Fearing Fatherhood

For most of my childhood I had a frightening hunch that I would one day be a dad.  My hunch was frightening because I was raised by a single-mother.  What did I know about being a dad?  One day my kid would ask me questions that all dads know how to answer. All dads but me.

“Dad, how do you clean a fish?”

“Just cut his head off, son.  The rest should take care of itself from there.”

“Dad, what does a spark plug do?”

“Hey look, a butterfly.”

My senior year of high school I failed out of a trigonometry class and got put in a wood shop class. This excited me.  Trigonometry didn’t seem to have a lot to offer but wood shop would probably help me to learn some dad things.  This way, if my kid ever asked me what a spark plug did I could at least build him a bird house.  My first few days in wood shop were spent telling jokes and seeing who could hammer a nail into a board the fastest.

And then, almost as quickly as it started, I got taken out of that wood shop class.  I don’t think anyone else, in the history of public education, has ever been taken out of wood shop.  Wood shop classes exist for the kids that get taken out of other classes.  When school administrators pull you from a wood shop class, it’s sort of like getting kicked out of prison.  My fears of fatherhood remained.

So instead of wood shop, I got put in an electronics class.  I was okay with this.  Now, whenever my kid would ask me what a spark plug does I could teach him how to slide his church shoes on the carpet and electrocute his friends.  That’s classic dad stuff, right?  Unfortunately, all we ever did in electronics class was watch movies.  The movie we watched the most was Short Circuit starring Steve Guttenberg.  The good news is that I got an A in that class.  The bad news is that now, whenever my kids ask me what a spark plug does, I tell them a stupid joke and talk about the Police Academy movies.

I’m a 36-year-old father of two young boys and my worst fears as a kid have finally been realized.  I don’t know a lot of dad stuff and I think my kids are on to me.  My oldest son wants to build a tree house.  I’m really hoping Jesus comes back before that time comes.

To compensate for my lack of knowledge, I try to spend a lot of time with my boys doing what I did as a kid: playing outside, playing on the floor, praying, reading the Bible, loving mom and watching Kung-Fu Theater.  Sadly, Kung-Fu Theater doesn’t come on anymore but there are worthy substitutes.

I always pick up my youngest son, kiss him and ask him who he loves.  He’s 16 so he really hates when I do this.  No, really he’s a lot younger than that.  But every time I ask him who he loves he does the same thing.  He points at the wall, or the ceiling, or the refrigerator.  Anything but dad.

One day I was asking my son this question and he was giving his usual response when his older brother walked up and said, “Hey dad, ask me who I love.”

I sensed a Hallmark moment coming so I gladly played along.

“Who do you love more than anybody in the whole world?”

“Mom!”

For a minute I felt like a real loser.  I should have petitioned to stay in that wood shop class.  But then it hit me.

Maybe my son loves his mom so much because he sees how much I love her.  And maybe he’ll grow to love Jesus even more because of how much I love Jesus.  In a way that’s kind of intimidating but it’s also very liberating.  Who cares if I don’t know how to do a lot of dad stuff?  If I can just, by God’s grace, love my wife like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), train up my boys in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and love Jesus more than anything else (Deuteronomy 6:5), I think all of the rest will be just fine.

This week I spent some time with a senior adult in my church.  She lives alone and she says her kids are always asking her if she gets lonely in that big house all by herself.  She tells them that she never gets lonely because she’s never alone.  And then she told me about the time a tornado came through her town in the 1930s and how good of a job her dad did at taking care of the family.  The loving presence of her earthly father taught her a great lesson about the far greater loving presence of her heavenly Father.

I hope I teach the same lesson to my boys.

The Working Class

Johnny Paycheck and Loverboy were idiots.  More on that later.

My friend Reggie builds arms and legs.  Once, I tried to look up the official title for someone who does that for a living but I got confused so I just say he builds arms and legs.

I’m a pastor so my job is much more important than Reggie’s.

Well, at least that’s what some would have us to believe.  They’re wrong.

In his book Issues Facing Christians Today, John Stott tells the story of three men working in a rock quarry when somebody walks by and asks the men what they are doing.  The first man says, “I’m busting rocks.”  The second man says, “I’m trying to make enough money to pay my bills.”  The third man says, “I’m building a cathedral.”

