Parenting Books And A Friend Like Keith


Ten years ago, when I found out that I was becoming a father, I was a little scared. Growing up in a single-parent family, I wasn’t around a continual example of fatherhood. My mom was great but she couldn’t be a dad.

I taught myself how to throw a baseball and shoot a basketball. That didn’t end well for me. I didn’t even bother trying to teach myself how to change brake pads or replace a water heater. To this day, pretty much all I have to offer in that category is, “Lord, please keep my brake pads and water heater working properly.” So far, so good.

Fatherhood really worried me. I knew that I was supposed to be a godly father but I wondered if I really knew what that meant. Is it just a matter of going to church? Can I get away with just telling my kids, “If you can’t be good, be careful” when I drop them off at the skating rink? Do kids still get dropped off at skating rinks?

Keith Keller is the wisest man I know. He makes me think about things I otherwise wouldn’t. There’s no telling what kind of casual Christianity wasteland I’d be in if it were not for him. A lot of people can say that about Keith Keller.

When Keith found out I was going to be a dad, he gave me a call to congratulate me. And then he gave me some wisdom. It wasn’t that kind of, “Look here, boy, this is what you need to do” wisdom that a lot of people share without being asked. Keith was humble when he told me, in so many words, “Look, people are going to be telling you all kinds of stuff and recommending all of these books to you but here are two that I think you should read.”

The first book was called On Becoming Baby Wise. In some circles, saying that you followed what was written in that book is about like being caught with a copy of Mein Kampf. And in others, if you haven’t read Baby Wise, you need to be brought before some parenting court. People either hate that book or they belong to a cult where they worship it. It helped my kids learn how to sleep and, so far, they haven’t turned into serial killers so I’m thankful for it. Just not thankful enough to join a cult.

The other book was even more beneficial. It’s called Shepherding A Child’s Heart and it was written by Tedd Tripp. Once my kids learned how to get to sleep on their own, I quit thinking about Baby Wise. I’m ten years into parenting and I still haven’t quit thinking about Shepherding A Child’s Heart.

Most parents settle for some version of behavior modification whenever their kids start acting crazy. When little John Henry gets caught pouring paint all up and down aisle seven at Wal-Mart, John Henry’s mom goes nuclear in order to get him to stop. Once he does and she’s away from the scene of the crime, the problem is solved. Or so she thinks. Really, all she’s done is applied a bandage to a cancerous mole. It might look like the problem’s gone but it’s still there. And it’s deadly.

Shepherding A Child’s Heart, while certainly not neglecting the importance of discipline, encourages us to address the real root of the problem. Our kids do not simply have behavior problems. They have heart problems. They have a sin problem.

I’ll spare you the book report. If you are a new parent or you know someone who is, Tedd Tripp’s book is a must read.

I don’t remember most of the gifts that my wife and I got while we were expecting our first child. I’m sure that there were a lot of diapers involved. For that, I am thankful. Well, I was. Not so much now. Those days are gone. But I’ll always be thankful to my friend Keith Keller who gave me a couple of solid book recommendations. And I’ll always be thankful to God for giving me a friend like Keith Keller.

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I Don’t Belong Here


I don’t feel at home here. More and more, I’m feeling like an alien. Or the uninvited guest who brought the bad potato salad to the picnic. I just don’t belong.

When I watched the debate on Wednesday night where Hillary Clinton justified the violent murder of a full-grown baby, I kept thinking about how I don’t belong here.

The following morning I saw political experts on major news channels support her serial-killer like description of partial birth abortion as if it were nothing more than a trip to the dentist’s office. It made me feel out of place in my own home.

When I realized that out of all of the people who could have been standing opposite of Mrs. Clinton to defend the cause of life, we are left with a reality TV star who just a few years ago voiced his support for partial birth abortion and just a few months ago praised Planned Parenthood, the very organization behind most of the abortions in this country, I really felt out of place.

Over the past year, I’ve looked to the church as a whole for relief. Sadly, when I see many of her leaders justifying the evil of one candidate because it is somehow lesser than the evil of another candidate, I really feel like an alien. Big name Christian leaders who I once admired for standing against the current have contorted scripture simply to see their candidate get into office.

