Christmas Rejected

It was supposed to be a big deal. At least according to the experts. Someone said that it would do to the car what the car did to the horse and buggy. Others said that it would end up being more important than the Internet and more common than the PC.

The experts turned out to be wrong.

In the end, American consumers saw past the hype and rejected the Segway scooter. Well, everyone except for Paul Blart.

For a while, the arrival of Jesus must have seemed like it was suffering an early version of the same fate.

The strange man and young pregnant mother hardly looked like the means by which a mighty warrior would come to save his people. That’s why rejection was such a big part of Jesus’ life, even before he was born. You might find a way to make some room in your inn for a king but not for a pregnant lady and her husband.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 (ESV)

As the child grew, rejection became more common. Even from the most unlikely of sources.

And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:21 (ESV)

It’s one thing for a hotel manager to reject you before you’re even born. It’s quite another to be rejected by your own family.

It would get worse.

People would kick him out of their region because he had the audacity to cast demons out of the town lunatic (Mark 5:17). Religious leaders would say that he was the one with the demons (John 8:48-49). During the most difficult stretch of his life, one of his own followers would sell him out (John 18:1-11) while another would pretend to never even know him (John 18:15-18).

So much for the good news about a Savior who would bring deliverance to his people.

At the time of his death, Jesus looked nothing like a savior. He was alone. But the loneliness he experienced was unlike any his people would ever know. He wasn’t just being rejected by family, friends and religious leaders. He was being rejected by his Heavenly Father.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46 (ESV)

And that’s when we finally start to grasp the powerful story behind this Savior. He didn’t come to be accepted. Rejection was his mission. Rejection from strangers. Rejection from family. Rejection from friends. Finally and more importantly, he would experience a Divine rejection so that his people never would.

A few years ago, the owner of the company that makes Segway scooters died. His body was found at the bottom of a cliff after he drove his Segway over it. It was a tragic end to a story that never quite lived up to the hype.

Two thousand years later, we do not speak of Jesus as a man who never quite lived up to the hype of angel choirs announcing his birth. Instead, we speak of a man who conquered the grave on behalf of his people. We speak of a man who humbled himself and was obedient, even to the point of death.

You may know what it’s like to be rejected by a church, a friend and even a parent or spouse. But Christian, you will never know God’s rejection. All because Jesus came to be rejected for you.

Thank you Jesus, for being rejected.

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:1-3 (ESV)

Merry Christmas!

My Favorite Reads From 2014

Thanks to Netflix and writing a book of my own, I didn’t read quite as much this year as I usually do. But what I did read was really good. Here are my ten favorites. As always, not all of these books were released in 2014 but they were all read by me in 2014. In 2015, between bingewatching shows on Netflix, try to find a few good books to read. I hope that this list helps.

1. Habitudes for Communicators, Tim Elmore

If Tim Elmore writes a book, buy it. You’ll learn something. This one is no exception. If you spend any portion of your life speaking in public, you’ll find this book very beneficial.

“In our world, it isn’t enough to simply suggest your topic is important. It must be urgent as well. When something is important, people prioritize it. When it is urgent, they rush to act.” 

2.  Everyday Prayers, Scotty Smith

This is a very good devotional book. There is an entry for everyday of the year and each one reads as a prayer from Smith. These quick prayers will make you think and give you encouragement.

“I want my tongue to be a scalpel for healing, Jesus, not a hammer for harm.”

3. The Final Days of Jesus, Kostenberger and Taylor

This has all of the depth of a seminary textbook with the readability of a devotional. I read this leading up to Easter and I’m glad that I did. If, like me, you’ve grown up celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, there can be a tendency for your celebrating to become mere tradition. This book will help to keep that from happening.

“Up to this point in Jesus’s ministry, he could still have managed to live a long, happy, peaceful life, but his actions on Sunday set in motion a series of events that could result only in either the overthrow of the Romans and the current religious establishment – or his brutal death. He has crossed the point of no return; there would be no turning back. Caesar could allow no rival kings.” 

4.  Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Rainer

This one falls in the Every Church Member Should Read This category. It is a disturbing reminder of just how easy it is for a church to die.

“The most pervasive and common thread of our autopsies was that the deceased churches lived for a long time with the past as hero.”


5. The Naked Communist, W. Cleon Skousen

This is a fantastic book that was written during the Cold War. But don’t let its age fool you. It is far from outdated. While many Americans fear that our Constitution may one day be replaced with Sharia Law, this book exposes that our Constitution is already under attack by Communism. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Communism did not. It simply started looking for a new host and we just might be it. Skousen’s book gives a fascinating history of Communism while also charting its path to where we are today.

