2012: The Best in Music

I believe it was J.S. Bach who once said, “Any music that you can get for free on the Internet is terrible.”

Boy was he off.

10.  Kopecky Family Band – The Disaster (Of Epic Proportions)

The title is very misleading.

9.  Propaganda – Excellent

This title is not misleading.

Precious Puritans may be one of the most important and controversial songs written to the Church since Derek Webb’s Wedding Dress.

8.  Beautiful Eulogy – Satellite Kite

Beautiful is a good word to describe this release that’s made up of thought provoking lyrics and quality hip-hop beats.

7.  Dwight Yoakam – Three Pairs

Classic Dwight.  The twang is back!

6.  The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

For my money, the Avett’s are better than the Mumford’s and the albums that both groups released this year goes to further prove my point.

5.  Andrew Peterson – Light for the Lost Boy

Andrew Peterson could be the most talented song writer in the history of Christian music.  Even if his style is not your particular cup of tea, you should do your soul a favor and check him out.  Light for the Lost Boy is as good a place as any to start.

4.  Derek Minor – PSA Volume 3: Who Is Derek Minor

Derek Minor has the rare ability of taking deep theological truths and applying them to everyday life.

3.  Lecrae – Gravity

Jay Z and Kanye sell way more albums than Lecrae and they make a whole lot more money but the masses usually aren’t right.  McDonald’s has served billions and billions but Bonefish clearly has the better product.  Even if a lot of the hip-hop world has never heard of him, Lecrae is the best thing going today.  Gravity is no exception.

2.  John Mayer – Born and Raised

Although this was a major release it received almost no publicity because of Mayer’s severe throat troubles that prevented him from singing in any kind of a support tour.  Even in the era of auto tune and pre-fabricated pop, good music still speaks for itself.

1.  Matthew Perryman Jones – Land of the Living

Matthew Perryman Jones made a big splash this year by releasing this album for free on Noise Trade.  Each song is perfectly crafted with thoughtful lyrics and an original sound.  Jones is among the most talented all around musicians, not just in Christian music but in any genre.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!  See you in 2013.

 

Apocalypse Tomorrow

In case you haven’t heard, somewhere back in history, Maya Angelou wrote a poem about life on our planet coming to an end on December 21, 2012 and put it in a calendar.

The following is a message to the people that will wipe us out in a few hours.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012, 9:30 p.m.

Congratulations on the victory and welcome to the planet!

Before everything came crashing down, I wanted to take the time to type out a few things that I thought you would find beneficial as you learn your way around our old place.  I hope this helps.

I have no idea what planet you’re from but I’m guessing that you’re going to need to eat.  Your best bet is a place called the Golden Corral.  In Georgia, the state where I used to live before you vaporized us, there’s one of these on about every third interstate exit.  Hopefully you left some of them standing but even if you didn’t, the food should still be just fine.

One time, in the third grade, I took home a piece of chicken from the all you can eat buffet at the Golden Corral.  I still have that piece of chicken and it looks exactly the same.  I’m sure that it’s still around my house somewhere.  Help yourself, if you can find it amidst all the rubble.  But you really should do all that you can to get to the actual restaurant because they have one of these.

I know that the sign on the sneeze guard says not to put your hand in the fountain but my friend Shane did it all the time and nobody ever said anything to him.  And besides, you just conquered our planet so you get to do pretty much whatever you want.  Heck, you could even go there in your pajamas if you wanted.  Come to think of it, before y’all attacked us, pretty much everybody that ate at the Golden Corral showed up in their pajamas so things might not be all that different in that regard.

You also need to know that Christmas is just a few days from now.  It would have been nice of you to wait until after this holiday to do us in but I guess that it’s too late to argue about that now.  Anyway, music is a huge part of the Christmas celebration and it’s important that you find the right kind.  Nothing ruins the Christmas season like happy people singing on key and in harmony with each other.  So instead, may I suggest this?

These two ladies were a big sensation on our planet before you guys came.  I’m talking about the biggest thing going.  It brings a tear to my eye as I think back on all the times when my family and I would gather around the fireplace with our hot cocoa and sweaters just to listen to this little ditty.  Hours of Christmas fun!

Well, I hope this helps you to get the most out of our planet.  I hate that things had to end this way.  It would have been nice if we could have gotten to know each other before the attack.

I always knew that not paying any attention to Maya Angelou would come back to haunt me.

