a bumper sticker on your car broadcasting what you believe. But it all tends to get lost in the clutter and busyness of our lives. Tons of people say tons of things about what they believe in and bumper stickers are everywhere. Words, whether written or spoken, have a way of going unnoticed.

But there’s one thing that’s harder to ignore.


If you really want to know what someone believes, watch how they live their life. That’s because Turk was right. Every human being is a walking billboard for what they believe in.

When you allow worry to consume you, you are telling everyone in your environment that we are all on our own and victims of chance. Sure, you may say that God is in control but in reality, you are preaching a gospel where no one is in charge and God has forgotten about us.

When you drive around town with your church tag or bumper sticker on your car, you can be certain that people are paying more attention to the advertisement seated behind the steering wheel than they are the one on the back bumper. When you constantly fight for power and having things your way, when you complain and tear down others and when you gossip, your bumper sticker is telling everyone, “If you come to my church, you’ll regret it.”

If you claim Christ but your life is characterized by continual sin with no repentance or struggle to kill that sin, you are telling the world that none of it really matters to God. Like that Algebra class that you barely passed in high school, everything will eventually work our in your favor in the end.

I am a pastor. A lot of people at my church just call me preacher. I think that’s probably because preaching is the most important part of my job. But really, I’m no different from you. Like it or not, you are a preacher too. And every sermon you preach is written on that billboard otherwise known as your life.

Almost every week in the days leading up to my sermon, my wife asks me the same question. It’s a question that every Christian, not just every pastor, should answer after careful self-evaluation.

“So what are you preaching on?”


In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

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Public Restrooms And The Most Easily Offended Group In The Country


The LGBT crowd has officially become the most easily offended group in the country. Last week, they were offended by Roland Emmerich’s new movie Stonewall because the gays depicted in it were too white. This week, Matt Damon was the one doing all of the offending when he suggested that gay actors not make such a big deal about coming out of the closet. Damon had to go on TV and talk to Ellen to clear things up. I think that the conversation went something like this.

Damon: “Forgive me, Ellen. I have offended gay actors.”

Ellen: “Go to two Elton John concerts and watch the Bravo channel for 3 hours and you shall be forgiven.”

Finally, former baseball star Lance Berkman is being called a bully. He recently spoke out against Proposition 1, a Houston city ordinance allowing transgendered individuals to use whatever bathroom they want. Berkman had the nerve to suggest that he didn’t want his four daughters sharing bathrooms, showers and locker rooms with men. Oh the nerve! What kind of a close-minded freak wouldn’t want his daughters in a stall next to a man in a dress?

I don’t understand the fascination with people wanting to be in bathrooms that they were not designed to be in.

I spent a short amount of time in high school working as a janitor. One of the places that I had to clean was a warehouse. In that warehouse, there were two bathrooms, one for the men and one for the women. Guess which bathroom was dirtier. I’ll give you a hint. It rhymes with lemons. Fellas, you’re not missing anything. Stick to your own restroom.

If you’ve ever been to a movie or a sporting event, there’s something that I’m sure you have noticed on your way to the parking lot. There is always a bathroom line that has at least 4,289 people in it. That would be the line for the ladies room. Ladies, can you imagine how much worse your line will get when you add in a dozen or so men wearing dresses?

There is another interesting phenomenon when it comes to ladies and their restrooms. When a large group is eating together in a public place and one woman has to go to the restroom, every other woman at the table goes with her. Guys, they do this so they can talk about how much real food they’re going to eat when they get home and so they can make fun of that thing hanging from your nose without hurting your feelings. Ladies, how would you feel if the next time you were at Applebee’s and you and all of your girlfriends made a run for the restroom, the guy with the thing hanging from his nose got up and followed you in?

Sometimes at my church, I have to go through the building and turn out all of the lights after everyone else is gone. I’ve noticed a few things about the ladies room. First, it’s much cleaner than that one I had to clean at that warehouse all of those years ago and second, there’s a table in there. A table. Men don’t usually have tables in their restrooms. That’s because someone would eventually put the transmission from a ’89 Buick on it. Men are notorious for putting random things on empty tables. Ladies, do you want the transmission from an ’89 Buick on the table in your restrooms? Of course not. You want baskets full of potpourri on that table. Well, if you want to keep it that way, keep the men out of your restrooms.

Females, you of all people, should be the most opposed to the blurring of bathroom borders.

But really, we should all be against it. That’s because no matter how hard our cultures tries to change it, there really is a difference between men and women. Nowhere is that more evident than in our restrooms.

And I think we should keep it that way.

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Hidden Before Your Eyes


If a woman is looking for something, sooner or later, she’ll find it. Usually sooner.

