The Scariest Places On Earth

The scariest places are always the ones that you least expect.

I was watching Headline News. It wasn’t by choice. That was all that was playing in the room where I was waiting while people worked on my car. Isn’t there a law somewhere that says that all mechanics have to play monster truck videos and clips of old wrestling matches in their waiting room? I’m not one for new laws but we’ve got to get this one on the books.

There were all of the typical HLN stories. Dr. Drew and Nancy Grace were talking about some celebrity court case we’re all supposed to be worried about. Those two ladies from Saturday Night Live won’t be hosting the Golden Globes after next year. And then, as if they pulled it out of a box that read News Stories That Must Be Shown Every Year At Halloween, we got to see the 13 scariest places in the country.

One place was, you guessed it, a former insane asylum. Another one was a place where tuberculosis patients were treated back in the 1800s. In each location we were shown images of people walking up creaking stairs. There were even two ladies walking around with, get this, ghost detectors. Ghost detectors! How exactly does one get in on the business of selling ghost detectors? My guess is that the inventor of the pet rock had something to do with it.

Here’s the thing about places that are supposed to be really scary. They never really are. In real life, the scary stuff is usually in the least expected places. Right under your nose.

It can be in a home where kids are given the freedom to roam about as they please. At a young age, the parents think that this is cute. As the children grow, their lack of discipline becomes more frustrating. By the time the teenage and young adult years come around the child, and I use that word purposefully, is a monster. The fact that disengaged parents would expect anything different from their offspring is truly frightening.

And consider the church. I’ve spent most of my life in church buildings. Sometimes, I’ve been in them late at night or early in the morning when all of the lights were out. I never saw a ghost but of course I didn’t have my ghost detector with me so that could have something to do with it. The scary things I’ve seen in churches haven’t been in grave yards or dark, empty buildings. They have been in business meetings where pastors and members act more like the church belongs to them than to Jesus. I’ve left churches frightened after sitting through sermons where the good news of salvation from sin was replaced with the just sort of okay news of how to take your awesomeness to the next level with the world’s greatest life coach, Jesus.

The frightening images aren’t confined to the walls of a house or a church building. You can see them out in the open too. Like when people sit by apathetically while injustice, crime and corruption grows. Zombies aren’t just the stuff of television and movies. They’re real people who only care about others when caring comes with the promise of another feeding.

If you haven’t already, you’ll probably end up watching a horror movie or going to a haunted house before Halloween is over. Have a good time. But just know this. If you really want to be scared, all you have to do is take a look around you.

Dads Ain’t So Bad

I was looking for the kid who was all alone. The one with no hand to hold. The one who, when he looked up, saw no one. I was going to be there for him. At least for that day, he was going to be my son.

But I never found that kid.

My son’s class was on a field trip. This was a different kind of field trip. It was one where dads were supposed to come. There was going to be fishing, hiking and learning about wild animals. It was going to be the kind of stuff kids are supposed to do with their dads. The kind of stuff that scared me to death when I was a kid.

I grew up on Creekwood Drive in a home that was led by a single mother. It was the same situation in the house just across from us on Creekwood Drive. And the house next to that one. And several more on that street. I once heard someone call Creekwood Drive Divorce Court.

There weren’t a whole lot of father and son field trips on that street.

So when I showed up with my own son for his field trip, I thought about those days on Creekwood Drive. That’s why I was looking for the kid who didn’t have a dad around. In a way, it was like I was looking for a younger version of myself. But like I said, I never found that kid.

That’s because his dad was with him.

A man was giving us instructions for fishing. He was telling us the boundaries we should stay in and he was making sure that we all had a pole and some bait. When he was done talking, every kid headed for the shore with a fishing pole, a bucket of bait and a father.

When we were done, the man who gave us the instructions was confused. He told one of the teachers that he and his staff usually have to spend the whole time helping kids fish. But not this time. That’s because every kid had a father there with him. So, with nothing else to do, the man just went fishing with all the rest of us.

When we were all done, I spoke to my kid’s teacher. I wanted to know if this kind of thing was normal. Did they always have so many dads show up for field trips? The teacher wasn’t nearly as amazed as I was. That’s because this kind of thing really was normal.