The World They Will Inherit

I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about the country that my kids will grow up in.

It’s depressing.

They are living under a government that seems more concerned with expanding its own power than protecting the freedoms of its citizens.

And many of those citizens seem all too eager to hand their freedoms over, just so long as it doesn’t involve a press conference that interrupts American Idol.

The situation is grave now and it scares me to think about what it will look like in ten or twenty years.

As usual, my wife gave me a couple of shots of perspective.

One was from Jerry Bridges’ book Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts.  Jerry writes, “we should take more seriously our responsibility to pray for the leaders of our government that they will make wise decisions.  Although we may suspect that some of the more disastrous decisions are evidence of God’s judgement, we do not know that.  We do know God has instructed us to pray for leaders.  Our duty, then, is to pray for wise decisions, but to trust when foolish and harmful decisions are made.”

Our government has a bad history with foolish and harmful decisions.  I’m reminded of it every day when I read the news and listen to the radio.  But what my wife showed me when she shared that quote with me is that Jesus Christ is still supreme.  Bad decisions and corrupt governments are nothing new to him.  With every government abuse, Jesus is still holding all things together (Colossians 1:17).  His sovereignty is not thwarted by bad government.

And then my wife pointed me to the words of Jesus himself.

“And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved.  But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”  Matthew 24:22

At first, that doesn’t seem too encouraging.  But a closer look proves helpful.  Jesus is saying, “Dark days are ahead.  Really dark.  But I have a covenant with my people and I will keep it.  They will be protected.”

It seems so simple to write this.  Almost like a bumper sticker or something on a church sign.  But it is still true.  And it’s what I need to hear every day.  I can’t trust my government to protect my freedoms but I can trust my Savior to protect my soul.  In him, my election is sure.  There is an end to these dark days.  A better one awaits.  One with no tears, death or corruption (Revelation 21:4).

I’m not even 40-years-old yet but I already find myself thinking back to the good old days.  Days when there was no corruption and we could all trust each other.  But the good old days are a myth.  They ended the moment when Adam and Eve disobeyed.

In her own way, my wife helped me to look in the right direction.

Instead of looking back, Christians should look ahead to a home where there is no corruption (Revelation 21:27).

This does not mean that we should keep our heads in the sand or misunderstand Romans 13 by turning a blind eye while our leaders disregard the laws of our nation.

It does mean that as we expose lies and fight for truth, we do so with the knowledge that this world, in its current state, is not our ultimate home.

So instead of worrying about the world that my kids will grow up in I’m trying a new approach.

I’m training them up and preparing them for the perfect world that they will one day inherit by grace and through faith in a righteous King – the Man Jesus Christ.

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  Revelation 21:22 (ESV)

Satan’s Favorite Sport

I thought that I was the coolest kid in the entire neighborhood.

It turns out that sometimes there can be a pretty big gap between what you think and reality.

It was Christmas morning and I had just opened up the three best presents I had ever been given.  The first was a blue jean jacket.  If you’re unfamiliar with the blue jean jacket, imagine that a pair of blue jeans and a shirt had a kid.  The second gift was a Sit ‘N Skate.  There’s a real good chance that you have no idea what that is.  It’s a seat with a handlebar attached to it and skate board wheels on the bottom.  It sits about three inches off the ground and you make it go by putting your feet on the handlebars and moving them side to side.  The third gift was George Thorogood & The Destroyers’ Bad to the Bone on cassette.  No explanation needed for that one.

I spent the entire day Sit ‘N Skate’n through my neighborhood with my blue jean jacket while listening to Bad to the Bone.  If I could’ve somehow convinced my friends to buy blue jean jackets and Sit ‘N Skates, we would have made a pretty good gang.

That never worked out.

Like I said, I wasn’t quite as cool as I thought I was.

This year marked my fourth year as a pastor and, by far, the one thing that has baffled me the most is the amount of good, moral people who claim to love Jesus and even try to raise their kids in accordance to what he taught but who have no regard at all for his Church.  They claim to belong to Jesus but have no interest in belonging to the people for whom he died.

They act as if Jesus said, “Be a good person and maybe just a few times a year, try to go to whatever church you can find, listen to The Fish and then I will make you fishers of men.  Just you and me, buddy!”

These people aren’t quite as Christian as they think they are.

Sometimes I think that Satan’s favorite sport is baseball just because of the amount of families that sacrifice their kids to the recreational gods at the expense of any commitment to the local church.

