Three Degrees Of Ric Flair

When I was a kid I hated Ric Flair.

Saturday nights at my house were devoted to wrestling. It started at 6:05 on WTBS and ended at 2 in the morning on channel 36. I saw the Von Erich family of wrestlers from Texas, I heard a young Jim Ross from Oklahoma and I cheered on the Rock and Roll Express in Atlanta. I was there for all of it. I can even remember the lady in charge of the Christmas play at my church coming up to me at one Saturday night practice and saying, “Don’t worry Jay. You’ll be home in time for wrestling.”

And I was.

Most of my childhood was spent hating Ric Flair because he was the loudmouth who beat all of the guys that I liked. As I grew older I started to appreciate and even admire him. The fact that he made me hate him so badly meant that he did his job well. I guess it’s sort of like how we all hated Darth Vader when we were kids but started to like him as adults.

On Tuesday night, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series covered the life of Ric Flair. Watching it didn’t make me hate Ric Flair again nor did it reinforce my appreciation for him. It made me feel sorry for him.

Ric Flair is really Richard Fliehr, a college drop out who figured out a way to turn a fascination with alcohol and women into a moneymaking lifestyle. That lifestyle turned out to be as fake as the wrestling matches Fliehr participated in almost every night during the prime of his career. He had a jet but he wasn’t really jet setting. He wore nice clothes but isn’t as rich as we were all led to believe. He was around a lot of women but didn’t know how to be with just one woman.

Fliehr wasn’t wrestling. He was running. He was running from the shame of disappointing his parents. He was running away from any form of commitment. He was running to an acceptance and satisfaction that could never be found in the places where he was looking.

Many broken lives were left in the wake of the Nature Boy’s lifestyle. There were four broken marriages. There were four broken children, each suffering in their own way because of their father’s absence. Perhaps none of them suffered more than his son Reid. Ric Flair brags about binge drinking in hotels every night for most of his career. His son Reid followed in his father’s footsteps, not just in the wrestling ring but at the hotel bar as well. Only Reid went further. He added pills and heroin to his diet. On March 29, 2013, Reid Fliehr was found dead, in of all places, a hotel room.

In the 30 for 30 documentary, director Rory Karpf asked Ric Flair what he would say to his son if he were here today. A crying Fliehr said that he would apologize for being his son’s friend instead of his father. There was a lot of pain in those words. And wisdom too.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever really hated Ric Flair. I just wanted to be Ric Flair and I knew it wasn’t happening. I dreamed of putting the playground bully in a figure four leg lock or of walking to my desk in a robe while the Space Odyssey theme played. I think that Richard Fliehr wanted to be Ric Flair too. It wasn’t happening for him either.

Ric Flair always said, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” But rather than trying to be a man, Flair settled for some other version of manhood. And it ended up beating him.

Now, no one wants to be Richard Fliehr.

But if we’re not careful in discerning truth from reality and what’s really important from what feels really good at the time, we could all end up just like him.

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Of Course Your Prayers Are Useless

I was sitting in the airport in Haiti when I found out about the Texas church shooting. The man across from me was reading a book while his girlfriend looked at her phone. When the news alert went off on her phone she told her boyfriend. His frustration over the news was evident. His basic response was this: “Don’t tell me anymore. I need to process it.”

If only everyone in our country could react that way.

But instead, we have to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, regardless of how insensitive or wrong it may be. It’s our new pastime. We argue about gun control. We wonder which ethnicity or political party the shooter belonged to. We fight each other.

This is most evident in the way that skeptics and progressives mocked the idea of prayer in the wake of the Texas church shooting. It’s common for Christians, and even non-Christians, to offer prayers for the survivors of such a horrific event. Now, it’s just as common for non-believers to ridicule those prayers. One celebrity tweeted, “If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive.” Another said, “The thoughts and prayers were literally shot out of them.” Their point was clear. Prayer doesn’t work.

In a sense, they’re right.

Those unfamiliar with what the Bible teaches who still like to pontificate about what the Bible teaches tend to view prayer as a trip to a cosmic ATM. You ask for what you need and wait for it to come. As they see it, the ATM never works. Something better is needed. In this case, that better something is government action. Never mind the fact that it was the government dropping the ball that helped to make this tragedy possible.