Stott’s point was that any honest work a Christian does is God’s work.  In God’s kingdom, there is no working class.  The stay at home mom and the truck driver are ministers, just like the pastor and the missionary.

Here’s where Johnny Paycheck and Loverboy come in.  Johnny Paycheck sang a famous song about telling off his boss and Loverboy sang a less famous song about working for the weekend.  Serious Christ-followers do more than work for the weekend and dream about telling off the boss.  Instead, they do their work with the satisfaction of knowing that they are ultimately working for the glory of God and the good of others.

The other day, I had the chance to ask Reggie a few questions about building arms and legs for the glory of God.

You’re in a profession that allows you to serve suffering people. Explain how your job has also been your ministry.

With my career in orthotics and prosthetics the people I encounter every day either have lost a limb or have some bodily deficit requiring a brace. Quite often these people come in very down and feeling hopeless. They are looking for answers.  They are looking for hope. As I work with these patients I try to listen, really listen, pay attention to their fears and problems. During this time I make the leg, arm or whatever brace they may need. This is a way to meet their immediate bodily needs. But very often I encounter people either with no relationship with Christ or a relationship that has suffered due to various reasons. First, I try to show compassion, friendship and let Christ’s love show through me. I share my personal testimony and share the gospel. I have had the opportunity to share the plan of salvation and pray with patients . I have been blessed to be in a position to share the Gospel daily to people who are looking for answers but often times I fail or miss opportunities . I regret these times and strengthen my resolve to do more to share Christ. But I must say that I also meet and work with Christians that show their faith even in tragic times in their life.  These people are truly a blessing to me. I guess to answer the question in a nutshell I try to share the gospel, show Christ’s love and minister to people’s spiritual needs while working on there physical needs.

As the leader in a small business, it must be very difficult to pull away and not let work come before Jesus and your family. Talk about that struggle.

This is something I struggled with for a long time. I convinced myself that I was doing it all for my family. I was being a good provider for my family. But I wasn’t.  I was a absentee husband and father. This caused serious problems at home or at the very least gave a reason for division. I lost my family and I was not there for my wife or kids. This was not the only reason for this happening but it added to the problem. I make a effort every day to keep my priorities Christ then family then work. And I try to tell others of the problems that putting work first can cause.

Talk about the importance of excellence in work. It seems like the worst possible witness for a business leader to proclaim Christ while at the same time providing inadequate service to customers. How important is excellence to your business and how do you pursue it? 

As a Christian I should show Christ in all I do. By doing my best at work this is part of my testimony. If I am spending my time proclaiming Christ but not providing appropriate care my witness is damaged. I try to always be honest with all of my patients and let them know when mistakes happen and always be ready to listen to problems and formulate solutions.

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.  (Ephesians 6:5-8 ESV)

Living Room Fortress

The top three reasons why friendships come to an end are as follows.

1.  Arguing over money

2.  Lack of communication

3.  Building a fort in the other person’s living room without permission

Thankfully, we have Judge Judy to help clear things up.

0:08 – Watch carefully.  This is the last time the defendant will move for the rest of the trial.  And by move, I also mean blink.

0:13 – Did he just say fort?  These girls are going to court on syndicated television over a fort one of them built in the living room?  Did this fort building take place back in the third grade because I don’t know many adults that build forts in the living room.

“What did you do this weekend Ralph?”

“Oh, a little fishing and then I replaced the engine in that ’78 Camaro.  How about you?”

“Built a fort.  In the living room.  And no, I don’t have kids.”

0:22 – Whatever you do, don’t let Judge Judy see you blink.  It makes you look guilty.

0:46 – Two things here.

1.  How on earth did Judge Judy just explain all of that without laughing?

2.  Is there anything that would freak out a single woman with no kids more than coming home late at night and tripping over a “fortress” in the living room?

I’m guessing a court case involving a “fortress” in the living room is going to take quite a while to iron out.  This one may even be moved up to a higher court like Judge Joe Brown.

0:47 – Never mind.

0:56 – I will not blink.  I will not blink.  I will not blink.