The next day, my son had a soccer game. I was busy coaching my other son so I got to the game just before the scheduled start time. I noticed something was wrong. I didn’t see any colors other than the maroon jerseys of my son’s team. The other team didn’t show up.

My son’s coach made the long walk across the field to give us the news. I was expecting a see you next week, thanks for coming out anyway speech. Instead, he had an idea for another game.

“If any of you dads would like to play, the boys are up for a challenge.”

So we spent the next hour playing our sons in soccer.

One dad was wearing flip flops. One dad looked like he belonged on the Brazilian National Team. One dad looked more like he belonged on the Brazilian National Spelling Bee Team. That one was me. But we all played. And we all had fun.

The dads played hard. The kids played even harder. The moms took pictures from the sidelines. The older brothers and sisters cheered and tried not to make fun of that guy from the Brazilian National Spelling Bee Team.

There are a lot of deadbeat dads around. But, for one weekend, I didn’t see any of that. Instead, I saw a bunch of dads who took off of work and missed out on a few hours of sleep to make it to a field trip. And I saw dads who were willing to get hot, sweaty, and maybe even look a little foolish just so their son could play a soccer game.

The media doesn’t paint fathers in a very good light. Homer Simpson is probably our best representative. We are usually seen as indecisive slobs who are growing up slower than our own children.

I didn’t see any of that last weekend. I just saw dads being dads. None of us are perfect. But we were there. And that’s a big part of what it means to be a dad. Just being there. Engaged. Sacrificing. Loving. Fishing. Running.

I started my weekend off by looking for a nervous kid who was all alone.

I’m so glad that my search came up empty.

Maybe, just maybe, that kid isn’t as easy to find as the one who lived on Creekwood Drive.

The Monday Morning Quarterback


As a pastor, there’s nothing like having to compete with a big game between two highly skilled teams that happen to be playing just as church starts. I’d like to begin this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback with a word of thanks to the NFL for making sure that two highly skilled teams were not playing Sunday morning at 9:30 EST. Instead, it was just the Falcons and the Lions. We had one of our larger crowds at church yesterday morning.

By the way, the NFL is scheduling games in London each year to try and introduce the sport to an international market and get new fans. So which genius in the NFL front office decided to use the Falcons and the Lions to represent their product? It’s sort of like trying to introduce someone to country music by giving them a Rascal Flatts cassette.

The Pittsburgh Steeler’s throwback uniforms are officially uglier than any other uniform in the history of mankind. Losing to the Steelers while they are wearing those uniforms is more embarrassing than getting pulled over and ticketed by a police officer on one of those Segway Scooters. The Colts lost to the Steelers while the Steelers were wearing those uniforms on Sunday. The Colts should just stop having a football team until they can talk Mr. Manning into coming back.

College Football

Let’s stop kidding ourselves and go ahead and make the college football playoffs as they should be. We could call it the Superior Entertainment Championship or SEC for short. Here’s how it would work. At the end of each season, you take the top three teams from the SEC West and the top team from the SEC East, make them play a couple of games and the last team standing is the winner. Just to keep everyone involved, the winner of the Big Ten would get to play Vanderbilt in the Outback Bowl every year.

One of the big problems in college football is that too many fans think that their team is better than it actually is. Here’s a quick test that I developed to help you to see if your team is bad.

1. Is the television play-by-play for your favorite team done by that same lady who does play-by-play for women’s volleyball?

2. Do the play-by-play announcers for your favorite team routinely start rambling on and on about their kids about midway through the second quarter?

3. Is your team a part of the ACC?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, your team is bad and should be forced to wear the Pittsburgh Steelers’ ugly uniforms.

Quick Hits

Somewhere in America, a man who looks just like Super Creepy Rob Lowe can no longer watch football games in public.

Georgia 24, Florida 14.

Until next week, happy footballing!


A Few Quick Thoughts On Ebola

1. With the virus now hitting New York City, here comes the part where we are constantly told that, “New Yorkers are tough” and that whoever happens to be the mayor at the moment is “America’s mayor.”

When the virus lands in Dump Truck City, Mississippi, the media will insinuate that it’s because everyone down south only knows how to breathe through their mouth. The mayor of Dump Truck City will have to keep his day job, driving a dump truck of course.

2. The infected New York City doctor had just returned from taking some time away from the office, under his own free will, to treat African Ebola patients. Last night someone on Fox News called him, “selfish.”