“When you run across dedicated Socialists, remember that the only difference between a Socialist and a Communist is in the method of takeover. The desire to seize monolithic control of society is the same in both. Sometimes people forget that USSR stands for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Some people count Socialism ‘good’ and Communism ‘bad.’ In reality the two are twins.”

“…the whole picture of Marxism which is simply ‘modern materialism in action.'”

6. The Pastor’s Kid, Barnabas Piper

If you are in full-time ministry and you have kids, read this book. Your children are growing up with unique challenges and this well prepare you to walk with them through those challenges.

“We need parents who strive to put themselves in our heads and ‘get’ us. We need parents who remember their own idiocy as children and young adults and give an extra measure of grace.”

7. Christ the Lord Out of Egypt, Anne Rice

There are no vampires in this one but Rice’s historical fiction makes for a good read. If you’ve ever imagined what it must have been like for a young Jesus to come to grips with who he was, this book will help.

“I saw it as I’d seen it in my dream. I bowed my head and closed my eyes. As he went on speaking, I could see what he was telling us.”

8. The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek

This isn’t the easiest book to read but it is definitely worth the trouble. It helps to explain how our country got to where it is and where we are headed if things don’t change. The chapter on the rule of law is worth the price of admission.

“Hence the familiar fact that the more the state ‘plans,’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”

9. The Dude’s Guide to Manhood, Darren Patrick

When I finished reading this book I wished that I could buy a copy for every man that I know. With passion and eloquence, Patrick encourages men to leave boyhood behind and be the leaders they are called to be.

“Dads, through their presence or their absence, define us and the road we will travel.”

I Predict, 2015

Here’s what’s going to happen in 2015. Trust me on this.


Through the cutting edge research of one of its top donors, Cobra Industries, the Democratic Party will develop a way to bring back an old hero to run for president in 2016. Joseph Stalin.

In typical fashion, the Republican Party will follow suit. But they won’t have to bring anyone back from the dead. They’ll just give us one of the Bush brothers. Jeb, to be exact.

Before the year is over, Stalin and Bush will emerge as the two likely candidates for 2016. Conservatives will encourage us to vote for the lesser of two evils. It’ll take most of us the better part of the year to figure out which one that is. By the time November of 2016 rolls around, only 300 people will care enough to vote. Twenty-five people will vote for Stalin. Fifty people will vote for W’s brother. 225 people vote for one of the Kardashians. If we’re still around, let me know how that works out. You can write me at the following address.

Rural Route 1

Gretzky Orr, Greenland 45612

Race Relations

Race relations in this country will actually improve after people finally get fed up and decide to start obeying the following self-imposed rules.

1. We shall no longer listen to what someone has to say about race if that someone calls himself a reverend but does not actually go to or pastor a church or if that someone is the host of a show on Fox News, MSNBC or CNN.

2. We shall make every effort to enjoy a nice meal with people who do not look or think like us. At said meal we will discuss what troubles us. We will be free to disagree but only under the condition that we have another meal together real soon.

3. I’ll bring the sweet tea and gluten-free brownies.


A police department in the northwest will confess to buying a tank so that they can use it to fight against people who own guns and believe in the Constitution. Oh, sorry. That happened in 2014.


The Atlanta Falcons will make history by becoming the first team to make it to the Super Bowl with a losing record, get beaten by more than 75 points in that Super Bowl, fire their coach and general manager and continue to make their fans pay for a new stadium all in a two month time span. Somebody’s got to do it. Why not the Falcons?


Florida/Georgia Line will win the award for Best Musical Act or Performance to be Used for Interrogating Terrorists. They’ll have to give the award back a few weeks later after Diane Feinstein decides that such torture is simply too inhumane.

Also at the Grammy’s, someone will sing something that involves a gospel choir in the background.

Nickelback will have the number one album in the country for a few weeks but you won’t be able to find anyone who will confess to owning one.


Someone will make a movie about a disgruntled Atlanta Falcons fan who tries to blow up North Korea after his team gets embarrassed in the Super Bowl and he finds out how much he’s going to have to pay for tickets and taxes because of his team’s new stadium. Florida/Georgia Line and Nickelback will team up to provide the soundtrack for the movie.

And then the world will end.

Unless President Kardashian can do something to save us.

Again, let me know how that works out.

You’ve got my new address.

A Second American Revolution On The Way To School

I’m pretty sure that my car isn’t bugged by the government because if it was, I’d be in Guantanamo Bay right now.