1:03 – Yes, Judge Judy, 27-year-olds do know how to turn the light on when they come home.  But shouldn’t other 20 somethings know how to not build fortresses in the living room.  Save it for the backyard.  I’m really sensing some bias here.  I think it’s obvious that Judge Judy probably likes to build a living room fortress from time to time.

1:09 – Not in this country?  What does that mean?

“You may get justice when you trip over a fort in Switzerland but not in this country, missy!”

1:28 – Can’t hold on much longer.  Almost there.  Do.  Not.  Blink.

1:32 – You may have heard about the time when two women stood before King Solomon because they were fighting over a baby.  To solve the dispute the wise king offered to saw the baby in half.  The woman who was truly the mother of the baby went nuts.  Case closed.

If you ever find yourself serving as the judge over some dispute, this is a good example to follow.  But, if for some reason, it just isn’t right you can settle for the second best option.  The Judge Judy option.  Just do random karate moves.  What can they say to that?  Parties are excused.  You may step down.

Maybe somebody is giving you a hard time for trying to express yourself by building forts in their living room in the middle of the night.  Don’t let the haters get you down.  Judge Judy is on your side.  Especially if you never blink in front of her.  Never.

 

Silence Lost: The Trayvon Martin Case

My kids like to talk.  A lot.  I have to be very carful in the way that I correct them when a lot turns into too much.

“Shut up!  You’re driving me nuts” is unacceptable.

Instead, I try to calmly teach my kids that talking too much makes it easier for them to get in trouble.  The more you talk, the more chance you have of saying something hurtful or regrettable.  I get this idea from the Bible.

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.  Proverbs 11:12 (ESV)

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.  Proverbs 17:28 (ESV)

My kids aren’t the only ones that need this lesson.  I need it.  Our country needs it.  Exhibit A is the Trayvon Martin case.

If you’re not familiar with the case, about a month ago, Trayvon Martin, who was black, was shot to death by George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic.  Martin was walking through the gated Florida community that Zimmerman was patrolling as part of his neighborhood watch duties.  For some reason, Zimmerman pursued Martin and called 911 to inform the police.  The police told Zimmerman to stop and let them take over.  Minutes later George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.  Trayvon Martin was unarmed.

That’s all almost anybody knows with certainty.

It seems likely that at some point before the shooting the two men got into a fight with each other but details are still sketchy.

And then there’s the speculation.  There are those who say that Zimmerman attacked Martin for no good reason.  That maybe Zimmerman thought Martin looked guilty simply because of the color of his skin.  This could be true but few know for sure.

There are also those who speculate that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense.  For some reason, Trayvon Martin attacked and Zimmerman countered with lethal force.  Again, this could be true but few know for sure.

Christians have a very important responsibility in situations like these – silence.  I know that sounds terrible.  For generations we’ve been told to speak up and let our voices be heard.  Certainly, there is a place for this but if you don’t know all of the facts and you are driven purely by emotion, you’ll sound like the drunk man singing in the streets as he wonders from bar to bar.  Or even worse, you’ll sound like Geraldo Rivera and Pat Robertson.  Hey, at least they’re letting their voices be heard, right?

As an aid in self-assessment, if you’re arguments begin with, “Well, Rush Limbaugh said” or “Al Sharpton said” you probably could stand to be silent and think things through before you speak.  Remember, even if we manage to win a debate on the Trayvon Martin case, or any other issue for that matter, but those with whom we disagree are left as collateral damage, have we really been faithful in pointing others to Jesus?  No, we’ve just pointed them to our side and what good has that ever done anyone?

We live in an age of instant gratification.  We want our food, movies, music and justice and we want them now.  We’ll wear a bracelet, change our profile pictures and do anything else we can to ensure that justice is served.  Even if we don’t know all of the facts.

The New Testament author James cared about social issues.  He’s the one that called caring for orphans and widows “pure and undefiled” religion (James 1:27).  But one verse before that he said, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).  As we care for others and the many social issues that plague us, we must do so with guarded words.

If we fail in this, James tells us the consequences.  “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire” (James 3:5).  I’m afraid the match has already been lit and thrown on the dry forrest floor.  Hopefully it’s not too late for Christ followers who are, “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19) to put the fire out.