I’ve never felt more out of place.

Minutes before Wednesday night’s debate, my son asked me a question. He wanted to know why the culture was getting so bad so quickly. He had just seen a commercial on TV that sort of put it right before his eyes. I don’t remember what I told him. I hope it was good. But I’ll never forget his question. It’s one I ask myself quite often.

I think often about how quickly our world has changed and how out of place I feel in it. And in a way, I hope that both of my sons feel the same way. As parents, we do all that we can to make sure that our kids fit in. In reality, we should be training them to do the exact opposite.

Some find their identity in a political party. When I look in that direction, I see groups of people who care nothing about me or the God I serve. All they want is to stay in power.

When I look to the church, more and more, I’m seeing a body that has lost its way. Relevance and pragmatism have taken the place of salt and light.

The more I read my Bible and look at the world, the less at home I feel.

I think that’s sort of the point.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14 (ESV) 

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Four Things To Remember Before Fear Consumes You


Christians are not immune to frightening situations. But we do not have to be consumed with fear. If you are in Christ, here are four things that are true for you. They were true on the day that you became a Christian. They’ll be true the day after the elections.

Your reasons to trust in God are greater than your reasons to fear man. 

To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:1-4 (ESV)

God’s justice is greater than man’s schemes.

All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

Psalm 56:5-7 (ESV)

The one who is for you is greater than the one who is against you.

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

Psalm 56:8-11 (ESV)

The God who lifts you up is greater than the grave that holds you down. 

I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

Psalm 56:12-13 (ESV)

When you feel overwhelmed by the evil schemes of man, just look to the character of God.

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Bad News

Just because the Olympics are over doesn’t mean that you can’t watch gymnastics on TV. All you have to do is turn on the news.

On Thursday morning I watched the folks on CNN contort themselves to make Hillary Clinton look better than she really is. It didn’t take too long until I finally had enough so I switched it over to Fox News. Over there they were doing backflips to try and explain away Donald Trump’s latest act of foolishness.

Christians are people of the truth. Being people of the truth in today’s climate requires quite a bit of work. If you care about finding out what’s going on in the world, you have to be your own editor.

That means that you can’t just listen to the people who only say nice things about your favorite candidate or political persuasion. If all they ever tell you is what you want to hear, you aren’t getting the full story. That’s the best case scenario. More than likely, you’re just being lied to.

A few years ago, I wrote for a small sports website. The website was owned by and named after a prominent athlete. Guess what the managing editor told us about the stories we wrote. Don’t say anything that could hurt the guy who signs the checks.

The major news networks are a lot like that. The only difference is that the checks are bigger and the people signing them are much more powerful and influential. That means that the major news network that pays it’s bills by attracting an audience of a certain political persuasion will not spend a lot of time covering a story that would make that certain political persuasion look bad.

That’s where your job as the editor comes in. You have to back up the stories you hear with your own research and facts you already know to be true. It’s not enough to believe something just because you wish it were true.

There is no doubt that CNN leans a bit to the left. But you don’t correct that by getting all of your news from While we enjoy all of the benefits that come with having more access to information we have to remember the other side of that coin. More people have access to giving you their information. And they don’t care if it’s true or not. They just want your click. Or money. Or vote.

But you care more about the truth than any of those things.

As Christians, we should not only be concerned about the truthfulness of the information we receive but also the information we pass along. If our non-beliving friends on social media frequently find us posting articles about how Hillary and Donald spent the weekend playing cards with Tupac and Elvis, good luck trying to get them to believe you when you tell them about a man who was born of a virgin, rose from the dead and is coming back to earth.

If the truth matters, and it does, than we should make the effort to look for it rather than having some lesser version of it fed to us. And we should be careful not to put our name on something less than the truth.

“Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy.”

Joseph Pulitzer wrote those words on the wall of his newsroom.

Joseph Pulitzer died. Sadly, it appears as though his three word code of ethics for reporting the news died with him.

There are still shreds of accuracy left in journalism.