When I drive my kids to school, I always get the same question. Hearing this question several times a week doesn’t make it any less unusual.

“Dad, can we talk about the government and stuff?”

I always say yes.

Here’s a brief summary of every single conversation we have on our way to school.

“So dad, what’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans?”

“Not enough, son. Not enough.”

“Why would politicians in Washington vote for a bill that they haven’t even read that could have stuff in it that’s bad for us?”

“Because a lot of the powerful politicians in Washington are owned by banks and major corporations. They care more about pleasing their bosses than they do protecting our liberty.”

That’s the part where I hold my breath for a second and wait for a warning message on the radio telling me to watch what I say to my kids. Either that or a drone strike. So far, neither one has happened. So far.

There are more questions. Questions about John F. Kennedy getting shot and what kind of a president Lincoln was. Questions about ISIS and whether or not they could defeat our country. Tough questions. But important ones nonetheless that need a solid answer.

Sometimes I don’t like the answers that I have to give.

When I was young, old-timers used to tell me scary stories about the kind of a world that my kids would grow up in. The future is now, it seems. Freedom has eroded. Corruption is king. Pleasure is the new state religion. What a world.

After I drop my kids off in the mornings, I drive to work by myself. There are no more questions coming from the backseat. But there are plenty coming from my seat. Each silent question running through my head is saying the same thing. What can I do to make sure that my kids don’t grow up in the kind of a world that the old-timers told me about?

I think about letters I could write to senators and witty Facebook statuses I could post to draw people’s attention to what’s going on around us. But none of it seems to be enough.

I’ve got another idea. A better idea. Smaller but better.

Our sons and daughters aren’t driven to school in the mornings by Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson. That’s not what they need. What they need is a father and a mother. Not a father and mother with all of the answers. Just ones who care enough to listen to their questions and respond with the truth as best as they can. Even when the truth can be scary.

Parents, instead of chewing our nails off and giving our kids ulcers by talking about the world that they are growing up in, let’s focus on preparing them for it as well. Let’s show them the freedom that comes with living in dependence on the one true God and with independence from the false gods in Washington. Teach them the importance of working, not just for things, but for family and neighbors as well. Teach them to give and to love. Instead of ignoring the troubles around us, let’s teach our kids to spot the half truths while speaking the whole truth in love, even if it means not getting a whole lot of love in return.

These lessons don’t just come from our answers to questions. They are shown in the way that you live when you and your family come back home together at the end of another long day filled with news of corrupt politicians, shootings, riots and wars.

Many of our elected officials have sold us out. They have taken from us while hoping that the bread and circus around us would keep us too busy to notice. They have thought only of themselves at the expense of those whom they are supposed to be serving.

Parents, may the same not be said of us.

Our sons and daughters don’t have too many politicians whom they can look to for an example. But they will look to a father and mother. Even when everything falls apart, the best thing that we can provide for those inquisitive little minds in our backseat and around our kitchen table is a bold reminder that our ultimate citizenship is in a Kingdom that cannot be shaken and our submission is to a King who knows no corruption.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV)

Two Christmas Babies

It’s Christmas and I’m a Southern Baptist pastor.

That means that my attention is on the story of an unsuspecting woman who would give birth to a hero. At the time of the birth, there were no Christmas carols. There was no gift giving. Just an angel with an unusual message and two scared parents. And then a baby.

This baby was special. He wasn’t going to be like anyone else. He was born with a mission to deliver his people. But it didn’t work out as planned. You could even say that this promising baby grew up to be a failure. He lived much of his life as a prisoner to the very same desires that were keeping his people in bondage. And at the end of his life, he was living as a slave to the very people he was meant to defeat.

Samson was a slave to his desires. Just like his people (Judges 13:1) he did what seemed right in his own eyes. Whenever the Bible says something about a person or group of people doing what seemed right in their own eyes, look out. Bad things are coming. For Samson, what seemed right was marrying a Philistine.

Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” Judges 14:1-3 (ESV)

Samson was supposed to defeat the Philistines, not marry them. But his decision proved to be one of many compromises that led to his death (Judges 14:8-10).

If you’ve grown up in church, you know the story of Samson and Delilah. For Samson, Delilah was a rebound of sorts from a quick fling he had with a prostitute. Delilah was no fling. The Bible says that she was relentless in her pursuit of the source of Samson’s great strength (Judges 16:16). Samson never told Delilah his secret and used her inquisitiveness  to kill more Philistines while displaying his great strength. Finally, as he was accustomed to doing, Samson gave in. One of his last sayings as a healthy and mighty warrior was a tragic mix of arrogance and practical atheism.