Exactly! Nothing could be more selfish than sacrificing your time, and perhaps your life, to treat dying people. Wouldn’t we all be much better off if this doctor had simply stayed home and taken selfies all day. Now that’s good old fashioned American sacrifice.

In a world where self is king, selfless acts are considered acts of terrorism.

3. The chances of you getting negatively impacted from Ebola are about the same as the chances you have of getting hit by lightning. The chances of your Constitutional rights being negatively impacted because someone in D.C. decides that it would be a good idea to create a national health swat team are about the same as the chances of the sun coming up tomorrow. Remember, in politics, sometimes the solution is worse than the problem.

4. Moments like these where the government can’t seem to get out of it’s own way give us good opportunities for reflection. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders not because it is the nice thing to do but because they are often blinded by incompetence, corruption or some combination of the two. So pray for your leaders. This is also a good time to remember that government, while very much necessary and beneficial when functioning properly, makes a terrible god.

5. But there is a real God and, no matter how bad things get, he is always good and always in control.

Have a great weekend!

Nine Things That Will Never Happen To You

You could get cancer.

You could get Ebola.

You could get into a car wreck tomorrow afternoon.

A representative from ISIS could remove your head from your body.

Happy Thursday!

There are a few ways to respond to such possibilities. One is the Happy Thursday Approach. This is the favored approach of many television preachers. They like to tell us that we can claim away bad things. One such preacher told my mother that her sickness didn’t leave her after he tried to make it go away because, “She didn’t have enough faith.” A five-year-old can easily determine that these types of preachers are more concerned with financial gain and popularity than they are truth and compassion.

The other approach is fear and worry. Deep down inside, we all know that we could get sick. We know that terrible things could happen to us or the ones we love. So we let fear consume us. Instead of living life while we still can, we wash our hands hundreds of times a day, we obsess over the news, we worry that maybe that sharp pain in our ankle is actually the beginning stages of some horrific new disease that will eventually be the end of us.

There’s another response. A more biblical one. It helps us to turn our attention away from what could possibly maybe perhaps happen to what can never happen because of what has already happened. How’s that for a wordy sentence? Here’s another way to put it.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians can face troubled times with hope, confidence and even joy because we know that whatever may happen to us, there are some things, worse things, that will never happen to us.

1. Christian, you will never be condemned by God.

It might seem like everyone is against you. Maybe they really are. Maybe you know opposition like few people do. Perhaps you’ve endured the wrath of an angry boss, a cunning enemy or even the federal government. God never said that you would’t experience those things. But he did promise this much. You will never experience the wrath of God. Jesus took your place on that one.

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

2. Christian, death will never get the best of you.

Eat all the organic lettuce your stomach can hold. Just know this. One day your body will stop functioning. But that won’t really be the end of life for you, only the end of suffering. Life will just be getting started.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11 (ESV)

3. Christian, you will never be orphaned.

A few times a year we hear stories about babies being abandoned at dumpsters, emergency rooms and fire stations. If you believe that a true follow of Christ can somehow become a non-follow of Christ, you are forced to admit that God essentially does the same thing to his children. He doesn’t. The God who sovereignly adopted you is the same God who eternally keeps you.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:12-17 (ESV)

4. Christian, you will never be hopeless.

Your life might resemble a George Jones song. Your marriage is in shambles. Your truck won’t crank. Your job is no good and your dog died. Through it all, there is a hope that will not perish or fade away. Your retirement plan can go down the drain. Your eternal inheritance cannot.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18-25 (ESV)

5. Christian, you will never be ignored.

All of my life I’ve heard people critiquing prayers. Some criticize the way that a person says, “Dear Lord” too many times during the prayer. Others don’t like the way that a person asks Jesus to “be with” someone. All of the critiques can leave us a bit intimidated with prayer, especially prayer in public. But here’s the good news. No one, even the most educated among us, really knows how to pray. And that’s okay. The Holy Spirit picks up our slack. Our slack is great. He is greater.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 (ESV)

6. Christian, you will never be beyond God’s good plan.

We have to be careful when trying to explain why some tragic event happened. The fact is that usually we don’t have a clue. We would be wise to remain silent and only speak on what we do know. Here’s what we do know. God, in his own way and time, takes bad things and uses them for his glory and the good of his people.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (ESV)