Hunting is even worse.  It grieves me to see a woman dragging her kids to church without her husband because it’s hunting season.

Every year, hunting and baseball seasons seem to get longer and longer.

Of course, the problem is not with baseball or hunting.  Those are both good things that can be used to glorify God and strengthen families.  But the Bible and experience has shown us that Satan is the master of using good things to achieve an evil end.

Those three gifts of mine, the ones that I thought made me so cool, are now lost.

I’m afraid that the same may be true of all the people here in the Bible Belt who have convinced themselves that they are more Christian than they really are.

The Southern Lexicon 4.0: Holiday Edition

This Christmas, your in-laws from Hoochalassee, Alabama will be staying at your house for a few days.  It’s very important that you know what they are saying.

This should help.

1.  Kruh-smuss – Christmas

In The Southern Lexicon, this word not only refers to the holiday itself but also to the gifts and activities that come along with the holiday.

The Holiday: “Murry Kruh-smus, y’all!”

The Gifts That Come Along With The Holiday: “Dakota, come in here an’ open up yur Kruh-smus.”

The Activities That Come Along With The Holiday: “Where we gone do Kruh-smuss this year since Lonnie and Loretta lost they trailer?”

For any kid that gets a gift between November 26 and December 25, the entire holiday season is over.

“Dead-ee, thanks fur gettin’ me dat Taylor Swift poster.”

“Sho ’nuff, Dakota but that’s yur Kruh-smuss.”

2.  Munny – Money

“Them folks down the road ain’t got no munny.  Somebody needs to get them babies some Kruh-smuss.”

3.  Toe-d – Told

“Loretta, open up yo present.”

“Oh, it’s a framed picture of Dale Sr. and Elvis with angels wangs.  I love it!  But I thought I toe-d you not to get me no Kruh-smuss.”

4.  Blow-d – Blew (up)

“Lonnie, be careful fryin’ dat turkey.  Last year you purt near blow-d up da whole house.”

5.  Fit-n-ta – Fixing to; About to

“Loretta, I’m fit-n-ta blow-d you up if’n you don’t leave me alone!”

6.  May-sh-d – An option for the preparation of potatoes; what you do to your finger

The Preparation of Potatoes: “Mamma, them’s some good may-sh-d taters.”

What You Do To Your Finger: “One year Lonnie may-sh-d his fanger real good takin’ down Kruh-smuss lights so now we just keep ’em up year ’round.  It’s say-fer.”

Combo: “Lonnie!  Git yer naystee may-sh-d fanger out da may-sh-d taters!  Why can’t we do Kruh-smuss right?  Ever year it’s dis a way.”

 

The Southern Lexicon 4.0: Holiday Edition is sure to help this Christmas to be a little easier for you and yours.  Oh, and look on the bright side.  Next year, you get to go to Hoochalassee, Alabama.

SNL Gets It Right

It was a very difficult weekend in our nation.

This week there will be a lot of people talking about new gun control laws and free mental health.  If history is any indicator, the grieving is over.  Now it’s time for people to start forcefully and loudly promoting their agenda.

But Saturday night, just for a minute and a half, it almost seemed like we were all on the same team.  Saturday night, as is often the case in the wake of a tragedy, as we grieved we got to see the glory of God in an unfamiliar place.

At the beginning of an iconic television show, a lot of Americans were reminded of the powerful, old story about a King that was born of a virgin.

May God use his Church to tell the world that the Holy Infant left the manger and began on a path that led him directly to the cross where he would conquer sin and death.

Good Reads: The 2012 Edition

Here are the best books that I read in 2012.

11.  The Transforming Power of the Gospel, Jerry Bridges

There have been a lot of books released lately with the word gospel in the title.  This is the best of them all.

“The transformation into the image of Jesus is much more than a change of outward conduct; rather, it is a deep penetrating work of the Holy Spirit in the very core of our being, what the Bible calls the heart – the center of our intellect, affections, and will.  It is what is sometimes called “a change from the inside out.”

10.  The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins

This was a very thoughtful and well-written story that was meant to show the impact of war on children.  The most disturbing part of Collins’ account of a dystopian future is the many similarities to the present.

9.  In the Line of Fire, Jerry Weissman

This is a must read if you do any kind of regular public speaking.  Weissman does an excellent job of breaking down presidential debates to show what worked, what didn’t, why and how it can apply to your situation.