The call for silence is not a call for passivity in the face of injustice.  As you remain silent on this issue and wait with discernment for all of the facts, there are plenty of other social concerns right outside of your door that you can do something about.  Your church could probably stand to be a little more racially integrated so let your voice be heard.  That man at your kids soccer practice that’s a different color than you and has different politics than you probably needs to be shown the love of Christ.  Speak up.  This kind of action is hard.  There’s little fanfare, no celebrity spokesmen and no bracelets.

At the moment, as far as the Trayvon Martin case is concerned, now is the time for silence.  But while followers of Christ silently wait for enough facts to come in we pray loudly for the God of justice to bring healing, peace, wisdom and discernment as only he can.

 

Lessons from The Hunger Games

Last Thursday night I spent an hour or so standing in line with two or three thousand other people waiting to see a midnight showing of The Hunger Games.  Here’s what I learned.

1.  Ask the Right Questions

When you show up for the midnight showing of a new release and there is a line wrapped around the building, be careful what you ask the teenage girl in the ticket booth.

“Yeah, I’m here to see The Hunger Games.  Where do I go?”

“You know that big line of people you just walked through?  Okay, the end of that.”

I’m not sure what I was thinking on this one.  Could this many 14-year-olds be standing in line in the middle of the night dressed like characters from, get this, The Hunger Games, so they could see The Three Stooges?  Next time I’m just walking to the end of the line.  If it’s the wrong one, I’ll live.

2.  People are Still Rich

The economy is bad.  Real bad.  But even still, we all have enough money to see movies.  Some even have enough money to dress like their favorite characters from the movie.  By some, I don’t mean third graders.  No, I’m talking about 20-year-old men and women.  Whose idea was this?  When I was a kid and I saw Return of the Jedi in the theater, it never crossed my mind to dress up like Luke Skywalker or a frozen Han Solo.  I would have been beaten.  But now grown men and women can do this?  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  After all, this is the society where it’s okay to wear your pajamas out in public.

In any event, if you’re out of work, you should seriously think about opening up a movie theater or a costume shop.  You may even want to think about doing both.  You could put the costume shop right next to your theater.  But hurry.  The new Twilight movie is coming out soon and you’ll want to be up and running for all of those movie goers that have the audacity to show up to the cineplex without their white make up and vampire teeth.

3.  Digital is Overrated

We all learned this lesson 30 minutes into the movie when the screen started freezing up like you were trying to watch You Tube videos on your old Texas Instruments computer from back in the day.  You know, the one with the green screen.  The people in the theater with me haven’t been this mad since Futurama got cancelled.  There was almost a riot.  I can’t prove it but I’m pretty sure somebody threw a Geometry book at the screen.

The manager came in and looked like he was about to have a stroke.  You can imagine why.  This was his Super Bowl and it’s like he forgot to reserve the stadium.  He took the time to inform us that he made the switch to digital a few months back and hasn’t had any problems.  Well, until tonight that is.

I can’t help but think back to all of those film strips I had to watch in school.  You know the ones with titles like Blood on the Highway and Puberty: The New You.  At some point the film would always fall off the reel and the teacher would spend the next 15 minutes trying to fix it.  We’ve come a long way since film strips.  Well, maybe not.

4.  Audio Commentary on the Cheap

When movies are released on DVD they always come with special bonus features.  One of those features is usually the director and a few of the actors talking about the movie during the movie.  I never watch these because talking during the movie is annoying, even if the person doing the talking is the one who helped make the movie.

When The Hunger Games comes out on DVD, the studio can save whatever it costs to pay the actors for their commentary and just use the lady that was sitting behind me instead.

“Mmmmm.  He is fine.”

“Why did she just do that?”

“Did you do your homework for tomorrow?”

Talking during a movie is low.  But talking during a movie about things that don’t even pertain to the movie is a new kind of low.

I tried to non-verbally communicate my annoyance to this girl in as kind a way as I knew how.  It didn’t work out so well.  Next time, I’m just throwing a Milk Dud at her.  That’s still non-verbal.

5.  They Left Something Out

Any time a popular book is made into a movie, the following conversation always takes place.