But you have to go looking for them because if reporters are too generous with their accuracy, it might not make the people who sign the checks too happy.

Be your own editor.

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A Political Warning For The Church

Silver Islet, Sleeping Giant / Sibley Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

There are a few people in my church who will be voting for Hillary Clinton. There are more who will vote for Donald Trump. And then there’s me. I’ll find someone else to vote for because I don’t like either candidate.

But I love the people in my church, regardless of who they’re voting for.

We really need to be careful. This election year has been more intense than any I have ever seen. The country is divided. It’s been divided for a while but the divisions are becoming more and more obvious. And if we don’t watch out, those divisions will find their way into our churches.

Two emotions seem to rule our political age. They are anger and worry. People are angry with the way that politicians are representing them. And for good reason. But inevitably, that anger toward a broken system usually redirects itself toward other people. We’re not just angry at Washington D.C. We’re angry with one another.

And we’re afraid. Some are afraid of what might happen if Hillary is elected and rules the country with her progressive agenda. Others fear the chaos of a nation led by President Trump.

With that in mind, the words Paul wrote to the Philippian church two thousand years ago seem like they were written this morning.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Philippians 4:2 (ESV)

Some issue had divided these two Christian women. It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t simply tell them to figure out how to get along. And he doesn’t tell them to find some common interest that they can agree on. If he were writing it today, Paul wouldn’t tell these women to vote for the same person. Instead, he tells them to agree, “in the Lord.”

Everyone in our churches won’t vote the same. There will be people who have different opinions on education, state politics and who the next president should be. And not everyone will agree with the pastor’s political views. We shouldn’t want that. An assembly where everyone shares the same views on every single cultural issue is more like a cult than a unified body.

So the source of our unity will not be our politics. For the church, Christ is what binds us together. At the appropriate times, we can have discussions on school choice and Hillary and Donald. And we can agree to disagree. But we must always find agreement in the reality that Jesus Christ is the crucified and living God who died for the sins of his people and is coming again.

There’s another “in the Lord” phrase in this passage.

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

The answer to your fear of Hillary is not found in Donald Trump. Your worries over a Trump presidency will not ultimately be relieved by a Clinton presidency. Yep, you guessed it. The remedy to our fears are found, “in the Lord.”

When we place our identity in a political party or candidate, consuming fear is a natural result. But when we realize that as believers our identity is found in Christ, we really start to respond to scary situations differently.

Instead of doubting God’s sovereign control, we worship him (Philippians 4:4).

Instead of lashing out at others, we treat them with grace and love, knowing that the Lord is always near (Philippians 4:5).

And rather than allowing ourselves to become consumed with fear, we take our concerns to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6).

That’s when we experience the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).

In just under a month, we will elect a new president. That new president will have a lot of power. But the next president of the United States will not have the power to heal fractured relationships. And that president will not have the power to bring genuine peace to our hearts and minds.

So, no matter our political differences, let’s remember to love each other. And let’s not believe those who profit from preaching a gospel of fear. Let’s not look to Hillary or Donald to give us what can only be found in the Lord.

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We Need Pastors Who Bleed The Gospel


We need pastors who bleed the gospel. We don’t need pastors who are pawns of some political party. We don’t need pastors who get their marching orders from their favorite political websites and TV stations. We don’t need pastors who are too afraid of getting fired.

We need pastors who, when beaten and bruised by their opponents, bleed the gospel.

That means that we need pastors who are more interested in following the examples of the Old Testament prophets than they are in turning a profit at next week’s offering. These are the pastors who will say the hard things, the things that were once obvious but no longer are.

A funny thing happened after Sunday night’s presidential debate. The people at Fox News and the Drudge Report were telling me that Trump won. Meanwhile, the folks at CNN and MSNBC were saying that Hillary won. That’s the thing about our current political climate. Love it or hate it, it does have a way of exposing allegiances. Sadly, on both sides of the aisle, there are those churches and pastors who have been exposed for being more aligned to a presidential candidate than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as a result, those pastors who are supposed to be speaking against evil end up swimming against the stream of scripture and common sense in order to keep their presidential hopeful propped up.