Prayer doesn’t work the way that the world thinks it does. In reality, none of us knows how to pray as we should (Romans 8:26). But for those who are in Christ, the Spirit makes up for those shortcomings while the Son prays on their behalf (Romans 8:34). James 5:16 goes further in saying that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. This verse requires a closer look.

It is not the prayer of a well-meaning person or a passionate person or a religious person but a righteous person that is powerful. No man, regardless of how sincere, is righteous on his own. Human righteousness comes only through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). This points us to another way to understand the effective, powerful prayer of a righteous man. Ultimately, Christ is that Righteous Man. He prays on behalf of his people. So in a very real sense, without Christ prayer really is useless.

Without Christ we pray for selfish reasons (James 4:3). Regardless of popular opinion, we are not all God’s children. Without Christ, we are his enemies (Ephesians 2:1-4). Only those who have put their trust in the risen Christ as their Forgiver, Lord, and Savior are children of God. God can answer any prayer he wants to but like the father in a store filled with screaming toddlers, he tends to fix his response on the cries of his own children.

Tragedies have a way of revealing the object of our worship. And make no mistake, we all worship something. Whatever you put your hope in is the place where you run to when the unthinkable happens. The reason why so many run immediately to political causes and Twitter rants is because that is their god. It is their only hope. And it is a terribly inadequate hope.

Frank Pomeroy runs to a different place. He’s the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the site of Sunday’s shooting. He wasn’t there when the unthinkable happened but his 14-year-old daughter was and she was among the casualties. Frank doesn’t have all the answers but he trusts that God does. He told the bank of microphones before him at Monday’s press conference to, “lean into the Lord” and later, “everything is in Christ.”

 

Government action has it’s place and I guess there’s a time for angry tweets but neither offer any hope. I can assure you that the victim’s of Sunday’s tragedy found no comfort in the angry tweets of Will Wheaton and Keith Olberman. True hope can only be found in knowing that God is in complete control of all things, that he loves you and that you have access to him through prayer.

But this hope is impossible to realize apart from Christ.

Frank Pomeroy is right.

Everything is in Christ.

Because without Christ, our prayers are as useless as a celebrity’s angry tweet.

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The Weinstein Predicament

In recent months, a few high powered celebrities have been exposed as sexual predators. Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein is the most recent assailant to be accused. Before him, it was a few of the boys at Fox News. As you might expect, rather than condemning the evil for what it is, we’ve politicized it. It’s what Americans do.

If our reactions to these disturbing stories were a script, here’s what it would look like.

Republican: “Our sexual predator is less deranged than your sexual predator.” Leans away from the keyboard and smugly folds arms, admiring his stance for truth.

Democrat: “No, our sexual predator is less deranged than your sexual predator.” Lowers megaphone and folds arms, admiring his stance for truth.

Evangelical: “We have determined that the Republican sexual predator is the lesser of two evils so we have decided to throw our full, unquestioning support behind him.” Takes his seat at the table, folds arms, and silently wonders why no one listens to his stance for truth.

Regardless of popular opinion, Christians do not have to speak out on every issue. In fact, it’s probably best if we stay silent on some things, especially those things that we do not fully understand. Complex issues are usually made worse when we try to solve them in 140 characters.

Of course, there are times when Christians do need to speak up, namely in response to evil. But it is of utmost importance that our responses are consistent. If we have condoned evil from a group that we identify with only to condemn the exact same evil when it is committed by the folks on the other side, we forfeit our right to be heard. Sure, our blind partisan support may earn us a seat at the table but it will leave us with nothing to say and no one foolish enough to listen. What does it profit a man to gain a seat at the table and lose his soul?

It’s time to call off our affair with political parties. Actually, that time came long ago but now will do. Otherwise, rather than being salt and light in a decaying and dark world, we will be clanging cymbals in a band that is already way off key. Rather than being peacemakers, we will be side takers. Rather than serving the Lord we will be slaves to earthly overlords.