7. Christian, you will never know what it’s like to be in hell.

You are a Christian, not because of your denominational affiliation, family background or award winning smile but because God chose you. The theological term for that is predestination. Another word for it is grace. And God’s grace always runs its course through until the end. The called will be saved. The saved will be glorified. That means that you will enjoy eternal life with a new body in an new heaven and earth with Jesus. Wherever life takes you, Christian, God won’t allow hell to be a stop on your journey.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)

8. Christian, God will never be against you.

The rest of the world might be against you. Sometimes you will be tempted to think that God is too. You have to be careful to never mistake God’s wrath for his discipline (Hebrews 12:3-17). God’s wrath is reserved for his enemies. His discipline, like any loving father, is for the ultimate good of his children. Christian, you will never again know God as your enemy, only as your Father.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:31-34 (ESV)

9. You will never be separated from God’s love.

God loves you.

Nothing will ever change that.

You really don’t have anything to worry about.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (ESV)

If You Have Kids And You’re Not Homeschooling Them…

I started talking like a Russian as we drove closer to the school. I always do that when I drop my kids off in the morning. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the result of some emotional scar from my days as a below average student. Or maybe I’m just trying to give them one last laugh before they walk through those double doors and into their classroom.

Me In My Best Russian Voice: “Have gud day. Crush opp-oh-zee-shun.”

I’m sure that there are plenty of nice Russian people. But whenever I talk like a Russian, I always say something about crushing the opposition or breaking someone. I know for a fact where that comes from. Drago. Rocky IV.

My kids didn’t laugh when I told them to crush the opposition. Well, they kind of chuckled. It was one of those courtesy laughs people give preachers when they fail at an attempt at humor. I’m used to that laugh.

Here’s what my youngest son told me.

“Dad, we don’t have any opposition. But we might have a puppet show!”

Each day, when one of us picks the kids up from school, my wife and I find out whether or not they had a puppet show. Or if they crushed the opposition. My wife usually leads them in more thoughtful conversations than I do. That’s because she’s nowhere near as good as me at talking like Drago.

Here’s a question that she always asks our boys at the end of their school day.

“Did you hear any words at school today that you don’t know what they mean?”

This always leads to good parental conversations.

One day one of my sons gave us a nervous answer.


For a second, my wife and I had thoughts of our son reciting a line or two from Pulp Fiction.

He didn’t. Instead, he just said the word. Here it is.


I’m not sure if he thought that was a dirty, Pulp Fiction word or if he just didn’t know what it meant but he seemed relieved when we gave him the definition. We told him that a coincidence is when things happen at random, with no planning or for no particular reason.

I loved his response.

“But that can’t happen. There’s no such thing as coincidence since God is in control of everything.”

I was so happy that I almost started singing Amazing Grace in a Russian accent.

There’s a point to all of this.

If you have kids and you are not homeschooling them, you aren’t doing your job as a parent.

Now, before you throw your iPhone across the room and send me a virus or report me to the FCC, hear me out. If your kids, like mine, leave the home everyday to go to school, they still need to be homeschooled. What I mean is that they need to be learning things from you that they can’t get at any school.

They need to learn how to laugh and enjoy their day, even when that day involves a Science test. That’s a lesson that is best learned in the car from mom or dad.

They need to learn how to read. If your kid goes to school outside of the home, and that school is not in the district that I grew up in, there’s a good chance that he will learn how to read. But he needs more than that. He needs to learn how to interpret, analyze and think critically about what he is reading. Again, those are lessons that are best learned from mom and dad.

One of my favorite things about the body of Christ is that there is room for all sorts of different educational philosophies. In my church alone, we have parents who send their kids to public schools, homeschooling parents and private school families. If every single family in your church educates their children the same way and shares the same philosophies of education, that’s probably not a good thing. A church where everyone is the same is typically more segregated than it is unified.

But, regardless of where your kid learns his reading and writing, he needs to be learning at home too. And that’s more than simply helping with homework. It means dropping what you are doing to ask questions, answer questions, raise new questions and even have a few laughs. Trust me, these lessons will stick with your children.

My son was wrong.

He was wrong when he said that he doesn’t have any opposition.