If a man is looking for something, he’ll find it too. Unless his search involves moving things around. So for example, ladies, if the jar of mayonnaise you sent your husband to look for happens to be behind the jug of apple juice in the back of the refrigerator, that mayonnaise is staying hidden. You might want to take care of this job yourself.

Things have a way of staying hidden right before our eyes. This is not confined to refrigerators. And it’s not just true of men. When it comes to greater realities, the ones having to do with who we are, who we belong to and where we are headed, all Christians have a way of not seeing what is right before us.

These aren’t necessarily deep, undiscovered truths.

They are the things that we already know. They are the things that are right before us. But they are also the things that we sometimes have a hard time seeing. As simple as they may seem, they are the things that we constantly need to be reminded of.

Jesus really does love you. Just because it sounds like a Sunday School answer doesn’t mean that it’s not true.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 (ESV)

Jesus’ love for you is not based on your ability to remain sober, sane or faithful to your spouse. His love for you is based on his unchanging character.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8 (ESV)

As you struggle to stay sober, sane or faithful to your spouse, you are not on your own. God has equipped you with everything you need, namely the Holy Spirit.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:15-18 (ESV)

Your hope will never be found in this world. While the best that this world can offer is in the process of slowly decaying, you have a real hope kept in heaven for you that is alive and resistant to corruption.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

Nothing you do makes Jesus regret dying for you. Rather than condemning you, he is praying for you.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (ESV)

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34 (ESV)

Nothing will ever happen to make Jesus chew his finger nails and worry about what to do next. He is in complete control over all things and that includes the details of your life.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 (ESV)

Following Jesus is more than simply learning new things about him, as important as that is. What’s really important is that we see the simple things that we so often miss because we have allowed them to become too familiar.

God is good.

And in his grace, he has not hidden his goodness from you.

He has placed it right before your eyes.

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My Journey To The Father Of The Year Award

Steve Perry, singer from the rock band Journey, poses on a boat at a shipyard where he is shopping for a boat. August 19, 1981 Sausalito, California, USA

When they hand out Father of the Year plaques this year, I’ll be getting one.

The lady had a beautiful voice. She was singing hymns and we were listening on an iPod one Sunday morning. As I saw it, it was the perfect music for us to listen to as we ate breakfast. My then four-year-old son saw things differently.

“Dad, put on some man music.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant by man music. I can’t remember what I put on instead. If I know me, I went with a selection from Waylon Jennings. Nothing prepares your heart for worship quite like Waylon Jennings.

It was then that I knew what I had on my hands. This kid wasn’t going to be one to settle for just any kind of music. He had a particular ear for a particular sound.

On Thursday night, it was that particular ear that let me know that I had done my job as a father well. Even if my son grows up to do something terrible with his life like rob banks or cheer for Auburn, I can live in confidence that I have at least raised him under proper musical guidance.

We had just gotten in the car after his soccer practice. When the engine turned on, so did the radio. It was playing one of those pop songs that sound like every other pop song. You know the type. Some woman was singing about how, “They can’t tear us apart.” Pop songs always sing about how “They,” whoever that is, can’t tear the singer and her significant other apart. What is it with pop musicians’ relationships that everyone wants to tear them apart? Anyway, that’s what the woman was singing about while a computer was making some sound that no actual instrument on earth could make.

This lasted for about 3.12 seconds until my son with the discerning ear spoke up.

“Dad, turn it.”

Man, I was proud. In fact, that moment is currently number 3 on my list of 25 Proud Fatherhood Moments. It’s right behind the time that he stuck his tongue out and booed when we drove by the campus of Georgia Tech and that time he climbed the wall and touched the ceiling while wearing nothing but a Batman mask and cape.

I obeyed my son’s request.

After a few minutes of flipping through the stations, the familiar keyboards of Journey’s Separate Ways boomed though our speakers.

“Dad, turn it up.”

Once again, I obeyed my son’s request.

And the rest of the way home, I knew that everything was going to be okay. Taxes might go up. They probably will. Someone will start a war with someone else for no particular reason. Those little green worms will eat my tomatoes. The Falcons will forget how to play defense in the fourth quarter. But my son will know the difference between the classics and the garbage.

Once we got home, I let the boys watch the Chiefs smack Peyton Manning around a for a few minutes before bed. When it was time, they reluctantly obeyed and found their way under their covers. I prayed over them and put on some relaxing music for them to listen to as they fell asleep.

Finally, their day was over.

Well, almost.

I heard the door to their room open and the sound of small feet pounding on the floor. It was my young son with the gift of musical discernment. He had one last question.

“Dad, can we listen to Journey?”

I said yes and sent him back to bed.

As he searched in the darkness for his favorite song, I leaned back in my chair and started thinking about the best place on the wall for me to hang my Father of the Year plaque.