“Oh my gosh.  They left out half the book.”

“Wait, The Lord of the Rings was a book?  When’s the dude going to write another one?”

Okay, maybe not exactly like that but you get my drift.  Half of the people are just along for the ride.  They want to see the movie because that’s where the buzz is.  And then the other half read the book religiously and think they could have written it better.  They even used a red pen to correct mistakes in their copy.  This means that half of the people leave the movie really happy and the other half leave feeling like their favorite cult leader just got busted on fraud charges.

If there’s one overall lesson that my Hunger Games experience has taught me, it’s this.  Netflix has really spoiled me.

 

The Bird or the Carport?

I hate birds.  Snakes once topped my most hated animals list but as of late, they seem to be preoccupied and have left me alone.  But the birds around my house apparently held a convention a month or so ago and decided to move their home office to my house, right above where I park my car.  This means that when I wash my car, it stays clean for a grand total of about 37 minutes.  There’s nothing like a car with a vacuumed interior, shiny tires and bird diarrhea all over the front windshield.

I’ve tried everything to keep these birds away.  I put colorful little plastic cups up where they build their nests but they just build around them.

“Thanks for helping with the curb appeal of our new nest, kind sir.”

I heard somewhere that aluminum foil keeps birds away so I tried that.

“Look Woody, he’s trying the old aluminum foil trick.  What an idiot!  Explain to me again why humans are higher than us on the food chain.”

Now I’m at a crossroads.  Something has to be blown up and there are two options: the birds or my carport.

This week there were numerous reports about Rick Santorum’s pledge to ban pornography if he were elected president.  This claim didn’t really surprise or bother me.  It’s getting late in the election and Santorum is falling behind so the bold claims are to be expected.  What really concerned me was the response many Christians had to this idea.  When The Gospel Coalition reported on the story many of the comments readers left were right in line with Dostoevsky’s famous quote, “Make us your slaves but feed us” by supporting a total federal ban on pornography.

Pornography is a problem.  A big one.  But calling for the federal government to ban it would be akin to blowing up the carport.  Sure, maybe you’ve corrected one problem but you just created a legion more in its place.  For one, what happens once the laws banning pornography have been in place for a while but now there’s a new president and a new congress that decides that your church website is just as equally offensive as pornography?

Stranger things have happened.

Never waste a good crisis.

The church has been down this road before.  In their book When Helping Hurts, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert call the evangelical church’s failure to deal with social problems in the early 1900s the “Great Reversal”.  And it was that failure that opened the door for FDR’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.  If you’re keeping score at home, poverty is winning the war.  It may be halftime, but the United Sates is down by 28 and a few of the coaches have decided to start helping out the other team.

My point is that when the church shirks its God given responsibilities and passes them off to the government bad things happen.  I’m certainly no anarchist but can you think of something that doesn’t involve blowing things up that has been improved because the federal government got involved?  Would we currently be suffering under the welfare state that we have known for so long if there were no “Great Reversal” in the early 1900s?  How much better would our schools be if parents actually had more say than bureaucrats in Washington D.C. about how and where their children are educated?  Has an increase in federal spending power, man power, gun power and search and seizure power done anything to curb our nation’s drug problem?

I wonder if some of us in the church, for all of our talk about the gospel and being gospel-centered, have actually forgotten about the power of the gospel.  Man’s laws can be wonderful for restraining and punishing wicked hearts.  They are terrible at transforming wicked hearts.  Only the gospel can transform.  And as Christians, it is that gospel that we should boldly and lovingly proclaim.  It is that gospel alone that addresses the real problem.  And it is that gospel that some are apparently ashamed of when they expect the federal government to do what only the gospel can.

Saving the Man

Men, it’s hard being a man. On the average day you’ll face a host of obstacles that could compromise your man status. Here’s how to navigate your way through a few of the more difficult threats to your manhood.