Everyday, your kids and mine face opposition that could keep them from becoming the men and women that we want them to be. Even the best educational environment cannot fully protect them from that opposition. A good church will help them to fight against it. But the primary equipping must come from mom an dad.

In the home.

Or in the car.

The Russian accent is optional.


The Monday Morning Quarterback

It’s time once again for me to ramble on and on about football. I like to call it The Monday Morning Quarterback.


Does anyone remember the name of that Georgia Bulldog running back that future Heisman Trophy winner Nick Chubb is replacing? Thomas Gurlhammer? Todd Graily? Ted Nugent? Let me know if you figure it out.

Chubb’s Bulldogs had a strong showing against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. Early on in the game, one of the announcers said the following.

“Arkansas has to stick with what got them here.”

At the time, Arkansas was getting beat, 17-6 and hadn’t won an SEC game since the Clinton administration. Thankfully, the Razorbacks stuck with what got them there. Georgia won the game 45 to 32.

Even still, some drunken Georgia fan is sitting at some bar in Athens talking about how Mark Richt and Mike Bobo should be fired.


The Atlanta Falcons also stuck with what got them there. That’s another way of saying that they played like a middle school team and made everyone in Georgia consider giving up professional football for Conference USA women’s volleyball.

But all hope is not lost for the Falcons. They play in the NFC South which happens to be the worst division in the history of sports. Here’s a look at the current standings.

1. The Carolina Panthers

2. The New Orleans Saints

3. The Atlanta Falcons

4. The 1983 Montreal Expos

Quick Hits

If Steve Smith was playing checkers with a five-year-old, Steve Smith would find a way to get into a fight. And Steve Smith would win.

I was hoping that there was a way that both teams could lose the Florida State/Notre Dame game. I think that it may have happened. By winning with Jameis Winston at quarterback, Florida State will lose in the long run after the school has to vacate all of their wins once Winston is found guilty of selling his merchandise, terrorizing young co-eds and the Kennedy assassination.

By the end of the week, the Florida Gators will fire Will Muschamp and replace him with Super Creepy Rob Lowe.

Dear Hardee’s, 

Stop using porn to sell your food. I know, I’m probably being a little loose with the word porn. But I’m also being a bit loose with the word food. Seriously, how are you still in business? Please go away before I send Steve Smith looking for you.


Until next time, happy footballing!

A Better Test Of Your Southernicity

Last weekend I took an online test that was supposed to tell me if I was a real southerner. I passed with flying colors. But I still didn’t feel good about my accomplishment. Most of the questions had to do with Elvis and Gone With the Wind. There are people who live in Iceland who know an awful lot about Elvis and Gone With the Wind but that doesn’t make them true southerners. In an effort to keep people from developing a false sense of security regarding their southernicity, I developed a better test.

1. What do you do when your cat has a whole bunch of kittens and you don’t want any of them?

a.) Contact the proper authorities and have them come and pick up the precious bundles of joy.

b.) Make a cardboard sign that reads, Free Baby Kittens, take it to a Wal-Mart parking lot on a Saturday afternoon with said “baby kittens” and sit in a folding chair next to your Pontiac. The problem should take care of itself from there.

If you answered b, you are a true southerner.

2. How would you respond to the following question. “Would you like to come over to my house this weekend? We’re having a barbecue.”

a.) “Splendid! I’ll bring the clam chowder.”

b.) “How exactly does one have a barbecue? I think I’ll pass, stay at my house and eat some barbecue.”

If you chose b, you are a true southerner.

3. Suppose that you are brewing some tea when you suddenly realize that there is no sugar in your house. Which of the following options seems most appropriate to you?

a.) No big deal. Besides, there’s probably a packet of Sweet’N Low somewhere around the house.

b.) You quickly run to Piggly Wiggly to buy a few 5 pound bags of sugar.

c.) You quickly run to Piggly Wiggly’s to buy a few 5 pound bags of sugar.

d.) No sugar in the house?! Not while I’m alive.

If you chose a, you are not a true southerner.

If you chose b, you are a true southerner.

If you chose c, you are a certified, genuine, real deal southerner.

If you chose d, you get to be the governor of the south for a week.