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If I Could Spend Just One Day With Johnny Depp, I Would Prove To Him That Evil Really Does Exist


Johnny Depp said something stupid. I know, it’s hard to imagine a celebrity doing such a thing but just trust me. The comment came in an interview where Depp was promoting his latest film Black Mass in which he plays murdering crime boss James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.

“Anybody and everybody, especially the families and the victims, can say he is just an evil person. I just don’t believe that exists.”

Before we rip into Mr. Depp, it should be noted that at least he said something. In a world where everything is offensive and no one really says anything worth listening to anymore, at least Johnny Depp spoke what was on his mind. As terribly misguided as his comment was, I’m glad that we still have at least a shred of free speech left in this country. As a sometimes speaker of stupidity, I fully support the right of people to say stupid things.

I just wish that I could spend a day with Johnny Depp. Maybe by the end of our meeting he would change his mind about the existence of evil.

We would start out by taking some time watching a replay of last night’s presidential debates where one or two evil men tried to convince us that they really are good. That would be Mr. Depp’s first lesson. Evil likes to dress up in good clothes.

After that, we would take a drive to the Wal-Mart in Griffin, Georgia. Really, any Wal-Mart will do but the one in Griffin, Georgia can’t be beat when it comes to displays of evil. I would introduce Mr. Depp to the lady driving in the wrong direction through the parking lot, the guy who took up three spaces because he didn’t want anyone to scratch his gently used Toyota Celica and the guy who stole The Fall Guy’s truck and likes to use it to try to run people over as they walk into this fine establishment. Through all of this, I would do my best to honestly share my thoughts with Mr. Depp so that he could learn the second lesson about evil. You don’t have to be a dictator or a mobster for the evil to be brought out of you. All it takes is a drive through the Wal-Mart parking lot.

After a few minutes of watching women beat their children with rolls of toilet paper and standing behind 57 people as we wait for the only one of the 100 cash registers that are opened that day, we would make our way back home. By then, my kids would be waiting for us. I’d explain to them that daddy had spent the day with Captain Jack Sparrow. I would then give each child seven packs of Fun Dip and ask Captain Jack if he would mind babysitting while a took a nap for an hour or so. By the time I woke up, Johnny would have learned the third lesson of evil. Kids don’t have to learn how to be evil. It just sort of comes out. But Fun Dip sure does speed up the process.

Finally, before saying our goodbyes, I would pull up an old You Tube clip to seal the deal for Johnny Depp. The minute he sees the orange and blue and hears the chant of, “War Eagle!” he will learn the final lesson about evil. Being evil never pays off in the end. It might get you a college scholarship to play football at Auburn but it never pays off.

War Eagle, Mr. Depp.

War Eagle.

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Thinking Twice About Pink


It’s that time of year again when everything turns pink. Pink ribbons on cars. Pink baseball bats. Pink football socks. Pink is on it’s way to dethroning orange and brown as the official color of fall.

Most of it is well meaning. People hate breast cancer. We all know and love people who have in some way suffered from the disease. We want to do anything we can to help. But since most of us don’t know anything about medicine and finding cures, we do the next best thing. We give money.

But if we really care about life, we should consider who we give that money to.

Most often, the money spent on those pink socks and pink baseball bats and pink ribbons goes to Susan G. Komen. For the record, it’s  a lot of money. So much so that, in 2013 with revenue dipping by 22%, the organization still managed to pay its president and CEO a  $475,000 salary.

Use your imagination with me for a moment.

Suppose that you were the CEO of an organization that was devoted to ridding the world of some terrible thing. And suppose that you were paid quite handsomely for leading that organization. You, being the logical person that you are, know that if you do your job well, you likely will not have a job for very long. The good news would be that the terrible thing you were fighting would be gone. The bad news would be that your six figure salary would be gone too.

What would you do?

Would you still fight to put yourself out of a job or would you carry on existing to justify your own existence so that you can keep getting those big paychecks?

Perhaps your answer is a noble one. Maybe you would still fight hard and find yourself another job when the one you have isn’t needed anymore. Can you trust that someone else in the same position would respond with the degree of integrity that you would?

A few years back, Komen found itself in a difficult situation. People became aware of the organization’s links to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. So Komen decided to cut ties with the devil. Well, it turned out that the devil had quite a few supporters. And loud ones too. So Komen caved to the pressure and decided to keep giving some of their money to Planned Parenthood, who I should remind you is the nation’s largest abortion provider and partially funded by American tax payers.

You won’t hear Komen describing their relationship with Planned Parenthood the same way that I did. They’ll just say that their money only goes to support a few Planned Parenthood facilities.

Use your imagination with me again.