Evil, regardless of who does it, is still evil. It is not bound by political party or confined to that group on the other side. It doesn’t only take up residence with them. It can be found in us. It can be found in me. All of us need the gospel.

It has been said that those who knew about the actions of these sexual predators but did nothing to stop them are complicit in their evil. I’ll leave it to people smarter than me to figure that one out. But I can tell you that when the Church sends out inconsistent messages regarding evil for fear of losing political clout, it ceases to be the Church and instead settles for being an arm of a political party. This happens on the right and on the left and it must stop.

Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow him. I’m afraid that some who call themselves Christians have put down the cross and picked up their favorite political personality’s dirty laundry and followed him instead.

Jesus will have none of this.

And neither should we.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)

 

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We Chose The Clowns

A lady who worked for CBS said online that she had a hard time sympathizing with the victims of the Las Vegas shooting because most of them probably were against gun control.

Pat Robertson, a televangelist who has made a career out of saying things that are unbiblical, linked the massacre to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

These statements were made by people with completely different worldviews but the root of their words are the same. Both statements are grounded in self-righteousness.

Jesus addressed this mentality during his ministry on earth. For everything that has changed in 2,000 years, not a lot has changed. We still like to think of ourselves being better than we really are.

A tyrannical government official had used his power to conduct his own massacre. While a group of people were worshiping, he had them killed. In response, people came to Jesus with the same basic mentality as the girl from CBS who had no sympathy for the victims and the televangelist who had no biblical clarity.

Self-righteousness is nothing new.

The thinking in Jesus’ day was that if anything bad happened to you it was because you had it coming and God was punishing you. So the group that was not massacred was somehow better than the group that was. That was the way that many people saw it, at least.

But it wasn’t the way that Jesus saw it.

And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:2-3 (ESV)

In her own way, the media executive was putting herself above the victims because of her progressive views on gun control. And the televangelist was elevating himself because he has done such a stellar job of respecting the president.

Jesus’ words, as usual, give us cause for self-reflection. Rather than asking why a loving God would allow the massacre in Las Vegas to happen, we need to ask a different question. But it is a question that we’ll never ask in our self-righteousness. This question requires humility.

I don’t love God like I should. I certainly don’t always love my neighbor as myself. And yet, I woke up this morning and got out of bed without the assistance of anything other than my alarm clock. I had a great breakfast with my wife and sons. I arrived safely at a men’s Bible study where I taught without fear of persecution. So here’s the better question.

Why would a just God allow someone like me who routinely breaks the Great Commandment to carry on as I do?

We are no better than the Galilean victims, the victims of the tower in Siloam that fell (Luke 13:4) or the victims in Las Vegas. We deserve much worse than what they endured. The fact that we haven’t received our just rewards is a testimony, not to our complete moral purity but to the grace of God.

Grace.

That’s something that we can always count on when tragedy hits.

Whenever disaster strikes, grace strikes with it. Always. You just have to be humble enough to slow down and take a look.

In the case of the murdered Galileans, grace was seen in Jesus’ compassionate call. There is, he was saying, a way to be rescued from perishing. But it comes through repentance. It requires laying aside our self-righteousness and taking on the perfect righteousness of Christ. No amount of political progressivism or religious babble can save us from our impending doom. We aren’t righteous enough. Jesus is. That’s what Jesus was telling his misguided inquisitors. And his message is just as true for us today.

In our world where everything is offensive, being told to repent or you will perish isn’t exactly the best way to win over a crowd. People are drowning in a sea of self-righteousness and they’re too comfortable in their despair to even consider the drastic changes that are necessary and the hope that can be found in Christ.

All of my life I’ve been told that Christians are self-righteous. I can’t disagree with that. We are. But it doesn’t stop with us. There are those who seek to atone for themselves through political action, violent action, or no action. There are those who claim to be compassionate and loving and are willing to prove it to you by demonstrating how cold and hateful than can be to people on the other side.

We all need to repent.

We all need Jesus.

Otherwise, we will all perish.

Jimmy Kimmel, we are now told, is America’s conscience. That should tell you how far we’ve gone in the wrong direction. When a nation abandons God and absolute truth, it looks to a comedian for direction. TV critic Hank Stuever writes, “Lacking leaders, we look to class clowns to guide us.”