4. Someone asks you if you like country music. When you respond in the affirmative, they offer you four free tickets to see Luke Bryan and Rascal Flatts. How do you respond?

a.) “Splendid! I’ll bring the clam chowder.”

b.) You shake your head and walk away while mumbling something to yourself about Hank Williams never wearing skinny jeans and guy-liner.

Unless you are a girl under the age of 18 who for some reason has a passion for clam chowder, you are not a true southerner if you chose a.

5. When is it appropriate for a man to remove his hat?

a.) Whenever it quits snowing.

b.) Indoors, during prayer, during the national anthem and during a meal.

c.) Indoors, during prayer, during the national anthem, during a meal and during the playing of Free Bird.

If you answered a, you are not a true southerner.

If you answered b, you are a true southern gentleman.

If you answered c and you play your cards right, you just might get a few votes in the next presidential election.

6. Your kid comes home from school to tell you that he learned about King George. What do you say?

a.) “King George was a deeply misunderstood man. We need more like him.”

b.) “Amarillo by morning. Amarillo’s where I’ll be.”

If you answered a, you are likely employed by the NSA.

If you answered b, even if you got every other question wrong, you are a true southerner. So make yourself at home, enjoy a nice glass of sweet tea, some of King George’s music and our southern hospitality. Just don’t offer us any clam chowder or Rascal Flatts tickets or we’ll throw our hat at you.

Southern hospitality does have its limits.

The Mayor Of Houston And The Final Straw

Sometimes tyranny comes in over night. The tanks just come rolling in. Out with the old. In with the new. Just deal with it or go someplace to get reeducated.

Or worse.

That doesn’t seem to be the way that it’s working in this country. Here, tyranny has moved slower and more methodically. Conditioning takes time. No tank or middle of the night invasion can make large groups of people suddenly believe that what’s wrong is right and what’s right is terror.

So for now at least, those wishing for more power in this country have abandoned the tank. In its place they have used the television for propaganda, the classroom for indoctrination and the courtroom for bullying.

What’s happening in Houston where the mayor is demanding that pastors who oppose her Equal Rights Ordinance hand over their sermons is more than just another step along that road to ultimate tyrannical rule. It is more than just another grab by a power-hungry government.

It is the final straw.

At some point, way back when, the government managed to convince us that they do not work for us but that we in fact belong to them. As a result, more and more of our lives have been falling under government control.

Next, they came after our kids. After all, what do parents know about educating their younglings? Wouldn’t the government do a much better job? And so now we have PE teachers showing our kids how to put on condoms. Oh, and no worries if the little ones don’t listen during that particular lesson. The government will be there to dispose of the unwanted fruits of teenage passion should the need arise.

The message from the government is clear. We can take care of your kids better than you can. We can even take care of you better than you can. Just keep moving. There’s nothing to see here.

And, in large part, we have obeyed. We’ve kept moving along with one blind eye facing the real problem and an open eye on the bread and circus that surrounds us.

This has laid the ground work for the final straw – the one area that, if the government can just reach it, would allow everything else to fall into perfect tyrannical order. No tanks needed.

That one area is the church.

To be fair, it’s not all the government’s fault. We have done a pretty good job ourselves of messing things up by abandoning the good news of redemption from sin for the just kind of okay news of living a really swell life right now. But not all churches and their leaders have been going along with that. Some, in the tradition of the prophets, apostles and pastors before them, have not wavered from the truth of the gospel message. Even if it has been deemed intolerant. Even if it has gotten them called into the mayor’s office. Even if it means a visit to court.

Or worse.

That’s what’s happening in Houston. It’s not that the mayor is against religion. She may even be a very religious person. That’s not the issue. The issue is that the religion that the Bible speaks of, the pure and undefiled kind that refuses to just listen to truth but insists on living it out (James 1:27; 2:14-26), is not to the mayor’s liking.

Worship whatever god you want. Just do it my way. That’s the message that pastors are getting from downtown Houston. And it’s one that’s likely to spread around the rest of the country. But it begs the question. Which god then are we really worshiping if we do it the State’s way? The answer is clear. When we cave to the demands of an overreaching government, we can call our god whatever we wish but it is not the god of the Bible that we are worshiping. It is the god of the State.

We must not cave.

We must not allow government bullying to pull us from the truth of the gospel.