“I will go out as at other times and shake myself free” Judges 16:20 (ESV).

You’ll notice that there was no mention of the spirit of the Lord as was the case earlier in Samson’s life. The next line of verse 20 is heart breaking.

But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

The Philistines captured Samson and gouged out those eyes of his that got him into trouble at the beginning of the Bible’s account of his life. The story ends with Samson’s hair growing back and his strength returning with it for one last battle with the Philistines. Samson killed a bunch of them and himself too in the process. Samson was gone for good. But the Philistines did not go away. Years later a small shepherd boy would take down a big Philistine with a small rock. And even that didn’t do away with them completely.

Thankfully, there was another baby.

Unlike Samson, instead of just doing what seemed right, he did what was right. All of the time. He was obedient.

Unlike Samson, he didn’t come to deliver his people from Philistines. To the dismay of some of his contemporaries, he didn’t come to bring deliverance from an oppressive Roman government. No, this baby was a greater warrior than Samson and he came to defeat a greater enemy – sin.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (ESV)

God left Samson because of Samson’s great sin.

God turned is back on his own Son because of our great sin.

Both men knew that feeling of abandonment. Only one knew it without sin.

Samson’s life is a story of promises that never came to pass. Jesus’ is a story of promises fulfilled. He didn’t peak in early childhood only to fall away like other supposed saviors. He was obedient to the point of death. All of the time. And he didn’t come to bring temporary relief from a pesky enemy. He came to bring eternal life from sin and its eternally deadly consequences.

Just like Samson, Jesus didn’t stay a baby.

Just like Samson, Jesus’ mission led him to the grave.

But unlike Samson, Jesus isn’t there anymore.

Immanuel, God with us, promised that he would always be with us. Even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

Our enemy is greater than anything we could ever know.

But our Savior is greater than anyone who will ever live.

Christmas And A Brief Theology Of Ric Flair

Diamonds are forever.

The first time that I ever heard that phrase was from the famous theologian, Nature Boy Ric Flair. If you don’t know who Ric Flair is, you might be what’s wrong with America. But that’s okay. I’ll forgive you. Those of us with more refined tastes know that Ric Flair was a professional wrestler who hung around a group of other professional wrestlers that liked to call themselves The Four Horsemen. Flair used to say, “Diamonds are forever and so are the Four Horsemen. Woooo!”

Here’s Flair in his prime.


The Four Horsemen don’t exist anymore. And Ric Flair isn’t quite what he used to be. Here’s some recent footage of Mr. Flair.

The news isn’t much better for diamonds. Just ask Amber Vinson.

She’s the Dallas nurse who was diagnosed with ebola a while back. While her life was being saved by a medical team at Emory, hazmat crews were going through her Texas apartment and destroying everything that they thought might spread the disease. Everything included Vinson’s diamond engagement ring. It was incinerated.

Nothing, it seems, is forever.

Until you understand what David tells us in Psalm 145.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. Psalm 145:13 (ESV)

The God of the universe is forever. His goodness to his people is forever. His reign as king is forever. And the worship of him by his people will be forever.

Much of what we live for and worship is far from eternal. If you are the parent of small children, you’ll be reminded of that in a few  months when the presents you stressed yourself out over buying are discarded for something newer and shinier.

Christmas is hard on people for a whole lot of different reasons. For some, it’s the stress of making sure that everything is in its proper place. For others, it’s the sting of death that has left another empty space at the table this year.

This Christmas, read Psalm 145. At first, it may not seem like a Christmas passage but it really is. In it we don’t see a god who began in a manger and ended in a tomb. Instead, we see a God whose kingdom is everlasting. And we see a God who, “upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:14).

In response, we should say with David, “My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever” Psalm 145:21 (ESV).


The Monday Morning Quarterback

There’s an unwritten rule about family conflict. You don’t let other people say honest painful truths to your family. Only you are allowed to say honest painful truths to your family.

This week’s edition of the Monday Morning Quarterback is written in that spirit. I am a Georgia Bulldog fan. They are my family, if you will. So that gives me the right to say a few honest, painful truths to the Bulldog Nation. Here goes.

If Georgia Bulldog fans devoted half as much energy to holding the federal government accountable as they do to trying to get Mark Richt fired, the last four U.S. Presidents would be in jail right now.

Remember this, Bulldog fans. Georgia was an average football team before Mark Richt showed up. The only thing that kept them from being below average was the fact that they somehow managed to recruit really good players. Really good players that played on 7 win teams in college and went on to win Super Bowls on their way to the Hall of Fame.