It’s like we’re living in the Upsided Down of Judges, the book that begins with people asking, “Who will lead us?” and ends tragically with, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Our eyes are telling us that our righteousness is enough.

Our words and actions are proving our eyes wrong.

We don’t need more politicians, money grabbing TV preachers or calloused crusaders hiding under a thin veil of faux compassion. At some point in the future, when an honest account is given as to what went wrong with our society, two simple sentences will suffice.

We needed a Savior.

But we chose the clowns.

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Thinking Out Loud About Lecrae’s New Album

Walk up to a random person on the street and ask them to name a Christian musician and you’re likely to hear Lecrae’s name. The people in charge of handing out Grammy awards love Lecrae. A while back, I heard the DJ on V-103 say how much she loves Lecrae. Everyone, it seems, loves Lecrae.

Why is it that so many people in the church don’t?

That’s a complex question that can most easily be broken down into two answers. There’s the reason that everyone gives and then there’s the real reason.

The reason that everyone in the church gives for not liking Lecrae is that he has abandoned the gospel. The real reason is that a few years ago, Lecrae stopped making music that mainly appeals to white, reformed pastors in their mid 40s who quit listening to rap when Nelly retired.

Just listen to how Lecrae “abandoned the gospel” on his latest album, All Things Worth Together.

From the song Facts:

My Messiah died for the world, not just USA
They say, “Jesus was Conservative”
Tell ’em, “That’s a lie”
No, He not a Liberal either if you think I’ll choose a side

And I love God
I love Jesus, the one out of Nazareth
Not the European with the ultra perm and them soft eyes and them thin lips

From the song Hammer Time:

You know God my standard, He the answer
I ain’t perfect, I’m just purchased

From the song 8:28:

I just call on Jesus name
Praying daily, can you take away this pain?
Take the thorn away
Still, it remains…
Satan would love to see me give up and throw up my hands
He say I’m guilty but You say I’m clean

Lecrae has not abandoned the gospel. He’s just abandoned making concept albums based on Jonathan Edwards sermons.

Oh, and there’s one other thing. Lecrae is addressing social issues through his music. He’s talking about education, the breakdown of the family, drug abuse, suicide and tensions between the police and the black community. You know, all of the issues that we are repeatedly told, “are not gospel issues.”

Here’s something you can count on. The priest and the Levite from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan walked by on the other side, ignoring the wounded man precisely because he, “was not a gospel issue.”

For followers of Christ, in a very real way, everything is a gospel issue. No, that does not mean that caring for the poor or looking out for the least of these should ever take the place of preaching the gospel. It just means that if we really believe the gospel that we preach, we won’t call the murder of an unborn black child a moral issue and the murder of a thirteen-year-old black child a non-gospel issue.

Lecrae isn’t a pastor. If he were and his songs were sermons, I’d be the first in line to critique him for preaching about his car or current events. Lecrae is an artist and good Christian artists don’t need to put a tiny little cross or fish symbols on everything they create. They just need to create well for the glory of God and the good of their neighbor. Lecrae has done that yet again on his new album. If our head and hearts are truly consumed by the gospel, we won’t select when we will apply the gospel with our hands.

I really like Lecrae’s new album.

There aren’t any songs about the Council of Nicaea on it.

But there is plenty of gospel.

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Would Jesus Stand or Kneel?

Pick a side.

It has to be one or the other.

That’s what we’re always told. It has to be Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, Republican or Democrat, stand or kneel. There are no other options. To choose a third option is to condone the most evil of the only two real choices. And we call this freedom.

Even Jesus was told to pick a side. He had the wonderful privilege of choosing between the lifeless Saducees and the graceless Pharisees. He had the wisdom to denounce both groups. He rejected the Pharisees with his welcoming call to, “all who are weary and heavy laden.” He rejected the Saducees with his resurrection from the grave. Neither party, in their purest form, exists today.

Jesus is doing just fine.

We made it through the first two weeks of the NFL season without much controversy over people kneeling during the national anthem. Sure, some were still doing it and ESPN was still reporting on it but it was rapidly becoming a non-issue.