Let’s pretend that I’m trying raise money for a cause, say making public libraries better. So when I ask you for money, like any responsible adult, you ask where the money will be going. I tell you that 80% of all donations go toward rebuilding libraries, 10% goes to administrative costs and 10% goes to the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan seeing as how they too care about libraries.

Would you still give me your money?

Perhaps you think that I’m being too harsh by comparing Planned Parenthood to the KKK. The similarities couldn’t be more clear. Both organizations are fueled by people who only notice, “The good they do,” and both organizations seem to want black people dead. But, to the Klan’s credit, at least my tax dollars don’t support them. Well, as far as I know.

I hate cancer. And I also hate baby butchering. Despite what the folks at Komen or Planned Parenthood tell you, there are alternatives. If you really want to give money to fight breast cancer, you don’t have to give to an organization that supports abortion. By the way, have you noticed the irony there? With some research showing a link between abortion and breast cancer, the nation’s leading breast cancer awareness organization gives money to the nation’s largest abortion provider.

It all looks like a pretty good con to me.

But you don’t have to be a part of it.

There are other options.

If you would like to research some of those options, here are a few good places to start. and their founder, Janelle Hail

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Hitchhiking With Jesus


Is it possible for a non-Christian to follow Jesus?

Yes. Sort of.

A non-Christian can follow Jesus’ teaching on love and, to the best of his ability, try to love others more than he loves himself.

A non-Christian can follow Jesus’ teachings on money and possessions. She can get rid of everything but the essentials and even give her last penny away.

A non-Christian can follow Jesus’ command to love the least of these. He can care for orphans, widows and other hurting people.

A non-Christian can do a lot of the same things that a Christian does. But there is a difference. A Christian, though imperfect, will follow Jesus wherever he goes. A non-Christian will follow Jesus too but only if Jesus is going where he wants him to go.

For non-Christians, Jesus is a means to an end. They listen to what Jesus says about love, they respect what Jesus said about giving and mercy because those particular teachings fit into their system. But it’s when Jesus starts to contradict their system that they stop following. When Jesus says hard things about marriage and hell, they write him off. They stop following. He isn’t going where they want him to go.

For the true believer, Jesus is the means and the end. When it’s hard to love and forgive and show mercy, they pray. Rather than creating their own religious movement, they ask God to change their heart and help them to obey everything that Jesus said.

There are a lot of people who talk about following Jesus. Honestly, it’s easy to do. But fewer people actually follow him.

In Matthew 8, some people approached Jesus, making bold claims to follow him. Jesus didn’t respond with excitement or details about his benefit and retirement plan. Essentially, he talked them out of it. He spoke of a life of homelessness and separation for loved ones. We don’t know all of the details about how those aspiring Jesus followers responded. The next picture Matthew gives us from Jesus’ life is one of him getting in a boat with his disciples.

I always assume that those two men stayed behind. The prospect of being homeless and away from dying family members must have been too much for them. And so, when it became obvious that Jesus wasn’t going where they wanted him to go, they found their own path.

That must have looked like a brilliant decision a little while later when Jesus and his true followers were stuck in a boat in the middle of a storm. By backing out, these would be followers missed out on homelessness, separation from family and a major storm.

But there was something else that they missed out on.

The disciples woke Jesus from is sleep in the middle of that storm, pleading with him to save them. And he did. With just a few words, he made the winds and the waves disappear. The disciples marveled at what they saw. At first, they were afraid of the power of a storm that was outside of their boat. Now, they were afraid of the power inside of it. They marveled at Jesus.

That’s another thing that you miss when you only follow Jesus when he’s going where you want him to go. You miss the opportunity to marvel. You miss the occasions where you are reminded that he alone is worthy of worship.

To put it another way, when you only follow Jesus when he’s headed in a direction previously approved by you, you miss Jesus. You never were really following him to begin with. You were just hitchhiking with Jesus until he got you to your next stop.

Several days ago, the folks at BuzzFeed released a video called, “I’m A Christian, But…” In it, young hipsters explained how they were Christians without, well, being Christians. I know. It’s confusing. It was hard to watch. One of the more disturbing parts of the video came at the end when a man said, “Everybody is in a different part of life on their own path to wherever they’re trying to go.”

That’s sort of the mission statement for the young, hitchhiking with Jesus crowd. Whatever like gets you to like wherever you’re like trying to go is cool. Cool. Whatever. Dude. Like. It has a nice ring to it, huh?

True discipleship is different. True disciples recognize that it is impossible to follow Jesus while being, “On their own path.” True disciples have had their own path blown to smithereens by Jesus.

If you follow Jesus, you may end up homeless and away from loved ones. You will likely end up in quite a bit of trouble. But you will never go through those places alone and on your own path. You will go through them with Jesus leading you.

And no matter where His path takes you, it always ends up better than you could possibly imagine.

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