We don’t need pastors who act like pimps prostituting out their churches in order to give Hillary Clinton another campaign stop.

We don’t need pastors who consider it their duty to defend Donald Trump no matter what because, after all, his sins aren’t as bad as Hillary’s.

No, we need pastors who bleed the gospel.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton was your church secretary and she deleted a few thousand e-mails a week or so before being questioned by the police about some shady Internet dealings she’d been involved in. Most likely, she would be fired. But, for some reason, in the eyes of a lot of pastors, such actions do not disqualify her from being the president of the United States.

Imagine if your wife or daughter worked for Donald Trump. Imagine if she was the one he was talking to Billy Bush about assaulting all of those years ago. Would you still call it “locker room banter”? Would you still say it was just words? Not likely. What is more likely is that you would try to have him fired. But, for some reason, in the eyes of a lot of pastors, such conduct doesn’t disqualify him from being our next president. We’re not hiring a pastor-in-chief, they tell us.

One of the most disturbing things I have seen in my 41 years on this earth is the degree to which some church leaders will distort or even ignore scripture just to see their candidate elected.

For some, the fact that Hillary is a woman gives her the right to sanction the murder of babies under the banner of a woman’s right to choose.

For others, the fact that Donald isn’t Hillary gives him a free pass to do or say whatever he wants under the banner of making America great again.

Pastors, we have to be above this. We can’t scream, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” when one candidate blows it and call down fire from heaven to punish the sins of the candidate with whom we don’t agree. We must remain true to the scriptures. We must be consistent. But that’s hard to do when the blood of a political party runs through our veins.

We need pastors who bleed the gospel.

People won’t like it when you refuse to jump on one candidates bandwagon. I’ve been told that I’m what’s wrong with America. I’ve been told to stick to the Bible. It’s likely that we’ll hear worse. Don’t let that get you down. Never forget that preaching the word isn’t just done one day a week behind a pulpit.

We need pastors who bleed the gospel. Every day of the week.

That means that we need pastors who love the Trump supporters and the Clinton supporters while simultaneously opposing the godless policies and actions of both candidates. That’s easier said than done. Refusing to just play along and wave the flag of a political party or candidate might get you run out of town. It might lose you a few church members. Offerings may go down.

But that’s okay. Jesus called you to be a shepherd, not a hireling. A shepherd risks everything to protect the sheep. A hireling only looks out for his own interests and takes off running when the heat gets too thick.

Pastor, one day you will stand before Jesus to give an account for your life and ministry. You will not be questioned about whether or not your were liked? You will not be questioned about how appreciated you felt. You will not be questioned about what you did to swing the balance of the Supreme Court.

In so may words, you will get a question sort of like this one.

Did you bleed the gospel?

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 (ESV)

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Teachers, Never Stop Displaying Christ!


Recently, I was informed of a new directive from a local school district. It had nothing to do  with how much homework teachers can give. It focused more on what teachers can hang on the walls of their classrooms. Or wear around their necks. Or have written under their name on the e-mails they send out.

Teachers in this particular school district, right smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt, are being told that they are no longer allowed to display crosses, prayers, Bible verses or even angels in a place where others might see them. But, on the bright side, teachers are allowed to keep a religious symbol in their desk or filing cabinet as long as no one else sees it. Gee, thanks, government!

Yet again, those in power wishing to suppress the free exercise of religion have gotten it all wrong, at least in regards to Christianity. Yes, Christians sometimes hang crosses on our walls. Some of us put angels atop our Christmas trees. We even decorate our homes with Bible verses. But the heart of our faith runs deeper than that. Our faith is one of devotion, not decoration.

So what should you do if you’re a Christian teacher who has committed the terrible crime of displaying the Lord’s Prayer in your classroom? Is it somehow a compromise of your faith if you obey your power-hungry overseers and take the cross off of your wall and put it in your drawer?

The answer to that question rests in the other place where you choose to display your Bible passages. You see, the government can tell you to take your favorite Bible verse down off of their wall. But they can’t make you take it down from your heart.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 (ESV) 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing for Christians to keep their faith private. A faith that is always kept private is a dead faith (James 2:14-26). I’m arguing for quite the opposite, really.