And then the President of the United States decided to share his opinion. The one who so many evangelical leaders have told us is, “God’s chosen man” called NFL players a name that I will not repeat here because of their refusal to stand during the national anthem. He did not, by the way, use such strong language toward the tiki torch mob in Charlottesville. Some of those were good people, remember? And then, the man who has told us that he has never needed to ask for forgiveness, lashed out at an outspoken Christian for refusing to visit the White House with his NBA championship team.

And, just like that, guess what dominated NFL coverage on Sunday. Can we just watch a game without the government getting involved? The president’s answer over the weekend was a resounding “No.”

For reasons that I’ll likely never understand, some Christians are okay with the president, “telling it like it is” and cursing people who take a knee during the national anthem. The same group that stages silly protests against the IRS on Pulpit Freedom Sunday has no problem with that same government condemning protestors who land on a different end of the political spectrum than they do. The same group that rightly has a problem with President Obama’s tyrannical reach into the consciences of bakers has no problem whatsoever with President Trump’s tyrannical reach into the consciences of professional athletes.

I do not agree with kneeling during the anthem. I always stand and take my hat off and I teach my sons how and why they should do the same. I also teach them that those who refuse to stand have a right to do so and, whether we end up agreeing with them or not, if we’re ever going to get over our divisions, we would do well to listen to them rather than obey the marching orders handed down to us by the president and his talk radio spokespeople.

Jesus did not die for us so that we could pick a side in some ridiculous culture war. He rules over such things and his followers represent him best when they are motivated by the command to love God and love neighbor rather than the desire to tell it like it is and stick it to the folks on the other side.

It can be so much fun to tell it like it is and stick it to the folks on the other side.

It’s just too bad that so few people, including the president, see how it is destroying the fabric of our nation and the credibility of the Christian witness.

The voices on both sides are loud.

Coke or Pepsi.

Ford or Chevy.

Republican or Democrat.

Stand or kneel.

Yet over all of them there is the still small voice that spoke creation into existence, sent Satan away in the wilderness, calmed the winds and the waves and will one day strike down the nations and rule them with an iron rod.

We would be wise to listen to that voice.

Because one day soon there will be no Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, Republicans or Democrats, and standing or kneeling during the national anthem.

There will still be Jesus however and he’ll still be doing just fine.

 

So you do have a choice.

But there are more than two options.

Choose wisely.

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Uber Offended

Uber has done something that has the Internet really, really mad. Mad enough that the folks at Uber came out with an apology where they called what they did, “totally inappropriate.”

So what did they do?

Well, apparently it was Wife Appreciation Day in India earlier this week. So to celebrate the occasion and perhaps make a few extra bucks in the process, the company encouraged husbands to order UrberEATS and “let your wife take a day off from the kitchen.”

I’ll give you a few minutes to go burn something down in reaction to the horror of such a suggestion.

Here’s how stories like this work.

Someone does something that our culture finds offensive, which these days is pretty much anything. Someone from the Internet’s Office of Finding Things That Are Offensive then sends out screenshots of the tweet so that other people who like being offended all of the time can get really upset and also burn things down, either digitally, literally or both.

So you have some girl with a screen name like @progressivechick99 tweeting out, “Oh, no they didn’t.” And then there’s the gender fluid fellow with a handle like @multiplegender2000 who posts a meme of some guy from some reality show no one ever watches making a ewww face. Finally, the person from the Internet’s Office of Finding Things That Are Offensive writes a story with a headline like Twitter Slams Uber For Genocidal And Sexist Tweet, Nation Seeks Healing.

And then the offender, in this case Uber, apologizes.

As I write this, there is a hurricane aimed at the the Caribbean. A madman halfway around the world is threatening other countries with a nuclear bomb. Other madmen in D.C. are spending us into over 20 trillion dollars in debt. And the self-righteous gatekeepers on the Internet are upset because a private company encouraged husbands, not to kill their wives or run around on their wives but to take care of dinner one night for their wives.