1.  Picking up a ping pong ball.

No man can do this and still look legit. Even playing the game of ping pong is pushing it but if you must, you should probably smoke a cigarette and make a Robert De Niro face while you play. Check that. You’ll get lung cancer. Is ping pong really worth it? No. Forget the cigarette. Here’s something better. When the ball inevitably dribbles past you down the hall, rather than chasing after it in that awkward hunched over position, try picking it up with chop sticks. You can tell people it’s part of your training. If you look intense enough while trying to pick up a non food related item with chop sticks, people will always, listen to me – always, think that you are training for something ninja related.

2.  Riding in the side car of a motorcycle.

It’s virtually impossible to not look cool while you’re riding a motorcycle, unless it’s the kind with three wheels.  But if you happen to find yourself in the side car of a motorcycle you’re going to need some help.  I suggest eating a turkey leg.  Eating a turkey leg gives you some major man points all by itself but it also makes you look too busy to fool with driving.  You’ve got people to do that for you.

“Driver, take me to the monster truck show!”

3.  Drinking from a straw.

Never drink from a straw.  What would you think of Doc Holiday if he took a slurp from a straw after he said, “I’m your Huckleberry”?  Nothing.  He would have been shot on sight.  Bam.  No Tombstone movie.  All because of a straw.  Avoid the straw at all costs but if you absolutely have to use one, refrain from talking or even opening your mouth for the rest of the day.  Maybe people will think you had to have your jaw wired shut because of a train accident.  It doesn’t get much more manly than getting your jaw broken in a train wreck.  I know it’s a stretch but hey, you’re the one that wanted to use the straw.

4.  Watching a vampire movie.

If the movie was made before 1990 or if it happens to be in black and white, you’re okay.  But if you find yourself in a situation where you have to watch one of those Twilight movies and you can’t leave the room, you should try to whittle something.  Whittling is one of the most under rated man activities there has ever been.  Plus, 40 years later when your grandkids ask you where you got your sweet walking stick from, you can say, “I crafted it with my own hands while your grandma was watching a movie about pasty faced emo kids fighting over some girl.”

5.  Improper technique at the gym.

I’m sure I’m not the only man that’s suffered from poor form at the gym.

“SIr, are you okay?”

“Yep, just trying to get in some bench pressing.  Bench presses.  Just about to do the bench press.”

“Well sir, why are you laying on your stomach?  On the treadmill?”

This is an easy one to recover from.  Just start holding your shoulder and moving your arm around in circles while wincing.  If you can work in a slight twitch of the face while making reference to your “old football injury” that’ll help too.  Referring to your “old football injury” will get you out of any manhood threatening weight room mishap.

6.  Waiting in line for the midnight showing of The Hunger Games.

No help needed.  There’s absolutely nothing unmanly about this.  If Mr. T were still alive, I’m sure he would be right there with me.  Wait, Mr. T is still alive?  Man, this is going to be a great weekend!

Good luck, men.  See you at the movies!

 

Blame It On Kanye

I grew up in a church context where music and movies were the enemy and the mantra that was used to remind me of their threat seemed simple and harmless.

Garbage in, garbage out.

The idea was that people are like computers.  Whatever you put into a computer is what eventually comes out of the computer.  The conclusion was that if I listen to or watch what the rest of the world was consuming, garbage would come out of me.

Garbage in, garbage out was the basis of many sermons that I heard growing up.  Unfortunately, garbage in, garbage out is the opposite of what Jesus taught.

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”  (Mark 7:14-15 ESV)

Garbage in, garbage out implies that I’m a pretty good person and that I’d be even better if it wasn’t for Kanye West.  Or Waylon Jennings.  Or any other boogeyman.

But Jesus doesn’t let us off that easy.  Instead, he confronts us beneath the surface to the real root of the problem – the heart.

It’s interesting that garbage in, garbage out is almost exclusively directed towards music.  A while back I read an article by a pastor who was criticizing gospel rap music.  The basic point of his critique was that rap music was beyond redemption.  No matter what the message was, the means had already been so corrupted that it should be off limits for all Christians.  And hardly no one failed to notice that this pastor expressed his critiques on the Internet.  You know the Internet right?  The vehicle that, almost right after it went public, began distributing pornography to people all over the world.

I have yet to hear someone use the garbage in, garbage out argument to tell me that I shouldn’t watch The Andy Griffith Show.  But wouldn’t that make sense?  After all, The Andy Griffith Show isn’t a Christian show.  And yet, a simple love song from Paul McCartney or Adele is off limits.  I think I smell a contradiction.