“George H. Bush’s fumbled answer, which set in motion an avalanche that brought down the house of the 41st Presidency, was a classic example of the critical blunder: ‘Ready, Fire, Aim!’  He pulled the trigger before he had the target in his sights.”

8.  Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You, Lewis Grizzard

A classic from one of my favorite authors.

“I deal in cash.  Credit cards are financial heroin.”

“Baseball is the only sport where three-fourths of the game is a time out.”

“Atlanta is a sports cancer patient that just got the word its head cold is clearing up.”

“One time I said to him, ‘I wish you wouldn’t sing so loud.  It’s embarrassing.’  He said to me, ‘Son, it’s embarrassing when you don’t sing along with me.'”

7.  The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller

I can’t prove it but I’m pretty sure that Tim Keller wrote The Matrix.  And all of Shakespeare’s stuff too.

“The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes.  It just works.  It does not draw attention to itself.  The toes just work; the ego just works.  Neither draws attention to itself.”

6.  Father Hunger, Douglas Wilson

Everyone needs to read at least one Douglas Wilson book every year.  This one is a good place to start.  It addresses the plague of fatherlessness in our country today and highlights  how it has left a negative impact in some unexpected places, like the economy.  One problem that Wilson notes is fathers who are present but just haven’t grown up yet.

“In their families, men are much more important, crucial, and influential than they believe themselves to be.  It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to grow up, get married, have kids, and still think of himself the way he did when he was a boy.”

5.  Praying Backwards, Bryan Chapell

This is a very accessible and encouraging reminder on the importance of praying biblically.

“Yet if the attitude undergirding every prayer is for the name of our God to be glorified, we need not doubt that he will answer according to his perfect will.”

4.  Mud, Sweat and Tears, Bear Grylls

Get outside and do something difficult and worthwhile that makes you dirty and could get you injured.  When possible, take your kids with you.  If they can’t come, take a friend.

“You don’t have to be strong all the time.  That was a big lesson to learn.  When we show chinks it creates bonds, and where there are bonds there is strength.  This is really the heart of why I still climb and expedition today.  Simple ties are hard to break.  That is what Everest really taught me.”

“I guess most people don’t like to trailblaze.”

“Dreams, though, are cheap, and the real task comes when you start putting in place the steps needed to make those dreams a reality.”

“I have never minded risking failure, because I was never punished for failing.”

3.  Government Bullies, Rand Paul

This is the scariest book I’ve ever read.  Sadly, it’s all true stories.  Every person who cares about our ever-eroding freedom in this country needs to read this book.

“Robbie Wrigley and her father, Robert Lucas, were wrongfully prosecuted in precisely the tyrannical manner the Founding Fathers once feared our federal government could become capable of.”

“The Corps ordered Van Leuzen to create and publicly display a ten-by-twenty-foot billboard carrying a message of apology to his government.  Aside form attempting to publicly shame him, the Corps fined Mr. Van Leuzen $350 per month for twelve years, required him to dig a two-foot-deep moat around his home, and ordered him to restore his land to its ‘original wetland’ state.  Yet since this land was never truly a wetland, Van Leuzen was forced to ‘restore’ his land and ‘re-create’ a wetland that had never really existed.  This process made for an incredible expenditure that he could not afford.  Then, after the ‘restored wetland’ had been intact for eight years, Van Leuzen was forced to evacuate his house.”

2.  True Community, Jerry Bridges

This is a deep, yet readable explanation of the importance of Christians living in community with one another.

“It is not the fact that we are united in common goals or purposes that makes us a community.  Rather, it is the fact that we share a common life in Christ.”

1.  Artificial Maturity, Tim Elmore

If you parent, teach or employ teens or young adults, this book is worth your time.  In Generation iY, Elmore did an excellent job of helping us to understand this generation.  In Artificial Maturity he explains the type of leadership that this generation needs.

“Many adults have done more protecting than parenting.”

“Educators and social scientists are mourning today’s generation of kids who have postponed growing up.  They lament students’ delayed entrance into adulthood.  Adolescence, in fact, has been prolonged among millions of teens and young adults.  I have lost count of the number of university deans who’ve told me:  ‘Twenty-six is the new eighteen.’  In a nationwide survey, young adults agree.  When asked what marks the beginning of adult responsibility, their number one response was ‘having my first child.’  Interesting.  The average age that Americans have their first child is twenty-seven-and-a-half years old.  The MacArthur Foundation suggests that adolescence doesn’t end until age thirty-four.  Employers, coaches, teachers and parents are ‘hunting’ for an elusive maturity that, frankly, is hard to find.  And what’s scarce is valuable.  No doubt about it, there’s a rush on.”