If you’re not as culturally sensitive as these perpetually offended gatekeepers, Uber’s suggestion was supposed to make us all angry because women do so much more than cook meals in the kitchen. Also, men like to cook too. As do gender questioning non-binary girls who identify as boys on the third Tuesday of every month. I didn’t want to leave anyone out.

Have you ever watched a Netflix Original television show? These are sort of like the Wild West of television because they aren’t under the content restraints that shows on NBC or even FX are. Before I watch these shows I read up on them to see if they’re worth my time. More specifically, I read about the sexual content. I’ve noticed something in my research. A lot of the popular shows that are original to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are filled with nudity. More specifically, female nudity. So I pass on the latest binge-worthy show and turn a game on instead.

Now, our culture doesn’t find this ever present nudity offensive because it’s done by choice. The actresses want to do this. No one is making them.

Right.

Let the female lead on one of these shows refuse to do a nude scene and sit back and watch as her career spirals into the abyss. Within weeks of her decision, she’ll be off the show and making commercials for Crazy Pete’s Title Loans.

Do you see the hypocrisy?

Treating women as sexual objects is liberating. Cooking dinner for them is boorish.

When I came home from work for lunch one day this week, my wife and kids were in the backyard. When I walked back I saw my wife sanding a table she was restoring, my son painting another table, and my other son standing on the trampoline.

My wife asked if it was okay if we waited a few minutes for lunch so that she could get to a good stopping point in her project.

I told her not to worry about it. I guess you could say that I gave her the afternoon off. We also made plans for me to grill burgers that night. Bam! She had the night off too. Double score for her.

But after reading Twitter for a few minutes, I have discovered that I made a tremendous mistake. It was a bit cavemanish of me to do such a thing. The only thing I could have done that would have been worse was call an Uber to take us to Chick-fil-a. That would have broken the Internet.

Local Cult Leader Takes Wife To Hate-Filled Restaurant, Nation Seeks To Rebuild

Luckily, I don’t answer to the Internet. I’d much rather make my wife happy. And taking over for lunch and dinner that day made her happy. And get this. She really likes to cook!

I’ll wait again while you go burn something down and call the U.S. Department of Diversity Among Different Genders Understanding Meals In Togetherness (DADGUMIT) on me.

But later that night, while the Internet was raging about something else, I enjoyed a hamburger with my family that I made because I wanted my wife to take a break from cooking.

And my kids fell asleep in the middle of binge-watching The Andy Griffith Show on Netflix.

Man, we’re weird.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Chick-fil-a, A Love Story

When I walk into a Chick-fil-a, I feel like I’m with my people. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that my people would never step into a McDonald’s. Man, my people have been thrown out of McDonald’s before. I won’t tell you which of my people.

It’s just that when I walk into a Chick-fil-a I feel like I’m back with some of the folks who helped to shape me. I worked at the Chick-fil-a in Southlake Mall, just south of Atlanta, Georgia for a few years during high school and college. David ran the place. You were just as likely to see him emptying a trash can as you were to find him in his office. He showed me that no one at Chick-fil-a, even the really important people, were too important to take out the trash. Renae and his brother Brent were assistant managers. If they saw us standing around not doing anything, they would always yell, “If you got time to lean, you got time to clean.” I hated hearing that. But now, a couple of decades later, I’m sure glad that I did. Sam was there too. We spent a lot of time together busting up boxes and unloading trucks out back while singing old country music songs off key.

People told me that once I started working at Chick-fil-a I would get sick of the food and not want to eat it anymore.

They were wrong.

But now that I’m older I’ve had to cut back on the number of chicken sandwiches I eat. In my diet, waffle fries have been replaced with organic, free range unicorn fur. But last week I was on vacation so I put the unicorn fur to the side and took my family to the Chick-fil-a in Panama City Beach, Florida. As soon as I walked into that store, I knew that I was with my people. As crazy as it sounds, I looked behind the counter for David, Renae, Brent and Sam.

They weren’t there.

But in a way, they were.

The guy who took my order was wearing a tie. That meant that he’s pretty important on the Chick-fil-a chain of command. But he wasn’t too important to stop what he was doing, take my order and tell me, “Go Dawgs” when he saw my Georgia hat. I learned that he was from Henry County, just below the Chick-fil-a where I worked and just above the place where I live now. I asked him why he moved out of Henry County.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

“I had to get away from the traffic.”