As I write this, I’m listening to Mos Def rapping about his childhood.

Grey heavens! Good grief!
Hungry bellies!
Bright gold on they teeth!

The windows on the Ave look like sad eyes
They fix their sharp gaze on you when you pass by
And if you dare to stand, you can see ’em cry

Every time I hear that song it makes me think about the families we minister to in our local housing authority and how they need the gospel.

The other night during dinner I listened to the song Belief by John Mayer.

Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you’re trying for

I take that to mean that your personal beliefs are okay just as long as you keep them to yourself.  I disagree.  But hearing those words reminds me of the basic worldview of people I hope to reach, people who have given up on any kind of faith in Jesus Christ.

Mos Def and John Mayer aren’t Christians and that’s my point.  Listening to some of their music gets me thinking vertically.  It shows me what I’m dealing with as I try to lead our church to reach the lost.  Their talent helps me to appreciate a majestic God who is the source of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17).

You can lock yourself away from all the music and movies you want but you will still have to deal with your own sick heart.  Sure, there are things we can consume that fuel that sickness and that’s where discernment comes in but as Christians, we are more than consumers.  We are missionaries.  Paul displays a perfect example of this kind of missional discernment in Acts 17 when he uses pagan artists as connecting points with unbelievers.

Last night at my son’s soccer practice I got to spend a lot of time talking to two other dads.  Our point of connection was rooted in paganism.  Sports.  We talked about the time Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan.  We talked about Terrell Owens.  We talked about pagans.  I was thankful that I hadn’t limited myself to only watching Christian athletes in Christian games sponsored by Christian organizations.

“This timeout is brought to you by Test-a-mints.  Test-a-mints: Keep the word on your tongue!”

As Christians, we can do better than blanket rejections of things that aren’t expressly forbidden by Scripture.  Sure, some believers prefer to listen to only Christian music, watch only Christian movies and read only Christian books and that is perfectly acceptable.  Those of us who do not maintain those standards should be careful to respect their boundaries when we are in their company (1 Corinthians 8:12-13) and those who take a more separatist approach must be careful that they are not adding to the gospel or forcing personal convictions on others (Matthew 23).

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
(John 17:15 ESV)

Speaking of Peyton

Peyton Manning is going to be a Bronco.  This is good news for you if you’re a Denver fan.  You probably shouldn’t make any plans that don’t involve a TV for Super Bowl weekend.  This is bad news for you if you don’t really care about Denver but you just laid down $65 for a Denver Broncos Tebow jersey.

I know you’re angry.  You had so much fun watching Tebow’s heroics last year.  You loved seeing the so called experts get proven wrong every single weekend.  You loved the look of astonishment on opposing players faces after they just got beat by a quarterback who completed 37% of his passes.

But those days are gone, at least in Denver, and there’s something important for you to remember, fellow Christians.  Here it is.  Tim Tebow is not a martyr.  Tebow being shipped from Denver to Jacksonville isn’t persecution.  Okay, maybe it is.  Let me try that again.  Tebow being shipped to Miami isn’t persecution.  Just remember that before you put up your billboard comparing John Elway to the Antichrist.

If anyone is persecuted in all of this it’s got to be the other Manning brother.  No, not Eli.  The other one.  Cooper, I think is his name.  Between the two of them, Peyton and Eli have three Super Bowl rings.  I have no idea what Cooper does for a living but he doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring.  How does this not factor into the conversation at the table on Thanksgiving?

“Cooper, did you get to hold Eli’s ring?”

“Cooper, I’m sure Peyton will sign your napkin for you if you ask nicely.”

“Oh, Cooper.  Where did we go wrong with you?”

So in short, Tim Tebow is going to be just fine.  Cooper is the one you should probably be concerned about.  Nobody wants to be the Art Garfunkel or fifth Beatle of his own family and for Cooper, that just might be the case.

But if you’re still worried about what to do with your old Tebow jersey just keep it.  It’ll remind you of the good old days.

And I hear you can get a Jacksonville Jaguars jersey at a real nice price.