We also must not allow such bullying to keep us from loving our neighbor. Even if that neighbor wants to see us tied up in court for the rest of our lives.

Or worse.

This is the final straw.

It’s time for the church to stop playing games. We must stop trying to win the approval of tyrants (James 2:6-7). Instead, we must seek to be light in a dark world (Matthew 5:16). To a world content on living in the darkness, light can be quite painful. As we seek to lovingly live out the light of Christ, we must expect opposition. It’s part of the gig.

It’s time for us to stop trying to just entertain our kids. Games are fun. Games have their place. But, in many churches, good news has been pushed aside for good times. As a result, kids and students are passing through our doors who are ill-equipped to remain standing while those around them bow to the State (Daniel 3).

And it’s time for parents to realize that it is our responsibility, not the State’s, to raise our kids. The biggest enemy of any tyrannical institution is a family institution that does not need it for anything more than protection from enemies foreign and domestic. It’s time for us to start living like that. We don’t need government to play the role of parent. We don’t need the government to be our teacher. And we certainly don’t need the government’s gospel.

We’ve caved in before. But we can’t afford to cave in on this. It really is the final straw. While everyone else bows to the State, we must remain standing. It may cost us our livelihood.

Or worse.

So be it.

The Last Thing We Want

Does God really love you? If he does, why does he allow bad things to happen to you? Is it too much to ask for a life that is sanitized from all of the evil and suffering in this world?

Here’s a better question. It’s one that we rarely ask. What if the good that you wanted, you know, the sanitized life, was actually the worst thing for you?

Consider Michael Ham.

When he was 3-years-old, he had what appeared to be the symptoms of dehydration. He just wasn’t himself. So his parents took him to a doctor. His parents took every precaution in making sure that their son was healthy. Antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, you name it. When Michael saw the doctor, he got more of the same. Antibiotics. No questions asked. Get well soon, kid.

Only Michael didn’t get well soon.

He almost died.

Michael’s problem wasn’t an infection. He didn’t have a virus or some rogue bacteria causing his sickness. It was quite the opposite. He didn’t have enough bacteria.

All of the hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps and antibiotics were killing both the good and the bad bacteria in Michael’s body. And he got sick. Doctors call it CDiff.

Finally, Michael’s parents found a good doctor. This one wasn’t content with merely pumping the child full of more antibiotics. He tried something new. Something experimental. Something gross.

The doctor decided that Michael needed someone else’s stool in his body. For those of you who aren’t medically inclined, stool here refers to human waste, not the thing you sit on at the bar in your kitchen. To be blunt, Michael was overly sanitized. It was killing him. And the best thing for him at that moment was a little bit of his brother’s poop.

So that’s what he got.

And it saved his life.

Poop from his brother was the very last thing that Michael’s mom and dad wanted for their son. If you are a parent, you know that this kind of thing is the enemy. You do whatever you can to maintain proper, shall I say, stool control, among you kids. The transferral of poop is the last thing parents want among their children. But sometimes the very last thing we want is the best thing for us.

Spiritually speaking, I’m an antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, antibiotic kind of person. I want things to be clean. I want sanitation from the evil and suffering around me. But I rarely stop to consider the possibility that having those wishes come true could be the worst thing for me. Just like in Michael’s case, they could give me a false sense of security. One where my life is so squeaky clean that I don’t sense my real need. Until it’s too late.

I lived an hour or so away from my mom right before she died. Once a week, usually on a Thursday, I would make the long drive to see her. Those Thursdays felt more like Sundays. It was like I was having church in my car. I always listened to music that made me think about Jesus. I listened to a ton of sermons, most of them dealing with the goodness of God and suffering. My mom’s sickness made my heart heavy. But something else was happening to my heart.

God was working to make me love, know and trust him more.

And I’m not the only one. Many people say that their most significant times of growth or the times that they have been the most overwhelmed by the love of God was during periods of suffering.

I don’t know why God allows drunk drivers to kill young fathers and mothers. I don’t have any detailed answers for the family wondering what to do after a cancer diagnosis. I don’t have a clue what God is doing with Ebola right now.

But here’s what I do know.

God is working.

And his work is rarely as clean as we would like for it to be.

That’s a good thing.

Because sometimes the last thing we want is the thing that’s keeping us alive.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Job 1:20-22 (ESV)