The Self-Righteous Trap

As soon as I swung, it seemed like his whole face was covered in blood.

I think I cried louder than he did.

We were playing with one of those balls you get at the dollar store.  You know the type.  They’re about the size of a soccer ball but they weigh somewhere around 0.389 ounces.  If you plan on doing anything more than rolling the ball across the floor, you’re in bad luck. Playing with it outside is out of the question because the slightest breeze always sends the ball soaring to the house at the end of the street with the pit bull.

So you can imagine our frustrations when my friend at daycare was trying to pitch the ball to me so that I could hit it with a big tree limb.  Oh, to be five again.

I kept telling him to come closer so that I would have a chance to hit the ball.

He did come closer.  And that’s when I saw the red all over his face.

In trying to fix one problem we walked right into another one.  Well, I guess I should say that he walked in to it.  Zachary, If you’re reading this, I’m sorry.  I hope that the headaches have stopped.

Self-righteousness works the same way.  If we’re not careful, our best escape attempt could land us right in the thick of it.

We all know the obvious form of self-righteousness to avoid.

“I have never had a drop of alcohol, I quit watching TV when Touched by an Angel went off the air and I have the entire New Testament memorized.”

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that kind of a lifestyle.  The self-righteousness comes into play when we start to think that living this way makes us right with God.  Things get really bad when we think that the people who don’t live this way are set to board the next train to hell.

This is classic self-righteousness.  We’ve seen it in others a lot and yes, we’ve even been guilty of it ourselves.  We know what to look for and what to avoid.

And it’s here where the trap is set.  It’s here that we can become so unself-righteous that we become, well, self-righteous.

Here’s how it works.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes and we all know that I still do.  I’m not some perfect Christian.”

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with this.  We’ve all made mistakes and we will continue to until Christ returns.  Nobody is perfect.

The problem comes when this becomes a crutch for me and I convince myself that my imperfections are just my way of keeping it real.  At least I’m not like that self-righteous guy at church that has half the Bible memorized.

Both types of self-righteousness arrive at the same destination by different routes.

Traditional self-righteousness is fueled by pride.

“Hey, everybody!  I just finished reading through my Bible in a month.  God must be so proud.”

The more subtle version of self-righteousness is fueled by false humility.

“Well, you know me.  Just a rotten old sinner.”

But they both come together in a temple with a Pharisee that said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11).

Any time we compare our righteousness to another’s we are missing the gospel and falling victim to some version of self-righteousness.  There is only one that we must compare our righteousness to and we always fall woefully short (Romans 3:23).  But, in his grace, he will not leave us to wallow in our false humility.

Instead, In exchange for our righteousness, he gives us his.

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

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich

Jesus died for rich people.

I’m not just talking about the rich people like us that enjoy a much better standard of living than 98% of the world.  I’m talking about the really rich people.  The people that pay a million dollars for a car, have a third home in the Swiss Alps and employ people to help them figure out what to do with all of their extra money.

And I’m not just talking about the noble rich.  Jesus also died for the rich people who really get a kick out of shutting down a factory a week before Christmas.  He died for the people who got wealthy by oppressing the poor.

Hating the rich has become quite the political movement in our culture.  Bill Maher famously compared the super rich to a pinata who needed their wealth beaten out of them.  For the record, Bill Maher is super rich.

Some in the church have taken this same attitude, cleaned it up and made it their own by telling us that Jesus came to earth for the poor.  While they are correct, the implication many times is that he didn’t come for those evil fat cats who use 100 dollar bills for napkins.

I took a class in seminary called Ministry Evangelism.  My professor, Dr. Walker, was the perfect man to teach this class.  He had pastored a strong inner-city church for several years and his heart for the poor was very much evident in his life and lectures.  Dr. Walker did an excellent job of showing us the importance of moving towards physical needs as a means of addressing spiritual ones.

“But,” I asked in class one day, “what if I end up being a pastor in a wealthy area?  What if I land in a city where there are no homeless people and everyone is doing just fine?”

Dr. Walker’s answer has been etched in my brain since the day I asked that question.

“Rich people get divorces too.”