He made a good move.

There was another lady behind the counter. She too was wearing important clothing. But she was working on filling up cups with sweet tea like her life depended on it. I’m sure that whatever managerial training she had in the past didn’t focus too much on the proper way to fill a cup with ice and tea. But you wouldn’t know it from watching her. She had obviously learned the lesson well that I had learned from David all of those years ago. No one is too important for the job that needs to be done.

While I was eating, I noticed another worker. This girl was wearing the standard issue uniform and she was sweeping nugget crumbs out from under the booth behind us and piling it up next to her. I’ll bet ten people walked through that pile and spread it back out all over the floor. She never said a word. She just swept it back up each time. One day she’ll probably run a Chick-fil-a of her own and get to wear important people clothes. But she’ll still sweep the floor.

Eventually, we walked out of that Chick-fil-a and back into the rest of our vacation.  A few days later, my in-laws stopped in and volunteered to watch the kids so that my wife and I could go out on a date. I don’t take these opportunities for granted so I did my research. I stopped at every beach side restaurant I could find and asked for a menu. Pretty much every one of them said something like this.

Chicken Flëur de la Crępe Scallops 

A one ounce portion of lightly grilled chicken fused with two sprinkles of scallops with a side of Flëur de la Crępe shipped in from a tiny fishing village in Germany.

$72.50

So for our date night, my wife and I went back to that Chick-fil-a in Panama City Beach, Florida.

It was all her idea.

I promise.

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Thank God For CNN

I knew that I shouldn’t watch it but I did anyway. My kids were in bed and the house was quiet and dark. The week ahead looked busy so this was likely the best opportunity I would have to see it. My gut told me that this would not end well. But I didn’t let that stop me.

That night, my wife and I sat down to watch a new show on CNN called Believer where each week Reza Aslan finds a new religion to be condescending toward. The episode we were about to watch focused on the relationship between Vodou and Christianity in the small country of Haiti.

The show didn’t disappoint. When it was over, I was disappointed. That’s because Christians were presented as religious crusaders for daring to build hospitals in the nation that is saturated in corruption and poverty. Vodou, on the other hand, was presented as grossly misunderstood. If you’re keeping score at home, the religion that motivates people to build hospitals is bad and the one that gets people to sacrifice pigs to demons is good. The last few minutes of the show looked like a commercial for Vodou.

This should come as no surprise from a network that spends millions of dollars producing and promoting documentaries in an effort to, “find the real Jesus.” In the CNN lexicon, “finding the real Jesus” is code for the Jesus of the Bible being fake. That’s right. The church has gotten it wrong for two thousand years now. Thankfully, CNN is here to tell us the truth.

We should be very quick to examine CNN’s version of the truth. This is, after all, the same network that likes to feed debate questions to presidential candidates of a certain party in order to help them to prepare beforehand. Truth, we should all know by now, isn’t so high on CNN’s list of priorities. It appears that trying to discredit Christianity is.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve noticed that CNN doesn’t take time out of its regular programming each year when Ramadan rolls around to, “find the real Mohammed.” You know, the rapist and child molester. Some of that could be out of fear. CNN probably doesn’t want the same fate that their counterparts at Charlie Hebdo suffered. To them, Christianity is a much easier target.

That’s because, in large part, Islam is built on the blood of the so called infidels. Christianity is grounded in and saturated with the blood of Jesus. In our world, acts of terror are much less offensive than God dying for the sins that we committed.

Islam is advanced by the sword. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (Matthew 26:52-53).

If anyone, even a bestselling author with his own show about religion on CNN, ever tells you that all religions are the same, you can be certain that they have no clue what they are talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an appeal to boycott CNN. I watch CNN regularly and if you care about getting a glimpse into the secular worldview, I suggest that you do the same. Just know that you are being lied to.

But don’t let those lies get you down.