When you became a Christian, the Holy Spirit took up residence within you. And, more than simply receiving a Get Out of Hell Free Card, you were given the power to live in obedience to the commands of Christ. Paul calls it the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

While some of your colleagues may simply be drawing a paycheck and counting down the days until Christmas break, you have an opportunity here. You know that kid that all of the other teachers hate? Love him with the radical love of Christ. When racial tensions spill out into the cafeteria, be an agent of peace for the glory of Christ and the good of those under your care. While the state’s curriculum focuses on teaching kids how to put condoms on bananas and calling it health, teach them instead what is good. Teach them self-control. Model gentleness. And do it with patience and faithfulness.

To put it another way, the state can use its power to make you take a religious display off of your wall but there is nothing they can do to keep you from displaying the real, risen Jesus through your life. Do your job with excellence for the glory of Jesus Christ. And if one of your bosses tells you to stop doing that, remember who your real boss is. And if it costs you your retirement, remember the real inheritance that awaits you.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)

Here’s something you can count on. At some point, tragedy will strike your school. I wish it wasn’t that way but it is. It might be an automobile accident or a national catastrophe. It may lead to an empty desk in your classroom or few unplanned days out of school. Either way, tragedy will come. Count on it.

And when it does, the same state that told you to take down your cross will send in their grief counselors to counsel kids and their families. But their thoughts and godless prayers won’t be able to help. Anyone who has abandoned the truth of the gospel ultimately has no hope to offer to those in need. But that doesn’t take away the pain of those in need. So guess where those hurting hearts are going to turn?


The teacher who was forced to take the cross down from your wall but who absolutely refused to remove its impact from your heart and your words and your actions.

Anyone can put a cross on a wall. But only a truly devoted follower of Jesus Christ lives with that cross at the center of everything. As you do that, something is happening.

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)

That light shining through you is not your award-winning personality or superior teaching abilities. Let’s face it, we all have our days. No, the light is Jesus himself.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

Remember, they can take the display of Jesus off of your wall but they can’t take him out of you.

In what sound like something straight out of George Orwell’s 1984, the school district is telling teachers and other employees to inspect properties in case any religious symbols got overlooked during the initial cleansing. And then there is the reminder that these properties are under the ownership and control of the government.

That may be true of the walls in your classroom but it is not true of you. You are under the ownership and control of Christ. So let the government inspect you all they want to. Just so long as when they do, they find Christ.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:27-29 (ESV)

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Is God Really In Control?

A while back I was having a theological conversation with someone. They were taking issue with my belief in the sovereignty of God, that is, the belief that God is in control of all things at all times. The person’s main concern was that if all Christians believed that God was in control of all things, none of them would do missions.

I thought about that on Wednesday night while I sat and heard a woman telling a story of the sovereignty of God. She and her husband and their five children packed up everything and left behind the comforts of Georgia for the challenges of Romania. For eleven years now the family has been working to break down barriers or racism, rescue women who are or otherwise might be caught in the sex trafficking industry, pulling children out of orphanages and giving them a better home, providing an education and yes, evangelizing the lost.

This family’s belief in the sovereignty of God didn’t keep them from the mission God had for them. It fueled their mission.

Christians like to say that God is in control but I wonder how many of us really believe that. Sure, we can say that he is in control on a random Tuesday morning. But what about on a Wednesday morning when a tornado hits? Or when there’s a bad phone call from your brother? Or when it feels like you can’t possibly go any further? Is God still in control then?

The Bible answers that question with a resounding yes.

I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)

This would be quite scary were it not for God’s goodness. Hitler had a pretty good measure of control over Germany. An abusive husband can control his wife. But neither Hitler or the abusive husband are good.

It does us no good to speak of the sovereignty of God if we do not also speak of the goodness of God.


Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)

So the sovereignty of God is not intended to free us from the mandate to make disciples of all nations or from any other more specific mission God may have for us. But there are a few things that the sovereignty of God, when understood in union with the goodness of God, will free us from.