His point was clear.  No amount of money can protect you from heartache.

Just ask Jairus.

His twelve-year-old daughter was dying.  When he saw Jesus, he risked everything by falling at the Lord’s feet and asking him to help his daughter.

“Come and lay your hands on her so that she may be made well and live” (Mark 5:23).

Jesus didn’t say, “Leave me alone, one-percenter!”

He went with him.

On his way, Jesus ran into a woman who had been sick for twelve years.  Her sickness drained her finances and left her as a social outcast.  She thought that just touching Jesus’ robe would heal her.

She was right.

But Jesus wouldn’t leave it at that.  He could have kept going but he stopped to talk to her.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34).

This woman was healed of her physical and spiritual sickness but not because she was poor. She was healed by grace through faith.  She woke up that morning as a sick outcast.  She would fall asleep that night as a healed daughter of the King of the universe.

But Jairus was still waiting.

Before Jesus was done speaking to the poor, sick lady, Jairus’ daughter had already died.

Friends told Jairus to leave the Teacher alone.  There was nothing anyone could do.  It was too late.

Jesus disagreed.

“Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36).

Just a little while later Jairus’ daughter would hear an unfamiliar voice say, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41).

She obeyed.  Even death obeys the Master.  It had to let her go at the Lord’s command.

We miss the point of Jesus and his ministry if we think that he only came for one particular tax bracket.  Mark 5 reminds us that he came for people from all backgrounds and persuasions.  And it also reminds us that social standing and financial security can only do so much.  Your money can’t bring your daughter back from the grave.

Only Jesus can do that.

Learning How To Stand Up

Both of my sons came out of the womb with a strong desire to disobey.  It turns out that they are a lot more like their father than I first thought.

When my first son was learning how to stand up he would pull up on our furniture.  Watching him slide over to the couch, reach his hands up and pull himself up made me and my wife smile.  But when he slid over to the TV, reached his hands up and pulled himself up it made us panic.

At the time, our TV was the heavy, non-flat screen variety and it wasn’t on the most stable piece of furniture.  So we made a rule.  Our baby boy, the one who made us so proud by pulling himself up, wasn’t allowed to touch the TV.  From then on, it seemed like all we ever did was tell him to stay away from the TV and all he ever did was try to get as close as he could.

It was a vicious cycle.

Toddler pulls up on TV.

Parent corrects toddler.

Toddler cries.

Repeat.

I was responsible for 90% of the crying my son did in those days.  It made me feel terrible.  Like he was going to grow up hating me.  But I kept reminding myself to think long term.  He was learning something even more important than how to stand up.  Someday, we would all be better off for those hard lessons he was learning.

Someday came last night.

My son’s regular karate instructor wasn’t able to make it to class so he made arrangements for a replacement.  The replacement instructor began class with a few basic stretches before things got weird.

He had the kids get down on their knees and close their eyes so that they could “empty their minds.”  After that, he quickly taught a few strange principles and had the students repeat them after him.  It turns out that our replacement instructor was a Taoist and he seemed determined to share that Taoism with the kids he was teaching.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Up until this point, all my son had ever learned from his original instructor was how to block, punch and remove a man’s heart with his bare hands.  I made that last part up.  The bare-handed heart removal technique doesn’t come until next year.

But now some guy I had never seen before was pushing a philosophy on my son that was directly opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The parenting books I read before my son was born never said anything about this.

Obeying the instructor is a key component of any martial arts class.  In this particular class, the instructor really wanted to make sure that the students were listening.  And obeying.

“Do jumping jacks!”

“Stop.  Now do push ups!”

“Sit ups!”

“Punch!”

And every kid in the class obeyed.

When class was winding down, the instructor gave a final command to the students.

He told them to bow down on their knees and close their eyes, just like he was doing.  As soon as the command was given I broke the silence of the studio by calling out my son’s name.

He turned back to look at me.

I pointed at him and then motioned for him to come to me.

He obeyed instantly, running to me without hesitation.

While the rest of the class was emptying their minds, we were walking out the door.

It was then that I realized that this was the first of many contradictory voices my son will hear in his lifetime and it’s my job to teach him which one to listen to.

I didn’t sign my son up for karate because I wanted him to be a professional fighter.  I signed him up because I thought that the discipline would help him to develop the confidence to stand up for himself.

Last night I saw that my son has already learned how to stand up.

Even when everyone else is kneeling.

I’ve never been more proud.