Several years ago, I watched an AFC Championship Game that looked like a UGA scrimmage. Players on both sidelines had formerly worn the red and black. And some of them were about to play in the Super Bowl. One of the commentators even wondered aloud how such talented players didn’t play on more successful teams in college.

I’m not trying to put down Georgia. I’m a fan, remember. All that I’m trying to do is bring Dawg fans back to reality. Take away the few years that Herschel Walker was terrorizing college defenses and Georgia is on level with Ole Miss. We are not Alabama. We never have been. Maybe one day we will be. But for now, we do more harm than good when we finish every year acting like our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness has been stolen just because we have to play Nebraska in the Outback Bowl again.

Sometimes winning takes time. Especially if you do it without giving Corvettes and cocaine to new recruits. But all of the Georgia fans who are demanding Mark Richt’s head don’t care about that. They just want a championship. Well sure, they care about the, ahem, student athletes too. Just as long as those student athletes play for Georgia. And as long as those student athletes don’t approach them on the street once their playing days are over.

Just be honest, angry Dawg fans. You don’t care about the players. You don’t even care about the University. If you did, you would be thrilled to see the continuity that we have enjoyed and the improvement that we have seen. But what you really care about is yourself and being able to tell the Georgia Tech fan in the cubicle next to you that you won a national title more recently than he did. You. As if you were in on any of the planning or the plays.

I hate losing. Obviously you do too.

But settle down.

Take a nap.

Hug your wife.

Play with your kids.

And leave Mark Richt alone. He’s better than anything we’ve ever had in Athens.

But if you must get angry and stir things up, please allow me to point your attention to that big white house in Washington D.C.

Go Dawgs!

Plow Around That Stump

“Plow around that stump, brother.”

Those words came to me in a thick, southern accent. I wasn’t sitting on a tractor waiting for instructions on where to go next. I was sitting in a church office, early on in my ministry. The man on the other end was a wise leader who had fought his share of ministry battles. Some, he discovered, were worth fighting. Some weren’t. The one I was seeking wisdom on wasn’t worth the fight.

So I plowed around that stump, brother.

The man’s advice was good. As time passed I began to appreciate his wisdom even more. But I also grew frustrated. My frustrations weren’t directed toward the man on the other end of the phone. They had more to do with the ever growing number of stumps ministers were expected to plow around.

I hear about them all of the time.

Like the music minister who really loves Jesus and is reaching a lot of people but is probably going to have to find another job because he took the Doxology out of the order of worship one Sunday morning.

Or the youth minister who got yelled at because he’s reaching a bunch of unchurched kids who, heaven forbid, haven’t yet learned how to act in a church building.

Maybe those ministers should have taken the same advice that I followed early on in my ministry and directed their plows elsewhere.

I’d rather have something else happen. Perhaps some of those church members who have fallen so in love with their orders of worship, church buildings, parking spaces, pews and classrooms could get up off of their faces and stop worshiping those stumps. Maybe then we could all see them for what they really are. Tiny idols.

In Colossians 1:18, Paul says that Jesus is, “the head of the body, the church.” In the simplest terms possible, Jesus is the pastor of the church. The guy in the suit who drives a Buick and preaches a few times a week is merely an associate. He is not self-employed. He answers to Jesus.

It’s interesting that Paul does not say that Jesus is, “the head of the organization, the church.” Instead, he says, body. Here’s the thing about a body that has a functioning head. It is a living thing. A church that is led by Jesus is a living body. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about churches that are obviously anything but living.

Paul goes on to say that Jesus is, “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” That means that Jesus, not our favorite sanctified stump, should be our object of worship.

But for too long, I’ve seen the opposite. I’ve seen programs, traditions, geographical locations and musical styles worshiped as if they were the firstborn from the dead. And we wonder why we hear of so many church splits, church declines and church closings.

A few years ago, two friends came by my house to cut down a tree. When the tree was down, chopped up and stacked neatly, I noticed something interesting about what remained. The stump was pouring out water. A lot of water. It did this for a few days. Finally it stopped.

That’s the thing about stumps. They’re dead.

My fear is that many churches are becoming gardens full of stumps. As a result, it’s not just the pastors who have to plow around those pathetic objects of worship. Sometimes I wonder how often the Spirit himself plows around our tiny idols and takes his mighty work to more fertile grounds.

Lord Jesus, please do not plow around our stumps. Plow over them instead. We don’t need you to kill them. They’re already dead. Just remove them. And change our hearts so that we may live like the body we are called to be.

Save us, Lord Jesus, from our gardens full of stumps.