Things like fear and anxiety.

It’s interesting to hear how people talk about the upcoming presidential election in the United States. Here’s a basic summary of one point I hear frequently.

“Well, neither one of the candidates are any good but we need to vote for ______________ because at least God can work through that one.”

But God can’t work through the other one? Read the Bible. It’s one big, long story of God working through tyrants to accomplish his perfect will for the good of his imperfect people. Or, to put it another way, the Bible is an account of God’s complete control over all things. That doesn’t mean that we have to support tyranny or some supposed lighter version of it. It just means that we don’t need to be afraid when it comes knocking on our door.

God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness work together to free us from the constant hand wringing that so many have given in to.

God was good and he was in control when he created the heavens and the earth.

God was good and he was in control when Jesus was crucified.

God was good and he was in control on the day that I was saved.

God was good and he was in control on the day that my parents divorced and on the day that my mother got sick and on the day that she died.

When we have our presidential election, God will still be good and he will still be in control, no matter who wins.

And, whether God calls you to Romania or to stay in the states to make disciples, he will still be good and he will still be in control.

Because God is both good and sovereign, we can trust that when bad things happen, God will eventually, some way and some how, work them for our good. We don’t need to know all of the details. When tragedy strikes, the world is better off without us trying to excuse God, speak where he has not spoken or explain away his sovereignty.

We say something much more powerful when we simply trust God and worship him.

He really is in control.

He really is good.

And that frees us to obey him boldly and worship him gladly.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)

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Your Church Might Not Be As Relevant As You Think It Is

When the new church came to the small town, there was a lot of promise. The building looked nice. The new church had the financial backing of a main campus in a larger city. The staff was well-trained. The music was trendy.

Within a matter of months, that building that was once full of so much promise was sitting empty on Sunday mornings with a For Sale sign out front.

What happened?

For a lot of churches, relevance means nothing more than gimmicks backed by a large budget. It’s marketing with a Jesus stamp on it. And the gimmicks that work in one area aren’t necessarily going to work in another one.

But there is one guaranteed way for a church to be relevant to its surrounding culture. No smoke machines are required. It’s much easier than that. Well, I should say that it’s much easier said. The doing part can be quite difficult. If a church really cares about being relevant, that church needs one single focus.


A truly relevant church will have an unyielding love for God. Everything that church does will be an act of love for Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Rather than seeking their own prominence in the community, this church will pray and live, “Hallowed be your name.”

The genuinely relevant church will have a bold love for each other. In this church, love, not personal preference, will rule the day. So rather than fighting over musical styles and carpet color and the best way to educate kids, this church will devote itself to fighting for the good of each other. Rather than gossiping about the tenth grader who got his girlfriend pregnant, this church will see that he is corrected and restored in love. And they’ll walk with him through the difficult days ahead.

But the love won’t be contained within the walls of this church. It will spill out into the streets. So the people in the community who vote differently and look differently than most of the members of this church will still feel the love of this church. When disaster strikes, this church will not get its marching orders from the politicians or pundits on TV. They’ll just keep right on doing what they’ve been doing all along. They’ll love people.

The relevant church will have a prophetic voice in the community. No, they won’t hold up signs on the town square telling people who God hates. But they won’t endorse sin for the sake of “reaching” people. They’ll make a bold stand against sin but not just the sins of others. They’ll be even bolder as they fight against their own sin. But through it all, they’ll lean on a gracious God who hates sin but loves forgiving sinners.

I fear for the church.

Yes, I know that in the end, the church wins. But there are a lot of local manifestations of the church that have me concerned. These are the churches where authentic relevance was abandoned decades ago in favor of a marketing scheme meant for nothing more than larger crowds and more money in the offering plate.

I fear for the churches that cannot possibly love their communities because they’re too busy hating each other.

I fear for the churches that only stand against the sins of others while turning a blind eye to their own.

I fear for those churches that no longer have a prophetic voice because they lost it screaming for the things that don’t really matter.

I fear for the churches that have been compromised by politics, believing the lie that ultimate salvation is found in a political figure rather than Jesus Christ.