The book of Acts will help you to put CNN and their constant jabs at Christianity into perspective. Slander and persecution are the fertilizer from which the church grows. Acts is filled with accounts of the church being persecuted. And the persecution is much more intense than anything CNN has thrown the church’s way. But notice what happens after each instance of persecution. The church grows exponentially.

After the disciples are mocked and written off as drunks, three thousand people were added to the church (Acts 2).

After Stephen is martyred, Saul, the man who helped to make it happen, becomes a follower of Christ (Acts 7 – 9).

When Paul is kicked out of one region, he moves to another one and gospel growth follows (Acts 17).

And so on.

Christian, don’t let opposition, slander and media misrepresentations about your faith get you down. Be encouraged and know that it is from this that real growth comes. For a few decades now, some churches have tried to grow their numbers through gimmicks and give aways. At best, all those techniques ever do is draw a crowd. Real growth, or discipleship, comes when the church keeps its course through opposition.

CNN is no threat to the body of Jesus Christ. In reality, they are like a kid kicking over dandelions in the front yard. He thinks he’s getting rid of the weeds but all he’s really doing is making them spread.

So thank God for CNN.

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Does Christmas Offend You?

It’s one of those stories that’s supposed to make us mad.

But instead, it should cause us to take a closer look at ourselves.

The owner of a Florida restaurant received a nasty note from a customer complaining that the Christmas music playing in the background was, “offensive.” He went on to suggest that the owner replace the religious themed music with “holiday music.” Less “O Holy Night” and more “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Wait. I almost forgot. That one offends people too. “Less O Holy Night” and more “Walking In a Winter Wonderland”, played on organically harvested, free range, gluten-free instruments. That ought to do it.

This is the part where some evangelical leader will start a social media crusade urging us to fight for the traditional Christmas. When he starts, don’t listen to him. You’d be better off listening to the offended customer at that Florida restaurant.

Don’t get me wrong. Leaving passive aggressive notes about how Christmas songs offended you is absurd. Just find another restaurant. If my favorite eating establishment decided to play Nickelback’s Greatest Christmas Hits all through December, I’d find another favorite eating establishment. No passive aggressive note needed.

But this offended customer is probably closer to the true meaning of Christmas than those wishing to guilt the barista at Starbucks into writing Merry Christmas on your cup of coffee.

Christmas is supposed to be offensive.

It’s offensive because it’s the true story of a people whose sins were so bad that it took God coming to earth in the form of a servant to live the perfect life that we could not and to die the death that we should have. In case you’re wondering, you and I are included in those people whose sins are so bad (Romans 5:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:1-10; Philippians 2:1-11).

Are you offended yet?

We should never be surprised when the world acts like the world. That doesn’t make what they do right, it just makes it expected. The message of the gospel is foolishness to them (1 Corinthians 1:18-23). We shouldn’t be surprised when a group of people who are blind to the truth of the gospel don’t line up to sing about how their great sins caused the eventual crucifixion of the Christ Child (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Here’s what should surprise us.

We should be surprised when people who claim to believe the traditional Christmas story do not allow the truth of that story to play out in their day to day lives, both in the month of December and certainly not on a random day in July.

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the modern American church. We’ve stopped being offended by the gospel. We’ve watered it down so much with self-help and get rich quick schemes that we’ve missed the real power behind it. We think that our power and influence comes from having a seat at the table in Washington D.C. In reality, it’s found in an offensive story about a virgin birth.

Before we start launching our defensive weapons in the war to protect Christmas, we would be wise to take a long look at ourselves.

Sure, we sing all of the old traditional hymns, but why is it that the truth in those hymns often no longer moves us beyond anything more than sentimental memories of Christmas at grandma’s house?

Why do we live more like entitled brats than children who have been lovingly adopted into the family of God through the birth, sinless life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

We have traded in the truth that the gospel is God graciously moving toward his enemies to redeem them in favor of a gospel where God selected us like an NFL team makes a first round draft pick. “After all,” we seem to tell ourselves, “why wouldn’t God want such spiritual and moral standouts like us on his team?”

Secular progressives miss the true meaning of Christmas because they’re too offended to hear it.

But a lot of religious people miss the true meaning of Christmas because they’re too proud to be offended.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:15-17 (ESV)

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