Your church might have a smoke machine and a worship pastor in skinny jeans who has won a couple of Grammys. Or your church’s worship service might be led by a guy in a bad suit with a cassette tape. It doesn’t matter.

Trends come and go but truth and love are forever.

Truth and love are always relevant.

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The Best Day At UGA

George Strait sings a song called The Best Day about a father being with his son through all of these milestone events in the kid’s life. It starts with their first camping trip together and then remodeling an old car in the teen years and it ends with the boy, all grown up by now, getting married.

After each event, the boy tells his dad, “I’m the luckiest boy alive, this is the best day of my life.”

A few weeks ago, I got to have one of those days with my two sons when I took them to their first Georgia football game. Neither one of them ever looked at me and told me that they had just had the best day of their life. But I felt like I had.

And even the two drunk guys sitting behind us couldn’t change that.

It was a noon kickoff so we got on campus early. I made arrangements with my friend Merv Waldrop, a great American, to tailgate with him. Merv has turned tailgating into an art form. The food on his table and the songs on his radio are all carefully chosen to fit with the occasion. When my wife took out the food that she prepared for everyone, Merv’s mouth fell open. He told me that I had married the perfect tailgating wife. That’s sort of like getting a compliment from Moses.

Not long after we started eating, Merv took us on a tour of the campus. He showed my boys where Crawford Long discovered ether and where leaders of the Old South once laid their heads. My sons were amazed. And so was I.

It was the best day.

When my sons finally walked into the massive Sanford Stadium for the first time, they were speechless. I don’t think that they had ever seen so many people in one place. Or so many red shirts. We were halfway through the first quarter before they realized that the crowd was real and not some sort of special effect.

Seated around us, we had a good crew of strangers who weren’t really strangers because they were wearing red too. The couple in front of us were season ticket holders. Next to them there was a family that looked a bit like ours. Behind us there was a young couple.

It was hot but we were all in Athens watching the Bulldogs.

It was the best day. For all of us.

And then the two drunk guys showed up and sat right behind us.

Remember, this was a noon kickoff so either they had just taken a single shot of jet fuel or they had been drinking since they woke up. My money was on the second option.

One guy was sort of drunk. That is to say, he was wasted but he was sober enough to know that he was wasted. The other guy just didn’t care. He threw caution (and his liver) to the wind sometime around 9:30 that morning. Or the night before. I don’t know. He was leaning on the people next to him and slurring and cussing and generally reminding me why so many people don’t like the Georgia Bulldogs.

At one point, he went on a cussing binge. And his cussing had no purpose. He was being foul just to be foul. I’ll spare you his word of choice but pretend with me for a moment that the word apple is a vile, disgusting word that would make a sailor blush.

Really Drunk Guy: “Apple!”

Sort of Drunk Guy: “Shut up. We’re going to get thrown out. I’m sorry, ma’am.”

Really Drunk Guy: “Apple! Apple! Apple! I love apples! Apple McAppleby. Martin Van Apple! Apple!”

Sort of Drunk Guy: “Your wife is going to kill us.”

I asked my sons if they knew what that word meant. They said no. I was relieved. But I turned it into a teaching moment.

“This is what happens when you drink too much.”

Judging by the look in their eyes, they’ll probably never have so much as a tablespoon of NyQuill for as long as they live.

Finally, the GBI came by and had a talk with the two inebriated fellows. Not the campus police. Not a state trooper. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation. You’re a special kind of drunk if it takes the GBI to settle you down. Whatever the officers said to those men must have worked because they didn’t make it past the first half.

After all of that, I decided that the family needed a drink. Powerade. Not whatever intoxicant that two fellows behind us were having.

Things on the field weren’t much better. Georgia was playing a daycare from Louisiana that day. And for a good portion of the day, the daycare was winning. I started to question the wisdom of my game selection. Perhaps I should have picked an easier team, I don’t know, maybe Georgia Tech, so that my sons were guaranteed to see a win. But in the end, the boys in red pulled it out. And all of us in red went home happy.

But we would have went home happy anyway.

It really was the best day.

I’m the luckiest dad alive.

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